Shelley, Percy Bysshe: (1792–1822)

Eldest son of the wealthy Sussex landowner, baronet and MP, Sir Timothy Shelley (1753–1844). He became a published poet and novelist while still at Eton and was expelled from University College, Oxford, in March 1811 for writing The Necessity of Atheism (1811). In August 1811 he eloped with, and married, Harriet Westbrook (1795–1816), causing a temporary breakdown in relations with his family. Shelley admired some of Southey’s poetry, especially Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) and The Curse of Kehama (1810), and engaged in a number of intense conversations with the older man while Shelley lodged in Keswick in 1811–1812. Southey saw Shelley as a ‘ghost’ of his own past, who would grow out of his heterodox opinions. He directed Shelley to the work of the philosopher George Berkeley (1685–1743; DNB), as an antidote to atheism, thus profoundly influencing Shelley’s intellectual development. Shelley left suddenly for Ireland in February 1812 and the two men did not meet again. However, this was not the end of their relationship. Southey took an increasingly hostile view of Shelley’s politics and his abandonment of his first wife. Shelley (erroneously) believed that Southey had attacked him in the Quarterly Review in 1820, leading to an acrimonious exchange of letters.