chapter  11
‘They will not read it, but their sons & daughters may’
Judging Percy Shelley’s Queen Mab (1813) in the nineteenth century
ByCian Duffy
Pages 20

This chapter examines the legal and critical judgments passed on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s first major poem, Queen Mab (1813). It argues that such judgments played an instrumental role in the shaping by Victorian critics not just of Shelley’s status as a canonical author, but also of the wider cultural phenomenon which we call Romanticism. Central to this process, in judging Queen Mab, were questions of audience, the ownership of literary property and the role of ad hominem criticism in the evaluation of literary works.