Percy Shelley and the Not-So Dead Margaret Nicholson

“Soft, my dearest angel, stay
Oh! You suck my soul away:
Suck on, suck on, I glow, I glow!
Tides of maddening passion roll,
And streams of rapture drown my soul.
Now give me one more billing kiss,
Let your lips now repeat the bliss,
Endless kisses steal my breath,
No life can equal such a death.”

-Percy Shelley

Well, I do believe the meaning of that poem is quite clear! 😉

This piece appears in The Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, a collection of poetry written by Percy Shelley and Jefferson Hogg, and published in 1810.

As a lighthearted hoax, the two men pretended the book had actually been written by Margaret Nicholson, herself, and discovered after her death.

In truth, the former maid to nobility was still quite alive, residing in Bethlem Hospital after attempting to assassinate King George III with a dessert knife.

Ms. Nicholson insisted she was a virgin, and the mother of Lords Mansfield and Loughborough who both happened to be older than herself.

The failed murder attempt caught the attention of the young Shelley who was beginning to espouse his antiwar and antimonarchical views.

“Monarchs of earth ! thine is the baleful deed.
Thine are the crimes for which thy subjects bleed.
Ah ! when will come the sacred fated time,
When man unsullied by his leaders’ crime.
Despising wealth, ambition, pomp, and pride,
Will stretch him fearless by his foemen’s side ?
Ah! when Avill come the time, when o’er the plain
No more shall death and desolation reign ?
When will the sun smile on the bloodless field,
And the stern warrior’s arm the sickle wield ?
Not whilst some King, in cold ambition’s dreams,
Plans for the field of death his plodding schemes ;
Not whilst for private pique the public fall,
And one frail mortal’s mandate governs all.”

The first printing of the book was only 250 copies. While it did sell out, it was not reprinted until 1877.

Percy Shelley drowned on July 8, 1822

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great idea.

    I’m going to head over to CreateSpace right now and get to work on an edition of the “The Posthumous Short Stories of Gypsy Scarlett, Vol 1: Twilight Fan Fiction.”

  2. Hahahahahaha!

    Love it, Haystack.

    Truth be told however, I’d prefer “The Posthumous Short Stories of Gypsy Scarlett, Vol 1: Carmilla Fan Fiction”. Or perhaps, good ol’ Dracula. 😉

  3. Well, that’s.. um… quite the poem. 😉 Any idea why they tried to attribute it to this demented woman, who was still alive? Seems very bizarre.

  4. Heya DD,

    Yeah. *giggle*. That poem. Ah, those “prudish” folk back then. 😉

    As for choosing her as the authoress, I can only assume that they thought her name attached to the project would help publicity. The secret poetry of the woman who tried to kill the king! sorta thing.

  5. I enjoyed reading the first poem. It actually made me smile the second time I read it.

  6. Me too, Lora. 🙂

  7. Loved the poem and the story behind it.I think a ‘Tales of Bedlam’ would make a super anthology.

  8. I’d definitely buy a copy, Diane!

  9. Oh, hullo! There’s poetry they did NOT teach us in class! 🙂 🙂

  10. I’d be a really fun teacher, if I may say so myself. 😉

  11. I’ll second that!! 🙂 🙂

  12. YAY, some Percy Bysshe to brighten (or darken) my day

  13. Chazz, I think what he’s referring to in the first poem would brighten most mens’ day. 😉

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