On October 13, 1816, William Godwin writes to Mary Shelley about the news that Fanny, his stepdaughter has died.
I did indeed expect it.
I cannot but thank you for your strong expressions of sympathy. I do not see, however, that that sympathy can be of any service to me; but it is best. My advice and earnest prayer is that you would avoid anything that leads to publicity. Go not to Swansea; disturb not the silent dead; do nothing to destroy the obscurity she so much desired that now rests upon the event. It was, as I said, her last wish; it was the motive that led her from London to Bristol and from Bristol to Swansea.
I said that your sympathy could be of no service to me, but I retract the assertion; by observing what I have just recommended to you, it may be of infinite service. Think what is the situation of my wife and myself, now deprived of all our children but the youngest [William Godwin]; so do not expose us to those idle questions, which to a mind in anguish is one of the severest of all trials. We are at this moment in doubt whether, during the first shock, we shall not say that she is gone to Ireland to her aunt, a thing that had been in contemplation. Do not take from us the power to exercise our own discretion. You shall hear again 1 O-morrow.
What I have most of all in horror is the public papers, and I thank you for your caution, as it might act on this.
We have so conducted ourselves that not one person in our home has the smallest apprehension of the truth. Our feelings are less tumultuous than deep. God only knows what they may become.
The following is one expression in her letter to us, written from Bristol on Tuesday: “I depart immediately to the spot from which I hope never to remove.”