Date 1871-01-01
Publication Fortnightly
Topic Newly discovered docs related to Shelley
AP display
RA display
Subject literature
Keywords discovery
  ↳ explanation
  ↳ documentation
  ↳ bio
Standards historical artifacts
  ↳ facts
Notes Shelley: new documents.

Annotation details

71 January Fortnightly


new documents relating to Shelley.


Rossetti, William M. "Shelley in 1812-13." Fortnightly Review 9.49 (January 1871): 67. Web. 21 September 2011.


This fascinating investigation into Shelley's early years of political activism demonstrates Rossetti in the role of historian as well as critic. The essay is largely objective, analyzing and comparing historical bits of evidence, with a more subjective section that analyzes Shelley's ballad, "The Devil's Walk." The poem as well the events and people surrounding Shelley's oppositional social and political activities in Ireland and England seem in Rossetti's view to contribute significantly to what was called at the time by some an assassination attempt on Shelley. Rossetti's account opposes that of Jefferson Hogg who is mentioned by name and criticized as "never well informed."

Rossetti notes that he received the new information about Shelley in June of 1870, the day he met with Tennyson, from a man named Hewlett. The information included "certain information that led to my writing a paper, published in The Fortnightly Review, on Shelley's Devil Walk", his Declaration of Rights, and other details in that connexion" (Reminiscences 1:142).

Rossetti was unapologetic concerning his admiration for and advocacy of Shelley, telling William Allingham that he would gladly edit and arrange Shelley's work for free, or even pay to do it (Letters 199). In one of Rossetti's memoirs, he states of his Shelley criticism and editing that he "wrote in the spirit of an ardent enthusiast" and remained unashamed of that fact, although he nonetheless included the more controversial historical facts about Shelley because "to be blameless is not given to man: to be partly blameable yet greatly noble and loveable was given to Shelley." It would seem that the events Rossetti attempts to delineate in this essay are an effort to present Shelley in exactly that manner (Reminiscences 2:360).

Rossetti leads the reader through a timeline supported by newly uncovered official documents recently discovered at "The Record Office Depot," related to Shelley's political activism. These activities ultimately led to the arrest and incarceration of a man he employed to distribute what were considered by local British officials to be seditious documents, which Rossetti reproduces in full. He doesn't discuss Shelley's "Declaration of Rights" fully, but offers a comparison between similar documents originating in the French Revolution and Shelley's "Rights."

Rossetti also offers comparisons between Shelley's "Devil's Walk" and similar poems by Southey and Coleridge that Rossetti claims were produced after Shelley's composition by at least a year. Finally, concerning the matter of attempted assassination, Rossetti offers two possible accounts which both support Shelley's telling of the events or at the very least, relieves Shelley of the charge of "mendacity."

The timeline examined by Rossetti includes the motives and activities of several key players in Shelley's life at that time, proposing how each may have played a role in the events that transpired after the Shelley's left Ireland in July, 1812.


critical, historical


atheistic pamphlet, Catholic Emancipation, Repeal of the Union, the Record Office, Declaration of Rights, Devils Walk, handbill, small boxes to sea, assassination attempt, motive

Standards of Judgment:

Arbiter of new evidence, analyst of historical connections and events, poetic criticism, comparator of accounts


Jefferson Hogg, Godwin, Harriet Westbrook, Daniel Hill, Eliza (Mrs. Shelley's sister), Miss Hitchener (referred to also as "The Brown Demon"), Robespierre, Southey, Coleridge, Lord Sidmouth, Sir Francis Freeling, Lord Chichester, Henry Drake (town clerk), Peacock, Litchfield, Addington, Becket, Granet (editor of "Relics of Shelley"

Writing technique/tone:

Narrative, analytic, mostly objective but some subjectivity in poetic analysis and theory regarding the assassination attempt; comparative (poetry as well as Hogg's version of events), educational

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael, Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. Ed. Roger W. Peattie. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990. Print.

---. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti. Vol. 1. New York: AMS, 1970. Print.

---. Some Reminiscences of William Michael Rossetti.. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner, 1906. Print.