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but highmindedness as well, is in one sense the best policy. There were no caprices, no pettinesses, no backslidings, to lower him in the eyes of such people as were capable of rightly estimating him. It is the tone of a hero, not a braggart, that we hear in those memorable words of his to Trelawny—“ I always go on until I am stopped, and I never am stopped.”
After passing a fortnight in the same hotel, the two travelling parties separated ; Byron and Polidori moving into the Villa Belle Rive, and Shelley, with Mary and Miss Clairmont, into a small house hard by on the Mont Blanc side of the Lake. Soon afterwards, Byron made a further move, into the Villa Diodati, very beautifully situated on the high banks of the Lake near Coligny, and Shelley into a house at its foot, termed the Maison Chapuis or Campagne Mont Alègre (hence the baptismal name Allegra): he and his would sometimes sleep at Byron's after sitting up talking till dawn. It was a remarkably wet summer ; which did not, however, prevent Shelley from being out on the lake at all hours of the day and night. On the 23rd of June, he and Lord Byron, accompanied only by two boatmen and his lordship's servant, undertook a voyage round the Lake, lasting nine days; they visited Meillerie, Clarens, Chillon, Vevai, Lausanne.* On this occasion Shelley read for the first time the Nouvelle Héloise : "an overflowing (as it now seems, surrounded by the scenes which it has so wonderfully peopled) of sublimest genius, and more than human sensibility.” He would have liked to weep at the so-called Bosquet de Julie. In sailing near St Gingoux (the scene of a similar incident in the Nouvelle Héloise) the voyagers were overtaken by a tempest, and, through the mismanagement of one of the boatmen, were very nearly upset. Shelley, who somehow could never be taught to swim, considered himself in imminent danger of drowning. He refused assistance, sat on a locker, grasped the rings at both ends, and said he would go down. “I felt in this near prospect of death” (he wrote to Peacock on the 12th of July) “a mixture of sensa
A letter from Shelley to Mr. Peacock, dated 17th July 1816, was lately disposed of in the Dillon sale. The auctioneer's catalogue says that it "speaks of private affairs, choice of house in England, intended tour, philosophical remarks, acquaintance with Lord Byron, his character, long and descriptive account of a nine days' journey to Vevai and neighbourhood with Lord B.; Rousseau's Julie, Castle of Chillon, &c. ‘Lord Byron,' he says is an exceedingly interesting person; and, as such, is it not to be regretted that he is a slave to the vilest and most vulgar prejudices, and as mad as the winds?'" This important letter must be the one from which dr. Middleton gives a long extract, not including the remarkable passage about Byron.
tions, among which terror entered, though but subordinately. My feelings would have been less painful had I been alone : but I knew that my companion would have attenrpted to save me, and I was overcome with humiliation when I thought that his life might have been risked to preserve mine.”
This lake-trip with Byron was succeeded by a land-trip with Mary and Miss Clairmont. On the 20th of July the three started for Chamouni, Mont Blanc, the Source of the Arveiron, and the Glacier of Montanvert ; he was nearly lost in a mauvais pas on the road to Montanvert. It would be no use to attempt here to give the details : the reader should consult the poem of Mont Blanc, composed on this occasion, and the letters which Shelley wrote at the time. I can only make room for a brief reference to the king of mountains. “Pinnacles of snow intolerably bright, part of the chain connected with Mont Blanc, shone through the clouds at intervals on high. I never knewI never imagined—what mountains were before. The immensity of these aërial summits excited, when they suddenly burst upon the sight, a sentiment of ecstatic wonder not unallied to madness. And remember, this was all one scene : it all pressed home to our regard and our imagination. Though it embraced a vast extent of space, the snowy pyramids which shot into the bright blue sky seemed to overhang our path : the ravine, clothed with gigantic pines, and black with its depth below, so deep that the very roaring of the untameable Arve, which rolled through it, could not be heard above—all was as much our own as if we had been the creators of such impressions, in the minds of others, as now occupied our own. Nature was the poet, whose harmony held our spirits more breathless than that of the divinest.” Shelley purchased near Mont Blanc“ a large collection of all the seeds of rare Alpine plants, with their names written upon the outside of the papers that contain them. These I mean to colonize in my garden in England” [Mr. Peacock was at this time engaged in looking out a house for Shelley to reside in)," and to permit you [Peacock] to make what choice you please from them."
In the album kept for visitors at the Chartreuse at Montanvert Shelley found that his last predecessor had written some of the platitudes — well-meant platitudes they may be called when they are set down with any distinct meaning at all - about “ Nature and Nature's God." The author of Queen Mab took up the pen, and signed his name with the definition
είμι φιλάνθρωπος δημοκρατικός τ' άθεός τε.* Some one added uwpós; and that was possibly the most sensible performance of the three.
Returning to his Genevese villa, Shelley resumed his habitual intercourse with Byron, and also with his old admiration Matthew Gregory Lewis, and had much spectral converse with both of them : he very reasonably controverted the position which they advanced, that no one could consistently believe in ghosts without believing in a God. Lewis, indeed, had already, at some earlier interview, been turning the thoughts of the visitors towards the supernatural; and at his instance the whole party had undertaken to write tales of an unearthly or fantastic character. In the long-run only two stories resulted from this suggestion ; the far-renowned Frankenstein of Mrs. Shelley, and The Vampyre by Dr. Polidori, embodying the nucleus of a tale sketched out by Byron. Rather later, on the 18th of June, occurred an often-repeated incident which is thus authentically jotted down in the physician's diary. “ After tea, 12 o'clock, really began to talk ghostly. Lord Byron repeated some verses of Coleridge's Christabel, of the witch's breast; when silence ensued, and Shelley, suddenly shrieking, and putting his hands to his head, ran out of the room with a candle. Threw water in his face, and after gave him ether. He was looking at Mrs. Shelley, and suddenly thought of a woman he had heard of who had eyes instead of nipples; which, taking hold of his mind, horrified him." Medwin says † that this story of the pectoral eyes was to have been the subject matter of the romance to be written by Shelley, along with his wife's Frankenstein; which indeed is possible enough, though it may only be a confusion of incidents on the biographer's part. In illustration of the vividness of Shelley's feelings in such matters it may be allowable to quote here another instance, though proper to an earlier date, some time in 1815. He was then writing a Catalogue of the Pkænomena of Dreams, as connecting Sleeping and Waking, forming part of Speculations on Metaphysics; and had come to the mention of an ordinary country-view which he had seen
• The spelling, at which Mr. Swinburne expresses the horror of a Hellenist, is copied literatim.
Conversations with Byron, p. 150.
near Oxford, and which singularly corresponded to some dream of his own in past time. Having written up to this point, Shel. ley finishes with—“ Here I was obliged to leave off, overcome by thrilling horror.” And Mrs. Shelley adds :-“I remember well his coming to me from writing it, pale and agitated, to seek refuge in conversation from the fearful emotions it excited. No man, as these fragments prove, had such keen sensations as Shelley. His nervous temperament was wound up by the de. licacy of his health to an intense degree of sensibility; and, while his active mind pondered for ever upon, and drew conclusions from, his sensations, his reveries increased their vivacity, till they mingled with and made one with thought, and both became absorbing and tumultuous, even to physical pain.”
The Shelleys and Miss Clairmont left Geneva on the 29th of August ; and returned by Dijon and Hâvre, reaching London about the 7th of September.
XIV.—HARRIETT'S SUICIDE. While the Shelleys were in Switzerland, Mr. Peacock had settled at Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire : they paid him a visit there in the earlier part of September, and selected a house for themselves in the same town. Pending its being fitted up, the poet stayed at Bath, and there received news that Harriett had on the roth of November * drowned herself in the Serpentine. Thus, in gloom, abasement, and despair, closed the young life which had been so bright and charming in the bridal days of 1811. The exact course of Harriett's life since June 1814 has never been accurately disclosed ; and there is plenty of reason why, even if one had at command (which I have not) details as yet unpublished, one should hesitate to bring them forward. I shall confine myself to reproducing the most definite statement + as yet made on the subject—that of Mr. Thornton Hunt; omitting only one unpleasant expression which I have reason (from two independent and unbiased sources of information) to suppose overcharged. He unreservedly allows, with other biographers, that there was nothing to censure in Harriett's con
I find this date in an American edition of Shelley, and some confirmatory particulars elsewhere. Mr. Peacock says “December" without naming any day. He ought to be right, and perhaps is so.
† The "most definite," save a statement, to the same effect as the omitted passage, made by some base calumniator in the Literary Gazette, in a review of Queen Mab, during Shelley's lifetime—and made in that instance as a charge against Shelley far more than against Harriett.
jugal conduct before the separation ; “but subsequently she forfeited her claim to a return, even in the eye of the law. If she left (Shelley),* it would appear that she herself was deserted in turn by a man in a very humble grade of life, and it was in consequence of this desertion that she killed herself.” The same author says that, before this event, Mr. Westbrook's faculties had begun to fail; he had treated Harriett with harshness, "and she was driven from the paternal roof. This Shel. ley did not know at the time.” Another writer + affirms that Harriett-poor uncared-for young creature-suffered great privations, and sank to the lowest grade of misery. De Quincey says that she was stung by calumnies incidental to the position of a woman separated from her husband, and was oppressed by the loneliness of her abode—which seems to be rather a vague version of the facts. In any case we will be very little disposed to cast stones at the forlorn woman who sought and found an early cleansing in the waters of death-a final refuge from all pangs of desertion or of self-scorn.
I find nothing to suggest otherwise than that Shelley had lost sight of Harriett for several months preceding her suicide : though it might seem natural to suppose that he continued to keep up some sort of knowledge, if not of how she went on, at least of the state of his young children Ianthe and Charles. At all events, be he blameworthy or not in the original matter of the separation, or on the ground of recent obliviousness of Harriett or his children, it is an ascertained fact that her suicide was in no way immediately connected with any act or default of his--but with a train of circumstances for which the responsibility lay with Harriett herself, or had to be divided between her and the antecedent conditions of various kinds. It is moreover a fact clearly attested by Hogg that she had for years had a strange proclivity towards suicide-towards starting the subject, and even scheming the act. I know also, from a MS. letter of Shelley's written very soon after his elopement with Harriett, that, in the complaints of ill-treatment which she had made leading up to that event, a resolution of suicide was not pretermitted.
* I do not see the force of this expression. It is certain that in one sense Harriett did kave Shelley: and equally certain that (to say the very least) her leaving him was less of a voluntary act on her part than his leaving her was on his. 1 C. R. S., in Notes and Queries, and ser., vol. y., p. 373.
His statement may perhaps be of no more authority on the point above cited than when he says that Mr. Westbrook died insolvent before Harriett's suicide, and that this took place “in the great basin of the Green Park."