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Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death: The Eruption of Mt. Tambora

The year 1816 is known as the Year Without a Summer (also the Poverty Year, The Summer that Never Was, Year There Was No Summer, and Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death), because of severe summer climate abnormalities that caused average global temperatures to decrease by 0.4–0.7 °C (0.7–1.3 °F). This resulted in major food shortages across the Northern Hemisphere. Evidence suggests that the anomaly was caused by a combination of a historic low in solar activity with a volcanic winter event, the latter caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years. The Little Ice Age, then in its concluding decades, may also have been a factor.

Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_Indonesia
Aerial view of the caldera of Mount Tambora, formed during the colossal 1815 eruption.

The English governor of Indonesia, Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, wrote of the erruption in his “History of Java” (1817). This was later incorporated in Lyell’s “Principles of Geology” (1850):

Island of Sumbawa, 1815. –
In April, 1815, one of the most frightful eruptions recorded in history occurred in the province of Tomboro, in the island of Sumbawa, about 200 miles from the eastern extremity of Java.
In the April of the year preceding the volcano had been observed in a state of considerable activity, ashes having fallen upon the decks of vessels which sailed past the coast. The eruption of 1815 began on the 5th of April, but was most violent on the 11th and 12th, and did not entirely cease till July.

The sound of the explosions was heard in Sumatra, at the distance of 970 geographical miles in a direct line; and at Ternate, in an opposite direction, at the distance of 720 miles. Out of a population of 12,000, in the province of Tomboro, only twenty-six individuals survived.

Violent whirlwinds carried up men, horses, cattle, and whatever else came within their influence, into the air; tore up the largest trees by the roots, and covered the whole sea with floating timber. Great tracts of land were covered by lava, several streams of which, issuing from the crater of the Tomboro mountain, reached the sea.

So heavy was the fall of ashes, that they broke into the Resident’s house at Bima, forty miles east of the volcano, and rendered it, as well as many other dwellings in the town, uninhabitable. On the side of Java the ashes were carried to the distance of 300 miles, and 217 towards Celebes, in sufficient quantity to darken the air. The floating cinders to the westward of Sumatra formed, on the 12th of April, a mass two feet thick, and several miles in extent, through which ships with difficulty forced their way.

The darkness occasioned in the daytime by the ashes in Java was so profound, that nothing equal to it was ever witnessed in the darkest night. Although this volcanic dust when it fell was an impalpable powder, it was of considerable weight when compressed, a pint of it weighing twelve ounces and three quarters.

“Some of the finest particles,” says Mr. Crawfurd, “were transported to the islands of Amboyna and Banda, which last is about 800 miles east from the site of the volcano, although the south-east monsoon was then at its height.” They must have been projected, therefore, into the upper regions of the atmosphere, where a counter current prevailed.
Along the sea-coast of Sumbawa, and the adjacent isles, the sea rose suddenly to the height of from two to twelve feet, a great wave rushing up the estuaries, and then suddenly subsiding. Although the wind at Bima was still during the whole time, the sea rolled in upon the shore, and filled the lower parts of the houses with water a foot deep. Every prow and boat was forced from the anchorage, and driven on shore.

The town called Tomboro, on the west side of Sumbawa, was overflowed by the sea, which encroached upon the shore so that the water remained permanently eighteen feet deep in places where there was land before. Here we may observe, that the amount of subsidence of land was apparent, in spite of the ashes, which would naturally have caused the limits of the coast to be extended.

The area over which tremulous noises and other volcanic effects extended, was 1000 English miles in circumference, including the whole of the Molucca Islands, Java, a considerable portion of Celebes, Sumatra, and Borneo. In the island of Amboyna, in the same month and year, the ground opened, threw out water, and then closed again.

In conclusion, I may remind the reader, that but for the accidental presence of Sir Stamford Raffles, then governor of Java, we should scarcely have heard in Europe of this tremendous catastrophe. He required all the residents in the various districts under his authority to send in a statement of the circumstances which occurred within their own knowledge; but, valuable as were their communications, they are often calculated to excite rather than to satisfy the curiosity of the geologist. They mention, that similar effects, though in a less degree, had, about seven years before, accompanied an eruption of Carang Assam, a volcano in the island of Bali, west of Sumatra; but no particulars of that great catastrophe are recorded.

The Year Without a Summer was an agricultural disaster. Historian John D. Post has called this “the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world”.The unusual climatic aberrations of 1816 had the greatest effect on most of New England, Atlantic Canada, and parts of western Europe. Typically, the late spring and summer of central and northern New England and southeastern Canada are relatively stable: temperatures (average of both day and night) average between about 68 and 77 °F (20 and 25 °C) and rarely fall below 41 °F (5 °C). Summer snow is an extreme rarity.

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James Henry “Leigh Hunt” Liberal author and Poet

James Henry Leigh Hunt (19 October 1784 – 28 August 1859) was an English critic, essayist, poet and writer. He was born at Southgate, London, Middlesex, where his parents had settled after leaving the newly formed United States of America. His father, a lawyer from Philadelphia, and his mother, a merchant’s daughter and a devout Quaker, had been forced to come to Britain because of their loyalist sympathies during the American War of Independence. Hunt’s father took holy orders, and became a popular preacher, but was unsuccessful in obtaining a permanent living. Hunt’s father was then employed by James Brydges, 3rd Duke of Chandos as tutor to his nephew, James Henry Leigh, after whom Leigh Hunt was named. Surprising to many Austen enthusiasts, this is the same James Henry Leigh who eventually inherited the Leigh family seat at Stoneleigh Abbey. His son, Chandos Leigh, 1st Baron Leigh was a second cousin of Jane Austen’s on her mother’s side. Jane visted Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806 and many feel that this great house was her inspiration for Sotherton Court in Mansfield Park. Regardless of whether Jane Austen ever actually met Leigh Hunt, she would, no doubt, have been familiar with his works and papers. Chandos Leigh was a schoolmate of Lord Byron’s at Harrow and retained both he and Leigh Hunt as close friends and confidants.

Leigh Hunt was educated at Christ’s Hospital from 1791 to 1799, a period which is detailed in his autobiography. He entered the school shortly after Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Lamb had both left however Thomas Barnes was a schoolfriend of his. One of the current boarding houses at Christ’s Hospital is named after him. As a boy, he was an ardent admirer of Thomas Gray and William Collins, writing many verses in imitation of them. A speech impediment, later cured, prevented his going to university. “For some time after I left school,” he says, “I did nothing but visit my school-fellows, haunt the book-stalls and write verses.” His poems were published in 1801 under the title of Juvenilia, and introduced him into literary and theatrical society. He began to write for the newspapers, and published in 1807 a volume of theatre criticism, and a series of Classic Tales with critical essays on the authors.

In 1808 he left the War Office, where he had been working as a clerk, to become editor of the Examiner, a newspaper founded by his brother, John. This journal soon acquired a reputation for unusual political independence; it would attack any worthy target, “from a principle of taste,” as John Keats expressed it. In 1813, an attack on the Prince Regent, based on substantial truth, resulted in prosecution and a sentence of two years’ imprisonment for each of the brothers — Leigh Hunt served his term at the Surrey County Gaol. His visitors in prison included Lord Byron, John Moore, Lord Brougham, Charles Lamb and others, whose acquaintance influenced his later career. The stoicism with which Leigh Hunt bore his imprisonment attracted general attention and sympathy.

In 1810-1811 he edited a quarterly magazine, the Reflector, for his brother John. He wrote “The Feast of the Poets” for this, a satire, which offended many contemporary poets, particularly William Gifford of the Quarterly. The essays afterwards published under the title of the Round Table (2 volumes, 1816–1817), jointly with William Hazlitt, appeared in the Examiner.

In 1816 he made a mark in English literature with the publication of Story of Rimini. Hunt’s preference was decidedly for Chaucer’s verse style, as adapted to the Modern English by John Dryden, in opposition to the epigrammatic couplet of Alexander Pope which had superseded it. The poem is an optimistic narrative which runs contrary to the tragic nature of its subject. Hunt’s flippancy and familiarity, often degenerating into the ludicrous, subsequently made him a target for ridicule and parody.

In 1818 appeared a collection of poems entitled Foliage, followed in 1819 by Hero and Leander, and Bacchies and Ariadne. In the same year he reprinted these two works with The Story of Rimini and The Descent of Liberty with the title of Poetical Works, and started the Indicator, in which some of his best work appeared. Both Keats and Shelley belonged to the circle gathered around him at Hampstead, which also included William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Bryan Procter, Benjamin Haydon, Charles Cowden Clarke, C.W. Dilke, Walter Coulson and John Hamilton Reynolds.

He had for some years been married to Marianne Kent. His own affairs were in confusion, and only Shelley’s generosity saved him from ruin. In return he showed sympathy to Shelley during the latter’s domestic distresses, and defended him in the Examiner. He introduced Keats to Shelley and wrote a very generous appreciation of him in the Indicator. Keats seems, however, to have subsequently felt that Hunt’s example as a poet had been in some respects detrimental to him.

After Shelley’s departure for Italy in 1818, Leigh Hunt became even poorer, and the prospects of political reform less satisfactory. Both his health and his wife’s failed, and he was obliged to discontinue the Indicator (1819–1821), having, he says, “almost died over the last numbers.” Shelley suggested that Hunt go to Italy with him and Byron to establish a quarterly magazine in which liberal opinions could be advocated with more freedom than was possible at home. An injudicious suggestion, it would have done little for Hunt or the liberal cause at the best, and depended entirely upon the co-operation of the capricious, parsimonious Byron. Byron’s principal motive for agreeing appears to have been the expectation of acquiring influence over the Examiner, and he was mortified to discover that Hunt was no longer interested in the Examiner. Leigh Hunt left England for Italy in November 1821, but storm, sickness and misadventure retarded his arrival until 1 July 1822, a rate of progress which Thomas Love Peacock appropriately compares to the navigation of Ulysses.

The death of Shelley, a few weeks later, destroyed every prospect of success for the Liberal. Hunt was now virtually dependent upon Byron, who did not relish the idea of being patron to Hunt’s large and troublesome family. Byron’s friends also scorned Hunt. The Liberal lived through four quarterly numbers, containing contributions no less memorable than Byron’s Vision of Judgment and Shelley’s translations from Faust; but in 1823 Byron sailed for Greece, leaving Hunt at Genoa to shift for himself. The Italian climate and manners, however, were entirely to Hunt’s taste, and he protracted his residence until 1825, producing in the interim Ultra-Crepidarius: a Satire on William Gifford (1823), and his matchless translation (1825) of Francesco Redi’s Bacco in Toscana.

In 1825 litigation with his brother brought him back to England, and in 1828 he published Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries, a corrective to idealized portraits of Byron. The public was shocked that Hunt, who had been obliged to Byron for so much, would “bite the hand that fed him” in this way. Hunt especially writhed under the withering satire of Moore. For many years afterwards, the history of Hunt’s life is a painful struggle with poverty and sickness. He worked unremittingly, but one effort failed after another. Two journalistic ventures, the Tatler (1830–1832), a daily devoted to literary and dramatic criticism, and Leigh Hunt’s London Journal (1834–1835), were discontinued for want of subscribers, although the latter contained some of his best writing. His editorship (1837–1838) of the Monthly Repository, in which he succeeded William Johnson Fox, was also unsuccessful. The adventitious circumstances which allowed the Examiner to succeed no longer existed, and Hunt’s personality was unsuited to the general body of readers.

