Great Stories, People, Books & Events in Literary History

Shelley in Love

On this day in 1816 Percy Bysshe Shelley’s first wife, Harriet Westbrook, drowned herself. She and Shelley had eloped in 1811 — he upper-class and nineteen, she the sixteen-year-old daughter of a tavern owner — but then Shelley eloped with another sixteen-year-old, and Harriet saw few options: “I could never be anything but a source of vexation and misery to you all…. Too wretched to exert myself, lowered in the opinion of everyone, why should I drag on a miserable existence?”

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