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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Shelley's letters fetch 45,600
Percy and Mary Shelley in BBC's Frankenstein: Birth of a monster
Percy Bysshe Shelley as portrayed by Oliver Chris in a BBC drama
A recently discovered set of letters by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley have sold for 45,600 at a London auction.

The letters were written to Ralph Wedgwood - a member of the pottery family - between December 1810 and February 1811.

Shelley was studying at Oxford University at the time.

The letters, which provide an insight into Shelley's views on atheism, were destined for a car boot sale until the owner contacted the auction house.

Rebel poet

They were found in a trunk at a house in south-west London alongside four written by Shelley's best friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg, and were expected to fetch 30,000.

The finder, thought to be a descendant of the Wedgwood family, then left the letters to a neighbour who contacted Christie's auction house.

Shelley and Hogg were expelled from Oxford University in 1811 for writing a pamphlet about atheism.

Both men were summoned before the authorities when the article was circulated. Shelley refused to co-operate and Hogg protested.

The eight letters by the pair shed light on Shelley's eventual emergence as a rebel poet and the theme of atheism in his work.

Famous author

In one he wrote: "Christ never existed... the fall of man, the whole fabric indeed of superstition which it supports can no longer obtain the credit of philosophers."

Christie's said the correspondence fills an important gap in historians' understanding of Shelley's intellectual development and his expulsion from Oxford.

Head of books Crispin Jackson said the letters were kept for the Wedgwood connection rather than their famous author.

They were sold for 45,600, including buyer's premium, in a valuable books and manuscripts sale.

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