Sunday, June 09, 2013

Percy Bysshe Shelley

University College Main Quad

Shelley Memorial
 I visited Oxford recently and was fortunate enough to get a conducted tour inside Univ (University College). I was shown the Shelley Memorial in which it is situated.
Shelley came up to Univ in 1810 but was expelled following year. The College Register said he was sent down for, "contumaciously refusing to answer questions proposed to him, and also repeatedly declining to disavow a publication entituled The Necessity of Atheism". The college believed they had got rid of a troublesome student and only realised later it had just expelled one of England's greatest Romantic poets. Shelley's daughter-in-law spent her life devoted to the poet's memory, but carefully downplayed the aspects of his character that late Victorians would disapprove of – his atheism. She commissioned a grand memorial to be placed on the Protestant cemetery in Rome where he was buried.
Unfortunately this item was too large to the plot and Lady Shelley was forced to find another home for it. 
View from student rooms of Main Quad.
Eventually she offered to sculpture to Univ but had to agree to pay towards an enclosure in which to put it. It took some time for the college to agree and leaned Shelley Memorial was formally inaugurated in 1893.
The monument was done by Edward Onslow Ford, a prominent member of the so-called "New Sculpture", and the enclosure was designed by Basil Champneys. Recent restoration work has restored the original colour scheme so that it now looks as the sculptor intended. A few years ago a group of students ran a house pipe down from one of them runs and filled the sunken enclosure with water and filled it with goldfish. I think that would be an improvement. The figure is life-size and naked  – this is because he died by drowning. It's tucked away inside the College and mostly visited by students and their guests.
One of the colleges.
I enjoyed my day in Oxford; even the train journey was pleasurable as I had Jean Fullerton's new book, "Call Nurse Millie" to read. I noticed I was the only person reading an actual book – everyone else was using a reader of some sort. I wonder what Percy Bysshe Shelley would have thought about modern technology. I expect he would have embraced it for he was a forward thinker of his time.
Fancy gate in Oxford (forget what it's called)


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I always enjoy visiting Oxford - though, from the look of the pavements, yours was on a wet day. I'd never heard of the Shelley memorial there - how lucky that you were able to see it.

Fenella J Miller said...

THat's why I went - Elizabeth - as my grandaughter won't be in halls after this year. It was wet -but worth it.