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In an essay for Leigh Hunt's periodical The Liberal, Mary Shelley used a review of the Florentine chronicler, Giovanni Villani, to reflect on authors who project their personalities into their writing. Their books, she said

are often the peculiar favourites among men of imagination and sensibility. Such persons turn to the human heart as the undiscovered country...As a help to the science of self-knowledge, and also as a continuance of it, they wish to study the mind of others, and particularly those of greatest merit.[1]

She cited examples of books which explored this subjective terra incognita, including Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Boswell's Life of Johnson, and the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and concluded her list with this tribute to her mother: "this I, this sensitive, imaginative, suffering, enthusiastic pronoun, spreads an inexpressible charm over Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters from Norway".[2]

Like her mother's book, Shelley's Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) demands to be read as a portrait of her personal landscape. But we must also look at the portrait in the context of the era in which it was painted and the kinds of self-portrait possible for authors, especially women authors, writing travel books. In this essay, I propose to look at Shelley's last book in relation to her parents, peers, and progeny—that is to say, in relation to her mother's Letters from Norway; to travel writing by her nearer predecessors and contemporaries, especially Lady Morgan, Frances Trollope, and Samuel Rogers; and to the strategies for self-promotion available to nineteenth-century authors of famous literary offspring. [3] I shall conclude with some comments on the nature of Shelley's Romanticism and the character of English writing from the 1820s to the 1840s, when most of Shelley's work was published, which might suggest a framework for further study of Shelley and her contemporaries.[4]

* * * * *

Women writing travel books in the early nineteenth century had basically two choices. One was to write a useful guidebook, like Mariana Starke's Travels in Europe for the use of Travellers on the Continent (1820).[5] A second was to follow what I would call the model of the celebrity author. Here Germaine de Staël's De L'Allemagne, and her novel Corinne, were seminal texts. I have discussed elsewhere how De Staël had shown women that to write on literature, the arts, and social morals was to write on topics that were both held to be a woman's province, but which also penetrated to the heart of civilisation and its constituent elements. [6] Such writing was "philosophical", in the sense used in the Enlightenment, in quite comprehensive ways. It examined the role of the arts in society and interrogated the contribution made by the macrosphere of politics and the microsphere of the family. It examined manners and morals—what would today be called values and lifestyle, looking at how the characteristic social relations of a nation contributed toward nurturing its distinctive cultural productions.[7] De Staël's description of Germany was also profoundly political: it was implicitly a manifesto of liberalism challenging the autocracy of the Napoleonic empire. The Coppet circle's cosmopolitan interests in other European cultures established the terms of debate for the articulation of nationalism and liberalism in the nineteenth century.[8]

Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters from Norway (1796) were profoundly philosophical in this Enlightened sense. Few writers visited northern Europe, and her visit to a land of small homesteads, fishing hamlets, and a handful of large towns enabled her to offer a series of sustained reflections on the nature of civilisation and the refinement of manners; on the progress of the human race in relation to the physical environment, and on the connection between ruling nations and their colonial dependencies. For a woman of modest means earning a living by her writing, she was well travelled, having worked in Ireland, and visited Portugal and France; while her relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay gave her a transatlantic perspective. When she visited Scandinavia, she had just finished writing about the revolution in France, trying to provide an "historical and moral" analysis, that is to say, an analysis based on the historical and political theories of the Enlightenment, not simply a narrative account.[9] The violent change she had personally witnessed there gave added weight to her evaluation of the efforts of the Enlightened minister A. P. Bernstorff to modernise Denmark-Norway, and to a general discussion of how societies could reform themselves, together with the proper future direction that the Scandinavian realms might take. Her travel book offered a biting critique of the distorting moral and psychological effects of commercial society. It was also a deeply personal book, which celebrated the grandeur of the northern landscape and its capacity to solace the human heart; it hinted at private disappointment, even betrayal, from a man whose soul had been among those deformed by commercial ruthlessness, and voiced a mother's concerns at the prospects for her daughter's future, given the "oppressed state of my sex".[10] The personal dilemma was touching, yet always opened into consideration of the wider social typology.[11]

Letters from Norway was commercially Wollstonecraft's most successful book. Yet the notoriety surrounding the author after her widowed husband Godwin published his Memoir of her together with some of her letters to Imlay, made her a problematic model for philosophical women—a problem I shall return to. Germaine de Staël's private life was almost as problematic as Wollstonecraft's; knowing English prudishness, Prosper Merimee advised Shelley against attempting a biography of De Staël, and John Murray turned down the idea.[12] When she included De Staël in the Lardner's Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France, she offered a tactfully anodyne account. Yet somehow De Staël's reputation as a woman of literary genius and as an opponent of Napoleon transcended rumour and scandal, in a way that Wollstonecraft's did not. It was her example rather than Mary Wollstonecraft's that pointed out a way for women to write with intellectual authority on European culture, and in so doing to assert their political sympathies.

This self-assertion could be achieved either by fiction or "fact". In De L'Allemagne, De Staël had deployed analytic and descriptive commentary of her visits to Germany and of the conversations she had had with literary figures to convey her views on the current state of European civilisation. The book was important to Shelley in many ways, and nourished some of her own literary offspring. De Staël's comments on a Doctor Koreff having discovered the principles of life and death found its way into the setting of Ingolstadt University, where Victor Frankenstein made the same discovery. (Sunstein 288) In Marilyn Butler's analysis, the later novel Valperga, though set in Italy, celebrates German ideals of culture, drawing on De Staël's evaluation of Germany, and the motif much discussed in the Coppet circle of the contrasts between Northern and Southern Europe.[13] De Staël can be counted among Shelley's intellectual mothers. But there were aspects of De Staël's example she found less inspiring or helpful. For as well as De Staël's "factual", discursive approach in De L'Allemagne, De Staël had constructed a fictional alter-ego, Corinne, who, in the eponymous novel, acts as a cultural mentor to her English lover Lord Neville, revealing to him the nature of Italian civilisation. This creation of a fictional persona preceded the journalistic stance of De L'Allemagne. Shelley did not create a fictional persona like Corinne, but other women did emulate the pattern of using their achievement of literary celebrity as a springboard for authoritative comment on national cultures.

In looking at this strategy used by Mme de Staël and her followers, we must keep in mind the distinction between the literary persona, the celebrity's own self-representation, and her "true" personal views. What the writer sincerely believed, and what it was politically necessary or appropriate for her to articulate, had to be carefully calculated. Equally, it was just as much a matter of calculation if, in her public and social appearances, the writer elided the gap between herself and a fictional alter ego. The line between a novel as a cultural guide and a piece of prose travel-writing that was a "real" description of the author's experience was a fluid one. Mme de Staël deliberately identified herself with her heroine, Corinne, the improvisatrice who embodied Italian culture and personified the woman of artistic genius. She dressed like the imaginary Corinne in Sybil-like robes and perpetually twirled a piece of laurel between her fingers during her soirees.[14] This offered a female model for the Romantic ideal of artistic self-expression.

The case was similar with Sydney Owenson, the "Irish Corinne". Her novel The Wild Irish Girl (1805) preceded Corinne by a year, but the public mind associated her with De Staël. When Owenson was taken up by literary and fashionable circles in London she dressed picturesquely in a cloak like her heroine, the Irish princess who embodied the forgotten culture of Ireland. Owenson, later Lady Morgan, spent the rest of her literary career playing the part of Irish national genius, guardian of its sorrows and poetry.[15]

Lady Morgan's reputation as a novelist dealing with national character earned her the invitation to write a book on France (published in 1817). Riding the crest of fresh acclaim and controversy by its hostility to the restored Bourbons, she followed this up with a two-volume quarto book on Italy (published in 1821). As well as giving thorough coverage to the major centres and their cultural attractions, this too flung down the gauntlet to the legitimise, conservative ideology of "throne and altar" and defended Napoleon's modernisation of Italy. Her outspoken criticism of the Papacy earned the book its place on the Index of prohibited books. She prefaced the second edition with a scathing rejoinder to the critics who had accused her of ignorance, aligning herself with the account of Italian republicanism by the Coppet insider, Sismondi. She was thrilled to know that en route to Italy she had been given the hotel room previously used by Mme de Staël herself.

