Notes on the Romantic poets

Against Shelley : not because of his atheistic opinions, or because he had begun an extramarital relationship with Mary Godwin, but because he claimed his conduct to be worthy of approbation. He was, however, allowed to choose the couple with whom his children should be kept, subject to the court’s approval. Both Shelley and the Westbrooks were permitted to see the children 12 times a year, Shelley under the supervision of their appointed guardians, but their grandfather, Timothy Shelley, was to have unlimited access to them.

Allen : Dr Matthew Allen (d1845) worked as an apothecary at the asylum in York before setting up his own establishment in Epping Forest.

Antiquaries : The Society of Antiquaries of London was established in 1707, and received a Royal Charter in 1751. Its aims, now as then, are the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries.

Apprenticed : Blake’s father paid Basire £52.10s for the seven year apprenticeship, during which time Blake agreed not to ‘haunt Taverns or Play houses’, and Basire agreed to instruct his apprentice in the ‘Art and Mystery’ of the engraver’s profession. Basire further agreed to feed, clothe and protect his apprentice during this period.

Austrian rule : the Treaties of Paris and Vienna, which marked the end of the Napoleonic wars, led to a redrawing of the political map of Europe, in which the Austrians (Hapsburgs) became the dominant power in Italy. The illiberal and oppressive character of the Austrian rule in Italy made them very unpopular.

Bagatelle : trinket or trifle or love-making, or all three.

: Benjamin Bailey (1805-1871) was at the time an undergraduate at Oxford. He later became Archdeacon of Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Banquet of Plato : The Banquet of Plato : he included references to homosexual love, consistently omitted from other translations. Shelley felt that those who did not understand Greek should not therefore be excluded from the facts and a proper understanding of history.

Beaumont :

 Portrait of Sir George Beaumont
Sir George Beaumont, by Samuel William Reynolds after Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827) had lands in Coleorton, Leicestershire, which became a coal mining region. He sued his land agent, Joseph Boultbee, for selling off timber and clay deposits from the estate and understating the amount of coal extracted over a number of years, receiving a compensation award of £20,000 (about £1M in today’s terms) in July 1800. He was an amateur painter, patron of the artist John Constable, and friend of the novelist Sir Walter Scott.

Beaupuy : Captain Michel Beaupuy (1755-1796) embraced the ideals of the Revolution and died fighting in the Revolutionary Wars. Wordsworth writes of him in The Prelude, Book 9, lines 302-13:

By birth he ranked
With the most noble, but unto the poor
Among mankind he was in service bound,
As by some tie invisible, oaths professed
To a religious order. Man he loved
As man; and, to the mean and the obscure,
And all the homely in their homely works,
Transferred a courtesy which had no air
Of condescension; but did rather seem
A passion and a gallantry, like that
Which he, a soldier, in his idler day
Had paid to women.
and again, Book 9, lines 509-20
And when we chanced
One day to meet a hunger-bitten girl,
Who crept along fittingly her languid gait
Unto a heifer's motion, by a cord
Tied to her arm, and picking thus from the lane
Its sustenance, while the girl with pallid hands
Was busy knitting in a heartless mood
Of solitude, and at the sight my friend
In agitation said, "'Tis against that
That we are fighting," I with him believed
That a benignant spirit was abroad
Which might not be withstood.
He died at the Battle of Elz in November 1796.

Blacklock : Dr Blacklock (1721-1791) was a blind lyric poet and minister.

Borderers : The Borderers was a tragedy in five acts which Wordsworth presented to Covent Garden Theatre in 1796, but which was rejected for performance. He writes later : The study of human nature suggests this awful truth, that, as in the trials to which life subjects us, sin and crime are apt to start from their very opposite qualities, so there are no limits to the hardening of the heart, and the perversion of the understanding to which they may carry their slaves. During my long residence in France, while the Revolution was rapidly advancing to its extreme of wickedness, I had frequent opportunities of being an eye-witness of this process, and it was while that knowledge was fresh upon my memory, that the Tragedy of The Borderers was composed.

Brown : Charles Brown (1786-1842) was the son of a Scottish stockbroker living in Lambeth. While still very young he went out to St Petersburg to join his brother in a merchant venture, but returned to England when the business failed in 1808. He had strong, radical opinions and some literary ambitions, having had a play produced and some articles printed, mainly in The Examiner. According to Keats Character of Charles Brown : ‘He is to weet a melancholy carle: / Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair / As hath the seeded thistle when in parle.’17a

Burghley House, near Stamford in Lincolnshire was built between 1565 and 1587 by William Cecil, Lord Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.

