Percy Shelley's 'Unfinished Drama' and the Problem of the Jane Williams Poems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This essay returns to the extensive scholarly debate surrounding the lyrics and fragments which Percy Bysshe Shelley composed for Jane Williams, or with her in mind, during the last six months of his life. It takes its point of departure in what it defines as “the problem of the Jane Williams poems” – the difficulty, faced by biographers, editors, and critics alike, of mapping the relationship between the “Jane” of Shelley's poems and the historical Jane Williams. Drawing on the physical evidence available from Shelley's manuscripts, the essay seeks to establish a secure chronology for the Jane Williams poems and to re-assess, on the basis of that chronology, what those poems might be able to tell us about the course of Shelley's relationship with Jane in the last six months of his life. The essay offers new readings of a number of the Jane Williams poems, including “The Magnetic lady to her patient” and the fragment “We meet not as we parted,” as well as an extended discussion of Shelley's so-called “Unfinished Drama.” It also reflects in more general terms on the potentialities and pitfalls of biographical reading and the attempt accurately to determine the relationship between poetry and lived experience.


External organisations
  • St Mary's University, Twickenham
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Literatures
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-632
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes