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after him ; till the former, coming to a shrubbery of laurels, managed to slip under them. Shelley in his eagerness darting past him, he in a few minutes found it possible to dodge back into the house unperceived. Shelley, seeing him no more, at last went back to the house ; where, to his unspeakable amaze, he found Giuseppe and Annunziata sitting together in the most amicable manner, addressing each other as 'Caro' and 'Carissima. “But were you not quarrelling even now?' exclaimed the perplexed poet. “No, signor, we never quarrelled. “But I have been running after you in order to shoot you!' 'No, signor, you never ran after me, for I have been sitting here for the last hour or more. You must have fancied all this.' And-Giuseppe and Annunziata (who had both been considerably frightened) continuing to assure him that they had had no quarrel, and Mary Shelley, whom they had let into the secret, saying the same-Shelley was at last utterly mystified, and half inclined himself to believe that he must have fancied it.” (Miss Mathilde Blind, 1820).*
“He had never read Wilhelm Meister, but I have heard him say that he regulated his conduct towards his friends by a maxim which I found afterwards in the pages of Göthe :
When we take people merely as they are, we make them worse ; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.'” (Mrs. Shelley, circa 1820):*
Ready as Shelley always was with his purse or person to assist others, his purse had a limit, but his mental wealth seemed to have none; for not only to Byron, but to any one disposed to try his hand at literature, Shelley was ever ready to give any amount of mental labour.” (Trelawny, 1822).
“ The unmistakeable quality of the verse would be evidence enough, under usual circumstances, not only of the kind and degree of the intellectual but of the moral constitution of Shelley ; the whole personality of the poet shining forward from the poems, without much need of going further to seek it. The
* This amusing anecdote has not hitherto been in print, and is therefore all the more worthy of preservation here. Miss Blind, who has kindly imparted it to me (along with one or two other particulars), received it from a lady connected with the Gisborne family, whose informants were the servants themselves. The anecdote is of much value as illustrating the poet's haziness of mind in matters of fact-thus tending to show how readily he may sometimes, without meaning to deceive, have fancied things, and related them as realities.
Remains*—produced within a period of ten years, and at a season of life when other men of at all comparable genius have hardly done more than prepare the eye for future sight, and the tongue for speech-present us with the complete enginery of a poet, as signal in the excellence of its several adaptitudes as transcendent in the combination of effects examples, in fact, of the whole poet's function of beholding with an understanding keenness the universe, nature and man, in their actual state of perfection in imperfection,-of the whole poet's virtue of being untempted, by the manifold partial developments of beauty and good on every side, into leaving them the ultimates he found them, induced by the facility of the gratification of his own sense of those qualities, or by the pleasure of acquiescence in the shortcomings of his predecessors in art, and the pain of disturbing their conventionalisms. “The whole poet's virtue,' I repeat, of looking higher than any manifestation yet made of both beauty and good, in order to suggest, from the utmost actual realization of the one, a corresponding capability in the other, and, out of the calm, purity, and energy, of nature, to reconstitute and store up, for the forthcoming stage of man's being, a gist in repayment of that former gist, in which man's own thought and passion had been lavished by the poet on the else-incompleted magnificence of the sunrise, the else-uninterpreted mystery of the lake; so drawing out, lifting up, and assimilating, this ideal of a future man, thus descried as possible, to the present reality of the poet's soul, already arrived at the higher state of development, and still aspirant to elevate and extend itself in conformity with its self-improving perceptions of, no longer the eventual Human, but the actual Divine. In conjunction with which noble and rare powers came the subordinate power of delivering these attained results to the world in an embodiment of verse more closely answering to and indicative of the process of the informing spirit (failing as it occasionally does in art, only to succeed in highest art), with a diction more adequate to the task, in its natural and acquired richness, its material colour, and spiritual transparency, (the whole being moved by and suffused with a music at once of the soul and the sense, expressive both of an external might of sin
* This term includes of course the entire poetical works of Shelley, and is not limited to the Posthumous Poems (comprising Julian and Maddalo, The IFitch of Atias, and a number of minor compositions.
cere passion, and an internal fitness and consonancy) than can be attributed to any other writer whose record is among us. I pass from Shelley's minor excellences to his noblest and predominating characteristic. This I call his simultaneous perception of Power and Love in the absolute, and of Beauty and Good in the concrete ; while he throws, from his poet's station between both, swifter, subtler, and more numerous films, for the connexion of each with each, than have been thrown by any modern artificer of whom I have knowledge,-proving how (as he says)
"The spirit of the worm beneath the sod
In love and worship blends itself with God.' I would rather consider Shelley's poetry as a sublime fragmentary essay towards a presentment of the correspondency of the universe to Deity, of the natural to the spiritual, and of the actual to the ideal, than I would isolate and separately appraise the worth of many detachable portions which might be acknowledged as utterly perfect in a lower moral point of view, under the mere conditions of art.” (Browning, 1851).
