11. After Shelley’s death, many of their mutual friends turned against Mary
After Shelley’s death, Mary and her son continued to live in Italy for some time, with Marianne and Leigh Hunt, mutual friends of her and Shelley. However, Mary noticed a change in Leigh Hunt’s attitude towards her. Firstly, he refused to give her the cremated remains of Shelley’s heart. Although he had eventually relented, she noticed that he continued to be very cold towards her.
Eventually, Mary found out that Hunt had learned that, because of her depressive withdrawal, Shelley believed she no longer loved him and had accused her of coldness. The revelation at least allowed them to clear the air. However, the idea that a friend- and worst still Shelley could have believed her to be cold hurt Mary deeply. “A cold heart! Have I a cold heart? God knows! But none need envy the icy region this heart encircles- And at least the tears are hot…” Mary noted in her journal on November 17th, 1822.
Eventually, Mary moved back to England where she found some comfort at least in the company of Jane Williams, whose lover Edward Williams had also drown with Shelley. However, she quickly found out that Jane was not a friend to be trusted. In 1827, Mary discovered that Jane had been boasting about Shelley’s affection for her- and the fact he had also confided in her about Mary being an insufficient wife. ” My friend has proved false and treacherous!” Mary noted in her journal entry of July 13th, 1827, “Miserable discovery. For four years I was devoted to her & I earned only ingratitude.”
Although she maintained a friendship with Jane after these revelations, Mary never wholly trusted her again. However, it was not until 1839 that she finally reconciled herself to the fact that the friends of Shelley’s were no friends of hers. While editing Shelley’s Queen Mab for publication, she was advised to omit Part VI of the poem by the publisher- only to be vilified once again by those once so close.
“In so arduous a task others might hope for encouragement from their friends- I know mine better…” Mary noted in her journal on February 12th, “I am unstable, sometimes melancholy and have been called on some occasions imperious but never did an ungenerous act in my life. I sympathize warmly with others; I have wasted my heart in their love and service.