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Shelley’s Dried Heart Ended Up in a Box

from a recent article in the London Review of Books, on the nineteenth-century seaside community of Bournemouth, where many ill and dying came for cure, rest, to die peacefully:

The Taylors became friends with Percy Shelley, the poet’s only surviving son, who had built Boscombe Manor, a grand pile with pillared porticoes that stood not far from the beach. Shelley kept his father’s dried heart in a box. It was said to have been plucked from the funeral pyre at Viareggio. There was a shrine to him at the manor: it included not only the poet’s heart but locks of his hair and strips of clothing, as well as a little book of Sophocles that was cast up on the shore after he drowned. The poet’s thespian son added colour to the semi-recumbent life of the town; he loved to throw theatricals and parties. In a place that was dead, or at least filled with the dying, he began to collect remains, and had those of his grandparents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, transported from St Pancras Old Church in London to the cemetery of St Mary’s in Bournemouth, where they lie today with his mother, Mary.