His adult life was short and turbulent. His pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism, resulted in his expulsion from Oxford aged 18, in 1811, and a break with his father. Four months later, he eloped to Scotland with 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook. This turned out to be an unhappy and very short marriage. Three years later, in 1814, Shelley abandoned Harriet, pregnant with their son Charles, and ran away to Switzerland with Mary Godwin, aged 16. They returned home after 6 weeks, destitute, and in much trouble with their respective families. Shelley and Mary married in 1816, following Harriet’s suicide. For six years, Shelley and Mary travelled extensively, spending much time in Italy with Lord Byron. Shelley produced a number of major works in this period, although received limited critical acclaim in his lifetime. In 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing in Italy, leaving Mary a widow at age 24.
Almost 50 years later, Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613) provided the funding to re-establish the library. The old library was refurnished to house a new collection of 2,500 books, including Bodley’s own collection, and opened in 1602. In 1610 Bodley entered into an agreement with the Stationers’ Company of London, that a copy of every book published in England would be deposited in the new library (the agreement was incorporated into legislation and finally became effective from the mid-1800s).
The collections of manuscripts and books attracted scholars from all over Europe. By 1849, there were estimated to be 220,000 books and some 21,000 manuscripts in the library’s collection, along with pictures, sculptures, coins and medals, and ‘curiosities.’ BY 1914, the books numbered one million.
Over the years there have been a great many extensions and new building, to house the growing collection. The original buildings have however remained in constant use.
He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, culture, philosophy and science. He is particularly influential in the fields of existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism. He questioned the value and objectivity of truth, and argued the importance of "life-affirmation", requiring an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's energies, however socially entrenched they may be.
Nietzsche associated the Jewish and Christian religion with ‘slave-morality’ – where value derives from the contrast between good (charity, piety, restraint, meekness, submissive) and evil (worldly, cruel, selfish, wealthy, aggressive). ‘Slaves’ overcome their sense of inferiority by making their weakness a matter of choice. This results in individuals living in a hypocritical state. Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to embrace their uniqueness and follow their own “inner law”, while leaving morality to the masses.
He grew up to be reckless, unpredictable, and violent, and drove his estate to ruin. He was however a gifted playwright and lyric poet. He was also a celebrated patron of the arts, and had several dozen works dedicated to him by famous writers and poets of the day. In Shakespeare Identified (1920) English schoolteacher J. Thomas Looney proposes him as the real author of Shakespeare’s works, based on perceived analogies between Oxford's life and poetic techniques in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.