SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)
Plaque erected in 2000 by English Heritage at 15 Poland Street, Soho, London, W1F 8QE, City of Westminster
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 1792-1822 Poet lived here in 1811
Replacement for a GLC plaque erected in 1979 but lost during refurbishment work in 1996.
The Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is commemorated with a blue plaque at 15 Poland Street in Soho, where he stayed for a month in 1811.
ARRIVAL IN LONDON
In 1811 Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792–1862) took rooms at 15 Poland Street in Soho. The two of them had been expelled from Oxford on 25 March of that year for writing the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism (1811).
Hogg – who later wrote a biography of Shelley – described their search for accommodation after arriving in London:
we came to Poland Street; [which] reminded [Shelley] of Thaddeus of Warsaw and of freedom. We must lodge there, should we sleep even on the step of a door.
A notice declared that there were lodgings to let at number 15. At first-floor level there was a sitting room, ‘somewhat dark, but quiet’, and, opening off it, a bedroom which Shelley took as his own; Hogg’s bedroom was on the floor above. The pair were particularly impressed with the ‘delightful’ wallpaper, which bore a pattern based on grape vines and trellises. Touching it, Shelley declared, ‘We must stay here; stay for ever!’.
However he returned home to Sussex in May 1811 after little more than a month at the address.
MARRIAGES AND DEATH
It was in London in 1811 that the poet met the 16-year old Harriet Westbrook, with whom he eloped later that year. It was also in London – three years later – that Shelley fell in love with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later known as Mary Shelley following the couple’s marriage in 1816.
In 1818 the couple left England for Italy, where Shelley wrote some of his best work, including Prometheus Unbound (1820) and Adonais (1821), an elegy on the death of John Keats.
Tragically, Shelley was never to return to his homeland. He drowned in a sailing accident in the Gulf of La Spezia at the age of 29.