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Captain Medwin
Friend of Byron and Shelley
By Ernest J. Lovell
University of Texas Press, 1962

Here is the first biography of Thomas Medwin—literary adventurer, rascal, scholar, confidence man, successful fortune hunter, and bemused speculator on a grand scale in old Italian oil paintings. Poet, novelist, translator of Aeschylus, cousin and boyhood friend of the poet Shelley, he was a man of fiery temper, fierce hatreds, and enduring loves.

Although an intimate friend of Lord Byron, he was so dangerous (or disreputable) that his Lordship warned Teresa Guiccioli, his last mistress, not to be alone in Medwin's company. Later, Medwin introduced Byron's daughter to her future husband, Lord Lovelace, and so determined the poet's line of descent.

Friend of Washington Irving, gentleman of the old school, neglected Boswell of the nineteenth century, Medwin reported the conversations of Byron, Shelley, Trelawny, Hazlitt, Canova the sculptor, and others. His life and adventures light up little-known aspects of the nineteenth-century literary, military, social, and publishing world—in England, India, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany.

Medwin served as midwife to the words of a dead man—Lord Byron—who returned to laugh and sneer at the living from the Captain's pages. The Conversations of Lord Byron thus became the most controversial book of the day, going through a dozen editions, in six countries, and being translated into French, German, and Italian. It aroused the wrath, indignation, or enthusiastic interest of such individuals as Goethe, Lady Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb, the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, John Cam Hobhouse (later Lord Broughton), Sir Walter Scott, John Murray, and Washington Irving. Medwin, whose long and adventurous life extended from the rise and flowering of the Romantic Period to the mid-Victorian Age (which he regarded as a dreary decline from the great heights of his youth), was an influence of the first magnitude in determining the early public image of Byron and the reputation of Shelley.

This often amusing story, as engrossing as a novel, is drawn from all the available accounts, including many important sources never before published. In effect a new contribution to the biographical study of Byron and Shelley, it clarifies Medwin's relations not only with these two poets but also with many other important and interesting figures of the day.


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Doctoring the Novel
Medicine and Quackery from Shelley to Doyle
Sylvia A. Pamboukian
Ohio University Press, 2012
If nineteenth-century Britain witnessed the rise of medical professionalism, it also witnessed rampant quackery. It is tempting to categorize historical practices as either orthodox or quack, but what did these terms really signify in medical and public circles at the time? How did they develop and evolve? What do they tell us about actual medical practices?

Doctoring the Novel explores the ways in which language constructs and stabilizes these slippery terms by examining medical quackery and orthodoxy in works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Little Dorrit, Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Wilkie Collins’s Armadale, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Stark Munro Letters. Contextualized in both medical and popular publishing, literary analysis reveals that even supposedly medico-scientific concepts such as orthodoxy and quackery evolve not in elite laboratories and bourgeois medical societies but in the rough-and-tumble of the public sphere, a view that acknowledges the considerable, and often underrated, influence of language on medical practices.

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Power and Elusiveness in Shelley
Oscar W. Firkins
University of Minnesota Press, 1937

Power and Elusiveness in Shelley was first published in 1937. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

This is a discussion in measured prose of the strange yet frequent union of various abstract elements in Shelley's poetry. The study contains an interesting analysis of the thesis that Shelley's "love of abstraction is only one form—probably the most obvious and the most significant form—of a larger and more general tendency." The object of this essay, in the author's words, "is to collect and combine the manifestations of this larger tendency."

The two great "abstractions" that Firkins selects as the touchstones in his study he generalizes as "power" and "elusiveness," and he shows how these seemingly antithetical qualities are united in both the structure and the style of all Shelley's chief poems.


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Romantic Rebels
Essays on Shelley and His Circle
Kenneth Neill Cameron
Harvard University Press, 1973

The rebels of the Romantic period speak more directly to the issues of today than any other group of writers of the past. Mary Wollstonecraft exposed the problem of women's rights; her husband William Godwin protested against war, economic and social imbalances, and cruel penal practices; their daughter Mary Shelley produced the original science fiction, Frankenstein, and introduced into the novel radical social and antireligious views. Shelley campaigned in Ireland for Irish separation, wrote pamphlets on parliamentary reform, and propounded an egalitarian world; Byron addressed himself to problems of social injustice and lost his life as a result of his participation in the Greek war of independence. Leigh Hunt, the first radical, crusading journalist, battled all forms of injustice from child labor to army flogging; Thomas Love Peacock's lively, satiric novels excoriated sham.

Their rebellion carried into their personal lives: Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, and Byron openly flouted the laws of marital relations, and several adopted unconventional dress. The rebels paid dearly for their public and private views. Shelley was deprived of his children, Byron was driven into exile, and Leigh Hunt was imprisoned.

The lives and works of these major Romantics are sketched in a concise and lively way in these twelve essays, which are derived from Shelley and His Circle, Volumes I through IV. The collection provides a cohesive picture of some of the Romantics whose lives interlocked in the early 1800's.


