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Young Bysshe (Pocket Penguins) by Claire…
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Young Bysshe (Pocket Penguins)

by Claire Tomalin

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Very readable Penguin 70's book taking two chapters from a biography of Shelley. During the early period it covers, his interests were polymathically wide; it is likely that his contribution to areas apart from poetry and politics was inhibited by the paucity of teaching available in science and other subjects at early-nineteenth century Eton and Oxford - as well as by brutality at the former, and narrow-mindedness at both. He was expelled from Oxford for writing an atheist pamphlet, and was ahead of his time in many other views, such as vegetarianism, gender relations and politics. Whilst his verse took a while to achieve good quality, during his late teens and early twenties he was quite a dedicated political campaigner.

Biographies attach such subtly grave import to the actions of their subjects, and every few pages I would think "but he was just a teenager" after reading of some reckless action. Yet of course the period in which he lived never made such an excuse for anyone - and whilst he intellectually seemed to have realised the problems the social, legal and medical environment of the time created for women in non-standard relationships, his emotions led him to create famously difficult situations for his wives.

It was nice to see that there was also more to Shelley than poetry and personal melodrama, and to read of him before he met Byron. I don't want to read a whole biography, but from this, Tomalin's looks easy and interesting.

Read 26-27 May 2012. ( )
  antonomasia | Apr 4, 2013 |
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