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Life and History of Percy Bysshe Shelley

During the summer of 1816, Shelley and his wife Mary made a second trip to Switzerland. The couple visited there only because of Mary's sister, Claire, had commenced with Lord Byron and entered exile in mainland Europe. Around this time, Byron had lost much of his interest in Claire, but she used the opportunity of meeting the Shelley's as bait to head to Geneva.

The Shelleys and Byron rented neighboring houses on the shores of Lake Geneva, holding regular conversations and influencing much of each others poetry. On a boating trip Shelley was inspired to write Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, his most significant work since Alastor and while at the French Alps wrote Mont Blanc. The same time, Mary was inspired to begin writing Frankenstein.

By the end of the summer, the Shelleys and Claire returned to England with Claire being pregnant. After their returned, Shelly's life was tragic. Mary's half-sister Fanny Imlay, committed suicide in late Autumn and in December of 1816, Shelley's wife, estranged and pregnant, Harriet drowned herself in the Serpentine River in Hyde Park. Shelley and Mary then married, intending to secure Shelley's custody, but the marriage was found in vain and the children were handed over to foster parents.

The Shelleys moved to the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire surrounding themselves with a literary circle, including Leigh Hunt and John Keats. Shelley's major work during this time was Laon and Cythna, a long narrative poem attacking religion and featured a pair of incestuous lovers. The poem was later edited and republished as The Revolt of Islam in 1818.

In early 1818, the Shelleys and Claire left again to deliver Byron and Claire's daughter to Byron where they took up residence in Venice. However, in 1818 and 1819 tragedy struck the Shelleys again as his son Will died of fever in Rome and his infant daughter died during another move.

Over the years the Shelleys traveled throughout much of Italy. Shelley completed Prometheus Unbound in Rome and spent the rest of his summer of 1819 writing tragedy; including The Masque of Anarchy, Men of England and The Witch of Atlas.

In 1821, Shelley wrote the elegy Adonais which was inspired by the death of Keats. Shelley and Byron arranged for James Henry Leigh Hunt to accompany them in Italy to create a journal named The Liberal, which would disseminate their writings and act as a counter to conservative periodicals in 1822.

The same year, tragedy struck the Shelleys once again, this time to Shelley himself. Percy Bysshe Shelley died on July 8, 1822 by drowning during a sudden storm while sailing back from Pisa and Livorno to Lerici in his schooner, the Don Juan.

Shelley's body washed ashore and was later cremated and interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. His heart however, was taken by Edward Trelawny and given to Mary Shelley, who kept it until her dying day.

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