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date: 27 May 2020

Introduction

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter discusses Percy Bysshe Shelley's position in English poetry and the changing perceptions about his work. Modern criticism has dispelled one-sided accounts of Shelley that make him into the embodiment of an essence: whether of self-delighting radical paradoxicality, pure lyricism, commitment to sloganizing revolutionary abstractions, or sentimentalizing and egotistical evaporation of a solid world of objects. In its place is a poet whose ‘workmanship of style’ has been recognized, and whose learning, allusiveness, and command of different generic possibilities have been praised. The chapter also presents an overview of the five parts of this Handbook.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poetry, Romantic poets, English poets

All high poetry is infinite; it is as the first acorn which contained all oaks potentially.

(Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, Major Works, 693)

I

If Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) seemed ‘more arrestingly contemporary than ever’ to Kelvin Everest in 1983, his poetry has, to adapt Ezra Pound, continued to stay news in the decades that followed. 1 This Oxford Handbook seeks both to reflect and to shape current Shelleyan scholarship and criticism. The present is a stimulating time to take stock of and advance beyond recent developments in the study of a significant Romantic poet, one whose influence on later poetry and culture has been remarkable.

Shelley has occupied a strangely unsettled position in English poetry. He enjoys an almost mythological status, on one influential line of interpretation, as a poet who embodies the quintessence of poetry. Harold Bloom writes that ‘Shelley is a unique poet, [. . .] and he is in many ways the poet proper, as much so as any in the language’. He is so, Bloom continues, because ‘His poetry is autonomous, finely wrought, in the highest degree imaginative’.2 This is hyperbole that captures a vital truth. Yet Shelley is also a writer whose canonical status has never been entirely secure. Adonais effectively constructs the idea of the canon as an ‘abode where the Eternal are’ (495; quoted from Major Works). But Shelley (p. 2) depicts himself as ‘borne darkly, fearfully, afar’ (492), on his own, caught between such an ‘abode’ and ‘the trembling throng’ who are dismissed with aristocratic hauteur as those ‘Whose sails were never to the tempest given’ (489–90). Aware of his condition as a liminal, exilic figure, poised between past and future, Shelley's self-description looks ahead to the view expressed by Timothy Clark and Jerrold E. Hogle that ‘His value as poet or thinker’ was fated to remain ‘as problematic as the nature of culture’.3

Shelley is a poet who imagines change, transformation, potentiality, both in his larger political and cultural visions, and through details of his poetic craft.4 The metaphorical shifts characteristic of his writing's ‘grammar of vision’ (265), to employ Jack Donovan's phrase in his contribution to the present volume, provide a suggestive analogy with his hopes for ‘some unimagined change in our social condition or the opinions which cement it’ (Major Works, 231). The word ‘unimagined’ enacts the wish to find a language that ‘indicates’, in Timothy Webb's words, ‘not only a negative negated but an energy unquenched or a potential not realized, perhaps not even recognized’.5 The poet who asks, with Asia, ‘Shall we pursue the sound?’ (Prometheus Unbound, II. i. 188) is forever searching to recognize and realize such potential, often redefining and questioning normal modes of perception, as in the ‘Life of Life’ lyric in II. 5 of Prometheus Unbound. Shelley presents his ideal here as dazzlingly indefinable and elusive, quickening the imagination to embrace ‘the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own’ (Major Works, 682).

