Writers: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley



Shelley was born in August 1792, in Sussex, England. The eldest son of Timothy and Elizabeth Shelley, he stood in line to inherit not only his grandfather’s considerable estate but also a seat in Parliament. He attended Eton College for six years beginning in 1804, and then went on to Oxford University. He began writing poetry while at Eton, and in 1810 published the Gothic novel, Zastrozzi, in which he voiced his own heretical and atheistic opinions through the villain Zastrozzi. In 1811, he was expelled from Oxford for the publication of The Necessity of Atheism. This led to a break with his father, leaving him in dire financial straits until he came of age.

At age 19, Shelley eloped with Harriet Westbrook, aged sixteen and moved to the Lake District, where he wrote his first long serious work, Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem. The poem emerged from Shelley’s friendship with the British philosopher William Godwin, and expressed Godwin’s freethinking Socialist philosophy. Shelley also fell in love with Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, and in 1814 they ran away to Europe together, but soonre turned having run out of money. In November 1814 Harriet bore a son, and in February 1815 Mary Godwin gave birth to a child who died two weeks later, but the following January, Mary bore another son. In May the couple went to Lake Geneva, where Shelley spent a great deal of time with Byron. In December 1816 Harriet Shelley apparently committed suicide by drowning. Shelley then married Mary Godwin, losing custody of his two children.

In 1818, he left England for the last time. During the remaining four years of his life, Shelley produced all his major works, including Prometheus Unbound (1820). On July 8, 1822, Shelley was drowned while sailing.

Shelley and Socialism, Edward and Eleanor Marx-Aveling, To-Day 1888.

The difference between Byron and Shelley, Edward and Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Die Neue Zeit, 1888


Queen Mab, 1813