Shelley started this gothic novel (his second) during his final half (i.e. term) at Eton, and published it during his first term at Oxford. The language is wildly extravagant, and the plot hopelessly complicated (on receiving the manuscript Shelley’s publisher pointed out that one of the characters appeared to die twice). The passage shown here is fairly typical.
Shelley published St. Irvyne anonymously, appearing on the title page as ‘A Gentleman of the University of Oxford’. ‘As to this Oxford gentleman’, concluded the reviewer in the Anti-Jacobin, ‘we recommend him to the care of his tutor, who, after a proper jobation for past folly, would do well, by imposition, to forbid him the use of the pen until he should have taken his bachelor’s degree’. A month later ‘An Oxford Collegian’ informed the Anti-Jacobin: ‘this reputed author was not long after the publication of this romance, expelled from the University, in consequence of the freedom with which he avowed his singularly wicked sentiments. … Report says that our ex-collegian, on being discountenanced by his friends, ran off with a young lady of no fortune, to Scotland, after a very sudden acquaintance, and has married her. I presume in revenge!’
Sir John Shelley-Rolls; (bequest, 1961) Bodleian.
James E. Barcus (ed.) Shelley: The Critical Heritage (London and Boston, 1975), pp. 53-4; Shelley’s Guitar no. 17 (p. 21); Stephen C. Behrendt (ed.), Zastrozzi & St. Irvyne (Peterborough, Ontario: 2002).