Shelley and Music

Jessica K. Quillin

in The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199558360
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Shelley and Music

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This chapter examines the role of music in Shelley's life and works. Shelley believed that music was a unique connection to the underlying harmony and beauty of the universe, and that the poet who could connect his language to instrumental music can comprehend and thus communicate untold universal truths. By the end of his life, he possessed a great appreciation for the art of music and a significant understanding of the main precepts of contemporary musical aesthetics, particularly more holistic notions, in which music and poetry are seen as fundamentally interrelated. Yet, while his early poetry reveals a consistent, though generic, interest in music as a sister art to poetry, music only became a core element of Shelley's continually evolving conception of poetry after his encounters with the Hunt Circle and other musical acquaintances in late 1816.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley; English poets; Romantic poets; music; Hunt Circle

Article.  8293 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (19th Century) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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