In 1832 a collected edition of his poems was published by subscription, the list of subscribers including many of his opponents. In the same year was printed for private circulation Christianism, the work afterwards published (1853) as The Religion of the Heart. A copy sent to Thomas Carlyle secured his friendship, and Hunt went to live next door to him in Cheyne Row in 1833. Sir Ralph Esher, a romance of Charles II’s period, had a success, and Captain Sword and Captain Pen (1835), a spirited contrast between the victories of peace and the victories of war, deserves to be ranked among his best poems. In 1840 his circumstances were improved by the successful representation at Covent Garden of his play Legend of Florence. Lover’s Amazements, a comedy, was acted several years afterwards, and was printed in Leigh Hunt’s Journal (1850–1851); other plays remained in manuscript. In 1840 he wrote introductory notices to the work of Sheridan and to Edward Moxon’s edition of the works of William Wycherley, William Congreve, John Vanbrugh and George Farquhar, a work which furnished the occasion of Macaulay’s essay on the Dramatists of the Restoration. The narrative poem The Palfrey was published in 1842.

The time of Hunt’s greatest difficulties was between 1834 and 1840. He was at times in absolute poverty, and his distress was aggravated by domestic complications. By Macaulay’s recommendation he began to write for the Edinburgh Review. In 1844 Mary Shelley and her son, on succeeding to the family estates, settled an annuity of £120 upon Hunt; and in 1847 Lord John Russell procured him a pension of £200. Now living in improved comfort, Hunt published the companion books, Imagination and Fancy (1844), and Wit and Humour (1846), two volumes of selections from the English poets, which displayed his refined, discriminating critical tastes. His book on the pastoral poetry of Sicily, A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla (1848), is also delightful. The Town(2 vols., 1848) and Men, Women and Books (2 vols., 1847) are partly made up from former material. The Old Court Suburb (2 vols., 1855; ed. A Dobson, 2002) is a sketch of Kensington, where he long resided. In 1850 he published his Autobiography (3 vols.), a naive and affected, but accurate, piece of self-portraiture. A Book for a Corner (2 vols.) was published in 1849, and his Table Talk appeared in 1851. In 1855 his narrative poems, original and translated, were collected under the title Stories in Verse. He died in Putney on the 28 August 1859, and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. In September 1966 Christ’s Hospital named one of its Houses in memory of him.


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Percy Bysshe Shelley: Epic poet and wanderer

Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 4, 1792 – July 8, 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is widely considered to be among the finest lyric poets in the English language. He is perhaps most famous for such anthology pieces as Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, and The Masque of Anarchy. However, his major works are long visionary poems including Alastor, Adonaïs, The Revolt of Islam, Prometheus Unbound and the unfinished The Triumph of Life.

Shelley’s unconventional life and uncompromising idealism, combined with his strong disapproving voice, made him an authoritative and much-denigrated figure during his life and afterward. He became an idol of the next two or three generations of poets, including the major Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, as well as Lord Byron, William Butler Yeats, and Henry David Thoreau, and poets in other languages such as Jan Kasprowicz, Jibanananda Das and Subramanya Bharathy.

He was admired by Karl Marx, Henry Stephens Salt, Bertrand Russell, and Upton Sinclair. He was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron. The novelist Mary Shelley was his second wife.

A son of Sir Timothy Shelley, a Whig Member of Parliament, and his wife, a Sussex landowner, Shelley grew up in Horsham, Sussex, and received his early education at home, tutored by Reverend Evan Edwards of Warnham. In 1802, he entered the Syon House Academy of Brentford. In 1804, Shelley entered Eton College, where he fared poorly, subjected to an almost daily mob torment his classmates called “Shelley-baits”. Surrounded, the young Shelley would have his books torn from his hands and his clothes pulled at and torn until he cried out madly in his high-pitched “cracked soprano” of a voice.

On April 10, 1810, he matriculated at University College, Oxford. Legend has it that Shelley attended only one lecture while at Oxford, but frequently read sixteen hours a day. By all accounts, he was unpopular with both students and dons.His first publication was a Gothic novel, Zastrozzi (1810), in which he vented his atheistic worldview through the villain Zastrozzi. In the same year, Shelley, together with his sister Elizabeth, published Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire. While at Oxford, he issued a collection of verses (perhaps ostensibly burlesque but quite subversive), Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, with Thomas Jefferson Hogg.

In 1811, Shelley published a pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism. This gained the attention of the university administration and he was called to appear before the College’s fellows, including the Dean, George Rowley. His refusal to repudiate the authorship of the pamphlet resulted in his being expelled from Oxford on March 25, 1811, along with Hogg. The rediscovery in mid -2006 of Shelley’s long-lost ‘Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things’, a long, strident anti-monarchical poem printed in Oxford, gives a new dimension to the expulsion, reinforcing Hogg’s implication of political motives (‘an affair of party’). Shelley was given the choice to be reinstated after his father intervened, on the condition that he would have had to recant his avowed views. His refusal to do so led to a falling-out with his father.

