The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012 - 212
Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: INTRODUCTION: BIBLIOGRAPHICAL, BIOGRAPHICAL, AND EXPOSITORY. First and Subsequent Editions of the Poem. IT was possibly just before the Great Fire of London in September, 1666, and it certainly cannot have been very long after that event, when Milton, then residing in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, had the manuscript of his Paradise Lost ready to receive the official licence necessary for its publication. The duty of licensing such books was then vested by law in the Archbishop of Canterbury, who performed it through his chaplains. The Archbishop of Canterbury at that time (1663?1677) was Dr. Gilbert Sheldon; and the chaplain to whom it fell to examine the manuscript of Paradise Lost was the Rev. Thomas Tomkyns, M.A. of Oxford, then incumbent of St. Mary Aldermary, London, and afterwards Rector of Lambeth, Chancellor of the Cathedral Church of Exeter, and D.D. He was the Archbishop's domestic chaplain, and a great favourite of his?quite a young man, but already the author of one or two books or pamphlets. The nature of his opinions may be guessed from the fact that his first publication, printed in the year of the Restoration, had been entitled The Rebel's Plea Examined; or, Mr. Baxter's Judgment concerning the Late War. A subsequent publication of his, penned not long after he had examined Paradise Lost, was entitled The Inconveniencies of Toleration; and, when he died in 1675, still young, he was described on his tomb-stone as having been Ecclesue Anglicance contra Schismaticos assertor eximius. A manuscript by a man of Milton's political and ecclesiastical Wood's Athenae, by Bliss, iii. 1046?1048. VOL. i. li antecedents could hardly, one would think, have fallen into the hands of a more unpropitious examiner. It is accordingly stated that Tomkyns he...

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Born in Field Place, near Horsham in Sussex, Shelley was educated at Syon House Academy and Eton, where he acquired the sobriquet "Mad Shelley" for his independent spirit. While at Eton he published Zastrozzi (1810), a Gothic novel. Expelled from Oxford because he refused to retract his atheistic beliefs, Shelley quarreled with his wealthy father and was banished from home. Shelley married impulsively and then abandoned his young wife to run off to Italy with the 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (the daughter of the radical feminist and the anarchist philosopher, who was eventually to write Frankenstein). While in Italy, Shelley became close friends with Byron, and the two became objects of endless, notorious rumor. Shelley's personal character was revered by almost everyone who knew him. Extremely generous toward others, frugal with himself, he strove tirelessly for the betterment of humanity. Prometheus Unbound (1820), a lyrical drama in four acts, calls for the regeneration of society through love and for the destruction of all repressive institutions. The Cenci (1819), a verse drama based on real events, is one of the few plays from the romantic period still produced. Shelley's lyrics are marvelously varied and rich in sound and rhythm. Wordsworth regarded him as the best artist among living poets.Adonais (1821), written to honor the memory of John Keats, is one of the supreme elegies in English.The Triumph of Life, which was left incomplete at his death, has been hailed by T. S. Eliot as the nearest approach in English to Dante (see Vol. 2). The "Ode to the West Wind" and "To a Skylark" are anthologized everywhere. Shelley's early death by drowning ended his career just as it was coming into full flower. A revolutionary in his art and life, Shelley is considered by many to be an inspired polemicist and poetic genius. As one of his contemporaries wrote in Etonian (1821), "He is one of the many whom we cannot read without wonder, or without pain. . . .

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