Calvert : William and Raisley: were a significant (financial) help in allowing Wordsworth to continue with his writing career. They offered him free accommodation at Windy Brow near Keswick during 1794, and Raisley left him £900 on his death in January 1795.

To the Memory of Raisley Calvert
published 1807

Calvert! it must not be unheard by them
Who ay respect my name that I to thee
Owed many years of early liberty.
This care was thine when sickdess did condemn
Thy youth to hopeless wasting, root and stem -
That I, if frugal and severe, might stray
Where'er I liked; and finally array
My temples with the Muse's diadem,
Hence, if in freedom I have loved the truth;
If there be aught of pure, or good, or great,
In my past verse; or shall be, in the lays
Of highest mood, which now I meditate,
It gladdens me, O worthy, short-lived Youth!
To think how much of this will be thy praise.

Carbonari : The Carbonari originated in the late 18th century in either Italy or France. They sought to bring about either a republic or a constitutional monarchy, and to defend the rights of the people against all forms of absolutism. They did not exclude the use of arms and assassination to achieve their ends.

Carlisle : George Howard, sixth earl of Carlisle (1773-1848) became a member of parliament in 1795, and later served in government. His estate was at Castle Howard in Yorkshire.

Sixth Earl of Carlisle

Catholic : The Catholic Church was effectively excluded from Great Britain after the dissolution of the monasteries and the establishment of an independent church in Great Britain whose nominal head was the king. The repression of independent and scientific thought which the Catholic Church practised was not nearly as effectively pursued by the Church of England.

Christs Hospital : located on the site of the Grey Friars Monastery in Newgate Street, London, it was established in 1553 by Edward VI (son of Henry VIII) to care for the homeless and unfortunate children of London. It was known as the bluecoat school after the dress of the boys who were educated, clothed and maintained there. An account dated 1850 records that there were 1000 to 1200 boys there, and that ‘The boys still take their milk from wooden bowls, their meat from wooden trenchers, and their beer is poured from leathern black jacks into wooden piggins. They have also a currency and almost a language of their own. The Spital sermons are still preached before them. Every Easter Monday they visit the Royal Exchange, and every Easter Tuesday the Lord Mayor, at the Mansion House.... Boys whose parents may not be free of the City of London are admissible on Free Presentations, as they are called, as also are the sons of clergymen of the Church of England’9, and from an account by Charles Dickens Jnr in 1879 ‘It is generally understood that the principal requirements are, briefly, that children must be presented when between eight and ten years of age, and must be free from active disease, as well as from any physical defect which would render them unable to take care of themselves; that their parents (if one or both be living) have not adequate means of educating and maintaining them; and that the children have not such means of their own.’10 It was not liked by either Coleridge or Charles Lamb, who was his contemporary there. 

Clarke : John Clarke was a friend of Joseph Priestly and other leading radicals. His library was full of reading sympathetic to radical politics. 

Clarke 2

:Portrait of Charles Cowden Clarke
Charles Cowden Clarke

Charles Cowden Clarke (1787-1877) was the son of John Clarke. He introduced Leigh Hunt, editor of the Examiner, to Keats’ poetry. He published many books during the later 19th century, including Shakespeare’s Characters (1863) and Molière’s Characters (1865). 

Coleridge :

Portrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the age of 47 from a pencil sketch by C.R.Leslie

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was one of the Romantic poets. Dorothy Wordsworth wrote to Mary Hutchinson in 1797 : ‘You had a great loss in not seeing Coleridge. He is a wonderful man. His conversation teems with soul, mind, and spirit. Then he is so benevolent, so good tempered and cheerful, and, like William, interests himself so much about every little trifle. At first I thought him very plain, that is, for about three minutes; he is pale and thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and not very good teeth, longish loose-growing half-curling rough black hair. But if you hear him speak for five minutes you think no more of them. His eye is large and full, not dark but grey; such an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the dullest expression; but it speaks every emotion of his animated mind; it has more of the ‘poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling’ than I ever witnessed. He has fine dark eyebrows and an overhanging forehead.’

Cottle, Joseph (1770-1853) :

Portrait of Joseph Cottle
Joseph Cottle, by Robert Hancock

was a publisher and bookseller who published and promoted the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and William Wordsworth. He was also an author and poet in his own right.

Cowper : William Cowper (1731-1800) was a poet. He also wrote many well known hymns, and translated Homer. Hayley secured a pension of £300 a year for him in 1794.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was an officer in the Parliamentarian army during the Civil War, rising to General, and, ultimately, Lord Protector (effectively Head of State).

