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Full text of "Letters from Percy Bysshe Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchener"

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LETTERS 



TO 



ELIZABETH KITCHENER. 



'* The peculiar virtue of his [S/reliey's] epistles is to 
express the mind of the poet as Perfectly as Macaulay's 
express the mind of the man of letters, or Welling' 

ton's the 7nind of the general ; and a r'ery 

great part of the pleasure to he derived from them is 
the observation of their intimate correspondence with 
the deliberate poetical achievement upon which they 
are an uttdesigned commentary. They prove that 
Shelley's ideal world was a real world to Shelley 
himself; and contain nothing to suggest that the man 
habitually lived on a loiver level than the author." 



LETTER.S 

FROM 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 



TO 



ELIZABETH KITCHENER. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 

VOL I. 



1890. 

London : Privately Printed. 

(Not for Sale.) 



CONTENTS. 

Vol. I. 



LETTER I. 

Field Place, Horsham. 

Wednesday, ^th JtmCy i8il , , 3 

LETTER II. 

Field Place, Horsham. 

Tuesday y lUhJune, iSll . , . 6 

LETTER III. 

Field Place, Horsham. 

Thursday, loth Jimc, i8ii . . 15 

LETTER IV. 

Field Place, Horsham, 

Tuesday, 2^thjune, 1811. . . .22 

LETTER V. 

Cwm Elan, Rhayader. 

Thursday, 2$th July, 181 1 . . . 28 

LETTER VI. 

Cwm Elan, Rhayader. 

Friday, 26ihjuly, 18 11 . . . 34 



viii CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

LETTER VII. 
London. 
' Saturday ^ \oth August, i8ii . . 39 

LETTER VIII. 

London. 

Monday f igth August, 181 1 . . 42 

LETTER IX. 

Coney Street, York. 

Tuesday, %th October, 1811 . . . 46 

LETTER X. 

York. 
Wednesday, 16th October, 1811 . . 50 

LETTER XI. 

Cuckfield. 

Saturday, l^th October, 181 1 . , 59 

LETTER XII. 

Blake Street, York. 

Saturday, 26tk October, i8ii . . 62 

LETTER XIII. 

Townhead, Keswick. 

Friday, Zlh November, \%\\ . . 72 



CONTENTS. ix 

LETTER XIV. ^*^^ 

Chesnut Cottage, Keswick. 

Tuesday, llth Ncwembei', 1811 . . 7S 

LETTER XV. 

Chesnut Hill, Keswick. 

Thursday, 20th November, i%ii 3^ 

LETTER XVI. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Wednesday, 2.0th Ncruember, 1811 . 91 

LETTER XVII. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Saturday, 2Zrd November, 1811 . 96 

LETTER XVIII. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 
Sunday, 2^h November, iZii , . ic6 
LETTER XIX. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 
Tuesday, 26th November, 181 1 . . 113 
LETTER XX. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Monday, ^th December, iZii . .1^^ 



X CONTENTS. 

PACE 
LETTER XXI. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Tuesday, loth December, i^il . 125 

LETTER XXn. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Sunday, i^th December, 181 1 . 134 

LETTER XXin. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Thursday, zdtk December, 181 1 . 142 

LETTER XXIV. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

Thursday, 2nd January, 1812 . 151 

ERRATUM. 
Page 78. 
For, Tuesday, nth November, 18 11, 
Read, Tuesday, 12th November, 18 n. 



LETTERS. 



LETTERS TO 
ELIZABETH KITCHENER. 

LETTER I. 

Field Place, 

[ PVednesday] ^ne $, 1 8 1 1 , 

Dear Madam, 

I desired Locke to be sent to 
you from London, and the Captain has 
two books which he will give you — 
The Curse of Kehama, and Ensor's 
National Education. The latter is the 
production of a very clever man. You 
may keep the poem as long as you 
please ; but I shall want the latter in 
the course of a month or two, — before 
which, however, I shall have the plea- 
sure of seeing you. 



4 LETTERS TO 

I fear our arguments are too long, 
and too candidly carried on, to make 
any figure on paper. Feelings do not 
look so well as reasonings on black 
and white. If, however, secure of 
your own orthodoxy, you would at- 
tempt my proselytism, believe me I 
should be most happy to subject my- 
self to the danger. But I know that 
you, like myself, are a devotee at the 
shrine of Truth. Truth is my God ; 
and say he is air, water, earth, or 
electricity, but I think yours is redu- 
cible to the same simple Divinityship. 
Seriously, however : if you very widely 
differ, or differ indeed in the least, 
from me on the subject of our late 
argument, the only reason which would 
induce me to object to a polemical 
correspondence is that it might deprive 
your time of that application which its 
value deserves : mine is totally vacant. 

