Shelley, by John Addington Symonds


This sketch of Shelley’s life was written in the summer of 1878. Since then Professor Dowden’s Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (2 vols., Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co., 1886) has been given to the world. In that exhaustive work many important documents belonging to the poet’s heirs have been freely used for the first time. Professor Dowden has thus been able to elucidate some hitherto obscure points in Shelley’s history, and to settle several doubtful questions. It is not probable that much more will be added in the future to our knowledge of his life.

Upon the appearance of Professor Dowden’s biography, I was anxious to rewrite those portions of my book which required modification by the light of authentic papers now at length communicated to the public. My references to the Shelley archives (pp. 81 and 83) in particular required correction.

This, however, would have involved a disproportionate derangement of the stereotype plates. I am therefore obliged to content myself with minor alterations. These are of three kinds. In the present volume I have introduced such verbal changes as could be made upon the plates. I have also enclosed some passages in brackets, indicating thereby that I should prefer to omit these altogether. Finally, I have recast the narrative of Shelley’s separation from his first wife (pp. 79-83), and have placed this in an Appendix*, to which I earnestly call the attention of my readers.


Davos Platz, February 1887.

* In this edition, the Appendix contains the deleted text, while the corrected text has been located in the body as Symonds wished.

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