In the early summer of 2017, I received a letter from the daughter of the noted Shelley scholar Roland Duerksen. Susan had read my article “My Father’s Shelley” and it had struck a chord. She wanted to connect me with her father, now 91 years old and living in New Oxford, Ohio. Roland is the author of two noteworthy and important books on Shelley: "Shelleyan Ideas in Victorian Literature" and "Shelley's Poetry of Involvement". His analysis is penetrating and nuanced, the style conversational and accessible. But it is his overall approach which makes him different, it is imbued with a humanity that reflects well both on himself and his subject. This much I knew, but I knew less about the man himself. I was thrilled that Susan had reached out to me, it was a chance to meet one of the great Shelleyans, but I had no idea whatsoever of the magic which lay in wait for me.
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.