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PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.
It was late in the autumn of 1820, when, at Shelley's invitation to pass the winter with him, I reached Pisa. I was not aware that he had gone to the Baths of St. Julian, and on enquiring for him, was referred for information to Lady Mount-Cashel, a lady whoso retirement from the world was not unprofitable, for perhaps it was devoted to one of the best works on the Education of Children which we possess. She was one of the few persons with whom the Shelleys were intimate. She had been in early life the friend of Mary Wolstone
craft, and this was the tie between them. An interesting and amiable person was Mrs. Mason, as she called herself, and from her I gained the desired intelligence, and the next day Shelley came to my hotel, the Trè Donzelle.
It was nearly seven years since we had parted, but I should immediately have recognised him in a crowd. His figure was emaciated, and somewhat bent, owing to near-sightedness, and his being forced to lean over his books, with his eyes almost touching them ; his hair, still profuse, and curling naturally, was partially interspersed with grey ; but his appearance was youthful, and his countenance, whether grave or animated, strikingly intellectual. There was also a freshness and purity in his complexion that he never lost. I acconipanied him to the baths, then, owing to the lateness of the season, (it was November,) quite deserted,—for they are completely a summer resort ; and there I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mrs. Shelley, and saw Percy, their little son, then an infant. Their house was immediately on the banks of the Serchio, and on the very day of my arrival, that little, rapid river, or rather the canal. that branches from it, overflowed its banks ; no uncommon circumstance. It ran into the
square, and formed a flood that threatened to cut off the communication with the main road to Pisa. Mrs. Shelley speaks of the event. Well do I remember the scene, which I stood with Shelley at the window to admire. The Contadine bore torches, and the groups of cattle, and the shouts of the drivers, the picturesque dresses of their wives, half immersed in the water, and carrying their children, and the dark mountains in the background, standing out in bold relief, formed a singular spectacle, well worthy of a painter's study. Shelley wished me to sketch it, but it was far beyond my powers of delineation,--besides that I had no colours. The next morning, the inundation having still continued to increase, the first floor was completely under water, and barring all egress, we were obliged to get a boat
from the upper windows, and drove to Pisa, where Shelley had already taken an apartmenta Terreno in the Casa, next door to the Marble Palace, with the enignatical inscription, “ Alla Giornata," an inscription that has puzzled much the antiquary to explain, and with which title a Novel has been written, which I have never seen. Perhaps there is no mystery in “Alla Giornata,” which means, erected by day-work, instead of contract, the usual mode of building in Italy. But Shelley was inclined to think that there was some deep and mystical meaning in the words, and was but little satisfied with this prosaic interpretation, and deemed it was a tribute to the East, where the proprietor had past his best days, and made his colossal fortune. I have mentioned this magnificent palace, in order to identify the house where Shelley lived, the name of which has escaped me.
We here fixed ourselves for the winter, if such an expression be applicable to the divine elimate of that gifted city, “where autumn