Shelley had an enormous impact on me and my dad's life - though we had radically different ideas about exactly who Shelley was (which was the subject of part one of this essay). I want to explore this theme by digging into a photographic album I discovered among my father's effects after he died. It is a slim volume entitled "Shelleyana". I think we will find much to reflect upon, and Shelley may perhaps seem less remote and more immediate.
My father’s Shelley, as I VERY quickly discovered, was very different from mine. He loved the lyric poet. He loved the Victorian version. He loved Mary’s sanitized version. In a weird way he bought into Mathew Arnold's caricature of Shelley (“a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating his wings in a luminous void in vain.”) – and loved him the more for it. He hated the idea that Shelley was a revolutionary.
Most writing on Shelley seems frustratingly designed for scholarly audiences and much of it is almost unreadable by anyone outside a university setting. Most of the books and articles written between 1980 and around 2005 are written in a scholarly style that limits readership to a handful of people: esoteric, jargon-filled, arcane and at times pompous.
This is a pity because many of these books contain extremely important insights that would help the lay reader to better understand Shelley’s intent in writing a poem like Prometheus Unbound. For my part, I hope to write about Shelley in a manner that is straightforward and accessible.