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\ 



AN 



EXAMINATION OF HOGG'S 



" LIFE OF SHELLE F." 



Of this Book 
Twenty-five Copies only have been printed. 



Of this Book 
Twenty-five Copies only have been printed. 



AN 



EXAMINATION OF 



HOGG'S "LIFE OF SHELLEY." 



BY 



H. S. SALT, 

Author of Pircy Bysshe Shelley: a Monograph^ 

Etc., Etc. 




:^ 



PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION ONLY. 

1889. 



1 

I 

1 327951B 

• . -.T ■ ; H 



- .J ■ . — 




HOGG'S "LIFE OF SHELLEY." 



" That such a man should have written one of the 
best books in the world," says Lord Macaulay, in speak- 
ing of Boswell, " is strange enough. But this is not all. 
Many persons who have conducted themselves foolishly 
in active life, and whose conversation has indicated no 
superior powers of mind, have left us valuable works. . . . 
But these men attained literary eminence in spite of 
their weaknesses. Boswell attained it by reason of his 
weaknesses. If he had not been a great fool, he would 
never have been a great writer." Macaulay has been 
justly taken to task by Carlyle for allowing his love of 
paradox to lead him into this strange assertion, that a 
writer's excellence was consequent upon his fo'ly ; yet I 
think that, in one sense at least, there is some truth in 
the remark. In a certain class of biography, of which 
BoswelFs Life of Johnson and Hogg's Life of Shelley are 
conspicuous examples, part of the charm exercised on 
the mind of the reader is due to the striking contrast of 
character between the biographer and his subject. When 
a philosopher is presented to us by a fool, an idealist by 
a worldling, a poet by a Philistine, the very incongruity 
of the medium imparts an additional zest to an intro- 
k duction that would anyhow be delightful ; and the 
biographer thus profits, in a manner, by his own short- 
comings ; while his very consciousness of the gulf that 
divides him from the object of his hero-worship of itself 
gives a relish to his narrative. Provided, therefore, that 



8 HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY:' 

the writer is fully imbued with a genuine feeling of 
interest and admiration — for this is certainly indispens- 
able — it is possible for a notable biography to be written 
even with an absence of tact, delicacy, judgment, critical 
power, and good taste. Such was the case with Boswell's 
Life of fohnson^ and to a minor extent such is the case 
also with Hogg's Life of Shelley, Hogg was indeed 
greatly inferior to Boswell as a biographer, and not 
quite so foolish as a man ; yet in reading Hogg, as in 
reading Boswell, we feel inclined at times to like him 
for his very absurdity, and to admire him for that 
Boswellian quality which Macaulay has described as '^ a 
perfect unconsciousness that he was making a fool of 
himself." 

Thomas Jefferson Hogg, whose intimacy with Shelley 
commenced at Oxford in 1810, was essentially what is 
known as "a rough diamond" — "a pearl within an 
oyster shell," is the expression applied to him by Shelley. 
The cynical, mordant, worldly disposition of his maturer 
years could have been only partially developed in his 
youth ; otherwise he could have had little in common 
with Shelley. But although he took an interest in 
literature during his residence at Oxford, even to the 
extent of attempting poetry and fiction, and although 
the promptings of good comradeship led him to share 
his friend's dismissal from the University, it is obvious 
enough that his heart was already set on something very 
different from literature or freethought. To get on in 
the world, to have a comfortable berth, from which he 
could regard the foibles and follies of mankind with an 
air of cynical amusement — this was the true end and 
aim of Hogg's ambition. Yet blunt and crabbed as he 
was, priding himself on his Tory exclusiveness and his 
contempt for crotchet-mongers and enthusiasts, he never- 
theless saw in Shelley " the divine poet " side by side 
with " the poor fellow ; " and in this whimsical mixture 
of pity and admiration lies, as Professor Dowden has 
remarked, the " peculiar piquancy" of Hogg's relations 
with Shelley. It was Hogg's destiny to play the Caliban 
to Shelley's Ariel. 