Dame school : a school in which the rudiments of reading and writing were taught by a woman in her own home.

Drayton: Michael Drayton (1563-1631) wrote a great deal of poetry, some of which enjoyed considerable success. His Poly Olbion was a survey in verse of everything of topographical and antiquarian interest in England and illustrated by John Selden. Selden also wrote the Introduction from which the quotation 'quam nihil ad genium, Papiniane, tuum' (something not at all to your taste, Papinium) is taken. He is, in fact, here referring to the ignorant who get their knowledge from the sort of books which, in Rabelais' account, comprised St Victor's library or 'barborous glosses', St Victor's library being well stocked with absurd and fantastical titles of no solid scholarship or taste, and therefore of no interest to a serious jurist like Papinian.

Drury Lane : The Drury Lane Theatre was built as the Theatre Royal by Thomas Killigrew for his company of actors under a charter from Charles II, and opened in 1663. It was destroyed by fire in 1672, and rebuilt to a design by Christopher Wren in 1674. The theatre again burned down in 1809, and was rebuilt in 1812 to a design by Benjamin Wyatt. The celebrated actor Edmund Kean played here from 1814, when he made his sensational debut as Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

Dulwich College

Dulwich College
Dulwich College, c1775

was founded by Edward Alleyn (1566 - 1626), the actor and entrepreneur, in 1619. Alleyn was famous in his day for his ‘majestic’ style of acting. He played for the Admiral’s Men at the Rose Theatre, taking the parts of Tamburlaine, Faustus and the Jew of Malta in Marlowe’s plays. He made a great deal of money as Squire of the Bears, an official position by which he licensed bear, bull and dog baiting in the capital. He was also the proprietor of a public house and three brothels in Bankside.

Dyer : George Dyer (1755-1841) was educated at Christ's Hospital and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was a poet and a poetical theorist, (cf Poems, consisting of Odes and Elegies, published by James Johnson, 1792). He also published mildly radical essays encouraging benevolence towards the poor (cf Complaints of the Poor Poeple of London, London, 1793). He is perhaps the source of some of Godwin's ideas expounded in Political Justice on the connection between rationality and benevolence. He also edited the Valpy Delphin Classics, 160 volumes of the Latin Classics, and wrote a History of the University and Colleges of Cambridge.

Ode on the Spring by George Dyer

.... Yet nature o'er the simple scene
Scatters wild beauties bright and gay,
As up they spring, a numerous train,
As fair and sweet as they.
To me the violet hath a balmy sweet,
To me the kingcup scatters golden hues,
E'en in the primose modest beauties meet,
E'en the meek daisy can instruct the muse:
Mid fields in silent wonder she can stand,
And e'n in field-flow'rs trace a master's matchless hand.

Edinburgh Review : The Edinburgh Review was a quarterly magazine founded in 1802. It tended to favour the Whigs in politics, and published critical reviews of the poetry of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Byron. It ceased publication in 1929. Its opposition to Wordsworth began in response to his preface to Lyrical Ballads. Francis Jeffrey wrote : ‘The poor and vulgar may interest us, in poetry, by their situation; but never, we apprehend, by any sentiments that are peculiar to their condition, and still less by any language that is characteristic of it’.52

Epipsychidion : literally ‘a soul upon, above or in addition to a soul’.

Eton College

Eton College from the Slough Road
Eton College, engraving from an original work by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Eton College was founded near Windsor in 1440 by Henry VI. A year later he founded King’s College Cambridge, which was to be supplied with scholars from Eton. He lavished income from lands on the school, most of which was promptly taken away when he was deposed in 1461.

Examiner : The Examiner was a weekly periodical which combined articles on politics, literature, drama and the plastic arts. It was presented as a collection of essays rather than as journalism.

Frend : William Frend (1757-1841) was a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, who left the Church of England in 1787 to become a Unitarian. He fought several attempts to dismiss him from his post at Jesus. In 1793 he wrote a pamphlet entitled Peace and Union recommended to the Associated Bodies of Republicans and Anti-republicans, in which he denounced abuses. A long campaign to remove him from his college attracted a great deal of attention.

George : George of Hanover was invited to England by the Parliament of the day by reason of his willingness to convert to the Church of England. Up to fifty others with arguably better claim to the throne were passed over in the process. He became George I of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714.

