Percy ShelleyIn existographies, Percy Shelley (1792-1822) (IQ:185|#61) (RGM:693|1,500+) (Gottlieb 1000:509) (HD:22) (FA:94) (GA:15) (CR:98) was an English romantic poet and philosopher, self-characterized as "atheist, democrat, philanthropist", which he had entered (Ѻ) in the hotel registers in Switzerland under "occupation" in 1816, known as “Britain’s most famous atheist” (Ѻ), husband to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus, noted for what seems to be a unique atheism-based elective affinities philosophy of existence.

Shelley was influenced, supposedly, by those including: Pierre Laplace, Cabanis, Bailly, J.P. Robinet’s System of Nature (which Shelley translated from French into English himself) (Ѻ), Rousseau, Pliny the Elder, Lucretius, Francis Bacon, John Locke, David Hume, Newton, Marquis Condorcet, and Constantin Volney, to name a few. (Ѻ)

In 1815, or earlier, c.1814 (age 22), according the editor of his Prose Works, Shelley, penned an essay "On Love"; the following are the key parts of the opening section: [14]

“What is love? Ask him who lives, what is life; ask him who adores, what is god? Thou demandest what is love. It is that powerful attraction towards all we conceive, or fear, or hope beyond ourselves, when we find within our own thoughts the chasm of in insufficient void, and seek to awaken in all things that are, a community with what we experience within ourselves. If we reason, we would be understood; if we imagine, we would that the airy children of our brain were born anew within another’s; if we feel, we would that another’s nerves should vibrate to our own, that the beams of their eyes should kindle at once and mix and melt into our own; that lips of motionless ice should not reply to lips quivering and burning with the heart’s best blood. This is love. This is the bond and the sanction which connects not only man with man, from the instant that we live, more and more thirsts after its likeness. It is probably in correspondence with this law that the infant drains milk from the bosom of its mother; this propensity develops itself with the development of our nature.”
— Percy Shelley (c.1815), “On Love” [14]


In 1806, age 16, Shelley entered Oxford University, where his favorite amusements were chemistry, microscopic investigations, and boating. [3]

Shelley, sometime thereafter, read Baron d’Holbach’s The System of Nature, began to translate it into English, to help in enlisting the English dons in attacking religion, and therein became an atheist.

In 1811, Shelley, aged 19, using Holbach and also by the proto-atheism work of Benedict Spinoza, wrote, together with Thomas Hogg, a college friend, albeit published anonymously, a 13-page pamphlet “The Necessity of Atheism”; and example quote:

“If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction.”
— Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism; a Baron d'Holbach (1770) quote

The pamphlet resulted to be so controversial that it got him expelled from Oxford.

“The mind cannot believe in the existence of god.”
— Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism (Ѻ)

In 1813, Shelley expanded the pamphlet and included it as a note to his long poem Queen Mab. [10]

Oxford | Expulsion
On 25 Mar 1811, Shelley, aged 19, was expelled from Oxford for his refusal to repudiate the authorship of his pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism.

On 28 Aug 1811, four months after being expelled from Oxford, Shelley, age 19, eloped to Scotland with Harriet Westbrook (1795-1816) (Ѻ), aged 16—a pupil at the same boarding school as Shelley's sisters, whom his father had forbidden him to see; they had two children, then she committed suicide at age 21 on 10 Nov 1816.

Queen Mab
In 1813, Shelley published his poem Queen Mab (Ѻ), a dialogue between a “spirit”, whose mother took him to see an atheist [aka Bruno] burned, and a “fairy”, who pipes “there is no god”; the fairy’s name being a reference, supposedly, to one of the fairy named “Queen Mab” (Ѻ) of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (c.1593). [10]

“Shelley’s poem is out, and there are words about it’s being objected to as much as ‘Queen Mab’ was. Poor Shelley …!!”
— John Keats (c.1815), “Letter to Brother” [10]


On a Future State
In 1815, Shelley penned his essay “On a Future State”, seemingly stylized as an skeptical afterlife hypothesis discourse; the following are noted quotes:

