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. [1]
    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, Thomas Medwin:

    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 been.
    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 “elopement”. [2]
    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 for it.

Social Backgrounds

    The Field Place gang — Sir Percy Florence and Lady Shelley, and their accomplice Richard Garnett — claimed that the 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 woman.”
    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. [3] Obviously, these assertions go against the mainstream biographies, so I'll explain them in detail. [4]
    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 practice:

    Both 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 DirectoryKent'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 delivered.
    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 fine.

    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:

    Lady 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 of 12.

    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. [5] 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. [6]

Harriet's Death

    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 once.”
    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.” [7] 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 papers.
    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 Harriet's.)
    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 money.
    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). [8] 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 [1815], 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 adultery.”

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

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