From the excellent ‘Grafton Street: a Collage of Time and People’, by Terry de Valera, Dublin Historical Record (1986):-
“The poet Shelley lived for some time at No. 17 [Grafton Street], having come there from lodgings in Sackville St. In time, No 17 became a drapery store and today it is part of Brown Thomas… It was said in relation to him ‘everyone that was in distress and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him and he became a captive over them.’ Shelley was wont to run along the streets of Dublin eating pudding raisins which he took from his waistcoat pockets. Often he was seen scattering his political pamphlets among the unsuspecting crowd – a practice which rought him to the notice of the authorities in Dublin Castle, very much incurring their displeasure. He also carried on this practice by throwing down his fiery pamphlets from the balcony of the house in Sackville St to the surprise of many a passer-by.”
The months spent by the romantically radical Percy Bysshe Shelley in Dublin in the spring of 1812 were highly eventful ones, beginning with a violent gale in the Irish Channel on the way over and continuing apace thereafter. Immediately after arriving in Dublin from Belfast, whence his ship had been blown, the young poet set about finding a printer to do up fifteen hundred copies of An Address to the Irish People, composed during the voyage and as stormy as one would expect given the inclement weather. A quick trip to visit the grave of that other young romantic, Robert Emmet, led to further inspiration and an elegy containing his first use of volcano imagery.
Shelley took great pains to circulate his Address among Dubliners, if the word ‘circulate’ is not too mild a term for his ingenious methods of distribution, involving throwing copies of the learned work out of windows, into windows and through windows, in and through carriages, and (on one memorable occasion) into the hood of a lady’s cloak.
The visit to Dublin culminated in a speech given by Shelley in the Fishamble Theatre on the 28th February 1812, though it is not clear if he was actually invited or just turned up there on spec – the report of the event simply says ‘Mr Shelley requested a hearing‘. To make sure that no one would forget what he had said, he even wrote two pseudonymous letters to a newspaper describing the speech as “a most disgusting harangue from a stripling” whose style suggested he might occasionally “compose under the influence of the moon”. Following this, he then moved on quickly to another pamplet, Proposals for an Association of Philanthopists, in which he attacked, among other things, ‘the palsied dame Superstition’ of Catholicism.
Having successfully managed to alienate most interest groups in Ireland, Shelley then reactivated the vegetarian diet begun by him the previous year in Wales. The next couple of weeks were spent overseeing the printing of his third (and shortest) Irish publication, a one-sheet Declaration of Rights, while occasionally bending the rules enough to inform guests that a murdered chicken had been prepared for their repast. His goings-on, and those of his wild-haired, wild-eyed retinue of radical disciples, created such excitement among Dubliners that, by the time he decided to return to Ireland in April, his second set of lodgings at No 17 Grafton Street mentioned above had become popularly known as ‘the Cave of Abdullah’.
Shelley was just as misfortunate in his leaving of Dublin as in his entering of it; the journey back for this unlucky-at-sea poet took 36 hours and he was so hungry when he got off the boat that he was forced to forgo his vegetarian principles and partake of a hearty dish of meat. To add insult to injury the Brown Thomas store referenced by Mr de Valera in the article above moved to the other side of the street in the 1990s and the former Cave of Abdullah now forms part of Marks and Spencers’ Food Hall, or, more precisely, the meat section. Look on his works, ye Mighty and despair indeed…