Harriet Shelley: Wife of the Poet
by John Lauritsen
Harriet Shelley (born Harriet Westbrook), wife of the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and mother of his
only living descendants, has been treated cruelly by history. Her
reputation was blackened by Shelley's second wife Mary, by Mary's father
William Godwin, and by Mary's daughter-in-law Jane, Lady Shelley (hereafter Lady Shelley). Their
slanders have been accepted, and sometimes embellished upon, by most
biographers, from Edward Dowden in 1886 to James Bieri in 2005.
Fortunately, Harriet has found defenders: Mark
Twain, Edmund Blunden, Robert Metcalf Smith, and her biographer, Louise
Boas. In this brief essay I shall address three contentious issues: 1)
the reasons for Shelley's desertion, 2) the social backgrounds of
Shelley's two wives, and 3) Harriet's death.
Shelley's Desertion of Harriet
There has been much speculation over Shelley's
desertion of Harriet in the summer of 1814. Given the massive
destruction of evidence by Lady Shelley and her accomplices
— and the fabrication of false evidence, including forged letters
— we shall probably never know the true story. 
In the early part of 1814, Shelley was confused and
acting erratically; he had lost sexual interest in Harriet, and was
intensely hostile to her sister Eliza. However, Harriet was still very
much in love with him. These things happen. Couples cease to be
compatible, through no particular fault of either partner.
Of the various theories advanced for Shelley's
desertion, one, which needs to be rejected outright, is the slander,
spread by William Godwin, that infidelity on Harriet's part caused
Shelley to desert her. There is no evidence for this story other than
Godwin's word, which frankly isn't worth much. All evidence —
including Shelley's writings and behavior, and the testimonies of
everyone who knew Harriet — is against the story. It must be
stressed that Godwin had strong, and venal, motivations for permanently
separating Shelley from Harriet. His daughter, Mary Godwin, was
unlawfully living with Shelley, and had borne him children out of
wedlock. With Mary's connivance, Godwin was extorting money from
Shelley — coercing him to raise large sums of money through
post-obit bonds, at ruinous rates of interest. Shelley showed signs of
tiring of Mary, and on at least one occasion had tried to rid himself
of her. Although separated from Harriet, Shelley continued to visit
her. So long as relations between Harriet and Shelley were not
irreparably severed, there was always the possibility that he would
return to her, for she was still his lawfully wedded wife. If he did
return to Harriet, the payments to Godwin would cease.
Another theory is that Shelley was suddenly and
violently smitten with passion for Mary, causing him impetuously to
elope with her. Several things argue against this. Whereas Harriet was
renowned for her beauty, Mary had at best a cold sort of prettiness,
and even this is denied by Shelley's friend, cousin, and biographer,
It could not
have been her personal charms that captivated him, for to judge of her
in 1820 [when Mary would have been about 22], she could not have been
handsome, or even what may be denominated pretty. Shelley seems to have
had a rage for Elopements; but it was not the romance of such a Situation (to use a dramatic phrase) that led to this step, there
were other and more substantial reasons for her throwing herself on his
protection. [Emphasis in original. What was the Situation? What were those “other and more substantial reasons”?]
Another argument against the “passion”
theory is that, when Shelley and Mary Godwin “eloped” to
France, they took along Mary's step-sister, Jane (later Claire)
Clairmont, for the trip — an unusual elopement, to say the least.
Some biographers have conjectured that Jane/Claire was needed to act as
their translator — but Shelley, an outstanding linguist, was
already fluent in French.
The strongest argument against the
“passion” theory is that Shelley himself was gay. To be
sure, he was bisexual, but his strongest love-impulses were directed
towards other males. Although Thomas Jefferson Hogg depicts Shelley as
highly attractive to women, it does not follow that Shelley was
sexually attracted to them. There are gay men who will allow themselves
to be seduced by attractive females, but will refrain from taking the
initiative. Shelley's gayness is discussed in my essay,
“Hellenism and Homoeroticism in Shelley and his Circle”,
which is online, and in the chapter, “Male Love in Frankenstein”, in my book, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. (To visit my Frankenstein pages click here.)
Still another theory is that Mary was more
intellectually suited to Shelley than was Harriet — a theory
strongly promoted by Lady Shelley, but also voiced by Shelley's
friend, Thomas Love Peacock, who wrote: “Shelley's second wife
was intellectually better suited to him than his first”. Shelley
himself stated to Peacock: “The partner of my life should be one
who can feel poetry and understand philosophy. Harriet is a noble
animal, but she can do neither.” Shelley greatly admired Mary
Godwin's parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, both of whom
were fine writers and radical thinkers. He hoped that Mary would carry
on the genius of her parents — but alas, she represented what is
known as “regression to the mean”. Soon enough he would
find out that, both as a writer and a thinker, she was a dud.
Peacock's assertion, “Shelley's second wife
was intellectually better suited to him than his first”, is open
to challenge. Mary's alleged intellectual superiority is almost
entirely based on the false belief that she was the Author of Frankenstein. In my book, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein
(2007), I show that the prose Mary wrote entirely on her own —
without help from husband, father, or anyone else — is
embarrassingly bad. She was utterly incapable of writing Frankenstein,
which on every page bears the signature of Shelley: his ideas, his
passion, his mastery of English prose.
Letters represent the only heads-on comparison we
can make between the writing abilities of Harriet and Mary, since
Harriet's translations from French have not survived, and she is not
known to have written essays or fiction. Here the comparison is unfair
to Harriet, since she was quite young when she wrote the few letters
that survive, and these may not have been her best. Nevertheless,
Harriet's few surviving letters are superior to any written by Mary
Godwin/Shelley in her entire lifetime. Harriet's letters display a
greater command of English prose, a greater empathy with her
correspondents, a livelier imagination, a better sense of rhythm, and
keener insights. On the basis of this comparison, we should conclude
that Harriet was not only the better educated woman, which indeed she
was, but also the more intelligent. To read Harriet's letters click here.
Did Peacock really believe that Mary was the
intellectual superior of Harriet? I'm not sure. He may have believed
that Mary was the author of Frankenstein,
and therefore a writer of genius. Or, he may have been trying to give a
plausible reason for Shelley's desertion of Harriet. Or, he may have
been tactful, out of consideration for Mary's son and daughter-in-law,
Sir Percy Florence and Lady Shelley.
A very different theory, my own, was suggested by
Medwin's enigmatic statement: “there were other and more
substantial reasons for her throwing herself on his protection.”
I hypothesize that Mary knew she was pregnant, and that the three
travellers — Shelley, Mary Godwin and Jane (later
Claire) Clairmont — planned to stay in Europe until Mary had given birth
and the baby given away. This would explain why Claire accompanied the
pair: to help care for Mary. Whatever their original plans were, they
ran out of money and had to return to England. Shortly after their
return to England, Mary had a baby, which died a few days later. The
baby has been described as “premature”, but it may not have
The trio “eloped” to Europe on 28 July
1814. Less than seven months later (22 February 1815), after their
return to London, Mary Godwin gave birth to a girl, Clara. If the baby
had not been “premature”, but rather full-term, then it
would have been conceived nine months earlier, say around 22 May 1814.
This being the case, Mary would have missed her period well before the
All biographers seem to assume that Mary and Claire
were virgins before they met Shelley. If, however, it was really Mary
who seduced Shelley (which was Harriet's opinion, based on talks with
Shelley), she may already have been sexually experienced. (Along the
same line of reasoning, we need not assume that Claire was a virgin when
she seduced Byron.) It would have been entirely in Shelley's character
— his extreme generosity — for him to help Mary in her
predicament, regardless of whether or not he was personally responsible
The Field Place gang — Sir Percy Florence and
Lady Shelley, and their accomplice Richard Garnett — claimed
marriage between Harriet and Shelley was a misalliance and that Harriet
came from a “low background”. In the words of Miranda
Seymour, the best biographer of Mary Shelley: “Sir Percy ...
