Sunday 9 August 2009

The Non-Sensual Poet

Poets are having a good summer. The Tennyson bicentenary has acted as a well timed reminder of a real master. Keats' house has reopened. Andrew Motion has remained an energetic ambassador post-laureate. And we have even had Rupert Everett mincing about on Byron.

Thomas Rees writes to offer a treatment on Shelley. It's a cracking yarn, as Thomas' usually are, about Shelley's attempts to free the Irish and the Welsh from English rule. The young firebrand had the unusual idea of encasing seditious pamphlets in little caskets he made and then launching them by balloon. Perhaps an eighteenth century version of political Twitters. Anyway when one of his caskets landed into the hands of the secret police Percy Bysse was forced into "exile" in North Wales. There his attempts to radicalise the locals were not met with the enthusiasm he had hoped -- they felt they already had enough poets. He did however see a devil in his garden and get to work on one of his masterpieces, Queen Mab.
Despite eloping with a sixteen year old Shelley was not wildly interested in sex. His passion was for revolution and free thinking. Sadly that means we probably won't see a BBC adaptation of
Thomas' story, not even one with Graham Norton as Shelley.
In the meantme I continue to try and persuade Thomas to write a biography of his godfather, the Cambridge spy Guy Burgess. If he doesn't perhaps I should.

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