Walter Scott has published a new 
poem, The Vision of Don Roderick. I 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 5 

have ordered it. You shall have it 
when I have finished. I am not very 
enthusiastic in the cause of Walter 
Scott. The aristocratical tone which 
his writings assume does not prepossess 
me in his favour, since my opinion is 
that all poetical beauty ought to be 
subordinate to the inculcated moral, — 
that metaphorical language ought to 
be a pleasing vehicle for useful and 
momentous instruction. But see Ensor 
on the subject of poetry. 
Adieu. 

Your sincere 

Percy Shelley. 



LETTERS TO 



LETTER II. 

Field Place, 
{TuesdaylJune ii, i8u. 

My Dear Madam, 

With pleasure I engage in a 
correspondence which carries its own 
recommendation both with my feeHngs 
and my reason. I am now, however, 
an imdivided votary of the latter. I 
do not know which were most compli- 
mefitary : but, as you do not admire, 
as I do not study, this aristocratical 
science, it is of little consequence. 

Am I to expect an enemy or an 
ally in Locke? Locke proves that 
there are no innate ideas; that, in 
consequence, there can be no innate 
speculative or practical principles, — 
thus overturning all appeals oi feeling 
in favour of Deity, since that feeling 
must be referable to some origin. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER 7 

There must have been a time when 
it did not exist; in consequence, a 
time when it began to exist. Since 
all ideas are derived from the senses, 
this feeling must have originated from 
some sensual excitation : consequently 
the possessor of it may be aware of 
the time, of the circumstances, attend- 
ing its commencement. Locke proves 
this by induction too clear to admit 
of rational objection. He affirms, 
in a chapter of whose reasoning I 
leave your reason to judge, that there 
is a God : he affirms also, and that 
in a most unsupported way, that the 
Holy Ghost dictated St. Paul's writings. 
Which are we to prefer? The proof 
or the affirmation? 

To a belief in Deity I have no 
objection on the score of feeling: I 
would as gladly, perhaps with greater 
pleasure, admit than doubt his exist- 
ence. I now do neither : I have not 
the shadow of a doubt. 



8 LETTERS TO 

My wish to convince you of his 
non-existence is twofold : first, on the 
score of truth; secondly, because I 
conceive it to be the most summary 
way of eradicating Christianity. I 
plainly tell you my intentions and my 
views. I see a being whose aim, like 
mine, is virtue. Christianity militates 
with a high pursuit of it. Hers is a 
high pursuit of it : she is therefore not 
a Christian. Yet wherefore does she 
deceive herself? Wherefore does she 
attribute to a spurious, irrational (as 
proved), disjointed system of desultory 
ethics, — insulting, intolerant theology, 
— that high sense of calm dispassionate 
virtue which her own meditations have 
elicited ? Wherefore is a man who has 
profited by this error to say : " You 
are regarded as a monster in society ; 
eternal punishment awaits your infi- 
delity?" "I do not believe it," is 
your reply. " Here is a book," is the 
rejoinder. " Pray to. the Being who is 



I 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 9 

here described, and you shall soon 
believe." 

Surely, if a person obstinately 7vills 
to believe, — determines spite of him- 
self, spite of the refusal of that part 
of mind to admit the assent in which 
only can assent rationally be centred, 
— wills thus to put himself under the 
influence of passion,— all reasoning is 
superfluous. Yet I do not suppose 
that you act thus (for action it must be 
called, as belief is a passion) ; since the 
religion does not hold out high morality 
as an apology for an aberration from 
reason. In this latter case, reason 
might sanction the aberration, and 
fancy become but an auxiliary to its 
influence. 

Dismiss, then, Christianity, in which 
no arguments can enter. Passion and 
Reason are in their natures opposite. 
Christianity is the former ; and Deism 
(for we are now no further) is the 
latter. 



10 LETTERS TO 

What, then, is a " God " ? It is a 
name which expresses the unknown 
cause, the suppositious origin of all 
existence. When we speak of the soul 
of man, we mean that unknown cause 
which produces the observable effect 
evinced by his intelligence and bodily 
animation, which are in their nature 
conjoined, and (as we suppose, as we 
observe) inseparable. The word God, 
then, in the sense which you take it, 
analogizes with the universe as the soul 
of man to his body ; as the vegetative 
power to vegetables ; the stony power 
to stones. Yet, were each of these 
adjuncts taken away, wl^at would be 
the remainder ? What \i man without 
his soul ? He is not man. What are 
Vegetables without their vegetative 
power? stones without their stony? 
Each of these as much constitutes the 
essence of men, stones, &c., as much 
make it what it is, as your " God " does 
the universe. In this sense I acknow- 



ELIZABETH HITCH EN ER. II 

ledge a God ; but merely as a synonym 
for the existing pouter of existence. 

