shelley mary

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March 25th 1811: Shelley expelled from Oxford

On this day in 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford for publishing a pamphlet entitled ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. Shelley is best known as a famous English poet, who was part of a group of fellow prominent writers including his wife Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. As well as being as being an author, Shelley was a radical political activist who advocated non-violent protest. Having begun study at Oxford in 1810, it is often said that he only attended one lecture during his time there. He published several works whilst at university, but it was his atheistic pamphlet which led to his appearance before the College fellows and his eventual expulsion as he refused to deny authorship. ‘The Necessity of Atheism’ argued that people do not choose their beliefs and thus atheists shouldn’t be persecuted. However it is unclear whether Shelley was personally an atheist; he may have instead been an agnostic or a pantheist. Either way, this document is an interesting insight into Shelley’s views and shows how atheism was stigmatised in the early nineteenth century.

“Truth has always been found to promote the best interests of mankind. Every reflecting mind must allow that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity”

Weird history fact

Apparently Aaron Burr was friends with William Godwin (the father of Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein) and when Burr visited Godwin in England, Burr sat with Godwin’s daughters to play Tea Party with them. They sang to him and Mary Shelley presented an essay called “The Influence of Government on the Character of the People” (what kind of essay is that for a 13 year old, oh my god). Burr told Mary that her writing was very good and that’s the end of that crazy story. Why is history so weird. I never thought these two figures would meet, let alone at a play-pretend tea party.

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You are now 18, standing on the precipice,
trembling before your own greatness.
who say you are too young and delicate 
to make anything happen for yourself. 
They don’t see the part of you that smolders.
Don’t let their doubting drown out the sound 
of your own heartbeat.
Your bravery builds beyond you. You are needed
by all the little girls still living in secret, 
writing oceans made of monsters and
throwing like lightening.
You are stronger than the world has ever believed you to be.
The world laid out before you to set on fire.
All you have to do
is burn.
This is your call to leap.
There will always being those 
You are the first drop of a hurricane.
You don’t need to grow up to find greatness.

―  Clementine Von Radics

mary wollstonecraft is a very important lady and you should know some things about her:

  • she’s considered to be one of the founding feminist philosophers of the 18th century and wrote a vindication for the rights of woman which said that women, then thought to be naturally inferior, only seemed this way because of a lack of education
  • in her other works, she also attacks aristocracy, the patriarchy, slavery, and the church of england
  • while most feminists of the time agreed with a lot of what she wrote, they found her personal life too wild and liberal and “passionate”
  • she once tried to woo a married man/convince him to run away with her and he was all “but i’m married” so wollstonecraft asked his wife if she wanted to come along too and be in a polyamorous relationship (the wife said no)
  • she was passionately anti-marriage, but when she did get married it was to famous feminist anarchist william godwin (who was also anti-marriage), and they only married because she was pregnant and they wanted their child to have a better life/have the rights of a legitimate child
  • that child was mary shelley, author of frankenstein and inventor of science fiction