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Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives

Daisy Hay.
Publisher FSG  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
ISBN 9780374532932
Pages/Publication Date 364/2010
Daedalus Item Code 33231
This item is not available.
Oxford fellow Daisy Hay here tells the story of the interlinked lives of the young English Romantic poets of the early 19th century from a fresh perspective, celebrating their extreme youth and outsize yearning for friendship as well as their individuality and political radicalism. Her book focuses on the network of writers and readers who gathered around Percy Bysshe Shelley and the campaigning journalist Leigh Hunt. They included Lord Byron, John Keats, and Mary Shelley, as well as Mary's stepsister (and Byron's mistress) Claire Clairmont, Hunt's botanist sister-in-law Elizabeth Kent, musician Vincent Novello, painters Benjamin Haydon and Joseph Severn, and such writers as Charles and Mary Lamb, Thomas Love Peacock, and William Hazlitt. They were characterized by talent, idealism, and youthful ardor, and these qualities shaped and informed their politically oppositional stances—as did their chaotic family arrangements, which often left the young women, despite their talents, facing the consequences of the men's philosophies. Hay follows the group's exploits from its inception in Hunt's prison cell in 1813 to its disintegration after Percy Shelley's premature death in 1822—a tale of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and friendship, played out against a background of political turbulence and intense literary creativity.

"Long before the lost generation or 1960s rock poets, there was a 19th-century movable feast of interlinked English poets and thinkers that was even more fascinating and combustible. Cambridge Ph.D. Hay, in her first book, delves with scholarly relish into the unorthodox lifestyles and fluid (including quasi-incestuous and incestuous) households of several key figures: vegetarians Percy and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; Mary Shelley's stepsister Jane, aka Claire Clairmont; Lord Byron; John Keats; and the little-read today but central revolutionary, Leigh Hunt. The key years are 1813 to 1822, effectively terminating with Shelley's drowning at sea not long after Keats's death from tuberculosis. New here is Claire's autobiographical fragment—archived in the New York Public Library—in which she rakes the libertarians Shelley and Byron, whose daughter she bore, over her emotional coals. Well handled is the so-called summer of Frankenstein, and how, over the nine years Hay chronicles, the boundaries of monogamy were pushed to the breaking point."—Publishers Weekly

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