Shelley, Percy Bysshe

BORN 4 Aug 1792, Field Place, Sussex (near Broadbridge Heath) - DIED 8 Jul 1822, Lerici (near)
GRAVE LOCATION Roma, Lazio: Cimitero Acattolico, Via Caio Cestio 6 (Zona Vecchia, 104 (= row 16, grave 2; ashes))

Percy Bysshe Shelley was the son of a country gentleman, Sir Timothy Shelley (1753-1844). He was educated at Eton College and at Oxford University, where he was expelled in 1811 after refusing to confess that he was the author of the pamflet "The Necessity of Atheism". It was written by Shelley. By that time he had already published "Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire" and two novels, "Zastrozzi" and "St. Irvyne, or the Rosicrucian".

He 1811 he eloped with the sixteen year old girl Harriet Westbrook and they married on 28 Aug 1811 in Scotland, against the wishes of his and her father. In 1812 Shelley first met the philosopher William Godwin, whose work he admired. Shelley was under the impression that Godwin was no longer alive and was thrilled to meet his hero. Dearing that their Scottish marriage was not lawful, he married Harriet once more in England, in 1814. Unfortunately soon afterwards they became estranged and in May of that year Shelley declared his love to the young Mary Godwin, daughter of 'illustrious parents' William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. On 28 Jul 1814 Shelley ran away with Mary to Europe and they took Mary's stepsister Claire with them. In September 1814 they went back to England. In 1815 Shelley's grandfather Sir Bysshe died and he agreed on a yearly allowance with Sir Timothy, who still did not want to have anything to do with his son.

In 1816 Shelley, Mary and Claire went abroad again, this time to Geneva. Claire was carrying Lord Byron's child and Byron was in Switserland too after his disastrous marriage had ended in scandal. Byron and Shelley soon became friends and their conversations were very stimulating according to Mary who was a 'devote but silent listener'. In 1816 Shelley and Mary returned to England. After a reconciliation with William Godwin they married on 30 Dec 1816.

In 1817 Shelley's "The Revolt of Islam" was published and in 1818 he went to Italy with Mary, their children and Claire. They lived in Rome and Florence and Shelley continued to write poetry: "Cenci" and "Prometheus Unbound" we both publiushed in 1820. In 1821 the Shelleys lived in Pisa, where they befriended Jane and Edward Williams. Shelley wrote "Epipsychidion" for Emilia Viviani, a girl he was infatuated with.

Allthough Shelley couldn't swim, he and Williams had built a boat they called "Ariel" and on 8 Jul 1822 they didn't return from a sailing trip. Ten days later their bodies were found and buried on the beach. Afterwards the bodies were cremated and Shelley's ashes were eventually transferred to the Protestant Cemetery in Rome in 1823.

In 1824 Mary edited and published "Shelley's Posthumous Poems", but after Sir Timothy threatened to stop the allowance for her son Percy Florence (1819-1889) the volume had to be withdrawn. Lord Byron, who died only two years after Shelley, was a very famous man during his life. Shelley, in sharp contradiction to Byron, was hardly known to the public. After his dearh, however, Shelley's works were soon pirated and when all hope of obscurity had faded Sir Timothy's lawyers finally gave Mary permission to prepare a proper edition of the works of her husband. In "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley" Mary's brilliant notes explained Shelley's ideas to the world. It was published in four volumes in 1839 and finally established his literary reputation.

For many more years Percy Florence's wife Jane St. John (1821-1899) tried to hide Shelley's unconventional life from the public, but many books on Shelley were published and interest in the poet as well as the person Shelley had became enormous towards the end of the nineteenth century.

