8 Jul: Shelley: Goth, Genius, Infidel

Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned off the coast of Tuscany on 8th July, 1822. His wife, Mary Shelley, waited an agonizing ten days to discover news of the dramatic shipwreck.

Announcing the news of the atheist’s death, conservative London newspaper The Courier reported, “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned. Now he knows whether or not there is a God.” 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the ‘Shelleybaits’ his contemporaries at Eton would bully him with; reveal the complex love triangle between Shelley, Mary’s sister Claire, and their infamous friend Lord Byron; and explain how, for two centuries now, Shelley’s death has been exaggerated and sentimentalized…

Further Reading:

• ‘Mysterious Drownings’ (History Today, 2012): https://www.historytoday.com/mysterious-drownings

• ‘Death and destiny’ (The Guardian, 2004): https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jan/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview1

• ‘Talk: Peter Halstead on the Death of Shelley’ (Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation):