If you’ve followed my previous post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/allegra-con-spirito/ some of you may ask what happened to Claire Clairmont, Allegra’s mother.
The first thing to note is that it wasn’t until 2010 that Claire’s paternity was confirmed. She was born of a liaison between Mary Jane Vial Clairmont and Sir John Lethbridge, Baronet of Sandhill Park in Somerset.
Mary Jane Vial Clairmont became William Godwin’s second wife when Mary Wollstonecraft died in giving birth to Mary Shelley. Incidentally, Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is this year celebrating its two hundredth birthday and Mary spent much of her time in Bagni di Lucca following the rave reviews her recently published book were receiving.
Claire’s original name was Clara Mary Jane Clairmont but she decided to change it to Claire Clairmont as it sounded to her rather more modish.
After the affair with Lord Byron Claire never had any confirmed sexual relationship with any man. Indeed, she openly disdained the male sex, although there is circumstantial evidence that Claire may have been involved in a ménage a trois with Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary and even had a child by him.
(Claire Clairmont aged 21, painted by Amelia Currum)
Certainly the following poem by Shelley appears to have been dedicated to her.
In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie
Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn
Between thy lips, are laid to sleep:
Within thy breath, and on thy hair
Like odour, it is yet,
And from thy touch like fire doth leap.
Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet
Alas, that the torn heart can bleed, but not forget!
Claire travelled around Europe as a governess and music teacher, staying in Vienna, Dresden and Moscow among other places. She returned to England in 1836 and, after years of estrangement from her, cared for her dying mother.
In the 1840s Claire lived in Paris and unexpectedly converted to Roman Catholicism despite her former diatribes against Allegra’s convent upbringing. In 1870 Claire moved to Florence where she died in 1879.
Coincidentally, Claire is buried in a cemetery we know rather well. It’s near Antella where there is a very beautiful chapel with frescoes by Spinello Aretino which I have described in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/do-you-know-granacci-or-larciani/
It’s also the cemetery where Mr and Mrs Cr*****li, two Florentines who were our good friends for many years, are buried.
There on the pavement of the Cimitero Della Misericordia at Antella is Claire’s final resting place with her original baptismal names inscribed. She outlived most of her set dying at the age of 81.
Within the little known but beautifully located cemetery also lie the mortal remains of Fanny Targioni Tozzetti, so deeply loved by Giacomo Leopardi who dedicated Il Ciclo di Aspasia to her, (for me Italy’s own version of Shelley both in his intense lyricism and deep philosophy). There too lies buried Bladine Gravine daughter of Hans Von Bulow and Cosima, (Liszt’s daughter, before she left him and became Mrs Wagner instead).
We can never guess when death will take us and we shall never suppose where we’ll be laid to rest.
And for the moment we can hardly predict when this sad, seemingly endless Tuscan rain will cease descending upon us.