Poets have always recognized Shelley's importance. Thomas Lovell Beddoes paid early and majestic tribute in his ‘Lines Written in a Blank Leaf of the “Prometheus Unbound” ’ (published 1822) in which a conceit is sustained that makes Shelley both source and substance of a world of ‘bright creations’ (8); the sixteen lines of blank verse behave as though they had initial designs to be a sonnet and shrugged them off, impelled beyond formal limits by their subject, ‘An Intellect ablaze with heavenly thoughts’ (2).6 The line encapsulates Shelley's capacity to make a new body of poetic thought from the intellectual endeavours of thinkers such as Godwin, whose intricately twisting arguments in Enquiry Concerning Political Justice maintain both the mind's passivity in perception (and therefore its freedom from censure about its contents) and its agency (through freeing itself from others’ regulating opinions).7 Yeats's late reference to the Witch of Atlas in (p. 3) ‘Under Ben Bulben’ turns Shelleyan motifs into stores of esoteric lore: ‘Swear by what the sages spoke | Round the Mareotic Lake | That the Witch of Atlas knew’ (1–3).8

For readers such as Beddoes and Yeats, tropes, tones, and themes pour forth from the burning fountain of Shelley's work; they scatter themselves among and live on in the verses of his poetic legatees. The process of literary influence can involve resistance and contestation as much as imitation and admiration. Robert Browning's fervent enthusiasm for Shelley in Pauline (1833) passes into a complex negotiation with his Romantic precursor in poems such as ‘Two in the Campagna’; there, the ending's discovery of ‘Infinite passion, and the pain | Of finite hearts that yearn’ (59–60) shows the continued presence in Browning's work of a concern with Shelleyan scenarios of desire and disappointment, such as that embodied in the knowingly artful and self-undermining rhapsody of Epipsychidion: self-undermining because the poet and poem recognize that longing and failure are fated to coexist.9

Again, Shelley's autumnal leaves may end up in Hardy's ‘During Wind and Rain’ as diminished, beyond resurrection, ‘sick leaves’ that ‘reel down in throngs’ (7).10 But they bear witness to the intensity and resourcefulness with which Hardy read his Romantic forebear. In their criticism Matthew Arnold and T. S. Eliot may have deplored aspects of Shelley's life and style, yet their poetry shows a strong if divided response to his work.11 In his essay ‘The Figure of the Youth as Virile Poet’ Wallace Stevens turns to A Defence of Poetry for aid when seeking to articulate the role of poetry and the poet in the twentieth century, quoting with watchful and feline approval a number of his forebear's ‘impressions’ and ‘approximations’ in support of his view that ‘In spite of the absence of a definition and in spite of the impressions and approximations we are never at a loss to recognize poetry.’12 More generally, Shelley is a presence actively at work in Stevens's attempt to produce a modern poetry that has its ‘own meaning for reality’.13

Academic criticism has followed its own trajectory. In recent decades, the dislike for Shelley expressed by New Critics and Leavisites has been abandoned, as it has become evident that the hostile press Shelley received in those quarters resulted from shamefully (p. 4) sloppy and polemically simplified reading, of a kind rarely inflicted on any other poet comparable in stature. Part cause and part consequence of this change in the default view of Shelley has been the veritable editorial industry that has sprung up round his work since the mid-1980s. All critics and readers of Shelley need to take note of the fact that, until recently, many texts of Shelley's poetry and prose have been fraught with error. Shelley died young, leaving many works unpublished, even unfinished. He also lived in Italy for the last four years of his life; major works such as Prometheus Unbound appeared in print, full of mistakes, often the result of Shelley not having been sent proofs. Editions of the poetry in print were, until selections by Geoffrey Matthews, Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers, and Timothy Webb, unreliable and full of error. The prose fared even worse; only the few works edited by Reiman and Webb could by the mid-1980s lay claim to reliability. Shelley was for many years served ill by the academy, especially in the UK: a poet caricatured and read badly, in deficient texts.

