A Vindication of Natural Diet

1813 title page, printed for J. Callow by Smith & Davy, London.

A Vindication of Natural Diet is an 1813 book by Percy Bysshe Shelley on vegetarianism and animal rights. It was first written as part of the notes to Queen Mab, which was privately printed in 1813. Later in the same year the essay was separately published as a pamphlet.


Shelley wrote four essays on the subject of vegetarianism, "A Vindication of Natural Diet" (1813), the note in Queen Mab, in a section of "A Refutation of Deism" (1814), and "On the Vegetable System of Diet", which was published posthumously in 1929.[1][2][3]

Shelley first experimented with a vegetarian diet while at Oxford University according to Thomas Jefferson Hogg.[4] Shelley began a vegetarian diet on 1 March 1812 along with his first wife Harriet Westbrook. Shelley began composing the essay in October–November 1812. Shelley met John Frank Newton during 1812-1813 and influenced his views on vegetarianism.[5][6][7] Historian Keith Thomas has noted that Newton's Return to Nature "provided much of the basis" for Shelley's A Vindication of Natural Diet.[8]

The work has been republished since 1813 beginning with an abridged version which was published in Boston by March, Capen, and Lyon in an American collection Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in All Ages, edited by William A. Alcott.[9]

The essay was reprinted in 1884 in a new edition in London by F. Pitman and by John Heywood and the Vegetarian Society in Manchester. The original title page was reproduced: A Vindication of Natural Diet. Being One in a Series of Notes to Queen Mab (A Philosophical Poem). London: Printed for J. Callow by Smith & Davy, 1813. The new edition featured a preface by Henry Stephens Salt and William Axon. A second edition appeared in 1886.

In 1904, the work was republished in London by C. W. Daniel as A Vindication of Natural Diet and Extracts from the Works of Dr. Lambe, edited and annotated by F. E. Worland.