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an argument may be pushed too far. The feelings of a strong but variously impressible character like Shelley's under such a conjuncture of circumstances are of a very mixed description : what is called “sentiment” does not cover the whole area. “Sentimentalism” is of course a very different thing from sentiment: but I may here take occasion to quote the noticeable statement of De Quincey, in allusion to a description he had heard of Shelley's personal appearance :—“ This gave to the chance observer an impression that he was tainted, even in his external deportment, by some excess of sickly sentimentalism; from which I believe that in all stages of his life he was remarkably free.” For my part I can imagine that he was not only, in a certain way, calm enough at times immediately after Harriett's death, whether to the eyes of Peacock or of other friends, but even that he could (as I am assured * he did some few months later) apply to her the emphatic term “a frantic idiot." He must no doubt have regarded her later career as one marked by great want of self-respect, and may have both felt and expressed himself strongly now and again, without derogating from the substantial rectitude and tenderness of his nature-qualities disputable only by creatures of the type of those Quarterly Reviewers who, at the same time that they represented Shelley's life as a compound of “low pride, cold selfishness, and unmanly cruelty," discerned also that "the predominating characteristic of his poetry was its frequent and total want of meaning," and that the Prometheus was “in sober sadness drivelling prose run mad,” and “looked upon the question of Mr. Shelley's poetical merits as at an end.”+ And so indeed it was after the spawning of that opprobrium of the British and modern Muse, the Prometheus Unbound. “These be thy gods, O Israel !”
* By Mr. Furnivall, who heard it repeatedly from his father.
+ These expressions are accurately quoted from the Quarterly Review of April 1819 and October 1821 ; critiques of Laon and Cythna, the Revolt of Islam, and Rosalind and Helen, in the former article, and of Prometheus Unbound in the latter. Even these phrases fall short of what we find in the Literary Gazette of 1820, critiques of The Cenci and Prometheus. The Cenci, we are told, is the most abominable work of the time, and seems to be the production of some fiend: the reviewer hopes never again to see a book “so stamped with pollution, impiousness, and infamy." Prometheus is "little else but absolute raving: and, were we not assured to the contrary, we should take it for granted that the author was lunatic, as his principles are ludicrously wicked, and his poetry a mélange of nonsense, cockneyism, poverty, and pedantry.” Further on we find the critic speak of “the stupid trash of this delirious dreamer," and "this tissue of insufferable buffoonery."
XV.—MARRIAGE AND MARRIED LIFE WITH MARY. On the 30th of December 1816 Shelley married his dearlyloved Mary. It has been said that Byron persuaded him to take this step ; that Godwin made it an express condition of his continuing further intercourse with Shelley : and again that one reason which influenced the latter was that he thought he should thus be more secure of getting and retaining the custody of his children by his former marriage. The first statement does not seem very likely : the third, if true, would indicate that litigation for the custody of the children was already begun or clearly in prospect, as otherwise it can hardly be supposed that the idea of so exceptional a legal process would have occurred to the father. The second reason assigned, which concerns Godwin, may probably be true, as far as it goes; though he and Shelley had not all this while remained wholly estranged-some communication between them having recommenced as early at least as November 1815. But we shall probably come much nearer to the truth if we infer that Shelley and Mary, while perfectly at one in regarding mutual love, and not any religious or social formality, as the truly sacred and valid marital tie, recognized also that it was for the practical advantage of themselves and their offspring to place their affection under the same sanction as that of other people; and, if so, the supposition of any extraneous pressure upon them becomes a futility.
They soon afterwards entered upon their residence at Marlow, Miss Clairmont and her brother Charles, with the infant Allegra, being along with them. Mr Peacock was close by, and they saw something also of their next neighbour Mr Maddocks (not the landlord and friend of the Tanyrallt days) : of other mere neighbours they knew little or nothing. “I am not wretch enough to tolerate an acquaintance,” was Shelley's phrase. The house was a large one, situated away from the river, with extensive gardens and numerous rooms, well furnished by Shelley, and taken on a lease for twenty-one years. It is still standing, but partly converted into a beershop. Shelley lived here like a country gentleman on a small scale, and probably (considering the lavish generosity he was continually exercising in other ways) beyond his means, though he was not either wasteful or unreckoning : friends were continually with him, and he almost kept open house. There were three servants, if not a fourth
assistant; including a Swiss nursemaid for the infant William, named Elise. Shelley kept a well-sized boat for either sailing or rowing, but no horse or carriage. The boat had been named by him the Vaga, and so lettered : some humourist added the final syllable bond. It is said that he would frequently go to the woods of Bisham at midnight, and repeat his old process of conjuring the devil—who never came : but it seems more probable that he laughed bores to scorn by saying he had done this in his nocturnal rambles than that he really did it. His daily routine of life at Marlow has been thus sketched by Leigh Hunt in a passage frequently quoted. “He rose early in the morning ; walked and read before breakfast ; took that meal sparingly; wrote and studied the greater part of the morning ; walked and read again; dined on vegetables (for he took neither meat nor wine); conversed with his friends, to whom his house was ever open; again walked out; and usually finished with reading to his wife till ten o'clock, when he went to bed. This was his daily existence. His book was generally Plato or Homer, or one of the Greek tragedians, or the Bible, in which last he took a great (though peculiar) and often admiring interest."* Shelley's charity at Marlow (as it had before been at Tanyrallt) was exemplary. He had a list of weekly pensioners, and exerted himself in all sorts of ways, equally with purse and person, to relieve the distress of the lacemakers and others in his neighbourhood. In attending some of the poor in their cottages, reckless of infection, he caught a bad attack of ophthalmia. This not only troubled him at the time; but he had a relapse of the malady at the end of the same year, 1817, severe enough to prevent his reading, and again as late as January 1821.
