Alison Prince, Web Manager
The last day of the Shelley’s Ghost exhibition at the Bodleian was 27 March 2011. Sadly, it has now been taken down but only to make way for the next exciting installment, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible, which opens on 22 April. It will live on, however, through the
Shelley’s Ghost exhibition website, which will be staying live and continuing to make the objects available in a virtual sense to interested audiences around the world. A version of the exhibition will also be showing at The New York Public Library in 2012.
Throughout the whole process of planning and showing the exhibition, the Communications team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the message out about Shelley’s Ghost and the fascinating stories and objects it was showcasing. I think we should also thank Danny Boyle for showing his Frankenstein at the opportune moment when his audiences were able to come and see the real thing here!
By way of farewell, I thought it would be nice to share some of our amazing media coverage from the exhibition. Here are few examples of the great things that were written:
LA Times – 25 March 2011
Paul Edmonson’s blog post – 21 March 2011
The One Show – 18 February 2011
Times Higher Education – 17 February 2011
BBC Arts blog – 15 February 2011
BBC News – 15 February 2011
Culture 24 -3 December 2010
Mail Online – 30 November 2010
On 25 March 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg were publicly expelled from University College, Oxford. On the following morning, after breakfast, they took their places on the outside of a London-bound coach. After only two terms as a first-year undergraduate, Shelley had been sent down.
Their offence was ‘contumaciously refusing to answer questions … and also repeatedly declining to disavow a publication entitled The Necessity of Atheism.’ This was the anonymous pamphlet which Shelley had privately printed a few weeks earlier and put on sale at sixpence a copy in a shop-window on Oxford High Street. A passing don spotted the pamphlet and immediately ordered the stock to be burnt. Shelley had also sent copies out to individuals – ‘every bishop in the kingdom’, head of Oxford Colleges, and other dignitaries – with letters under false names, inviting their response.
The reception from recipients was not rapturous. ‘A sixth enormous lie’, reported one of Shelley’s targets, ‘consisted in his saying [under the alias of Charles Meyton], that he had himself visited Palestine … and that neither angels nor martyrs should ever convince him, contrary to the evidence of his senses, that it had ever been a fertile land.’ The pamphlet, shockingly, contradicted the Anglican Church’s 39 Articles (‘There is but one living and true God …’), which Shelley and Hogg had signed only a few months earlier in the University’s matriculation register, on becoming members of the University.
On the 200th anniversary of the expulsion, visitors to the Shelley’s Ghost website can see many fascinating items relating to Shelley’s time at Oxford and to his subsequent career as poet and unacknowledged world-legislator. The final page of The Necessity of Atheism is shown with its provocative ‘Q.E.D.’, concluding the proof of God’s non-existence. With a letter identified only in 2008, Shelley sends a copy to William Godwin, his future father-in-law, under the alias Jennyngs Stukeley. Another of his Oxford letters discusses ‘the Spirit of Love, the harmonised intelligence of infinite Creation’ – not to be confused with God. The draft manuscript of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is also on show, with echoes of Shelley’s anarchic behaviour at Oxford – chemical experiments, wrong-coloured pantaloons.
Image credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford