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Known for his lyrical and long-form verse, Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of the most highly regarded English Romantic poets of the 19th century. His works include The Masque of Anarchy and Queen Mab.
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Born in Broadbridge Heath, England, on August 4, 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of the epic poets of the 19th century, and is best known for his classic anthology verse works such as Ode to the West Wind and The Masque of Anarchy. He is also well known for his long-form poetry,
"If Winter Comes, can Spring be far behind?"
including Queen Mab and Alastor. He went on many adventures with his second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. He drowned in a sudden storm while sailing in Italy in 1822.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, a controversial English writer of great personal conviction, was born on August 4, 1792. He grew up in the country, in the village Broadbridge Heath, just outside of West Sussex. He learned to fish and hunt in the meadows surrounding his home, often surveying the rivers and fields with his cousin and good friend Thomas Medwin. His parents were Timothy Shelley, a squire and member of Parliament, and Elizabeth Pilfold. As the oldest of their seven children, Shelley left home at age of 10 to study at Syon House Academy, roughly 50 miles north of Broadbridge Heath and 10 miles west of central London. After two years, he enrolled at Eton College. While there, he was severely bullied, both physical and mentally, by his classmates. Shelley retreated into his imagination. Within a year’s time he had published two novels and two volumes of poetry, including St Irvyne and Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson.
In the fall of 1810, Shelly entered University College, Oxford. It seemed a better academic environment for him than Eton, but after a few months, a dean demanded that Shelley visit his office. Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg had co-authored a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism. Its premise shocked and appalled the faculty (“…The mind cannot believe in the existence of a God.”), and the university demanded that both boys either acknowledge or deny authorship. Shelley did neither and was expelled.
Shelley’s parents were so exasperated by their son’s actions that they demanded he forsake his beliefs, including vegetarianism, political radicalism and sexual freedom. In August of 1811, Shelley eloped with Harriet Westbrook, a 16-year-old woman his parents had explicitly forbidden him to see. His love for her was centered on a hope that he could save her from committing suicide. They eloped, but Shelley was soon annoyed with her and became interested in a woman named Elizabeth Hitchener, a schoolteacher who inspired his first major poem, Queen Mab. The poem’s title character, a fairy originally invented by Shakespeare and described in Romeo and Juliet, describes what a utopian society on earth would be like.
In addition to long-form poetry, Shelley also began writing political pamphlets, which he distributed by way of hot air balloons, glass bottles and paper boats. In 1812 he met his hero, the radical political philosopher William Godwin, author of Political Justice.
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