Bysshe Shelley has been in London for about six weeks--meeting with one of his literary idols, William Godwin, whose 15-year-old daughter, Mary, was out of the country at the time.
About six weeks after their trip to London in the fall of 1812, Bysshe and Harriet returned to Tremadoc. This time they lasted three months. He was not popular in that Welsh community. His radical social and religious ideas—many of which were Godwin-inspired—did not set well with the locals, who had a far more conservative bent.
On February 26, 1813—following a stormy, unpleasant week—an … episode, one that caused controversy among early Shelley scholars, even as it had among Bysshe’s friends, more than one of whom concluded that his experience was nothing more than another of his wild fantasies or hallucinations or nightmares. Let’s follow what Richard Holmes says about the events:
The external events seem clear. During the night the house [Tan-yr-allt] was twice disturbed; several shots were fired; at least two, and possibly more, of the large glass windows on the ground floor were smashed; the lawn outside the east front of the house was trampled and Shelley rolled in the mud; Shelley’s nightgown was shot through; and one pistol ball was found embedded in the wainscot under one of the windows in the main drawing-room. By the next morning the whole household was in a state of terror and exhaustion. Shelley especially was in a state of severe nervous shock, amounting to something like nervous breakdown, and his stomach seems to have been strained or kicked during a violent struggle.
Other scholars have weighed in over the years, the major ones concluding, as Holmes does, that the attack occurred pretty much as Bysshe had described.
Edward Dowden (Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1896) offered reasons for disbelief (has been a perplexity to Shelley biographers)—but eventually settled for this: sufficiently disproved are the theories that the attack existed only in his fertile imagination.
Roger Ingpen (Shelley in England, 1917): … the account of it given by Bysshe … [has] now [been] proved to have been correct ….
Walter Edwin Peck (Shelley: His Life and Work, 1927) just reports the events as if they were fact—gives no credence to the accusations that Bysshe had manufactured a wild excuse to leave Tremadoc because of debts and his constitutional restlessness.
Newman Ivey White (Shelley, 1940): … Shelley’s wild story … [is] entitled to almost literal belief.
Because these exciting events in Bysshe’s life occurred in Tremadoc, I knew I had to go there—to see Tan-yr-allt, the place where gunshots could have ended his life.