Slike strani

1 interesting wynds and alleys; nor was his imagination kindled by storied house or palace, and the voices of old, forgotten, far-off things, which haunt their walls.' If Professor Dowden, writing a book in prose, could have brought himself to eschew poetic excursions of this kind and to tell his story in a plain way, lovers of simplicity, of 5 whom there are some still left in the world, would have been gratified, and at the same time his book would have been the shorter by scores of pages.

These reserves being made, I have little except praise for the manner in which Professor Dowden has performed his task; whether 10 it was a task which ought to be perforined at all, probably did not lie with him to decide. His ample materials are used with order and judgment; the history of Shelley's life develops itself clearly before our eyes; the documents of importance for it are given with sufficient fulness, nothing essential seems to have been kept back, 15 although I would gladly, I confess, have seen more of Miss Clairmont's journal, whatever arrangement she may in her later life have chosen to exercise upon it. In general all documents are so fairly and fully cited, that Professor Dowden's pleadings for Shelley, though they may sometimes indispose and irritate the reader, produce no obscuring of 20 the truth; the documents manifest it of themselves. Last but not least of Professor Dowden's merits, he has provided his book with an excellent index.

Undoubtedly this biography, with its full account of the occurrences of Shelley's private life, compels one to review one's former 25 impression of him. Undoubtedly the brilliant and attaching rebel who in thinking for himself had of old our sympathy so passionately with him, when we come to read his full biography makes us often and often inclined to cry out : “My God! he had far better have thought like other people.' There is a passage in Hogg's capitally

30 written and most interesting account of Shelley which I wrote down when I first read it and have borne in mind ever since; so beautifully it seemed to render the true Shelley. Hogg has been speaking of the intellectual expression of Shelley's features, and he goes on : 'Nor was the moral expression less beautiful than the intellectual ; 35 for there was a softness, a delicacy, a gentleness, and especially (though this will surprise many) that air of profound religious veneration that characterises the best works and chiefly the frescoes (and into these they infused their whole souls) of the great masters of Florence and of Rome.' What we have of Shelley in poetry and 40 prose suited with this charming picture of him ; Mrs. Shelley's account suited with it; it was a possession which one would gladly have kept unimpaired. It still subsists, I must now add ; it subsists even after one has read the present biography ; it subsists, but so as by fire. It subsists with many a scar and stain ; never again will 45 it have the same pureness and beauty which it had formerly. I

I regret this, as I have said, and I confess I do not see what has been gained. Our ideal Shelley was the true Shelley after all ; what has been gained by making us at moments doubt it? What has been

gained by forcing upon us much in him which is ridiculous and 5 odious, by compelling any fair mind, if it is to retain with a good

conscience its ideal Shelley, to do that which I propose to do now? I propose to mark firmly what is ridiculous and odious in the Shelley brought to our knowledge by the new materials, and then to show that our former beautiful and loveable Shelley nevertheless survives.

10 Almost everybody knows the main outline of the events of

Shelley's life. It will be necessary for me, however, up to the date of his second marriage, to go through them here. Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, near Horsham, in Sussex, on the

4th of August, 1792. He was of an old family of country gentlemen, 15 and the heir to a baronetcy. He had one brother and five sisters,

but the brother so much younger than himself as to be no companion for him in his boyhood at home, and after he was separated from home and England he never saw him. Shelley was brought up at

Field Place with his sisters. At ten years old he was sent to a 20 private school at Isleworth, where he read Mrs. Radcliffe's romances

and was fascinated by a popular scientific lecturer. After two years of private school he went in 1804 to Eton. Here he took no part in cricket or football, refused to fag, was known as “mad Shelley' and

much tormented; when tormented beyond endurance he could be 25 dangerous. Certainly he was not happy at Eton; but he had friends,

he boated, he rambled about the country. His school lessons were easy to him, and his reading extended far beyond them; he read books on chemistry, he read Pliny's Natural History, Godwin's