I do not in this (nor can you do, I 
think) recognize a being which has 
created that to which it is confessedly 
annexed as an essence, as that without 
which the universe would not be what 
it is. It is therefore the essence of the 
universe : the universe is the essence of 
it. It is another word for " the essence 
of the universe." You recognize not in 
this an identical being to whom are 
attributable the properties of virtue, 
mercy, loveHness. Imagination delights 
in personification. Were it not for this 
embodying quality of eccentric fancy, 
we should be, to this day, without a 
God. Mars was personified as the God 
of War, Juno of Policy, &c. 

But you have formed in your mind 
the Deity of Virtue. The personifica- 
tion — beautiful in poetry, inadmissible 
in reasoning — in the true style of 
Hindoostanish devotion, you have 



12 LETTERS TO 

adopted. I war against it for the sake 
of truth. There is such a thing as 
virtue : but what, who, is this Deity of 
Virtue ? Not the father of Christ, not 
the source of the Holy Ghost ; not the 
God who beheld with favour the coward 
wretch Abraham, who built the grandeur 
of his favourite Jews on the bleeding 
bodies of myriads, on the subjugated 
necks of the dispossessed inhabitants 
of Canaan. But here my instances 
were as long as the memoir of his 
furious King-like exploits, did not con- 
tempt succeed to hatred. Did I now 
see him seated in gorgeous and tyrannic 
majesty, as described, upon the throne 
of infinitude, if I bowed before him, 
what would Virtue say ? Virtue's voice 
is almost inaudible ; yet it strikes upon 
the brain, upon the heart. The howl 
of self-interest is loud ; but the heart 
is black which throbs solely to its note. 
You say our theory is the same : I 
believe it. Then why all this ? The 



ELIZABETH HITCH EN ER. 1 3 

power which makes me a sctibbler 
knows ! 

I have just finished a novel of the 
day — The Missionary, \>^ Mrs. Owenson. 
It dwells on ideas which, when young, 
I dwelt on with enthusiasm : now I 
laugh at the weakness which is past. 

The Curse of Kehatna, which you will 
have, is my most favourite poem ; yet 
there is a great error — faith in the 
character of the divine Kailyal. 

Yet I forgot. I intended to mention 
to you something essential. I recom- 
mend reason. Why? Is it because, 
since I have devoted myself unreserved- 
ly to its influencing, I have never felt 
happiness? I have rejected all fancy, 
all imagination : I find that all pleasure 
resulting to self is thereby completely 
annihilated. I am led into this egotism, 
that you may be clearly aware of the 
nature of reason, as it affects me. I 
am sincere : will you comment upon 
this? 



14 LETTERS TO 

Adieu. A picture of Christ hangs 
opposite in my room : it is well done, 
and has met my look at the conclusion 
of this. Do not believe but that I am 
sincere : but am I not too prolix ? 
Yours most sincerely, 

Percy Shelley. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 15 



LETTER III. 

Field Place. 
[Thursday^ June 20, 181 1. 

My Dear Madam, 

Your letter, though dated the 
14th, has not reached me until this 
moment. 

" Reason sanctions an aberration 
from reason." I admit it ; or rather, on 
some subjects, I conceive it to com- 
mand a dereliction of itself. What I 
mean by this is an habitual analysis of 
our own thoughts. It is this habit, 
acquired by length of solitary labour, 
never then to be shaken off, which 
induces gloom; which deprives the 
being thus affected of any anticipation 
or retrospection of happiness, and leaves 
him eagerly in pursuit of virtue, — yet 
(apparent paradox) pursuing it without 
the weakest stimulus. It is this, then, 



1 6 LETTERS TO 

against which I intended to caution 
you : this is the tree which it is 
dangerous to eat, but which 1 have fed 
upon to satiety. 

We both look around us. We find 
that we exist. We find ourselves 
reasoning upon the mystery which 
involves our being. We see virtue 
and vice ; we see light and darkness. 
Each is separate, distinct : the line 
which divides them is glaringly per- 
ceptible. Yet how racking it is to 
the soul, when enquiring into its own 
operations, to find that perfect virtue is 
very far from attainable, — to find reason 
tainted by feeling, to see the mind, 
when analysed, exhibit a picture of 
irreconcileable inconsistencies, even 
when perhaps, a moment before, it 
imagined that it had grasped the fleet- 
ing phantom of virtue ! But let us 
dismiss the subject. 

It is still my opinion, for reasons 
before mentioned, that Christianity 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 17 

strongly militates with virtue. Both 
yourself and Lyttelton are guilty of amis- 
take of the term " Christian." A Chris- 
tian is a follower of the religion which 
has constantly gone by the name of 
Christianity, as a Mahometan is of 
Mahometanism. Each of these pro- 
fessors ceases to belong to the sect 
which either word means, when they 
set up a doctrine of their own, irre- 
concileable with that of either religion 
except in a few instances in which 
common and self-evident morality coin- 
cides with its tenets. It is then moraHty, 
virtue, which they set up as the 
criterion of their actions, and not the 
exclusive doctrine preached by the 
founder of any religion. Why, your 
religion agrees as much with Bramah, 
Zoroaster, or Mahomet, as with Christ. 
Virtue is self-evident : consequently I 
act in unison with its dictates when 
the doctrines of Christ do not differ 
from virtue ; there I follow them. 



i8 LETTERS TO 

Surely you then follow virtue : or you 
equally follow Bramah and Mahomet 
as Christ. Your Christianity does not 
interfere with virtue : and why ? 
Because it is not Christianity ! 

Yet you still appear to court the 
delusion. How is this ? Do I know 
you as well as I know myself? Then 
it is that this religion promises a future 
state, which otherwise were a matter at 
least of doubt. Let us consider. A 
false view of any subject, when a true 
one were attainable, were best avoided, 
inasmuch as truth and falsehood are in 
themselves good and bad. All that nat- 
ural reason enables us to discover is that 
we now are ; that there was a time when 
we were not ; that the moment, even, 
when we are now reasoning is a point be- 
fore and after which is eternity. Shall 
we sink into the nothing from whence we 
have arisen ? But could we have arisen 
from nothing ? We put an acorn into the 
ground. In process of time it modifies 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 19 

the particles of earth, air and water 
by infinitesimal division, so as to pro- 
duce an oak. That power which makes 
it to be this oak we may call its 
vegetative principle, symbolizing with 
the animal principle, or soul of animated 
existence. 

An hundred years pass. The oak 
moulders in putrefaction : it ceases to 
be what it is : its soul is gone. Is then 
soul annihilable ? Yet one of the pro- 
perties of animal soul is consciousness 
of identity. If this is destroyed, in 
consequence the soul (whose essence 
this is) must perish. But, as I conceive 
(and as is certainly capable of demon- 
stration) that nothing can be annihilated, 
but that everything appertaining to 
nature, consisting of constituent parts 
infinitely divisible, is in a continual 
change, then do I suppose — and I think 
I have a right to draw this inference — 
that neither will soul perish ; that, in a 
future existence, it will lose all conscious- 



20 LETTERS TO 

ness of having formerly lived elsewhere, 
- — will begin life anew, possibly under 
a shape of which we have no idea. — But 
we have no right to make hypotheses. 
This is not one : at least I flatter myself 
that I have kept clear of supposition. 

What think you of the bubbling 
brooks and mossy banks at Carlton 
House, — the allees vertes, &c. ? It is 
said that this entertainment will cost 
;;^ 1 20,000. Nor will it be the last 
bauble which the nation must buy to 
amuse this overgrown bantling of 
Regency. How admirably this grow- 
ing spirit of ludicrous magnificence 
tallies with the disgusting splendours of 
the stage of the Roman Empire which 
preceded its destruction ! Yet here 
are a people advanced in intellectual 
improvement wilfully rushing to a 
revolution, the natural death of all 
great commercial empires, which must 
plunge them in the barbarism from 
which they are slowly arising. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 21 

Don Roderick is not yet come 
out : when it is, you shall see it. — 
Adieu. 

Yours most sincerely, 

Percy Shelley. 



22 LETTERS TO 



LETTER IV. 

Field Place. 
\Tuesda}>\ yune 2$, 1811. 

My Dear Madam, 

Do not speak any more of my 
time thrown away, or you will compel 
me, in my own defence, to say things 
which, although they could not share in 
the nature, would participate in the 
appearance, of compliment. 

What you say of the fallen state of 
Man I will remark upon. Man is fallen. 
How is he fallen ? You see a thing 
imperfect and diminutive ; but you 
cannot infer that it had degenerated to 
this state, without first proving that it 
had anteriorly existed in a perfect 
state. Apply this rule, the accuracy of 
which is unquestionable, to Man. 
Look at history, even the earliest. 
What does it tell you of Man ? An 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 23 

ancient tradition recorded in the Bible 
(upon the truth or falsehood of which 
this depends) tells you that Man once 
existed in a superior state. But how 
are you to beHeve this ? how, in 
short, is this to be urged as a proof of 
the truth of the Scriptures, which itself 
depends upon the previously demon- 
strated truth or fallacy of them ? 