“It has been the persuasion of an immense majority of human beings in all ages and nations that we continue to live after death,—that apparent termination of all the functions of sensitive and intellectual existence. Nor has mankind been contented with supposing that species of existence which some philosophers have asserted; namely, the resolution of the component parts of the mechanism of a living being into its elements, and the impossibility of the minutest particle of these sustaining the smallest diminution. They have clung to the idea that sensibility and thought, which they have distinguished from the objects of it, under the several names of spirit and matter, is, in its own nature, less susceptible of division and decay, and that, when the body is resolved into its elements, the principle which animated it will remain perpetual and unchanged.”
— Percy Shelley (1815), “On a Future State” [12]

“Suppose that the intelligent and vital principle differs in the most marked and essential manner from all other known substances. In what manner can this concession be made an argument for its imperishability? All that we see or know perishes and is changes. Life and thought differ indeed from everything else. But that is survives that period, beyond which we have no experience of its existence, such distinction and dissimilarity affords no shadow of proof, and nothing but our own desires could have led us to conjecture or imagine.”
— Percy Shelley (1815), “On a Future State” [11]

“The desire to be for ever as we are; the reluctance to a violent and unexperienced change, which is common to all the animate combinations of the universe [see: human], is indeed, the secret persuasion which has given birth to the opinions of a future state.”
— Percy Shelley (1815), “On a Future State” (pg. 280)


Mary Shelley
In late 1816, Shelley married Mary Shelley, daughter of political philosopher William Godwin, author of Political Justice (1793), which Percy Shelley had previously read, shortly after his expulsion, and agreed with, and feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft; they took up abode, with the two kids, at the Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire. During this period, Shelley had the custody of his two children, by his first wife, taken away from him by Lord Chancellor Eldon, on the ground of the “atheistical principles” attribute to their father. [3]

Prometheus Unbound
In 1819, Shelley published his Prometheus Unbound, referring to things such as “the elements obey me not”, characterized (Ѻ) himself as a “detested prodigy”.

In 1878, James Maxwell wrote his last publication, an encrypted poem entitled “A Paradoxical Ode / After Shelley”, the subtitled in reference to Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”. [2]

Elective affinities
Shelley, prior to 1811-1814, seems to have accumulated some type of elective affinity conceptualized chemical philosophy model of existence, marriage, love, and relationships; the following is one retrospect synopsis of this:

“The radical tenets of Shelley’s philosophy appear transmuted to something rich and strange in the medium of his poetry. These principles, which he imbibed from William Godwin’s Political Justice, are, briefly, the perfectibility of man, the usurpation of Church and State, the negation of moral evil, and the doctrine of elective affinities. When religion and government shall have passed away, and liberty, equality and fraternity, the ideals of the French Revolution, shall have come to dwell among men, then will the golden age return. Shelley regarded himself as a seer, a hierophant whose concern was with the regeneration of humanity.”
— Florence Moynihan (1922), “The Centenary of Shelley” (Ѻ)

In 1839, Mary Shelley, in her “Memoir of Shelley” (Ѻ), writes in the third person, gives a short existography of Percy Shelley, particularly during his tumultuous years, and seems to speak in a mutual language of chemical philosophy, particularly where she says that they were married in the “Church of Elective Affinities” as seems to be the case: [3]

“It is a little odd, considering Shelley's opinions about marriage, that he should have been married twice to his first wife. After their return from Gretna Green, the ceremony was performed again at Cuckfield in Sussex. For some time, he seems to have led a rather migratory life. We find him for a time at Keswick, where he became acquainted with Southey, for whose poetry he had at this time an extravagant admiration; then in Dublin, projecting histories of Ireland, which result in a small political pamphlet, now irrecoverable; then in the Isle of Man, as a kind of Alsatia, sacred from the foot of bailiff; and last in Wales, whence he appears to have come to London again.

The results of this marriage were two children, a daughter and a son, and a separation. The circumstances of the disagreement between Shelley and his wife, have never been cleared up. Perhaps it would have been quite as noble if Shelley had continued the martyr of a youthful misstep instead of making his wife the victim of notions about marriage in which there is no evidence that she shared. However this may be, he made himself so acceptable to Miss Godwin, daughter of the novelist and Mary Wolstonecraft, that she consented to elope with him to Switzerland in July, 1814. They crossed to Calais in an open boat, not without danger of being lost. A Miss Claremont went with them. She also was a deaconess in the Church of the Elective Affinities, and (Lord Byron having joined the party) became the mother of the Allegra, mentioned in his will. This, however, seems to have been on a second visit to the Continent, the fugitives having in the meanwhile returned for a short time to England. This last continental tour occupied but a few months, during which the northern part of Italy was visited.

