20 April 1836

Mary Shelley, 14 North Bank, Regents Park, London, to Mary Hays, 11 Grosvenor Place, Camberwell,2 20 April 1836.1

Dear Madam

     Having for some months been somewhat of an invalid – the extreme fatigue and anxiety I went through while attending on the last moments of my dearest Father have made me too ill to attend to anything like business. By my Father’s will his papers will pass thro’ my hands, & your most reasonable request will be complied with. There is nothing more detestable or cruel than the publication of letters meant for one eye only. I have no idea whether any of yours will be found among my Father’s papers – any that I find shall be returned to you. – But my health is such that I cannot promise when I can undergo the fatigue of looking over his papers.

     You will be glad to hear that one whom you once knew so well, died without much suffering – his illness was a catarrhal fever which his great age did not permit him to combat – he was ill about 10, & confined to his bed 5 days – I sat up several nights with him – & Mrs Godwin was with him when I was not – as he had a horror of being left to servants. His thoughts wandered a good deal but not painfully – he knew himself to be dangerously ill but did not consider his recovery impossible. His last moment was very sudden – Mrs Godwin & I were both present. He was dozing tranquilly, when a slight rattle called us to his side, his heart ceased to beat, & all was over. This happened at a little after 7 on the day of the 7th ins.

     My dear Father left it in his will to be placed as near my Mother as possible. Her tomb in St Pancras Church Yd was accordingly opened – at the depth of twelve feet her coffin was found uninjured – the cloth still over it – & the plate tarnished but legible. The funeral was plain and followed only by a few friends – There might have been many more, but being private, we restricted the number. My Son, now sixteen, was among the Mourners.3 –

      I have written these few particulars as they cannot fail to interest you. – I am obliged to you for your kind expression of interest – your name is of course familiar to me as one of those women whose talents do honour to our sex – and as the friend of my parents – I have the honor to be, dear madam

                Very truly yours

                         Mary Shelley


14 North Bank

Regents Park

20th April 1836


Address: Miss Hays | 11 Grosvenor Place | Camberwell

Postmark: 20 April 1836

1 MS MWS 361, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 360-61; Wedd, Love Letters 246-47; Walker, Idea of Being Free 299-300. This letter was sent to the residence of John Hays, in whose house Mary Hays lived for about eight years (1832-40) after leaving Vanbrugh Castle.

2 A section of Camberwell, South London, just to the east of Kennington Park running parallel to John Ruskin Road and west of Camberwell Road. 

3 Percy Florence Shelley, 3rd Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), was the only child of the Shelley's to survive. At the time of this letter, he was completing his studies at Harrow and would matriculate the next year at Trinity College, Cambridge.