Biography of English Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley Part 2

About the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, history and biography of the famous writer.




Claire became pregnant, and in September, 1816, Mary and Shelley returned home with her when she told them she wanted her child to be born in England. Just a few months after their return, Harriet committed suicide by drowning herself. Now legally free, Shelley and Mary were wed three weeks after Harriet's death, but when he tried to gain custody of his two children by Harriet, the request was denied. He was charged with immorality for both his scandalous liaison with Mary and his radical political stance.

Despondent over the loss of his paternal rights, Shelley's spirits gradually improved when he became a member of poet Leigh Hunt's literary circle, which included Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, and John Keats. This proved to be a period of great productivity for him, but his energies were soon sapped by the development of a serious lung infection, and his temper was sorely tried by Godwin's continuous and excessive demands for money. Hoping to recover both physically and emotionally, Shelley left for Italy, where he was reunited with Byron in Venice. He sent for Mary and the children, but their journey south resulted tragically in the death of their daughter from dysentery. A year later their little son died in Rome. The loss of their children, for which Mary held Shelley at least partly responsible, created a rift between them which was never fully repaired.

Despite the misfortunes it had brought, Italy worked magic on Shelley's health and his creative powers. While part of the literary circle in Pisa from 1820 to 1821, he produced some of his most memorable verse, including the politically conscious Masque of Anarchy and England in 1819, the lyrical "Ode to the West Wind" and "To a Skylark," and perhaps his greatest poem, "Adonais," a tribute to John Keats.

In the summer of 1822, the Shelleys moved to the resort town of Lerici and rented a cottage which they planned to share with friends Edward and Jane Williams, Edward Trelawny, and Leigh Hunt. On July 8, after welcoming Hunt and his wife at Leghorn and accompanying them to Pisa, Shelley and Williams set sail in their boat the Ariel for the return trip to Lerici. The wind, already blowing strongly, developed into a squall and overturned the boat. Ten days later their bodies were washed ashore. Although Shelley's face was terribly disfigured, he was identified by a copy of Keats's poems doubled back in his jacket. Shelley's body was cremated on the shore in the presence of Byron and Trelawny, and his ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, the resting place of Keats.

Throughout his 29 years Shelley had been a man split in two, his relationships marred by pettiness and insensitivity, but his spirit striving toward a poetic ideal. After death, through his poetry, he achieved the immortality he had sought, in a land "where music and moonlight and feeling/ Are one."

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