Born: 04-08-1792, Field Place (Horsham, GB)
Died: 08-07-1822, at sea near La Spezia
He was from a rich aristocrat family and made fame with his pamphlet The necessity of atheism (1811). He wrote this pamphlet and was expelled from the University of Oxford. In this pamphlet, he wrote about religion and stated, that there was no evidence for the existence of God. After being expelled, his father turned against him. He did not agree with the statement and vision about religion.
The argument with his father, made him leave Sussex. He married Harriet Westbrook and they moved to Scotland. She gave birth to a daughter. From there on, they moved to the Lake District, so that Shelley would have enough inspiration to write. He soon left for Ireland, to write political statements.
In 1814, he left Harriet, eloped with Mary Goodwin and her stepsister, Clair Clairmont, from France to Switzerland. At that time his wife was pregnant with their second child. Goodwin was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, a eighteen century writer and feminist.
In Switzerland, they wanted to start a commune based on free love. Soon after he learned that Harriet committed suicide, he married Mary. Harriet drowned herself in an act of despair, when she found out she was pregnant from another man. The marriage stirred things up in England. He was condemned by many and this is the reason why he left England in 1818. He would never return.
His love life may have been somewhat of a crisis. As a friend, he showed generosity, by helping out his friends in (financial) need. Shelley was a restless soul, who travelled a lot. During one of his trips, the boat he was on shipwrecked, and he drowned, together with a friend. Soon after this news got out in England, his critics were relieved. They claimed that Shelley finally found his proof if a God does exist or not.
The restlessness is an important theme in many of his poems. During the time he lived in Italy (Pisa), he was able to write some of his masterpieces. They reflect his idealism and the hope he had, that salvation is possible, through love and imagination. According to Shelley, there wasn’t any certainty to life, there was only hope.
Poems published on this website