One of the stupidest things I ever did was to decide, at an impressionable age, that since Shelley was respectable, I wanted nothing to do with him. He is a thinker of extraordinary toughness and force who just happened to write in delicate singing metre.
So here I am, making up for lost time in the local second hand shop, and there is a 1946 biography of him by Edmind Blunden which has dated horribly. It is mannered, smug, and anachronistic, whcih is to say that it might, with different mannerisms and smugnesses have been published any time in the last five years, perhaps as a TV tie-in.
I persevere, and learn that the last dragon outside Horsham was recorded in 1614: there was one in St Leonard’s Forest, and Blunden quotes a pamphlet from August that year: [the dragon] was alive and well in the Forest “to the great annoyance and divers slaughters of both men and Cattell, by his strong and violent Poyson.”
How interesting, and how sad, to see that dragons were kept alive not by their fiery breath and wings, but by the pestilences creeping through a swampy forest. The breath of dragons shrinks into mosquitos.