The Glorious Revolution (1688) saw the overthrow of James II by William of Orange, who had been invited to England by the Parliament of the day, whose members had become increasingly disaffected by James' efforts after his succession in 1683 to re-establish the Catholic Church. James' troops failed to support him, largely because of the defection of its Commander in Chief, the Duke of Marlborough, and he fled to France.

Godwin :

Portrait of William Godwin
William Godwin,
mezzotint by George Dawe after James Northcote

William Godwin (1756-1836) was first a dissenting minister, then an atheist and a philosopher with anarchist ideas. He married Mary Wollstoncraft, who died giving birth to their daughter, the Mary who was to become Shelley’s second wife and supposed author of Frankenstein. Coleridge writes of him: I was once and only once in company with Godwin. He appeared to me to possess neither the strength of intellect that discovers truth, nor the powers of imagination that decorate falsehood; he talked sophisms in jejune language. Mark Twain observes of him later (In defence of Harriet Shelley): He lived serene in his lofty world of philosophy, far above the mean interests that absorbed smaller men, and only came down to the ground at intervals to pass the hat for alms to pay his debts with, and insult the man that relieved him. Several of his principles were out of the ordinary. For example, he was opposed to marriage. He was not aware that his preachings from this text were but theory and wind; he supposed he was in earnest in imploring people to live together without marrying, until Shelley furnished him a working model of his scheme and a practical example to analyze, by applying the principle in his (Godwin's) own family; the matter took a different and surprising aspect then. The late Matthew Arnold said that the main defect in Shelley's make-up was that he was destitute of a sense of humor. This episode must have escaped Mr Arnold's attention. And Robert Southey, who found him: intolerably dull and tho' without harm, equally good-for-nothing, and who, though he could see some value in Godwin's Political Justice, detested the cursed mingle-mangle of metaphysics and concubinism and atheism with which he polluted it. (quoted by Marshall, Peter, William Godwin, p125, Yale University Press, 1984.)

Gordon :

Portrait of Lord Byron 
Lord Byron in Eastern Costume, by Thomas Phillips

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) had achieved considerable success as a poet before first meeting with Shelley. He had left England after a scandal involving his wife, Annabella Millbanke, and his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. He never returned to England, though he kept the presses busy with a series of best selling long poems.

Gothic novel : a type of novel which deals with the supernatural, frightening and fantastic. Typical is the work of Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto), Ann Radcliffe, M.G.Lewis and C.R.Maturin.

Greek War of Independence : after 400 years of servitude to the Turks, the Greek War of Independence began in 1821, and concluded in 1829 with the establishment of the Greek State.

Guys Hospital : Built alongside St Thomas’ Hospital in the 1720s, Guy’s was founded by Sir Thomas Guy, a printer and publisher and governor of St Thomas Hospital. He had made a great deal of money in the stock exchange, and he invested much of this new wealth in the creation of the hospital. It opened in 1726 with 100 beds and a staff of 51. It was originally intended that it should admit the incurables that St Thomas refused to accept, but it soon developed into a general hospital. 

Harrow School was founded in 1572 by a Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I to John Lyon, a local farmer. It was one of the nine ‘Clarendon’ schools specifically named in the Public Schools Act of 1868.

Hartley :

Portrait of David Hartley
David Hartley

David Hartley (1703-1757) was educated at Bradford Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge. He practised as a physician, but also wrote on philosophy, contributing significantly to the debate about the basis of ethical belief.

Hawkshead Grammar School was founded in 1585 by Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York.

Hayley :

Portrait of William Hayley
William Hayley by Henry Howard

William Hayley (1743-1820) showed in his conduct towards both Blake and Cowper that he was a man of good intentions, but, though his poetry was popular in his day, his work has not stood the test of time, nor was it highly regarded by his fellow poets.

Hellespont : The Hellespont is the sea of Helle, so called because Helle, the daughter of Athamas, drowned there, falling from the magical goat with the Golden Fleece as it flew over on its journey to Colchis (at the eastern end of the Black Sea), the same Golden Fleece that Jason and the Argonauts went to retrieve some time later. It is now called the Dardenelles. It is also the setting for the story of Hero and Leander. Hero lived at Sestos on one side of the Hellespont, Leander at Abydos on the other side, a distance of about four miles, which Leander swam to be with his love. Byron did the same, but to no purpose other than to prove that he could do it. The story of Hero and Leander is told by Ovid (Heroides), Musaeus (Hero and Leander) and Christopher Marlowe (Hero and Leander).

