More than a literary study, this book is an analysis of sexual attitudes and practices in the Romantic period, and a contribution to the history and theory of feminism. Shelley is shown to have anticipated in many ways the work of modern students of human sexual behavior. He was strikingly ahead of his time in his attitude toward women: his ideal of love postulated the equality of the sexes, and his theory of psychosexual identification, like mated to like, extended the feminist ideology of his mother-in-law, Mary Wollstonecraft. Moreover, in his own person and practice he came close to the androgynous ideal of the modern woman's movement.
In exploring the many aspects of his subject, Brown compares Shelley with his contemporaries, particularly Byron, and draws upon extensive research into the laws, ideas, and practices of the period.