• Son: Shelley, Percy Florence
• Wife: Shelley, Mary (1816-1822, London: St. Mildred's Church, Bread Street)
• Wife: Westbrook, Harriet (1811-1816, Edinburgh)

Related persons
• was admired by Blind, Mathilde
• was a friend of Boinville, Cornelia
• was a friend of Byron, George Noel Gordon
• was a friend of Clairmont, Claire
• was admired by Corso, Gregory
• was a friend of Curran, Amelia
• was painted by Curran, Amelia
• visited Curran, John Philpot
• was influenced by Godwin, William
• is cousin of Grove, Harriet
• has a connection with Haydon, Benjamin Robert
• was a friend of Hitchener, Elizabeth
• was a friend of Hogg, Thomas Jefferson
• was a friend of Hunt, Leigh
• was a friend of Imlay, Fanny
• knew Keats, John
• was pupil to Lind, James
• was written about by Maurois, André
• is cousin of Medwin, Thomas
• knew Reveley, Henry Willey
• was written about by Symonds, John Addington
• was a friend of Trelawny, Edward John
• knew Turner, Thomas
• had as physician Vaccà Berlinghieri, Andrea
• was a friend of Williams, Edward Ellerker
• was a friend of Williams, Jane

1810/6/5: Shelley's novel "Zastrozzi" is published.
Publishers were Messrs. Wilkie and Robinson.
1810/9/17: Shelley's "Original Poetry, by Victor and Cazire" is published.
Possible Cazire was an alias for Elizabeth Shelley or for Harriet Grove. The edition was withdrawn after it became known that some of the verses were written by M.G. Lewis. At that time about a 100 copies were already in circulation.
1811/2/9: Advertisement for Shelley's "The Necessity of Atheism"
It was published in the Oxford University and City Herald. The advertisement announced the publication of the pamphlet without offering it for sale.
1811/2/13: Shelley's pamflet The Necessity of Atheism is distributed
1811/3/25: Percy Bysshe shelley is expelled from Oxford University
Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg refused to state that they were or weren't the authors of the pamphlet "The Necessity of Atheism", that they had written and distributed. It is unclear how much Hogg contributed to the pamphlet.
1811/3/26: Shelley and Hogg leave Oxford
In the morning, by coach. After they arrived in London they took lodgings at 15 Poland Street. Shelley liked the name of the street because if reminded him of Thaddeus of Warsaw and of freedom.
1811/8/25: Percy Bysshe Shelley elopes with Harriet Westbrook
1811/8/28: Perct Bysshe Shelley marries Harriet Westbrook
1811/10/0: Thomas Jefferson tries to seduce Harriet Shelley
Harriet had married Percy Bysshe Shelley in August. Hogg visited her in York at the time Shelley was in Sussex. Harriet rejected Hogg.
1811/11/0: Percy Bysshe Shelley meets Robert Southey
1811/12/1: Shelley arrives at Greystoke, the home of the Duke of Norfolk
The Duke of Norfolk attempted a reconciliation between Shelley and his father Timothy. Shelley wrote an apology, but stated that he wouldn't hide his religious and political opinions. His father gave in and restored his allowance.
1812/1/3: Percy Bysshe Shelley starts his correspondence with William Godwin
1812/2/0: Percy Bysshe Shelley visits Ireland for the first time
1812/10/14: First meeting between Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Godwin
1812/11/11: Mary Godwin is in the same house as Shelley and Harriet
Shelley, his wife Harriet and Harriet's sister Eliza dined with the Godwins that night. But Mary was tired and she probably remained upstairs.
1813/6/28: Percy Bysshe Shelley's daughter Eliza Ianthe is born
1814/5/5: Percy Bysshe Shelley meets Mary Godwin
Shelley dined with William Godwin at Skinner Street. After this meeting Shelley and Mary soon started to spend days together.
1814/6/18: Shelley arrives in London from Bracknell
Het had to negotiate a loan for William Godwin and visited Godwin frequently.
1814/6/26: Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley declare each other their love
They did so at the tomb of Mary's mother Mary Wollstonecraft. When Mary's father William Godwin heard the news he strongly disagreed.
1814/7/0: Shelley takes laudanum after Mary refuses to see him
Shelley had written to his wife Harriet that he loved Mary Godwin. Harriet came to London and visited Godwin. Under pressure Mary promised to meet Shelley no more. But Shelley turned hysteric and he appeared with guns, laudanum and suicide threats. They managed to calm him down, but soon afterwards he took a huge dose of laudanum. Godwin hurried to his lodgings where he found Shelley and a docter. Shelley survived, but his friend Thomas Peacock hardly recognized him when he saw him.
1814/7/6: Shelley asks William Godwin for the hand of his daughter Mary
Shelley wanted to end his marriage to Harriet Westbrook and wanted to go abroad with Mary Godwin. William Godwin didn't approve at all.
1814/7/28: Shelley and Mary Godwin leave London to elope to France
They secretly left London in the company of Claire Clairmont. They left for Dover, crossed the Channel in an open boat and travelled to Paris.
