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Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend Jefferson Hogg wrote this collection when they were students at Oxford University.
The subject of the poem, Margaret Nicholson, seems to have suffered from some kind of personality disorder involving delusions that she related to royalty. In 1786 she sent the privy council a rambling petition about usurpers and royal pretenders, and on 2 August that year made a half-hearted attempt on the king’s life with a table-knife. The king was unharmed and seeing that she was in more danger from the crowd than he was from her, he said, ‘the poor creature is mad; do not hurt her, she has not hurt me.’ Margaret Nicholson was tried, declared insane, and sentenced to incarceration in the insane asylum Bethlem for the rest of her life. She died in 1828.
When Margaret Nicholson’s rooms were searched several papers were found, mainly letters to public figures containing warnings of what would happen if her claim to the throne was not upheld. The fragments in Shelley and Hogg’s book claim to be some of these fragments, and are pastiches in which the young writers put forward their views on war, society and the nature of government.
Dr Stephanie Forward explains the key ideas and influences of Romanticism, and considers their place in the work of writers including Wordsworth, Blake, P B Shelley and Keats.