chapter  2
10 Pages

The making of a gentleman

WithPatricia Hodgart

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s early years were formed in the pattern of the English landed gentry: an impeccable country-house background, followed by Eton and Oxford. The Shelleys were an old Sussex family, and his Grandfather Bysshe had, by two advantageous marriages and the death of an older brother, become one of the wealthiest landowners in the County. In 1806 he had been given a baronetcy by the Duke of Norfolk for services to the Whig party, and Shelley was brought up in a resolutely Whig ambience. Thomas Jefferson Hogg says ‘Shelley was uniformly a gentleman, eminently and strikingly such’ and Shelley’s friend, Horace Smith the banker, had no doubts on the subject: His stature would have been rather tall had he carried himself upright; his earnest voice, though never loud, was somewhat unmusical. Mr Shelley was grieved to see the emergence, not of the perfect English gentleman, but of a radical atheist in rebellion against established society.