Painting of Percy Bysshe Shelley


Lifetime: 1792 - 1822 Passed: ≈ 201 years ago


Poet, Dramatist, Essayist, Novelist



Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley's work was not widely read in his lifetime outside a small circle of friends, poets and critics. Most of his poetry, drama and fiction was published in editions of 250 copies which generally sold poorly. Only The Cenci went to an authorized second edition while Shelley was alive.

Shelley's poetry soon gained a wider audience in radical and reformist circles. Queen Mab became popular with Owenists and Chartists, and Revolt of Islam influenced poets sympathetic to the workers' movement such as Thomas Hood, Thomas Cooper and William Morris.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets. American literary critic Harold Bloom describes him as "a superb craftsman, a lyric poet without rival, and surely one of the most advanced skeptical intellects ever to write a poem." A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not achieve fame during his lifetime, but recognition of his achievements in poetry grew steadily following his death and he became an important influence on subsequent generations of poets including Browning, Swinburne, Hardy and Yeats.

On 1 July, Shelley and Edward Williams sailed in Shelley's new boat the Don Juan to Livorno where Shelley met Leigh Hunt and Byron in order to make arrangements for a new journal, The Liberal. After the meeting, on 8 July, Shelley, Williams and their boat boy sailed out of Livorno for Lerici. A few hours later, the Don Juan and its inexperienced crew were lost in a storm. The vessel, an open boat, had been custom-built in Genoa for Shelley. Mary Shelley declared in her "Note on Poems of 1822" (1839) that the design had a defect and that the boat was never seaworthy. In fact the Don Juan was overmastered; the sinking was due to a severe storm and poor seamanship of the three men on board.

Shelley's badly-decomposed body washed ashore at Viareggio ten days later and was identified by Trelawney from the clothing and a copy of Keats's Lamia in a jacket pocket. On 16 August, his body was cremated on a beach near Viareggio and the ashes were buried in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome.

Books by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias Cover image


Sonnet Romantic Shelley

Ozymandias is a poem which tells about the inevitable decline of power and fall of empires. Nothing last forever. Understand this ancient wisdom and universal fact that one has to die no matter how great they are.

The Masque of Anarchy Cover image

The Masque of Anarchy

Corruption Church England

The Masque of Anarchy (or The Mask of Anarchy) is a British political poem written in 1819 (see 1819 in poetry) by Percy Bysshe Shelley following the Peterloo Massacre of that year. In his call for freedom, it is perhaps the first modern statement of...

Shelley: Selected Poems and Prose  Cover image

Shelley: Selected Poems and Prose

Romantic Beauty Imagery Nature Literature Poems Liberty Literary Collections Prose

The English Romantic Period in literature featured a towering group of excellent poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats. If we add in forerunners Burns and Blake, we have perhaps an unmatchable collection of writers for any era. Of th...

Zastrozzi, A Romance  Cover image

Zastrozzi, A Romance

Fiction Novel
Gothic Young Revenge Supernatural Isolation Emotion Horror

Zastrozzi: A Romance is a Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley first published in 1810 in London by George Wilkie and John Robinson anonymously, with only the initials of the author's name, as "by P.B.S.". The first of Shelley's two early Gothic nove...

Fragment: To The Mind Of Man Cover image

Fragment: To The Mind Of Man

Poems Human Mind


The Cenci Cover image

The Cenci

Family Murder Fear Death Tragedy Act Greed Church

It inspired by a real Italian family, the House of Cenci (in particular, Beatrice Cenci, pronounced CHEN-chee). Shelley composed the play in Rome and at Villa Valsovano near Livorno, from May to August 5, 1819. The work was published by Charles and J...

Queen Mab Cover image

Queen Mab

Morality Imaginative Exploration Poems Reflection Society Relationships Beliefs

"Queen Mab" is a captivating book written by the renowned poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. This thought-provoking work was first published in 1813 and continues to captivate readers with its imaginative exploration of various themes. Set in a dreamlike re...

Dirge for the Year Cover image

Dirge for the Year

Beauty Imagery Poems Life Hope Emotion Verses Fortnightly

In Percy Bysshe Shelley's haunting and evocative poem, "Dirge for the Year," the passing of the year is not merely a seasonal change but a profound transformation, a poignant moment of farewell and anticipation. The poem weaves a tapestry of imagery,...