“Shelley outsang all poets on record but some two or three throughout all time: his depths and heights of inner and outer music are as divine as Nature's, and not sooner exhaustible. He was the perfect singing-god; his thoughts, words, deeds, all sang together. .... I do not think that justice has yet been done to Shelley, as to some among his peers, in all details and from every side. ... The Lines written among the Euganean Hills [are) no piece of spiritual sculpture, or painting-after-thelife of natural things. I do not pretend to assign it a higher or a lower place : I say simply that its place is not the same. It is a rhapsody of thought and feeling coloured by contact with Nature, but not born of the contact ; and such as it is all Shelley's work is, even when most vague and vast in its elemental scope of labour and of aim. A soul as great as the world lays hold on the things of the world ; on all life of plants and beasts and men-on all likeness of time and death, and good things and evil. His aim is rather to render the efíect of a thing than a thing itself; the soul and spirit of life rather than the living form, the growth rather than the thing grown.
And herein he is unapproachable. If Shelley had lived, The Cenci would not now be the one great play, written in the great manner of Shakspeare's men,
that our literature has seen since the time of these. The proof of power is here as sure and as clear as in Shelley's lyric work: he has shown himself, what the dramatist must needs be, as able to face the light of hell as of heaven, to handle the fires of evil as to brighten the beauties of things. This latter work, indeed, he preferred, and wrought at it with all the grace and force of thought and word which give to all his lyrics the light of a divine life ; but his tragic truth and excellence are as certain and absolute as the sweetness and the glory of his songs. The mark of his hand, the trick of his voice, we can always recognize in their clear character and individual charm ; but the range is various, from the starry and heavenly heights to the tender and flowering fields of the world, wherein he is god and lord. ... The master singer of our modern race and age; the poet beloved above all other poets, being beyond all other poets-in one word, and the only proper word-divine.” (Swinburne, 1869).
XXXII.-SHELLEY'S OPINIONS. It will be proper here to give a slight but not indefinite glance at Shelley's opinions. I shall confine myself to three principal topics—1, the Existence or Nature of a Deity; 2, the Immortality of the Soul : and 3, Political Institutions. The reader will no doubt understand that I here enter into no controversy, and side with no disputant. To show that Shelley was right or wrong theoretically—still less so morally-wrong in being an atheist if he was one, or right in being a theist if he was that-is no part of my function : I have no sort of wish to "make him out” either one or the other, but solely to trace which of the two he was. Personally, my firm conviction is that he was entitled to hold his own speculative opinion, whatever it may have been: and so I leave this aspect of the question.
Shelley, dying before he had completed thirty years of age, was no doubt not at the end of his intellectual or speculative tether. What he might have become it is of course sible to ascertain ; what he had been in very early youth is now of next to no consequence; what he had attained to by the close of his life is the thing which it imports us to know. I shall therefore take as my starting-point the latest, and not the earliest, indications that I can find, and trace backwards from that point with lessening particularity; only premising that, in chronological sequence, he was mainly an adherent of the sceptical system in his incipient manhood, or about the time of his studentship at Oxford, afterwards of French materialism, as in the notes to Queen Mab, and subsequently of the Berkeleyan or Immaterial Philosophy. He became acquainted with Berkeley's writings at the instance of Southey, towards the beginning of 1812 ; and they continued to germinate increasingly in his mind from two or three years later. When he wrote the Mont Blanc in 1816, he was obviously more of an Immaterialist than a Materialist; and so with the Ode to Heaven (1819), Sensitive Plant (1820), and other writings.
1. The Existence or Nature of a Deity. A Berkeleyan believes * that it is impossible to prove the existence of matter as anything else than a perception of the mind, because it is impos. sible to prove that the perception in question may not be communicated to the mind by an immediate operation of Deity, without the intervention of any actual matter. He further believes that matter can not only not be proved to exist, but can be proved not to exist. Thus, from the first of these two beliefs, a thorough Berkeleyan cannot be an atheist, for the argument itself presupposes a Deity. But it is conceivable that Shelley was not a thorough Berkeleyan: he may, as an Immaterialist, have stopped short at the nature of the human mind; and may have thought that the perceptions of that mind, without either any operation of Deity thereon, or any actual matter, are our sole informants and criteria of phænomena. It therefore still remains to enquire whether or not Shelley became eventually a theist, and in what sense.
The latest indication I find on this subject is a dialogue between Shelley and Trelawny, related by the latter, and belonging probably to the Spring of 1822. Shelley is replying to Trelawny's enquiry “Why do you call yourself an atheist ?" and says : “I used it (the name atheist] to express my abhorrence of superstition : I took up the word, as a knight took up a gauntlet, in defiance of injustice.” There is not much to be made out of this. If reported with verbatim accuracy, it implies that Shelley in 1822 was still wont to call himself an atheist; and also that, from first to last, the term had been used for the purpose, not solely of definition, but partly of defiance.
* I put these abstruse matters without any pretence to philosophical accuracy. If the reader well versed in metaphysics perceives them to be badly put, he perceives no more than I am quite prepared to learn.