Although barely out of adolescence…[Shelley] was, in 1813, an ardent radical and anti-monarchist. Physically, he was rather odd, tall and slim to the point of limpness, with a high-pitched effete voice; but what he lacked in physical bulk he more than made up for in charismatic intensity. Among the earliest witnesses to this intensity were his school fellows at Eton, where he was sent by his landowning father when he was twelve. Initially he was bullied for his refusal to ‘fag’ for older boys, but the bullies soon discovered that in spite of his feeble frame, Shelley was not a boy to succumb quietly to taunts. On the contrary, he could be terrifying when roused, and was quite capable of reciprocal acts of violence. He stabbed one tormentor’s hand with a fork, and others remembered him as an almost unearthly creature, with flashing eyes, wild hair, and deathly white cheeks.
We – are we not formed, as notes of music are,
For one another, though dissimilar;
Such difference without discord, as can make
Those sweetest sounds, in which all spirits shake
As trembling leaves in a continuous air?