[had] long since made up his mind that Harriet Westbrook's low
background and weak nature explained his father's defection to a finer
Garnett's letters to Edward Dowden are filled with
such innuendoes as: “[Harriet was] a person whose parents had
been accustomed — as a tavern-keeper must have been accustomed
— to free living.”
The truth is that Harriet's social background was
well above Mary's, and her marriage to Shelley was a good match on his
part.  Obviously, these assertions go against the mainstream biographies, so I'll explain them in detail. 
Suppose that an American sociologist were asked what
social class a couple belonged to, who had the following
characteristics: they had a considerable fortune (in today's terms,
tens of millions of dollars), they were listed in the Social Register,
they had a fine town house in one of the most desirable neighborhoods
of the city, they also had a country house, they had a full retinue of
servants, they had been married in one of the most fashionable churches
in the city, and they sent their children to an exclusive private
school. The American sociologist would not hesitate to say that this
couple belonged to the upper class — indeed, to the upper-upper
class or the old-upper class.
The British class system is somewhat different from
the American, and fraught with contradictions: for example, one of the
richest men in England persisted in calling himself “working
class”, for the simple reason that he worked hard.
Nevertheless, based on the characteristics above, we would be safe in
saying that the Westbrooks were either upper class, or were on the cusp
between the upper-middle and the upper class. Either way, their
children were suitable mates for upper-class persons, as was shown in
Westbrook's daughter Eliza and his granddaughter Ianthe married very
wealthy men, the granddaughter marrying into a leading banking family
of Lombard Street, The Esdailes. Eliza Westbrook married Robert
Farthing Beauchamp, whose property was later estimated at
£190,000. (“Harriet Shelley's Brother-in-Law,” TLS,
Nov. 11, 1955.) His daughter Harriet attended the same private school
for young ladies as Timothy Shelley's daughters. (Cameron 1961)
Relating Harriet's parents to the hypothetical
American couple above: John Westbrook did have a considerable fortune,
one that in today's buying power would be in the tens of millions of
American dollars. The Westbrooks were married in one of the most
fashionable churches in London, indicating that they came from good
families. They owned a fine townhouse in Grosvenor Square, one of the
most exclusive neighborhoods in London, and also had a country house in
Wales. They had sufficient servants for both establishments. Proof
positive of their social standing comes from their being listed in Boyle's Court Guide, equivalent to an American Social Register:
We find [John Westbrook] listed in Boyle's Court Guide
for 1813 at 23 Chapel Street, South Audley Street, as John Westbrook,
Esquire; and there are very few London businessmen in the Court Guide, which is a selected list of London Society. (Tradesmen are given in the Post Office Directory, Kent's Directory, and similar special directories.) (Cameron 1961)
Although biographers have assumed that John
Westbrook was a self-made man, there is no evidence for this. While he
undoubtedly made money through his various investments, he probably
came from a moneyed family to begin with. There really are very few
“rags-to-riches” fortunes. His principal investment was a
fashionable coffee house, The Mount, which was located in the same
Grosvenor Square area as his townhouse. Westbrook also owned an
ordinary tavern, though this hardly means that he himself, wearing an
apron, dispensed ale to the customers. As the saying goes, pecunia non olet (money doesn't stink). There are American blue-blood families who own property in thoroughly disreputable neighborhoods.
In 1811 Shelley eloped with Harriet Westbrook to
Scotland, where they were married. Wild rumors began flying around, to
the effect that he had married a barmaid — rumors which were
scotched when a member of the high aristocracy, the Duke of Norfolk,
invited Shelley, his bride, and Harriet's sister Eliza to spend a few
days with him. The two women passed this social test with flying
colors. They became friends with some of the local gentry, and the Duke
extended their visit to a week. The Duke's report to Shelley's father,
Sir Timothy Shelley, must have been favorable, for he immediately
re-instated Shelley's allowance (which had been cut off because of
political differences). At this point Shelley's parents would have
welcomed Harriet Shelley to Field Place with open arms, except for one
barrier: Shelley's atheism and political beliefs. Neither Shelley nor
his father would yield, and they never saw each other again.
In the context of Lady (Jane, the daughter-in-law)
Shelley's destruction of
everything connected with Harriet, we should assume that evidence
of friendly relations between Harriet and Shelley's parents would have
gone into the fire. Nevertheless, it is known that Shelley's
mother “opposed [Sir] Timothy's decree forbidding Shelley entry to the
family estate and conspired to have him and his bride welcomed home.”
(Cameron 1951) Carl Pforzheimer, Jr., in the Esdaile Notebook,
suggests that Shelley's mother gave Harriet presents upon the birth of
Ianthe in June 1813. Surely
she would have wanted to see her
first grandchild. Harriet and Ianthe might have visited her at Field Place, or
she might have visited them somewhere. There is no evidence
one way or the other. At any rate, it is probable that Shelley's mother
gave the presents to Harriet in person, rather than having them
Still another indication that the upper classes
treated Harriet Shelley as one of their own: Shelley and Harriet spent
the summer of 1812 in Wales with Shelley's cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas
Grove, who were decidedly upper class:
The following spring I saw Bysshe and Mrs. Shelley
in London. They spent the summer of that year, 1812, with my brother
and sister at Cwm Elan. Mrs G. was very much pleased with Mrs. Shelley,
and sorry when they left them. (Letter from Shelley's cousin, C.H.G.
(Charles Grove), to Thomas Jefferson Hogg, reminiscing about Shelley.
Torquay, 16 February 1857.)
Finally, after Harriet's death, Sir Timothy Shelley
and Mr. John Westbrook occasionally saw each other, and they got along
Let us now look at the social background of Mary
Godwin. Since it was Mary's zealous advocate, Jane, Lady Shelley, who
raised the matter in the first place, by accusing Harriet of coming
from a “low background”, it is amusing to note that Jane Shelley herself was a bastard,
literally and otherwise. Or, to put it more euphemistically, she was
“one of nine natural children of a northern banker.” (Bieri)
Mary Godwin came from a penurious and disreputable
lower-middle class family. (In the Godwin household, no two of the five
children had the same set of parents, and only two were legitimate.)
Though Godwin was an educated man, and friend to important literary
figures, he was also a notorious leech (in Mark Twain's words, a
“rapacious mendicant”). Always he was begging or demanding
money from his friends and acquaintances, and he ended up in
bankruptcy. The Establishment, and the police forces of more than one
country, considered Godwin to be a dangerous radical.
Whereas Harriet Westbrook was well educated, Mary
Godwin had no formal education at all, and was trained to be a domestic.
After Shelley's death in 1822, Mary returned to
England, where she raised her son Percy Florence, living on a small income from
writing and a modest allowance from Shelley's father. Her set of
acquaintances included writers and creative people, some rather
bohemian characters, and some ordinary middle-class people.
Lord Byron, as a good friend of Shelley, knew Mary
well, and, if we may believe Lady Blessington's account, he was not
fond of her:
Blessington says that Byron's hatred of Southy originated in Southey's
saying that Lord Byron was the lover of two sisters, Mrs. Shelley
[Miss Mary Godwin] and Miss Clairmont — not that he was offended
by the immorality imputed to him, but the bad taste of loving so vulgar
a woman as Mrs. Shelley. By the bye, on my denying the vulgarity of
Mrs. Shelley, Landor concurred in Lord Byron's judgment.... She was
hated intensely by Lord Byron.... Mrs Shelley is said to be a great
liar. This was Lord Byron's opinion of her, and she is accused of
having opened a packet of letters from Lord Byron to Countess Guiccioli
entrusted to her by Count Gamba, from which she supplied extracts to
Moore.... Lord Byron was enraged that to the very last Shelley could
never be made conscious of the artificial character and worthlessness
of his wife. (Diary of Crabb Robinson, entry for 22 December 1824)
Shelley's parents despised Mary. Sir Timothy refused
ever to see her, and Lady (Elizabeth) Shelley did so only once — from
necessity, after Mary's son had inherited the Shelley estate and Field
Place. Sir Timothy and Lady Shelley were loving grandparents and
guardians of Charles Shelley, the son of Harriet, who died at the age
At this point, some of us might still be inclined to
favor Mary, the daughter of radical intellectuals, over Harriet, the
daughter of a prosperous businessman — but our sympathies would
be misdirected, since Harriet was the more radical of the two. Harriet
accompanied Shelley in his quixotic campaign in 1812 to liberate the
Irish; she was there by his side passing out revolutionary pamphlets.