Four months after being expelled, the 19-year-old Shelley travelled to Scotland with the 16-year-old schoolgirl Harriet Westbrook to get married. After their marriage on August 28, 1811, Shelley invited his college friend Hogg to share their household. When Harriet objected, however, Shelley brought her to Keswick in England’s Lake District, intending to write. Distracted by political events, he visited Ireland shortly afterward in order to engage in radical pamphleteering. Here he wrote his Address to the Irish People and was seen at several nationalist rallies. His activities earned him the unfavourable attention of the British government.

Unhappy in his nearly three-year-old marriage, Shelley often left his wife and child (Ianthe Shelley, 1813-76) alone, first to study Italian with a certain Cornelia Turner, and eventually to visit William Godwin’s home and bookshop in London, where he met Godwin’s daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later known as Mary Shelley. Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

On July 28, 1814, Shelley abandoned his pregnant wife and child when he ran away with Mary, also inviting her stepsister Jane (later Claire) Clairmont along for company. The three sailed to Europe, crossed France, and settled in Switzerland, an account of which was subsequently published by the Shelleys. After six weeks, homesick and destitute, the three young people returned to England. In the autumn of 1815, while living close to London with Mary and avoiding creditors, he wrote Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude. It attracted little attention at the time, but has now come to be recognized as his first major achievement. At this point in his writing career, Shelley was deeply influenced by the poetry of Wordsworth.

In the summer of 1816, Shelley and Mary made a second trip to Switzerland. They were prompted to do so by Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, who had commenced a liaison with Lord Byron the previous April just before his self-exile on the continent. Byron had lost interest in Claire, and she used the opportunity of meeting the Shelleys as bait to lure him to Geneva. The Shelleys and Byron rented neighbouring houses on the shores of Lake Geneva. Regular conversation with Byron had an invigorating effect on Shelley’s output of poetry. While on a boating tour the two took together, Shelley was inspired to write his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, often considered his first significant production since Alastor. A tour of Chamonix in the French Alps inspired Mont Blanc, a poem in which Shelley claims to have pondered questions of historical inevitability and the relationship between the human mind and external nature.

After the Shelleys returned to England, Fanny Imlay, Mary Godwin’s half-sister and a member of Godwin’s household, killed herself in early October. In December 1816, Shelley’s estranged wife Harriet drowned herself in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London. On December 30, 1816, a few weeks after Harriet’s body was recovered, Shelley and Mary Godwin were married. The marriage was intended, in part, to help secure Shelley’s custody of his children by Harriet, but the plan fell through: the children were handed over by the courts to foster parents due to the fact that he was an atheist and a vegetarian.

The Shelleys took up residence in the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where a friend of Percy’s, Thomas Love Peacock, lived. Shelley took part in the literary circle that surrounded Leigh Hunt, and during this period he met John Keats. Shelley’s major production during this time was Laon and Cythna, a long narrative poem in which he attacked religion and featured a pair of incestuous lovers. It was hastily withdrawn after only a few copies were published. It was later edited and reissued as The Revolt of Islam in 1818. Shelley also wrote two revolutionary political tracts under the nom de plume, “The Hermit of Marlowe.”

Early in 1818, the Shelleys and Claire left England in order to take Claire’s daughter, Allegra, to her father Byron, who had taken up residence in Venice. Contact with the older and more established poet encouraged Shelley to write once again. During the latter part of the year, he wrote Julian and Maddalo, a lightly disguised rendering of his boat trips and conversations with Byron in Venice, finishing with a visit to a madhouse. This poem marked the appearance of Shelley’s “urbane style”. He then began the long verse drama Prometheus Unbound, a re-writing of the lost play by the ancient Greek poet Aeschylus, which features talking mountains and a petulant spirit who overthrows Jupiter. Tragedy struck in 1818 and 1819, when his son, Will, died of fever in Rome, and his infant daughter Clara Everina died during yet another household move.

A daughter, Elena Adelaide Shelley, was born December 27, 1818 in Naples, Italy and registered there as the daughter of Shelley and a woman named Marina Padurin. However, the identity of the mother is an unsolved mystery. Some scholars speculate that her true mother was actually Claire Clairmont or Elise Foggi, a nursemaid for the Shelley family. Other scholars postulate that she was a foundling Shelley adopted in hopes of distracting Mary after the deaths of William and Clara. Shelley referred to Elena in letters as his “Neapolitan ward”. However, Elena was placed with foster parents a few days after her birth and the Shelley family moved on to yet another Italian city, leaving her behind. Elena died 17 months later, on June 10, 1820.

The Shelleys moved around various Italian cities during these years. In later 1818 they were living in a pensione on the Via Valfonde (which now runs alongside Florence train station. The pensione was destroyed in World War II but there is a plaque on the building which replaced it.) when they received two visitors, a Miss Sophia Stacey and her much older travelling companion, Miss Corbet Parry -Jones (to be described by Mary as ‘an ignorant little Welshwoman’). Sophia had for three years in her youth been ward of the poet’s aunt and uncle. Hitting it off the pair moved into the same pensione and stayed for about two months. During this period Mary gave birth to her son and Sophia is credited with suggesting that he be named after the city of his birth, so he became Percy Florence Shelley, later Sir Percy. Shelley also wrote his Ode to Sophia Stacey now in all complete collections of his work.

Shelley completed Prometheus Unbound in Rome, and he spent the summer of 1819 writing a tragedy, The Cenci, in Livorno. In this year, prompted among other causes by the Peterloo massacre, he wrote his best-known political poems: The Masque of Anarchy and Men of England. These were most likely his most-remembered works during the 19th century. Around this time period, he wrote the essay The Philosophical View of Reform, which was his most thorough exposition of his political views to that date.

In 1820, hearing of John Keats’ illness from a friend, Shelley wrote him a letter inviting him to join him at his residence at Pisa. Keats replied with hopes of seeing him, but instead, arrangements were made for Keats to travel to Rome with the artist Joseph Severn. Inspired by the death of Keats, in 1821 Shelley wrote the elegy Adonais.

