Professor Ashley Bender
30 October 2014
Percy Shelley’s Biography
The following brief biography is based on Shelley’s biography from Poetry Foundation at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/percy-bysshe-shelley.
Percy Shelley was born in Sussex, England, on August 4, 1792. His parents were Timothy and
|Percy Shelley by Amelia Curran|
Source: National Portrait Gallery, London
In 1802 Shelle entered Syon House Academy, and in 1804 he entered Eaton College, where he started writing poetry. However, his first publication was a Gothic novel, Zastrozzi. In 1810 Shelley entered University College, Oxford, where he stayed for less than a year. While at Oxford, he published Gothic fiction and poetry and the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism, which caused his expulsion from Oxford and strained his relationship with his father.
In August 1811 he married Harriet Westbrook and moved to Keswick, where he met Robert Southey. Later on, in 1812 he met William Godwin. At this time Shelley was working on Queen Mab, a political epic that was published in 1813. In 1814 Shelley and Mary (the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and author of Frankenstein), accompanied by Jane Clairmont (Mary’s half sister), eloped to Paris and then to Switzerland but returned to London a few weeks later.
In 1816 Shelley published Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude: and Other Poems, Shelley’s first Romantic poems. This same year Shelley met Byron in Switzerland. After returning from Switzerland, Shelley wrote two of his best poems: “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” and “Mont Blanc.”
After the suicide of Harriet, Shelley’s wife, he married Mary in 1816. They moved to Marlow in 1817, where Shelley met John Keats and Horace Smith and wrote the political pamphlets, A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote Throughout the Kingdom and An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, and the political epic The Revolt of Islam.
In 1818 Shelley and Mary traveled to Italy, where Shelley wrote the poems “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills” and “Julian and Maddalo.” Many of the poems that Shelley wrote during this period deal with his estranged relationship with Mary. During this period he also wrote the drama Prometheus Unbound, which was published in 1820 and is considered his masterpiece. Some of Shelley’s best lyric poems (“Ode to the West Wind,” “The Cloud,” “To a Skylark,” and “Ode to Liberty”) were published together with Prometheus Unbound in 1820. During this period he also started writing his drama The Cenci. In 1821 Shelley published A Defence of Poetry and “Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.”
In 1822, shortly before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sailing accident in Italy.