Wrinkle On a Page



Percy Bysshe Shelly

Joseph_Severn_-_Posthumous_Portrait_of_Shelley_Writing_Prometheus_Unbound_1845.jpgName: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Born: August 4, 1792 – Field Place, Horsham, Sussex, England

Died: July 8, 1822 (age 29) – Gulf of La Spezia, Kingdom of Sardinia (now Italy)

Occupation: Poet, dramatist, essayist, and novelist

Spouse: Harriet Westbrook – (married from 1811 till her death in 1816)

                Mary Shelley – (married from 1816 till his death in 1822)


Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by some as among the finest lyric, as well as most influential, poets in the English language. A radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views, Shelley did not see fame during his lifetime, but recognition for his poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstien.

Shelley’s close circle of friends included some of the most important progressive thinkers of the day, including his father-in-law, the philosopher William Godwin, and Leigh Hunt. Though Shelley’s poetry and prose output remained steady throughout his life, most publishers and journals declined to publish his work for fear of being arrested for either blasphemy or sedition. Shelley’s poetry sometimes had only an underground readership during his day, but his poetic achievements are widely recognized today, and his advanced political and social thought impacted the Chartist and other movements in England, and reach down to the present day. Shelley’s theories of economics and morality, for example, had a profound influence on Karl Marx; his early—perhaps first—writings on nonviolent resistance influenced both Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandi.

Shelley became a lodestone to the subsequent three or four generations of poets, including important Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets such as Robert Browning and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He was admired by Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, W.B. Yeats, Upton Sinclair and Isadora Duncan. Henry David Thoreau’s civil disobedience was apparently influenced by Shelley’s nonviolence in protest and political action. Shelley’s popularity and influence have continued to grow in contemporary poetry circles.


Interesting Information:

Shelley’s Heart

Shelley’s widow Mary bought a cliff-top home at Boscombe, Bournemouth in 1851. She intended to live there with her son, Percy, and his wife Jane and had the remains of her own parents moved from their London burial place at St Pancras Old Church to an underground mausoleum in the town. The property is now known as Shelley Manor. When Lady Jane Shelley was to be buried in the family vault, it was discovered that in her copy of Adonais was an envelope containing ashes, which she had identified as belonging to her father-in-law. The family had preserved the story that when Shelley’s body had been burned, his friend Edward Trelawny had snatched the whole heart from the pyre. These same accounts claim that the heart had been buried with Shelley’s son, Percy. All accounts agree, however, that the remains now lie in the vault in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth.

For several years in the 20th century some of Trelawny’s collection of Shelley ephemera, including a painting of Shelley as a child, a jacket, and a lock of his hair, were on display in “The Shelley Rooms”, a small museum at Shelley Manor. When the museum finally closed in 2001, these items were returned to Lord Abinger, who descends from a niece of Lady Jane Shelley.


Works Best Know For:



Ode to the West Wind

To a Skylark, Music

When Soft Voices Die

The Cloud

The Masque of Anarchy

The Triumph of Life – (his final and unfinished work)


The Cenci – (Verse Drama)

Hellas: A Lyrical Drama – (widely considered to be his masterpiece)

Long Visionary Poems

Queen Mab – (later reworked as The Daemon of the World)


The Revolt of Islam


Prometheus Unbound


Shakespearean Insults: The Classy to Insult Someone


Shakespearean Insults from Your Favorite Shakespeare Plays

“A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.” – All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 6)

“Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!” – Henry IV (Act 2, Scene 4)

“I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can, you are not for all markets.” – As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 5)

“If thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.” – Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 3)

“I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands.” – Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene 3)

“I scorn you, scurvy companion.” – Henry IV Part II (Act 2, Scene 4)

“Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.” – All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 2, Scene 3)

“More of your conversation would infect my brain.” (Act 2, Scene 1)

“My wife’s a hobby horse!” – The Winter’s Tale (Act 2, Scene 1)

“Peace, ye fat guts!” – Henry IV Part 1 )Act 2, Scene 2)

“Poisonous bunch-backed toad!” – Richard III (Act 1, Scene 3)

You can find more Shakespearean insults here

Richard Burton: The Bergin Speech

woolfNow and then, he had had a couple of drinks. I mean, that wasn’t only a joke, because he — we were shooting and he was religious about that. He did not drink when shooting except a couple of times. And when he came in pissed off, I knew. And this one time I thought, “Oh, man. This is gonna be really tough.” ‘Cause it was the bergin speech, which is a long damn speech. We did it and he couldn’t get through it. And then that magic thing that happens on movies happened and he did it and it was incredible. It just took off. And it was perfect all the way through and I said, “Cut. That’s it. Oh, Richard, that was the best.” And when the dailies came back, the scene had been overexposed by, like, 10 points. And I said to the DP, I said, “Start working on it, because he’s never gonna do it again.”

– Mike Nichols (on Richard Burton’s doing the bergin speech)

Link: The Bergin Speech

Movie: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: Richard Burton (as George) and  Elizabeth Taylor (as Martha)

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