After Shelley's marriage with Harriet Westbrook in 
i8li, Hogg, who was now studying for the legal pro- 



HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY:' 9 

fession, still continued to be his intimate companion or 
correspondent, until Shelley's eyes were opened to the 
infiperfections of his friend's character by the incident at 
York, when Hogg's conduct to Harriet led to a temporary 
estrangement. A year later, however, the friendship was 
renewed ; and though the old intimacy could never be 
fully re-established, Hogg remained on pleasant terms 
with Shelley during the time spent in Bracknell, Marlow, 
and London. After the departure to Italy in 18 18 he 
did not again see Shelley, but received friendly messages 
and invitations on more than one occasion. In 1826, four 
years after Shelley's death, Hogg married the widow of 
Edward Williams — the "Jane" to whom so many of 
Shelley's later lyrics had been dedicated. He was on 
friendly terms with Mary Shelley, who had now returned 
to England : and it was through her introduction that 
he became acquainted, a few years later, with Bulwer 
Lytton, then editor of the New Monthly Magazine^ to 
which periodical he contributed, in 1832 and 1833, the 
series of articles on " Shelley at Oxford," which were 
afterwards incorporated in the " Life." 

It is on this portion of his work that Hogg's fame as 
a biographer must practically rest. He was here treating 
of that part of Shelley's life of which alone he was 
really competent to speak with indubitable authority ; 
and in spite of the want of accuracy and veracity which 
may be detected here and there, even in this Oxford 
narrative, the portrait as a whole is drawn with admir- 
able force and vivacity. Hogg's Shelley at Oxford is so 
well known, and has been so fully appreciated, and so 
often quoted, by later Shelley students, that there is no 
need here to do more than briefly allude to its merits, 
and to emphasize the point that, but for the reproduction 
of these famous articles, the Life of Shelley ^ published by 
Hogg a quarter of a century later, would have cut a 
very sorry figure indeed. Professor Dowden has pointed 
out that Hogg the Oxford student, was a very different 
person from Hogg the biographer of Shelley. I would 
add yet another distinction, and say that Hogg the writer 
of Shelley at Oxford^ is by no means to be confounded with 
the author of the two volumes issued in 1858. In 1832 
he was writing of what he knew well, and with a certain 

C 



lo HOGG'S ""LIFE OF SHELLEYP 

command of literary style and judgment ; in 1858, he 
wrote of matters about which he had not troubled to 
inform himself, while in style and tone he was — ^well, not 
exactly what one would desire in a biographer of Shelley. 
It is worth remarking, however, that the excellence of 
the earlier articles may have been partly due to the inter- 
position of the edited* of the New Monthly Magazine^ 
who, much to Hogg's disgust, as we learn from his 
Preface, insisted on the exercise of his editorial prero- 
gative, and struck out certain passages which he judged 
superfluous or indiscreet It is much to be regretted 
that the later chapters of the Life of Shelley did not pas5 
under similar editorial censor^ip. 

The articles on Shelly at Oxford were published, as I 
have said, in 1832 and 1833. It had long been Mary 
Shelley's desire to write the life of her husband, but this 
intention was thwarted by the ill-will of the implacable 
Sir Timothy, who, as Mrs. Shelley stated in a letter of 
1838, '' forbade biography under^a threat of stopping the 
supplies." In 1844, the death of Sir Timothy relieved 
her of this prohibition ; but a still more fatal obstacle 
now arose in the form of a serious illness, from which 
she never wholly recovered. She died in 185 1 ; and a 
few years after her death. Sir Percy and Lady Shelley 
entrusted thebic^raphical materials to the charge of Hog^ 
" a gentlemen " (to quote Lady Shelley's words) •* whose 
literary habits and early knowledge of the poet seemed 
to point him out as the most fitting person for bringing 
them to the notice of the public." Unfortunately the 
Shelley family, in their guileless confidence in Hogg's 
biographical qualities, neglected to stipulate that the 
proof sheets should be submitted for their approval. 

When the first two volumes of Hogg's biography — 
that is, half the book — ^were published in 1858, 3iey were 
found to be a most unexpected and startling performance. 
**It was impossible," says Lady Shelley in the Preface 
to the Shelley Memorials^ *' to imagine beforehand that 
from such materials a book could have been produced 
which has astonished and shocked those who have the 
greatest right to form an opinion on the character of 
Shelley. . . . Our feelings of duty to the memory of 
Shelley left us no other alternative than to withdraw the 



HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEVr ii 

materials which we had originally entrusted to his early 
friend." Accordingly the third and fourth volumes 
(which are sometimes said to exist in manuscript) 
never saw the light ; and Hogg's Life of Shelley remains 
to this day a fragment, like some strange half-finished 
structure — a " Folly," the country people would call it, — 
which has been reared and dien deserted by some 
eccentric architect Mr. Rossetti has remarked that the 
suppression of the concluding pcxtions of this book 
^ defrauds the admirers of Shelley of their just perqui- 
sites." I cannot say th^t I think we have lost much by 
the withdrawal ; on the contrary, I believe that the step 
taken by |he Shelley family was, under the circum- 
stances, a wise one for all parties ; not so much because 
Hogg's portrait of the poet was, as Lady Shelley com- 
plains, "a fantastic caricature," or in Thornton Hunt's 
words, ''a figure seen through fantastically distorting 
panes of glass" (for I am not sure that this objection can 
be altogether maintained), but rather because of the 
insufferable vulgarity of tone which pervades all the 
new portion of the book, and the utter inability of the 
author to realize the primary functions of a biographer. 
The inclusion of the articles on Shelley at Oxford^ which 
form about one-sixth of the whole, of course lent a 
great value to the work ; so, too, did the publication of 
Shelley's letters to Godwin and Hogg ; there is also, it 
must be admitted, a certain amount of the old raciness 
in a few of the stories told about Shelley's life at 
Edinburgh, Bracknell, and other places. But, on the 
whole, I do not think it is exaggeration to say that Hogg 
did his work, not only in a most egotistical spirit, but also 
in a most recklessly stupid and slovenly fashion ; and 
that, with the exception of the letters, at least one half 
of tiie later narrative is downright rubbish — pointless, 
silly, and grotesque. This is an assertion which needs 
to be corroborated by proof; if therefore, in the rest of 
this paper, I dwell on Hogg's failings, rather than on his 
merits, it will be understood that I do so simply because 
this aspect of his writings has been somewhat overlooked 
by Shelley students, who, as it seems to me, are inclined 
to take him much too seriously in his capacity of 
biographer. 



12 HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEV." 

The most notable feature of Hogg's book is, perhaps, 
the extraordinary egotism of its author. It is amusing 
to find him reminding us in one passage that he was not 
writing the history of his own life and times, " but the 
biography of a Divine Poet, to the illustration of whose 
remarkable character alone every word should tend." 
This admirable theory was unfortunately not carried into 
practice ; for he devotes page after page to a full record 
of his own circumstances and adventures, gravely 
supplying his readers with the most ample information 
concerning his family affairs, his legal studies, his holiday 
tours, his attempts in literature, his witty sayings, and, 
above all, his dinners. We have all heard of the wish 
expressed by the exasperated housekeeper, that the 
milkman would allow her to receive the milk in one can, 
and the water in another ; in the same way the reader 
of Hogg's volumes often wishes that a more distinct 
line of demarcation had been drawn between the life of 
Shelley and the life of Hogg. " It is sometimes in my 
power," says Hogg, " to illustrate the life of Shelley by 
parallel passages drawn from my own ; " and armed with 
this ingenious plea of "illustration," he proceeds to 
write what might really be fairly entitled " The Auto- 
biography of Thomas Jefferson Hogg, with records of 
his dietetic experiences." For Hogg's memory, however 
unreliable it may have been in some matters, was preter- 
naturally retentive of everything that related to the 
table : so much so, that one is tempted to apply to him 
the description given by Nathaniel Hawthorne of an 
old gentleman of his acquaintance. " His reminiscences 
of good cheer," writes Hawthorne, ** however ancient the 
date of the actual banquet, seemed to bring the savour 
of pig or turkey under one's very nostrils. There were 
flavours on his palate that had lingered there not less 
than sixty or seventy years, and were still apparently as 
fresh as that of the mutton-chop which he had just 
devoured for his breakfast. The chief tragic event of 
the old man's life, so far as I could judge, was his mishap 
with a certain goose, which lived and died some twenty 
or forty years ago — a goose of most promising figure, but 
which, at table, proved so inveterately tough, that the 
carving-knife would make no impression on its carcase, 



HOGG 'S " LIFE OF SHELLE V." 1 3 

and it could only be divided with an axe and hand-saw." 
Many not less grievous dietetic mishaps are recorded by 
Hogg, in his lengthy accounts of the tours made by 
himself in his holidays, and at other times when he was 
separated from Shelley. Here are a few instances. 

