And yet, why throw a rag like this to us ravening wolves? Is it seriously supposable that we will stop to chew it and let our prey escape? No, we are getting to expect this kind of device, and to give it merely a sniff for certainty’s sake and then walk around it and leave it lying. Shelley was not after the aged Zonoras; he was pointed for Cornelia and the Italian lessons, for his warm nature was craving sympathy.
The year 1813 is just ended now, and we step into 1814.
To recapitulate, how much of Cornelia’s society has Shelley had, thus far? Portions of August and September, and four days of July. That is to say, he has had opportunity to enjoy it, more or less, during that brief period. Did he want some more of it? We must fall back upon history, and then go to conjecturing.
the early part of the year 1814, Shelley was a frequent
visitor at Bracknell.”
“Frequent” is a cautious word, in this author’s mouth; the very cautiousness of it, the vagueness of it, provokes suspicion; it makes one suspect that this frequency was more frequent than the mere common everyday kinds of frequency which one is in the habit of averaging up with the unassuming term “frequent.” I think so because they fixed up a bedroom for him in the Boinville house. One doesn’t need a bedroom if one is only going to run over now and then in a disconnected way to respond like a tremulous instrument to every breath of passion or of sentiment and rub up one’s Italian poetry a little.
The young wife was not invited, perhaps. If she was, she most certainly did not come, or she would have straightened the room up; the most ignorant of us knows that a wife would not endure a room in the condition in which Hogg found this one when he occupied it one night. Shelley was away—why, nobody can divine. Clothes were scattered about, there were books on every side: “Wherever a book could be laid was an open book turned down on its face to keep its place.” It seems plain that the wife was not invited. No, not that; I think she was invited, but said to herself that she could not bear to go there and see another young woman touching heads with her husband over an Italian book and making thrilling hand-contacts with him accidentally.
As remarked, he was a frequent visitor there, “where he found an easeful resting-place in the house of Mrs. Boinville—the white-haired Maimuna— and of her daughter, Mrs. Turner.” The aged Zonoras was deceased, but the white-haired Maimuna was still on deck, as we see. “Three charming ladies entertained the mocker (Hogg) with cups of tea, late hours, Wieland’s Agathon, sighs and smiles, and the celestial manna of refined sentiment.”
“Such,” says Hogg, “were the delights of Shelley’s paradise in Bracknell.”
The white-haired Maimuna presently writes to Hogg: