Sunday, May 23, 2010


Shelley drowned off the coast of Italy in 1822 at the age of 29. Seventy years later this memorial was erected at University College, Oxford, the college from which Shelley was expelled in 1811 for publishing a pamphlet On the Necessity of Atheism.

The fin de si├Ęcle sculptor Edward Onslow Ford carved the marble figure as if freshly washed up on shore. Shelley's actual body when recovered from the ocean was damaged and decomposed to the point that it could only be identified by his clothes – which are (irony #1) conveniently absent from this representation – which is (irony #2) enshrined in the very same place where he was disgraced.

One biographer has calculated that the reading public for Shelley's poetry while he was alive never numbered more than about fifty people. On the other hand, this tiny group of readers did include Keats and Byron.

Picture source is here.