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Sexuality and Feminism in Shelley
Nathaniel Brown
Harvard University Press, 1979

More than a literary study, this book is an analysis of sexual attitudes and practices in the Romantic period, and a contribution to the history and theory of feminism. Shelley is shown to have anticipated in many ways the work of modern students of human sexual behavior. He was strikingly ahead of his time in his attitude toward women: his ideal of love postulated the equality of the sexes, and his theory of psychosexual identification, like mated to like, extended the feminist ideology of his mother-in-law, Mary Wollstonecraft. Moreover, in his own person and practice he came close to the androgynous ideal of the modern woman's movement.

In exploring the many aspects of his subject, Brown compares Shelley with his contemporaries, particularly Byron, and draws upon extensive research into the laws, ideas, and practices of the period.


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Shelley and His Readers
Beyond Paranoid Politics
Kim Wheatley
University of Missouri Press, 1999

In Shelley and His Readers, the first full-length critical analysis of the dialogue between Shelley's poetry and its contemporary reviewers, Kim Wheatley argues that Shelley's idealism can be recovered through the study of his poetry's reception. Incorporating extensive research in major early-nineteenth-century British periodicals, Wheatley integrates a reception-based methodology with careful textual analysis to demonstrate that the early reception of Shelley's work registers the immediate impact of the poet's increasingly idealistic passion for reforming the world.

Wheatley examines Shelley's poetry within the context of Romantic-era "paranoid politics," a simultaneously empowering and disabling dynamic in which the reviewers employ a heightened language of defensiveness and persecution that paints their adversaries as Satanic rebels against orthodoxy. This "paranoid style" displays a preoccupation with the efficacy of the printed word and singles out radical writers such as Shelley as sources of social contamination.

Using Shelley's Queen Mab to illustrate his early radicalism, Wheatley demonstrates that the poet, like his contemporary reviewers, is caught up in paranoid rhetoric. Failing to challenge the assumptions underlying the paranoid style-conspiracy and contagion-in this poem Shelley takes merely a defiant, oppositional stance. However, Shelley's later poems, exemplified by Prometheus Unbound and Adonais, circumvent the reviewers' rhetoric through their boldly experimental language, a process registered by the reviewers' own responses. These less explicitly political poems transcend the dynamics of cultural paranoia by shifting to an apolitical conception of the aesthetic. In collaboration with its early readers, Shelley's poetry thus moves momentarily beyond paranoid politics.

The final chapter of this study argues that the posthumous reception of Adonais uniquely replicates the elegiac moves and complex idealism of the poem, concluding with a discussion of how the Shelley circle aestheticized the poet after his death.

Shelley and His Readers offers a new approach to the question of how to recuperate Romantic idealism in the face of challenges from both deconstructive and historicist criticism. Its innovative use of reception-based analysis will make this book invaluable not only to specialists of the Romantic period but also to anyone interested in new developments in literary criticism.


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Shelley and Synesthesia
Glenn O'Malley
Northwestern University Press, 1964
Glenn O’Malley’s Shelley and Synesthesia examines a little-known aspect of Percy Shelley’s poetry, offering a history of synesthesia and engaging in close readings of Shelley’s poetry, focusing primarily on his longer works. O’Malley explores the internal structure of Shelley’s poems to concentrate on patterns of imagery and symbolism, bringing attention to Shelley’s resourcefulness and responsibility in his use of synesthesia and his development of it into a powerful creative tool. The work advances the conversation on literary synesthesia and brings fresh insights to Shelley’s poems and to poetic theory in Romanticism.

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Shelley and the Revolutionary Idea
Gerald McNiece
Harvard University Press, 1969

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The Golden Years
Kenneth Neill Cameron
Harvard University Press

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The Golden Years
Kenneth Neill Cameron
Harvard University Press

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Shelley with Benjamin
A Critical Mosaic
Mathelinda Nabugodi
University College London, 2023
A comparison of the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Walter Benjamin that examines their similarities through citation, translation, and critical commentary.

Shelley with Benjamin is an experiment in comparative reading. Born a century apart, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Walter Benjamin are separated by time, language, temperament, and genre. One is a Romantic poet known for his revolutionary politics and delicate lyricism, and the other is a melancholy intellectual who pioneered a dialectical method of thinking in constellations. Yet, taken together, their ideas are mutually illuminating.

In a series of close readings that are by turns playful, erotic, and violent, Mathelinda Nabugodi unveils affinities between two writers whose works are simultaneously interventions in literary history and blueprints for an emancipated future. In addition to offering fresh interpretations of both major and minor writings, she elucidates the personal and ethical stakes of literary criticism. The book will appeal to readers of Shelley and Benjamin as well as those with an interest in comparative literature, literary theory, romantic poetics, and creative critical writing.

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