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fectly performed; for the character of Forman has, however, placed it among Shelley is a psychological phenomenon, the “ Juvenilia" at the end of his edition, presenting the most unwonted discrepan. and in Shelley's history it cannot be omitcies and contrasts. He had all the sen- ted; but it is no real service to the memsitiveness and excitability, but not the ory of a great man to reproduce and perirritability, of genius; impetuous and fiery petuate the feeble and foolish productions at the sight of wrong and the tyranny of of his earliest years. Nor, indeed, do we what be deemed to be injustice or error, think it just or desirable to collect all the he was in all the relations of life the gen- crumbs and fragments of incomplete tlest and most unselfish of human beings. works, struck off in the heat of composiIn his early childhood his father's house tion, but afterwards rejected by the author at Field Place rang with his gaiety and himself. Every one who writes, and es. his : pleasantries; he was adored by his pecially who writes poetry as Shelley did, sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth, did not in woods and waters and a thousand wild long survive the dreadful catastrophe of moods of inspiration, leaves a great deal his fate; but this house of gaiety and behind him which he would never have genius was overshadowed by the gloom given to the orld, and which had better and precision of his parents, utterly un- be forgotten. conscious of the extraordinary gifts of It is impossible to trace the source of the race to which they had given birth. the anti-religious opinions that Shelley School life, as it existed in the Eton of adopted with so much vehemence, but those days, was repugnant to Shelley: he they were undoubtedly inflamed by his cared not for its sports; he detested its aversion to the tenets of the Calvinistic constituted or assumed authority. The creed, which he held to be absolutely in. spirit of rebellion and defiance was strong consistent with the justice and benevowithin him, and made him live the life of lence of God, and by his abhorrence of a solitary and an outlaw. At college this the crimes of bigotry, intolerance, and spirit broke forth with wilder intensity, persecution committed for ages in the not in the pranks or escapades common to name of a pure and holy faith. He hated youth, but in a frenzy of thought which priestcraft; he hated oppression; and he gave birth to
Queen Mab” and the repelled religious oppression more than atheistical
paper that caused his expulsion any other form of tyranny. Yet his life from the university. That paper, which was spent in speculations of a highly reliMr. Forman has reprinted, is, barring its gious character. His philosophy was inoffensive title, no more than the agnostics tensely spiritual. He utterly rejected the of the present day assert in every page of materialism of the French school: their works, namely, that the existence of For birth and life and death, and that strange the divine being cannot be mathematically demonstrated by proofs drawn from Before the naked soul has found its home, the senses and the understanding. Shel- All tend to perfect happiness, and urge ley was deluded by the fallacy that be. The restless wheels of being on their way, cause a truth cannot be mathematically Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite demonstrated by the understanding it is
life, no truth at all, and that the reverse of it Bicker and burn to reach their destined goal. becomes the more probable alternative. These are the ideas of Plato, wbich he
In justice to Shelley it should be reincorporated with his own, and of a greater membered that in his later years he dis- than Plato. Shelley's “ Essay on Chris. claimed all recollection of “ Queen Mab” tianity," though written from his own and its outrageous notes; that he said he point of view, contains passages which supposed it was villanous trash, like the might be delivered from a Christian pulfantastic romances of his boyhood; and pit; for no man ever recognized more that it was republished without his con- fully the divine truths that humility, selfsent and against his will. He was, in sacrifice for the good of others, obedience fact, anxious to suppress it. Mr. Buxton to the laws of justice and humanity, and a
clear, calm vision of the mystery of birth gusted him. He detested obscenity as and death are the first conditions of manly the plague - spot of literature. He aband virtuous life and thought. It hap. horred seduction as one of the greatest of pened during the short interview which crimes. When Harriet Westbrook, a girl took place between Leigh Hunt and Shel. at school, fiung herself or was fiung by ley just before he was lost to his friends others into his arms, with very little love forever, that they visited the cathedral of or reason on either side, he immediately Pisa together. This was probably the married her, though he was but a boy last time he entered a Christian church. himself, because he knew that any other The music and the beauty of the edifice course would be fatal to her reputation, powerfully affected him, and he exclaimed and that the woman suffered far more to his companion, “ What a divine religion from such actions than the man. How that would be which should be founded unhappily that marriage turned out is well not on faith, but on charity !”* That known, though the circumstances which was the form religion assumed in the led to its fatal dissolution have been less, mind of Shelley. St. Paul had said be. clearly recorded.
sooner was fore him, “The greatest of these is Shelley free to contract other ties than charity."