The revival in Shelley's critical fortunes in the 1960s and afterwards can be traced to the interpretative and critical acumen of critics who, in the main, came from North America, especially Carl Grabo, Carlos Baker, C. E. Pulos, Kenneth Neill Cameron, Earl R. Wasserman, and Harold Bloom, and the bibliographical and editorial work of Charles H. Taylor, Jr. and Donald Reiman.14 A number of these authors published significant work way before the full-scale restoration of Shelley's reputation, providing the basis for that restoration. So, Grabo made clear Shelley's fascination with science and Baker his deep involvement with a mythmaking poetic inherited from Spenser and Milton, while Pulos provided a brilliant sketch of how sceptic and idealist lodged in the same poetic sensibility, making possible a probabilism that licensed ‘the human mind's imaginings’ (‘Mont Blanc’, 143). Building on Pulos's work, Wasserman gave an account of an intellectually coherent Shelley who reconciled materialism and idealism by means of a system of ideas which in On Life he calls ‘the intellectual philosophy’ (Major Works, 635). This coherence has proved a suggestive yet perplexing bequest to later commentators, some of whom wish to admire Shelley more for his ability to stage conflict and provoke questions than to supply final answers.15 Bloom threw the gauntlet down to the attackers of Shelley, showing how his work seeks to establish imaginative relationships and transform the real. Cameron grounded Shelley's work in his commitment to social and political improvement. For their part, other critics began to offer nuanced and (p. 5) thoughtful defences of Shelley, to explain and explore his abilities as a translator, to examine his engagement with contemporary politics and political ideas, and, above all, to analyse the poetry's generic sophistication and artistic merit.16

In the meantime, Donald Reiman, along with G. M. Matthews, Timothy Webb, Kelvin Everest, and others, saw and acted on the all-important need to establish accurate texts. As noted above, a crucial spur to the enhanced understanding of Shelley's work has been recognition of the significance of his manuscripts. Thanks to two series from Garland, both under the general editorship of Reiman, The Bodleian Shelley Manuscripts, 23 vols. (1986–2002) and The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics, nine volumes (1985–97), most of these manuscripts have been made available in carefully annotated and edited form. To this valuable toil must be added the editorial and scholarly labours of the Shelley and his Circle series.

Running in parallel with this work and building upon it have been a number of important editorial ventures. In particular, there are two ongoing editions of the poetry, the Longman edition, edited by Kelvin Everest and others, three volumes published to date, due to consist of five volumes by completion, and the Johns Hopkins edition, edited by Donald H. Reiman, Neil Fraistat, Nora Crook, and others, two volumes completed to date, a third just out, the series to consist of eight volume by completion. Edited on rather different principles (Longman modernizes, Johns Hopkins does not; Longman follows the chronological order of composition, Johns Hopkins the chronological order of publication), these editions are revolutionizing the study of Shelley's poetry, even as they are themselves the beneficiaries of new insights generated by recent criticism and scholarship. There has also been a major edition of Shelley's prose work up to 1818 by E. B. Murray; this edition is currently being completed by Michael O’Neill and Timothy Webb. Significant comment on the critical implications of these editorial discoveries appears in a recent collection of essays.17

The determination to establish what Shelley wrote is part of a concerted effort to see his work in a new, fairer light. Viewed broadly, modern criticism has dispelled one-sided accounts of the poet that make him into the embodiment of an essence: whether of self-delighting radical paradoxicality (Hazlitt), pure lyricism (Arnold's beautiful but ineffectual angel), commitment to sloganizing revolutionary abstractions (Eliot), or sentimentalizing and egotistical evaporation of a solid world of objects (the burden of Leavis's infamous onslaught). In its place is a poet whose ‘workmanship of style’, in Wordsworth's phrase, has been recognized, and whose learning, allusiveness, and (p. 6) command of different generic possibilities have been praised. 18 A major impetus for this volume is the wish to explore and affirm Shelley's many-sidedness and the many dimensions of his achievement, as well as his receptivity to different approaches and possibilities. The volume represents a celebration of Shelley's ability to persuade his readers to ‘Fancy another situation | From which to dart [their] contemplation, | Than that wherein [they] stood’ (Peter Bell the Third, 300–2). This Shelley is a poet peculiarly open to different critical approaches and questions, whether framed from a neo-formalist, post-structuralist, psychoanalytic, gender-based, or Marxist perspective.19 He is a poet who frequently calls into question the validity of any single approach to his work; if Lucretius offers a model and an inspiration, the Shelleyan clinamen or swerve from precursors and contemporaries establishes his poetic voice as one that is most itself when most differentiating itself from the belief-systems adopted by others.20 The multiple critical avenues that can lead profitably into the metropolis of his work are showcased in the present Handbook. Shelley's legacy as a thinker, which takes in poetics, philosophy, politics, psychology, linguistics, translation, science, the arts, history, and religion, is immensely varied. Shelley criticism, as a response, has needed to be able to think in many places at once. But individual studies cannot always follow all of the different paths that Shelley suggests, meaning that a volume such as this, which brings together an unprecedented range of expertise, is the perfect medium for understanding such an intellectually and artistically multifaceted figure.

Various Shelleys can be discerned at present, bearing witness to the way in which his work generates ‘new relations’ and is continually ‘the source of an unforeseen and an unconceived delight’ (A Defence of Poetry, Major Works, 693). They range from a red, revolutionary poet to a distinctly green one, from an anarchistic firebrand to a gradualist reformer, from a deconstructive sceptic to a celebrant of decentred process, from an Oedipally challenged figure ready for Lacanian analysis to a healer of psychoanalytical wounds.21 Nor is controversy absent. The old battles are always ready to reassume a novel (p. 7) mask. The author of exquisite love lyrics anthologized in Palgrave's Golden Treasury is also the figure whose treatment of women, especially his first wife Harriet, continues to disturb many readers and who turns out, on at least one account, to be the ruthless exploiter of vulnerable young women.22 By contrast, the infamous atheist expelled from Oxford emerges as having more than a smack of the negative theology fellow traveller about him.23 For others, the challenge posed by Thomas McFarland when he remarks that ‘modern Shelley scholars […] simply ignore the fact that Hazlitt, Arnold, and Leavis […] all call into severest question Shelley's poetic quality and importance’ has still adequately to be confronted. 24 But the unthinking condescension that often characterized treatment of Shelley in the Anglo-American academy for many years in the twentieth century has been effectively banished.

Again, a life which once attracted extreme views, some writers bestowing a halo, others diabolic horns, has been placed more carefully in the contexts supplied by biographical research. What has emerged from the biographical work of Holmes, Cameron, Reiman, and others is the picture of a brilliant young man at the heart of his restless times, simultaneously conditioned by his age and seeking to model it anew. In Shelley criss-cross strains come together.25 An aristocrat by birth, he rebelled against the political orthodoxies of his time, looking ahead to the values enshrined in modern political democracies, describing himself to Leigh Hunt as ‘one of those whom nothing will fully satisfy, but who am ready to be partially satisfied by all that is practicable’ (Letters: PBS II, 153), ‘We shall see’, he continues, and the tide of progressive political and cultural opinion has flowed with Shelley; the figure who seemed shockingly heterodox in his own day now seems to formulate ideas at the heart of our best hopes. And yet Shelley is an ethical thinker in politics and religion who has a strong sense of the limits of ‘Ethical science’; ‘nor is it’, he writes with that command of sardonic polemic that shows him to be the heir of Burke and Paine, ‘for want of admirable doctrines that men hate, and despise, and censure, and deceive, and subjugate one another’ (A Defence of Poetry, Major Works, 681), the drum-roll of verbs ushering human hypocrisy into the glare of (p. 8) shamed self-contemplation. In many respects, Shelley's importance has to do with his twin sense that poetry is profoundly imaginative and that, as it ‘awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought’ (A Defence of Poetry, Major Works, 681), it spurs us on to ‘act that which we imagine’ and regain ‘the poetry of life’ (A Defence of Poetry, Major Works, 695).

