Percy Bysshe Shelley
“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance”
1. Percy was born into a wealthy family and privately educated at Eton, but was expelled from Oxford in 1811 for writing and circulating a pamphlet entitled ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. He had a chance of reinstatement, but this would have come at a cost – he would have had to refute the message in the pamphlet and declare himself a Christian, which he refused.
2. Percy eloped twice in his life, once at 19 to Scotland to marry 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook, and again at 22 to France with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of British philosopher William Godwin.
3. The summer of 1816 was a turning point for Percy and Mary. They spent it with Lord Byron in Switzerland. One stormy evening, telling ghost stories around the fire, Byron challenged each of them to write a horror story of their own. Percy’s attempt was not one of his finest, but the infamous Frankenstein came out of this challenge, written by Mary, which she published under her married name, Mary Shelley two years later.
4. Percy and Mary left England in 1818 and spent four years travelling around Italy. This was the period that Percy wrote all of his major works, such as Ode to the West Wind, written in Florence and Prometheus Unbound written in Rome.
5. On July 8th, 1822 Percy got caught up in a sudden storm while sailing back to Lerici, (Northern Italy) in his schooner ‘Don Juan’. Mary watched, waiting, with tears in her eyes until the night grew dark, but sadly the boat sank in the storm and his body washed up on the shore.