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England in 1819

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was in Italy when news of the Peterloo Massacre reached him in 1819. The attack by cavalrymen on peaceful demonstrators in Manchester prompted Shelley to write one of his best known poems - 'The Masque of Anarchy', as well as this less frequently reproduced attack on Britain's rulers. The laws of sedition and libel meant that these poems were not published until the 1830s, when the political landscape had started to change (and after Shelley's death in 1822). In 1819, calling the king "old, mad, blind, despised, and dying" could have landed both poet and publisher a prison sentence.

'England in 1819' was first published in 1839, in a four volume collection of Shelley's works edited by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, writer and widow of Percy Bysshe Shelley. The University of Warwick Library Special Collections include all four volumes of the collected works (reference: PR5420.V3). Several additional extracts from the 1839 collected works have also been copied - the 1819 poems 'The Masque of Anarchy' and 'Song to the Men of England' , and Mary Shelley's 'Note on poems of 1819'  (if you are unable to access the text in pdf format, please contact us).

England in 1819