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Title: Shelley in 1819 : poetry, publishing and radicalism
Author: Boyle, Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3474 1083
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1998
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The thesis focuses on the question of why Percy Bysshe Shelley failed to publish The Mask of Anarchy and a series of related poems in 1819. I argue that the attempt to answer this question has major relevance for a reading of Shelley's poems because it leads to a re-evaluation of Shelley's politics, which I regard as integral to the understanding of his poems. I argue in the introduction that tackling this subject leads to a contribution to the following areas of debate: Shelley's textual history and radicalism, publishing history and 'historicist' attempts to evaluate texts in the Romantic period. In Chapter One I reexamine previous accounts of Shelley's attempts to publish in 1819, arguing that the accounts of those closest to Shelley, Leigh Hunt and Mary Shelley, have been too influential in portraying him as a victim of censorship, and that a new view of Shelley, as someone who was an informed participator in events, and not purely a victim, is needed. In Chapter Two I go on to explore the consequences of such an argument: I suggest that, if Shelley was indeed a major player in the fate of these poems, then the publishing options available to him at the time need to be explored. I examine the means open to Shelley: self-publishing, using literary pirates, appealing directly to radical publishers, and using Leigh Hunt as the publicist of his verse via his periodical the Examiner. I conclude in this chapter that Shelley was consistent in attempting to get his political works published, that although he used a variety of means, he showed a tendency to use publishers who formed part of a clandestine 'underworld': an understanding of his involvement with this 'underworld' differs from previous analyses of Shelley's radicalism which attributed it mainly to the mainstream Dissenting tradition of Thomas Paine and William Godwin. In Chapter Three I explore the consequences for Shelley's poetry of this re-evaluation of his position in relation to radical literary production, producing readings of the following poems, which were all in danger of transgressing the law, and thus could have lent themselves to publishing practices at the margin of legality: Queen Mab, The Revolt of Islam, Oedipus Tyrannus, or Swellfoot the Tyrant and The Mask of Anarchy. I suggest that these poems, like the 'clandestine' radicals, tend to try to avoid being placed within any one political tradition. I argue that this does not suggest that Shelley's thinking was muddled in any way, but instead that his poetic practice mirrors his publishing practice: both show that Shelley was indebted to a form of radical literary production which cannot be found within the ideas and publishing practices of Paine and Godwin. Thus, I conclude that an examination of Shelley's poetry which focuses on a period in his life when he engaged most directly with contemporary history, and explores that period in terms of Shelley's publishing practice and his politics during the whole of his life has important implications for the way we view his work. I believe that this thesis helps to reconcile some of the difficulties which critics have found in reading Shelley's political poetry. I also argue that this work could be taken further, in that I have discovered that there is much work still to be done in uncovering the relationship between politics and publishing in the period. For these reasons, I believe that this thesis is a contribution to knowledge. Total number of words in the thesis (including footnotes, bibliography, appendices) = 89,989.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature