Percy Bysshe Shelley, born on 4 August 1792, emerged as one of the key figures in English Romantic poetry, despite not gaining significant fame during his lifetime. His radical stance on politics, society, and literature was deeply intertwined with his poetic craft, contributing to his posthumous recognition and influence on later poets like Robert Browning and W.B. Yeats. Shelley’s works, celebrated for their rich imagery and intricate verse forms, delve into the realms of skepticism, idealism, and materialism. His notable poems include “Ozymandias,” “Ode to the West Wind,” and “Prometheus Unbound,” and he was also known for his essays on political, social, and philosophical issues.

Shelley’s early life was marked by formal education at prestigious institutions like Eton College and University College, Oxford. However, his time at Oxford was cut short due to his expulsion for co-authoring “The Necessity of Atheism.” His personal life was tumultuous, characterized by strained family relationships, his elopement with sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrook, and later, his marriage to Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein.” Shelley’s political activism and radical views were evident in his life and works, which often led to government surveillance. He spent his final years in Italy, where he produced significant poetry that contributed to his legacy.

Tragically, Shelley’s life was cut short at the age of 29 in a boating accident on 8 July 1822. His death was a significant loss to the literary world, but his ideas and works have continued to inspire generations. His critical reputation saw various shifts in the 20th century, but recent decades have recognized the depth and complexity of his poetic genius. Shelley remains a pivotal figure in Romantic literature, admired for his lyrical prowess and profound philosophical insights. His legacy is preserved in institutions like the Keats–Shelley Memorial House and through ongoing scholarly research.

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