Volumes V and VI of Shelley and His Circle, edited by Donald H. Reiman, make available a further portion of the Shelley manuscript materials in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library. These two volumes continue in the format and style of the preceding ones. They progress chronologically from late 1816 through 1819, tracing the growth of the poet’s friendship with Leigh Hunt and his circle (including John Keats) and the blossoming of Shelley’s poetic maturity.
These volumes record the writing of The Revolt of Islam, Shelley’s epic on the lessons of the French Revolution; the poet’s journey to Italy; the deaths of his and Mary’s two children; and his literary annus mirabilis in 1819. During this year he wrote Prometheus Unbound, The Cenci, and A Philosophical View of Reform, which is here presented in a corrected text. The sequence closes in late December 1819 with a series of letters that signal the beginning of Shelley’s sense of isolation from his English friends and publisher.
Among the 175 manuscripts presented in full diplomatic transcription are 82 by Shelley and numerous others by Godwin, Hunt, and Byron, as well as important hitherto unpublished early letters by Edward John Trelawny, and letters and journals of Keats, Peacock, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, and Edward E. Williams. An Appendix of eleven early letters and poems by Byron completes this set. Altogether, Shelley and His Circle will encompass a half-century of interconnected biographies and will capture the literary and intellectual tenor of the Romantic era.