1814/9/13: Shelley and Mary Godwin return to London
1814/9/27: Shelley and Mary move to 5 Church Terrace, Pancras, London
Claire Clairmont went with them.
1814/10/23: Shelley hides for his creditors
Between 23 Oct and 9 Nov he and Mary lived apart.
1814/11/14: Shelley introduces Mary to his friend Hogg
1815/1/1: T.J. Hogg declares his love to Mary Godwin, encouraged by P.B. Shelley
Mary accepted his affection, but she didn't answer it physically since she was pregnant from Shelley. Shelley was a strong advocate of free love and it is possible that he had sexual relations with her stepsister Claire at the time.
1815/1/10: Shelley and Mary move to 4 Hans Place, London
Claire Clairmont was once more in their company.
1815/3/2: Shelley and Mary move to Arabella Road, Pimlico, London
In their company were Claire Clairmont and Clara, Mary and Shelley's baby girl.
1815/3/6: Mary Godwin's stillborn daughter Clara dies
1816/1/24: William, the second child of Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley, is born
1816/5/2: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont leave London for Geneva
1816/5/17: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont arrive in Geneva
Soon Lord Byron and his physician John Polidori would arrive there as well.
1816/5/27: Possible first meeting of Byron and Shelley
It is not entirely certain that they never met before. Byron had just arrived in Switzerland in the company of John Polidori.
1816/6/16: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin, Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori tell each other ghost stories
They told each other stories all night and decided that each of them would write a ghost story. Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein" and John Polidori wrote "The Vampyre".
1816/6/21: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont go to Chamonix
1816/8/20: 'Monk' Lewis adds a codicil to his testament
He did this at the Villa Deodati, Byron's rented home at the Lake of Geneva. Byron, Shelley and Polidori acted as witnesses. In the codicil he obliged his heirs to live in Jamaica for three months of every year, to see if the slaves at his properties were treated well. He also prohibited slaves to be sold. He would die on 14 May 1818, shortly after such an inspection on Jamaica.
1816/9/8: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont return to England and arrive at Portsmouth
1816/12/30: Percy Bysshe Shelley marries Mary Godwin
At St. Mildred's Church, London.
1817/3/18: Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley move to Albion House, Marlow
1817/5/14: Mary Shelley completes her novel "Frankenstein"
She asked Percy Bysshe Shelley to write an introduction and he did so.
1818/3/11: Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Claire Clairmont leave for Italy
They crossed the Channel on the 12th.
1818/6/11: The Shelleys and Claire Clairmont move to the Casa Bertini in Bagna di Lucca
1818/8/17: Shelley travels to Venice with Claire Clairmont
Claire wanted to visit het daughter Allegra who was with the father, Lord Byron. Mary Shelley stayed in Bagni di Lucca.
1818/8/31: Mary Shelley leaves Bagna di Lucca for Venice
Her husband had asked her in a letter to join him and Claire Clairmont there.
1818/9/24: Clara Shelley dies of dysentery
She was the third child of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley and she had contracted the illness during a hurried journey to Este.
1818/11/5: The Shelleys travel to Rome
They would stay there until the end of November and then they moved on to Naples.
1819/2/27: Shelley registers a daughter, Elena, in Naples
The child was named Elena Adelaide. Shelley gave 27 Dec 1818 as her birthdate and himself and his wife Mary as her parents. It seems impossible that the child was Mary's. According to Mary's diary Claire Claimont was 'unwell' on 27 Dec. But there is no further evidence that Claire had been pregnant, so it's unlikely as well that Claire was the mother. The child was probably adopted by another family. Only in 1936 the existence of Elena was discovered by Newman Ivy White.
1819/3/0: The Shelleys return to Rome
1819/3/9: Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley visit the Pantheon in Rome
They went there again by moonlight.
1819/5/0: Shelley starts writing "The Cenci"
1819/5/8: Percy Bysshe Shelley sits for a portrait by Amelia Curran
He posed on May 8th and 9th in Rome. The portrait was never finished. After Shelley's death Mary asked if she could have it. Amelia Curran answered from Paris that she had wanted to burn it because it was bad but that she hadn't done so. In May 1825 she sent the portrait to Mary from Rome.
1819/6/7: William Shelley dies from malaria
He was the second child of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. On 10 Jun the Shelleys left Rome.
1819/6/10: The Shelleys and Claire Clairmont leave Rome for Leghorn
