Sunday, August 14, 2011

Storm at Sea: Field Place, Sussex

Here it is: the Sussex country seat of the Shelleys, threatened by the Mediterranean storm that took the life of Timothy Shelley's eldest son, Percy Bysshe, who had been born there 29 years and eleven months previously.

Field Place
 All his life Shelley appears to have what would at the last prove to be a fatal attraction to boats and being on the water, whether it was the paper boats he and his successive wives, Harriet (who by-the-by drowned herself) then Mary would sail on London ponds or later rowing boats in Marlow and last but not least, his specially-built sailing boat, the Ariel, in Italy.

So paper boats feature in this house portrait, made from photocopies of pages from his biographies, with significant names on them:

 As to July 8, 1822, this is how one biographer described the fateful day:

"In the heat of the Italian summer Shelley went with Edward Williams to Leghorn in the Ariel, and spent a week there and at Pisa with Leigh Hunt. In the afternoon of an intensely warm July day, under a sky that presaged bad weather, they said goodbye to Hunt and set sail for Lerici. A tremendous storm arose, such as is not infrequent on this coast. The frail little Ariel, twenty-four feet by eight, disappeared from the view of those watching it from the shore, and was swallowed up in the tumult of the tempest.

"A week later the body of Williams, cast up by the waves, was found on the beach, and the next day that of Shelley was discovered upon the shore near Viareggio, three miles away. It was not until three weeks after the storm that the corpse of 18-year-old Charñes Vivian, the young sailor-lad who was their sole companiion in the boat and the only one of the three who could swim, was also found on the sands.

"In one of Shelley's pockets was Keats' last book, Lamia, which he had told Hunt, who had lent it to him on his departure for home, he would not part with until he should see him again..."

Shelley's ashes were eventually interred in the Protestant Cemetery at Rome near the graves of his little son William and that of Keats.


  1. Brilliant! Love the sky! What a sad end to their lives.

  2. Love the way you work symbols of their lives in with the architecture, telling the complete story - seen and unseen. I second what deb said (above).