May 10, 2016

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Major English Romantic poet and one of the greatest lyric poets in the history of English literature.


  • Full Name: Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • AKA: P.B. Shelley
  • Date of Birth: August 4, 1792
  • Place of Birth: Field Place, Horsham, Sussex, England
  • Zodiac Sign: Leo
  • Death: July 8, 1822
  • Place of Death: Lerici, Kingdom of Sardinia
  • Cause of Death: Drowning
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Nationality: British
  • Place of Burial:
1. Protestant Cemetery, Rome (Ashes)
2. St Peter's Churchyard, Bournemouth, Dorset, England (Heart)
  • Epitaph:
“Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.”
  • Father: Timothy Shelley (1753-1844)
  • Mother: Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley (1763-1846)
  • Siblings:
1. Sister- Elizabeth Shelley (?-1831)
2. Sister- Mary Shelley (?-?)
3. Sister- Hellen Shelley (?-1885)
4. Sister- Margaret Shelley (?-1887)
5. Sister- Name unknown (died in infancy)
6. Brother- John Shelley (1806-1866)
  • Spouses & Children:
1. Harriet Westbrook (b. 1795- d. 1816; m. 1811 to until her demise)
1. Daughter: Ianthe Shelley (1813-1876)
2. Son: Charles Shelley (1814-1826)
2. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (b. 1797-d. 1851; m. 1816 to until his death)
1. Daughter: Clara Shelley (1813)
2. Son: William Shelley (1816-1819)
3. Daughter: Clara Everina Shelley (1817-1818)
4. Son: Percy Florence Shelley (1819-1888)
  • Alma Mater: Eton College; University College, Oxford
  • Known for: his lyrical and imaginative powers
  • Criticized for: being over-sensitive and over-sad
  • Influences: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 –1778), Dr. James Lind (1736-1812), Thomas Paine (1737–1809), William Godwin (1756 –1836), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 –1797), and William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
  • Influenced: Robert Browning (1812–1889), Henry David Thoreau (1817 –1862), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Leo Tolstoy (1828 –1910), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), Thomas Hardy (1840 –1928), Oscar Wilde (1854 –1900), George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Rabindranath Tagor (1861 –1941), W. B. Yeats (1865–1939), Mahatma Gandhi (1869 –1948), Bertrand Russell (1872 –1970), Upton Sinclair (1878 –1968), Isadora Duncan (1877–1927), and Jibanananda Das (1899 –1954)


“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

Major Themes

  • Love and freedom
  • Idealism
  • Nature
  • Atheism
  • Injustice
  • Revolution
  • Inspiration
  • Narcissism
  • Immortality vs. Mortality

Notable Works

  • Ozymandias
  • The Revolt of Islam
  • Adonaïs
  • Ode to the West Wind
  • Music, To a Skylark
  • The Cloud
  • The Mask of Anarchy
  • When Soft Voices Die
  • Alastor
  • Queen Mab
  • The Triumph of Life
  • Prometheus Unbound
  • The Cenci
  • A Bridal Song
  • A Hate Song
  • A Dialogue
  • A Lament
  • A Serpent Face
  • A Fragment: To Music
  • A Dirge
  • A New National Anthem
  • Alas! This is not What I thought Life Was
  • The Assassins, A Fragment of a Romance
  • The Elysian Fields: A Lucianic Fragment
  • The Coliseum, A Fragment
  • Una Favola (A Fable)
  • Zastorri (1810)
  • St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian in (1811)

Did You Know?

  • Shelley was the first of seven survived children born to Sir Timothy Shelley and Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley.
  • His father was a Whig Parliamentarian.
  • In March 25, 1811 Shelley was expelled from Oxford University because he refused to deny the authorship of a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism.
  • When he was 19, Shelley used to write political pamphlets, often sending them out in bottles or homemade paper boats over the water, or inside fire balloons into the sky.
  • In 1818 Shelley eloped to Scotland with sixteen year-old Harriet Westbrook and married her despite the fact that he did not love her and disliked the concept of marriage.
  • When his father learnt about Shelley’s marriage, he temporarily cut off Shelley’s monetary allowance.
  • Shelley was increasingly unhappy in his marriage and once accused Harriet of having married him for his money.
  • His marriage collapsed when Shelley fell in love with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the daughter of William Godwin.
  • Having fallen in love with Mary, Shelley proposed to Harriet that the three of them should live together, Mary as his new wife and Harriet as her sister. Harriet, however, discarded his proposal.
  • Subsequently Shelley eloped with Mary and impregnated her. Harriet, who was too pregnant, was greatly shocked by the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Realizing that Shelley did not love her, Harriet requested a divorce and sued Shelley for alimony and full custody of their children.
  • Harriet’s second child with Shelley, Charles, was born in November of 1814. Three months later, Mary gave birth to a girl, the infant, however, died just a few weeks later.
  • Mary and Shelley returned to London near the end of 1816. Few weeks later Harriet's body was found drowned in Hyde Park's Serpentine. It is assumed that she committed suicide firstly because she was deserted by Shelley and secondly because she was pregnant from an illicit affair with a military officer.
  • Soon after Harriet’s death, Shelley proposed to Mary and they were wedded on December 30, 1816.
  • After Harriet’s death, the courts ruled not to give Shelley custody of their children, asserting that they would be better off with foster parents.
  • Shortly before his 30th birthday, Shelley was drowned in a storm while attempting to sail from Livorno to Le Spezia, Italy.
  • Ten days later, his body was washed ashore but his face and hands had been completely eaten away. Shelley was identifiable only by his clothes, and a copy of Keats’ Lamia in his pocket.
  • To fulfill the Italian quarantine regulations, Shelley’s body was buried in the sand where it was found. A month later his body was dug up again and cremated on a Tuscany beach in July 18, 1822, in the presence of Lord Byron and Shelley’s friends Edward Trelawney and Leigh Hunt. Since Shelley’s heart refused to burn, Trelawney picked it from the ashes and gave it to Hunt. Later on, Hunt handed over it to Mary, who kept it until her demise.
  • Shelley's ashes were stored for several months in the British Consul's wine cellar in Rome before eventually being buried in the Protestant Cemetery.
  • When Mary Shelley died in 1851 her husband's heart was found amongst her belongings. The heart was buried in 1889, 67 years after Shelley's death, with the body of his son Sir Percy Florence Shelley.
  • In 1889, the French painter Louis Édouard Fournier painted The Funeral of Shelley depicting the cremation scene of Shelley’s body.
  • Shelley was a vegetarian and wrote many pamphlets on the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
  • Most of his major works were written in the last four years before his demise.
  • During his lifetime Shelley did not earn any money from his writings.
  • When first written in 1817, his long narrative poem The Revolt of Islam (1818) was named as Laon and Cythna.
  • His wife, Mary Shelley was the author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein (1818).
  • Although Shelley’s death was a clear case of accident, many believe that he committed suicide due to his inner torments.
  • Henry David Thoreau's civil disobedience and Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance were influenced and inspired by Shelley's nonviolence in protest and political action.


" Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Academy of American Poets. 2016. Academy of American Poets. 21 April 2016

" Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Poetry Foundation. 2016. Poetry Foundation. 21 April 2016

" Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 21 April 2016

"Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Neurotic Poets. 2016. Neurotic Poets Web Site. 21 April 2016

" Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Shmoop. 2016. Shmoop University Inc. 21 April 2016

" Percy Bysshe Shelley Biography.” The website. 2016. A&E Television Networks. 21 April 2016

" The Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley.” History in an Hour. 2016. History in an Hour. 21 April 2016

 “Percy Bysshe Shelley” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.
Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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