he married Mary Godwin, and the eight As Shelley had repudiated much of the years of his life which followed were faith, so too he, in some important pas- spent in the closest and most complete sages of his life, acted in violation of the union of two minds and hearts joined in established morality of his time and his perfect sympathy and constant devotion. country, not, however, as men violate
The correspondence which took place moral laws, whose rectitude and authority in 1820 between Shelley and Southey has they acknowledge, but because he had recently been published as an appendix to imbibed and adopted a different theory of the letters that passed between the Laumoral obligation to which he adhered. reate and Miss Caroline Bowles. Southey Mrs. Shelley was guilty of no exaggera- intended this publication; he expressly tion when she said, in her note to “ Alas- says so (p. 76); and he gave Miss Bowles tor," that “in all he did, he, at the time of leave to copy the letters for this purpose. doing it, believed himself justified to his We are sorry for it. Whatever may be own conscience.” When he erred it was thought of Shelley's conduct in life, there by a distortion not of moral purpose, but is a respectful ingenuousness in his adof moral judgment; not by passion, but dress to Southey which might have disby conviction. Conscience itself is no armed a less rancorous partisan; but infallible guide to those who erect their Southey's answers are remarkable for own standard of right and wrong. This that arrogant ferocity with which he too conception of morality was the fatal mis- often spoke of poets who were more than take of his life. It led to the most tre his equals or his rivals. Where are the mendous consequences — to the breach works of Southey, and where are the of sacred ties to the defiance of social works of Shelley now in the estimation of order to illicit intercourse to more the world? than one suicide — to several distracted On some matters of fact Southey was lives, until death after death closed the misinformed; on others he has spoken tragedy. Yet even this was not lawless- out more plainly than any one else. It is
or libertinism, but the result of a untrue that Shelley “attempted to make misguided philosophy and a mistaken rule proselytes to his atheistical opinions in a of life. Shelley was no libertine. The girls' boarding school,” and that “one of profligacy of another great poet, which he the girls was expelled for the zeal with witnessed at Venice, shocked and dis- which she entered into his views.” Har.
riet Westbrook was not expelled at all, * Leigh Hunt, in his autobiography, says that he
nor had she then any peculiar views on made this remark to Shelley, not Shelley to him. we have reason to think that his memory deceived him, such subjects. But Southey said what and that the words and the sentiment were Shelley's. was true when he stated that “ Shelley's
first speculative and literary associate | rich enough to do all things, which I shall (Hogg) did attempt to seduce this poor never be. Pity me for my absence from all girl on their way back from Scotland.” those social enjoyments which England might It is also true that “Harriet’s melancholy afford me, and which I know so well how to end was the result not of sensibility on
appreciate. Still, I shall return some fine the score of ber husband's desertion, but morning out of pure weakness of heart. of shame resulting from her own subse. And in another touching letter: quent conduct.” So far Shelley is in
I most devoutly wish I were living near debted to Southey for a species of vin. London. My inclinations point to Hampstead; dication; but nothing can justify the but I do not know whether I should not make bitter intolerance of Southey's invective. up my mind to something more completely He holds the language of a Spanish in- suburban. What are mountains, trees, heaths, quisitor to a beretic. Shelley replied in or even the glorious and ever beautiful sky, more Christian terms, “ Judge not, that with such sunsets as I have seen at Hampye be not judged."
stead, to friends ? Social enjoyment, in some Mr. Browning, in the introduction pre- of existence. 'All that I see in Italy — and
form or other, is the alpha and the omega fixed by bim several years ago to certain from my tower window I now see the inagnifialleged letters by Shelley, which were afterwards found io be forgeries and with cent peaks of the Apennine half enclosing the
plain is nothing : it dwindles into smoke in drawn from circulation, expressed, in lan-line mind when I think of some familiar forms guage not less true than eloquent, his of scenery, little perhaps in themselves, over sense of Shelley's youthful deviations which old remembrances have thrown a de. from the high road of duty, coinmon lightful color. How we prize what we de. sense, and propriety, which all occurred spised when present! So the ghosts of our before he was two-and-twenty, and we dead associations rise and haunt us, in revenge must be allowed to borrow from him two for our having let them starve and abandoned
them to perish. very just and striking sentences: In this respect was the experience of Shel
Shelley was naturally a social being. ley peculiarly unfortunate that the disbelief
Nothing could be more unlike and remote in him as a man even preceded the disbelief from his disposition than the fierce egoin him as a writer ; the misconstruction of his tism of Byron, who quarrelled with the moral nature preparing the way for the misap- world and fled from it, to indulge in solipreciation of his intellectual labors.
