The death of Shelley
1822 One of the greatest English-language poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley (b. 1792), drowned on this day, aged only 29. Shelley was the eldest son of a Member of Parliament and grandson of a baronet; he was sent to Eton for his education, where he was mocked and bullied as 'Mad Shelley', and later to Oxford University from which he was 'sent down' -- expelled -- for circulating a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism.
After eloping to Scotland with Harriet Westbrook he became interested in the ideas of the anarchist philosopher William Godwin ('The First Anarchist' as he is sometimes known). He began to visit Godwin’s house and fell in love with Mary Godwin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Godwin by his first wife, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who had written A Vindication of the Rights of Women and had died eight days after Mary’s birth in 1797.
Smitten by Godwin’s daughter, his marriage with Harriet in tatters, Shelley eloped to France with Mary Godwin (Mary Shelley) and her 15-year-old stepsister Jane ‘Claire’ Clairmont. The sisters maintained a ménage à trois with the poet in various parts of Europe for the next eight years. In the summer of 1816 Claire urged that they should go to Lake Geneva (to be with the man of her obsession, Lord Byron, with whom she had previously had a one-night stand and to whom she later bore a child). It was at Lake Geneva that, as a result of a bet to see who could write the best Gothic novel, the brilliant young Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein ...
Categories: biography, feminism, anarchism, poetry, literature, history, english-history