Paul O’Brien: Shelley's Adventure in Irish Politics
Paul O’Brien is a writer and critic and the author of Shelley and Revolutionary Ireland (Bookmarks, London)
THE GREAT lyrical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley seems destined to be forever linked to clouds and skylarks – but he was far more than that. Shelley was a republican, an atheist, a feminist, and an egalitarian; he was a poet of the revolution. He was despised when he was alive and patronised when he was safely dead.
For Shelley, born in 1792 in Sussex, the revolutionary upheavals towards the end of the 18th century in France and Ireland were a tradition rather than a personal experience. But he was formed by these events, just as the first generation of Romantics – Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey – were transformed by the reality of those great revolutionary upheavals. Shelley experienced them second-hand through the books of William Godwin and Tom Paine. But his radicalism grew out of a living contact with the brutality of war and imperialism at the beginning of the 19th century, and Ireland was central to that experience. His friend, Thomas Hogg, suggested that Shelley’s interest in Irish politics was fired by Irish revolutionaries who frequented the coffee-shops of London.
In 1811, while at Oxford University, Shelley had published a “poetical essay” in support of the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty, then in Lincoln jail for libelling Lord Castlereagh. Shelley’s essay was highly critical of the British government and this may have influenced the decision to expel him from Oxford shortly afterwards....
comments powered by Disqus
- Rare silent Native American movie of 1920s attracting a lot of interest
- It happened in Idaho and was the largest massacre of Indians in US history, but where exactly did it take place?
- Junípero Serra’s Missions Destroyed Entire Native Cultures. And Now He’s Going to Be a Saint.
- Isis destruction of Palmyra's Temple of Bel revealed in satellite images
- McKinley's lost his mountain. Should we still remember his presidency?
- Japanese historian upends the familiar narrative of WW 2 by taking a bottom up approach, focusing on fascism from the grassroots
- Holocaust-denying historian David Irving organises 'disgusting' £2,000-a-head holiday tours of former concentration camps and Hitler's HQ so people can 'make up their own mind about the truth'
- 72 history professors sign letter urging removal of Jefferson Davis statue from Kentucky Capitol
- 10 Years After Katrina, the Enduring Value of the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
- Historian author Antony Beevor says his new World War 2 book may anger Americans