Political Justice, Lucretius, Franklin, Condorcet. It is said he was 30 called atheist Shelley' at Eton, but this is not so well established as

his having been called 'mad Shelley.' He was full, at any rate, of new and revolutionary ideas, and he declared at a later time that he was twice expelled from the school but recalled through the

interference of his father. 35 In the spring of 1810 Shelley, now in his eighteenth year,

entered University College, Oxford, as an exhibitioner. He had already written novels and poems; a poem on the Wandering Jew, in seven or eight cantos, he sent to Campbell, and was told by Campbell that

there were but two good lines in it. He had solicited the corre40 spondence of Mrs. Hemans, then Felicia Browne and unmarried; he

had fallen in love with a charming cousin, Harriet Grove. In the autumn of 1810 he found a publisher for his verse ; he also found a friend in a very clever and free-minded commoner of his college,

Thomas Jefferson Hogg, who has admirably described the Shelley of 45 those Oxford days, with his chemistry, his eccentric habits, his charm

of look and character, his conversation, his shrill discordant voice. Shelley read incessantly. Hume's Essays produced a powerful impression on him; his free speculation led him to what his father, and worse still his cousin Harriet, thought detestable principles ;' his cousin and his family became estranged from him. He, on his part, became more and more incensed against the bigotry' and 'intolerance' which produced such estrangement. 'Here I swear, and as I break my oaths, may Infinity, Eternity, blast me—here I swear that never will I forgive intolerance. At the beginning of 181Ị he prepared and published what he called a "leaflet for letters, 10 having for its title The Necessity of Atheism. He sent copies to all the bishops, to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, and to the heads of houses. On Lady Day he was summoned before the authorities of his College, refused to answer the question whether he had written The Necessity of Atheism, told the Master and Fellows that their 15 proceedings would become a court of inquisitors but not free men in a free country,' and was expelled for contumacy. Hogg wrote a letter of remonstrance to the authorities, was in his turn summoned before them and questioned as to his share in the leaflet,' and, refusing to

20 answer, he also was expelled.

Shelley settled with Hogg in lodgings in London. His father, excusably indignant, was not a wise man and managed his son ill. His plan of recommending Shelley to read Paley's Natural Theology, and of reading it with him himself, makes us smile. Shelley, who about this time wrote of his younger sister, then at school at Clapham, 25 “There are some hopes of this dear little girl, she would be a divine little scion of infidelity if I could get hold of her,' was not to have been cured by Paley's Natural Theology administered through Mr. Timothy Shelley. But by the middle of May Shelley's father had agreed to allow him two hundred pounds a year. Meanwhile, in 30 visiting his sisters at their school in Clapham, Shelley made the acquaintance of a schoolfellow of theirs, Harriet Westbrook. She was a beautiful and lively girl, with a father who had kept a tavern in Mount Street, but had now retired from business, and one sister much older than herself, who encouraged in every possible way the 35 acquaintance of her sister of sixteen with the heir to a baronetcy and a great estate. Soon Shelley heard that Harriet met with cold looks at her school for associating with an atheist; his generosity and his ready indignation against intolerance' were roused. In the summer Harriet wrote to him that she was persecuted not at 40 school only but at home also, that she was lonely and miserable, and would gladly put an end to her life. Shelley went to see her; she owned her love for him, and he engaged himself to her. He told his cousin Charles Grove that his happiness had been blighted when the other Harriet, Charles's sister, cast him off; that now the only thing worth living for was self-sacrifice. Harriet's persecutors became yet


/ more troublesome, and Shelley, at the end of August, went off with

her to Edinburgh and they were married. The entry in the register is this :

August 28, 1811. Percy Bysshe Shelley, farmer, Sussex, and Miss Harriet 5 Westbrook, St. Andrew Church Parish, daughter of Mr. John Westbrook, London.

After five weeks in Edinburgh the young farmer and his wife came southwards and took lodgings at York, under the shadow of what Shelley calls that "gigantic pile of superstition, the Minster.

But his friend Hogg was in a lawyer's office in York, and Hogg's 10 society made the Minster endurable. Mr. Timothy Shelley's happi

ness in his son was naturally not increased by the runaway marriage; he stopped his allowance, and Shelley determined to visit this thoughtless man,' as he calls his parent, and to try the force of

truth' upon him. Nothing could be effected ; Shelley's mother, too, 15 was now against him. He returned to York to find that in his

absence his friend Hogg had been making love to Harriet, who had indignantly repulsed him. Shelley was shocked, but after a 'terrible day' of explanation from Hogg, he “fully, freely pardoned him,'

promised to retain him still as his friend, his bosom friend,' and 20. hoped soon to convince him how lovely virtue was.' But for the

present it seemed better to separate. In November he and Harriet, with her sister Eliza, took a cottage at Keswick. Shelley was now in great straits for money; the great Sussex neighbour of the Shelleys, the

Duke of Norfolk, interposed in his favour, and his father and grand25 father seem to have offered him at this time an income of 2,0001. a

year, if he would consent to entail the family estate. Shelley indignantly refused to “forswear his principles,' by accepting a proposal so insultingly hateful.' But in December his father agreed, though

with an ill grace, to grant him his allowance of 2001. a year again, 35 and Mr. Westbrook promised to allow a like sum to his daughter.

