Excepting Byron, who died helping the Greeks fight for independence, Shelley was the most politically active of the Romantic poets. While attempting to instigate reform in Ireland in 1812-13, he wrote to William Godwin, author of Political Justice . (Note also Godwin's connections with Wordsworth and Coleridge.) Shelley's pure idealism led him to take extreme positions, which hurt the feasibility of his attempts at reform.
By 1816 he had mostly given up these politics in favor of the study and writing of poetry; his Queen Mab later became popular among the Chartists. The longest-lasting effects of his extreme views were the fact that he met and eloped with William Godwin's brilliant daughter Mary, abandoned his wife, and was eventually forced to leave England. Even far away in Italy, however, he was incensed by the Peterloo massacre and wrote The Mask of Anarchy in response to it. He also turned into an attack on George IV his translation of Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus; or Swellfoot the Tyrant.
Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000