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had left it off, he finally consented to do, “and delivered, with vehemence and animation, a string of execrations, greatly resembling in its absurdity a papal anathema : the fulmination soon terminated in a hearty laugh.”* Of course, the whole thing was the freak of a schoolboy : but there are some freaks which neither schoolboys nor other persons are tolerated in-as the bestowal upon a father of such nicknames as “ Old Buck" and “ Killjoy."
IV.-EARLIEST WRITINGS. Percy Shelley was an uncommon sort of boy, appetent of knowledge (such as suited his own taste), and very rapid in acquiring it, and with impulses and characteristics indicative of genius. He is said to have learned the classical languages as if by intuition-his memory, which was always an excellent one for all sorts of things, retaining whatever he once learned. Still, it does not appear that he as yet exhibited any exceptional originating aptitude or precocity of mind; and certainly, if we look to his earliest writings, such as are preserved in our Appendix, the suggestions which they yield to us are not those of a great capacity or a premature gift-but on the contrary of very shallow incentives pusfing up feeble faculties into meaningless forms of self-expression. The child who wrote the Verses on a Cat, at perhaps eight or nine years of age, was indeed a ready and sprightly versifier, superior to his years; but, from this simple and pleasing outpouring of a child, we sink down, in the following compositions lasting up to and beyond Shelley's departure from Oxford, into the inflated balderdash of a boy, unmarked either by right perceptions, by any genuine direction of taste, or by promising execution. There is case of a certain kind, but slavering is a notoriously easy process. Probably the verses preserved are but a small minority of what Shelley wrote in these opening years. At one time-precise boyish age and subject unknown-he and his sister Elizabeth secretly wrote a play, and sent it to Mathews the comedian ; who returned it, opining that " it would not do for acting.” Presumably not. Another considerable attempt was The Wandering Jew, which he wrote together with Medwin about 1809; next to no remains of Shelley's section of it are now accessible, but a safe instinct certifies us that it was nonsense.
* Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i. p. 138.
A true curiosity of literature is Shelley's first published book, the novel named Zastrozzi—one of “a great many” (so says Lady Shelley) which he composed about this time. He wrote it at the age of sixteen, with some co-operation (it is stated) from Miss Grove—which however I should doubt, having regard to dates. It is a wild story of a virtuous Verezzi, persecuted and ruined by the effervescent passion of a “guilty siren," Matilda Contessa de Laurentini, in league with a mysterious and dark-browed Zastrozzi, who has, in chapter the last, a family grudge to clear off. Some deep-buried romance named Zofioya, or the Moor (there is great force of suggestion in the letter 2) is recorded to have been the model of Zastrozzi. A curiosity of literature this novel would be, if merely on the ground of its authorship, and of its gorgeous absurdity ; but, when we learn that there was actually a publisher in human form, Mr. Robinson of Paternoster Row, to pay £,40 or so for the privilege of publishing it, thus furnishing forth “a magnificent banquet (not of the Barmecide class) given to eight friends” by the Etonian romancist, and that human reviewers were capable of criticizing it, and deprecating its supposed immoralities (which are in fact few or none), Zastrozzi glides from a curiosity into a phænomenon of literature. There is a delicious reserve of tone in the terms which Shelley used a few years later, ioth January 1812, in forwarding his two novels to the philosopher Godwin :* “From a reader, I became a writer of romances.t Before the age of seventeen I had published two, St Irvyne and Zastrozzi, each of which, though quite uncharacteristic of me as now I am, yet serves to mark the state of my mind at the period of their composition. I shall desire them to be sent to you : do not, however, consider this as any obligation to yourself to misapply your valuable time.” If Godwin did misapply his valuable time, and read Zastrozzi, he must have been a sight for the gods and the glorified spirit of Mary Wollstonecraft during that process.
The only purpose which Zastrozzi can serve at the present day-except to raise a hearty laugh-is to furnish a few indica
* Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. ii. p. 55. Shelley is wrong in saying St Irriyne (whatever may have been the case with Zastrozzi) was published before he had attained seventeen years of age; it came out in December 1810, when the author was past eighteen. This is not the only instance in which he understated his age, whether through negligence of mind or possibly with a spice of coxcombry.
† From an expression in a letter of Shelley's dated 10th December 1812 (Shelley Memorials, p. 45), it appears that he had by then ceased to be "a reader of romances." But he did not entirely exclude them from his after perusal,
tions how far Shelley's antichristian opinions had been developed at that early date. We must, however, remember that some portions of the romance are ascribed to Miss Grove's authorship. The wicked Zastrozzi, we find, is in one passage an unbeliever in immortality, for which he is distinctly reprobated by the correct-minded author : further on he is not a total unbeliever, but over-page figures as an atheist. Materialism and atheism are denounced by the narrator at a later stage, and there is a passage, in the ordinary religious tone, concerning divine mercy consequent upon repentance. Thus nothing but orthodoxy, though toying on the verge of the atheistic precipice, attaches to Shelley from the investigation of the bad characters of his novel. But the virtuous though “infatuated ” Verezzi yields a less respectable Shelleyan result : he dares to think that “ love like ours wants not the vain ties of human laws," or in plain English the marriage ceremony.
