Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ode to the West Wind

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ode to the West Wind

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in Field Place on 4th August 1792. His ancestors had been Sussex aristocrats since early in seventeenth century. His grandfather, Sir Bysshe Shelley, made himself the richest man in Horsham and his father, Timothy Shelley, was hard-headed and conventional Member of Parliament.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was sent to be educated at Eton and then he continued his studies at Oxford. By that time he published two spy stories and a book of verse. At Oxford in the autumn of 1810, Shelley and his closest friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, collaborated on a pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, which claimed that God's existence cannot be proved empirical grounds. Shelley refused to repudiate the document, therefore Shelley and T. J. Hogg were sent down. This event opened a breach between Shelley and his father and later his father broke off all relation with his son.

He went to London. He married Harriet Westbrook (daughter of a restaurateur and she was only 16 years old) without parental consent. Two children were born of their marriage.

A few years later Shelley became acquainted with William Godwin, author of the Inquiry Concerning Political Justice. In 1813 he printed privately his first important work, Queen Mab, a long prophetic poem.

In the following spring Shelley (who had drifted apart from Harriet) fell in love with Mary Wollstonecraft, stepdaughter of William Godwin. He abandoned Harriet. In 1816 Mary and Shelley travelled a lot and he met Byron in Switzerland. They became close friends. When he returned to London, Shelley found that the general public, his family and most of his friends regarded him not only as an atheist and revolutionary, but also as a gross immoralist.

When two years later Harriet committed suicide, the...