The Clairmont Correspondence: Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont, and Fanny Imlay Godwin, 1808-1879

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9780801846335: The Clairmont Correspondence: Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont, and Fanny Imlay Godwin, 1808-1879

"You write the most amusing and clever letters in the world... If your letters are ever published, all others that ever were published before will fall in the shade, and you will be looked on as the best letter writer that ever charmed their friends."--Mary Shelley to Claire Clairmont, 29 November 1842

Claire Clairmont embodied English romanticism in her life, her journals, and especially in her letters. As step-daughter of William Godwin, as companion to Shelley and Mary on their elopement, as Shelley's "Constantia," as mother of Byron's Allegra, as a regular member of the Shelley circle (close to Peacock, Leigh Hunt, Hogg, Lady Mount Cashell, and Trelawny), as governess in Russia during the Decembrist Revolution, as confidante of Mary Shelley and Jane Williams in their middle years, and, in her old age, as the inspiration of Henry James's The Aspern Papers, she both lived and recorded the Romantic Revolution.

Brought up in the same household as Mary Shelley, dedicated to the principles of Mary Wollstonecraft, Claire was a more enthusiastic feminist than Mary, and her letters on this theme are always arresting, often hilarious. She wrote on the perils of marriage, on the advantages of illegitimacy, and on the forces that press a woman of no fortune into dependency. She resisted these forces,maintaining her independence in the only career open to her--governess and companion--while dreaming of a "society of free women."

This edition presents the texts of all known surviving letters by Claire Clairmont along with those of her brother Charles Clairmont and her stepsister Fanny Imlay Godwin--229 letters in all, of which 183 are published here for the first time complete. Claire Clairmont's letters, numbering 190, date from 1815, when she was seventeen, to two months before her death in 1879. Charles Clairmont's 32 letters begin with schoolboy notes to Godwin in 1808, when he was thirteen, and conclude in 1849, two months before his death. Fanny Godwin's seven are all from 1816, the year of her suicide at the age of twenty-two. The volumes also include a chronological chart, genealogical tables, appendices, and twenty-eight illustrations.

"The role Claire Clairmont played in the lives of Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Byron gives exceptional importance to her letters. Claire Clairmont was an intelligent, discerning--at times self-centered and, towards the latter part of her life, quirky--observer of the life around her. In the letters exchanged between Claire Clairmont and Mary Shelley, as well as in her many letters to Byron and Trelawny, one gathers invaluable first-hand insights into the lives of the extraordinary circle of younger romantics and their era."--Betty T. Bennett, American University

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About the Author:

Marion Kingston Stocking is professor emeritus at Beloit College and editor of The Beloit Poetry Journal. She previously edited The Journals of Claire Clairmont and was a contributing editor forShelley and His Circle, Vol. 5.

Review:

"An event in literary history. The last remaining unpublished source for Shelley and Byron, and for the long Victorian aftermath endured by the women, is now made available in a magnificent edition. Most of the letters are published in full for the first time. Marion Kingston Stocking... is the perfect editor, and the book is a delight." -- William St Clair, Literary Review

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