Childhood, Part 2 to the Life & Works of
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Sir Bysshe Shelley (1731-1815) was known as a rich old eccentric. He was one of three boys4 born in the American colonies, New Jersey. The family moved back to England, Sussex, when Bysshe was but a boy. Getting a good start from his family and marrying well, Bysshe became a rich and influential man. From his first marriage there was produced a son (Bysshe was married at least twice and had a number of offspring). This son was Timothy (1753-1844), our poet's father. Timothy went up to Oxford, where, in 1778, he was awarded his Bachelor's; in 1781, his Master's. After Oxford, Timothy studied law as a student at Lincoln's Inn. Shelley's biographer, Edmund Blunden, deduced that Timothy was "a steady, punctilious young man."5 In 1790, Timothy became the Member of Parliament for Horsham. In October of 1791, Timothy married Elizabeth Pilfold and the couple moved into one of the Shelley estates, that at Field Place, Warnham, located but 40 miles from London. On August 4th, 1792, there was born to the couple there first child, Percy Bysshe.6
Shelley, to use Blunden's words, was "brought up in the air of riches and responsibility and the confidence that wishes can be fulfilled ..."7 After attending a preparatory school (Sion House Academy), in 1804, he was enrolled at Eton. There, he received a sound training in the classics of ancient Greece and Rome. His belief "that wishes can be fulfilled" when fitted together with the grounding that he received in classical myth and mystery will give the reader an understanding of the poetry which Shelley wrote.8
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