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The page of Shelley, Percy Bysshe, English biography

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Shelley, Percy Bysshe


(1792-1827), English Romantic poet who rebelled against English politics and conservative values. Shelley drew no essential distinction between poetry and politics, and his work reflected the radical ideas and revolutionary optimism of the era.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792, at Field Place, near Horsham in Sussex, into an aristocratic family. His father, Timothy Shelley, was a Sussex squire and a member of Parliament. Shelley attended Syon House Academy and Eton and in 1810 he entered the Oxford University College.

In 1811 Shelley was expelled from the college for publishing The Necessity Of Atheism, which he wrote with Thomas Jefferson Hogg. Shelley's father withdrew his inheritance in favor of a small annuity, after he eloped with the 16-year old Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of a London tavern owner. The pair spent the following two years traveling in England and Ireland, distributing pamphlets and speaking against political injustice. In 1813 Shelley published his first important poem, the atheistic Queen Mab.

The poet's marriage to Harriet was a failure. In 1814 Shelley traveled abroad with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the daughter of the philosopher and anarchist William Godwin (1756-1836). Mary's young stepsister Claire Clairmont was also in the company. During this journey Shelley wrote an unfinished novella, The Assassins (1814). Their combined journal, Six Weeks' Tour, reworked by Mary Shelley, appeared in 1817. After their return to London, Shelley came into an annual income under his grandfather's will. Harriet drowned herself in the Serpentine in 1816. Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft and his favorite son William was born in 1816.

Shelley spent the summer of 1816 with Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, where Byron had an affair with Claire. Shelley composed the "Hymn To Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc". In 1817 Shelley published The Revolt Of Islam and the much anthologized "Ozymandias" appeared in 1818. Among Shelley's popular poems are the Odes "To the West Wind" and "To a Skylark" and Adonais, an elegy for Keats.

In 1818 the Shelleys moved to Italy, where Byron was residing. In 1819 they went to Rome and in 1820 to Pisa. Shelley's works from this period include Julian And Maddalo, an exploration of his relations with Byron and Prometheus Unbound, a lyrical drama. The Cenci was a five-act tragedy based on the history of a 16th-century Roman family, and The Mask Of Anarchy was a political protest which was written after the Peterloo massacre. In 1822 the Shelley household moved to the Bay of Lerici. There Shelley began to write The Triumph Of Life.

To welcome his friend Leigh Hunt, he sailed to Leghorn. During the stormy return voyage to Lerici, his small schooner the Ariel sank and Shelley drowned with Edward Williams on July 8, 1822. The bodies were washed ashore at Viareggio, where, in the presence of Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, they were burned on the beach. Shelley was later buried in Rome.
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