In Leghorn they wanted to visit the Gisbornes, who lived there.
1819/10/2: The Shelleys and Claire Clairmont move to Florence, 4395 via Valfonda
Claire left for Vienna on 10 Nov.
1819/11/5: Shelley and Mary travel to Rome
They would stay there until the end of November and then depart for Naples.
He was born in Florence.
1820/1/0: Shelley and Mary move to Casa Frasi, Pisa
1820/3/0: Shelley's lyrical drama "Cenci" is published and Mary Shelley starts "Catruccio, Prince de Lucca"
William Godwin later changed the name of his daughter's novel in "Valperga".
1820/6/15: The Shelleys return to Bagna di Lucca
1820/8/5: The Shelleys move to Casa Prinni, Bagni San Giuliano
1820/10/2: Shelley meets Mavrocordato for the first time
1820/11/0: The Shelleys meet Emilia Viviani in Florence
She was the daughter of the governor of Pisa and she was locked up in a convent until her marriage. She was the inspiration for Shelley's "Epipsychidion".
1821/1/16: Jane and Edward Williams arrive in Pisa
They met the Shelleys on 19 Jan and the couples soon became friends.
1821/3/5: The Shelleys move to Casa Aulla, Pisa
1821/5/8: The Shelleys move to Bagni di San Giuliano
1821/10/25: The Shelleys move to Tre Palazzi di Chiesa, Pisa
1821/11/20: Shelley introduces Thomas Medwin to Lord Byron
Medwin had arrived in Pisa in November 1821. They got along well and he often dined with Byron and his circle. They also went pistol shooting. When Medwin left Pisa in April 1822, Byron organised a party for him.
1822/1/14: Edward John Trelawny arrives in Pisa
He was a friend of the Williams family and he admired Lord Byron. He soon met the Shelleys.
1822/4/30: The Shelleys and Claire Clairmont move to Casa Magni, San Terenzo
The Williams family joined them one day later.
1822/6/16: Mary Shelley miscarries and almost dies herself
She thought she was dying from the hemorrhaging. Her own mother Mary Wollstonecraft had died after Mary's birth. Shelley saved her by putting her into a bucket of ice. When the doctor arrived the critical stage had already passed. Years later Mary wrote that she felt a passive kind of satisfaction at the time she thought she was dying and that the experience had removed her fear of death.
1822/6/22: Shelley is dreaming that he strangles his wife Mary
First he dreamed that Edgar and Jane Williams walked naked and rted with blood into his room and told him that the see was destroying their house. When he looked outside in his dream he saw himself strangling Mary. When he woke up he screamed and ran into Mary's room to see if she was still alive. She had almost died of a miscarriage a few days before and she was still weak.
1822/7/8: Percy Bysshe Shelley drowns in the Gulf of Spezia
He and Edward Williams were sailing back home to Mary Shelley and Jane Williams from Leghorn, where they had met Leigh Hunt and his family. Allthough a storm was rising they left in Shelley's small boat the Don Juan. Only ten days later their bodies were found on the beach.
1822/8/18: Trelawny burns Shelley's body on the beach
Shelley's body was found on the beach and buried there. It was not allowed to move it because of the risk of diseases. A huge metal furnace was brought to the beach and his remains were cremated. The ashes were taken to the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Trelawny snatched Shelley's heart from the flames. Leigh Hunt wanted to keep it, but after some pression he gave it to Mary Shelley. Lord Byron couldn't stand it and swam back to his nearby ship before the burning of the corpse started.
1823/1/1: The second issue of The Liberal is published
This issue contained "Song, Written for an Indian Air" by P.B. Shelley and "A Tale of the Passions, or, the Death of Despina" by Mary Shelley.
1823/4/0: The third issue of The Liberal is published
It appeared around 23 Apr 1823 and it contained "Lines to a Critic" by P.B. Shelley and "Madame D'Houtetot" by Mary Shelley.
1823/7/30: The fourth issue of The Liberal is published
It contained an essay about Giovanni Villani written by Mary Shelley. It is possible that she had already written it in 1821.
1824/6/0: Shelley's Posthumous Poems published by Mary Shelley
Sir Timothy Shelley stopped circulation by threatening to withdraw the allowance for her son Percy Florence.
1827/7/13: Mary Shelley finds out that her friend Jane Williams has betrayed her
Jane was Mary's best friend, but Jane had spread malicious rumours about Mary behind her back. One of the things Jane said was that she had treated Shelley badly during his last year. Jane told this to Leigh Hunt and T.J. Hogg.
1839/0/0: Mary Shelley publishes an annotated version of the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley
1848/7/29: Mary Shelley joins her son Percy Florence and his wife Jane at Field Place
Jane St. John had married her son Percy Florence and they had returned from their honeymoon in the Lake District. Field Place was the birthplace of Percy Florence's father Percy Bysshe Shelley.