II

The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley contains forty-two essays by forty contributors. It is divided into five parts. The first part, ‘Biography and Relationships’, provides information about and reflections on the poet's biography. Shelley himself argued that ‘The poet & the man are two different natures’ (Letters: PBS II, 310). Yet the remark is itself of biographical interest, foreshadowing tensions at the heart of Yeatsian and Eliotic ideas about the antithetical relationship between the self and anti-self, and the impersonality of poetry. Shelley's turbulent life and times have attracted much comment, sometimes exculpatory, often censorious. In a sense, our entire book is fascinated by biography, construing that word as having a wide range of implications: along with his life-experiences in Britain and Italy, for example, there is discussion of his poetry's quasi-filial textual relations with Spenser and Milton, and its afterlife in the poetry of later poets.

The first part builds, as does the book as a whole, on research undertaken over the last half-century and beyond. Richard Holmes's and Kenneth Cameron's contrasting but seminal works in the 1970s have been reinforced more recently by biographies (equally different in mode) from James Bieri and Ann Wroe.26 The time is propitious for biographical studies that will reconcile the poetry and prose, allowing for a negotiation between the accumulated details which distinguish Bieri's account and the sympathetic inwardness that is a marked feature of Wroe's book. Throughout this part, contributors distil, examine, and nuance the biographical record. Chapters consider Shelley's life and travels in Britain and Italy; they look at his extraordinary final year in which he saw visions, wrote masterpieces, sailed, fell in love with Jane Williams, and planned The Liberal, an anti-establishment periodical to be edited with Leigh Hunt and Byron; they give particular attention to relationships with women, creative as well as amorous, and look too at his fraught dealings with publishers, through whom he sought to mediate his often thwarted attempts to reach an audience.

In the second part, ‘Prose’, the Handbook ensures that comparatively under-investigated prose works are given the detailed attention that more restricted studies cannot provide, complementing in this respect significant new work appearing in The Unfamiliar Shelley. Contributors explore Shelley's philosophical positions, which (p. 9) involve a very particular blend of materialism, scepticism, and idealism, and which benefit, therefore, from multiple perspectives and expertise. One concern that emerges is whether it is possible to see Shelley as consistent in his philosophical thinking: does he, or does he not, for instance, succeed in creating a coherent fusion of Hume and Plato? Other essays in this part explore Shelley's moral and religious views; his political ideas about social reform set out most carefully in his unfinished A Philosophical View of Reform; his ideas about love, involving detailed consideration of his engagement, among other things, with Plato's Symposium, which he translated in 1818; his use of satire in support of political progressivism; his theories of poetry, especially as articulated in his prefaces to poems and in A Defence of Poetry. They look, too, at Shelley's early Gothic novels and the later (and fragmentary) The Assassins and The Coliseum and his letters (often too hastily dismissed as less interesting than Keats's, and thus too little read).

The third part devotes itself to the poetry. These chapters seek to draw in and appeal to first-time readers of the work, and reinvigorate and extend the understanding of seasoned readers. Shelley is and should be at the forefront of debates about the priority of the aesthetic and the imaginative in Romantic literature, and chapters in this part bring out the creativity apparent in his drafts, before looking across the range of his career, one in which he showed his capacity to excel in many different genres. One essay discusses his lyric practice from the early Esdaile Notebook up to and including the ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ and ‘Mont Blanc’; another analyses his lyrics to women. Others examine his handling of the long poem in Queen Mab and Laon and Cythna, his deployment of a more conversational style in poems such as Julian and Maddalo, his command of tragic form, his experiments with lyrical drama, his writing of odes and sonnets, his achievement in Alastor and Epipsychidion of a quest poetry of near-tragic intensity, his sophisticated use of the revolutionary ballad form and popular song in The Mask of Anarchy and associated poems, his creation of a narrative visionary poetry in The Sensitive-Plant and The Witch of Atlas, and his manipulation of pronouns and modes of address in his lyrics, Hellas, Adonais, and The Triumph of Life. The part is organized so as to bring out Shelley's variety of voices and achievements across a range of genres, and to help readers find different ways through what is a wealth of pre-existing critical material.