Hobhouse :

Portrait of John Cam Hobhouse
John Cam Hobhouse

John Cam Hobhouse (1786-1869) inherited a large fortune from his father. He was a staunch Unitarian, proponent of religious toleration and opponent of aristocratic privilege. He became an MP in 1820, and later held several ministerial posts.

Hogg : Thomas Hogg (1792-1862) produced a biography of Shelley which was published in 1858.

Holcroft : Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809) had an interesting and varied literary career as a successful novelist, poet, dramatist and translator, particularly prior to 1794 at which point he was indicted at the Treason Trials, and his career went into something of a decline.

Hunt :

Portrait of Leigh Hunt
Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) set up the Examiner with his brother John in 1808. The publication gave vociferous support to the radical faction, and promoted poets such as Shelley, Keats and Byron. In 1812 the Hunts were sentenced to 2 years in prison and fined £500 for publishing an article criticising the Prince Regent. Hunt continued to edit the periodical from prison. Of Keats he wrote ‘The character of his genius is that of energy and voluptuousness, each able at will to take leave of the other, and possessing in their union, a high feeling of humanity not common in the best authors...’16

Jeffrey : Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850) was a Scottish lawyer, and one of the founders of the Edinburgh Review, which became an important periodical during the early nineteenth century, acquiring a considerable circulation and commanding a certain authority in literary circles. He is best known for his critical reviews of Wordsworth's and Byron's poetry.

Jesus College was formed by the suppression of the 12th century Benedictine nunnery of St Mary and St Radegund in 1496. In the 1790’s several of the fellows converted to Unitarianism, and resigned from the college. William Frend, who was Coleridge’s tutor, followed in their footsteps, but saw no reason to resign. When he published a pamphlet in 1793 attacking the Church of England and the Monarchy, several of the fellows moved to have him expelled.

Johnson : James Johnson (c1750 - 1811) had a music shop in Lawn Market, Edinburgh. Before 1787 he conceived the idea of collecting the words and music of all the existing Scots songs, and publishing them. By the time he met Burns the first volume of his Scots Musical Museum was already being printed.

Johnson: Joseph (1738 - 1809) was a well known publisher of dissident, sometimes radical prose and poetry. He published, among others, the works of Joseph Priestley, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Jones : Reverend Robert Jones : Wordsworth wrote :

I MARVEL how Nature could ever find space 
For so many strange contrasts in one human face: 
There's thought and no thought, and there's paleness and bloom 
And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

Keats :

Portrait of John Keats (sketch)
John Keats (sketch)

John Keats  (1795-1821) was one of the foremost Romantic poets of the early 19th century. He and Shelley met during 1817, but he declined an invitation to stay with Shelley at Marlow.

Lake Poets : an expression first used by Francis Jeffrey of the Edinburgh Review to mean Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.

Leander was the lover of the priestess Hero. He drowned swimming the Hellespont to visit her.

Leigh : Augusta Leigh was the daughter of Byron’s father by his first wife.Bysshe Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822) was one of the Romantic poets and a political radical.

Lido : The Lido is a short boat ride from St Mark’s Square. It has about 12km of beaches.

Lime burning : limestones about half the size of bricks were burnt in kilns, to produce lump lime which, when slaked (ie water added) could be spread on fields to neutralise the acidity, and break down heavy clay soils. Lime was also used increasingly in the building industry until the advent of modern cements at the end of the 19th century.

Linnell : John Linnell (1792-1882) : became England’s richest and most popular landscape painter in the later 19th century.

Londos : Andreas Londos : George Finlay records : ‘Lord B. used to describe an evening passed in the company of Londos at Vostiza (in 1809) when both were very young men, with a spirit that rendered the scene worthy of a place in Don Juan. After supper Londos, who had the face and figure of a chimpanzee, sprung upon a table … and commenced singing through his nose Rhiga’s Hymn to Liberty. A new cadi, passing near the house, inquired the cause of the discordant hubbub. A native Mussulman replied, “It is only the young primate Londos, who is drunk, and who is singing hymns to the new panaghia of the Greeks, whom they call Eleutheria”’7 Eleutheria was the festival which celebrated the Greek victory over the Persians at Platæa.

Lowther : Sir James Lowther, Lord Lonsdale (d1802), was known as ‘Wicked Jimmy’. He fell in love with the daughter of one of his tenant farmers, and kept her in style at a manor house in Hampshire. When she grew ill and died, he refused to accept her death, leaving her body lying in bed until the stench of her rotting flesh became too much to endure. He then had her placed in a glass lidded coffin, which he left in a cupboard so that he could return to look at her. When finally she was buried in Paddington Cemetery in London, he had a company of Cumberland militia stand guard over her tomb for several weeks.

Lowther 2 : Sir William Lowther, Lord Lonsdale, was the cousin of Sir James, and succeeded him in May 1802.

Magdelen College was founded in 1448 by William of Wayneflete, Bishop of Winchester. 

Malta was seized by Napolean in June 1798 from the Knights of St John. Opposition against the French grew, and the Maltese asked the British Government for support. Nelson began a blockade of Valletta in October 1798, and the French garrison finally surrendered in September 1800. By the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 it was decided that the island should be given back to the Knights, but the Maltese asked the British to stay, and it became a Crown Colony with increasing strategic importance.

Masonic connections : Creech the publisher, Smellie the printer, and Naysmith the engraver, who provided the frontispiece, were all masons.

Masonic Lodge : during the late 18th century the freemasons were responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment, and were closely involved with the framing of the American constitution.

Medwin : Thomas Medwin was Shelley’s cousin. He, as Shelley, had attended Sion House Academy, and it was he who introduced the Shelleys to Edward and Jane Williams, acquaintances from his time in India.

Millbanke : Annabella Millbanke (b1792) was the daughter of Sir Ralph Millbanke and Lady Judith Noel, who inherited Kirkby Mallory Hall (and several smaller manors) from her brother Lord Wentworth (Thomas Noel). Annabella’s grandfather, also Sir Ralph Millbanke, can be seen in the portrait of the Millbanke and Melbourne Families painted by George Stubbs in c1770, now in the National Gallery, London.

Milton : John Milton (1608-1674) was a poet and pamphleteer. Despite going blind in 1652, he subsequently wrote Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. He was politically active during the Civil War, writing pamphlets in favour of a free press, divorce, the execution of the King and, just before the Restoration in 1660, in defence of the republic.

Montagu : Basil Montagu (1770-1851) was the son of John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, and his mistress Martha Ray. He was a friend of both Coleridge and Wordsworth, and, like them, an early sympathiser with the French Revolution. His house was a meeting place for London literary society. Montagu’s son was raised by the Wordsworths after the boy’s mother died.

Morning Post : The Morning Post, founded in 1772, was bought by Daniel Stuart in 1795, when its circulation was only 350 copies daily. By employing writers such as Coleridge, Charles Lamb, William Wordsworth and Robert Southey, he increased the circulation to 4000 by 1802, more than twice that of any other daily newspaper. It was amalgamated with the Daily Telegraph in 1937.

my tragedy : Osorio was written in 1797, and sent to the Drury Lane Theatre, but rejected by them. Coleridge re-wrote it in parts, and re-presented it in 1813, when it ran for 20 performances to some critical acclaim.

Newstead Abbey was originally an Augustinian Priory, founded in about 1170. A religious community continued at the site until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, granting Newstead to Sir John Byron, who converted it into a house for his family. The poet Byron sold it to his friend Thomas Wildman. It is now owned by Nottingham Corporation.

non-conformist : the Non-conformist Churches were those which refused to conform to the usages of the established Church of England.

Paine : Thomas Paine (d1809) worked as staymaker, a seaman, a school-usher, a tobacconist and an exciseman, until he moved to Pennysylvania in 1774, where he became editor of The Pennysylvania Magazine, in which he wrote articles advocating American independence and the abolition of slavery. He returned to Europe after the American War of Independence, and became involved with the French Revolution. He published The Rights of Man in 1792 as a defence of the French Revolution, and The Age of Reason in 1795, in which he made a detailed analysis of religious belief.

Pars : Henry Pars’ Drawing Class, at number 101 The Strand, was regarded as a preparatory school for entry into the St Martin’s Lane Academy, a school for aspiring artists, which had been set up by William Hogarth in 1735, and which was, until the establishment of the Royal Academy Schools in 1769, the best in London.

Pasha : Ali Pasha (1744?-1822) was made governor of Yanina by the Turks in 1787, and became a quasi independent despot over much of Albania and Epirus. He was assassinated in 1822 by a Turkish agent.

Peacock : Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) was a poet, novelist and literary critic. He was also to be Shelley’s executor.

Pinney : John and Azariah Pinney : the Pinney family were substantial landowners in the West Indies. Bristol was the base of their operations in England, and they owned substantial properties there and in the surrounding area. The family’s interest in the West Indies began when their ancestor, also called Azariah, set off for the island of Nevis in 1685 with a Bible, six gallons of sack, four gallons of brandy and £15.