You look around, you say ; and see 
in everything a wonderful harmony 
conspicuous. How know you this ? 
Might not some animal, the victim of 
man's capricious tyranny, itself possibly 
the capricious tyrant of another, reason 
thus ? " How wretched, how peculi- 
arly wretched, is our state ! In man all 
is harmony. Their buildings arise in 
method, their society is united by 
bonds of indissolubility. All nature, 
but that of horses^ is harmonical ; and 
he is born to misery only because he is 
a horse." Yet this reasoning is yours. 
Surely this applies to all nature : surely 



24 LETTERS TO 

this may be called harmony. But 
then it is the harmony of irregular con- 
fusion, which equalizes everything by 
being itself unequal, wherever it acts. 

This brings me again to the point 
which I aim at — the eternal existence 
of Intellect. You have read Locke. 
You are convinced that there are no 
innate ideas, and that you do not 
always think when asleep. Yet, let me 
enquire : in these moments of intellec- 
tual suspension do you suppose that the 
soul is annihilated? You cannot 
suppose it, knowing the infallibility of 
the rule — " From nothing, nothing can 
come : to nothing, nothing can return ; " 
as, by this rule, it could not be annihil- 
ated, or, if annihilated, could not be 
capable of resuscitation. This brings 
me to the point. Those around the 
lifeless corpse are perfectly aware that 
// thinks not : at least, they are aware 
that, when scattered through all the 
changes which matter undergoes, it 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 25 

cannot then think. You have witnessed 
one suspension of intellect in dreamless 
sleep : you witness another in death. 
From the first, you well know that you 
cannot infer diminution of intellectual 
force. How contrary then to all 
analogy to infer annihilation from 
death, which you cannot prove suspends 
for a moment the force of mind. — This 
is not hypothesis, this is not assumption : 
at least, I am not aware of the admis- 
sion of either. WilHngly would I 
exclude both — would influence you to 
their total exclusion. 

Yet examine this argument w^ith 
your reason : tell me the result. 

You wish to " pass among those who, 
like you, have deceived themselves." 
I defy you to produce to me one who 
like you has deceived herself. Deceive 
the world like yourself, and I will no 
longer object to the immoral influence 
of Christianity : in short, let the world 
be Christians, //Xvj'^w. Z^/ them not 



26 LETTERS TO 

be Christians, and they would not be 
Christians. 

Atheism appears a terrific monster at 
a distance. Dare to examine it, look 
at its companions, — it loses half 
its terrors. In short, treat the word 
Atheism as you have done that of 
Christianity : it is not then much. I 
do not place your wish for justification 
to prejudice, but to the highest, the 
noblest, of motives. You have named 
your God. The worship of that God 
is clear, self-evident, perspicuous: it 
alone is unceremonious, it alone refuses 
to contradict natural analogies, can be 
the subject of no disputes, the 
countenancer of no misconceptions. 

Since we conversed on the subject, I 
have seen no reason to change my 
political opinions. In theology, — • 
enquiries into our intellect, its eternity 
or perishability, — I advance with 
caution and circumspection. I pursue 
it in the privacy of retired thought, or 
the interchange of friendship. But in 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 27 

politics — here I am enthusiastic. I have 
reasoned ; and my reason has brought 
me, on this subject, to the end of my 
enquiries. I am no aristocrat, nor any 
^^craf at all; but vehemently long for 
the time when man may dare to live in 
accordance with Nature and Reason, — ■ 
in consequence, with Virtue : to which 
I firmly believe that Religion, its 
establishment, — Polity, and its establish- 
ments, — are the formidable, though 
destructible, barriers. 

We heard from the Captain the other 
day : I am happy to find that my aunt 
is recovering. 

On Monday I shall be in London on 
my w^ay to Wales, where I purpose to 
spend the summer. My excursion will 
be on foot, for the purpose of better 
remarking the manners and disposi- 
tions of the peasantry. I shall call on 
you in London, and write to you from 
the resting-places of my movements. 
Your sincere friend, 

Percy Shelley. 



28 LETTERS TO 



LETTER V. 

CwM Elan, Rhayader, 

Radnorshire. 
Thursday {July 25, 181 1.] 

My dear Madam, 

Be assured that, as long as you 
are what you are, as long as I am what 
I am — which is likely to continue until 
our tra7ismigration — you will always 
occupy a most exalted place in my 
warmest esteem. I am no courtier, 
aristocrat, or loyalist : therefore you 
may believe that your correspondence 
would be resigned with the pain of 
having lost a most valuable thing, when 
I tell you so. 

I am truly sorry to hear that my aunt 
has not recovered : I shall write to the 
Captain to-day. 