The fourth part seeks to understand Shelley's response to past and present literary cultures, within both an English and a comparative context. The scope of the current volume will, for the first time, allow for a simultaneous investigation of the various strands of Shelley's complex literary heritage, especially his immersion in historical and contemporary European literature (involving responses to figures such as Dante, Ariosto, Tasso, Calderón, Goethe, and Rousseau). Shelley's creative flair as a translator underpins and pervades these chapters, and is recognized elsewhere in the volume. Placing Shelley in an identifiably English tradition is also an important aim of this part. Essays explore Shelley's dealings with the Bible; with mythology and classical tradition; with Italian culture; with French, Spanish, and German cultures; with Milton; with Spenser and Pope; and with his contemporaries.

(p. 10) The second aim of this part is to draw on and expand recent scholarly work in the broader cultural field of Romanticism. Shelley's immersion in the culture of his day, not just in the arts, but also in terms of his well-known interest in science and technology, was diverse; and the ways in which his work is energized by such immersion still require extensive investigation. Essays explore his response to music; to Shakespeare and theatre; to the visual arts (and their attitude to Shelley); to science; and to tourism and travel.

In the fifth part, essays explore Shelley's literary and cultural afterlife. George Eliot's Ladislaw provokes comparisons with Shelley in Middlemarch, as does Hardy's Angel Clare in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Shelley is also a vital influence in the poetry of the nineteenth century: Arnold, Browning, Tennyson, Emily Brontë, Swinburne, and Wilde, to give some of the most prominent examples. As already noted, his influence in the twentieth century on writers such as Yeats and T. S. Eliot is strong, and his presence continues to be felt up to the present day. The section also analyses the ways in which Shelley's writings have been edited, from his own lifetime, through pirated editions in the 1820s and the 1830s, Mary Shelley's highly influential but flawed editions, the significant editions produced by Forman and Rossetti, to the Hutchinson edition, and up to the present.

This fifth part also reflects on Shelley's critical reception. These reflections take in the friendly and hostile reactions of contemporaries such as Hunt and Hazlitt, the complex responses of Arnold and other Victorians, and the seminal role that Shelley's writings played in the rise of post-structuralism, notably in the criticism of de Man and Derrida. In this part, then, essays look, in turn, at Shelley's influence in the nineteenth century and in twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry (especially, changing the usual angle of focus in we think a profitably surprising way, in the sphere of American open-field poetics); at the editing of his work; and at criticism of him from the Romantics to the Modernists, and from Deconstructionist and other more recent perspectives. In exploring the afterlife of the work of a great poet, The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley wishes also to extend it, to establish a basis for its exciting future.

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Allott, Miriam. ‘Attitudes to Shelley: The Vagaries of a Critical Reputation’. Essays on Shelley. Ed. Miriam Allott. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1982. 1–38.Find this resource:

Blank, G. Kim. Ed. The New Shelley: Later Twentieth-Century Views. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991.Find this resource:

Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Shelley: The Golden Years. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1974.Find this resource:

Clark, Timothy and Jerrold E. Hogle. Eds. Evaluating Shelley. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1996.Find this resource:

Curran, Stuart. ‘Percy Bysshe Shelley’. The English Romantic Poets: A Review of Research and Criticism. Ed. Frank Jordan. 4th edn. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1985.Find this resource:

Everest, Kelvin. Ed. Shelley Revalued: Essays from the Gregynog Conference. Leicester: Leicester UP, 1983. (p. 11) Find this resource:

Hogle, Jerrold E. ‘Percy Bysshe Shelley’. Literature of the Romantic Period: A Bibliographical Guide. Ed. Michael O’Neill. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. 118–42.Find this resource:

Morton, Timothy. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shelley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.Find this resource:

O’Neill, Michael. Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Literary Life. London: Macmillan, 1989.Find this resource:

—— Ed. Shelley. London: Longman. 1993.Find this resource:

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Notes:

(1) Kelvin Everest, ‘Introduction’, in Kelvin Everest (ed. ), Shelley Revalued: Essays from the Gregynog Conference (Leicester: Leicester UP, 1983), p. xiv. For the maxim that ‘Literature is news that stays news’, see Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (London: Faber, 1951), 29.

