Percy Bysshe Shelley (1772–1822) was an English Romantic poet and husband of Mary Shelley. He died when his boat sank off the coast of Italy in 1822

Percy Bysshe Shelley was a key member of a circle of influential writers that included Lord Byron, Thomas Love Peacock, and his wife Mary Shelley – author of Frankenstein. He died at sea, less than a month before his 30th birthday.

Sailing around Italy

On 18 July 1822, Shelley was sailing around Italy, from Leghorn to Spezia, with his friend and retired naval officer, Edward Ellerker Williams, and their boat boy, Charles Vivien. The boat had been custom-built under the supervision of Captain John Charles Gawen Roberts, in Genoa, and has been described as either a schooner or a brigantine.

Shelley, Williams and their friend, the writer, Edward John Trelawny had commissioned the building of the boat. Trelawny proposed calling her Don Juan, in tribute to Lord Byron, but, before she was delivered, the partnership of the three men was dissolved, and Shelley bought her for £80, calling her Ariel.

Death at sea

Ariel got into trouble off the Gulf of Spezia and due to the poor seamanship of the three men onboard capsized and sank. The boat was later found 10 miles offshore and Shelley’s body was found washed ashore, still fully clothed.