Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822

portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Oil on canvas by Alfred Clint (1819)

Born: 4 August 1792, Field Place, Horsham, West Sussex, England
Died: 8 July 1822, Viareggio, Grand Duchy of Tuscany

The eldest of seven children, Shelley was tutored at home before entering Syon House Academy at Brentford in 1802. In 1804 he entered Eton College where he was subjected to regular mob torment his classmates called "Shelley-baits". He survived, entering University College, Oxford in 1810. It is said that he only attended one lecture while there, reading up to sixteen hours a day and writing extensively. One of the things he wrote was a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism, while it was unsigned he refused to repudiate it and was expelled. In 1811 he eloped with Harriet Westbrook, they had one child but were unhappy and often separated, in 1814 he abandoned his family and left for Europe with Mary Godwin, he married Mary after Harriet drowned herself in 1816. The Shelleys were frequently in the company of Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock, John Keats, and Lord Byron, both in England and Switzerland, but mostly resided in Italy after 1818. He was sailing home in his own schooner when his boat sank and Shelley and the two others on board drowned. It is quite possible that foul play was involved, and he had been shot at twice in the days immediately before the accident. Although he wrote a great body of work, most of what was published during his lifetime was suppressed and it has been estimated that his lifetime earnings from his work totaled only 40 pounds sterling. He called himself an atheist, although much of his essay "On Christianity" suggests that he had much dispute with the church of his day than with God. A revolutionary thinker whose pamphlets were sometimes incendiary, his opposition to violence influenced both Thoreau and Gandhi.

Biography from Wikipedia and the American Academy of Poets

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