In the Oxford vacation of January 181 1, Hogg made 
a solitary pedestrian tour to Stonehenge, to an account 
of which he devotes fifteen pages of his Life of Shelley. 
He was soon in trouble at a wayside inn near Abingdon. 
His dinner consisted of "raw potatoes, muddy beer, 
stinking cheese, and wine that might be paid for, but not 
drunken." "The hope of tea," he says, "was the sole 
remaining consolation ; " but the tea proved to be like 
chopped straw ; no milk could be had ; only " a huge 
indurated loaf and salt butter." At Winchester his 
experiences were equally unfortunate ; and at Abingdon, 
on the return journey, he had " a scurvy meal," for there 
" a nasty little girl gave him some nasty tea in a nasty 
cold room." When Shelley and " his future," as Hogg 
elegantly calls Harriet, eloped to Scotland in the summer 
of the same year, Hogg, who was then at York, went 
northward to join them in Edinburgh ; and, forty-seven 
years later, when writing his Life of Shelley ^ he thought 
fit to commemorate the most trivial incidents of this 
very trivial journey, even to the mention of "a filthy 
and utterly useless breakfast " which was served to him 
at " an odious little inn in a very narrow street." But 
the most calamitous of all his voyages was that which 
he undertook to Ireland in 18 13. "I have travelled 
much," he says, " by coaches ; and therefore I know as 
well as any man, and to my sorrow, what a bad breakfast 
is, and I assert that the breakfast at Conway was never 
surpassed — vile bread, vile butter, and the vilest tea." 
At last, at Holyhead, he was on the point of obtaining 
consolation. "The provisions" he says, "looked welL 
There was a nice roast leg of mutton, mealy potatoes, 
and other things — all very tempting." But now, at this 
supreme moment, the fate of Tantalus befell him, for 
just as he was sitting down to dinner, it was announced 
that the packet was about to sail, and there was no time 
to dine. Even then, he made a last effort, and by the 
advice of a crafty waiter, purchased, at an exorbitant 

D 



14 HOGG'S « UFE OF SHELLEY.' 

price, the whole leg of mutton in question ; but ^en he 
got on board the vessel he found he had been tricked, 
for the I^ of mutton was nowhere to be seen. ^ How I 
should have enjoyed a little breakfast,** he cries, ** how- 
ever homely ; a crust of brown bread and milk, skim milk, 
oatmeal porridge, cold cabbage, anything ; but no man 
grave unto me." The crowning sorrow was when, him- 
self unfed, he saw a bishop on deck, ** sipping hot 
chocolate out of a large china cup." But we have had 
enough of this protracted agony. Let us draw a curtain 
over the remainder of Hc^^s dietetic misfortunes. 

It is certainly a singular and remarkable fact, that 
Shelley, one of the foremost apostles of " plain living and 
high thinking," should have found for his chief exponent 
and biographer a gourmand who was so decidedly ad- 
dicted to the contrary formula. Yet let us give Hc^^g 
his due ; for, epicure though he was, he seems to have 
been willing to make what was to him a heavy sacrifice 
for the sake of Shelley's society. " It is a strong proof," 
he says (and here we are inclined to agree with him), 
" of the extraordinary fascination of the society of the 
Divine Poet, that to purchase it — and it was absolutely 
requisite to pay a price — I submitted cheerfully so often^ 
and for such a long period, to so many inconveniences 
and privations. I was never indifferent to the amenities 
of life; I had always been accustomed to comfort — to a 
certain elegance, indeed: at college, in preparing for 
college, and more especially at home ; for in a district 
where the creature comforts were well cared for, my own 
family were always conspicuous for an exact and 
exquisite nicety. In this respect, as in some others, 
there was something contradictory in Shelley." It is 
amusing to find Hogg, the votary of creature comforts, 
actually introduced by Shelley into the vegetarian circle 
of the Newtons and Boinvilles ; nay more, the plunge 
once made, he seems not only to have tolerated, but to a 
certain limited extent, and always with the confident 
hope of a something better hereafter, to have even 
enjoyed the Pythagorean fare. " I also," he tells us, 
" followed exactly the canonical observances of the 
vegetable church of Nature ; and I found them far from 
disagreeable, in the country, and during the summer and 




HOGG'S " LIFE OF SHELLE V." 1 5 

autumn.'' "An epicure," he elsewhere remarks, "fond 
of variety, would do well to adopt vegetable diet, now 
and then, for a day or two, as a change, for the mere 
gratification." 

