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hovering and busying herself (no doubt with genuine good feeling) about the infant. These circumstances were all vexatious to Shelley, and it has even been said that he exhibited no interest in the baby ; but this is distinctly disproved by Mr. Peacock." He was extremely fond of it, and would walk up and down a room with it in his arms for a long time together, singing to it a monotonous melody of his own making, which ran on the repetition of a word of his own coining. His song was ‘Yáhmani, Yáhmani, Yáhmani, Yahmani.? It did not please me; but, what was more important, it pleased the child, and lulled it when it was fretful. Shelley was extremely fond of his children: he was pre-eminently an affectionate father.” In later years we read of his playing for hours with his last child Percy on the floor. Mr. Trelawny, however, tells me that (at least within his experience) Shelley was not exactly or demonstratively “fond of children,” in the ordinary sense of the term.
VIII. -QUEEN MAB. Among the various writings of Shelley which I have hitherto had occasion to mention-and there were many besides—the only one having any moderate degree of literary merit is the Necessity of Atheism. We have next to contemplate him as a poet taking a certain actual rank among poets; no high rank as yet, but still one which is not to be wholly ignored. The poem of Queen Mab places him in this position. He began this work in the spring or summer of 1812, subsequent to his first return from Ireland :* it was finished in February 1813, after which he compiled the lengthy notes. He had at first thought of publishing it; but eventually limited himself to a private edition of 250 copies, for which he bespoke fine paper, thinking that, though the aristocrats would not read it themselves, “it was probable their sons and daughters would.” Shelley sent copies to many writers of the day-to Byron among others. The thorough genuineness of his character and feelings appears in the fact that, in transmitting Queen Mab to the all-famous author of Childe Harold, Shelley wrote a letter detailing all the accusations he had heard against him, and saying
* So says Shelley in a letter quoted in the Shelley Memorials, p. 39. But there hay be some nucleus of truth in Medwin's assertion (Life, vol. i., p. 53) that the poem had been begun, as a mere imaginative effusion, as early as about the autumn of gog, and that it was only after his expulsion from Oxford that Shelley continued it into an attack on religious and other systems,
that, if these were not true, he would like to make his acquaintance.* The letter, however, did not reach Byron, though the book did, and was read by him with some admiration. Indeed, being very soon pirated and made purchasable, it produced a certain general sensation and impression. It was again pirated in 1821.
For the speculative qualities of Queen Mab and its notes I have to refer the reader to the book itself; only further observing that, while it is declaredly atheistic in the ordinary sense, and highly hostile to theologic Christianity, it has also a certain element of pantheism, and is decidedly not the writing of a selfconsistent materialist, or disbeliever in spirit as something other than a function of body. The ardour of Shelley for his own beliefs, and his unreasoning youthfulness of self-confidence, made him actually imagine that such a performance as Queen Mab was capable of producing a change in the ideas and practices of society. He seems to have retained notions of this sort up to the year 1816 or 1817, when he became both less sanguine and less aggressive-never less nobly and enthusiastically self-devoted. As to the poetical merits of Queen Mab, I think the ordinary run of criticism is at fault. Some writers go to the ridiculous excess of speaking of it as not only a grand poem, but actually the masterpiece of its author; and even those who stop far short of this expatiate in loose talk about its splendid ideal passages, gorgeous elemental imagery, and the like. The fact is that Queen Mab is a juvenile production in the fullest sense of the term—as nobody knew better than Shelley himself a few years afterwards; and furthermore (unless I am much mistaken) the most juvenile and unremarkable section of it is the ideal one. The part which has some considerable amount of promise, and even of positive merit at times, is the declamatory part—the passages of flexible and sonorous blank verse in which Shelley boils over against kings or priests, or the present misery of the world of man, and in acclaiming augury of an æra of regeneration. These passages, with all their obvious literary crudities and imperfections, are in
* Moore's Life of Byron, vol. ï., p. 22. Moore states this distinctly as a fact : but there is another story (Medwin, Life of Shelley, vol. i., p. 237), that Shelley, on reaching Sécheron in 1816, wrote to Byron detailing the accusations made against Shelley himself, and saying that he, if Byron disbelieved them, would like to become known to him. I should incline to suppose this the true version of the story, but that I find no sort of confirmation of it in Dr. Polidori's MS. journal.
their way of real mark, and not easily to be overmatched by other poetic writing of that least readable sort, the didacticdeclamatory.
The reader will observe that the name Shelley bestowed on his first-born daughter, Ianthe, is the same which he had already appropriated to the mortal heroine of his poem.
IX.-HARRIETT SHELLEY AND MARY GODWIN. Shelley's next removal was into a quiet street in Pimlico, for the more especial purpose of being near the Boinville family, with whom he had become intimate. Mrs. Boinville was a lady past middle age, but more than commonly young in general appearance, save for her snow-white hair : hence Shelley named her Maimuna, after a personage in Southey's Thalaba. He regarded her as “the most admirable specimen of a human being he had ever seen,” though “it was hardly possible for a person of the extreme subtlety and delicacy of Mrs. Boinville's understanding and affections to be quite sincere and constant.” She had a daughter, Cornelia, married to Mr. Newton, a vegetarian enthusiast whose views had a considerable influence at this time upon Shelley-as testified in the notes to Queen Mab. The society that he met at Mrs. Boinville's was of the freethinking and levelling kind, and included no doubt its full proportion of crotchet-mongers and pretenders : it was highly distasteful to Hogg, and after a while not altogether congenial to Shelley himself, supremely free as he was from any feeling of exclusiveness or social disdain.
He was now in pecuniary straits,* with no resources beyond the £200 from his father ; and, with a view to economy, he retreated, before the end of July, to a small cottage named High Elms, at Bracknell in Berkshire, where the Newtons, with their family of five children, stayed with him awhile. Necessity, restlessness, or some other cause, soon dictated a further retreat ; and in the autumn the Shelleys, with Mr. Thomas Love Peacock in their company, revisited Edinburgh. This gentle
* See two important letters, from Mr. Shelley senr., 26th May 1813, and from Percy Shelley a few days later, published in Notes and Queries, and ser., vol. vi., p. 405. The father, learning that Percy (whom he addresses as My dear boy") has not changed his speculative opinions, finally declines all further communication : and the poet addressing the Duke of Norfolk) spiritedly says: "I am not so degraded and miserable a slave as publicly to disavow an opinion which I believe to be true.”
+ Perhaps it was now that Shelley saw Matlock. A letter to Mr. Peacock (22nd July 18:0; shows that he had been there at some time, and, it might be inferred, in Peacock's company.
man had been known to Shelley just before the latter went to Tanyrallt : Mrs. Newton describes him at this period as “a cold scholar, who, I think, has neither taste nor feeling.” But Mrs. Newton may have regarded with some prejudice a gentleman who, seconded by Harriett, laughed heartily at the intellectual nostrum-vendors who abounded in the Newtonian regions. At any rate, Shelley, who at one time of unprosperous fortune to Mr. Peacock, made him an allowance of £100 a year, continued, as long as he remained in England, to see him with predilection, and kept up with him from Italy a correspondence equally friendly and interesting. He valued his abilities highly, and relished the peculiar tone of witty causticity and badinage in action evidenced in such works as Nightmare Abbey, in which the character of Scythrop presents some traits of Shelley, and was so understood by himself.
About the end of 1813 Shelley was back in London ; and early in 1814 he published A Refutation of Deism, a dialogue between Eusebes and Theosophus in 101 pages. Hogg gives a short quotation from it, treating on the extraneous subject of vegetarianism : he is the only author who mentions the pamphlet, and probably almost the only human being who ever owned or inspected a copy of it. No doubt the refutation undertaken by Shelley is not directed against “Deism” as that term is technically used to indicate anti-Christianitybut against “Theism” of any sort. What he champions must be something less than Deism, not anything more.
Hitherto nothing appears in the documents of Shelley's life to show that he was on other than affectionate and pleasant terms with Harriett. We find in his letters the following expressions :—“My wife is the partner of my thoughts and feelings” (28th January 1812). “I am a young man, not of age, and have been married for a year to a woman younger than myself. Love seems inclined to stay in the prison ” (August 1812). “How is Harriett'a fine lady?' You indirectly accuse her in your letter of this offence—to me the most unpardonable of all. The ease and simplicity of her habits, the unassuming plainness of her address, the uncalculated connexion of her thought and speech, have ever formed, in my eyes, her greatest charms; and none of these are compatible with fashionable life, or the attempted assumption of its vulgar and noisy éclat. You have a prejudice to contend with, in making me a convert to this last
opinion of yours, which, so long as I have a living and daily witness to its futility before me, I fear will be unsurmountable' (to Fanny Godwin, roth December 1812).
“ Harriett is very happy as we are, and I am very happy” (27th December 1812). “When I come home to Harriett, I am the happiest of the happy" (7th February 1813). Mrs. Newton writes to Hogg, 21st October 1813 : “ The lady whose welfare must be so important in your estimation (Harriett] was, as usual, very blooming and very happy during the whole of our residence at Bracknell.” The dedication to Queen Mab may also be accepted as evidence of affection ; though (as I have before remarked) I find nothing to show that Shelley ever had a passion for Harriett-was ever thoroughly “in love" with her. But this satisfactory condition of things was now rapidly changing and vanishing. It appears that some estrangements had occurred between Shelley and his wife towards the end of 1813 ; she had yielded to the suggestions of interested persons, and importuned him to act in ways repugnant to his feelings and convictions, and conjugal quarrels ensued.* When they returned to London, Shelley had evidently lost the pleasure he previously took in watching Harriett's studies in Latin and otherwise : (she had, by December 1812, been brought on as far as reading many of Horace's Odes). During the spring of 1814 he was much at Bracknell : staying at Mrs. Boinville's house there, without Harriett, from about the middle of February to the middle of March. His letter of the 16th of March to Mr. Hogg shows that by this time his domestic discomforts were grave indeed, at least in his own eyes, and were hurrying towards a crisis. “I have escaped, in the society of all that philosophy and friendship combine, from the dismaying solitude of myself. ... My heart sickens at the view of that necessity which will quickly divide me from the delightful traquillity of this happy home—for it has become my home. ... Eliza is still with us—not here but will be with me when the infinite malice of destiny forces me to depart. . . . I have sometimes forgotten that I am not an inmate of this delightful home-that a time will come which will cast me again into the boundless ocean of abhorred society.” One reads such
* This is the statement of Mr. Thornton Hunt. The date, "towards the end of 1313," appears in the Shelley Memorials. It has been vigorously controverted by Hr. Peacock; but he does not seem to me to have disproved it, and one is left to suppose that Lady Shelley speaks from documentary or other solid evidence.