Romantic Poets in Livorno in the 19th Century
The Romantic poet George Gordon Byron (London 1788 - Missolunghi 1824) spent the winter of 1821-22 in Pisa, at Palazzo Lanfranchi on the Lungarno, where the Shelleys were also staying.
In early May 1822 Byron came from Pisa to Livorno from where the body of his five-year-old daughter Allegra, who had recently died of fever had been embarked for England. Accompanied by Count and Countess Gamba, and their daughter Teresa Guiccioli, he stayed at Montenero at Villa Dupouy (also known as Villa Jermy and Villa delle Rose), owned by the banker Francesco Dupouy. During their stay, Byron's portrait was painted by the American artist William E. West.
A letter written by Byron to Goethe in July of the following year shows that he also stopped briefly in the port of Livorno on board the Hercules, on his way from Genoa to Greece, "to receive on board some Greek passengers for their struggling country." He tragically died in Greece just a year later, at the age of 36.
In 1900 a Montenero street was renamed Via Giorgio Byron to commemorate the poet's short stay in Livorno.
Perce Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822) first came to Livorno in May 1818 with his wife Mary and children William and Clara, and Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont (mother of Lord Byron's daughter Allegra) staying with John and Maria Gisborne and Maria's son Henry Reveley.
The Shelleys returned to Livorno a year later, in June 1819, following the death of their son William, staying from mid-June to September at the Villa Valsovano (Via Venuti 23) where Shelley finished writing his tragedy The Cenci, a verse drama based on a real Italian family from the 16th century. 250 copies of the work were printed in Livorno by printers Giovanni Tommasi and Glauco Masi.
The following summer, in 1820, the family was back in Livorno again for a short stay, during which Shelley gained inspiration for and wrote his celebrated poem, To a Skylark, as well as his Letter to Maria Gisborne and Ode to Liberty. A plaque placed on the villa in 1962, 140 years after the poet's death, describes these stays.
Together with English writer Leigh Hunt, Shelley had plans to start a literary journal, but he tragically drowned while sailing in the Bay of La Spezia, on his way back from Lerici heading for Livorno, on board a boat called the Ariel. He was cremated on the beach near Viareggio.
Shelley's remains are buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome (as is Keats), but his heart is said to lie in St Peter’s Churchyard in Bournemouth, Dorset, (UK), alongside his wife Mary Shelley and their son Percy Shelley who lived for a period in Boscombe, a district of Bournemouth, on an estate known as Boscombe Manor. The residence is now called Shelley Park and is a listed building.
Mary Shelley's mother, the writer and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (also buried in St Peter's) was an influential governess to Margaret King (otherwise known as Lady Mountcashell and Mrs Mason) whose grave can be found at the Old English Cemetery of Livorno. Her common-law husband George William Tighe is also buried here.