Poole : Tom Poole (1765-1837) was the proprietor of a local tannery, and is still remembered today in Nether Stowey for his philanthropic work with an annual walk by the local women on the Saturday closest to midsummer.

Pope : Alexander Pope (1678-1744) dominated the poetical landscape during the first half of the eighteenth century with his polished, urbane verses and pointed, elegant insults. His 'translation' of Homer was very popular, though rejected by scholars.

Protectorate : after the execution of Charles I in 1649, Great Britain became a republic. The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) lasted from 1653 to 1659, effectively installing Cormwell as Head of State, a position inherited by his son, Richard, but which he was unable to maintain. It was followed by the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. 

Queen Mab was a lyric poem in which Shelley argued that the Church and the landed aristocracy work together to keep the poor abject. In the notes he wrote on the subject of marriage : ‘a husband and wife ought to continue so long united as they love each other: any law which should bind them to cohabitation for one moment after the decay of their affection would be a most intolerable tyranny....Love is free.’38

Rawson : 'Aunt' Threlkeld had looked after Dorothy Wordsworth after the death of her mother. She married William Rawson, the Halifax banker, and the couple extended a standing invitation to both Dorothy and William to visit.

revolution : The French Revolution (c1789-c1799) was a period of social and political upheaval in France, which overthrew the monarchy and established a republic, much to the consernation of the British government, which feared a similar upheaval at home.

Reign of Terror : refers to the period between 1793 and 1794 when most of the executions carried out during the French Revolution occurred, in response to opposition at home and abroard. The idealist fervour of many in England was fundamentally undermined by these developments.

Reynolds : John Hamilton Reynolds (1796-1852) was educated at St Paul’s School. He was a promising young poet, having published a considerable amount of material, even though he was a year younger than Keats, and 4 years younger than Shelley.

Rousseau : Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), French philosopher and writer who was seen in England as the chief promulgator of the revolutionary ideas which culminated in the French Revolution of 1789.

Royal Academy Schools : The Royal Academy of Painters was established in 1769 under the patronage of King George III, having as its first President the painter Joshua Reynolds. The Schools accepted some 25 students a year for a six year course, for which no fees were charged, though the student was expected to provide his own materials. Protectorate : The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell

St Andrews County Lunatic Asylum was opened in Northampton in 1838 following the County Asylums Act of 1808, which stated that every county should have an asylum for pauper and criminal lunatics. By the standards of the time it was an enlightened institution.

St Johns College was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort.

September : at this point, he made a will leaving £6000 to Harriet, £5000 for his son Charles, £5000 to his daughter Ianthe, £12000 to Claire, £2000 for Hogg, £2000 to Byron, £2500 for Peacock, and the residue of £45000 to Mary (multiply by 50 to give an approximation to early 21st century values).

Serpentine : a lake in Hyde Park, London.

Shelley : Mary Shelley (1797 - 1851) was the daughter of the political radical William Godwin and Mary Wollstoncraft, and the wife of Bysshe Bysshe Shelley. She is chiefly remembered as the supposed author of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818).

Shelley 2 : Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822) was one of the Romantic poets and a political radical.

Sheridan : Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751 - 1816) was a playwright and poet who was also part owner of the Drury Lane Theatre from 1776 until 1809.

Stoddart : John Stoddart (1773-1856) was a lawyer and writer who became at one time editor of the Times.

Southey : Robert Southey (1774-1843) was poet laureate from 1813 to 1843, when he was succeeded by William Wordsworth. He is possibly best known today for his story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Taylor & Hessey were publishers of the London Magazine, set up in 1820 by John Scott as a rival to the Gentleman’s Magazine. Scott championed the work of young writers like Hazlitt, Wordsworth, Carlyle and Lamb. In 1821 he accused Blackwoods Magazine of libel, and a representative of that magazine challenged him to a duel. He died as a result of his injuries. Scott’s policies were continued by John Taylor.

Thelwall, John (1764 - 1834): was a radical writer who co-founded the London Corresponding Society, and who was twice tried for High Treason during the 1790's, but acquitted both times.

Thomson : George Thomson (1757 - 1851) used well known composers, including Pleyel, Haydn and Beethoven to set the pieces.

tragedy : the tragedy referred to was Wordsworth's The Borderers, which was rejected by the Covent Garden Theatre, and not published until 1847, substantially revised.

Trinity College : Cambridge is the largest college in Cambridge. It was founded in 1546 by Henry VIII, combining Michaelhouse and King’s Hall. Most of its endowments came from land confiscated from monasteries.

