A Response to Misleading Lady: The Enclosures of Belle da Costa Greene by Carolyn Funk, 30 April 2021

I’ve been to the Morgan Library once. To consult a manuscript that the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had with him in the boat when he drowned. As some of you may know, Shelley died in a shipwreck in the Bay of Spezia, off Italy’s Western coast on 8 July 1822. According to his biographer Richard Holmes, back in England the news of his death was greeted with the announcement ‘Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry has been drowned; now he knows whether there is a God or no.’ I have not been able to verify this quote but I cite it for what it says about Shelley’s reputation at the time of his passing. He was not an unknown poet, but he was a poet most often mentioned in attacks on his morals – atheist, proto-feminist, proto-socialist, who once claimed that – and this is a verified quote – the ‘invidious distinction of human kind […] into two sexes, is a remnant of savage barbarism’.