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A newly discovered Shelley diary.

DURING his final year at Eton, 1810, one of P. B. Shelley's prized possessions was a look of the hair of his cousin, Harriet Grove, with whom he was in love. It was wrapped in a scrap of paper, bearing the initials H.G., and tucked into a pocket at the back of his diary. The hair was coiled about a black seal imprinted with a cryptic message of a human eye followed by a large X surrounded by beaks pecking at it and the words |a return'.

I expect [Xpecked] a return -- a jokey sort of pseudo-seal that would amuse teenagers. Among the more interesting entries in the diary is |30 copies of Zastrozzi to come -- not to forget Harriet'. That was on January 15 referring to Shelley's first published work, a novel in the Gothic style. The printer was late in delivery, as printers sometimes are, so there is a further reference to Zastrozzi, on February 18 -- |Zastrozzi to come out, 30 copies'. It was these references to Zastrozzi that first made me suspect that the anonymous owner of the diary must be Shelley.

According to Tom Medwin, Shelley's first biographer, Harriet Grove played some collaborative part in the writing of Zastrozzi. Her own diary for 1810, published in 1961 as volume two of Shelley and His Circle, records on March 28, 1810: |Bysshe has sent C & me Zastrozzi as it is come out'. |C' was her sister, Charlotte. |Bysshe' was the name by which Shelley was known within his intimate family circle.

There is a further correlation with Harriet Grove's diary. On March I the entry in the Shelley diary has the words |Parcel to Harriet'. Four days later, on March 5, Harriet recorded: |most agreeably surprised by receiving a Parcel & letter from my Greatest Friend'. There can be no doubt that at that time her |Greatest Friend' was Shelley.

Among the other items of interest in the Shelley diary is a small gift of money to Laker, the butler at the Shelley's family home, Field Place near Horsham in Sussex. The diary itself, incidentally, is named as |Baxter's Sussex Pocket Book or Gentleman's County Remembrancer'. Other records of payments made by Shelley include |Graham for Pliny 2-15-0 [pounds]'. Graham was the music teacher in London who carried out purchasing commissions for Shelley; several of Shelley's letters to him have survived. Shelley's interest in Pliny's Naturat History while he was at Eton is well attested. For more modest amounts his purchases included dancing gloves 3/6 (17 1/2p); 4/6 (22 1/2p) for a knife; 6/6 (32 1/2p) for a bottle of wine and 1/- (5p) for soda water; a shilling (5p) for bread and cheese, seven shillings (35p) for the use of a horse and -- appropriately for a budding author -- paper and pens 1/- (5p).

Entries relating events or individuals to particular days are sparse. At times Shelley used his pocket-book simply as a convenient blank page: for example, to record an epigram in the form of a couplet in French --

J'aime un Dieu, et une jolie dame,

Une pour mon coeur, et l'autre pour mon ame. On another page, under the heading |Wandering Jew' Shelley has copied out passages from Chapter Six of the book of Revelation. The theme of the Wandering Jew was one on which he was working with Tom Medwin in the form of a melodramatic poem, not published during his lifetime.

The names of individuals mentioned in the diary whet one's curiosity but do little to satisfy it. Easiest to identify is Dashwood, in the entry on June 4: |to go to W. Wickham with Dashwood & Leslie. Resolution made'. This seems to be linked with an entry on February 19 heavily overwritten with a later financial calculation but just intelligible as |Resun made vide 4 June'. In April Shelley instructed Graham to send two copies of Zastrozzi to the London address of Sir J. Dashwood in Harley Street, directed to F. Dashwood. The Dashwoods were big landowners in West Wycombe, and were of course associated with the bizarre frolics at Med-menham Abbey sixty years earlier. A young Dashwood was evidently a contemporary of Shelley's at Eton and in February had invited Shelley to pay a summer visit to West Wycombe.

Some women's names appear but yield no clue to their identity. Was there |une jolie dame' among them? The service for which |Sally' was paid one pound is not itemised. |Miss M' was indebted to Shelley for some music that he bought for her, or from her. Unconnected with expenditure is a reference on March 28 to |Emily' whose surname might be read as |Sidney'. And most intriguing perhaps is the name |Josephine', which appears on successive days, February 12 and 13, followed by two short words that I am unable to decipher. Josephine was surely an uncommon name in England in 1810.

As a record of Shelley's life in the winter and spring of his eighteenth year the diary virtually ends on April 10 with the single word |return', probably written at some earlier time to indicate the end of term at Eton and his anticipated return home. He wrote to Graham from Eton on April 1st and was back at Field Place to welcome Harriet and other members of the Grove family when they arrived on a visit on April 16. What followed was probably the happiest period in the two-year romance which Shelley later described in a valedictory poem to Harriet as |two years of speechless bliss'. From Field Place, after a brief diversion to Cuckfield, the Groves drove on to London to stay with Harriet's brother John at 49 Lincoln's Inn Fields; and here Shelley, with his sister Elizabeth and their mother, joined them. Harriet's brother, Charles, who had not seen cousin Bysshe since they were small boys six years earlier, later described Shelley as having been |full of life and spirits, and very well pleased with his successful devotion to my sister'. The ten days the lovers spent together in London were to be their longest unbroken period in each other's company. In the following year Shelley eloped with another Harriet -- Harriet Westbrook.

[Shelley's 1810 pocket-book or diary is published in full in Shelley's First Love by Desmond Hawkins (Kyle Cathie Ltd. London 1992, 14.99[pounds] and Archon Books, USA $27.50).]
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Title Annotation:Percy Bysshe Shelley
Author:Hawkins, Desmond
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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