But it is time to leave Hogg, the teacher of dietetics, 
and to return to him in his capacity of Shelley's bio- 
grapher. His egotism, gluttony, and digressive tendency 
might in themselves be pardonable enough, if they were 
merely a thing apart, that could be passed by and 
forgotten ; if we could effect the literary analysis already 
hinted at, and separate the milk of Shelley's life from 
the water of Hogg's. But unfortunately this is not 
possible ; for Hogg is so carried away by the sense of 
his own importance, that the whole narrative is thereby 
affected ; he persistently minimizes and depreciates the 
value of those episodes in Shelley's early life in which 
he himself had no part. His account of Shelley's 
school-days is most meagre and unsatisfactory. " How 
long he remained at Sion House," he says, " I know 
not," nor at what age he was removed to Eton " — as if, 
forsooth, it was not his duty, as biographer, to inquire 
into and elucidate precisely such questions as these. 
So, too, with regard to the Dublin episode, which occurred 
during the year in which Hogg was not admitted to 
Shelley's confidences, and is accordingly relegated to a 
position of absolute non-importance. " I never could 
discover," he says, " the source of the strange scheme. 
He did not communicate his intentions to me at the 
time. I never heard of his exploits at Dublin until 
after their termination, and but little did I learn at any 
period from himself ; in truth he appeared to be heartily 
ashamed of the whole proceeding. Whatever can be dis- 
covered concerning this Irish dream, — the vision of want 
of judgment, — must be made out from his correspondence 
with his newly acquired friend" (William Godwin). 
How incompetent Hogg was to understand the motives 
that prompted Shelley's Irish campaign, may be judged 
from his own confession of his interest in the state of 
Ireland. " I would not take the trouble to walk across 
Chancery Lane in the narrowest part, if by so doing I 
could at once redress all the wrongs and grievances of 
Ireland." It is very amusing to notice the supreme 



1 6 HOGG'S ''UFE OF SHELLEY.'' 

contempt expressed by Hogg for all the plans under- 
taken by Shelley without his sanction ; it is then that he 
speaks of him as " the poor fellow " rather than ** the 
DiWne Poet" "The truth is," he says» speaking of 
Shelley's self-introduction to Leigh Hunt, "my poor 
friend knew well that it was quite wrong, because he 
never communicated his intentions tot myself or to 
any of his friends." And in another passage : ^ When- 
ever any act of signal folly, extraordinary indiscretion, 
and insane extravagance, was to be perpetrated, I was 
never informed of it, and certainly there was no obliga- 
tion to tell me." When Shelley and Harriet went widi 
Peacock on a tour to Scotland, Hogg confesses that he 
was surprised "at the unexpected intelligence of his 
sudden and absurd flight, of his second and causeless 
visit to the metropolis of Scotland." And so in other 
instances ; the bic^aphical importance of the events of 
Shelley's life is measured chiefly by the pipminence, in 
each case, of the biographer's own perscxiality. 

The fact is, that Hc^[g, apart from his consuming 
sense of self-importance, had none of the diligence 
which is indispensable to a competent biographer. 
Boswell, it may be, was a fool ; but he was a fool who 
could take an immense amount of trouble in his bio- 
graphical labours. Hogg could not, or would not, do 
this ; the absurd parade he makes of his preparations 
for writing the Life of Shelley is itself suggestive of a 
too easy-going view of the biographer's duty. ** When 
I undertook," he says, " to write the life of my incom- 
parable friend, my first care was to collect materials for 
the task. Accordingly, I spent several long and laborious 
days in the painful ofHce, painful in every way, of looking 
over my ample collections, and selecting from my 
several repositories whatever had any reference to the 
subject" "I never," he adds, lapsing as usual into a 
piece of autobiography, which in this case may be 
understood in more senses than one, " I never had such 
dirty hands, or went through so filthy a job, as when I 
made the retrospect of my past life." In addition to 
the contents of his own "repositories," Hogg was en- 
trusted, as we know, with certain papers in the possession 
of the Shelley family. But he was too lazy, too conceited. 




HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY:' 17 

ot too incompetent to arrange and dispose his materials 
with any method or accuracy ; his book is accordingly a 
mere jumble of letters, anecdotes, and information, pitch- 
forked in without any regard to relevancy or chrono- 
logical succession. 

