Percy Bysshe Shelley Timeline
How It All Went Down
Percy Bysshe Shelley Born
Percy Bysshe Shelley is born in Horsham, England. He is the first of seven children of the Whig Parliamentarian Sir Timothy Shelley and his wife Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley.
Enrolls at Eton
Shelley begins his studies at Eton College, the boys' boarding school. He is mercilessly bullied by his classmates for his eccentric ways and dainty appearance.
Enrolls at Oxford
Shelley enrolls at University College, Oxford. He is indifferent toward his studies and barely attends class. Instead he writes, publishing his first novel, Zastrozzi, and books of suggestive poetry.
Expelled from Oxford
Shelley is expelled from Oxford after he publishes and distributes his essay "The Necessity of Atheism." His father is furious.
Shelley runs off to Scotland with a 16-year-old student named Harriet Westbrook. Though he does not love Westbrook and disapproves of the idea of marriage, he likes the idea of "moulding a really noble soul into all that can make its nobleness useful and lovely."34
Shelley self-publishes the long poem Queen Mab. The poem is an allegory for Shelley's political ideals.
Percy and Harriet Shelley's daughter Ianthe is born.
Meets Mary Godwin
Shelley begins spending time at the home of the anarchist political philosopher William Godwin, whose ideas he admires. He meets Godwin's 16-year-old daughter Mary. Though Harriet is expecting their second child, he and Mary fall in love.
Elopes With Godwin
Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin elope to Europe, accompanied by Godwin's stepsister Claire Clairmont. They spend six weeks touring the continent.
Returns to London
Percy Shelley returns to London with Claire Clairmont and his pregnant girlfriend Mary Godwin. The couple is forced to live apart while Shelley goes into hiding to escape his creditors. During his time in hiding he writes the poem Alastor.
Harriet Westbrook gives birth to Percy Shelley's second child, a son named Charles.
First Daughter with Mary Godwin
Mary Godwin gives birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Clara. The baby is two months premature and dies only a few weeks after birth.
Mary Godwin gives birth to the couple's second child, William.
Summer in Switzerland
The Shelleys take a summer holiday in Switzerland with Claire Clairmont, who is pregnant with the child of poet Lord Byron. Byron and Shelley become close friends. During the trip, Mary Godwin begins her novel Frankenstein.
Fanny Godwin Dies
Mary Godwin's half-sister Fanny Imlay Godwin commits suicide with an overdose of laudanum.
Shelley's Wife Dies
Shelley's wife Harriet Westbrook commits suicide by throwing herself into London's Serpentine River. She was pregnant with the couple's third child. Courts refuse to grant Shelley custody of his children with Harriet because of his unorthodox views.
Percy Bysshe Shelley and a pregnant Mary Godwin marry at St. Mildred's Church in London. They settle in the village of Marlow in southeast England. Soon after, Shelley meets and befriends the poet John Keats.
Mary Shelley gives birth to the couple's third child, a daughter named Clara Everina.
The Shelleys Publish
Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein is published on New Year's Day to immediate success. Shelley publishes the poems The Revolt of Islam and Ozymandias.
Travels to Italy
The Shelleys travel to in Italy in order to convince Lord Byron to give his estranged lover Claire Clairmont access to their child. They remain in Italy for several years.
Clara Everina contracts dysentery and dies in Italy.
Daughter Born - Maybe?
A baby girl named Elena Adelaide Shelley is born in Naples and registered as Shelley's daughter. The identity of the mother remains unknown - scholars have speculated that she could be the Shelleys' nanny or Claire Clairmont. Others believe Shelley adopted an orphan to lift Mary from her depression after Clara's death. The baby is placed with foster parents and dies when she is 17 months old.
The Shelleys' three-year-old son William dies of malaria in Italy. The Shelleys now have no living children, though Mary is pregnant with their fourth.
The Shelleys move to Florence. Mary Shelley gives birth to the couple's son Percy Florence, the only one of their children to outlive his parents. Percy Shelley writes the poems The Masque of Anarchy and Men of England.
Shelley publishes the play Prometheus Unbound, an imaginative drama depicting the torture of the mythological figure Prometheus by Zeus.
Elegy for Keats
John Keats dies of tuberculosis at the age of 26. Shelley writes the poem Adonais as an elegy for him.
Percy Bysshe Shelley Dies
Percy Shelley drowns in the Gulf of Spezia while sailing with a friend. A devastated Mary Shelley has his body cremated.
Shelley's Poems Halted
Mary Shelley begins editing a book of her late husband's poems for publication. She is forced to stop when her father-in-law threatens to cut off support to her and her son unless she pledges never to publish any of his son's works during his lifetime.
Shelley's Poems Published
Mary Shelley edits and publishes Shelley's collected poems. Timothy Shelley agrees to the publication, so long as it contained no memoirs of his son. The following month she publishes a collection of Shelley's essays and assorted writing.