So after four months of marriage the Shelleys began 1812 with an income of 4001. a year.

Early in February they left Keswick and proceeded to Dublin, where Shelley, who had prepared an address to the Catholics, meant 35 to devote himself towards forwarding the great ends of virtue and

happiness in Ireland.' Before leaving Keswick he wrote to William Godwin, the regulator and former of his mind,' making profession of his mentalobligations to him, of his respect and veneration, and solicit

ing Godwin's friendship. A correspondence followed; Godwin pro4° nounced his young disciple's plans for • disseminating the doctrines of

philanthropy and freedom ’in Ireland to be unwise ; Shelley bowed to his mentor's decision and gave up his Irish campaign, quitting Dublin on the 4th of April, 1812. He and Harriet wandered first to NantGwillt in South Wales, near the upper Wye, and from thence after a month or two to Lynmouth in North Devon, where he busied himself with his poem of Queen Mab, and with sending to sea boxes and


1 bottles containing a Declaration of Rights by him, in the hope that the winds and waves might carry his doctrines where they would do good. But his Irish servant, bearing the prophetic name of Healy, posted the Declaration on the walls of Barnstaple and was taken up; Shelley found himself watched and no longer able to enjoy Lynmouth 5 in peace. He moved in September 1812 to Tremadoc, in North Wales, where he threw himself ardently into an enterprise for recovering a great stretch of drowned land from the sea. But at the beginning of October he and Harriet visited London, and Shelley grasped Godwin by the hand at last. At once an intimacy arose, 10 but the future Mary Shelley-Godwin's daughter by his first wife, Mary Wollstonecraft-was absent on a visit in Scotland when the Shelleys arrived in London. They became acquainted, however, with the second Mrs. Godwin, on whom we have Charles Lamb's friendly comment : “A very disgusting woman, and wears green spectacles !5. with the amiable Fanny, Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter by Imlay, before her marriage with Godwin ; and probably also with Jane Clairmont, the second Mrs. Godwin's daughter by a first marriage, and herself afterwards the mother of Byron's Allegra. Complicated relationships, as in the Theban story! and there will be not wanting, 20 presently, something of the Theban horrors. During this visit of six weeks to London Shelley renewed his intimacy with Hogg; in the middle of November he returned to Tremadoc. There he remained until the end of February 1813, perfectly happy with Harriet, reading widely, and working at his Queen Mab and at the notes to that 25 poem. On the 26th of February an attempt was made, or so he fancied, to assassinate him, and in high nervous excitement he hurriedly left Tremadoc and repaired with Harriet to Dublin again. On this visit to Ireland he saw Killarney, but early in April he and Harriet were back again in London.

There in June, 1813, their daughter Ianthe was born; at the end of July they moved to Bracknell, in Berkshire. They had for neighbours there a Mrs. Boinville and her married daughter, whom Shelley found to be fascinating women, with a culture which to his wife was altogether wanting. Cornelia Turner, Mrs. Boinville's daughter, was 35 melancholy, required consolation, and found it, Hogg tells us, in Petrarch's poetry; ‘Bysshe entered at once fully into her views and caught the soft infection, breathing the tenderest and sweetest melancholy as every true poet ought.' Peacock, a man of keen and cultivated mind, joined the circle at Bracknell. He and Harriet, not yet eighteen,', used sometimes to laugh at the gushing sentiment and enthusiasm of the Bracknell circle ; Harriet had also given offence to Shelley by getting a wet-nurse for her child ; in Professor Dowden's words, the beauty of Harriet's motherly relation to her babe was marred in Shelley's eyes by the introduction into his home of a hireling nurse 15 to whom was delegated the mother's tenderest office.' But in


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