Percy Shelley (Poet) | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Percy Shelley (Poet)

Percy Shelley (Poet)


Author, playwright, and poet, known for his lyrical and long-form verse. Percy Bysshe Shelley is one of the most highly regarded English Romantic poets of the 19th century. His works include The Masque of Anarchy and Queen Mab.

He was a staunch advocate of vegetarianism, and authored several works on the diet and spiritual practice, including A Vindication of Natural Diet (1813). He argued that eating meat was unnatural and he maintained that diseases and immorality arose from mankind's "unnatural habits of life". A meatless diet was the best regimen for maintaining a healthy and disease-free lifestyle. He wrote that human diseases could be decreased by a return to a natural vegetable diet. Shelley used comparative anatomy to show that the human digestive system resembles that of frugivorous or plant-eating animals He presented examples of how a vegetarian diet resulted in longevity and an increased lifespan. 

Shelley was born on August 4, 1792 and left home at age of 10 to study at Syon House Academy, 10 miles west of central London. After two years, he enrolled at Eton College. Within a year he had published two novels and two volumes of poetry, including St Irvyne and Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson. In 1810, Shelly entered University College, Oxford. After a few months, a dean demanded that Shelley visit his office. Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg had co-authored a pamphlet titled The Necessity of Atheism. Its premise shocked and appalled the faculty (“…The mind cannot believe in the existence of a God.”), and Shelley was expelled.

His parents demanded that he forsake his beliefs, including vegetarianism, political radicalism and sexual freedom. In August of 1811, Shelley defied his parents and eloped with Harriet Westbrook, a 16-year-old woman his parents had explicitly forbidden him to see. However, Shelley soon became interested in a woman named Elizabeth Hitchener, a schoolteacher who inspired his first major poem, Queen Mab. In addition to long-form poetry, Shelley also began writing political pamphlets, which he distributed by way of hot air balloons, glass bottles and paper boats. In 1812 he met his hero, the radical political philosopher William Godwin, author of Political Justice.

Although Shelley’s relationship with Harriet remained troubled, the young couple had two children together. Before their second child was born, Shelley abandoned his wife and immediately took up with another young woman, Mary. In 1816, Mary gave birth to their son, William, and later that year, the two were married. They moved to Marlow, a small village in Buckinghamshire. There, Shelley befriended John Keats and Leigh Hunt, both talented poets and writers. Shelley’s conversations with them encouraged his own literary pursuits. Around 1817, he wrote Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City

On July 8, 1822, just shy of turning 30, Shelley drowned while sailing his schooner back from Livorno to Lerici. Despite conflicting evidence, most papers reported Shelley’s death as an accident. Based on the scene that was discovered on the boat’s deck, others speculated that he might have been murdered by an enemy who detested his political beliefs.


If the use of animal food be, in consequence, subversive to the peace of human society, how unwarrantable is the injustice and the barbarity which is exercised toward these miserable victims. They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged.
Percy Shelley (Poet)