In another example of the celebrity author, the unknown Anna Jameson invented her own persona, the Byronic ennuyee weary of life and suffering from some unexplained sorrow, for her first book, Diary of an Ennuyee, an account of a journey to Italy. Shelley disliked this mix of fact and fiction, and the fictional ennuyee who dies of unexplained melancholy and weariness by the end of the book, became a little bit of an embarrassment when readers discovered her creator was robustly alive. But her self-creation of "celebrity" helped establish Jameson as a writer on foreign countries, and she consolidated her reputation with books on Germany on Canada which were vehicles for her meditation on women's social position as well as the discussions of the character of a nation's culture. Her role model was again Mme de Staël.[16]

Frances Trollope, ever alive to the possibility of parody, offered her own caricature of this kind of literary celebrity in her portrait of Mrs Sherbourne in Charles Chesterfield (1841). Mrs Sherbourne explains her upbringing to the editor, Marchmont, to whom she is "pitching" her memoirs:

Born on the bosom of the Adriatic, in a steam-boat, bound to Ancona, the first breath I drew was impregnated with poetry and love...nor yet will I give you even a glance of the mazy labyrinth of youthful passion through which it was my lot to wind my tangled doubtful way, at an age when girls less set apart and marked by fate are still playing with their waxen babies in the nursery.[17]

However, she does show him a scandalous extract concerning a duke and a lady, which clinches the deal. She assures him that she intends to commit suicide once the memoirs are complete, so they will be even more saleable for their shock value:

I have tried all things, Marchmont, and all things that I have touched upon have returned an empty, hollow sound, sadly unlike the music that I sought.[18]

Simultaneously with bidding up her price with this assurance of her impending demise, she is inveigling into marriage the naive young hero, star-struck with literary heroes and heroines, and drunk with vanity at the assiduous flattery of Sherbourne and the editor Marchmont, quite unaware that his attraction to both is the legacy he is about to inherit.

Mrs Sherbourne, like De Staël / Corinne or Morgan / The Wild Irish Girl, had a trademark mannerism that was easily recognisable:

The morning-dress of Mrs Sherbourne never varied, at least to its style. Summer and winter she was always décolleté, and summer and winter she was always enveloped, more or less, in a black cashmere shawl … Her existence, therefore, glided on through a series of small literary labours, cheered by a series, equally unbroken, of small literary flirtations.[19]

Mrs. Sherbourne was allegedly modelled on Anna Jameson: the red hair she gave her character would fit this, as well as the world-weariness, an obvious allusion to Jameson's Ennuyee, and her residences abroad, where she has devoted herself to "studying the genius of the various nations among whom I have lived". But her flirtatiousness and her love poetry suggests a swipe at LEL, while her diminutive size and habit of dropping foreign phrases recalls Lady Morgan.

Trollope's own literary celebrity derived not from a fictional character but from her own sprightly candour as a commentator on American life. Domestic Manners and Morals of the Americans catapulted her into attention in 1832. Among the friends seeing her and her party off to America in 1827 had been Shelley, a friend in turn of Frances Wright, the utopian socialist who had suggested to Trollope the possibility of earning money in America. (Letters II, 16n) The Trollope's commercial venture there failed spectacularly, but Trollope recouped her losses with her pen. Being no less in need of literary earning power than her own Mrs. Sherbourne, the success of this travel book put her in a position to make contracts with Murray and then Bentley who between them commissioned books on Belgium and the Rhineland, Paris, Vienna, and Italy. Her fiction, which they also published, subsidised the outlay she incurred in paying for her travels. Trollope was keenly aware of her niche in the literary market-place: negotiating a contract for a sequence of books with Bentley she wrote "my reputation must chiefly be sustained by travelling", but that the novels she could write for him could pay for the "costly ramblings" which would also be turned into books.[20]

In Trollope's case, her unplanned, unexpected success as a commentator on America meant that she created herself from the outset as a "character", that of the caustic-tongued, forthright woman traveller. This persona was a literary construction as much as a "fictional" character would have been. This character's hallmark was a daringness of mind and body: her willingness not only to say what she thought, but also to undertake excursions beyond the normally expected itinerary. This meant for instance that she would supplement her account of her stay in Vienna, where she became an admiring visitor to the Metternich circle, with tales of excursions down a salt mine. By 1847 a reviewer in the New Monthly Magazine had described a difficult journey as one only "the most enterprising tourist—a very Trollope—would undertake."[21]

As well a making herself the indomitable heroine of her journeys, Trollope used fictional techniques, as Helen Heineman has argued, to enliven her accounts: caricature, dialogue, accumulation of incident. Hervieu's sketches were the visual analogue of these incidents. The line between the travel book illustrated with vignettes and sketches, and the novel with pictures by illustrators such as Phiz or Leech, is a fluid one. In Trollope's writing career, the narrator as intrepid traveller precedes the creation of more obviously fictional heroines, unlike Lady Morgan, whose travel writing went forward on the basis of her success in fiction. Such was the competition in both genres in a crowded literary market and the fluidity between the two genres that when Lady Morgan learned that Trollope was about to publish her book on Belgium, she turned her own plans for a travel book on that country into a novel, rather than waste her time, material, and earning power.

Trollope's fiction therefore "traded" on her travel, rather than the other way around, although the economic reality was that the fiction subsidised the travel research. Heinemann has also argued that as well as using fictional techniques in her book on America to dramatise her observations, Mrs. Trollope projected herself into her most famous literary character, Mrs. Barnaby. She was a traveller both literally and figuratively, a vulgar and irrepressible widow and social climber who begins her adventures, spread over three novels, in provincial Gloucestershire, before setting out to conquer fashionable society in Clifton, Cheltenham and London. The two sequels see her adventuring to Australia and America with her card-sharping second husband, Major Allen. And if the character of Mrs. Sherbourne sees Trollope turning a sardonic eye on the other women writers competing in the same market, she was also able to parody herself and her reputation for her damning of American society by making Mrs. Barnaby, in her American adventures, write a book to please her hostess, entitled "Justice Done at Last". By this time, Mrs. Barnaby has developed from being a picaresque female rogue, a throwback almost to Defoe's morally ambiguous heroines, to being Trollope's fictional alter ego, the "strong woman" triumphing against the odds.[22]

Reviewers considered both Trollope's novels and her travels as vulgar. Without possessing either Wollstonecraft's or Shelley's radical political agenda, she was nonetheless labelled with that stock epithet "Amazonian" habitually used to deride women who stepped out of line. What irked some of her readers, and made her book on America such a controversial success, was its bearing on woman's role. It debunked the ideal of "separate spheres" as practised in America, which she believed had been shaped in such a way as to deform American society. She saw that misogyny lay behind the cult of true womanhood and that women in America, despite the cant of being a republican and egalitarian society, did not have the same degree of shared social and cultural interests and moral "influence" which Trollope, together with Morgan and Jameson, argued was appropriate to them. But in looking at a nation's manners and morals, and their bearing on the position of women, Trollope was in line with the tradition of Enlightenment philosophy I have discussed above, combined with, in the example of Trollope and many others, the Christian sentiment that religion contributed to a better treatment for women. A cardinal belief of this historiography was that its treatment of women was a criterion by which a society's degree of civilisation could be judged. In her book on America Trollope was being philosophical in the way that De Staël or Wollstonecraft had been philosophical because she was using an examination of social practices and assumptions as her way in to understanding the character of a nation.[23]

Trollope's book on Italy, published two years before Shelley's in 1842, has this element of philosophical reflection, as well as being a narration of her visit. She enjoyed her encounter with Italy so much she made up her mind to move to Florence, so she gave a zestful account of her tourism and social life in the usual centres the British visited: Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. In addition she contributed to the contemporary discussion of the condition of Italy: the nationalist movement, the character of Austrian rule, Catholicism, social progress. Unlike Shelley, Trollope was not in advance of her visit an advocate of Italian independence from Austria and reunification, and although she was a Whig and not hostile to political change, she abhorred the idea of revolution. On the other hand, she was keenly sensitive to various kinds of social injustice, and some of her novels addressed themselves to these issues.[24] Consequently, the further south she travelled, the more her complacency gave way before her concern for the evidence of Papal or Neapolitan mis-government in its impact on ordinary people. Like twentieth-century travellers in developing countries whose foreign exchange boosts the host country's revenue while traditional ways of life are disrupted to provide a synthetic tourist experience, she felt guilty when a carter whose vehicle slowed down her carriage outside Naples was beaten by the sentry on duty:

I was disgusted as much as the strongest theoretical democrat could be, when I saw the style in which a sentinel at the gate of Capua treated a peasant..."[25]

In fact there is a more vivid sense of the plight of the poor in this recorded incident than in any of Shelley's more generalised advocacy of the Carbonari and other Italian patriots. As she travelled further south, Trollope began to realise that

the moral, the political, the Christian philosopher, if he opens his eyes beyond the brilliant precincts enumerated by Mrs. Starkie (sic), cannot fail to see much that will shock his eyes and maim his heart.

A Visit II, 239

Until this point in her travels, Trollope had rather enjoyed contradicting conventional British sentiment about Austrian rule in Venice, or the repression behind the paternal government of Florence, thus living up to her reputation for boldness as well as honouring her friendship with the Austrian Chancellor Metternich and his circle. Her emphasis was on the trends moulding the future, not sentimentality over the past. In Venice, she argued the physical fabric would be conserved under Austrian administration, and that most ordinary Venetians were content to accept loss of independence, in the hope that the city would benefit from economic regeneration. It was only the reclusive aristocracy who lamented the past. Besides, with her characteristic astringency she declared that the much vaunted Venetian liberty had been erroneously lauded:

no single volume I have ever read concerning her greatness has left my mind any impression of her virtue, even in her very best days, or have ever exercised any favourable influence upon human happiness.

A Visit II, 120

Shelley's association with Byron while he was living in Venice meant that she, by contrast, was imbued with the Romantics' nostalgia for a poignant and glamorous Venetian past. Similarly in Florence, Trollope acknowledged that because of political censorship the Tuscans lacked the English privilege of freedom of thought, but argued that they had very little to complain about from the paternalistic and forward-looking Grand Duke. Her visit coincided with a scientific congress held to mark the revival of the Academia del Cimenti, with lavish ducal sponsorship, which she described thoroughly and approvingly.

As she became more sympathetic to the need for Italian independence, Trollope offered a critical analysis of the usual arguments and remedies. For instance, in the Papal States, she questioned the usual equation between Catholicism and national degradation. She argued that a political constitution, economic stimulus, and public education (the usual Whig remedies) would bring about the desired changes, and that the profession of Catholicism, far preferable to the godless atheism of the revolutionary mind, would be compatible with these prescriptions. Moreover, although she expressed the usual Protestant prejudice against "Popish fetes and festivals" which fostered idleness, she also deplored the indecorum of English visitors to St. Peter's in Easter week, who popped their champagne corks and talked throughout the services. (A Visit II, 302-3; II, 203; II, 272-3) Trollope could not be further from Shelley's political position, who had grown up in a household advocating revolution, whose mother had witnessed, albeit with increasing alarm at the excesses of the Jacobins, the French Revolution which had stamped Trollope with a horror of mob violence, and who was to give some space in her book to a vindication of the Carbonari, a secret society which had used violent insurgency. All the same, both women were more sympathetic to Catholicism when they saw it first hand than they had expected to be, and if Trollope would have disagreed with Shelley on the tactics for bringing about change in Italy, she at least conceded that the Italians could be trusted with governing themselves.

Secondly, how did Trollope project herself as a "celebrity author"? If she were being published today her book would probably be marketed as "Fanny Trollope's Italy", just as we have Peter Mayle's Provence, or Jan Morris's Wales. The nineteenth-century version of this was a title page reading "A Visit to Italy by Mrs. Trollope, author of Paris and the Parisians, Vienna and the Austrians, Domestic Manners of the Americans, etc. etc." The title page scanned, her reader then finds on the first page a quote from her friend Basil Hall, whose book on America had precede Trollope's debut:

In this poor exhausted Italy, countless scholars, men of wit and fancy, Blues, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Poets, Painters, Philosophers, with ten thousand others of all persuasions, capacities, politics, tastes, and experiences, have worried and scourged the land till it will scarcely bear a blade of decent grass or even a thistle for any stray donkey that may be must be a bold donkey, you will say, who, after this, shall venture to bray about Italy.

All the same, she proclaims her intention to "gossip" about Italy, and her view that most travellers have made unsound inferences about the place: a bold donkey indeed.

Like many travel books, she adopted the epistolary format, which absolves a writer from the need to provide exhaustive accounts, and vindicates the personal. She keeps assuring her putative correspondent, who stands for the reader, that she will not provide her with a catalogue of churches or pictures; when she does describe a famous church or gallery, she is selective. After a second visit to the Pitti, the reader is assured

I am almost afraid to ask you to go with me to the Pitti palace again, lest you should fancy that I intend to turn myself into a catalogue, and then insist upon your reading me. But I will do no such thing. Ah!...if you did but know what that Pitti palace gallery is, you would allow that, for an old lady recounting her adventures I am the most considerate and forebearing that ever wagged her pen.

A Visit I, 155-6

The old lady and the bold donkey between them were willing to admit it if they found a renowned statue, like the Venus de Medici, disappointing on first sight, or to assert that a Holy Family by Michaelangelo would not be worth £5 if it was not known to be by him. (A Visit I, 125; I, 131) Hers was thus a running commentary, not a guidebook—though she does throw out the occasional advice about what to see and how to go about it—and she has fun playing off contradictory artistic evaluations of two of her Florence guidebooks, so that she could vindicate her individual experience:

Do you not think I should have done better to have let my books alone, and permitted myself to like, or dislike, according to my own fancy without troubling myself to discover what wiser folks thought about the matter?

A Visit I, 138-9 [26]

She thus sets up an implied characterisation of her reader, who is assumed like her to be reasonably well-read and informed (for instance, she will think of Dante when visiting Florence), but who will have the honesty to admit what he or she genuinely likes when they see it, instead of hiding behind the expected reaction. She also presumes that her reader will be as eager as she is to try out all the excursions and sample at first hand all the sights that have been so much described. Above all, Trollope conveys a great deal about the pleasures of tourism. After the reader has accompanied her on a long and thorough tour of the Ducal palace at Venice, her mouth is vicariously watering when her guide thoroughly enjoys her ices at Cafe Florian afterwards. Paradoxically then, although she is writing as a "personality", as a celebrity author trading on her previous marketability, there is actually very little of Trollope's interior emotional landscape on view; what comes over most is someone enthusiastically enjoying herself as well as doing the sights thoroughly.[27]

* * * * *

Morgan, Jameson and Trollope all found ways of writing original travel books with a philosophical intent, that would also stand out in a crowded market by trading on their literary celebrity. Shelley knew and admired all three women, and spoke appreciatively of Lady Morgan's Italy in her preface to Rambles.[28] When she came to construct a travel book drawing on her two trips abroad in 1840-1842, it is at least conceivable that Shelley could have done something similar. Besides, her own mother, in her Letters from Norway, had shown how to construct an attractive literary persona, using her observations on Scandinavian life, but letting only a very stylised fraction of her actual personal dilemma to emerge from the narrative. This had been successful for her as a writer; she had in effect commercialised herself, and made herself and her perceptions the centre of the "story" of the letters. It had also succeeded in a more intimate and unforeseen way in concluding the emotional anguish she had experienced during the time in Scandinavia from her disintegrating relationship with Imlay, since Godwin had taken a fresh interest in the "sensitive, imaginative, suffering, enthusiastic" self who had written the book. Although they had met before her affair with Imlay, he had not been drawn to her. Now they became companions and lovers, and the parents of Shelley.

In addition to her mother's example in constructing an attractive persona as a philosophical traveller, Shelley could have capitalised on her own status as a literary celebrity, the author of Frankenstein. All her subsequent novels had been sold as "by the author of Frankenstein", which had originally appeared anonymously, not as by "Mary Shelley", or by "Mrs. Shelley"—the name on the title page of Rambles.[29] That stunningly successful novel was cast in the framework of a travel narrative, and the stories of Victor Frankenstein and the monster framed by this were both travel narratives of a kind, too: Frankenstein's search for the key to life and his tracking down of the monster took him along part of the Rhine itinerary subsequently followed by Shelley's rambles. Given the way that authors identified themselves with their fictions, could not Shelley have alluded to following in Frankenstein's footsteps? The disadvantage of doing this, however, would have been that it would draw attention to herself as a "transgressive" author, who had invented a fiction that dared to imagine how a human scientist could usurp the creative power of the deity.

The fact was that either as daughter or author, Shelley was always too much of a celebrity. Unlike Morgan or Jameson or Trollope, she did not have to create her own celebrity, since its more problematic relative, notoriety, had been imposed on her since her father's memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft had publicised such facts as her mother's unmarried liaison with Gilbert Imlay and their daughter's illegitimacy, and her attempts at suicide. After the polemics of her Vindications of the Rights of Men and of Women, Wollstonecraft had reinvented herself as a heroine of sensibility in the Letters from Norway. But she had already become a literary caricature, the standard vulgar and argumentative feminist in a cluster of novels: Bridgetina Botherim in Elizabeth Hamilton's Memoirs of Modern Philosophers, the eponymous Adeline Mowbray by her former friend Maria Hays, Harriet Freke in Maria Edgeworth's Belinda. After her death, her husband idealised her in his novel St. Leon, and compared her letters to Imlay to the romance depicted in Goethe's Werther. Shelley must have been keenly aware of the manifold ways a writer's life could be represented and misrepresented: notoriety was the flip-side to celebrity. Being Wollstonecraft's daughter was, to the majority of the British reading public, a fact to live down rather than play up. Shelley was not going to be able to establish an authorial persona on a clean slate.

Shelley then compounded this family legacy of notoriety by her elopement with P. B. Shelley while he was still legally the husband of his estranged wife Harriet Westbrook, who subsequently committed suicide. The elopement was additionally to be persistently accompanied by rumours of incest, since Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and P. B. Shelley were accompanied by Mary's half-sister Claire Clairmont. This fostered the recurrent allegations that the two women were shared in common by Shelley and by Byron. (Sunstein 119, 160, 165)

In Coleridge's phrase, the romantic age was the "age of personality" and there were plenty of secondary figures around the "great" writers who hitched their literary wagons to brighter stars. Even if Shelley hesitated in identifying herself as daughter or author, could she have "traded" more on her status as grieving widow at the heart of the drama of Shelley's death by drowning? Why not do the same as Trelawny, Medwin, Hunt, who all made the most of knowing Byron and Shelley?[30] Could she have made her woes into her subject matter? Why didn't she make her very notoriety work for her? Why not adopt a signature style of dress, suggesting perhaps Italian sympathies, and make herself into a tragic celebrity author?

The answer lies both in her temperament as in her circumstances. Reviewing Anna Jameson's Loves of the Poets, she commented approvingly that in her treatment of living poets, Jameson was

afraid, justly so—for the practice of shewing up our friends is the vice and shame of our literature,—of dragging into undesired publicity the modest and retiring.

Works II, 200

Shelley respected her privacy and that of others, helping Theresa Guiccioli, for instance, to recover some of her letters to Byron and prevent their publication. Her pain at losing Shelley, and her respect for him as a poet, was too great too tempt her to exploit it selfishly. It would be left to her son and daughter-in-law to create the myth of the devoted widow. But added to this natural reticence was an acceptance of a code of femininity which may seem surprising in Wollstonecraft's daughter: as she wrote to Trelawny when he tried to enlist her aid in writing a biography of her husband,

You know me—or you do not, in which case I will tell you what I am—a silly goose—who far from wishing to stand forward to assert myself in any way, now that I am alone in the world, have but the desire to wrap night and obscurity of insignificance around me. This is weakness—but I cannot help it—to be in print—the subject of men's observations—of the bitter hard world's commentaries, to be attacked or defended—this ill becomes one who knows how little she possesses worthy to attract attention—and whose chief merit—if it be one—is a love of that privacy which no woman can emerge from without regret—

Letters II, 71-2

Even if Mary was here exaggerating her timidity in order to underline her reluctance to help Trelawny, the flinching from further exposure rings true.

In addition to her personal disinclination for the limelight, there was another powerful incentive to avoid celebrity mannerisms: her need to be circumspect in the face of her father-in-law's hostility, in order to protect the allowance on which she and her surviving son depended, and to avoid compromising his future. Since Sir Timothy Shelley prohibited her writing a biography of his son or even contributing material to anyone else's, she could not venture anything autobiographical either. This necessary caution would also preclude her taking any overt position in controversy over women's status; her writing, unlike her mother's, or Trollope's and Jameson's, could not explicitly become a vehicle for "feminist" discussion, although she was throughout her life ready to help women friends who found themselves in unconventional circumstances. Her only comment on women's status in Rambles is the uncontroversial one that in feudal times women were confined "to hope, to fear, to pray, and to embroider."[31] Modern woman has gained not so much in rights as in emotional intensity: "We must act, suffer, or enjoy; or the worst of all torments is ours—such restless agony as old poets figured as befalling a living soul imprisoned in the bark of a tree. We are not born to be cabbages". (Works VIII, 91)

Her editorial notes to Shelley's poems published in 1839 had subtly evaded the prohibition on a biography by giving a personal context for her husband's poems. She had recounted the circumstances of his drowning and the deaths of their children, William and Clara in her editorial apparatus, but although she inevitably alluded to her own grief, she was essentially subordinating her own story to the task of presenting her husband's oeuvre. However, her father-in-law died in 1843 while she was preparing Rambles for publication. This meant that the book, which turned out to be her final work, can be seen in a certain sense as the autobiography she had hitherto been unable to write. Although planned before Sir Timothy died, she was now freer to allude to herself; self-censorship was no longer imperative.[32]

Instead of capitalising on her personal drama as Shelley's widow, or inventing any other kind of "celebrity" character for herself, Shelley adopted the travel persona of a mother; moreover, not one reflecting on the "oppressed state" of a daughter, but a more conventional kind of mother, worrying about her university age son. She identified with the life-stages of a normal member of the elite although this was a very selective version of herself and her son. But this persona is not consistently sustained. Her book is uneven in tone, even polyvocal. In choosing the title Rambles she was deliberately signalling that the book would "wander, travel, make [its] way about in a free unrestrained manner and without definite aim or direction", to follow the OED definition. Similarly, Anna Jameson had called her book on Canada Winter Rambles and Summer Sketches, giving herself scope to "ramble" or reflect mentally on her country of the heart, Germany, its literature, customs, and the friends she corresponded with there, while she was physically confined to an Ontario winter. Similarly, too, Wollstonecraft's Letters from Norway had referred to its author as "rambling".[33] The title of Shelley's book suggested that it would include an element of reflection: it would be "philosophical" without suggesting any systematic probing.

Consequently, Shelley's Rambles do not pretend to the exhaustiveness of Lady Morgan's or the zestful thoroughness of Fanny Trollope's travelogues. Both of these were commissioned, whereas Shelley decided to make a book out of her personal journey after her return. She wrote her book in epistolary form and offered the reader comments in a number of registers. These include personal narratives of the difficulty of a journey, on her varying health, her budgetary constraint; comments on whether Murray's guide-book advice as to hotels, routes or sights was reliable; her subjective responses to the pictures, statues, cities and landscapes she has seen; reports on her occupations and those of her companions; historical disquisitions on such topics as the Tyrolean struggle against Napoleon, or the origins of the Carbonari; and authoritative analysis of the present and future state of Italian literature. In fact, not all of the letters were her own composition; one motive for offering the book to Murray was to assist her Italian exiled friend Gatteschi, who needed to earn money from writing. She translated his essay on the Carbonari and inserted it among the letters. The format of "rambling" with its implied repudiation of systematic coverage also meant that, unlike most books on Italy, she was able to exclude any account of the journey home. Instead she leaves the reader somewhat abruptly once she has reached and described Naples.

Despite the disparate nature of these letters, the book has an artistic unity, found not in its portmanteau-like literary form, but in its theme. The territory of the human heart it traces is the recovery of paradise. The travelling self is not a young man seeking lost love, not a Childe Harold, not an ennuyee, or any other Romantic persona but a middle-aged mother who has known bereavement and fears the loss of her student son. In this role, Shelley constantly emphasises that she is only experiencing what any mother would feel; she does not underline her singularity. But the dominant self-characterisation as mother obscures, conveniently for a woman who wanted to deflect attention from herself, the fact that this mother is also a thinking woman and scholar, who has written authoritatively on Italian literature and believes that the cultural entity of the nation should have it political counterpart independent of foreign control. This safe persona means that she can insinuate her strong views without confrontation. It also means that it is Shelley the scholarly writer who is implicitly being projected here, not Shelley the novelist or the Keepsake author. Scholarly writing was anonymous, the very opposite of the celebrity author. In Rambles, the authorial presence is therefore both "philosophical" and deeply personal, but the personal is presented to a great degree as part of the experience of motherhood in general; this also makes it a philosophical kind of projection of motherhood.

It is significant that Rambles was dedicated not to a friend like Lady Morgan with a political agenda, but to the poet Samuel Rogers. She may have meant by this to underline her assertion in her preface that she was offering a collection of fragments, not a political dissertation; but it is a collection that has a poetic unity, which shared some characteristics of Rogers' esteemed poem on Italy.[34] Although Shelley's Rambles belongs to the category "travel", it can also be construed, I would suggest, as a prose-poem, which like Rogers' poem had death and memory as central themes. Rogers' poem Italy was based on his personal visits there but the obsessive reworkings he gave it produced a poem that was somewhat impersonal. It was suffused with a nostalgia mediated through the poet's reading of classical poetry and medieval story. For instance, his visit to Modena recalls the story of the bride Ginevra, locked in her bridal chest on the eve of her wedding. This tale is a good example of the kind of sentimental picturesque anecdote which found its way into the annuals and keepsakes. Shelley wrote some herself and gave several of them this type of idealised Italian historical setting.[35]

A central image however of Rogers' poem was not a prettified medieval incident, but an evocation of death. Following directly after his description of the Coliseum in Rome is a substantial section describing the funeral procession of a woman stabbed in jealousy; the gloom of the ceremony seems in harmony with the solemn surroundings:

Death, when we meet the spectre in our walks,

As we did yesterday and shall to-morrow

Soon grows familiar—like most other things,

Seen, not observed; but in a foreign clime,

Changing his shape to something new and strange....

Knocks at the heart. His form and fashion here

To me, I do confess, reflect a gloom,

A sadness round; yet one I would not lose;

Being in unison with all things else

In this, this land of shadows, where we live

More in past time than present, where the ground,

League beyond league, like one great cemetery,

Is covered o'er with mouldering monuments;

And let the living wander where they will,

They cannot leave the footsteps of the dead.

Concluding his poem, the poet prophesies he will return to the English winter and think about Elysium. So too Shelley had returned to England, leaving behind two dead children as well as a husband, and had spent seventeen years remembering her Elysian fields.

Rambles covered three years of Shelley's life and recorded two visits to Italy. The first was relatively brief; the party travelled down the Rhine and Moselle, stopping only briefly en route, before arriving at Lake Como, where they spent the rest of July and August. In mid-September her son and his two companions went on ahead while Mary waited in Milan for some delayed money; she then returned via Geneva, revisiting the area of Byron's Villa Diodati which had inspired Frankenstein: an opportunity to link herself to her literary progeny she did not exploit. Her meditations on loss and death are superseded by the authorial persona she chooses to foreground: that of a mother, making her son and his needs into the centre of the travels. In its self-effacement and devotion to another, this is the opposite of a celebrity persona.

She establishes her authorial persona as mother very immediately, plunging the reader in to the conclusion of family councils, as if already privy to the plans and suggestions for travel that have implicitly preceded the opening of the book. She introduces herself as a traveller happy to accompany an undergraduate son and two friends:

I am glad to say, that our frequent discussions this spring have terminated in a manner very agreeable to every one concerned in them. My son and his two friends have decided on spending their summer vacation on the shores of the lake of Como-there to study for the degree, which they are to take next winter. They wish me to accompany them, and I gladly consent.

Works VIII, 75 [36]

What could be more respectable? A middle-aged mother of University sons decides rather unusually to join them on a summer reading party, implying they all enjoy an established position in the landed and professional elite of England whose children attended Oxford or Cambridge as a matter of course. This however is already a subtle re-positioning of the truth of Shelley's precarious toehold in English society and of her son's passivity. As her letters to Claire Clairmont show, she despaired frequently at young Percy's lack of initiative in developing his interests or social contacts even while she tried to hard on the slender allowances allowed them by her father-in-law, to provide a suitable social context for his future as a Baronet and Sussex landowner. (see, for instance, Letters III, 48-50)

The second paragraph introduces the autobiographical sub-text that appears and reappears throughout the Rambles, alluding only briefly to her past but powerfully invoking the association of Italy and death:

Can it, indeed, be true that I am about to revisit Italy? How many years are gone since I quitted that country! There I left the mortal remains of those beloved—my husband and my children, whose loss changed my whole existence, substituting, for happy peace and the interchange of deep-rooted affections, years of deep-rooted solitude, and a hard struggle with the world; which only now, as my son is growing up, is brightening into a better day The name of Italy has magic in its very syllables. The hope of seeing it again recalls vividly to my memory that time, when misfortune seemed an empty word, and my habitation on earth a secure abode, which no evil could shake. Graves have opened in my path since then; and instead of the cheerfulness of the living, I have dwelt among the early tombs of those I loved. Now a new generation has sprung up; and at the name of Italy, I grow young again in their enjoyments, and gladly prepare to share them.

Works VIII, 75

But notice how few details there are of this loss. The reader ignorant of Shelley's life could read this in fairly conventional terms of the grieving woman.

After this introduction to the "landscape of the human heart", the rest of the letters describing the journey to Como contain little personal reflection; Shelley's reticence contributes to the charm of her book and lend gravity to her few personal allusions when she does make them. The letters concentrate instead on comments on the means of travel, fellow-passengers, landscapes or townscapes. At Baden-Baden, the bereaved woman reappears: suddenly she longs to stay there instead of facing the scene of her memories and the possibility that her son's plans to sail on Lake Como, renowned for its storms and accidents, will tempt fate. (Works VIII, 95) But the travellers press on as planned. At Chur, the author literally finds again her Italian voice; to the amazement of the young men, her Italian is fluent and practical, she is able to make all the travel arrangements with despatch, and clearly feels at home. Soon the scenery changes from the bleak, northern face of the Alps to "ever-vernal" Italy, and "Thus...after dreary old age and the sickening pass of death, does the saint open his eyes upon Paradise". (Works VIII, 106)

The rest of Part I describes their daily life and a few excursions, reflects on the Italian character, opera and literature, quietly notes her victory over fear of sailing on the Lake, and records, quoting from Dante's Paradiso, moments of rapturous communion with the evening calm of the lake. (Works VIII, 123) Shelley makes light in her published account of the hideous anxiety of waiting by herself in Milan for her delayed remittance, dwelling instead on her sight-seeing and on the need for the Italians' need for independence from Austrian control, just as her mother's letters to Imlay in the published version of Letters from Norway provide only a slight glimpse of all her tormented feelings, evincing instead a determination to immerse herself in the natural scenery and her social investigations.

Travelling home through Switzerland prompts more self-revelation. She must resume her mantle of middle-age and loneliness. But her allusions to her previous life in Geneva are again all the more powerful for being so distilled; a reader unaware of her history would have a lot to do to fill in the details of her allusions, and she declines the opportunity to identify herself as "the author of Frankenstein" which her visit to the scenes where she conceived the story might have prompted. In fact she may have considered that it was superfluous to repeat her account of the novel's genesis which she had supplied in a preface for the 1831 edition; but a celebrity author of the Mrs. Sherbourne type would not have hesitated to remind her readership of this association. Instead she says reflectively and generalisingly as "an aged person":

While yet very young, I had reached the position of an aged person, driven back on memory for companionship with the beloved; and now I looked on the inanimate objects that had surrounded me, which survived, the same in aspect as then , to feel that all my life since was but an unreal phantasmagoria—the shades that gathered around there were the realities—the substance and truth of the soul's life, which I shall, I trust, hereafter rejoin.

Works VIII, 148

Such interior landscapes implicitly undercut the whole genre of philosophical travel-writing's emphasis on external sites and their historical and cultural associations, suggesting that a journey or a place only really attains meaning in relation to our personal biography. Yet Part I swiftly changes key again, reverting to conventional subject matter: the conveniences and otherwise of a French diligence, and the new vulgarity of French manners (which are compared with Frances Trollope's account of American behaviour). Part I concludes implicitly with Shelley's role a mother, since the last letter is an account written by one of her son's companions of their difficult passage over the Alps on leaving Milan. It is a narrative underlining the youthful resilience her journey has invoked.

Part I of the Rambles may thus be seen as a prelude which gave Shelley a glimpse of paradise regained, but it was of short duration. In Paris on the way home she learnt that her friend the widower Aubrey Beauclerk had in her absence married her friend and financial dependent Rosa Robinson. This was the second time that she had warmed toward him and he had married someone else. The blow compounded her misery in returning to cold and lonely England, she fretted for Italian skies, and bewailed the frustrations of trying to motivate her son. (Journals 572) This was a season in hell. But before she could return to the south, she must pass through Purgatory.

In the summer of 1842 she was finally able to resume her travels, again accompanied by Percy and two different friends of his, one of whom, the musician Henry Pearson, joined them in Dresden. Her route to Italy therefore took her to new German scenes: to Bad Kissengen via Cologne and Frankfurt to take the waters; to Saxony, including the Wartburg and its associations with Luther, and Weimar with reminders of Goethe; and a diversion to Berlin before settling for a month in Dresden. Shelley tried to enjoy this part of her journey, but she never felt at home in Germany. She had a reading but not a speaking knowledge of German so she had no "voice" there; her poor health and an unexpected heat-wave in Dresden also debilitated her. She wrote to Claire that she would not commit her disappointment to print, but her verdict even from beautiful Dresden was that "I cannot exercise my imagination about the Germans..." (Letters III, 35-7) Perhaps her disappointment with the actuality of Germany in contrast with its imagined character in Frankenstein was another reason she declined to identify herself as Frankenstein's progenitor with the setting of the novel.

Part II of Rambles which covers this second set of travels elides completely the interval back in London and simply resumes a letter-form narrative, giving no details at all of the change of personnel, or the background to going abroad again. She alludes briefly to various initial mishaps with money and luggage and then declares her credo, a determination to look forward to new experiences:

what can be so delightful as the perpetual novelty—the exhaustless current of new ideas suggested by travelling? We read, to gather thought and knowledge; travelling is a book of the Creator's own writing, and imparts sublimer wisdom than the printed words of man.

Works VIII, 157

This manifesto of the pleasures and solace to be found in new places and new scenery shows herself truly to be her mother's daughter. The deflection from mentioning her worries and health to declare her determination to embrace the journey ahead, though less dramatic than the famous passage in Letters from Norway when Wollstonecraft, reflecting on happier times, suddenly beckons the reader "Now—but let me talk of something else—will you go with me to the cascade?" shares its spirit.[37]

Shelley dutifully writes of what she found interesting in Germany and invokes the idea of the country: a land of forests and heroes, according to Tacitus; or of the spiritual freedom imparted by Luther's Reformation—both familiar tropes. However her heart is never really in this section of the book. The image that stands out is when she discovers a grass-hopper in the folds of her dress who had nestled there when she spent a few days in a country hamlet. She carelessly tossed it out of the window in hot and dusty Dresden and spent the night regretting her heedlessness. Finding it had come back through the window in the morning, she gave it water and eventually released it on the riverbank. Her identification with this fragile insect out of its element is palpable, and the most striking episode in the narrative in Germany. (Works VIII, 209-10)

The only other lift to her spirits before arriving in Italy came as she travelled toward and through Austria. She found the lake at Gmunden sublime, suggestive of the plenitude of the creation where, quoting Milton "Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth/unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep." (Works VIII, 241) Salzburg combined the grandeur of mountain scenery with rural domesticity of meadows, gardens and country-houses, while the Tyrol spelled a mix of majestic mountains and the heroic reputation of its people's traditions of frugal liberty.

Writing up her memories of this landscape back in London, this part of her book became an essay celebrating the modern form of religious struggle—the cause of secular nationalism and its "saint", the Tyrolese leader Andreas Hofer, who had led resistance to Napoleon: "these valleys are filled with his name, and it were sacrilege to traverse them without commemorating his glory and lamenting his downfall". (Works VIII, 256) Landscape here becomes a cultural artefact "seen" not through the lens of geological knowledge, or of a sense, so pervasive in her mother's Letters from Norway, of a progressive domination by man of the natural environment, but through contemporary history and romantic patriotism.[38]

This coexistence of the historically epic and the personally idyllic has its counterpart in textual design and literary form: There is a parallel between the vignette and the anecdote. Many books were illustrated with frontispieces, half-title illustrations, and chapter heading vignettes. The format of the annuals was image-driven: an engraved picture would be offered to a writer as a theme around which a short story or poem would be written. Shelley's first story for the Keepsake was 'The Lake of Albano', built around a water-colour by Turner. Volumes of poetry were particularly likely to be illustrated. Only when Rogers' Italy was published with the vignettes and full-page illustrations by Turner and Stothard in 1830 did it really become a "hit".

