Percy Bysshe Shelley

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 10th 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 Unboundand 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 16th 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.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


10th June 1954




South Transept; Poets' Corner

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Percy Bysshe Shelley
John Keats and Percy Shelley memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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