Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron. The novelist Mary Shelley (née Godwin) was his second wife.
Shelley himself described his genius as in the main a moral one, and in this he made a correct analysis. It was fed by ideas derived from books, and sustained by a sympathy so intense as to become a passion for moral aims. He was intellectually the child of the Revolution; and from the moment he drew thoughtful breath he was a disciple of the radicals in England.
Percy Shelley's persistent desire to be the sexual partner of every woman he admired was not only self-indulgent. It also revealed a fundamental inability to separate his ego from his mother's and to function normally without the unquestioning emotional and sexual support of a devoted woman. Mary Shelley projected her irritation with the facet of Percy's character into her portrait of Victor Frankenstein.
Shelley shows many classic traits of the sociopath, including intense narcissism, hypochondria, a carelessness of the feelings of people and animals, an ability to charm when he wanted to please, and to forget completely about people he was no longer interested in (including his own children). Even his death displays his utter disregard for others. It has all the earmarks of a suicide, but was the more selfish as he was not alone on the boat. His companion in death was the husband of Jane, a woman he had been writing love poetry to, either a lover or on Shelley's list of women to seduce.
Despite his radical views and despite his habit of falling in love with young women in this circle (like Emilia Viviani and Jane Williams, common-law wife of Edward Williams), Shelley was the peacemaker among them — Byron said that everyone else he knew was a beast compared with Shelley.
Percy Bysshe Shelley's first wife drowned herself after his elopement with both Mary Shelley and oddly enough, her half-sister, Claire Clairmont, who was rumored to also be his lover and who later bore Byron an illegitimate child. This group of outsiders, then, formed a sort of Gothic family, in which incest and cruelty were the ties that bound. From them came stories of family and the outsider: Frankenstein is a most unnatural father who overstepped his bounds: the Creature is both of and apart from the family of man. The Vampyre is both a man and essentially undead. This extreme example of the Gothic hero too is both a part of, and apart from, the family of man.
In the summer of 1816, while travelling in Europe, Shelley met Lord Byron and developed an enduring friendship that proved an important influence on the works of both men. [...] Shelley and Byron, who was also living in Italy, became the nucleus of a circle of expatriot writers that became known as the "Satanic School" because of their defiance of English social and religious conventions and promotion of radical ideas in their works.
[Shelley] completed Prometheus Unbound, wrote "The Mask of Anarchy", "Ode to the West Wind", the satirical "Peter Bell The Third", his long political odes, "To Liberty" and "To Naples", the "Letter to Maria Gisbourne" and "The Witch of Atlas". Much of this work was inspired by news of political events, which also produced a number of short, angry, propaganda poems, including "Song to the Men of England" and "England 1819". He also wrote several pure lyric pieces including "To a Skylark" and "The Cloud".
The quintessential English romantic poet deserves a better place in history than Matthew Arnold's description of him as "a beautiful but ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain". Nothing could be further from the truth. [Shelley] was a poet who wrote of beauty, and is always associated with his works To the Skylark and The Cloud, but Shelley wanted his poetry to be "the trumpet of a prophecy" that would ring down the ages to give voice to the inhumanity we see all around us. He was a devoted and courageous advocate of freedom, a political stance that quickly blossomed into a fierce anti-militarism: his hatred of war was one of the forces that "hurt him into poetry".
Shelley was a revolutionary and radical, ahead of his time. He was also a strong advocate of women's rights, having been influenced by Mary's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). He was anti the current establishment and privilege, church and state. His strongly held views and beliefs, together with the need to escape from the clutches of money lenders, drove him into exile. Although an atheist, Shelley had a profound respect for Christ, who he saw as a fellow revolutionary.
[Shelley] has been perhaps the most discussed poet of the past hundred years - though not by any means always a poet. Various obscure sects have used his works for purposes of propaganda. Vegetarianism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, each has had a claim upon him. Atheists and Theists have divided him between them. While philosophers quote him to illuminate their most difficult conceptions, mere aesthetes maintain that his poetry is an obvious case of Art for Art's sake.
English Romantic poet who rebelled against English politics and conservative values. Shelley was considered with his friend Lord Byron a pariah for his life style. He drew no essential distinction between poetry and politics, and his work reflected the radical ideas and revolutionary optimism of the era. Like many poets of his day, Shelley employed mythological themes and figures from Greek poetry that gave an exalted tone for his visions.