Bivalve locket

Shelley and Mary are commemorated together in a bivalve locket containing a lock of Mary’s hair from 1816, and of Shelley’s from 1822, the last year of his life. Mary habitually collected locks of hair belonging to family and friends, keeping them in named and dated packets. In this she was following a custom evidently inherited from her father; William Godwin had sent out at least one lock of Mary Wollstonecraft’s hair to a friend in the days after her death. Inscribed on the outside of the locket is a line adapted from Petrarch’s Canzoniere, No 309 (‘Blessed the eyes that saw him alive’; the object of Petrarch’s original line is female – ‘beati gli occhi che la vider viva’).