You say that Equality is unattainable : 
so, will I observe, is Perfection. Yet 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 29 

they both symbolize in their nature : 
they both demand that an unremitting 
tendency towards themselves should 
be made : and, the nearer society 
approaches towards this point, the 
happier will it be. No one has yet 
been found resolute enough in dog- 
matizing to deny that Nature made 
man equal : that society has destroyed 
this equality is a truth not more in- 
controvertible. It is found that the 
vilest cottager is often happier than the 
proud lord of his manorial rights. Is 
it fit that the most frightful passions 
of human nature should be let loose, 
by an unnatural compact of society, 
upon this unhappy aristocrat ? Is he 
not to be pitied when, by an hereditary 
possession of a fortune which, if divided, 
would have very different effects, he is, 
as it were, predestined to dissipation, 
ennuif self-reproach, and (to crown the 
climax) a deathbed of despairing in- 
utility? It is often found that the 



30 LETTERS TO 

peasant's life is embittered by the 
commission of crime. — (Yet can we 
call it crime? Certainly, when we 
compare the seizure of a few shillings 
from the purse of a Nobleman, to pre- 
serve a beloved family from starving, to 
the destruction which the unrestrained 
propensities of this Nobleman scatter 
around him, we may almost call it 
virtue). — To what cause are we to 
refer this ? The noble has too much : 
therefore he is wretched and wicked. 
The peasant has too little. Are not 
then the consequences the same from 
causes which nothing but EquaHty can 
annihilate? And, although you may 
consider equality as impossible, yet, 
admitting this, a strenuous tendency 
towards it appears recommended by the 
consequent diminution of wickedness 
and misery which my system holds 
out. Is this to be denied ? Ridicule per- 
fection as impossible. Do more : prove 
it by arguments which are irresistible. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 31 

Let the defender of perfection acknow- 
ledge 'their cogency. Still, a strenuous 
tendency towards this principle, how- 
ever unattainable, cannot be considered 
as \^Tong. 

You are willing to dismiss for the 
present the subject of Religion. As 
to its influence on individuals, we will. 
But it is so intimately connected with 
politics, and augments in so vivid a 
degree the evils resulting from the 
system before us, that I will make a 
few remarks on it. Shall I sum up the 
evidence? It is needless. The per- 
secutions against the Christians under 
the Greek Empire, their energetic 
retaliations and burning each other, the 
excommunications bandied between 
the Popes of Rome and the Patriarchs 
of Constantinople, their influence up- 
on politics (war, assassination, the 
Sicilian Vespers, the Massacre of St. 
Bartholomew, Lord G. Gordon's mob, 
and the state of religious things at 



32 LETTERS TO 

present), can amply substantiate my 
assertions. 

And Liberty ! — Poor Liberty ! even 
the religionists who cry so much for 
thee use thy name but as a mask, that 
they alone may seize the torch, and 
show their gratitude by burning their 
deliverer. 

I should doubt the existence of a 
God who, if he cannot command our 
reverence by love, surely can have no 
demand upon it, from Virtue, on the 
score of terror. It is this empire of 
terror which is established by Religion. 
Monarchy is its prototype : Aristocracy 
may be regarded as symbolizing with 
its very essence. They are mixed : one 
can now scarce be distinguished from 
the other ; and equality in politics, like 
perfection in morality, appears now far 
removed from even the visionary 
anticipations of what is called " the 
wildest theorist." /, then, am wilder 
than the wildest. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 33 

I am happy that you Hke Kehama. 
Is not the chapter where Kailyal 
despises the leprosy grand? You 
would hke also Joan of Arc by 
Southey. — Whenever I have any new 
books, I will send them to you. 

I will write again soon. I now 
remain, with the highest esteem, 
Yours sincerely, 

Percy Shelley. 



34 LETTERS TO 



LETTER VI. 

CwM Elan. 
\_Friday\ July 26, 181 1. 

My dear Madam, 

I wrote to you yesterday 
in a great hurry ; at least, very much 
interfered with. I began poHtics ; and 
although, from the mental discussion 
which I have given the subject, I do 
not think my arguments are incon- 
clusive, still they may be obscure. 

What I contend for is this. Were 
I a moral legislator, I would propose 
to my followers that they should arrive 
at the perfection of morality. Equality 
is natural : at least, many evils totally 
inconsistent with a state which 
symboHzes with Nature prevail in 
every system of inequality. I will 
assume this point. Therefore, even 
although it be your opinion, or my 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER, 35 ^ 

opinion, that equality is unattainable 
except by a parcel of peas, or beans, 
still political virtue is to be estimated 
in proportion as it approximates to 
this ideal point of perfection, however 
unattainable. But what can be worse 
than the present aristocratical system ? 
Here are, in England, 10,000,000, only 
500,000 of whom live in a state of 
ease : the rest earn their livelihood 
with toil and care. If therefore these 
500,000 aristocrats, who possess re- 
sources of various degrees of immensity, 
were to permit these resources to be 
resolved into their original stock (that 
is, entirely to destroy it), if each earned 
his own living (which I do not see is 
at all incompatible with the height of 
intellectual refinement), then I affirm 
that each would be happy and con, 
tented — that crime, and the temptation 
to crime, would scarcely exist. — " But 
this paradise is all visionary." — Why 
is it visionary ? Have you tried ? The 