In 1822, Shelley arranged for Leigh Hunt, the British poet and editor who had been one of his chief supporters in England, to come to Italy with his family. He meant for the three of them — himself, Byron and Hunt — to create a journal, which would be called The Liberal. With Hunt as editor, their controversial writings would be disseminated, and the journal would act as a counter-blast to conservative periodicals such as Blackwood’s Magazine and The Quarterly Review.

Leigh Hunt’s son, the editor Thornton Leigh Hunt, when later asked whether he preferred Shelley or Byron as a man, replied:-

On one occasion I had to fetch or take to Byron some copy for the paper which my father, himself and Shelley, jointly conducted. I found him seated on a lounge feasting himself from a drum of figs. He asked me if I would like a fig. Now, in that, Leno, consists the difference, Shelley would have handed me the drum and allowed me to help myself.

On July 8, 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing back from Livorno to Lerici in his schooner, Don Juan. Shelley claimed to have met his Doppelgänger, foreboding his own death. He was returning from having set up The Liberal with the newly-arrived Leigh Hunt. The name “Don Juan”, a compliment to Byron, was chosen by Edward John Trelawny, a member of the Shelley-Byron Pisan circle. However, according to Mary Shelley’s testimony, Shelley changed it to “Ariel”. This annoyed Byron, who forced the painting of the words “Don Juan” on the mainsail. This offended the Shelleys, who felt that the boat was made to look much like a coal barge. The vessel, an open boat was custom-built in Genoa for Shelley. It did not capsize but sank; 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 boat was seaworthy, the sinking was due to the storm and poor seamanship of the three on board.

There were those that believed his death was not accidental. Some said that Shelley was depressed in those days and that he wanted to die; others that he did not know how to navigate; others believed that some pirates mistook the boat for Byron’s and attacked him, and others have even more fantastical stories. There is a mass of evidence, though scattered and contradictory, that Shelley may have been murdered for political reasons. Previously, at his cottage in Tann-yr-allt in Wales, he had been surprised and apparently attacked by a man who may have been an intelligence agent.

In the days before he died, he was almost shot on two separate occasions. A British consul defended the shooter from the first of these two incidents, keeping him from all legal consequence. Two other Englishmen were with him on the boat. One was a retired Navy officer, Edward Ellerker Williams; the other was a boatboy, Charles Vivien. The boat was found ten miles (16 km) offshore, and it was suggested that one side of the boat had been rammed and staved in by a much stronger vessel. However, the liferaft was unused and still attached to the boat. The bodies were found completely clothed, including boots.

In his Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron, Trelawny noted that the shirt that Williams’s body was clad in was ‘partly drawn over the head, as if the wearer had been in the act of taking it off […] and [he was missing] one boot, indicating also that he had attempted to strip.’ Trelawny also relates a supposed deathbed confession by an Italian fisherman who claimed to have rammed Shelley’s boat in order to rob him, a plan confounded by the rapid sinking of the vessel. The day after Shelley’s death, the Tory newspaper The Courier gloated: “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned, now he knows whether there is a God or not.”

Shelley’s body washed ashore and later, in keeping with quarantine regulations, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio.

A reclining statue, of Shelley’s body washed up onto the shore, created by sculptor Edward Onslow Ford at the behest of Shelley’s daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Shelley, is the centerpiece of the Shelley Memorial at University College, Oxford. An 1889 painting by Louis Edouard Fournier, The Funeral of Shelley (also known as The Cremation of Shelley), contains inaccuracies. In pre- Victorian times it was English custom that women not attend funerals, for health reasons. Mary Shelley did not attend but was featured in the painting, kneeling at the left-hand side. Leigh Hunt stayed in the carriage during the ceremony but is also pictured. Also, Trelawney, in his account of the recovery of Shelley’s body, records that “the face and hands, and parts of the body not protected by the dress, were fleshless,” and by the time that the party returned to the beach for the cremation, the body was even further decomposed. In his graphic account of the cremation, he writes of Byron being unable to face the scene, and withdrawing to the beach.

Shelley’s heart was snatched from the funeral pyre by Edward Trelawny; Mary Shelley kept it for the rest of her life, and it was interred next to her grave at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth. Shelley’s ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome under an ancient pyramid in the city walls with the Latin inscription, Cor Cordium (“Heart of Hearts”), and a few lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The grave site is the second in the cemetery. Some weeks after Shelley had been put to rest, Trelawny had come to Rome, had not liked his friend’s position among a number of other graves, and had purchased what seemed to him a better plot near the old wall. The ashes had been exhumed and moved to their present location. Trelawny had purchased the adjacent plot, and over sixty years later his remains were placed there.

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Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley

For though shy, he did not seem reserved; it had rather the appearance of feelings glad to burst their usual restraints; and having talked of poetry, the richness of the present age, and gone through a brief comparison of opinion as to the first-rate poets, trying to ascertain whether Marmion or The Lady of the Lake were to be preferred, and how ranked the Giaour and The Bride of Abydos; and moreover, how the Giaour was to be pronounced, he showed himself so intimately acquainted with all the tenderest songs of the one poet, and all the impassioned descriptions of hopeless agony of the other; he repeated, with such tremulous feeling, the various lines which imaged a broken heart, or a mind destroyed by wretchedness, and looked so entirely as if he meant to be understood, that she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry, and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.
Persuasion

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English romantic/gothic novelist and the author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. She was married to the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, in London, in 1797. She was the second daughter of famed feminist, educator and writer Mary Wollstonecraft. Her father was the equally famous anarchist philosopher, novelist, journalist, and atheist dissenter, William Godwin. Her mother died ten days after Mary was born as a result of puerperal fever.