Shelley came back to England again, bringing with him a child by his new connection, and went to Bath. But now was to come the terrible recoil which almost inevitably results from an attempt to bend an entire social system out of the way of the passions of a single man. However the brain may philosophize, the heart remains loyal to its traditions, and though Mrs. Shelley [Harriet Westbrook] may have been captivated with the doctrine of attractions while it drew her husband to her, she was not prepared for the more liberal application of it which drew him away. No theorizing can sweeten desertion; and the unhappy woman, disenchanted of the dream, and forsaken by the substance, sought shelter in death.

The lovers of Shelley as a man and a poet have done what they could to palliate his conduct in this matter. But a question of morals, as between man and society, cannot be reduced to any individual standard however exalted. Our partiality for the man only heightens our detestation of the error. The greater Shelley's genius, the nobler his character and impulses, so much the more startling is the warning. If we make our own inclinations the measure of what is right, we must be the sterner in curbing them. A woman's heart is too delicate a thing to serve as a fulcrum for the lever with which a man would overturn any system, however conventional. The misery of the elective-affinity scheme is that men are not chemical substances, and that in nine cases in ten the force of the attraction works more constantly and lastingly upon the woman than the man. There is no stronger argument against it than the Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft (1798) (Ѻ). The Mormon polygamy is nothing more than a plant from the same evil seed sown in a baser soil, and is an attempt to compromise between the higher instincts of mankind, organized in their institutions, and the bestial propensities of sensualized individuals.

The suicide of Shelley's wife took place on the 10th of November, 1816, and shortly afterward he married Miss Godwin [Mary Shelley], at her father's solicitation, and took up his abode at Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire. His means of support were ample, as he had succeeded to some property in his own right which yielded a yearly income of one thousand pounds. During his residence here the custody of his two children by his first wife was taken away from him by a decision of the Lord Chancellor Eldon, on the ground of atheistical principles attributed to their father. Shelley felt this deeply, and all his life.”

(add discussion)

Genius | Ranking
In 1819, Shelley, in his Prometheus Unbound, seemingly, was referred to himself, indirectly, as “detested prodigy”.

In 1878, James Maxwell (IQ:210|#4), who dedicated his last dying poem ("A Paradoxical Ode") to Shelley, was a seeming Shelley-proselyte when it came to closeted statements of his deeper beliefs.

In 1878, Edward Trelawny, in his Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, ranked Shelley as a posthumous genius, and was devoting dozens of pages to the unsung genius of Shelley. [9]

In 1894, James Cattell, in the context of discussion of the Cattell 1000, ranked Shelley above George Byron (IQ:180|#120) follows: [7]

“As we come nearer to our own times it becomes increasingly difficult to measure tendencies by the methods we are using. The positions of men on the list are subject to larger probable and constant errors. Byron may be a household word on the continent and Shelley unknown, while the best criticism may place Shelley above Byron. Our list places Mendelssohn above Bach and ignores Schumann altogether—while the last thirty years have altered not only critical opinion, but also popular taste.”

In 1930, Lewis Terman was calculating Shelley as having an IQ of 165. [8]

In 1802, Shelley, age 10, was sent to Syon House Academy, studying there for two years, wherein, during his second year (Ѻ), he became captivated by the teachings of Adam Walker, a scientist, astronomer and inventor, who lectured on the possibility of life on other planets, links between magnetism and electricity (Ѻ), and on the elements and the affinities. Shelley was enraptured by these lectures and experimental demonstrations, many of which he repeated at home, e.g. by electrocuting his sisters, making human electrical discharge circuits, among others. [6] Shelley was fascinated with electricity and galvanism; for example, he constructed a large-scale battery and repeated Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiments. [5]

In 1804, Shelley, age 14, entered Eton College, during which time he translated half of Pliny’s Natural History, spent his money on books, chemical instruments, and acts of liberality; one of his oft-spoken pronouncements during this time was: [4]

“Nothing ever delighted me so much as the discovery that there were no elements of earth, fire, or water.”

