July 28 1814: Escape to France (Shelley & Mary…& Claire)

July 28 1814: Escape to France.

On July 28 1814, Mary Godwin and Percy Shelley secretly flee to France accompanied by Mary’s stepsister Jane, later known as Claire Clairmont. Mary and Jane are sixteen. Shelley is married and twenty-one.The three make their escape from William Godwin’s home in a coach at 4:15 a.m. They arrive at Dover and cross the channel to Calais. William Godwin remains in London but Mrs. Godwin pursues them to Calais. There she is tricked and the three make their escape. William Godwin wrote a letter to John Taylor where he describes what happened.

In the night of the 27th Mary and her sister Jane escaped from my house, and the next morning when I rose I found a letter on my dressing table informing me what they had done … Jane we were, and still are, most anxious to recover immediately; and therefore after much deliberation it was agreed that Mrs. G[odwin] should set off after them by the evening’s mail. She overtook them at Calais. I had made it a condition in suffering her to depart, that she should avoid seeing Shelley, who had conceived a particular aversion to her as a dangerous foe to his views, and might be capable of any act of desperation.

Mrs. Godwin wrote to Jane the very moment she reached Calais, July 29, who came to her at a separate inn, spent the night with her, and promised to return with her to England the next morning. But when morning arrived she said she must see the fugitives for a few minutes, and in that interview all her resolutions were subverted. Not the most earnest entreaties of a mother could turn her from her purpose; and on Sunday, July 31, Mrs. Godwin returned once more alone.”

(Click here to read more on ‘Past Now’.)

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