Troy : in Homeric legend, the city of King Priam, and the scene of the ten year siege by the Greeks. It was long believed to be purely legendary, until the archaeologist Schliemann, following the advice of Frank Calvert, discovered the mound of Hissarlik on the Aegean coast of Turkey in 1870, and excavation uncovered remains dating from the early Bronze age to the Roman era. The Hellespont is the sea of Helle, so called because Helle, the daughter of Athamas, drowned there. It is now called the Dardenelles. Leander was the lover of the priestess Hero. He drowned swimming the Hellespont to visit her.

Tyburn was the location of the first permanent gallows in London. Set up in 1571, by the 18th century Tyburn Tree, a triangular gallows with a capacity for 8 victims on each of the 3 cross-members, had become the main place for public executions in London, and remained so until it was replaced by Newgate in 1783. Crowds of up to 10,000 people would attend the executions, which were held on most Mondays.

Unitarian : a belief system which has as its basic tenets the right of the individual to read and interpret the Bible for himself, the right to seek a direct relationship with God without the mediation of priest or church, and the right of an individual to set his own conscience as a test of the teachings of religious institutions. Further beliefs include the unity or unipersonality of God as opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity (hence the name 'Unitarian'), the humanity as opposed to the deity of God, and the worth of human beings as opposed to ideas of original sin, inherited guilt and innate depravity.

University College, Oxford owes its origins to William of Durham, who died in 1249, giving it a claim to be the oldest college in either Oxford or Cambridge. Originally it was only open to fellows reading theology, but during the 16th century it was opened up to undergraduates. 

Vallon : Annette Vallon was Wordsworth’s French lover. The poem It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free is addressed to their daughter, Caroline, who Wordsworth met for the first time in 1802 in Calais.

Varley : John Varley (1778 - 1842) : was a founder member of the Watercolour Society in 1805. He had a passionate interest in astrology, and encouraged Blake to draw the figures he saw in his visions.

Wallenstein: a dramatic trilogy by the German poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805).

Wedgewood : Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1794) founded the ceramic company, which still bears his name, in 1759. The company manufactures ceramic wares of high quality in large quantities. They are probably best known for their antique relief wares after the designs of John Flaxman, who helped to establish the neoclassical taste in England.

Wedgewood 2 : Tom Wedgewood was the son of Josiah Wedgewood.

Westbrook : Harriet Westbrook (1795-1816) was the daughter of a successful owner of a coffee-house in Grosvenor Square. She became a friend of Helen Shelley, Shelley’s younger sister, and it was through her that she met the poet.

Whig was a nickname for the party in England which championed both religious dissent and social and political reform. The name originated as a derogatory reference to a group of Scottish Covenanters around 1679. The Whig faction became the Liberal Party in the mid-nineteenth century.

Williams : Edward and Jane Williams : Jane Williams had a good voice, and Shelley wrote several lyrics for her. She was the sister of General Sir John Wheeler Cleveland, and was actually married to a John Johnson, a brutal man she was unable to divorce. She lived with Edward Williams as his wife until his death, with Shelley, in 1822. Edward was the author of Sporting Sketches during a Short Stay in Hindustane (1814). Shelley appreciated the softness of their society after his brushes with Byron.

Windy : Windy Brow was a small cottage on the northern banks of the Greta River now demolished. Dorothy Wordsworth writes: You cannot conceive anything more delightful than the situation of this house. It stands upon the top of a very steep bank, which rises in a direction nearly perpendicular from a dashing stream below...From the window of the room where I write, I have a prospect of the road winding along the opposite banks of this river, of a part of the lake of Keswick and the town, and towering above the town a woody steep of a very considerable height, whose summit is a long range of silver rocks.' (Letter to Jane Pollard from Windy Brow, 1794)

Wollstoncraft : Mary Wollstoncraft (later Shelley) (1797-1851) was the daughter of William Godwin and his first wife, also Mary Wollstoncraft, author and pioneer of women’s liberation. Claire Clairmont (1798-1879) was the daughter of William Godwin’s second wife by her first marriage.

Wordsworth : William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was an early enthusiast for the French revolution, and pioneered a more natural approach to poetry through the use of ‘ordinary’, or sometimes vernacular, language.

Wordsworth 2 :Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) was William’s sister and companion. She kept a long running journal.

Wrangham : Francis Wrangham (1769-1842) was a well connected graduate of Magdelene College, Cambridge who supported the radical agenda including the abolition of slavery, the education of women, and Catholic rights.

The poet biographies, criticism, translations, and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott