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Mary W. Shelley
by [?]

Shelley wrecked the life of one of these women. She found surcease of sorrow in death; and when her body was found in the Serpentine he had a premonition that the hungry waves were waiting for him, too. But before her death and through her death, she pressed home to him the bitterest sorrow that man can ever know: the combined knowledge that he has mortally injured a human soul and the sense of helplessness to minister to its needs. Harriet Westbrook said to Shelley, drink ye all of it. And could he speak now he would say that the bitterness of the potion was a formative influence as potent as that of the gentle ministrations of Mary Wollstonecraft, who broke over his head the precious vase of her heart’s love and wiped his feet with the hairs of her head.

In the poetic sweetness, gentleness, lovableness and beauty of their natures, Emerson and Shelley were very similar. In a like environment they would have done the same things. A pioneer ancestry with its struggle for material existence would have given Shelley caution; and a noble patronymic, fostered by the State, lax in its discipline, would have made Emerson toss discretion to the winds.

Emerson and Shelley were both apostles of the good, the true and the beautiful. One of them rests at Sleepy Hollow, his grave marked by a great rough-hewn boulder, while overhead the winds sigh a requiem through the pines. The ashes of the other were laid beneath the moss-grown wall of the Eternal City, and the creeping vines and flowers, as if jealous of the white, carven marble, snuggle close over the spot with their leaves and petals.

Yet both of these men achieved immortality, for their thoughts live again in the thoughts of the race, and their hopes and their aspirations mingle and are one with the men and women of earth who think and feel and dream.

* * * * *

It was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who awoke in Shelley such a burst of song that men yet listen to its cadence. It was she who gave his soul wings: her gentle spirit blending with his made music that has enriched the world. Without her he was fast beating out his life against the bars of unkind condition, but together they worked and sang. All his lines were recited to her, all were weighed in the critical balances of her woman’s judgment. She it was who first wrote it out, and then gave it back. Together they revised; and after he had passed on, she it was who collected the scattered leaves, added the final word, and gave us the book we call “Shelley’s Poems.” Perhaps we might call all poetry the child of parents, but with Shelley’s poems this is literally true. Mary Shelley delighted in the name Wollstonecraft. It was her mother’s name; and was not Mary Wollstonecraft the foremost intellectual woman of her day–a woman of purpose, forceful yet gentle, appreciative, kind?

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in Seventeen Hundred Fifty-nine; and tiring of the dull monotony of a country town went up to London when yet a child and fought the world alone. By her own efforts she grew learned; she had all science, all philosophy, all history at her fingers’ ends. She became able to speak several languages, and by her pen an income was secured that was not only sufficient for herself, but ministered to the needs of an aged father and mother and sisters as well.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote one great book (which is all any one can write): “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” It sums up all that has since been written on the subject. Like an essay by Herbert Spencer, it views the matter from every side, anticipates every objection–exhausts the subject. The literary style of Mary Wollstonecraft’s book is Johnsonese, but its thought forms the base of all that has come after. It is the great-great-grandmother of all woman’s clubs and these thousand efforts that women are now putting forth along economic, artistic and social lines. But we have nearly lost sight of Mary Wollstonecraft. Can you name me, please, your father’s grandmother? Aye, I thought not; then tell me the name of the man who is now Treasurer of the United States!