36 LETTERS TO 

first inventor of a plough doubtless 
was looked upon as a mad innovator : 
he who altered it from its original 
absurd form doubtless had to contend 
with great prejudices in its disfavour. 
But is it not worth while that (although it 
tnay not be certain) the remaining 
9,500,000 victims to its infringement 
[should] make some exertions in favour 
of a system evidently founded on the 
first principles of natural justice ? If two 
children were placed together in a 
desert island, and they found some 
scarce fruit, would not justice dictate 
an equal division ? If this number is 
multiplied to any extent of which 
number is capable, — if these children 
are men, families, — is not justice 
capable of the same extension and 
multiplication? Is it not the same? 
Are not its decrees invariable? and, 
for the sake of his earth-formed 
schemes, has the politician a right to 
infringe upon that which itself consti- 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 37 

tutes all right and wrong? Surely 
not. 

I know why you differ from me on 
this point. It is because you suspect 
yourself of partiality for the cause 
with which you agree. I must say, 
my friend and fellow-traveller in the 
path of truth, that this is wrong. You 
are unworthy of the suspicion with 
which you regard yourself. 

I am now with people who, strange 
to say, never think : I have, however, 
much more of my own society than of 
theirs. Nature is here marked with 
the most impressive characters of 
lordliness and grandeur. Once I was 
tremulously alive to tones and scenes : 
the habit of analysing feelings, I fear, 
does not agree with this. It is 
spontaneous; and, when it becomes 
subject to consideration, ceases to 
exist. But you do right to indulge 
feeling, where it does not militate with 
reason : I wish I could too. 



38 LETTERS TO 

This valley is covered with trees : so 
are partly the mountains that surround 
it. Rocks, piled on each other to an 
immense height, and clouds intersecting 
them, — in other places, waterfalls midst 
the umbrage of a thousand shadowy 
trees, — form the principal features of 
the scenery. I am not wholly unin- 
fluenced by its magic in my lonely 
walks. But I long for a thunder- 
storm. 

Adieu: let me soon hear from 
you. 

Your most sincere friend, 

P. B. Shelley. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 39 



LETTER VII. 

London. 
\Saturday\ Aug. 10, 181 1. 

My dear Madam, 

I understand that there is a 
letter for me at Cvvm Elan. I have 
not received it. Particular business 
has occasioned my sudden return. I 
shall be at Field Place to-morrow, and 
shall possibly see you before 
September. 

My engagements have hindered 
much devotion of time to a consider- 
ation of the subject of our discussion. 
I here see palaces the thirtieth part of 
which would bless with every requisite 
of habitation, their pampered owners ; 
theatres converted from schools of 
morality into places for the inculcation 
of abandonment of every moral 
principle ; whilst the haughty aristocrat 



40 LETTERS TO 

and the commercial monopolist unite in 
sanctioning by example the depravities 
to which the importations of the latter 
give rise. 

All monopolies are bad. I do not, 
however, when condemning commercial 
aggrandizement, think it in the least 
necessary to panegyrize hereditary 
accumulation. Both are flagrant 
encroachments on liberty : neither can 
be used as an antidote for the poison 
of the other. We will suppose even 
the best aristocrat. Yet look at our 
noblemen : take the Court Calendar : 
hear even what the world, who judges 
favourably of grandeur, narrates con- 
cerning their actions. The very 
encomia which it confers are insults 
to reason. Take the best aristocrat. 
He monopolizes a large house, gold 
dishes, glittering dresses ; his very 
servants are decked in magnificence. 
How does one monopoly differ from 
another, — that of the mean Duke from 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. ^\ 

that of the mean pacer between the 
pillars of the Exchange ? 

Having once established the position 
that a state of equality, if attainable, 
were preferable to any other, I think 
that the unavoidable inference must 
induce us to confess the irrationality of 
Aristocracy. Intellectual inequality 
could never be obviated until moral 
perfection be attained : then all 
distinctions would be levelled. 

Adieu. 



42 LETTERS TO 



LETTER VIII. 

\Mondayi\ August i<)th, [i8li.] 