Her father was left with the responsibility of safeguarding Mary and her older half-sister, Fanny Imlay. He hired a housekeeper and governess, Louisa Jones, to look after the house and care for the children. Louisa’s letters reveal that she was devoted to the girls, and that Mary’s early years were extremely happy ones. Unfortunately for Mary, Louisa fell in love with one of Godwin’s more wild and irresponsible disciples, and Godwin did not approve of the relationship, cutting off all contact between her and his daughters. Mary was three years old when Louisa left.

Godwin, however, had long realized that he could not raise his daughters by himself, and had been actively looking for a second wife. After courting a number of women, he met Mary Jane Clairmont, a widow with two young children. He soon fell in love with her and married her, although his friends did not approve of the match. Mary Jane Clairmont was a difficult woman with a quick temper and a sharp tongue, and she quarrelled frequently with her husband. She did not get on well with her step-daughters, especially Mary whose attachment to Godwin she resented. She also disliked the amount of attention that Mary, as the daughter of the two most famous radicals of the time, received from visitors to the Godwin household. She made Mary do many of the household chores, invaded her privacy, and restricted her access to her father. She also ensured that her own daughter, Jane Clairmont (better known as Claire Clairmont), received more education than Mary Godwin, as she contrived to send her to boarding school.

Nonetheless, despite her stepmother’s efforts, Mary received an excellent education, which was unusual for girls at the time. She never went to school, but she was taught to read and write by Louisa Jones, and then educated in a broad range of subjects by her father who gave her free access to his extensive library. In particular, she was encouraged to write stories, and one of these early works “Mounseer Nongtongpaw” was published by the Godwin Company’s Juvenile Library when she was only eleven. “Mounseer Nongtongpaw” was a thirty-nine stanza expansion of Charles Dibdin’s five-stanza song of the same name. Written in iambic tetrameter it tells of John Bull’s trip to Paris where all of his questions about the ownership of everything he sees meet with the same response: Je vous n’entends pas (“I don’t hear you”). He takes this phrase as referring to a Monsieur Nongtongpaw, whose wealth and possessions he greatly envies. At the same time, Godwin allowed her to listen to the conversations he had with many of the leading intellectuals and poets of the day.

By 1812, the animosity between Mary and her step-mother had grown to such an extent that William Godwin sent her to board with an acquaintance, William Baxter, who lived in Dundee, Scotland. Mary’s stay with the Baxter family had a profound effect on her: they provided her with a model of the type of closely-knit, loving family to which she would aspire for the rest of her life. Moreover, in the 1831 Preface to Frankenstein, she claims that this period of life led to her development as a writer: “I lived principally in the country as a girl, and passed a considerable time in Scotland. I made occasional visits to the more picturesque parts; but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, near Dundee. Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then – but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered. I did not make myself the heroine of my tales. Life appeared to me too common-place an affair as regarded myself. I could not figure to myself that romantic woes or wonderful events would ever be my lot; but I was not confined to my own identity, and I could people the hours with creations far more interesting to me at that age, than my own sensations.”

On a visit home in 1812, she met Percy Bysshe Shelley, a political radical and free-thinker like her father, when Percy and his first wife Harriet visited Godwin’s home and bookshop in London. By 1814, Percy Shelley was paying frequent visits to Godwin, and had struck up a friendship with his daughter, Mary. He sought in her the commonality of interests and the intellectual companionship that was missing in his marriage to Harriet. Initially, Percy’s relationship with his wife was a happy one, as she made an effort to share in his studies and his intellectual pursuits. After their daughter Eliza Ianthe Shelley was born, however, Harriet gave up on their intellectual life completely, and did not pay as much attention to Percy’s interests. Shelley was not pleased with this change; as the eldest son of a wealthy baronet with a mother and four younger sisters who adored him, he was accustomed to being the centre of attention for the women in his life. Consequently, Percy looked for that companionship and sympathy elsewhere, and found it in Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. As the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, she was a revolutionary, a poet, an intellectual; all qualities that Percy felt were lacking in his wife.

Mary had her reasons for being attracted to Percy. By that time, Percy had become a central figure in the Godwin household. William Godwin was dependent upon him not only for intellectual stimulation and emotional sympathy, but also for financial support as Percy was giving him massive amounts of money in order to alleviate his poverty. As a result, the Godwin family had developed an obsession with him; when Mary came home in 1814, her father and sisters spoke about little else apart from Percy, and her stepmother repeatedly wrote about how beautifully dressed but proud and unsociable Harriet was. So, when Mary met Percy two years after their brief encounter in 1812, it is little wonder that she would have been fascinated by and attracted to him. She also saw in him her ideal man: a young, passionate, deeply-committed poet who shared her love for her father.

Inevitably, Mary and Percy began a romantic and sexual relationship with each other. Mary had the habit of visiting St Pancras Churchyard where her mother was buried and reading Wollstonecraft’s works, and Percy started accompanying her on these walks. Although Jane chaperoned them, they would have her walk some distance away from them, claiming that they wished to speak about philosophical matters. On 26 June, they officially declared their love for each other.

Unfortunately for them, William Godwin discovered their relationship, and forbade them from seeing each other again. His principled opposition to marriage and support of free love did not extend to his own daughter. Mary initially tried to do as her father wished, but, after Percy threatened to commit suicide if he could not be with her, she realised that she needed to pursue their relationship.

