Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Shelley, PERCY BYSSHE (1792-1822), poet, essayist, and reformer, was the eldest son of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Thomas Shelley, of Field Place, near Horsham. Here, on the 4th August, 1792, he was born. His education began, at the age of six, at a day-school at Warnham, and was continued at Sion House, Brentford, then at Eton, and finally at University College, Oxford, whence, in March, 1811, he was expelled for having circulated a tract on The Necessity of Atheism. A few months later he eloped with a schoolfellow of his sister's, Harriet Westbrook, with the result that his allowance from his father was stopped, to his great inconvenience. About this time he came under the influence of the writings of Godwin, and entered into a correspondence with that philosopher. Becoming enthusiastic in the cause of Catholic Emancipation and of Repeal, he wrote an address to the Irish people, and in 1812, accompanied by his wife, went to Dublin, and there publislled it. Under the insistent persuasion of Godwin he abandoned this crusade, and on leaving Ireland he and his wife stayed for a while in Wales and Dovonshire. His behaviour while at Lynmonth in disseminating revolutionary publications was brought to the notice of the Government, and, after printing at Barnstaple A Letter to Lord Ellenborough asserting the liberty of the press, he returned to Wales. In 1813 his first notable poem, Queen Mab, was privately printed. Soon after this, his marriage with Harriet Westbrook having been prompted by chivalry rather than any warmer feeling, he fell in love with Mary Godwin, daughter of the philosopher, herself a person of remarkable literary gifts, who in 1816 wrote Frankenstein, and survived to edit Shelley's Poems (1839) and Letters (1840). In 1814 he made provision for his wife's maintenance and left her, and went with Mary Godwin to the Continent. Lamentable as was this step in a moral sense, the development of Shelley's poetical genius was unquestionably a consequence of it. Early in 1815 his grandfather, Sir Bysshe Shelley, died, and, as the heir to the title and the property, he now received a suitable allowance from his father, of which he set apart a fair proportion for his wife. In the following year (1816) he published Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude, etc.; and on his return from a second Continental trip with Mary, during which they were much with Byron, they settled at Marlow, where they for the most part lived during the rest of his life in this country. In November or 1816 his wife drowned herself, and a month later, at the instance of Godwin, he legalised his relation with Mary. In 1817 the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty appeared, and in 1818 The Revolt of Islam. Early in the latter year he and his family removed to Italy. He now set to work upon Prometheus Unbound, completed Rosalind and Helen, and wrote his Julian and Maddalo and other pieces. His tragedy, The Cenci, belongs to 1819, as do The Mask of Anarchy and Peter Bell the Third. In 1820 appeared Prometheus Unbound and OEdipus Tyrannus, while The Witch of Atlas was written. In 1821 came Epipsychidion, Adonais - a lament for Keats-and Hellas. The poet, splendid as had been his achievements, seemed hardly yet to have reached the full measure of his greatness; but in 1822, when he was only in his thirtieth year, his career was brought to an untimely and tragical close. He and his friend Edward Williams, with a sailor-lad, were returning from Leghorn to Lerici in a cutter belonging to himself and Williams, when they were caught in a squall, and all three were drowned. After a time the remains were recovered, and on Angust 16th Shelley's body was cremated, his ashes being subsequently buried in the Protestant cemetery at Rome. By Harriet he had two children, and by Mary three, the youngest. of whom, Percy Florence, became third baronet, and survived till 1889. Among Shelley's more notable contributions to prose are a translation of Plato's Banquet and The Defence of Poetry. As a reformer he has, in spite of all ardour passionate almost beyond example, exercised little influence, for he was neither practical on the one hand, nor had he philosophic insight on the other. But as a poet, good cause might be shown for placing him next after Shakespeare and Milton. If to most of his creations there is a faintness of outline which makes them hard reading for those who lack the poetic temperament, it is still true that in sheer inspiration, in rapture and exaltation, he ranks with, if not before, the very greatest of our poets.