Medwin’s genuine admiration for P. B. Shelley and Byron (see the headnote in this volume to Medwin, Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron) as well as his acute need for funds prompted his biographies. In 1845, he began to gather notes and papers for his third Shelley installment: The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Lovell, pp. 311–13). Back in England in 1846 from Germany, where he had been living since 1840 (Lovell, p. 296), he contacted Mary Shelley and asked for her assistance. Struggling with one of the severe bouts of illness that marked the last ten years of her life, Mary Shelley refused to help and implored him not to proceed:
Your letter has surprised and pained me – I had no idea that you contemplated the work you mention.
As you remark I had said, the time has not yet come to recount the events of my husband’s life. 19 I have done all that can be done with propriety at present. I vindicated the memory of my Shelley and spoke of him as he was – an angel among his fellow mortals – lifted far above this world – a celestial spirit given and taken away, for we were none of us worthy of him – and his works are an immortal testament giving his name to posterity in a way more worthy of him than my feeble pen is capable of doing.
In modern society there is no injury so great as dragging private names and private life before the world. It is one from which every honourable and upright mind shrinks – and your does – I am sure, for you have always been careful not to injure others in your writings. – But the life of dear Shelley – the account of the Chancery Suit above all, would wound and injure the living – and especially Shelley’s daughter who is innocent of all blame and whose peace every friend of Shelley must respect.
I must therefore in the most earnest manner deprecate the publication of particulars and circumstances injurious to the living. That such is the feeling of Shelley’s friends their common silence shews. You have been long in Germany and forget what our English world is – when you 48reflect, I am sure you will feel as we all must do – In these publishing, inquisitive, scandal-mongering days, one feels called upon for a double exercise of delicacy, forbearance – and reserve. If you were to write to Mrs. Hogg on the subject I am sure you will find that her feelings coincide with mine. (Bennett, MWSL, vol. 3, p. 284)