1817 Sonnet competition
After a visit to the British Museum in late 1817 (and some supplemental reading), Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend Horace Smith decided to engage in a sonnet-writing competition on the subject of the Pharoah Ramses II (whose Greek name is Ozymandias). Such friendly competitions were a kind of literary game, common in the writers' circles Shelley and Smith shared, and were especially encouraged by their mutual friend, Leigh Hunt. Hunt (1775-1848) was himself a poet and essayist, but was at the time best known as an editor and journalist, and as the mentor of young poets like Shelley and John Keats. In 1808 he founded a journal, the Examiner, that became a rallying point for the forces of Liberal political reform. This was the journal in which both Shelley's "Ozymandias" and Smith's "On a stupendous leg of granite" were published, early in 1818.