January 24 1815: There is Madness in Thought

On January 24 1815, Harriet Shelley, clearly distraught, writes to her friend in Ireland, Catherine Nugent.

My dear Mrs. Nugent, — I am sorry to tell you my poor little boy has been very ill. He is better now, and the first spare time I devote to you. Why will you not come to England, my dear friend, and stay with me? I should be so happy to have you near me. I am truly miserable, my dear friend I I really see no termination to my sorrows. As to Mr.Shelley, I know nothing of him. He neither sends nor comes to see me. I am still at my father’s, which is very wretched. When I shall quit this house I know not. Everything goes against me. I am weary of life. I am so restrained here, that life is scarcely worth living. How I wish you were here. What will you do, my dear Catherine? . . . Do now make up your mind at once to come and stay with me. I will do everything to make you happy. For myself happiness is fled. I live for others. At nineteen I could descend, a willing victim, to the tomb. How I wish those dear children had never been born I They stay my fleeting spirit, when it would be in another state. How many there are who shudder at death I I have been so near it that I feel no terrors. Mr. Shelley has much to answer for. He has been the cause of great misery to me and mine. I shall never ve with him again. ‘Tis impossible. I have been so deceived and cruelly treated that I can never forget it I Oh, no I with all the affections warm, a heart devoted to him — and then to be so cruelly blighted I Oh I Catherine, you do not know what it is to be left as I am, a prey to anguish, corroding sorrow, with a mind too sensitive to others’ pain. But I will think no more. There is madness in thought. Could I look into futurity for a short time, how gladly would I pierce the veil of mystery that wraps my fate. Is it wrong, do you think, to put an end to one’s sorrows? I often think of it — all is so gloomy and desolate. Shall I find repose in another world? Oh, grave, why do you not tell us what is beyond? Let me hear from you soon, my dear friend. Your letters make me more happy. Tell me about Ireland. You know I love the green Isle and all its natives. Eliza joins in kind love to you. I remain your sincere but unhappy friend,

H. Shelley.

.The painting above is by the Portuguese artist Duarte Vitoria.

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