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cution peculiar to the nineteenth century; -although he indicated, perhaps, more that which racks the soul and spares the than any other, the cadences of its imabody. Their self-consciousness was the ginative literature, and expressed with result, in a great degree, of personal suf more fullness, precision and beauty, the fering or untoward circumstances. Much subtil spirituality of its tone of thought. of their time was spent in warring with His character and his writings were elathe actual life of their period, and ex. borately misrepresented. Persons infiposing its abuses. As far as they did nitely inferior to him, we will not say this, they were met by the bitterest and in genius, but in honesty, in benevomost malignant opposition. The faults lence, in virtue, in the practice of those of their poetry, considered critically, were duties of love and self-sacrifice which the faults superinduced upon their minds religion enjoins, still contrived 10 expeby looking at great wrongs through the rience for him a mingled feeling of pity medium of a fiery sensibility to justice and aversion, unexampled even in the and trath. The direction of their genius annals of the Pharisees. The same symwas determined by their position; their pathizing apologists for the infirmities of intensity of passion was the grating of genius, who shed tears and manufacgenerous impulses against selfish power. tured palliatives for Burns and Byron, If their philosophy lacked comprehen- fell back on the rigor and ice of their sion, it was not deficient in loftiness. morality when they mentioned the name They have embodied some of the most of Shelley. His adversaries were often in subtil realities which the mind can per- ludicrous moral contrast to himself. Ve. ceive, in forms of imperishable grandeur nal politicians, fattening on public plunand loveliness; and that portion of truth der, represented themselves as shocked they were peculiarly calculated to per- by his theories of government. Roués ceive, they expressed with commanding were apprehensive that his refined noeloquence, and applied with inflexible tions of marriage would encourage licourage.
bertinism. Smooth, practical atheists When it is considered that our era in- preached morality and religion to him cludes not only their intense feeling and from quarterly reviews, and defamed lofty imagination, but also the comprehen- him with an arrogant stupidity, and a sion of Scott, few will deny that in all the sneaking injustice, unparalleled in the essential qualities of a great literature, effronteries and fooleries of criticism. the period is the most glorious in English That pure and pious poet, Thomas Moore, letters, with the exception of the reign conceived it incumbent on himself to of Elizabeth. The four prominent expo warn his immaculate friend, Lord Byron, nents of this literature we conceive to from being led astray by Shelley's prinbe Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and ciples—a most useless monition ! Poet. Scott. In this number we shall not have asters and rhyme-stringers without numspace to do even superficial justice to the ber were published, puffed, patronized two former. Shelley and Scott, however, paid, and forgotten, during the period will be sufficient to serve as illustrations when the “Revolt of Islam” and · Proof the subject.
metheus Unbound” were only known by The life of Percy BYSSHE.SHELLEY garbled extracts which gleamed amid the presents a notable example of the effects dull malice of unscrupulous reviews, of social persecution on a nature pecu- Men who could not write a single senliarly fitted to bring us“ news from the tence unstained with malignity, selfishempyrean.” This mode of murder was ness, or some other deadly sin, gravely tried upon Shelley; but his spirit was rebuked him for infidelity, and volunstrong, as well as sensitive, and opposed teered their advice as to the manner by weapons of ethereal temper to the bru. which he might become a bad Christian tality of his adversaries. His writings, and a good hypocrite. But Shelley haphowever, give evidence of the injurious pened to be an honest man as well as a influence of the conflict upon the direc. poet, and was better contented with protion of his powers. Possessing one of scription, however severe, than with the most richly-gifted minds ever fitted intamy, however splendid. This was a by Providence to adorn and bless the peculiarity of his disposition which made world, and a heart whose sympathies his conduct so enigmatical to the majorcomprehended all nature and mankind ity of his enemies. in the broad sphere of its love, he was The mode of judging Shelley adopted still the most unpopular poet of his time by his contemporaries, and followed by
many similar spirits in our own day, such intensity as to make his life identiseems to us radically unjust and foolish. cal with his verse. He was a hero in It gives a fictitious influence to every. the epic life of the 19th century. Ideas, thing considered noxious in his poetry, abstractions, which pass like flakes of and subverts its own end by the un snow into other minds, fell upon his scrupulous eagerness with which it heart like sparks of fire. seizes on bad means. It is therefore not entitled to the praise of judicious tue prattler.”