(2) See Harold Bloom, ‘The Unpastured Sea: An Introduction to Shelley’, in The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 87.

(3) Timothy Clark and Jerrold E. Hogle (eds.) , Evaluating Shelley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1996), 1. For work on the figure of the poet in Shelley, see Judith Chernaik, The Lyrics of Shelley (Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1972) and Timothy Clark, Embodying Revolution: The Figure of the Poet in Shelley (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989).

(4) For the idea of potentiality in Shelley, see D. J. Hughes, ‘Potentiality in Prometheus Unbound’, Studies in Romanticism 2 (1963), 107–26.

(5) Timothy Webb, ‘The Unascended Heaven: Negatives in Prometheus Unbound’, in Everest (ed. ), Shelley Revalued, 57.

(6) The Works of Thomas Lovell Beddoes, ed. H. W. Donner (London: Oxford UP, 1935).

(7) See William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1798), ed. Isaac Kramnick (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976), 373, 568 (where in a striking anticipation of the end of the third section of ‘Mont Blanc’ Godwin speaks of scepticism about ‘government’ as inciting us to ‘look for the moral improvement of the species, not in the multiplying of regulations, but in their repeal’). Shelley read Political Justice in the 1793 first edition, which contains this passage. For more on Shelley and Godwin, see P. M. S. Dawson, The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980) and Pamela Clemit, ‘Shelley's Godwin, 1812–1817’, Durham University Journal ns 54 (1993), 189–201.

(8) W. B. Yeats, Oxford Authors, ed. Edward Larrissy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997).

(9) Robert Browning, Oxford Authors, ed. Adam Roberts, introd. Daniel Karlin (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997). For the view that ‘Pauline undoubtedly owes a great deal to Shelley's Epipsychidion, especially to its “improvisatory” form’, see Catherine Maxwell, The Female Sublime from Milton to Swinburne: Bearing Blindness (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2001), 133.

(10) Thomas Hardy, Selected Poems, ed. Tim Armstrong (London: Longman, 1993).

(11) For discussion of Shelley, Arnold, and Eliot, see Michael O’Neill, ‘The Burden of Ourselves: Arnold as a Post-Romantic Poet’, Yearbook of English Studies 36 (2006), 109–24, and ch. 3 of Michael O’Neill, The All-Sustaining Air: Romantic Legacies and Renewals in British, American, and Irish Poetry since 1900 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007).

(12) Wallace Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose, ed. Frank Kermode and Joan Richardson (New York: Library of America, 1997), 669, 670.

(13) ‘The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words’. Ibid. 658.

(14) See Carl Grabo, The Magic Plant: The Growth of Shelley's Thought (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1935); Carlos Baker, Shelley's Major Poetry: The Fabric of a Vision (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1948); C. E. Pulos, The Deep Truth: A Study of Shelley's Scepticism (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1954); Kenneth Neill Cameron, Shelley: The Golden Years (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1974); Earl R. Wasserman, Shelley: A Critical Reading (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1971); Harold Bloom, Shelley's Mythmaking (New Haven: Yale UP, 1959); Charles H. Taylor, Jr., The Early Collected Editions of Shelley's Poems: A Study in the History and Transmission of the Printed Text (New Haven: Yale UP, 1958); Donald H. Reiman, Shelley's ‘The Triumph of Life’: A Critical Study (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1965).

(15) See Michael O’Neill, The Human Mind's Imaginings: Conflict and Achievement in Shelley's Poetry (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989).

