Shelley, Alcohol, and the “world we make”: Habit’s Patterns in The Cenci

  • Adam Colman
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter argues that Percy Shelley derived his poetics from engagement with his age’s discourse surrounding alcohol habit. Tracing Shelley’s ideas on habit from his early writings on diet through his later tragedy, The Cenci, and his Defence of Poetry, Colman shows how Shelley framed salutary habits (including engagement with poetry) as those that might counteract toxic habits, which Shelley had earlier come to understand in light of the work on alcohol habit by Thomas Trotter, among others. Shelley had, in his early work, contended that alcohol habit could shape a terrible social world, and in The Cenci, the habitually drinking villain Count Cenci does shape such a terrible world. This chapter argues that The Cenci’s tragic heroine Beatrice represents radical habits and patterns that could defeat toxic, predatory habit.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam Colman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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