Shelley pp 118-138 | Cite as

The Cenci

  • Desmond King-Hele


By the summer of 1819 the round of sightseeing was over. In Shelley’s three remaining years of life the ferment of continual travel is stilled at last. Apart from a brief visit to Ravenna, he kept within a radius of fifty miles from Pisa, living at Leghorn, Florence, Pisa itself and Lerici. Shelley and Mary had intended to leave Rome in the summer of 1819, because Mary was expecting a baby in the autumn and they knew of only one good doctor, who would then be at Florence. William’s death hastened their departure to Tuscany, and in mid-June they moved to Leghorn, where they rented a pleasant house a little way out of the town, the Villa Valsovano. At the top of the house Shelley found an ideal study, very small and more a glass-covered terrace than a room. The confined space became unbearably hot to all but Shelley, who with his ‘salamander’s temperament’1 basked happily in the sun. As Browning noted long ago, he was a ‘sun-treader’, often in his poems equating heat with pleasure, and ice with pain.


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Notes To VI: The Cenci

  1. 7.
    The Cenci story is told in Corrado Ricci’s Beatrice Cenci. See also Bates, A Study of Shelleys Drama The Cenci, pp. 31–4, F. Prokosch’s novel A Tale for Midnight (1956), andGoogle Scholar
  2. A. Moravia’s play Beatrice Cenci (1965).Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    J. M. Robertson launched the attack on the play in New Essays towards a Critical Method, 1897. A notorious later assault is that by F. R. Leavis, in Revaluation. The best book on The Cenci is Stuart Curran’s Shelleys Cenci (1970). His assessment, rather more favourable than mine, has much to commend it. He also gives full details of the stage history.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    H. Pearson, Bernard Shaw (Collins, 1950), p. 377. See S. Curran, Shelleys Cenci, Ch. VII, for details of other productions of the play.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    See M. Praz, The Romantic Agony; F. L. Lucas, The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal; and G. R. Taylor, Sex in History (1954), pp. 189–90.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    J.-J. Rousseau, Eloisa. (London, 1795), i. 55.Google Scholar

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© Desmond King-Hele 1984

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  • Desmond King-Hele

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