In 1806, age 16, Shelley entered Oxford University, where his favorite amusements were chemistry, microscopic investigations, and boating. [3]

Percy Shelly cremation (Louis Edouard Fournier, 1899) (labeled)
A rendition (Ѻ) of the 18 Jul 1822 cremation of Percy Shelly, by Louis Fournier (1899), after Shelley’s body had washed ashore, six days earlier (Jul 12), on a beach near Viareggio; reported by some as boating accident during storm and as suicide by others.
Reaction end
See: Founders of thermodynamics and suicide
In 1822, Percy Shelley, age 29, following a hardened social existence, after infamously getting expelled from Oxford ten years earlier (age 19), for his Necessity of Atheism, then married Mary Shelley, famed Frankenstein author, in the "Church of Elective Affinities", tried to obtain a lethal dose of prussic acid (Ѻ), aka hydrogen cyanide (HCN), and then on Jul 8, a month shy of his 30th birthday, was reported to have “mysteriously” drowned (in his own rowboat); his obituary read as follows:

Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned: now he knows whether there is a god or no.”
— Author (1822), “Shelley Obituary” (Ѻ), London Troy newspaper

Shelley’s reaction end has been suggested, e.g. Richard Holmes (2004) (Ѻ), Lynn Shepherd (2013) (Ѻ), among others, to have been suicide. Shelley, like Goethe, was a "human elective affinity" theorists, i.e. the forerunner to the modern variant of "human free energy" theorist, the core subject of human chemical thermodynamics.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Shelley:

“Many and long were the conversations Lord Byron and Shelley, to which I was a devout, but nearly silent listener. During one of these various philosophical doctrines were discussed, and, among others, the nature of the principle of life and whether there as any probability of it ever being discovered and communicated. [Perhaps a corpse would be reanimated? Galvanism had given a token of such things].”
Mary Shelley (1831), Preface to Frankenstein, reflections (Ѻ) on her summer of 1816 [13]

Beauty is said to be a fatal gift to women, and it may be added that genius is a fatal gift to men; they are born before their time and out of harmony with the things about them.”
— Edward Trelawny (1878), “Commentary on Shelley” (see: posthumous genius); in: Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, Volume One (pg. xvi) [1]

“The principal fault I have to find is that the Shelleyan writers, being Christians themselves, seem to think that a man of genius cannot be an atheist, and so they strain their own faculties to disprove what Shelley asserted from the earliest stage of his career to the last day of his life.”
— Edward Trelawny (1878), Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, Volume One (pg. #) (Ѻ)

“All error, not merely verbal, is a strong way of stating that the current truth is incomplete. The follies of youth have a basis in sound reason, just as much as the embarrassing questions put by babes and sucklings. Their most antisocial acts indicate the defects of our society. When the torrent sweeps the man against a boulder, you must expect him to scream, and you need not be surprised if the scream is sometimes a theory. Shelley, chafing at the Church of England, discovered the cure of all evils in universal atheism. Generous lads irritated at the injustices of society, see nothing for it but the abolishment of everything and Kingdom Come of anarchy. Shelley was a young fool; so are these cocksparrow revolutionaries. But it is better to be a fool than to be dead. It is better to emit a scream in the shape of a theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars and incongruities of life and take everything as it comes in a forlorn stupidity. Some people swallow the universe like a pill; they travel on through the world, like smiling images pushed from behind. For god’s sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself! As for the others, the irony of facts shall take it out of their hands, and make fools of them in downright earnest, ere the farce be over. There shall be such a mopping and a mowing at the last day, and such blushing and confusion of countenance for all those who have been wise in their own esteem, and have not learnt the rough lessons that youth hands on to age. If we are indeed here to perfect and complete our own natures, and grow larger, stronger, and more sympathetic against some nobler career in the future, we had all best bestir ourselves to the utmost while we have the time. To equip a dull, respectable person with wings would be but to make a parody of an angel.”
— Robert Stevenson (c.1881), Crabbed Age and Youth (Ѻ)

