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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792, near Horsham in Sussex, England, into an aristocratic family. His father was Timothy Shelley, a Sussex squire and a member of Parliament.

In 1810, Shelley entered the Oxford University College only to be expelled the next year for publishing a pamphlet entitled “The Necessity of Atheism,” which he wrote with Thomas Jefferson Hogg. After his expulsion, Shelley eloped with Harriet Westbrook, the 16-year-old daughter of a London tavern owner. The scandal of his son's marrying such an inappropriate bride under such questionable circumstances caused Shelley's father to withdraw Shelley's inheritance and replace it with a small allowance. Shelley and Harriet spent the next two years traveling throughout England and Ireland, speaking out for their causes; however, they separated soon afterwards. In 1813, Shelley published his first important poem, Queen Mab.

In 1814, Shelley met and eloped with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the daughter of the philosopher and anarchist William Godwin and the deceased feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

After their return to London, Shelley inherited an annual income from his grandfather's will, and Shelley married Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Shelleys spent the summer of 1816 with Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, where Shelley composed the “Hymn To Intellectual Beauty” and “Mont Blanc.” It was during this time that Mary began writing the story that would become her famous Frankenstein.

Shelley published “Ozymandias” in 1818. In the spring of 1821, he wrote Adonais for John Keats, who had died in Rome, and whom he admired. The pastoral elegy was first published in July 1821.

In 1822, the Shelley household moved to the Bay of Lerici in Italy. To welcome his visiting friend Leigh Hunt, he sailed to Leghorn (Livorno). During a storm on the return voyage, his small schooner sank, and Shelley drowned, along with Edward Williams, on July 8, 1822. The bodies washed ashore at Viareggio, where they were burned on the beach. Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron witnessed the cremation. Shelley was later buried in Rome.

“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

“To a Skylark”