As a result, on 18 July 1814 at 5:00 in the morning, Mary and Percy eloped to France, with Mary’s stepsister, Jane Clairmont, in tow. The young couple could not get married, however, because Percy was still legally wed to Harriet. This was Percy’s second elopement, as he had also eloped with Harriet three years before. Upon their return several weeks later, the young couple were dismayed to find that Godwin refused to see them. He did not talk to Mary for three and a half years.

Mary consoled herself with her studies and with Percy, who set himself up in the roles of tutor and mentor as well as lover to the young woman. He drew up a programme of study in literature and languages that Mary followed diligently throughout their first few years together. Percy, too, was more than satisfied with his new partner during this period. He exulted that Mary was “one who can feel poetry and understand philosophy,” and he enjoyed discussing literary and political issues with her.

Nonetheless, the couple’s life together was not idyllic. Percy’s father, Sir Timothy Shelley, disapproved of his son’s abandonment of his pregnant wife and his relationship with Mary Shelley, and cut off his son’s allowance as a result. By that time, Percy was deeply in debt as a result of his own profligate spending habits and the generous loans that he had made to William Godwin among other individuals. He spent several months on the run from his creditors and apart from Mary.

At the same time, Mary was beginning to realise that Percy’s all-consuming focus on the intellectual and abstract meant that he tended to be narcissistic and self-centred, and that he was frequently unaware of or indifferent to the impact of his actions and demands on the people around him.

For instance, as part of his commitment to free love, Percy Shelley attempted to set up a radical community of friends who would share everything in common, including sexual partners. Around the central relationship between himself and Mary, he tried to set up secondary sexual relationships between himself and Claire Clairmont, and Mary and his best friend Thomas Hogg. Mary was distressed by this turn of events, as she had hoped that Percy would provide her with the stable family and sense of belonging that she had always desired. Moreover, although Mary was fond of Thomas Hogg as a friend and companion and reciprocated his attentions, she was not sexually attracted to him, and refused to sleep with him. Her pregnancy with her first child may have influenced her decision not to engage in a sexual relationship with another man as well. Her relationship with her step-sister Claire had also deteriorated by that point, and she wanted Percy to send her away from their household, but he refused to compromise his vision of how his community should be organised.

Even more devastating for Mary, however, were the events surrounding the birth and death of their first child, Clara, in February 1815. Born two months prematurely, Clara was a sickly child and was not expected to live. Nonetheless, Percy left Mary to nurse the child on her own and to entertain Thomas Hogg, while he went on walks and errands with Claire, and consulted the doctor for his own weak heart. When the child died early in March, Mary fell into a deep depression, yet Percy was again indifferent to her and spent more time with Claire than his primary partner.

Mary bore the couple’s second child on 24 January 1816, a boy whom the couple called William after her father. This time, the pregnancy went smoothly, and William grew to become a favourite of the household, earning the nickname “Lovewill” for his beauty and his charm. His father took a greater interest in him than he had in Clara, although scholars like Anne K. Mellor have argued that it was largely a narcissistic one as Percy hoped to raise the child in his own image.

In May 1816, the couple and their son travelled to Lake Geneva in the company of Claire Clairmont. Their plan was to spend the summer near the famous and scandalous poet Lord Byron, whose recent affair with Claire had left her pregnant.

From a literary perspective, it was a productive and successful summer. Percy began work on “Hymn To Intellectual Beauty” and “Mont Blanc”; Mary, in the meantime, was inspired to write an enduring masterpiece of her own.

Forced to stay indoors one evening because of cold and rainy weather G, the group of young writers and intellectuals, enthralled by the ghost stories from the book Fantasmagoriana, decided to have a ghost-story writing contest. Byron and Percy Shelley abandoned the project relatively soon, with Byron publishing his fragment at the end of Mazeppa. Byron’s physician Dr. John Polidori’s contribution remains uncertain; he identifies The Modern Oedipus as the work in question in the introduction to the novel, but, in her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Mary claims that he had a terrible idea about a skull-headed lady who was punished for peeping through keyholes. Mary herself had no inspiration for a story, which was a matter of great concern to her. However, Luigi Galvani’s report of his 1783 investigations in animating frog legs with electricity were mentioned specifically by her as part of the reading list that summer in Switzerland. One night, perhaps attributable to Galvani’s report, Mary had a waking dream; she recounted the episode in this way: “My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie…I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together—I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion…What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow.” This nightmare served as the basis for the novel that she entitled Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (1818)

Returning to England in September 1816, Mary and Percy were stunned by two family suicides in quick succession. On 9 October 1816, Mary’s older half-sister, Fanny Imlay, left the Godwin home and took her own life at a distant inn. On 10 December, Percy’s first wife, Harriet, drowned herself in London’s Hyde Park. Discarded and pregnant, Claire had not welcomed Percy’s invitation to join Mary and himself in their new household.

On 30 December 1816, shortly after Harriet’s death, Percy and Mary were married at St Mildred’s Church in London, now with Godwin’s blessing. Their attempts to gain custody of Percy’s two children by Harriet failed, but their writing careers enjoyed more success when, in the spring of 1817, Mary finished Frankenstein.

Over the following years, Mary’s household grew to include her own children by Percy, occasional friends, and Claire’s daughter, Allegra Byron, by Byron. Shelley moved his menage from place to place first in England and then in Italy. Mary suffered the death of her infant daughter Clara outside Venice, after which her young son Will died too, in Rome, as Percy moved the household yet again. By now Mary had resigned herself to her husband’s self-centred restlessness and his romantic enthusiasms for other women. The birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley, consoled her somewhat for her losses.

