Percy Bysshe Shelley
Field: Poet
Location in the Abbey: Poets corner
Type of memorial: Tablet
Type of material: Stone

Above the statue to Shakespeare in Poets’ Corner is a small oval mural tablet with a lyre to Romantic poet Percy Shelley. This is joined with a carved swag of flowers to an identical tablet for John Keats. Both are by the sculptor Frank Dobson and were unveiled on 10 June 1954 by John Masefield, Poet Laureate. A memorial was first proposed some years earlier but a decision was postponed due to the Second World War. The gilded inscription reads simply:

SHELLEY 1792-1822

Shelley was born in Sussex a son of Timothy Shelley, politician, (d.1844) and his wife Elizabeth. His grandfather was Sir Bysshe Shelley. He was educated at Eton and Oxford and published some Gothic-horror stories when he was quite young. In 1811 he was expelled from Oxford for circulating an atheist pamphlet. He eloped with Harriet Westbrook and they married and had two children. But in 1814 he eloped abroad with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who is remembered as the author of Frankenstein.) They married in 1816 after Harriet had drowned herself. Because of ill health and debt Shelley went to live in Italy. His works include the verse dramas The Cenci and Prometheus Unbound and several odes, among them To the west wind and To a skylark. He was drowned while sailing and his body washed ashore at Viareggio. On 16 August 1822 his remains were exhumed from the sands and cremated and the ashes were placed in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. It is said that his heart was snatched from the flames and this was brought back to England and lies in St Peter’s churchyard in Bournemouth, Dorset.

A photograph of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.