Saturday, September 5, 2009

Percy and Me

There has always been a tradition in my family that we are descended from Percy Bysshe Shelley on my mother’s side.

I have never taken much interest in pursuing this or asking what the connection might be. Unfortunately, anyone who might have had such information has passed.

As a child, I was embarrassed at the possibility of having anyone named Percy in my family tree, much less a poet. Of course, my only point of reference was Percy Dovetonsils, Ernie Kovacs characterization of a lisping poet with Coke-bottle thick glasses who read doggerel while sipping martinis.

My maternal grandfather was big poetry fan. I can remember sitting on his lap and playing with his pocket watch while he read from the works of the Irish poets. This, of course, proves nothing, but may be where the story arose.

His mother’s name was Mary Shelly (I’m not sure of the spelling), but who her antecedents were, I do not yet know. To my knowledge, both of his parents were Irish-Americans whose parents came over in the first potato famine. Shelley the poet was English and a peer to boot. So on the surface, at least, the connection seems unlikely.

After watching a program that made reference to Shelley and his wife, Mary, I decided to see what I could find out on the internet.

I signed up for a trial membership at and punched in what names I knew. So far, I have not been able to push past my great grandparents. This type of research is not my cup of tea. As my wife will attest, keeping names and relationships straight is a challenge for me in the here and now, never mind the long ago.

Here is another daunting thought: If you just trace your family back 10 generations, you will find you have 1024 ancestors, since the number doubles each generation. This sounds like too much work for me to establish my relationship to the author of Prometheus Unbound. Try slogging through that little ditty some time.

I just looked at a Percy Dovetonsils skit on YouTube and think there is a better chance of my being related to him. The quality of the writing has a familiar ring:

The Moon
By Percy Dovetonsils

The moon is full of craters
It has some mountains too,
But because there are no people,
No one goes to the Zoo.

Ah, Granddad!

1 comment:

Mary Lois said...

You clearly have a connection to the poet. Now decide which one.