Goethe opportunistically bowed to every invader. But as a thinker and man, he remained noncommittal and aloof… His aloofness, in these as in other matters, gained him the reputation of ‘the Olympian’; and the label was not always meant to be flattering. But his Olympian appearance was due least of all to an inner indifference to the fate of his contemporaries. It veiled his drama: his incapacity and reluctance to identify himself with causes, each an inextricable, tangle of right and wrong… All three – Jefferson, Goethe, and Shelley – were in a sense outsiders to the great conflict of their time, and because of this they interpreted their time with more truthfulness and penetration than did the fearful – the hate-ridden partisans on either side.”
— Isaac Deutscher (1950), “The Ex-Communist’s Conscience” (Ѻ)(Ѻ), review of book The God That Failed in The Reporter (New York), Apr.

Shelley is the most famous of all British atheists.”
— Michael Palmer (2013), Atheism for Beginners (Ѻ)

Quotes | By
The following are noted quotes:

“Every time we say that god is the author of some phenomenon, that signifies that we are ignorant of how such a phenomenon was able to operate by the aid of forces or causes that we know in nature.”
— Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism [1]

1. (a) Shelley, Percy. (1811). “The Necessity of Atheism” (pdf) (Ѻ). Publisher.
(b) Palmer, Michael. (2013). Atheism for Beginners: a Coursebook for Schools and Colleges (Epicurus, pg. 16; Bradlaugh, pgs. 202-03). Lutterworth Press.
2. Prometheus Unbound (Shelley) – Wikipedia.
3. Shelley, Mary. (1839). “Memoir of Shelley”, in: The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley: in Three Volumes (pg. xxviii) (editor: Mary Shelley with a Memoir). Little, Brown and Co, 1855.
4. Rossetti, William R. (1866). A Memoir of Shelley: with Fresh Preface (pg. 8). Shelley Society.
5. Haynes, Roslynn. (2007). “The Alchemist in Fiction: the Master Narrative” (Ѻ), in: The Public Image of Chemistry (editors: Joachim Schummer, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, and Brigitte van Tiggelen) (§1:7-37). World Scientific.
6. (a) Walker, Adam. (1766). Analysis for a Course of Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy. Publisher, 1777.
(b) Walker, Adam. (1799). System of Familiar Philosophy: in Twelve Lectures, Volumes: One, Two. Publisher.
(c) Walker, A. (Adam) (1730 or 1731-1821) – WorldCat Identities.
(d) Bonca, Teddi C. (1999). Shelley’s Mirrors of Love: Narcissism, Sacrifice, and Sorority (Walker, pg. 128; pg. 270). SUNY Press.
7. Cattell, James McKeen. (1894). “A Statistical Study of Eminent Men” (Shelley, pgs. 370-71), statistics of paper presented to the American Psychological Association Dec.; abstract published in the Psychological Review, Mar., 1895; read in present form as a lecture before the Philosophical Club of Yale University, 1897; Popular Science Monthly (1903), 62: 359-77.
8. Terman, Lewis. (1930). Genetic Studies of Genius, Volume Three: The Promise of Youth; Follow-up Studies of a Thousand Gifted Children, by B. S. Burks and Others (Shelley IQ, pg. 366). Stanford University Press.
9. Trelawny, Edward J. (1878). Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author, Volume One (genius, 29+ pgs). Publisher.
10. Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pgs. 419-21; Queen Mab, pgs. 422-23). HarperOne.
11. (a) Shelley, Percy. (1815). “On a Future State”, in: The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Volume Two (pgs. 273-81). Publisher.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pgs. 421). HarperOne.
(c) On a Future State – WikiQuotes.
12. (a) Shelley, Percy. (1815). “On a Future State”, in: The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Volume Two (pgs. 273-81). Publisher.
(b) On a Future State – WikiQuotes.
13. Smith, Eric D. (2007). “Inevitable Life?” (V) (Shelley, 1:11-1:51), Santa Fe Institute, Apr 18.
14. Shelley, Percy. (1815). “On Love”, in: The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Volume Two (pgs. 267-68). Publisher.

External links
Percy Shelley – Wikipedia.

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