But Hogg, as a biographer, had a still more serious 
failing than his lack of diligence : he is guilty at times 
of stating, or suggesting, what is directly contrary to the 
truth. His portrait of Shelley at Oxford is in the main 
so vivid and impressive, that the reader is disinclined to 
criticize too minutely the treatment of details ; otherwise 
there are probably few of Hoggf's anecdotes that would 
stand the test of a critical examination. This perhaps 
is a matter of no great consequence, certainly of no 
great rarity. De Quincey has expressed his opinion that 
a// anecdotes are false. " My duty to the reader," 
he says, * extorts from me the disagreeable confession, as 
upon a matter specially investigated by myself, that all 
dealers in ^anecdotes are tainted with mendacity. 
Rarer than the phcenix is that virtuous man (a monster 
he is — nay, he is an impossible man) who will consent to 
lose a prosperous anecdote on the consideration that it 
happens to be a He." We may suspect that a goodly 
number of Hoggf's anecdotes were retained by him in 
spite of this trifling objection ; but as they are so graphic 
and amusing, and as the general result is so good, we are 
content to regard them not as lies, but " idealisations." 

Unfortunately the misstatements in Hogg's later bio- 
graphy are of a more serious nature. The most signal 
instance is the account given by him of Shelley's sudden 
departure from York to Keswick in November, 1811, — a 
change of residence which was in reality necessitated by 
Hogg^s conduct to Harriet, and was for that reason carried 
into effect without the knowledge or sanction of the 
amazed offender. Finding himself thus left ignominiously 
in the lurch, Hogg wrote letter after letter, entreating 
to be allowed once more to be a neighbour or inmate of 
Shelley's family ; but his prayers, self-reproaches, expos- 
tulations, and threats (for he even threatened Shelley 
with a duel) were all alike disregarded, and he received 
only the cold comfort of several admonitory epistles, — 
written in a measured philosophical style like that of 



1 8 HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY:^ 

Godwin, — in which Shelley advised him as to the course 
of conduct that would best conduce to his moral wel£su^ 
When Hogg was writing the history of this passage of 
Shelley's life, he found himself in an awkward predica- 
ment ; for it was not at all to his taste to chronicle his 
own dismissal at the hands of his *' incomparable friend ; " 
he therefore put a bold face on the matter, and repre- 
sented the journey to Keswick as a mere whim on 
Shelley's part, while his own sojourn at York was due to 
his inflexible determination to continue his legal studies. 
^ Nothing would please," he says, " but an immediate 
journey to Keswick; and our flight must be in the 
winter. I was requested, strongly urged to join in it 
To quit my professional duties in which I had engaged 
was impossible ; besides, the impracticable month of 
November was ill-suited for such an excursion. ... I 
gave no hopes that I would soon follow, but they knew 
better than I did ; and they were confident I should not 
tarry." Unfortunately for Hogg's story, Shelley's letters 
to Miss Hitchener give a full account of this episode, and 
show that so far from strongly urging him to join them, 
they resolutely declined the ofier of his company. But 
writing nearly half a century later, Hogg no doubt 
trusted that all record of these events had perished, 
except the letters which he had himself received from 
Shelley ; and so great was his audacity, that he actually 
printed one of these in a later chapter of his book, under 
the title of a " Fragment of a Novel," substituting the 
name Charlotte for Harriet. "You deceive yourself 
terribly, my friend," says the supposed novelist, who is 
of course Shelley. " It convinces me more forcibly than 
ever how unfit it is that you should live near us ; it con- 
vinces me that I, by permitting it, should act a subservient 
part in the promotion of yours and Charlotte's misery. 
... It appears to me that I am acting as your friend — 
your disinterested friend — by objecting to your living 
near us at present." To publish this passage in the very 
volume where he represented himself as being urgently 
invited to Keswick, was certainly a sign of considerable 
biographical hardihood. 

It must be admitted that Hogg, in the matter of 
veracity, or the contrary, did not do things by halves, 



