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that in passing through the usual curriculum of a college life in all its paths, Shelley did not go scatheless; but that, in tampering with venal pleasures, his health was seriously and not transiently injured. The effect was far greater on his mind than on his body.”
Shelley's third printed book, St Iryne, or the Rosicrucian, by a Gentleman of the University of Oxford, was published towards the middle of December 1810, on the author's own account. It is stated to have shared the fate of Zastrozsi in being a good deal noticed by the press, and not to the advantage of its moral tone. This novel is even greater nonsense than Zastrossi, and the truncated confusion and unmeaning of its close exceed anything that the sane reader could anticipate : to talk of its being either moral or immoral is proportionately out of place, although a certain inflammability of temperament may be traced in it. Though only published at the end of i810, St Irz'yne appears to have been written in 1809; for a letter from Shelley to Godwin, dated 10th January 1812, says that he had been acquainted with the Political Justice of that author more than two years, and that St Irvyne was composed before that period. The heroine's name, Megalena di Metastasio, is the most rememberable thing in this romance : her “ symmetrical form," and the “sofa" on which she or somebody is sinking ever and anon, may also linger for awhile on the memory, when “the gigantic Ginotti” with his elixir of life, “the guilty Wolfstein," and other fantoccini, have gone the way of all dolls. Godwin's St Leon is reported to be mainly chargeable with the sin of procreating St Irvyne. The atmosphere of absurdity which envelopes one while the book itself is in question clears aside when we learn that, to the credit of the reading public, St Iruyne was quite a failure. The author had to confess, in August 1811, that he could not pay the bill of the publisher Stockdale ; * and, with the daring unteachableness of youth, he suggested whether the copyright of a series of Moral and Metaphysical Essays might not do in lieu of pounds sterling. The bill, however, remained unpaid, and also the Essays unpublished. But I am anticipating.
Much about the same time that St Irvyne appealed from London to an irresponsive public (indeed I think it must have
• A MS. journal of Dr. Polidori, penes me, says that the amount of the debt was about 4190 ; but that seems beyond the mark, and Mr. Garnett is probably right in supposing the sum to have been inconsiderable.
been rather before than after *), the author was making a less unsuccessful literary venture in Oxford. One day he showed Hogg some poems he was about to publish anonymously : Hogg read them, and expressed, with true friendliness and obviously correct judgment, the opinion that they were not good enough. Shelley returning to the charge, his Mentor observed that the verses ought only to be issued as burlesques, if at all; and made a few alterations in them the more clearly to bring out their extravagances. The idea pleased Shelley—a strong evidence of his substantial good sense, and freedom from pettish vanity ; the two friends set to work together, introducing a greater and greater amount of absurdity into the verses ; and Hogg started the notion of attributing them on the title-page to one Margaret Nicholson, a washerwoman who, having in a mad fit attempted the life of George the Third, was then passing the remainder of her days in a lunatic asylum. The Oxonians, however, chose to number her among the defunct, and to invent a nephew of hers, John Fitzvictor, as editor of her “ Posthumous Fragments.” The printer, Mr. Munday, who was to have issued the serious poems at Shelley's cost, finding them withdrawn and the burlesques substituted, was so taken with the idea that he volunteered for the risk of publication himself; and the book appeared forthwith,-a very thin volume, but luxurious in paper and type. The general tone of it is a glorifying of revolutionary personages and sentiments-carried out in a spirit which the least acute reader perceives to be excessive, but which one might hardly, were it not for the explanations offered by Mr. Hogg, recognize as wilfully burlesqued. The poems, indeed, had a considerable success among Oxford men, with whom tall talk about liberty was a fashion ; they were accepted as the genuine and slightly exalté but not precisely incongruous outpourings of an untutored faculty. The true author or authors remained unsuspected, and had a right to chuckle over so daring and undetected an experiment on academic credulity. Beyond the circle of university men the book probably never went.
“Stupendous felicity," + along with next to no supervision or guidance, was the lot of Shelley and Hogg at Oxford-so the
St lyryne was published on or just before 20th December 1810; and the titlepage of Margaret Nicholson bears the date 1810. A facsimile reprint of the latter volume was issued very lately, an edition of but few copies.
+ The letters published by Hogg show, however, that Shelley had during his Oxford time much mental suffering in connexion with Miss Grove.-See pp. lii., liii.
latter informs us. That career and that felicity were rapidly approaching their term. Shelley had been initiated by Dr. Lind into a habit of corresponding under some pseudonym with a number of people personally unknown to him on a variety of subjects—at first scientific, then metaphysical, moral, or what not. One of the persons he addressed was Felicia Browne, afterwards Mrs. Hemans, whose first volume of poems had attracted his admiration. He retained at Oxford the habit he had formed at Eton. In the course of their studies, Shelley and Hogg had made an abstract from Hume's Essays ; a portion of which abstract Shelley got printed early in 1811, not for sale, and, in keeping up his speculative correspondence on questions of theology, was wont to enclose it in his letter, using it as a nucleus for further discussion. He would in fact profess to have come casually across the paper, and to be unable to refute its arguments : it was headed The Necessity of Atheism, and ended with a Q.E.D. It is reprinted, either verbatim or substantially, in the notes to Queen Mab (pp. 69-71). Such is the general purport of what Hogg says concerning this audacious pamphlet : but I think that he clearly pares the thing down rather too close, and that Shelley circulated his syllabus less with a view to mere convenience as a disputant, and more because he believed in and meant to champion the arguments it contained, than Mr. Hogg is willing to admit. Else why did he republish it in Queen Mab, with implied and indisputable adhesion to its terms? In this case as in others the honestest and boldest course is also the safest ; and we shall do well to understand once for all that Percy Shelley had as good a right to form and expound his opinions on theology as the Archbishop of Canterbury had to his. Certainly Shelley differed from the Archbishop, and from several other students of and speculators on the subject, past and present; but, as there was no obligation on him to agree with all or any of them, so there is nothing to be explained away or toned down when we find that in fact he dissented. Except indeed that any man of mature years and reflection will admit that Shelley, aged eighteen and a half, showed a certain amount of youthful presumption in obtruding upon other people, known to be of a contrary and even bitterly contrary opinion, his then notions on subjects unfathomable by either himself or them. Shelley did not avow the authorship of the Necessity of Atheism, but neither did he take VOL. I.
any great pains to conceal it; he circulated the production among the college authorities—and it has even been said that he sent it to the Bench of Bishops with his name,* but that is transparently improbable or impossible.
On the 25th of March 1811 Shelley was summoned before the authorities, “our master and two or three of the fellows;” the pamphlet was produced to him; and he was required to declare whether or not he had written it. A tutor of a different college is supposed to have denounced him. He asked why such a question was put. The master simply repeated his former enquiry, and Shelley declined to answer it, insisting that it lay with his accusers to bring the charge home to him if they could. “Then you are expelled,” replied the master ; "and I desire you will quit the college early to-morrow morning at the latest.” A regular sentence of expulsion, ready-written, under the seal of the college (the university was not directly concerned in the act), was then handed to him, and he departed. This is the substance of the account which Shelley gave to Hogg immediately after the event : to Peacock, at a later date, he said that he had made a defence, or denial of jurisdiction, in due elocutionary form, and (what is singular) he produced an Oxford newspaper containing the speech. The probability is that he (or else Hogg) used the license of a Thucydides or a Livy ; and, not having delivered the oration at the time, invented it afterwards, and furnished the newspaper with the entire report.
Shelley was greatly agitated and distressed when he narrated his expulsion to Hogg, although he appears almost directly afterwards to have consoled himself with the distinction of martyrdom. The warmth of Hogg's feelings and friendship appeared conspicuously on this occasion. He wrote a short note to the master and fellows, demurring to their decision ; was forthwith summoned to appear; was asked whether he had written the atheistic pamphlet ; declined to reply, on the general ground of self-respect and resistance to browbeating ; and was himself also expelled by a ready-written document. “The alleged offence was a contumacious refusal to disavow the imputed publication.” On the following morning the two young men left Oxford.
Strong language has been used in condemnation of the college authorities; but he who, on the broad ground of freedom of
Medwin, Conversations with Byron, p. 385.
opinion, claims latitude of thought and action for the atheist Shelley, will not deny the same to the Christian regulators of University College, Oxford. It appears to me clear that Shelley, known to be the author of The Necessity of Atheism, and refusing to recant, could not be allowed to remain a member of the college : a mild measure would have been to rusticate him, and to expel him was nothing extraordinarily harsh. The necessary subordination of a pupil to his teachers, moreover, makes it difficult to conclude that the authorities had no sort of right to require Shelley to affirm whether or not he had written the pamphlet; or that his refusal to say yes or no barred, in the absence of direct evidence against him, all further action on the part of the college. So far for the substance of what the authorities did : the manner is a different thing. All we know about the manner is what Shelley and Hogg respectively say of that which happened to themselves. If we could—which we cannot -assume these ex parte statements to be final and incapable of correction in detail, we should have to say that the manner was overbearing and precipitate, and probably it was so in very deed ; and, as regards Hogg, there seems to have been no fair ground either for the severe sentence or for the summary procedure.
VI.-SHELLEY MARRIES HARRIETT WESTBROOK. Shelley and Hogg came up to London, and took lodgings at No. 15 Poland Street, Oxford Street. At the end of about a month Hogg left for York, where he studied with a conveyancer. Of course consternation reigned in Field Place at the news of the expulsion. His father offered Percy a qualified sort of forgiveness on condition that he should reside at Field Place, drop all intercourse with Hogg for a while, and place himself under the control and instructions of some gentleman to be named by paternal authority. The precise answer returned is not on record; but the terms of capitulation failed-chiefly, it would seem, because unrestrained correspondence by letter between the two young men was their sine quâ non; and Percy, greatly to his concern, was excluded from his natural home, and left without any definite means of support. His sisters, for whom he had always shown much brotherly affection, mitigated his embarrassments by saving up pocket-money, and transmitting it to him; and he managed to rub on somehow. It was pro