tary life all the baser passions of his naAnd again :
ture. Shelley, on the contrary, lived in
Italy with his wise the life of an anchor. It would be hard indeed upon this young ite, abstemious, self-denying, generous to Titan of genius, murmuring, in divine music, a fault, consumed with the desire, somehis human ignorances, through his very thirst times injudiciously directed, to do good to of knowledge, and his rebellions in mere aspi- his fellow-creatures, and aiding to the ration to law, if the melody itself substantiated the error, and the tragic cutting short fullest extent of his power all within his of life perpetuated into sins such faults as, reach. He never lived alone; he could under happier circumstances, would have been not live alone; and his social disposition left behind by the consent of the most arro. made him indulgent and serviceable to gant moralist, forgotten on the lowest steps of persons with whom he contracted an in. youth.
timacy, although (with the exception of Shelley himself regarded with pain, Mary Shelley) they were immeasurably though without bitterness, for of that he inferior to bimself, not only in genius but was incapable, the harsh construction in heart. It has been supposed that Shel. which had been put upon his youthful writ. ley was a highly imaginative visionary, ings, and the calumnies which had been who passed his life in a poetical dreamcirculated as to his mode of life.
land and in philosophical speculations, letter to his friend Peacock (published by which brought him to the verge of insanMrs. Shelley) he says, in 1819:
ity and unfitted him for society and for the
ordinary duties of life. Nothing can be I am regarded by all who know or hear of more untrue. Like all men of genius he me, except, I think, on the whole, five individuals, as a rare prodigy of crime and pollution, he rebelled against many of the conven.
was eccentric, and the more eccentric as whose look even might infect. This is a large tional observances of society. Perhaps computation, and I don't think I could mention more than three. Such is the spirit of the greatest, if not the happiest, hours of the English abroad as well as at home.
his life were those he spent in his boat Few compensate, indeed, for all the rest, and or in the woods, where for the most part if I were alone I should laugh; or if I were | he conceived and roughly executed the
works which make his name imperisha-cocity and its prodigious range, Shelley's ble. But the moment there was anything literary life only extended from his eighto be done, especially if it was an act of teenth to his thirtieth year. We know kindness or public utility, he applied him. but one other instance of a poet of simi. self to it with all the precison of a man of lar acquirements; he is happily still business. A man of the world, as it is amongst us; but his years more than out. called, he never was, and his judgment of number fourfold the years of Shelley's the motives and conduct of other men was literary activity. unformed and often erroneous. But his It was cliaracteristic of Shelley, though advice to the young engineer whom he this he shared with Coleridge, that he helped with funds to construct a steam. combined the finest imaginative power boat, bis letters to Godwin, and the course and sensibility with a strong logical fac: he recommended to others in difficult cir- ulty and a love of close philosophical cumstances were eminently practical and reasoning. His prose essays on philouseful. His health, which was never good, sophical subjects, though for the most disqualified him for active life, though he part fragmentary, are as consummate exthought he might have succeeded in it. amples of style and thought as his lyrics He never looked to poetry or to literary nothing in them is redundant, nothing fame as a sufficient and all-absorbing ob. obscure. And when the hour of inspiraject. There are not unfrequent traces in tion failed, he translated — he translated his correspondence that he thought man Plato in language that Plato would not had other work to perform on earth than have disowned. Take, for example, the writing verses, even of the noblest strain. conclusion of the speech of Agathon in Once he suggested to Peacock that it the translation of the “Symposium.” might be possible for him to obtain em. There is nothing in the English language ployment in India.
of a more buoyant eloquence. Compared Únlike most of the poets who live upon with the translation of the same passage the creation of their own brain and the by Mr. Jowett, it is as diamond to paste. exercise of their art, Shelley was an inde. Shelley would sain have turned the same fatigable worker, and he devoted far more power of reasoning and eloquence from of his life tit to the works of others metaphysics and criticism to politics ; for than to his own. Like his own Prince the most earnest of all his desires was to Athanase,
protest against the evil which, as he
thought, overruled the governments of the He had a gentle yet aspiring mind,
world and to advance the reign of justice Just, innocent, with varied learning fed,
and liberty among men. And such a glorious consolation find In others' joy, when all their own is dead !