(16) See Timothy Webb, Shelley: A Voice Not Understood (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1977); Timothy Webb, The Violet in the Crucible: Shelley and Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976); Dawson, The Unacknowledged Legislator; Michael H. Scrivener, The Philosophical Anarchism and Utopian Thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982); Stuart Curran, Shelley's Annus Mirabilis: The Maturing of an Epic Vision (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1975); Richard Cronin, Shelley's Poetic Thoughts (London: Macmillan, 1981); William Keach, Shelley's Style (London: Methuen, 1984); Angela Leighton, Shelley and the Sublime: An Interpretation of the Major Poems (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984).

(17) Alan M. Weinberg and Timothy Webb (eds.) , The Unfamiliar Shelley (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009).

(18) See William Hazlitt, unsigned review of Shelley's Posthumous Poems (1824) in The Edinburgh Review July 1824, in Theodore Redpath, The Young Romantics and Critical Opinion 1807–1824 (London: Harrap, 1973); Matthew Arnold, ‘Shelley’, in The Last Word: The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, vol. XI, ed. R. H. Super (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977), 306; T. S. Eliot, ‘Shelley and Keats’, in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (London: Faber, 1964); F. R. Leavis, ‘Shelley’, in Revaluation (London: Chatto & Windus, 1936); Wordsworth's comment is quoted in James E. Barcus (ed. ), Shelley: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1975), 2.

(19) For accounts of critical approaches to Shelley, see George E. Donaldson's ‘Shelley and his Critics’ at the end of Timothy Webb (ed. ), Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poems and Prose (London: Dent, 1995), 479–529, Michael O’Neill's introduction to Shelley, Longman Critical Readers, ed. Michael O’Neill (London: Longman, 1993), 1–26, and Jerrold E. Hogle's chapter in Literature of the Romantic Period: A Bibliographical Guide, ed. Michael O’Neill (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998), 118–42.

(20) See Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘Shelley as Revisionist: Power and Belief in Mont Blanc’, in G. Kim Blank (ed. ), The New Shelley: Later Twentieth-Century Views (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 115–16 for relevant commentary.

(21) Representative examples include Paul Foot, Red Shelley (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1980); Timothy Morton, Shelley and the Revolution in Taste (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994); Paul de Man, ‘Shelley Disfigured’, in Harold Bloom et al., Deconstruction and Criticism (New York: Continuum, 1979); Jerrold E. Hogle, Shelley's Process: Radical Transference and the Development of his Major Works (New York: Oxford UP, 1988); Barbara Gelpi, Shelley's Goddess: Maternity, Language, Subjectivity (New York: Oxford UP, 1992); Stuart M. Sperry, Shelley's Major Verse: The Narrative and Dramatic Poetry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1988).

(22) See Janet Todd, Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle (London: Profile, 2007). Reviewing Todd's book for The Observer on 1 July 2007, Hilary Spurling notes that it ‘confronts more frankly than anyone has done before the fact that Shelley spent virtually his entire adult life trying to lure young girls away from the protection of their families’ (online access).

(23) See Arthur Bradley, ‘ “Until Death Tramples it to Fragments”: Percy Bysshe Shelley after Postmodern Theology’, in Gavin Hopps and Jane Stabler (eds.) , Romanticism and Religion from William Cowper to Wallace Stevens (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 191–206.

(24) Thomas McFarland, ‘Recent Studies in the Nineteenth Century’, Studies in English Literature: 1500–1900 16 (1976), 694. Critics who have taken up this challenge, though in different ways (the former to defend Shelley, the latter to attack him), include Michael O’Neill, The Human Mind's Imaginings and Simon Haines, Shelley's Poetry: The Divided Self (London: Macmillan, 1997).

(25) See Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1974); Cameron, Shelley: The Golden Years; Donald H. Reiman, Percy Bysshe Shelley (updated edn. Boston: Twayne, 1990).

(26) James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography, first published with different titles in two volumes in 2004 and 2005 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2008); Ann Wroe, Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself (London: Cape, 2007).