Nobody now will or ought to read Zastrozzi save as a curious study conducive to an exact knowledge of Shelley : nobody can read his first volume of verse, for it has entirely disappeared from human ken.* At some time in the year 1810 Shelley called upon a London publisher, Stockdale, and asked to be assisted out of a hobble, as he had commissioned a Horsham printer to strike off 1480 copies (!) of a volume of poems, for which, as he now found, he was unable to pay. Stockdale consented that the book should be transferred to himself; and it was soon announced in the Morning Chronicle of 18th September 1810, under the name of Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire, and was published in due course. There really was a second author, besides Shelley ; possibly Miss Grove. But lo! when the book was out, it was found to embody productions by a third author, and then one of considerable name, and much admired by Shelley, Matthew Gregory Lewis, the author of The Monk and of Tales of Terror; Victor, or' Cazire, or both of them, had been making free with the sepulchral stock-inhand of that potent necromancer. Shelley withdrew the volume from circulation after a hundred copies or so had got about;
• Everything that is known on this subject is due solely to Mr. Garnett: sec his anicle in Macmillan's Magazine, June 1860, Shelley in Pall Mall. He has kindly informed me moreover that a gentleman connected with the Shelley family says that Percy "wrote and printed another book of verse about the same time. He could Dot remember the title, but thought a copy might still be in existence."
" Quis desiderio sit modus aut pudor
Tam cari capitis ?”
and no one has set eyes on it since. One can but speculate on the question whether Shelley was himself in fault in this matter, or whether he had been duped by his coadjutor. There was certainly some tendency to secretiveness in his early literary attempts; and it may be doubted whether the Etonian scatterbrain would have seen much harm in appropriating stanzas or whole compositions from Lewis if they fell in with his notionsor indeed whether he had ever perceived or pondered the meaning of the word copyright. Stockdale, at any rate, does not seem to have considered himself aggrieved by Shelley, as he soon after undertook the publishing of St Irvyne; in fact, after some serious rows during their business connexion, and in the face of an unpaid bill, he continued enthusiastic as to the young author's character and honour.
V.—SHELLEY AT OXFORD. Meagre indeed must be our account of Shelley at Oxford in comparison with the inimitable treasury of anecdote which Mr. Hogg wrote under the same title, and finally incorporated in his Life of Shelley.*
Towards the middle or end of October 1810 Shelley went to University College, Oxford, where his father also had been educated; and he at once became acquainted, at the College dinner-table, with Mr. Thomas Jefferson Hogg, a fellow-student in the same College, and of much the same age. This gentleman belonged to a family of high tories living at Norton near Stockton-on-Tees, and was destined for the conveyancing branch of law, having besides the prospect of a competent fortune. We can trace in his book the character of a robust bon vivant and man of society, with a great contempt for bores and crotchet-mongers of all sorts, and a generally sardonic or cynical turn, the antipodes of anything “gushing” or any revolutionary idealism, tempered however by a deep respect for the forms and monuments of intellect consecrated by experience, That an acute mind of this calibre should at once have accepted Shelley as a beautiful soul and heaven-born genius, and should have been inspired with a warm enthusiasm for him, such as neither radical divergences of view, nor early and final separation, nor subsequent long lapse of time, could avail to bedim, speaks as strongly as anything for the poet's intellectual and personal fascination. It is difficult to say why the author of Zastrozzi should have been a considerable figure in the eyes of a young Oxford tory of a literary turn, or rather it can only be accounted for on the ground of his admirable qualities, ascertained by immediate experience : such at any rate he was, and the event proved how thoroughly well Mr. Hogg had succeeded in reading between the lines.
* The aroma of personal knowledge and affection, along with the keen zest of a raconteur who enjoys every oddity, and reinforces it in the telling, impart a peculiar charm to those Oxford reminiscences--and indeed, spite of its many flaws and perversities, to the whole Life, the suppression of whose concluding portion defrauds the admirers of Shelley of their just perquisites. That the conclusion exists in MS. has been affirmed to me as a known fact. The worst flaw of all is that letters of Shelley given in Hogg's Life are garbled and misdated. Even apart from special information, one can discern that they are juinbled together without any care or guidance to the reader.
Shelley, now growing up towards man's estate, was strong, active, and tall (nearly 5 feet 11), though slight, narrow-chested, and with a kind of stoop :* his bones, joints, and extremities, were large ; his complexion red and white, but easily tanned and freckled by exposure ; his features small, not regular save the mouth, and in some sort feminine—but with a certain seraphic look, and infinite play of expression. The side-face was not strong, and the nose very slightly turned up. His head was quite uncommonly small, covered with abundant wavy hair, dark brown and of a wild growth ; his eyes were prominent, very open and fixed, hardly ever so much as winking, and very near-sighted. I He looked “preternaturally intelligent," or (as Lieutenant Williams said at a later date) “ of most astonishing genius."Ş His gestures were abrupt, yet often graceful; his clothes good but carelessly worn. He was a finished gentleman, and, as Mr. Hogg emphatically puts it, “a ladies' man ”--the elect of dames and damsels. And certainly Shelley repaid this preference without stint; for nothing
*"Less a stoop," says Mr. Thornton Hunt, “than a peculiar mode of holding the head and shoulders; the face thrown a little forward, and the shoulders slightly elevated." D r. Peacock (Fraser's Magazine, 1860, p. 103) points out that, in this respect, the ordinary portraits are not correct. A head of the painter Antonio Leisman, in the L Gizi Gallery at Florence, reminds him of Shelley. This is a dark-complexioned face, luoking out, with a vivid and rather startled look, from under a broad-leaved hat. Mr. Trelawny Recollections, p. viii.) considers that the portrait of which he gives a lithograph and this edition an engraving), and which was painted by Clint from a water-colour by Lieutenant Williams now lost, is the only likeness of any decided value. According to Mr. Thornton Hunt, the portraits are particularly imDerlet: and the ordinarily received miniature resembles Shelley about as much as a lady in a book of fashions resembles real women." This gentleman says, however, that the features in the miniature are not unlike.
1 Medwin says this last, and I suppose truly ; Trelawny does not now remember it, $Trelawny, Recollections, p. 12.