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Profile of the Day: Percy Bysshe Shelley

On this day in 1792, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in Sussex, England. Regarded as one of the greatest English Romantic poets of the 19th century, Shelley’s work was often characterized as visionary and radical by his peers.

Image: Percy Bysshe Shelley / Wikimedia Commons

Shelley was the eldest legitimate son born to Sir Timothy Shelley, a member of Parliament, and Elizabeth Pilfold. He grew up learning to fish and hunt in the meadows around his home. At the age of 19, he eloped with Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of a tavern owner, but the marriage was an unhappy one. Shelley found a mentor in William Godwin, a journalist and political reformer, and soon fell in love with his Godwin’s daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. In 1814, Shelley abandoned his wife and children and fled to Europe with Godwin. After his wife committed suicide two years later, Shelley and Godwin married.

On July 8, 1822, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing his boat. He was 29 years old. Although he did not see fame during his lifetime, recognition for his poetry grew after his death. Some of Shelley’s best known poems include OzymandiasThe Masque of Anarchy and Prometheus Unbound, which is widely regarded to be his masterpiece.

How are you related to Percy Bysshe Shelley? Explore his family tree and discover how you’re related to the poet.

View Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Geni Profile

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