• Blunden, Edmund, Shelley, Collins, London, 1946
• Feldman, Paula R. and Diana Scott-Kilvert, The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987
• Roe, Ivan, Shelley: The Last Phase, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1955
• Spark, Muriel, Mary Shelley, Constable, London, 1988
• St Clair, William, The Godwins and the Shelleys, Faber and Faber, London, 1990
• Norman, Sylva, Flight of the Skylark, Max Reinhardt, London, 1954
• Holmes, Richard, Shelley, The Pursuit, Penguin Books, London, 1987
INSTA ROM - Artikler og billeder


Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley by Amelia Curran.


"The Funeral of Shelley" by Louis Éduard Fournier. E.J. Trelawny, Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron watch the burning of Shelley's body. In reality Byron had left the scene before the burning took place.

The grave of Percy Bysshe Shelley at the Cimitero Acattolico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)


The graves of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Edward John Trelawny at the Cimitero Acattolico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)


Bust of P.B. Shelley at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)


Plaque for Mary Shelley at St. Peter's Church, Bournemouth.
Picture by Androom (18 Jun 2010)


The Plaque at the house where Percy Bysshe Shelley lived in Florence.
Picture by Androom (03 Feb 2011)


The house where Percy Bysshe Shelley lived in Pisa.
Picture by Androom (06 Feb 2011)


The house where Percy Bysshe Shelley lived in Pisa.
Picture by Androom (06 Feb 2011)


Plaque for Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley at 87 Marchmont Street, London.
Picture by Androom (14 Aug 2016)


Plaque for Percy Bysshe Shelley at Saint Mary’s Church, Horsham, West Sussex.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2017)


Memorial for Percy Bysshe Shelley at Horsham Museum, Horsham.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2017)


Memorial for Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley at Christchurch Priory, Christchurch.
Picture by Androom (01 Jul 2017)


Shelley, Percy Florence

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 8 Jul 2017