But here his inexperience of the world,
the times in which he lived, and the influ. An insatiable thirst for knowledge and a ences under which he fell, betrayed him passionate love of all the highest forms into all the errors which could perplex an of thought, literature, and even science, enthusiast. To be born in 1792 and to even more than for pure art, filled bis ex. enter upon life in 1810 was to be a witness istence. He had made himself master of of the wildest revolution, of the most six languages, besides his own to which desolating wars, and ultimately of the he possessed the mistress-key, and with most oppressive reaction which had ever the whole range of literature he was fa. afflicted Europe. No wonder that Shelley miliar, from Æschylus to Calderon, from imbibed that revolutionary miasma which Thucydides and Tacitus to Gibbon and had intoxicated Southey and Wordsworth. Sismondi, but more with the ancient than On such a mind and 'at such a time the with modern writers. Here and there he writings of Rousseau had an influence notes with regret some field of enquiry which it is scarcely possible for our own (as, for instance, that of English history) generation to conceive. The regeneration comparatively unexplored. His days were of the world was at hand. There were to spent in reading, and when evening came be a new heaven and a new earth. These he still read on - but then he read aloud bewildering lights were reflected on the to his wife, who shared bis enthusiasm boyish mind of Shelley by the writings of and his studies. The record of the books Mary Wollstonecraft and the pedantic they read together in each year is amaz- i rigorism of Godwin, who, without a spark ing. In the first five months of their con- of poetry in his own nature, was doomed nection, Shelley at twenty-two and Mary to overshadow the existence of a great at seventeen, they mastered no less than poet. sixty volumes. Yet, in spite of his pre. As Shelley approached manhood, and
in the remainder of his short space of life, But the life of Shelley might be quoted in England lay bound under the darkest support of it. Entirely devoid of affectaspells of Tóry government and religious tion, with no vanity, and no desire to intolerance. There was enough, and more parade his works before the world, he than enough, in those years to provoke does not conceal his disappointment at the fiercest remonstrances and the gloom- the singular absence of success which atiest forebodings. No doubt much of the tended his efforts. The limited notoriety language of the advanced Liberals of that he had acquired was due to his follies and day was extravagant, and their theories his misfortunes, for his works all fell still. were wild; it was not given to them to born from the press; and there is abun. foresee that the cause of moderate reformdant evidence that he had himself formed and gradual progress would triumph in no conception of their incomparable exthe end over the evils they denounced. cellence and future fame. Byron, Moore, But sixty years ago a Radical was a Southey, and Scott were the poets of the traitor, an apostate, and an outlaw. In day, whose name was on every lip and some respects these men lived before who were scudding before the breeze of their time; in other respects they mistook popularity and success. When the “ Proits course.
metheus and “The Cenci” could with The changes which the world has wit- difficulty find a publisher, and their circu. dessed in the last half-century are at least lation was limited to a few copies struck as great as any they anticipated. They off in Italy or in Paris, Shelley simply have been brought about not by revolu- observes that Byron and Moore are much tion or by force (which indeed Shelley better poets than himself, although in abhorred), but by peace, by the spread of “The Cenci” he had endeavored to write knowledge, by the reform of the law, by in a more simple and popular form; but enlarged tolerance of opinion, and by the he did not“think much of it.” That was marvellous material applications of sci. his own verdict on the most powerful
But these large steps of progress tragedy that had been written in the En. towards a better future of the world, glish language since the days of Elizawhich Shelley saw as in a dream, and beth. It is true that when Byron read which he exaggerated because they ap- the “Doge of Venice” to him at Ravenna, peared to him arrayed in visionary radi- he remarked, in a letter to Leigh Hunt, ance, had their prophets and their martyrs, that if the “Foscari” was a tragedy, his who were in some degree the precursors own work was not one. of another age. Some such intuition The only poem of his own of which he burst on Shelley when he exclaimed to ever spoke in terms of confidence is the the west wind rushing in a tempest over “ Adonais.” The praise of that immortal the Arno:
work was welcome to him, for he thought
it was deserved, and he was curious to Be thou, spirit fierce, learn what was said of it. To Mr. Ollier, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one !
his publisher, he wrote: “The Adonais, Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
in spite of its mysticism, is the least imLike withered leaves to quicken a new birth! perfect of my compositions, and, as the And by the incantation of this verse
image of my regret and compassion for
poor Keats, I wish it to be so.” And Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth,
again: “I am especially curious to hear Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind ! the fate of Adonais. I confess I should Be through my lips to unawakened earth
be surprised if that poem were born to The trumpet of a prophecy! Oh! wind, immortality of oblivion.” He also thought If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?
well of the “ Prometheus Unbound,"
though he did not expect it would find But such expressions of a belief in the more than twenty readers. Yet even at influence of his own mind and writings that time he wrote to the Gisbornes: “ The are extremely rare in Shelley. He per- decision of the cause, whether or not I ceived that his own times understood him am a poet, is removed from the present not, and he had no clear perception of his time to the hour when our posterity shall relation to the times to come.
assemble; but the court is a very severe It has been said by Mr. Carlyle that one, and I fear that the verdict will be unconsciousness is one of the character-Guilty – death."" istics of transcendent genius, and if this The extreme modesty of Shelley was paradox were true, Carlyle's own exorbi. perfectly genuine. He condescended tant opinion of himself condemos him. I without the least pretension to men im