HOGG'S ""LIFE OF SHELLEY:' 19 

but that when he had told a lie of the first magnitude he 
not only stuck to it bravely, but took pleasure in garnish- 
ing it and enhancing its proportions by a few auxiliary 
fibs. So it was in this case of Shelley's departure to 
Keswick. " My instructions/' says Hogg, " with regard 
to Shelley's correspondence were to open all letters that 
should come to York for him, and to despatch such only 
as appeared to me to be worth the postage." These 
instructions may have been given ; though under the 
circumstances it does not seem very probable that 
Shelley would have empowered Hogg to read his letters. 
But when Hogg goes on to state that, among the letters 
he opened and forwarded, was one from the Duke of 
Norfolk, dated November 7th, 181 1, in which Shelley 
was invited to pay a visit to Graystoke, he at once shows 
the cloven hoof, for it has been ascertained beyond 
doubt ^ that the letter of November 7th contained no 
invitation at all, the invitation being given in a later letter 
of November 23rd, which did not pass through Hogg's 
hands. He had evidently heard of the visit to Gray- 
stoke, and naturally concluded that the letter he had 
forwarded had reference to that point ; he therefore 
invented the account of his opening and reading the 
letter, in order to give a life-like touch to his foregoing 
figments about his unbroken intimacy with Shelley at 
this time. As the letter which he forwarded was franked 
by the Duke, he had no cause to open it at all, and 
doubtless did not do so. 

It is useless, however, to multiply instances of the 
vulgarity and inaccuracy which are apparent to every 
reader of Hogg's two volumes. Many of his stories are 
too coarse and brutal to bear repetition ; nor is their 
coarseness often redeemed by any touch of real wit or 
humour — they are, in nine cases out of ten, stupid and 
pointless to the last degree, and their inclusion in a Life of 
Shelley is scarcely less than an outrage on Shelley's name. 
The only excuse for Hogg is that he was unaware of his 
own vulgarity ; and this excuse, I fear, is the severest con- 
demnation that can be passed on a man. When we 
read some of the sallies and witticisms which he records 
with so much self-satisfaction, we can feel the force of 

1 MacCarlhy's Shelley* s Early Life^ p. 118— 120. 



> 



327951B 



20 HOGG'S « LIFE OF SHELLEY^ 

that story about the Oxford don, who, when Hogg 
heroically exclaimed before the magnates of University 
College, ''If Shelley is an atheist, / am an atheist," 
quietly answered, "No; you are only a fooL" Was 
there ever such bathos, such balderdash, as that into 
which Hog^ sinks, quiet contentedly, and unconsciously, 
when he attempts to write of Shelley, or of Mary 
Shelley, or of himself, in a tender and touching strain ? 
Here is his allusion to Sir Timothy's refusal to allow his 
daughter-in-law to write her husband's life. ** Be silent 
or starve ! The prohibition is certainly hard ; harder 
than all things ; harder than all hard things ; harder 
than all hard things put together, and hardened into one 
superlatively hard thing. The poor widowed dove was 
forbidden to lament her lost mate." And again, of his 
own biography, which really does not seem to call for 
any particular gush of sentiment, least of all from an 
eiuthor who boasted himself the sworn foe of all senti-^ 
mentality: "Let us next write of the immortal dead 
whilst he was at Eton. And, oh ! let us write of him 
with a tender sadness, as a dove would write about his 
lost mate." This pathetic symbol of the bereaved dove 
was evidently one to which Hogg was partial; but 
feeling, on this occasion, that his metaphors were getting 
rather " mixed " when he attributed to this plaintive bird 
the faculty of penmanship, he adds by way of exj^lana- 
tion: "And why may not a dove write, with a pen- 
drawn painfully from his own wing?" Had he said 
^oose instead of dove, the notion might have been less 
open to critical remark. 

In consideration of the above-mentioned defects in 
Hogg's biographical style, numerous other instances of 
which might easily have been adduced, I do not think it 
can be a matter for surprise that Shelley's relatives de* 
clined to lend their sanction to the production of a thind 
and a fourth volume of a similar kind. 

In late years Mr. Jefferson Hogg has found a fitting 
champion in Mr. Cordy JeafTreson, whose view is that 
Hog^s delightful book '• was stopped midway because 
its realism offended the Hunts and Field Place." **It 
had been hoped," he says, " by Field Place, that Mr. 
Hogg would varnish ugly facts with specious phrases^" 



HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY:' 21 

and Hogg, being "a robust enemy of shams," was 
sacrificed to this family sentiment ; since " no biography/' 
according to Mr. Jeaffreson, " would satisfy Field Place, 
which should fail to accord with the notion that Shelley 
was a being of stainless purity and angelic holiness*" 
V Field Place " is well able to take care of itself in this 
matter { but it is worth pointing out that the true grava- 
men of the charge against Hc^g is not that he was 
disloyal to Shelley (for, as a matter of fact, he bears 
repeated and explicit testimony to the nobility of 
Shelley's character) but that he utterly failed in his 
bic^aphical duties, owing to his ^otism, vulgarity, 
untruthfulness, and general incompetence. Even Mr. 
Jeaffreson is compelled to admit that Hog^ was guilty 
of occasional lapses in this respect ; though, with 
characteristic perverseness, he chooses the episode at 
York, and Shelley's jconsequent quarrel with Hogg, as 
the opportunity for passing a severe censure on the 
wicked poet, and a high encomium on the faithful and 
wrongly-suspected friend. Shelley, it seems, was the 
victim in this matter of " a mprbid fancy," ** a ghastly 
hallucination," caused in the first instance by the 
machinations of Eliza Westbrook ; while Hogg was 
wholly guiltless of offence, being, according to Mn 
Jeaffreson's description, '* from certain points of view a 
t3^ical English gentleman," with '* a vein of poetry, a 
strong vein of romance, in his comparatively cold 
nature." Such is Mr. JeafTreson's "real Hc^g" — a 
personage quite as mythical and non-existent as his 
"real Shelley." 

It is far from being a fact that Hogg has been unjustly 
depreciated by those whom Mr. Jeaffreson calls " the 
Shelleyan enthusiasts." On the contrary, it is strange 
that so many Shelley students should have taken him 

S)ractically at his own valuation, gravely repeating his 
antastic assertions concerning his aristocratic tastes, 
intellectual exclusiveness, and so forth ; the only notable 
exception of which I am aware being found in Mr. 
Denis MacCarth/s volume on Sheilas Early Life^ 
which contains a merciless exposure of many of Hogg's 
absurdities and misstatements. 

Let us be just to Hogg and allow that as a young 

F 



22 HOGG'S « UFE OF SHELLEYJ' 

man he had a liking for good literature (his love of 
Greek, especially, seems to have been an abiding 
affection) ; he had moreover a certain caustic humour 
and good-natured oddity of character, which, if not too 
closely examined, might have been mistaken, as indeed 
it wets at first mistaken by Shelley himself, for originality. 
Apart from Shelley, Hogg was simply a rough diamond 
— a coarse-tongued jester, whose jokes did not improve 
with time ; magnetized by Shelley's genius into genuine 
and loyal admiration of faculties the most dissimflar to 
his own, he was able, in spite of his seeming disqualifi- 
cations, to give us, in his Shelley at Oxford^ one of the 
best, perhaps the very best, of all the portraits of the 
poet, a portrait which, incorporated in ihi^ Life of Shelley ^ 
stands out in strong relief from the ineptitude and 
vulgarity of its surroundings. When commissioned, a 
quarter of a century later, to construct a larger work, 
with materials which exceeded and transcended the 
limited range of his knowledge and experience, he failed, 
as he might have been expected to fail, to do justice to 
his subject ; such value as his work possessed being due 
to the intrinsic interest of the biography rathfer than to 
the biographer's manner of treatment. The sarcastic 
comment made by Ruskin on Grote's History of Greece^ 
— that as good a book might have been written by any 
clerk between Charing Cross and the Bank — might be 
applied, without being wholly erroneous, to the later- 
written portion of Hogg's Life of Shelley, How destitute 
Hogg was of any real literary ability, except when 
under the influence of that one interesting feature of his 
life — his connection with Shelley, — may be learnt by 
those who care to look into his foumal of a Traveller on 
the Continenty published in 1827, as commonplace a book 
of travel as could anywhere be met with. That early 
comradeship with his " incomparable friend " was the 
one fertile oasis in Hogg's life- desert of barren soil and 
egotistical platitudes ; his career — if I may venture to 
quote Mr. Browning's often-quoted stanza — was 

" A moor, with a name of its own. 

And a certain use in the world no doubt ; 
Yet a hand's-breadtli of it shines alone, 
'Mid the blank miles round about." 



HOGG'S ''LIFE OF SHELLEY.'' 23 

Hogg, like Boswell, was gifted by fortune with one 
memorable thing to tell to his fellow-men ; and the 
telling of it was enhanced, as in Boswell's case, by the 
singular contrast between the biographer and the subject 
of the biography. Whenever the Shelley at Oxford is in 
question, we recognise with gratitude the value of Hogg's 
work ; but, outside that special and limited province, we 
cannot for a moment admit that his writing is in any 
way trustworthy or valuable. 



H. S. Salt. 



LmuUm: 
PrinUd by Richard Qay & Sons, limited, Brtad Strtet HilL 

August^ 1889.