Travel books were not commonly illustrated; instead the writer had to rely on her or his skill in constructing word-pictures, either passages of scenic description or the narration of a telling anecdote. Shelley had an acute eye; she had from a child been taken to see exhibited pictures and her father knew Turner. Her scenic descriptions of natural landscape are often very successful. Additionally, in order to describe her Italian experiences better, she twice refers her reader to the Turner vignettes of Rogers' poem: once to conjure up the atmosphere of Venice, and once in connection with the last episode in the book, the excursion to Amalfi. The point about a vignette, especially in the hands of a master like Turner, was that it could distil and concentrate an intense historical moment or place redolent with associations without diluting it. The experience may be miniaturised, but it does not thereby diminish it. Thus Turner's vignette of Napoleon crossing the Alps has all the charisma we associate with large-scale history paintings like the famous image by David, portraying the general as heroic conqueror.

In a similar way, Shelley's account of the Tyrolean uprising conjures up events on a grand historic scale up within the confines of a relatively short letter and the episodic format of the epistolary travel book. This chapter distils Shelley's passionate identification with the Tyrolese and gives enough essential historical information to illuminate her subject. This kind of topic is not the only one dealt with in a book of episodic travels, any more than a vignette can dominate physically the page on which it appears. The historical is succeeded by the contemporaneous and the personal, just as a jewel-like vignette will be followed by several unillustrated pages. But the sum total of the reading experience will be an anthology of moods, details, information, impressions, held together and sustained by the authorial presence. As Shelley intended, her book acts as personal journey through her interior landscape, but this landscape includes thought, and political opinion informed by historical knowledge, making it both an exercise in philosophical travel as well as a memoir.

After the Tyrol, the process of leaving the "abrupt, gloomy, sublime north" (Works VIII, 265) for the delicious joy of Italy is welcomed with classical allusions from herself and her student companions. Shelley subtly reminds the reader that the party includes gentlemen with the classical education to match, and that she is present in a role of adult, maternal chaperone.

En route to Venice along the Brenta, however, grief makes its first appearance in the second set of rambles. In 1818 Shelley and her husband had travelled that way, nursing their dying daughter. But Shelley generalises rather than specifies her grief as a sorrow proper to and peculiar to a mother: "I was agitated again by emotions—by passions —and those the deepest a woman's heart can harbour—a dread to see her child even at that instant expire—which then occupied me". (Works VIII, 269) She then aligns this universal emotion with four writers who have observed how under intense emotion the details of one's physical surroundings become deeply etched on the suffering mind: Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Holcroft. This is a pantheon which assimilates three personal friends of her father's circle to the level of England's greatest writer, and by implication suggests that a mother's grief is a species of sublime.

From this point, most of Shelley's letters become elegant essays of cultural criticism, i.e. they become almost entirely philosophical travel. The thinking and knowledgeable woman predominates over personal memory of Venice, Florence or Rome. "I dwell on the beauty, the majesty, the dreamy enjoyments of Venice" she declares, although, had she wished to pose as a celebrity author, she might have elaborated on her acquaintance with Byron. (Works VIII, 283) Significantly, she is resolutely non-biographical; the pictures that move her most are those depicting the Virgin, that is to say, a mother. She also persisted, against received opinion, in admiring Titian's Pieta portraying Mary Magdalen's sickening terror when she finds the body of Christ gone, which was not then held to be a masterpiece. Her empathy with this depiction of loss tells its own story in spite of her determination to welcome the new.

In fact, although her retrospective account of this part of the trip suggests a calm and considered mood, her situation was not running smoothly. She was constantly worried about money; every outing a pleasure had to be carefully managed. Unlike Fanny Trollope, she could not relax on outings and eat ices at will. Pearson became an awkward companion and left them at Florence; her health was bad; and the snubs she encountered from Lord and Lady Holland of the British embassy in Florence brought home forcefully to her that she no longer cared to placate British proprieties. She alludes neither to her contemporary difficulties—though they fill her letters to Claire Clairmont written during these visits—nor to her memories. As she had declared in her credo, she wanted to dwell on new ideas, and at this time she was looking at paintings in Florence and Rome through the eyes of the French art critic Rio and his wife, whom she had met in London, seen in Dresden and now accompanied around galleries in Rome. What is new for Shelley in revisiting Venice, Florence and Rome is her consistent study of art.

Since to contemporary nationalists the nation was constituted by its cultural achievements, it is logical in compiling her book that after her summary of her new responses to Florentine art she should insert Gatteschi's essay on the Carbonari. This is followed by her own comments on the current political and social position of Tuscany, and a letter summarising the present state of literature and linguistic debate in Italy, which drew on the extensive reading she had done for the volumes of Italian lives she had written for Lardner.[39]

In the next five letters of Part II, recounting her Roman experiences, it is the philosophic traveller who continues to predominate, and the personal sub-text is resolutely pared down. Compared with Trollope's growing sense of outrage at Italian mis-government, Shelley's support for change is muted by her historical perspective. Like Rogers' poem, where the sequence of the funeral followed the section on the Coliseum, she alludes to her losses in the same breath with these ancient ruins:

Besides all that Rome itself affords of delight to the eye and imagination, I revisit it as the bourne of a pious pilgrimage. The treasures of my youth lie buried there. ... The sky is bright—the air impregnated with the soft odours of spring —we take our books and wile away the morning hours among the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, or the Coliseum.

Works VIII, 348

The autobiographical sub-text is once again very distilled and like all distillations, powerful. Her "philosophic" topics include a letter devoted to Raphael and other religious art, one to the music and ceremonies of Holy Week, where she is sympathetic to their imaginative appeal to the worshippers, and one to a discussion of the Papal government's handling of the cholera epidemic, which lacks the bite of Trollope's strictures. Her belief that the improvement of "just laws and an upright administration" is needed is muted by her historical awareness that there have been repeated calls for reform since Dante's era. (Works VIII, 358)

It is in the final two letters that Shelley returns to the style of a travelogue of daily sights and excursions and allows her delight in Naples and associated visits free expression. Her determination to look forward is rewarded by an enjoyment of Naples far surpassing her previous, winter visits. Now Paradise has been regained, a paradise not so much like the one described not by Dante or Milton, but invoked by Tasso or Ariosto in their descriptions of earthly delight. She is even tranquil at her son's sailing excursions, presided over by a conscientious young sailor. In contrast with Trollope's anger at being seen as a rich traveller for to whom the locals must defer, she refracts her sympathy for the hard-working peasants through a belief that the benevolent climate makes suffering more bearable. Visits to Capri, Pompey, Amalfi, Ravello are made; and returning from the latter she feels that their rented lodgings have become home. Echoing Milton, when he described the earth as "this pendent world, in bigness as a star of smallest magnitude close by the moon" (Paradise Lost, II, 1053-4), she concludes her book with this vision of the earthly paradise:

it is a joy to return to our terrace, to breathe the fragrance of the orange flowers—to see the calm sea spread out at our feet, as we look over the bay to Naples—while above us bends a sky—in whose pure depths ship-like clouds—and the moon hangs luminous, a pendant sphere of silver fire.

Works VIII, 386

It is as if, completing the book in familiar London with all its troubles and ill-health she could not bear to relate the expulsion from this second taste of bliss, and she leaves herself and the reader there in her spiritual home as if it had translated itself into permanence.

