Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Philosophical View of Reform

(1265 words)
  • Mark Sandy (University of Durham)

Composed between November 1819 and 20 May 1820, Shelley's fragmentary A Philosophical View of Reform is a considered and moderate response to recent political events in England. On 16 August 1819 the Peterloo Massacre, in St. Peter's Field near Manchester, saw a peaceful demonstration for parliamentary reform violently charged by local militia. In November 1819 a prejudicial jury found the bookseller Richard Carlile guilty of blasphemy for printing an edition of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason (1794-6). By December of that year the British Government had established the “Six Acts”, a series of strict laws designed to restrict public gatherings and freedom of the press. These repressive measures were apparently …

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Sandy, Mark. "A Philosophical View of Reform". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 March 2002
[, accessed 29 November 2015.]