A Blupete Biography Page

Harriet, Part 4 to the Life & Works of
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Harriet Westbrook was the daughter of a retired coffee house proprietor. Her family lived in London. Harriet attended the same school (at Clapham) as did certain of Shelley's sisters. No matter that Shelley was shut out of his father's house, his sisters would come to London to see their older brother, and, likely, during school holidays, they would go along to the Westbrooks. One of these intended visits, for what ever reason, did not come off; so, the sisters asked Shelley if he would bring a present to Harriet. Thus Shelley was to meet Harriet. The young couple were soon making plans for marriage. The two -- she was only sixteen and he nineteen -- with the help of an uncle, went off to Scotland. At Edinburgh, on August 28th, 1811, Shelley and Harriet were married.14 However pleased they were that their Harriet should be marrying into such a distinguished family, the Westbrooks, devote Methodists, were taken aback by Shelley's declared atheism. In the meantime, back at Field Place the family were now quite convinced that their first born had gone mad: communications between Shelley and the family were all relayed through the family lawyer.

Shelley was restless and infected with wanderlust; it came on immediately with his marriage and lasted throughout his life. It was impossible for him to settle down in any one place for long; he led a nomadic life. After leaving Edinburgh the couple spent time with his old university friend Hogg who was then at York.15 After a short stay at York they were off to Keswick and with some help from Southey they moved into rental accommodations. Then, in February 1812, it was off to Ireland. In Ireland he decided to help the Irish people. In another of his "printing freaks," Shelley wrote a piece, "Address to the Irish People" and made it into a pamphlet; he then proceeded to scatter 4,000 of them throughout Dublin. What the Irish people needed, so Shelley wrote, was "Catholic Emancipation" and "the restoration of the old liberties and happiness of Ireland." Leaving Ireland in April of 1812, the couple went back to England via Wales. By June, the couple were living at Lynmouth in a cottage with "roses on the walls, a thatched roof, a sea view [and] a screen of mountains."16 It was during this time that Shelley wrote Queen Mab.17 It would not appear that the couple remained long at Lynmouth, for, by November of 1812, following up on the letters he sent earlier in the year, Shelley was making extended visits to the Godwin household in London.

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Peter Landry

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2011