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conduct in this matter. It is, therefore, but just to await their publication before pronouncing a decided judgment." To which we may add that we are at a loss to divine why their publication is delayed so long after the death of Harriet's daughter.
We wished to say something on two or three other points, as on the judgment of Lord Eldon depriving Shelley of the custody of his children by Harriet after her suicide (pp. 93, 94), and on the assumption (pp. 182, 183) that his practical career was a failure, an assumption, as we understand it, which we certainly cannot concede; but space fails us. In conclusion, we have but to state that, in our judgment, Mr. Symonds' book fairly reaches the high-water mark of cultivated and liberal appreciation of Shelley, as poet and as man, in the present time. The ultimate appreciation cannot be yet: for Shelley's fame and influence are still crescent, his cyclic day is still far from its noon; the poet of the distant future must culminate in the epoch to which he properly belongs. His own lofty words in the " Defence of Poetry" are decidedly applicable to himself, if not to all his illustrious predecessors and contemporaries: "Even in modern times, no living poet ever arrived at the fulness of his fame; the jury which sits in judgment upon a poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers; it must be impanneled by time from the selectest of the wise of many generations."
We may note, by way of postscript, that there are a few slight slips of the pen, which Mr. Symonds might as well correct on revision. Thus, in some of the sentences quoted, our readers will have marked
the ambiguities of he, his, and him. On p. 77, there is confusion in the comparison of inner circle, centre, and middle; p. 83, "the language used by Lady Shelley and Mr. Garnett justify us," should, of course, be justifies; 95, two spots are named as the birthplace of the "Prometheus Unbound;" 143, 66 No criticisms upon Shelley's works are half so good as his own," should be No other.
A STRANGE BOOK*
In order to make clear how strange is this book, I must cite at considerable length from the Note which concludes it, but really serves as a Preface :
"The history of this little volume may be told in a few words.
"It is written by a new method, partly explained in the title, Improvisations.
"Last autumn my attention was particularly directed to the phenomena of drawing, speaking, and writing by Impression; and I determined to make an experiment of the kind, in composition, myself. The following poems are the result. Let me now explain more precisely what is meant by Writing by Impression, so far as my own personal experience is concerned; for I cannot refer to any other.
* "Improvisations from the Spirit" [by James John Garth Wilkinson]: 1857. Now long out of print; only to be got, when it can be got, second-hand.
[It gives me great pleasure to reprint this essay, partly because I presented the author with the copy of the "Strange Book" which he used while writing the article-but chiefly because it will henceforth be impossible for any one making any pretensions to literary culture to inquire, as the critic of a high-class periodical actually did, when reviewing a former work of Thomson's, Who is Garth Wilkinson?" This gentleman actually cited Thomson's admiration for Wilkinson as a proof of his critical incompetence! I fancy that henceforth any one who displays his ignorance of Wilkinson's writings will hardly be accepted as a competent critic of English literature.-EDITOR.]
"A theme is chosen and written down. So soon as this is done, the first impression upon the mind which succeeds the act of writing the title is the beginning of the evolution of that theme, no matter how strange or alien the word or phrase may That impression is written down: and then another, and another, until the piece is concluded. An Act of Faith is signalised in accepting the first mental movement, the first word that comes, as the response to the mind's desire for the unfolding of the subject.
"However odd the introduction may be, I have always found it lead by an infallible instinct into the subject.
"The depth of treatment is in strict proportion to the warmth of heart, elevation of mind, and purity of feeling existing at the time— in other words, in proportion to the conditions of Love and Faith. Reason and will are not primary powers in this process, but secondary; not directive, but regulative: and imagination, instead of conceiving and constructing, only supplies words and phrases piecemeal; or however much it receives, it is as a disc on which the subject is projected, not as an active concipient organ. Another power flows in; and all the known faculties lend their aid to make way for it. Those faculties are indeed employed in laissez faire in its inward intensity; which is another name for Faith.
"Laissez faire in the present state of the world, is so active a vortex, and so fiery, that few persons dare to see its consequences. All men will see them though, because Providence comes in with marvels wherever self succumbs itself.
"In placing reason and will in the second place, it is indispensable for man, whose highest present faculties these are, to be well assured what is put in the first place. Hence, writing from an Influx which is really out of your self, or so far within your self, as to amount to the same thing, is either a religion or a madness. I know of no third possibilty. In allowing your faculties to be directed to ends they know not of, there is only one Being to whom you dare entrust them-only the Lord. Of consequence, before writing by influx, your prayer must be to Him, for His guidance, influx, and protection. And you must have faith that that prayer is answered, according to your worthiness, in that which flows in. The Faith is the acknowledgment of the gift, which becomes an ever-enlarging cup for receiving fresh gifts or fresh Influx,
"This little volume, which I neither value nor undervalue, is one man's earliest essay to receive with upstretched palms some of these long-travelling, most-unnoticed, and yet unchangeable and immortal rays. It was given just as the reader reads it-with no hesitation, without the correction of one word from beginning to end; and how much it differs from other similar collections in process it were difficult to convey to the reader; suffice it to say that every piece was produced without premeditation or preconception: had these processes stolen in, such production would have been impossible. The longest pieces in the volume occupied from thirty to forty-five minutes.*
66 Altogether about fifty hours of recreation, after days not unlaborious, are here put in print. The production was attended by no feeling and by no fervour, but only by an anxiety of all the circumstant faculties, to observe the unlooked-for evolution, and to know what would come of it. For the most part, the full import of what was written was not obvious until one or more days had elapsed: the process of production seemed to put that of appreciation in abeyance.
"Many of the poems are written by Correspondences, as Swedenborg terms the relations which natural objects bear to spiritual life; or to the varieties of Love, which is the grand object of all. Hence it is the readers of Swedenborg who will best understand this class of poems."
There are three important things left vague in this otherwise admirably clear account of the genesis of these poems. Dr. Wilkinson writes: "A theme is chosen and written down," but does not state whether chosen by himself or another. There are certain cases in which lines of introduction to the pieces appear to indicate that the theme was not really chosen, but was passively accepted from the "Spirit," in the same way as the piece itself. Thus, p. 20:—
*The poem called "The Second Völuspá" (pronounced Völyspou), the longest in the book, occupied from fifty to sixty minutes. As a rule it requires twice as long to copy a poem as to write one. -Author's Note.