Shelley’s guitar

Handel’s Messiah

This Treasure is paired with: Handel’s Messiah (Making music)

  • Ferdinando Bottari
  • 1816[?]
  • Pisa
  • Object

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley bought this Pisan guitar for his final muse, Jane Williams, around April 1822. Inspired perhaps by the maker’s name, Ferdinando, he presented it with a poem alluding to Shakespeare’s Tempest, in which Jane and her husband are Miranda and Ferdinand, and Shelley himself is Ariel. He was surely thinking of the instrument’s coffin-like box in sending Jane these lines:

Poor Ariel sends this silent token
Of more than ever can be spoken …
And now, alas! the poor sprite is
Imprisoned for some fault of his
In a body like a grave. –