Her book has shown the reader glimpses of her own private landscape alongside the "philosophical" travel, and in concluding it is the personal that is allowed to dominate. Yet this self-revelation has been discreet and very distilled—almost classical in its restraint, the opposite of the path taken by the celebrity author mode of writing where the personal flavour if stimulating is also relentless. Like her mother's Letters from Norway, her book succeeds in blending the subjective and the philosophical. It too conveys a "sensitive, imaginative, suffering" self, but the full extent of this suffering is seen only revealed in her letters and journal written at the same time as Rambles. Like her mother's book, Shelley's conveyed an "inexpressible charm" and it was one of her best received books. This is testimony to Shelley's enormous powers of literary determination in wresting her material into published form and disciplining very severely the amount of herself she was willing to reveal. In this she was truly her mother's daughter. Letters from Norway represents a tremendous, and ultimately successful attempt to move outward from her misery over Imlay; to be comforted and inspired by the majestic scenery or the simplicity of Scandinavian small-holders, to connect with another sense of life. Likewise Shelley has wrought gold from her alloyed life, but her persona is quieter, less intrepid than her mother's and her allusions to sorrow more generalised. Although her mother's book alluded to ill-health, its very subject matter of little-visited corner of Europe is testament to her intrepidity, and she is able to record her reinvigoration; with hindsight, we know that Shelley's book was written under the shadow of the brain tumour from which she probably died in her early fifties. Often commenting wryly on her experience of taking the sure at the German spa of Kissingen, she makes light of her illness, though her text portrays her frequently being unable to take part in the youthful excursions of her son and his friends. Without the self-pity of the invalid or the self-dramatisation characteristic of the celebrity writer, she has quietly reflected on the poignant tragedy of her life and offered the reader a self-portrait without fuss or fanfare.

* * * * *

In conclusion I would like to suggest a way in which we can regard Rambles in relation to English Romanticism. Consideration of women's writing has extended the conventional periodisation of Romanticism into the 1830s, but it is usually still argued that the 1840s are important for the writing careers of the first Victorians: Gaskell, Thackeray, Dickens, and the Brontes. How does "late romanticism" relate to "early Victorianism"? How—if we need these labels and schematic periodisations—can we do justice to a variety of writers as well as reintegrate women into our understanding of the literary profession?

I believe the work of the American comparatist Virgil Nemoianu, though written without explicit attention to women writers, let alone feminist literary revisionism, nonetheless offers some useful ideas. In The Taming of Romanticism: European Literature in the Age of Biedermeier, he argues that the continental label of "Biedermeier" can be extended to describe the literature and culture of Britain and France between 1815 and 1848, in addition to its more normal usage with reference to Germany and Central Europe. Nemoianu takes as a starting point of his definition of Romanticism that of Murray Abrams, summarising it as "The possible-impossible expansion of the self to a seamless identification with the universe".[40] The taming of this romanticism consequently involves a "secularization of a secularization": instead of the essentially religious search for transcendent unity that is displaced into a secular mode in romanticism, "tamed" romanticism recognises that history might spell out the course of a return to a specific historic moment, not to a pre-lapsarian paradise. It accepts separation rather than integration: the separation from universalism into different national schools, for instance; the distinction between nature and culture, and between reason and imagination. Fragmentation means acceptance of loss and disappointment, not the glimpses of an impossible totality. Absolute love makes way for "the glorification of family affection and domestic peace". [41] The idyll becomes a popular mood, with its own genres to match. Projects for regenerative political and social change have to accept defeat and limitation as inherent to the process.

Applying this specifically to England, Nemoianu draws a line between the "high romantics"—the 1790s of the Lyrical Ballads, Blake, Gothic novels, Paine and Godwin's radical politics, Southey's ballads and shorter epics, the oeuvre of P. B. Shelley, the Scott of the ballads and Scottish songs, Keats's Endymion, and Byron's Childe Harold--and the period after 1815, when there is a withdrawal from the absolutist paradigm to "peaceful zones of intellectual activity". There follows first a transitional stage: the later, ironic poems of Byron; Keat's realisation that paradise is never going to be reached; Wordsworth's revisions to The Prelude; the political conservatism of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley. By the 1820s, writers are taming romanticism to the practical and domestic, the social and intimate. For Nemoianu, Charles Lamb is the quintessential Biedermeier writer, whose literary criticism offers a positive evaluation of romantic writing while toning down its excesses, while his essays offer a deliberate miniaturisation of conflicts between self and infinitude. Meanwhile, Scott's historical novels move romanticism acceptably into the parlour. The boom in travel writing signals an armchair reduction of the romantic quest. Annuals such as The Keepsake diffuse a popular lyricism in the traditions of Thomas Moore, Samuel Rogers and Thomas Campbell.

Nemoianu's argument is a subtle one, worked out with detailed parallels between comparable German developments. Leigh Hunt's periodicals, The Examiner and The Liberal, are likened for example to the journals of the Young Deutschland movement. Myopically, however, in spite of noting the emphasis on domestic affection and intimacy, which Anne Mellor and Stuart Curran have both seen as characteristic of female romanticism, Nemoianu does not broaden his sights to look at women alongside men. Nonetheless, the foregoing suggests how readily Shelley's oeuvre would fit into a category of English Biedermeier. Indeed, the circumstances of her family life already suggest the beginning of this "taming of romanticism, as her father Godwin began to accept the idea that publishing children's books might serve as a quieter, more feasible way of educating the new generation than the Utopian vision of Political Justice. Tellingly, it is Godwin who commissions from Charles and Mary Lamb the Tales from Shakespeare, that reduction of the great romantic cultural icon to children's presumed capacities.

Emily Sunstein's biography traces Shelley's path from "Romance" to "Reality". Anne Mellor never uses the term "taming" as such but she sees as a major characteristic of Shelley's fiction a critique of male egotism, and its advocacy in contrast of "an ethic of care". She also discerns in Frankenstein a mistrust of the heroic revolutionary project, which devoured its own children. [42] Much of Shelley's output in the 1830s was for the "Keepsake" type of annuals market. But what I find particularly pertinent in Nemoianu's characterisation of Biedermeier is his idea of the high romantic projects coexisting with disappointment or reversal; with epic aspiration nestling alongside quotidian contentment. For it is this pluralism of mood which above all characterises the Rambles: the celebration of the Tyrolean struggle follows on from the stultifying heat of Dresden where a released grasshopper carries symbolic weight; the sublimity of ancient Roman ruins is a backdrop for a family picnic in which a reminder of private grief is included. The personal and monumental coexist, with neither displacing the other.

The framework of "English Biedermeier" to characterise writing in the 1820s to the 1840s by men and women might well prove fruitful for "placing" other women: Mary Howitt, who with her husband William combined translation of and critical commentary on German and Scandinavian literature, with writing for children; or Mary Cowden Clarke, nee Novello, who in another marital partnership with Charles Cowden Clarke, son of Keat's schoolmaster, followed Charles and Mary Lamb by writing children's versions of an iconic writer, Chaucer, and composed numerous children's books alongside the literary work of scholarly editions and a concordance of Shakespeare; or Anna Jameson, who wrote for the "Keepsake" type of female audience, moved on to interpret German Beidermeier culture to a British audience, and then matured into a scholar of art history. Beidermeier culture could include the novels of Mrs. Gore, Caroline Norton, or Barbara Holford, while Mary Russell Mitford is a classic exponent of the idyll. Far from being a trough between the peaks of Romanticism and Victorianism, the period 1820-1840 is a varied and important chapter in English culture. The recent attention given to Shelley opens just one door into this period, which awaits deeper investigation in spite of the advances that have been made. The idea of Biedermeier culture might help to open other doors, and frame new vistas in assessing writing by men and women, as well as exploring aspects of the visual, musical and theatrical culture of these decades, and its architecture, design, and domestic decoration.