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sider this, therefore, as a case in which the father has demonstrated that he must and does deem it to be a matter of duty which his principles impose on him to recommend, to those whose opinions and habits he may take upon himself to form, that conduct, in some of the most important relations of life, as moral and virtuous, which the law calls upon me to consider as immoral and vicious—conduct which the law animadverts upon as inconsistent with the duties of persons in such relations of life, and which it considers as injuriously affecting both the interests of such persons and those of the community. I cannot, therefore, think that 1 shall be justified in delivering over these children, for their education, exclusively to what is called the 'care' to which Mr. Shelley wishes it to be entrusted."* It is stated that the poet had intended to place the children with a lady thoroughly qualified for such a post, Mrs. Longdill. The order of the Court of Chancery proceeded to restrain the father or his agents from taking possession of the infants, or intermeddling with them till further orders. The case could have been carried by appeal into the House of Lords; but probably Shelley felt that he should obtain no redress there, and he dropped further proceedings. He did not, however, lose sight of practical contingencies which might affect the case; for we find him, as late as 26th January 1819, and all the way from Xaples, writing to Mr. Peacock: "We have reports here of a change in the English ministry. To what does it amount? for, besides my national interest in it, I am on the watch to radicate my most sacred rights, invaded by the Chancery Court-"
The result was that the children were handed over to the guardianship of Mr. and Miss Westbrook, and more immediately to that of a clergyman of the Church of England, Dr. Hume.t Shelley, who never saw them again, had to set apart, out of his income of ^1000 a year, .£200 for the children, which sum was regularly deducted by Sir Timothy* At one time, in 1821, some complication ensued; and Shelley, then in Italy, found himself suddenly without a penny of incomings. The matter, however, was pretty soon set right through the intervention of Horatio Smith, and apparently without Sir Timothy's having been privy to the harsh and unneeded stoppage.
* The judgment of Lord Eldon, it will be observed, says nothing of "desertion" cf Harriett by Shelley. It has been stated to me that hfs lordship said during the proceedings something to the effect that "Shelley had left the children to starve, and the grandfather had taken them up, and had a right to keep them." But, as the written judgment is silent on this point, I should presume that Lord Eldon either ■poke looseiy or was reported unprecisely.
\ I find this name in a letter from Horatio Smith, dated 13th April 1821, given in tixtSktQty Memorials, p. 168. From the same book, p. 75, it appears that a Mr. Kendall was recommended as a guardian during the suit: whether he actually obtained the appointment iu the first instance 1 cannot say.
Of all the blows brought down upon Shelley by his conscientious adherence, in word and deed, to sincere convictions,this appears to have been the one which he felt most profound lyric was at this time almost domesticated with the family of Leigh Hunt, then residing at Lisson Grove; and that affectionate and warmly loved and trusted friend attests that the bereaved father could never afterwards venture so much as to mention the children to him. He had some fears moreover that the son of his second marriage, William, would also be taken away, and he contemplated leaving England in consequence; but nothing came of this. His indignation winged more than one quivering shaft of verse against Lord Eldon. About the same time he was made answerable for some of Harriett's liabilities, incurred without any knowledge on his part, and was in some danger of arrest : but this also passed over.
Mary meanwhile continued to reside at Marlow. Here her second child, Clara, was born on the 3d of September. Shelley was with her at the time; and would walk, or perhaps row, down to Egham, a distance of about sixteen miles, to see the surgeon Mr. Furnivall, and, on arriving, would take no refreshment beyond a bowl of milk. His exceeding good-nature impressed this gentleman; who considered indeed that Mary was somewhat too free and exacting in ordering her husband about, which he submitted to with the docility of a child. One is more inclined to smile over Shelley's t'tourderic than to attribute to him anything wilfully amiss when one learns that the larger part of the obstetrical bill remained unpaid at the time of the family's departure from Marlow to Italy, and for ever aftenvards.t
The fewest words should here be hazarded or wasted regarding the rights or wrongs of the Lord Chancellor's decision. I understand that its legal validity has never been overruled, but that probably it would not now be allowed to count as a precedent. Previous writers have, with befitting fairness, pointed out that it proceeds on the grounds not solely nor strictly of speculative opinion, but of conduct framed according to opinion unrecanted. Without over-refining upon this point, we may say that logical minds which accept "saving faith" as a principle are entitled, in the ratio of their logicality, to accept Lord Eldon's judgment as righteous; logical minds which affirm this to be unrighteous will, in the like ratio, demur to the theory of saving faith. It is a very spacious arena for discussion; and he who denounces the judgment or the judge in this English " Mortara case" without going several steps farther is presumably at least as much of a partisan as of a reasoner.
* These arc the sums named in the Shelley Memorials, p. 75. Yet it would seem afterwards, p. 168, that the sum for Shelley's own use was ,£S.So, and for the children only X120 per annum.
t I am indebted to Mr. Furnivall's son for these minor but characteristic details.
XVII.—THE REVOLT OF ISLAM.
His reverses did not depress Shelley, but nerved him to greater exertions. While the Lord Chancellor was about to brand him as less fit for the most rudimentary duties of social life than any other man in England, he was preparing to prove himself one of the few men then living in the world predestined to immortality. Laon and Cythna, now known as The Revolt ef Islam, was written in the summer and early autumn of 1817. It was composed chiefly as the poet was seated on a high promontory of Bisham Wood. The principal particulars regarding the genesis of the poem are to be found in its preface, dedication, and notes; to these therefore I refer the reader.
Some copies of Laon and Cythna were ready for delive1y by Christmas 1817; but, after a very few had been issued—(it is generally said, only three, but one finds reason to believe there were rather more than this)—the publisher, Mr. Oilier, became alarmed at the audacities of the poem, especially its main incident of conjugal love between a brother and sister; and, under strong pressure from him, Shelley reluctantly consented to make some modifications. It has been said that he was at last "convinced of the propriety " * of so doing: at any rate, he did it. The changes are not numerous, affecting only fifty-five lines besides the title-page and some passages in the preface. Captain Medwin—so he informs us—was told by Shelley that this poem, and the Endymion of Keats, were written in friendly rivalry; and that the compact was to produce both works within six months, which Shelley at all events very nearly managed.
* Shelley Memorials, p. 83.
It was a great effort, and a near approach to a great poem; clearly, in more senses than one, greater than Alastor, though its vast scale and unmeasured ambition place it still more obviously in the category of imperfect achievements. Gorgeous ideality, humanitarian enthusiasm, and a passionate rush of invention, more especially of the horrible, go hand in hand in the Revolt of Islam. It affects the mind something like an enchanted palace of the Arabian Nights. One is wonderstruck both at the total creation, and at every shifting aspect of it; but one does not expect to find in it any detail of the absolute artistic perfection of a Greek gem, nor any inmate of consummate interest to the heart. Its flashing and sounding chambers are full of everything save what one most loves at last, repose and companionship.
With these few wretchedly inadequate—not to say presumptuous—remarks, I must leave the Revolt of Islam; only further observing that, whatever its imperfections of plan and execution, it is not only a marvellous well-head of poetry, but a rcmarkably original work: it was greatly unlike any poem that had preceded (so far as I know), and even the demon of imitation has left it solitary.
XVIII.—SHELLEY QUITS ENGLAND FOR ITALY :—ROSALIND AND HELEN.
Another pulmonary attack towards the end of the autumn of 1817 made Shelley think gravely of what it would behove him to do; and he eventually resolved to go to Italy (he and Hogg had studied the Italian language in 1813) with no definite idea of when he would find it practicable to return. He never did return: the archangclic feet and brain and heart which quitted England in the Spring of 1818, were never again to be repelled by that grudging and unwitting stepmother.
Health was the motive put forward by Shelley for his departure; but in all probability the state of his finances also had something to do with it, and more especially the involvements which he was perpetually incurring through his unbounded munificence to others. It is a remark of Mr. Thornton Hunt, and I have no doubt a true and suggestive one, that a fixed characteristic of Shelley was this—that, if he had one sufficient motive for any course of action, he would specify that, and ignore all minor motives; and that he was thus, without any real cause, sometimes regarded as uncandid or reserved. This would explain how he may, with entire personal truth and selfconsistency, have simply alleged health as his reason for leaving England; although, had the motive of health been absent, that of purse would have sufficed.
To give some idea of Shelley in one of the most prominent of his personal traits, I will here cite, regardless of the sequence of date, a few out of the many acts of generosity recorded of him. Some others have been mentioned already, and how many more remain unrecorded! The reader will bear in mind that the income of Shelley and his family was, from 1812 to 1814, something probably like £300 a year; from 1815 to the middle of 1817, .£1000; and from the latter date onwards, after the deduction made under the order in Chancery, about £800.
"He was able, by restricting himself to a diet more simple than the fare of the most austere anchorite, and by refusing himself horses, and the other gratifications that appear properly to belong to his station (and of which he was in truth very fond), to bestow upon men of letters, whose merits were of too high an order to be rightly estimated by their own generation, donations large indeed if we consider from how narrow a source they flowed."* fie was besides most delicate in the manner of conferring such obligations. He repeatedly gave away all his money before reaching a coach-office, and was consequently obliged to walk to town; and he once entered the grounds of his close neighbour at Marlow, Mr. Maddocks, without shoes, having bestowed his on a poor woman. Almost immediately after his expulsion from Oxford, he offered through his father's solicitor to accept, in lieu of his claim to the entailed estate of £6000 per annum (perhaps he had not then a clear idea of the amount), an annuity of ^200, leaving all the residue for his sisters—an act of almost unjustifiably self-oblivious good-nature. He proposed at one time to raise money on a post obit, to settle it on a lady whom Medwin was desirous of marrying; but this his cousin, with all right feeling, declined. During his stay at Marlow, having written a pamphlet named A Proposal for putting Reform to the Vote throughout the Country $ he profHogg, vol. i., p. 245. I suppose the case more particularly, though not alone, he7e referred to, is that of Mr. Peacock, already mentioned in our pages.
t This is the title generally given—I have not myself seen the pamphlet. Lowndes registers it by the singular title—" We pity the Plumage, but forget the Dying Bird. An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte. By the Hermit of Marlow. [No imprint—1817. 8vo, pp. 16. Privately printed.!"