Shelley in Love

Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814. But for one troubling drawback, the details of the event are the stuff of romantic legend -- the two courting (if not making love) at the gravesite of Mary's mother, Shelley overdosing on laudanum at the idea of being denied, the several months of secret letters, the coach at 4:00 a.m., the eleven-hour dash to Dover, the secretive and storm-tossed crossing to Calais, this later described in Shelley's "The Fugitives":

...One boat-cloak did cover

The loved and the lover --

Their blood beats one measure,

They murmur proud pleasure

Soft and low....

The drawback is Harriet Westbrook Shelley, the first sixteen-year-old with whom Shelley had eloped (three years previously, on Mary Godwin's fourteenth birthday), and with whom he had a daughter, and soon a son. Two months after the second elopement, in a letter to his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Shelley tried to explain himself: "The contemplation of female excellence is the favourite food of my imagination.... I suddenly perceived that the entire devotion with which I had resigned all prospects of utility or happiness to the single purpose of cultivating Harriet was a gross and despicable superstition." The biographers use such words to both damn and defend the poet, as lovers use his "Love's Philosophy" for their purposes:

The fountains mingle with the river,

And the rivers with the ocean;

The winds of heaven mix forever,

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one another's being mingle; --

Why not I with thine?


See! the mountains kiss high heaven,

And the waves clasp one another;

No sister flower would be forgiven,

If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,

And the moonbeams kiss the sea; --

What are all these kissings worth,

If thou kiss not me?


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."