In Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Literary Life Michael O'Neill gives a kwledgeable and balanced account of Shelley's literary career from his earliest published work to his last unfinished masterpiece, The Triumph of Life. The book draws on recent research about the poet and his age, but its sense of the ways in which texts and contexts interact is sharply independent. Issues discussed include Shelley's social background, his radical politics and his complex response to Enlightenment rationalism. O'Neill stresses Shelley's often disappointed search for an audience, connecting it with the growing sophistication of his poetry and poetics. For Shelley a poet was the 'combined product' of 'internal powers' and 'external influences' (Preface to Prometheus Unbound); this book explores how such a combination manifests itself in his own writings.
MICHAEL O'NEILL lectures in English at the University of Durham. He is the author of The Human Mind's Imaginings: Conflict and Archievement in Shelley's Poetry and The Stripped Bed (forthcoming), a collection of poems. He is an editor of Poetry Durham.