We’ve come to the end of our series on significant London sites related to Mary Shelley – in honour of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein – so it’s time for a quick recap before launching our next Wednesday series…

1. Somers Town…

2. St Pancras Old Churchyard…

3. Marchmont Street, Somers Town…

4. Church of St Mildred, Bread Street

5. The Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square…

6. St Giles-in-the-Fields…

7. Charles and Mary Lamb’s house…

8. Chester Square…

9. A lock of Mary Shelley’s hair…

10. Memorials to Percy Bysshe Shelley…

 

 

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One of the more curious items related to Mary Shelley in London is a lock of her hair which is in the collection of the British Library. 

The lock of hair is contained in the decorative lining of a book of letters and other material along with a lock of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s hair which once belonged to Claire Clairmont, Shelley’s step-sister.

Percy’s hair was originally enclosed within a wrapper upon which Clairmont had written “The Poet Shelley’s Hair” – it is presumed to have been cut off following his death by drowning in 1822.

The rear lining of the same book contains material said to be from the ashes of Percy collected by Edward Trelawny from the beach near Viareggio where Percy was cremated.

Other Mary Shelley-related items in the British Library include a letter written by Percy to Mary (then Godwin) on 16th December, 1816, following the death of his first wife, Harriet, and a frontispeace from an 1831 edition of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.

For more on Mary Shelley and the British Library, see www.bl.uk/people/mary-shelley.

PICTURE: Public domain (via British Library).

Renowned sibling writers Charles and Mary Lamb lived in a property at 64 Duncan Terrace in Islington from 1823-27 and, their visitors there apparently included Mary Shelley.

Shelley had returned to London in 1823 after the death of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley who had drowned along with two other men off the coast of Italy in July the previous year.

Back in London, Shelley lived in various properties as far afield as Kentish Town – many of which are no longer extant. But one home she was known to have visited after her return (which is still standing) was that of the Lambs.

Charles, part of the literary circle which included Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, described the property – Colebrook Cottage – as a “white house with six good rooms”. Now Grade II-listed, it dates from the 18th century.

The New River once ran close by  – so close, in fact, that one guest, believed to be the blind poet George Dyer, walked into the river after leaving the house and had to be rescued by Lamb. The river is now covered.

The property features an English Heritage Blue Plaque (although in this case, it’s actually brown), commemorating Lamb’s stay here.

PICTURE: Spudgun67 (licensed under CC BY 2.0).

 

The publishers of the first edition of Frankenstein – a company known as Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones – were based in Finsbury Square in Islington within a building known as The Temple of the Muses.

Designed as a ‘temple to reading’ (it is attributed by some to George Dance the Younger), the rather grand building in the south-east corner of the square was built by the aforementioned James Lackington in 1791 to sell books (his stocks grew to include tens of thousands of items), some of which the company would publish themselves.

The massive building was crowned a central dome topped with a flagpole (from which a flag fluttered when Lackington was in residence) under which was a circular counter around which it was apparently said a coach and horses could be driven see image).

The original Lackington had long since retired from the business when Mary Shelley came along. His relative George Lackingham then ran the business with many partners – Richard Hughes, Joseph Harding, William Mavor and a Jones. Known consequently as Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones, the company had apparently previously had a couple of different names including Lackington, Allen & Co.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was first offered as a three volume book – without Shelley’s name attached – to the public on New Year’s Day, 1818 (slightly behind schedule due to printing delays). Thanks to the initial print run being late and an advertising mix-up, it was subsequently republished on 11th March the same year (this is now considered by many the original publication date).

The Temple, meanwhile, survived until 1841 when it burned down. The business, now known as Harding and Lepard, then moved to Pall Mall East.

PICTURE: Interior view of the Temple of the Muses (engraving/etching by William Wallis, probably in Jones’ University edition of British Classic Authors, 1828/Via Wikipedia)