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Sir Timothy Shelley

Sir Timothy Shelley, 1753-1844, Married to Elizabeth, Lady Shelley, father of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Elected member of Parliament for New Shoreham in 1791, Timothy married Elizabeth Pilfold that year and their first-born, Percy, entered the world the next summer. Timothy held a "rotten-bureau" seat in the control of the Duke of Norfolk, head of a faction known as the "Aristocratic Whigs." He was thus among the more liberal representatives in the government, though, as his life with his rebellious son would prove, he was unable to handle, let alone comprehend, a radicalism of the dimensions of his son's. The latter's detestation of his father was probably exaggerated by youthful rebelliousness, but Timothy's treatment of his son and his family was, by any standard, cruel. After the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary was given an annuity that was barely able to cover a subsistence for herself and her son, Percy Florence, who was the legal heir to the baronetcy and family property. Even that sum was conditioned on her not publishing any of his son's remaining manuscripts nor writing under her married name, which is why all her publications bore the sobriquet, "By the Author of Frankenstein." Although as part of his life-long struggle against the genius of his son, he refused to see Mary Shelley, in his later years he developed an affection for his grandson and heir. Even so, when Sir Timothy died in 1844, at the age of ninety-one, he had, in a lifetime of dull respectability three times the length of his son's, earned a reputation that now seems indelible, as mean-spirited, hard-hearted, a forsaker of genius.