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Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 - 1822

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Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 - 1822

Shelley was born into a rich, conservative family in Sussex. His father was a Member of the Parliament and Percy initially followed the family tradition, going to school at Eton and Oxford. There, he was nicknamed "mad Shelley" for his rebellion against authority. At Oxford Shelley collaborated in writing a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism, for which he was expelled from the University.

In 1814 Shelley fell in love with the daughter of the radical philosopher Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and went with her to France and Switzerland, abandoning his first wife. A believer in free love, Shelley asked her (Harriet Westbrook) to join them and live together, which she refused. On returning to London, Shelley was condemned as an atheist and immoralist. His first wife committed suicide and shortly after Shelley married Mary; then, they left England for Italy.

Shelley and his family settled in a villa near Lerici. During an excursion to Leghorn by boat, a storm arose, drowning Shelley and the friend who was with him.

Like Lord Byron, Shelley was representative of the second generation of Romantic poets. His personality is full of contrasts:

He was a dreamer, an Utopian thinker.

He opposed traditional religion and tended to the spiritual world through Platonic mysticism, magic, the supernatural.

He searched for ideal (ideal love, ideal society); sometimes he thought perfection was only possible in the other world, sometimes he thought it could be reached on earth.


● Ode to the West Wind

From Julian and Maddalo


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