Percy and Mary Shelley took possession of their new home at Marlow in March 1817.
So this year is the bicentenary of their summer in Marlow.
Albion House in West Street was to be their home for a year although at the time they intended to stay longer having purchased a 21 year lease.
They employed a gardener and sowed seeds brought back from Switzerland where Mary had begun to write Frankenstein.
Now during her pregnancy in Marlow she prepared a new handwritten copy for the publisher.
In between there were boat trips up and down the river to nearby Medmenham Abbey, Henley and Maidenhead. Shelley loved the river and had once rowed to Inglesham. He also sat thinking and writing in a boat at Bisham on the right bank.
He walked a lot and sometimes took a woodland path to upstream Medmenham Abbey and back.
In 1817 the High Street was not the direct route to the river crossing. Instead St Peter Street, which now runs into the Thames, was the approach to a white painted wooden road bridge.
Today’s suspension bridge in line with the High Street and The Causeway was not considered for another decade.
With Percy and Mary at Albion House were Claire Clairmont and her baby Allegra by Byron who was in Venice.
Mary’s father William Godwin stayed as did Leigh Hunt and his family.
Shelley’s friend Thomas Love Peacock was also living at 47 West Street, opposite the turning to Oxford, and in his novel Nightmare Abbey gives a picture of the Shelley household.
On Tuesday 2 September Mary gave birth to Clara and the same month she finished her and her husband’s travel narrative A Historyof a Six Weeks’ Tour which was published under Percy’s name in November.
All this time Mary was finding Albion House damp and lacking direct sunshine.
The approach of Christmas saw the couple, despite their lack of regular money, distribute blankets to the poor of Marlow. They were embroidered with the decoration ‘PBS Esq., Marlow, Bucks’.
Do any still exist in the town?
Shelley, who was waiting for his long poem The Revolt of Islam to have its print run completed, spent Boxing Day along the road in Peacock’s house where he started his poem Ozymandias.
New Year’s Day 1818 saw the publication of Mary’s Frankenstein but there was no great public celebration. The title page did not carry the author’s name and her husband had to deny that he was the author.
There were to be no royalties so the couple looked to Percy’s The Revolt of Islam to earn money.
Shelley sent a copy of Frankenstein to Sir Walter Scott who, without knowing that Mary was the author, later praised it in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.
But that was in March 1818 just days after Mary and Percy had left England.
2018 will see many Frankenstein anniversary events but for Mary her Frankenstein year was really 1817.
NEW LONDON BRIDGE
Sir, Whatever the case for a Garden Bridge (News, Apr 29, leading article, Apr 29; letters May 1), a better idea might be a reconstruction of the medieval Old London Bridge. Surmounted by rows of shops, it would produce a stream of rental income. Its picturesque appearance, including the magnificent Nonsuch House, is known from Hollar’s engraved view. Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence it would be a draw for tourists and would enhance the attractiveness of the city. Unlike the Garden Bridge, it could attract funding through the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust, whose funds have paid for a number of bridges over the years, including the present London Bridge.
Edmund Gray Oxford
It’s easy to turn into the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The gates on the Thames Path are open daylight hours.
From Saturday it will again be possible to go into the magnificent Painted Hall. Its not laid out for dinner because a £8.5m restoration is under way.
Instead a temporary platform, held up by 8,000 temporary pole fittings and just below the high roof, will allow a close up view of the ceiling painting which is being painstakingly cleaned.
This is a unique opportunity to see the painting undertaken by Sir James Thornhill three hundred years ago.
One of the restoration team says that being up so close is both “eerie and disorientating”.
Thornhill completed the work called The Triumph of Peace and Libertyover Tyranny in 1714. It had taken him seven years.
Three hundred years ago this year he submitted revised designs for the upper hall, or west end higher level, which he eventually finished in 1722.
The tours are available from April 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm); £10 (child £5). Profits go towards raising the final £2m needed. The scaffolding is expected to remain in place until late 2018.
The Painted Hall is one of the oldest tourist attractions. It was intended as the dining room for Naval pensioners but was soon only used for special occasions to allow for the growing number of visitors.
“This is a splendid Norman church in a village within the city of Oxford,” says the author.
“And it is worth visiting for its rich interior and the story of its anchoress (or pious hermit) named Annora, but its particular glory is that it serves as a perfect destination for a walk along the Thames from the centre of the city. ”
The Norman church dates from around the year of Thomas Becket’s murder.