When united to Harriet, Shelley wrote Queen Mab, his first great poem and his most radical. 
Harriet may not have agreed with all of Shelley's radical enthusiasms,
but at least she was a good sport about them. In deference to Shelley's
atheism, neither of Harriet's two children was baptized.
In contrast, Mary often scolded Shelley for what she
perceived as improper behavior, for example, his fondness for nude
swimming. Mary's children were baptized, and she herself was a regular
churchgoer. In later life, Mary repudiated the feminism of her mother
and the radicalism of her father, and she raised her son Percy to be as
conventional as possible. After the deaths of her husband and her
father, she betrayed both of them, by suppressing their radical
writings. Most unforgivable was her handling of Shelley's translation
of Plato's Symposium (or Banquet), which she first suppressed and then bowdlerized. 
Harriet Shelley was last seen alive on 9 November
1816. She was then living alone in lodgings. On 12 December 1816 a
short item was published in The Times:
On Tuesday a
respectable female, far advanced in pregnancy, was taken out of the
Serpentine river and brought to her residence in Queen Street,
Brompton, having been missed for nearly six weeks. She had a valuable
ring on her finger. A want of honour in her own conduct is supposed to
have led to this fatal catastrophe, her husband being abroad.
Edmund Blunden begins his discussion of Harriet's
death by saying: “All that has hitherto appeared in print
concerning Harriet's last days is uncertain and entangled.”
Blunden further states: “The assumption that Harriet committed
suicide, however probable it is, and of long standing, is an
assumption. Many young people talk easily of suicide and so did she
I agree with Blunden that agnosticism is called for.
Since the facts about Harriet's death are so uncertain and
contradictory, we should refrain from leaping to conclusions. At the
inquest on “Harriet Smith” (probably Harriet Shelley) the
verdict was given: “Found dead in the Serpentine River.”  Perhaps it would be best to leave it at that.
The fullest information on Harriet's death is in
Neill Cameron's article, “The Last Days of Harriet
Shelley”, and in Louise Boas's biography. Cameron's essay is
valuable for bringing almost all the relevant material together. He
usually shows restraint and good judgment — for example, in
demonstrating that some of the anti-Harriet slanders, fabricated by
Mary and William Godwin, could not possibly be true. Unfortunately, he
then succumbs to the “smoke-fire” fallacy, failing fully to
grasp that William Godwin, with venal motivations, had conducted a
full-scale slander campaign against Harriet, both during her life and
after her death. There is no reason to believe a single word of it.
Cameron also accepts as genuine a forged Shelley letter, in which
Shelley allegedly accuses Harriet of having "descended the steps of
prostitution". And he accepts as genuine the alleged suicide letter of
Harriet — a letter which surfaced decades after Harriet's death,
in a collection of Godwin papers, and which is written in a handwriting
and prose style very different from Harriet's.
Briefly, Cameron believes that Harriet had become
pregnant by a man other than Shelley, and that, fearing disgrace, she
committed suicide. However, Boas and other biographers have argued
that, if Harriet was indeed pregnant, Shelley himself was the likely
father — for he did continue to visit her, she was still
beautiful, and the timing was right. At no time after her death did
Shelley impute misconduct to her, as he might have done in the Chancery
proceedings over the custody of his children. The letter accusing
Harriet of “prostitution” is a manifest forgery — and
the very fact that such a forgery was necessary indicates an absence of
evidence for misconduct.
So far as the “suicide” letter is
concerned, there is no evidence that such a letter was known to Shelley
or any of his contemporaries. Boas believes it may be genuine, but
acknowledges the problems of handwriting and provenance. I believe it
is a forgery, based on differences between the handwriting and
Harriet's, differences between the prose style and Harriet's (though
admittedly subjective), and the peculiar circumstance that it should be
found, decades after Harriet's death, in a collection of Godwin's
Most people at the time believed, or just assumed,
that Harriet's death was suicide. It may have been, for she had reason
enough to be unhappy. On the other hand, she also had reasons to live:
her two children. For her suicidal tendencies we have only Hogg's word
— but his Life
was written decades after her death, and perhaps he was trying to
downplay Shelley's culpability by suggesting that Harriet had always
wanted to die.
To follow up on Blunden's assertion that Harriet's
suicide is only an assumption, there are five possibilities: she
committed suicide, she was murdered, she died through accident, she
died through illness, or she simply disappeared. (The last three
possibilities suggest that the body found in the Serpentine was not
There has been a surfeit of speculation over
Harriet's alleged suicide. Let me now balance that by speculating on
her murder, and I'll begin on a personal note: Several decades ago the
body of a friend was found in the Hudson River — in the vicinity
of the Greenwich Village piers, which were notoriously used by gay men
for cruising and sex. Possibly he might have committed suicide or
suffered an accident, but the immediate assumption, by police and
public, was that he had been murdered. Why should the possibility of
murder be excluded in Harriet's case? Apparently there were no marks of
violence, but this is not conclusive, since the body was badly
decomposed after a month in the water, and there are ways to kill
without leaving marks.
Interestingly, in Godwin's Journal,
the entry for 9 November 1818 reads: “H.S. dies”. (Cameron
1973) This was the date that Harriet was last seen alive. This is both
sinister and odd, because over a month had elapsed between the date
Harriet was last seen alive (9 November 1818) and the date on which a
dead body, probably hers, was found in the Serpentine (12 December
1818). Did Godwin know for a certainty that Harriet died on the date
that she disappeared? If so, how did he know? Obviously, Godwin had a
powerful motive for wishing her dead. Shelley was already tiring of
Mary, and as long as Harriet was alive, there was always the
possibility that he would return to her — his lawfully wedded
wife, the mother of his heir. If Shelley were free from Mary, Godwin
could no longer extort money from him, and Godwin was desperate for
So, Godwin had a strong motive for murdering
Harriet. But would this be compatible with his ethics? Yes, it would
be. One of the most notorious passages in Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
is a passage, “Fenelon and his Valet”, where he argues that
human beings differ greatly in their moral worth, and that sometimes
justice demands sacrificing the life of the lesser person (the valet)
in order to save the life of the greater person (Fenelon). 
Since Godwin had a high opinion of himself, almost psychopathically so,
we may be sure that he would have considered himself to be Fenelon, and
Harriet, the valet to be sacrificed. Up to this point Godwin had never
hesitated to sacrifice Harriet's reputation, by spreading vicious
rumors that he knew were false. Nor had he hesitated to sacrifice
Shelley's financial security, by ruthlessly extorting money from him.
Why should he flinch at murder?
So then, Godwin had the motive and the will, but did
he have the opportunity? Of course. It would have been easy to arrange
a meeting with Harriet, perhaps leading her to believe that he would
assist in a reconciliation with Shelley. At the meeting Harriet could
have been chloroformed by Godwin and his confederates, and her dead or
unconscious body thrown into the Serpentine. There would have been no
marks of violence.
At this point, the reader may cry: “Foul! You
have no proof that Godwin murdered Harriet Shelley!” That's true.
I was merely indulging in speculation. There is not sufficient evidence
to indict Godwin of murder, but neither is there sufficient
evidence to indict Harriet of the serious crime of self-murder — an act of violence against her children and family, as well as herself. As Blunden said, everything
concerning her death “is uncertain and entangled.” If there
is uncertainty in these matters, then at least part of the blame should
be placed on the falsifiers of history: William Godwin; his daughter Mary
Godwin/Shelley; Mary's daughter-in-law Jane, Lady Shelley; Richard Garnett; and all who
wittingly assisted them.
After Harriet's death, Shelley wanted to postpone
marriage to Mary Godwin for a year, out of respect for Harriet. But
Godwin objected strenuously, and Mary threatened to kill herself and
her child (she was pregnant for the third time) unless he married
her immediately. On 30 December 1816, only two weeks after Harriet's
body had been removed from the Serpentine, Shelley and Mary were
married in the Church of St. Mildred, according to the rites of the
Church of England. With Mary's reputation salvaged, Godwin played the
part of the proud father; he sent letters to his friends, boasting of
Shelley's family and money. (St. Clair, Holmes)
1. See especially Smith, St. Clair, Seymour, Boas.
2. In The Shelley Legend
Robert Metcalf Smith writes: “In January , Mary was
expectant and in a few months would give birth
‘prematurely’ — as the Shelley family always took
great pains to emphasize — to a seven-month's
child. The insistence on the seven months, always a matter of innuendo
with the French, was to put, if possible, a better face on Shelley's
relations with Mary; to imply that Shelley had no sexual relations with
her until after the elopement — a distinction after all between
Tweedledum and Tweedledee — since in either event their union was
3. For the opinion of John Cordy Jeaffreson on Harriet Shelley click here.
4. Neill Cameron has much information on the social standing of the
Westbrooks, though he fails fully to grasp its implications. Louise
Boas also has much pertinent information.
5. After Shelley's death, Mary Shelley reprinted Queen Mab,
but in a bowdlerized form, omitting Shelley's very extensive and
radical Notes and also his Dedication “To Harriet”.
Shelley's friends, including Trelawny, objected strenuously to this act
of censorship, and she was forced to reprint it again in its entirety.
6. The Shelley translation of Plato's Banquet
was not published in its complete and unbowdlerized form until 1931
— 113 years after Shelley wrote it. For information on the Pagan
Press edition click here.
7. Although commonly referred to as the Serpentine River, it is actually a lake in Hyde Park, London.
8. To read the full passage, “Fenelon and His Valet”, click here.
James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography, Vol. I: Youth's Unextinguished Fire, 1792-1816, 2004. Vol. II: Exile of Unfulfilled Renown, 1816-1822, Baltimore 2005.
Edmund Blunden, Shelley: A Life Story, Viking Press, NY 1947.
Louise Schutz Boas, Harriet Shelley: Five Long Years, Oxford University Press, London 1962.
Kenneth Neill Cameron, Shelley and his Circle: 1773-1822, vol. II, 1961.
— “The Last Days of Harriet Shelley”, in Romantic Rebels: Essays on Shelley and his circle, 1973.
— Young Shelley: Genesis of a Radical, 1951.
Thomas Jefferson Hogg, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1858.
Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit, 1975.
John Lauritsen, “Hellenism and Homoeroticism in Shelley and his Circle”, Journal of Homosexuality (Volume 49, Numbers 3/4 2005). This article is online.
Thomas Medwin, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1847; New, expanded edition edited by H. Buxton Forman, 1913.
Thomas Love Peacock, Memoirs of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1858-1862.
Walter Edwin Peck, Shelley: His Life and Work. Volume I: 1792-1817. Volume II: 1817-1822, 1927.
Miranda Seymour, Mary Shelley, John Murray, London 2000.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Esdaile Notebook: A Volume of Early Poems, Kenneth Neill Cameron, Editor, Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Foreword, NY 1964.
Robert Metcalf Smith, The Shelley Legend, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1945.
William St. Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys, W.W. Norton & Company, NY 1989.
Edward John Trelawny, Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, 1878.
For a longer, heavily annotated Bibliography of works pertaining to Harriet Shelley, click here.
I write books and am
proprietor of Pagan Press, a small book publisher. Each of our books
is unique and well produced. Please check out the Pagan Press BOOKLIST — John Lauritsen