About March 1817, at Hunt's house in Hampstead, Shelley met Keats, and also the brothers James and Horatio Smith, wealthy city men, and authors of the Rejected Addresses and various other witty writings. He became intimate with Horatio, whom he esteemed very highly, and who, when Shelley was at a later date in Italy, transacted many money-matters for him, whether of business or liberality. “ Keats did not take to Shelley as kindly as Shelley did to him : being a little too sensitive on the score of his origin, he felt inclined to see in every man of birth a sort of natural enemy;"* and, in his after period of failing health, a certain irritable suspiciousness took possession of him. It seems clear too that he set a very mediocre value upon Shelley's poetic performances ; indeed, he regarded him apparently as a mere effervescent tiro, to whom a word or two of good advice, but hardly of encouragement, would be appropriate. On his receiving a copy of The Cenci, the only remark he made, having the character of direct criticism, in his letter of acknowledgment, was—“ You, I am sure, will forgive me for sincerely remarking that you might curb your magnanimity, and be more of an artist, and load every rift of your subject with ore." And then further on: “I am in expectation of Prometheus every day. Could I have but my own wish effected, you would have it still in manuscript, or be but now putting an end to the second act.”+ These phrases may have been strictly sincere, and therefore so far proper for Keats to write : but they were certainly grudging, from the still younger author of so imperfect a production (however glorious in poetic potentialities) as Endymion to the author of such a masterpiece of all sorts of power as The Cenci: even Alastor must, in point of maturity, be placed a good deal ahead of Endymion. When we weigh all the habitual jealousies between rival poets, along with the something very like patronizing depreciation vouchsafed by Keats, we shall watch with a warmer glow of sympathy the flood of shining generosity and impetuous loving admiration which the celestial soul of Shelley poured through Adonais. His detailed critical opinion of Keats will be more appositely introduced when we come to speak of that poem.
* Mr. Trelawny tells me that such was Shelley's interest in the Bible-the Old Testament in especial--that he said on one occasion that, if he could save only one book from a general catastrophe of letters, he would select the Bible, What he particularly valued was its historic and poetic antiquity.
XVI.—THE CHANCERY SUIT. Meanwhile a Chancery suit had been commenced to determine whether Mr. Percy Bysshe Shelley or Mr. Westbrook was the more proper person to elicit such intellectual and moral faculties as the ruling power of the universe might have gifted the poet's first two children with. In the eyes of a bandaged Justice the retired hotel-keeper proved to be clearly better fitted for this function than the author in esse of Alastor, and in posse of the Triumph of Life.
Mr. Westbrook refused to give up, at Shelley's request, the • Leigh Hunt's Autobiography, Pp. 266-7. † Shelley Memorials, p. 143.
two children to his keeping-and every considerate person will respect the motives and feelings of the father of the unfortunate Harriett in this matter; and in their name he filed a petition in Chancery, alleging that Shelley had deserted his wife, was in opinion an atheist, and intended to bring up the children in accordance with his own views. Queen Mab was cited in proof of the author's condemnable speculations concerning religion and the relation of the sexes. The petition also stated that Mr. Westbrook had lately invested £2000 four per cents in the names of trustees, to be handed over eventually to the children, and the dividends applied meantime to their maintenance and education. Shelley's legal adviser in this suit was Mr. Longdill; and Brougham is stated to have been employed as counsel -on which side I do not find recorded. It would appear that Shelley drew up his own replication to the petition, for he speaks of “my Chancery-paper," as “a cold, forced, unimpassioned, insignificant piece of cramped and cautious argument.” *
The judgment of Lord Chancellor Eldon was delivered on or about the 23d of August.† The most essential passages run as follows :—“I have carefully looked through the answer of the defendant, to see whether it affects the representation, made in the affidavits filed in support of the petition, and in the exhibits referred to, of the principles and conduct in life of the father in this case. I do not perceive that the answer does affect the representation, and no affidavits are filed against the petition. ... There is nothing in evidence before me sufficient to authorize me in thinking that this gentleman has changed, before he has arrived at twenty-five, the principles he avowed at nineteen ; and I think there is ample evidence, in the papers and in conduct, that no such change has taken place. ... This is a case in which, as the matter appears to me, the father's principles cannot be misunderstood; in which his conduct, which I cannot but consider as highly immoral, has been established in proof, and established as the effect of those principles-conduct nevertheless which he represents to himself and to others, not as conduct to be considered as immoral, but to be recommended and observed in practice, and as worthy of approbation. I con
* See p. 254.
+ According to Medwin, 17th March : and this date reappears in other publica. tions. But a letter from Mr. Longdill, dated 5th August 1817, cited in the Shelley Memorials, p. 75, proves the earlier date to be incorrect.