Cross-comparing Claire Clairmonts journals and letters with Mary Shelleys letters and Byrons journal and letters in this edition (volume 1), at least up to the terrible events of 1822.There are fascinating discoveries to be made for the reader who was a teen and young adult during the throes of the sixties (which actually were the early seventies) when the winds of change were supposedly blowing.
Well, Mary, Claire, Shelley, and to some extent Byron were very much aware of their own winds of change. (Though Byron appears to have become more conservative as the others reinvented themselves.) One marvels at the boggling innocence of these teenagers setting out to discover the delights of the road just as Napoleons horrible wars were ending—Waterloo yet to come—without realizing the human cost.
No, they were seeking poetry, renewal, human greatness. At least Shelley was- Mary is harder to read, and Clair paid lipservice to the ideals, but she really wanted to be with a famous guy.The price of fame haunts them all, as they age—those who live. Shelley and Byron die young, prisoned forever in romantic memory (Shelleys image so whitewashed and retrofitted even the drawings of his were changed)- the women have to struggle with the fallout, Claire to be a governess for most of the rest of a long life (and her travels are fascinating) Mary to write anonymously, keeping her lip buttoned so her one remaining son is not denied his heritage by a miserable old relative who seems to live forever- she is rejected by her own society, and betrayed by her closest friend who also wanted fame above all.
What they tried to do, how they did it, what they saw, experienced, how they reacted, the price, the discoveries, the memories, are endlessly fascinating.Excellent footnotes and bibliography make it easier for the reader who wants to see these people as much as possible in their own words.