“ He was no tongue-hero, no fine virfalsehood and politic bigotry. The critic who would educe a moral from his He did not speak from his lungs, but writings and conduct, must not begin from his soul." And, sooner than betray with substituting horror for analysis. one honest conviction of his intellect, The most favorable view can be taken sooner than award “mouth-honor” to of his character, without compromising what he hated as cruelty and oppression, a single principle of morality and reli- he was willing to have his genius degion. While this is the case, we see no rided and his name defamed. reason why, in the cause of morality and We have said that Shelley was poeti. religion, we should echo stale invectives cal in what he lived as well as in what at conscientious error, and join the hoarse he wrote. Those realities wbich his roar of calumny and falsehood over bis soul did grasp, it held with invincible tomb.
courage. Hymns to “Intellectual Beauty” In these remarks we do not intend to came from his actions as well as his pen. deny that Shelley had faults. The mag. He was endowed by nature with an innitude of his genius and virtues should tellect of great depth and exquisite finenot cover these from view. But we be- ness; an imagination marvellously giftlieve that for every act of his life, which ed with the power to give shape and hue his conscience did not in its most refined to the most shadowy abstractions, which perceptions of duty approve, he expe- his soaring mind clutched on the vanishrienced an intensity of remorse which ing points of human intelligence; a fancy few are conscientious enough to appre- quick to discern the most remote analociate. His education, and the unfortu- gies, brilliant, excursive, aerial, affluent nate influences to which he was subject. in graceful and delicate images, and a ed, account for the defects in his view of sensibility acutely alive to the most fleetlife, and the heretical opinions which ing shades of joy and pain, warm, full mastered his understanding. His position and unselfish in its love, deep-toned and was such that he was impelled, by what mighty in its indignation.
This fiery may be called his Christian virtues, into spiritual essence was enclosed in a frame what must be called his errors. His self. sensitive enough to be its fit embodiment. denial, his benevolence, his moral cour Both in mind and body Shelley was so age, his finest affections, his deepest con constituted as to require, in his culture, victions of duty, were so addressed as to the utmost discrimination and the most force him into opposition to establish loving care. He received the exact opopinions relating to government and re- posite of these. The balance of his mind ligion. The sorrowful interest with was early overthrown. He had boyish which we follow the events of his life, doubts about religion, which he himself arises from this feeling that he was, to could not consider permanent, for his a remarkable degree, the victim and prey opinions at college vascillated between of circumstances. He was made to see D Holbach, Hume and Plato. These and feel the abuses of things before he doubts were met, first with contempt, understood their uses. In the most em then with anathemas, then with expulphatic sense of the word, he was a poet. sion and disgrace. The consequences
This title, we fear, is too often con may be seen in that wilderness of elosidered to designate merely a maker of quent contradictions—“Queen Mab.” verses; to point out a person who can His more mature opinions were visited express thought and emotion with the with proscription, and he was robbed of usual variety of pause, swell and ca his children. In every case truth was dence; and who often contrives to write so presented to him that he could not acone thing and live another. Not in this cept it without moral degradation. A sense was Shelley a poet. He was al. mere lie of the lip, recommended to him ways terribly in earnest. What he felt by his preceptor, would have saved him and thought, he felt and thought with from expulsion from Oxford ; a mere out
ward conformity to conventional usage much grief and indignation as would be would have given him the first rank as excited in common men by the murder a rich country gentleman, with houses, of a son or a brother. lands, and a seat in Parliament. Society The consuming intensity with which is admirably versed in the art of convert- his soul burned within him at the sight ing those sent to bless and cheer it, into and thought of tyranny, amounted almost partial evils. Its success in Shelley's to madness. It ran along his veins like case is noteworthy. It saw that, with tingling fire. His bursts of vehement all his logical powers, he was unfitted to feeling appear occasionally to rend and reason on the practical concerns of life, tear his frame in their passionate utterwhere abstract right is modified by a ance. He seems to descend upon his thousand conditions of expediency; that age, “ dreadful, like the son of Agamemwhen he perceived cruelty and oppres- non, to purify it.” In the reaction from sion under the forms of liberty and love, these periods of agony and anguish of and cant trampling reason in the dust, heart, his representations of life were he was too indignant to discriminate with necessarily one-sided. To his mind, in the cool unconcern of statesmanship, be- this state, where great evil existed, it tween a theory and its practice; it saw, drew all things into itself. The followin short, that he was a true and earnesting lines exhibit the aspect under which poet, with a pulse of fire and a mind of a whole nation appeared to his sight, fight; and, of course, it denounced, and while his thoughts were filled with its simpered, and lifted its hands, and rolled corruptions. They have a moody gran. its eyes, and pointed its finger, and shot deur of expression which acts powerfulout its tongue, and mouthed its common- ly on the sensibility, though they only place horror, and drove him from its exhibit the diseased phase of Shelley's sweet presence and companionship. philanthropy: From the dispensers of the government
ENGLAND IN 1919. and religion of his own country, Shelley met with little but injustice; in the coun
“ An old, blind, mad, despised and dying try of his adoption he saw government
king, and religion controlled by chicane and Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who
flow despotism. All the accidents and circumstances of his condition, from his birth Through public scorn-mud from a mud
dy spring, to his death, concurred in placing the Rulers, that neither see, nor feel, nor know, most naturally religious of poets, in a But, leech-like, to their fainting country position of antagonism to the outward cling, forms and creeds of revealed truth. Till they drop, blind in blood, without a The writings of Shelley are, to a con
blow,siderable extent, the history of his mind A people, starved and stabbed in the untiand heart, as they were affected by per
tled field, sonal experiences and the events of his An army, which libertecide and prey time. His works are an eloquent protest
Makes as a two-edged sword to those who against the gulf which separates, in life, Golden and sanguine laws, which tempt
wield, the actual world from the world perceiv and slay, ed by thought and imagination. He de- Religion, Christless, Godless — a book sired society to be pure, free, unselfish,
sealed ; devoted to the realization of goodness A Senate-Time's worst statute unreand beauty; and he believed it capable pealed,of that exaltation. For the simplicity of Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom this faith he was doomed to encounter may all the perverted truth and goodness that Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.” : society could command. No man ever His poems have been charged with a lived with a deeper and more inextin- lack of human sympathy-a singular guishable thirst to promote human liber- charge against a poet whose miseries ty and happiness. This master passion sprung from the intensity of his human of his nature controlled all his other am- sympathies. Indeed, Shelley's sympa. bitions, personal or literary.
thies were naturally almost universal. of the hatefulness of oppression in any Had his mind received a genial devel. form, almost amounted to bodily torture. opment, had it not been sent back upon A wrong done to a nation, the triumph itself to prey upon its own energies, we of power over right, filled him with as believe that it would have displayed as
much comprehension as intensity. The and burns along his creations, often with tragedy of “ The Cenci,” so different a might and freedom almost Shakspefrom his other works, and objective in a rean. Leigh Hunt finely says of him, remarkable degree, displays great skill “ Whether interrogating Nature in the in the representation of character foreign icy solitudes of Chamouny, or thrilling to his own, and a most vivid perception with the lark in the sunshine, or shedof the moral relations of things. In read ding indignant tears with sorrow and ing Shelley's poetry we are impressed poverty, or pulling flowers like a child with what may be termed the infinite in the field, or pitching himself back into capability of the man. The direction his the depths of time and space, and disgenius takes in any composition, never coursing with the first forms and giganseemed to indicate the bounds of his tic shadows of creation, he was alike in powers. What he has done we feel not earnest and alike at home.” to be so great as what he inight have The great stigma cast upon Shelley's done. From the maturity of the young writings is irreligion. As far as this is man who wrote “ Prometheus Unbound" well founded, it is most certainly to be and “ The Cenci,” what might not have regretted. There are many passages in been expected ? As it is, innumerable his works evincing much presumption passages might be quoted from his writ- and ignorance, which we could wish blotings, to show the baselessness of the ob ted out of existence, were it not for the jection to his writings, founded on the moral they convey to Christians, and the assertion of their lack of human sympa light they throw upon the history of his thy. The predominance of his spiritual mind's development. We suppose it over his animal nature; the velocity would be difficult to adduce any man of with which his mind, loosed from the genius, wbo experienced less Christiani“grasp of gravitation,” darted upwards ty from others, and exercised more into regions whither slower-pacing imagi towards others, than Shelley. nations could not follow; the amazing but natural that a man with so acute a fertility with which he poured out crowds sensibility, should confound his own of magnificent images, and the profuse outward experience of religionists with flood of dazzling radiance, blinding the religion. Many of the men who were eye with excess of light, which they associated in his mind with Christianity, shed over his compositions; his love of possessed it in about as large measure as idealizing the world of sense, until it be the turnkey in Jonathan Wild, who, came instinct with thought, and infusing when required to name the beverage he into things dull and lifeless to the sight would drink, gave the preference to and touch, the qualities of individual ex- punch, “ because it was a liquor no istence; the marvellous keenness of in- where spoken against in Scripture.” It sight, with which he pierced beneath is matter of astonishment to us, that even the refinements of thought, and those who rail against Shelley for certain evolved new materials of wonder and rash and wayward infidelities of expresdelight from a seemingly exhausted sub sions in his works, do not ask themject ;-all these, to a superficial observer, selves, whether excitable minds are not carry with them the appearance of un driven daily into similar infidelities, by reality. A close examination, however, the same causes which influenced him? will often prove that the unreality is The man who sees Christianity only in merely in appearance,-is, in fact, the its unnatural connection with fanaticism perception of a higher reality than the and hypocrisy, may be pardoned at least world is willing to acknowledge. But, for rejecting the latter; and they, at the waiving this consideration, no reader of bottom, were what Shelley rejected. Shelley can be ignorant that his genius We have previously said that Shelley assimilated readily with the humble as was naturally religious. In spite of the well as the lofty; that some of the most refining subtilty of his understanding, he beautiful exhibitions of the tenderest and possessed in large measure the quality of simplest affections of the heart, are to be faith. With regard to spiritual exisienfound in his writings; that he had an ces, the world is composed of believers, ear exquisitely tuned to catch the “still half-believers, and make-believers. Now sad music of humanity ;" that human Shelley was ever a believer. In the writ. hopes, and fears and loves, a!l wake ings of few poets is there so strong a sympathetic echoes in his heart; that prominence given to Christian ideas. the language of human passion, kindles Not only does he inculcate the love of all
that God has made, not only does he and Mr. Griswold's volume gives evi. make disinterestedness and self-sacrifice dence on almost every page, of the influthe chief of virtues, but he steadily frowns ence they exerted upon ihe character and upon the practice of revenge. This last tendency of the imaginative literature of passion, denounced by moralists, forhid- their time. Their point of view, their den by Christianity, has been almost con- phraseology, the flow of their verse, have secrated by laws, whether Christian or all been wholly or partly assumed by heathen. Since Homer, it has been in- poets of no mean excellence. We can vested with all the pomp of passion and hardly call the latter imitators, for many imagination. Its naked deformity has of them seem to have reproduced rather been disguised under the forms of senti- than copied their prototypes ; and the difment, chivalry, honor, glory, piety itself. ference is often not so much in feeling as But Shelley considers it at once as a in faculty, between the disciple and the crime and a blunder. He says with un master. answerable moral logic,
The power of which these three great
poets stood most in need, was humor, “ To avenge misdeed On the misdoer, is Misery to feed
This would have given them sufficient With her own broken heart."
tolerance of practical life, to have repre
sented it without exaggeration : As it Love to enemies, he inculcates with an was, they too often flew into a passion eloquence and beauty which has rarely with the world, and narrowed the range been surpassed : and in one passage in of their vision by dwelling too much on “ Prometheus Unbound,” he exalts the particular objects. In their own domain sentiment to the height of the moral sub- of imagination, they were absolute sovlime :
ereigns, and sbowed wonderful power, “I alit
and produced grand results; but that doOn a great ship, lightning-split,
main was limited. To Scott, alone, of And speeded hither, on the sigh,
all the poets of his time, belongs the merit who gave an enemy his plank, Then plunged aside to die."
of comprehension. Although his works
could hardly have been written in any Amid all the heated feeling and exasper- other period than the nineteenth century, ating persecutions of his time,-in con- they still are remarkably free from its sidering even the grossest injustice done egotism. No writer since Shakspeare to himself, Shelley was generally care has displayed such power in the creation ful to discriminate between the offence and delineation of character, or such freeand the offender, and to frown upon all dom from idiosyncracies and personal cruelties done to bigots and tyrants. In prejudices, in describing life and manners. his most radical and revolutionary poems, His charity, as has been remarked, exhe clung with the fond reliance of child- tended even to opposite bigotries. The hood, to the omnipotence of love to soften passions, sentiments, thoughts, prejudices hearts hard as the nether millstone, to of human nature, have free play in his redeem and purify hearts, heavy and thick writings. His three great contemporaries, with the accumulated infamies of years. when they attempted to delineate charWe have not space, in this connection, acter, barely succeeded in delineating to do even tolerable justice to Shelley's more than themselves, their opposites, or marvellous genius; but a consideration their ideas; but Scott, free from the of the poets of the nineteenth century shackles of this individualism, aimed to would indeed be faulty, that overlooked represent not one man but human nature. the heroic character of one of the bravest The life that he delineates, is not, as and greatest spirits, that “e'er wore earth some imagine, actual life. His beings about him.”
are emphatically beings of the mind, cre. In some succeeding numbers of this ated in accordance with the laws of hujournal we hope to be able to consider at man nature, and placed in natural situalength, the personal and poetical charac- tions, and exposed to the cruel vicissiter of Wordsworth and Byron. Shelley, tudes of life; but still they are not copies with many points of sympathy with but creations. They have an indepenthem, had a different individuality. The dent existence in a world of their own, a three, taken together, are the most pro- world acknowledged by the imagination minent exponents of the peculiarities of as a reality, and affecting us almost as the poetry of the nineteenth century. nearly as the actual world in which we They have had innumerable disciples; live; but, at the same time, a world in