Eventually the group settled in Pisa. For the summer of 1822, they moved to Lerici, a fishing village close to La Spezia in Italy, but it was an ill-fated choice. It was here that Claire learned of her daughter’s death at the Italian convent to which Byron had sent her, and that Mary almost died of a miscarriage, being saved only by Percy’s quick thinking. And it was from there, in July 1822, that Percy sailed away up the coast to Livorno, to meet Leigh Hunt, who had just arrived from England. Caught in a storm on his return, Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned at sea on 8 July 1822, aged 29, along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant. Percy left his last long poem, a shadowy work called The Triumph Of Life, unfinished.

Well here is my story – the last story I shall have to tell – all that might have been bright in my life is now despoiled – I shall live to improve myself, to take care of my child, & render myself worthy to join him. Soon my weary pilgrimage will begin – I rest now – but soon I must leave Italy -“.

In 1823 Mary returned with her son to England, determined not to-re-marry. She devoted herself to his welfare and education and continued her career as a professional writer. Sir Timothy Shelley, her father-in-law, was not eager to help her and her son Percy financially. Mary Shelley never married, but she flirted with the young French writer Prosper Merimee, and hoped to marry Maj. Aubrey Beauclerk.

None of Shelley’s novels from this period matched the power of her first legendary achievement. The unfinished Mathilde (1819, published 1959), draws on her relations with Godwin and Shelley. Her later works include Lodore (1835) and Faulkner(1837), both romantic pot-boiler. Valperga (1823) is a romance set in the 14th-century, and The Last Man(1826), reveals a 21st century republican England, depicting the end of human civilization. Its second part describes the gradual destruction of the human race by plague. The narrator is Lionel Verney, the last man of the title, living amidst the ruins of Rome. Feminist critics have paid attention to its fantasy of the total corrosion of patriarchal order.

Shelley gave up writing long fiction when realism started to gain popularity, exemplified in the works of Charles Dickens. She wrote a numerous short stories for popular periodicals, particularly The Keepsaker, produced several volumes of Lives for Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia, and the first authoritative edition of Shelley’s poems (1839, 4 vols.).

Shelley’s last book was an account of summer tours on the Continent with her son and his college friends. By the time it was published in 1844, she was in poor health and by 1848 had begun to show symptoms of the brain tumor which would eventually kill her. Diagnosed in December 1850, she began to experience numbness in her right leg and impaired speech. Within a few weeks,she was almost completely paralyzed, and she died in London on 1 February 1851. She asked to be buried with her mother and father, whereon her son and daughter-in-law, Jane, Lady Shelley, had the bodies of her parents exhumed and buried them with her in the churchyard of St. Peter’s, Bournemouth. A memorial sculpture to Mary and Percy Shelley was commissioned by Percy Florence and Jane Shelley and erected at the nearby Christchurch Priory.

From Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, Brandeis University, and Pegasos

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John Keats


John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was the latest born of the great Romantic poets. Along with Byron and Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the movement, despite publishing his work over only a four-year period. During his short life, his work was not well received by critics, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen was significant. The poetry of Keats was characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes which remain among the most popular poems in English
literature. The letters of Keats are among the most celebrated by any English poet.

What is most interesting to Austen scholars is the apparent link between Jane Austen’s work and the influence it may have had on Keats’ poetry.
The lives of both these writers overlap almost perfectly and as Katie Mastrucci writes in An Imitation of Spenser—comes in 1814, when Keats was
nineteen. In 1815, Keats registered as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital (now part of King’s College London). Within a month of starting, he
was accepted for a “dressership” position within the hospital—a significant promotion with increased responsibility and workload, taking up
precious writing time and increasing his ambivalence to working in medicine. Strongly drawn by an ambition inspired by fellow poets such as Leigh Hunt and Byron, but beleaguered by family financial crises that continued to
the end of his life, he suffered periods of deep depression. His brother George wrote that John “feared that he should never be a poet, & if he
was not he would destroy himself”. In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence but before the end of the year he announced to his guardian
that he had resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon.

Though he continued his work and training at Guy’s, Keats was devoting increasing time to the study of literature. In May 1816, Leigh Hunt,
greatly admired by Keats, agreed to publish the sonnet O Solitude in his
magazine The Examiner, a leading liberal magazine of the day. It is the first appearance of Keats’s poems in print and Charles Cowden
Clarke refers to it as his friend’s “red letter day”, first proof that John’s ambitions were not ridiculous. In the summer of that year he went
down to the coastal town of Margate with Clarke to write. There he began Calidore
and initiated the era of his great letter writing.

In October, Clarke personally introduced Keats to the influential Hunt, a close friend of Byron and Shelley. Five months later Poems, the first volume of Keats
verse, was published. It was a critical failure but Hunt went on to publish the essay Three Young Poets (Shelley, Keats and Reynolds),
along with the sonnet on Chapman’s Homer, promising great things to come. He introduced Keats to many prominent men in his circle, including
editor of The Times Thomas Barnes, writer Charles Lamb, conductor Vincent Novello and poet John Hamilton Reynolds, who would become a
close friend. It was a decisive turning point for Keats. He was established in the public eye as a figure in, what Hunt termed, ‘a new school
of poetry’. At this time Keats writes to his friend Bailey “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of
the imagination — What imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth”. This would eventually transmute into the concluding lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ – that is all / you know on
earth, and all ye need to know”.

Endymion, on its eventual publication, was also damned by the critics, giving
rise to Byron’s quip that Keats was ultimately “snuffed out by an article”. One particularly harsh review by John Wilson Croker appeared in the
April 1818 edition of The Quarterly Review:

…It is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius – he has all these; but he is
unhappily a disciple of the new school of wha

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