My dear Madam, 

Your letter yesterday disap- 
pointed me; not because it set me 
right in one of those trivial sacrifices 
to custom which I am wont, through 
their real unimportance, to overlook, 
but because, in place of liberal ideas 
which have ever marked those 
characters of your mind which I have 
had an opportunity of observing, I 
noticed that you said : " though you 
should have disregarded the real 
difference that exists between us." 
You remind me thus of a misfortune 
which I could never have obviated : 
not that the sturdiest aristocrat could 
suppose that a real difference sub- 
sisted between me, who am sprung 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 43 

from a race of rich men, and you, 
whom talents and virtue have lifted 
from|^'the obscurity of poverty. If 
there is any difference, surely the 
balance of real distinction would fall 
on your side. You remind me of what 
I hate, despise, and shudder at, what 
willingly I would not : and the part 
which I can emancipate myself from, 
in this detestable coil of primaeval 
prejudice, that will I free myself from. 
Have I not forsworn all this ? Am I 
not a worshipper of Equality ? It was 
the custom, even with the Jews, never to 
insult the Gods of other nations : why 
then do you put a sarcasm so galling 
upon the object of my adoration ? 

Let us consider. In a former letter 
you say that " Nature has decidedly 
distinguished degrees among a degen- 
erate race." Admit for a moment 
that the composition of soul varies in 
every recipient, still Nature must have 
been blind to give a kingdom to a fool, 



44 LETTERS TO 

a dukedom to a sensualist, an empire 
to a tyrant. If she thus distinguishes 
degrees, how does the wildest anarchy 
differ from Nature's law ? or rather, 
how are they not, by this account, 
synonymous ? — Again : Soul may be 
proved to be, not that which changes 
its first principles in every new 
recipient, but an elementary essence, 
an essence of first principles which 
bears the mark of casual or of intended 
impressions. For instance : the non- 
existence of innate ideas is proved by 
Locke ; he challenges any one to find 
an idea which is innate. This is 
conclusive. If no ideas are innate, 
then all ideas must take their origin 
subsequent to the transfusion of the 
soul. In consequence of this indis- 
putable truth, intellect varies but in 
the impressions with which casuality 
or inattention has marked it. When 
is now Nature, distinguishing degrees ? 
or rather do you not see that Art has 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER 45 

assumed that office, even in the gifts of 
the mind ? 

I see the impropriety of dining with 
you — even of calling upon you. I 
shall not willingly, however, give up the 
friendship and correspondence of one 
whom, however superior to me, my 
arrogance calls an equal. 

Adieu. 

Yours most sincerely, 

Percy S. 



Excuse the haste in which I write this. 



46 LETTERS TO 



LETTER IX. 

York. Miss Dancer's, Coney Street. 
{Tuesday, 8 October y 1811.] 

My dear Friend, 

May I still call you so ? or have 
I forfeited, by the equivocality of my 
conduct, the esteem of the wise and 
virtuous? have I disgraced the pro- 
fessions of that virtue which has been 
the idol of my love, whose votaries 
have been the brothers and sisters 01 
my soul ? 

When last I saw you, 1 was about to 
enter into the profession of physic. 1 
told you so. I represented my views 
as unembarrassed ; myself at liberty to 
experiment upon morality, uninfluenced 
by the possibility of giving pain to 
others. You will know that my 
relational connexions were such as 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER 47 

could have no hold but that of con- 
sanguinity: how weak this is may be 
referred to the bare feeling to explain. 
I saw you. In one short week, how 
changed were all my prospects ! How 
are we the slaves of circumstances ! 
how bitterly I curse their bondage ! 
Yet this was unavoidable. 

You will enquire how I, an Atheist, 
chose to subject myself to the ceremony 
of marriage, — how my conscience could 
consent to it. This is all I am now 
anxious of elucidating. Why I united 
myself thus to a female, as it is not in 
itself immoral, can make no part in 
diminution of my rectitude : this, if 
misconceived, may. 

/ am indifferent to reputation : all are 
not. Reputation, and its consequent 
advantages, are rights to which every 
individual may lay claim, unless he has 
justly forfeited them by an immoral 
action. Political rights also, which 
justly appertain equally to each, ought 



48 LETTERS TO 

only to be forfeited by immorality. 
Yet both of these must be dispensed 
with, if two people live together without 
having undergone the ceremony of 
marriage. How unjust this is ! Cer- 
tainly it is not inconsistent with morality 
to evade these evils. How useless to 
attempt, by singular examples, to re- 
novate the face of society, until reason- 
ing has made so comprehensive a 
change as to emancipate the experi- 
mentalist from the resulting evils, and 
the prejudice with which his opinion 
(which ought to have weight, for the 
sake of virtue) would be heard by the 
immense majority ! — These are my 
reasons. 

Will you write to me? Shall we 
proceed in our discussions of Nature 
and Morality ? Nay more : will you 
be my friend, may I be yours ? The 
shadow of worldly impropriety is 
effaced by my situation. Our strictest 
intercourse would excite none of those 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER 49 

disgusting remarks with -^Mxoh females of 
the present day think right to load the 
friendships of opposite sexes. Nothing 
would be transgressed by your even living 
with us. Could you not pay me a visit ? 
My dear friend Hogg, that noble being, 
is with me, and will be always : but 
my wife will abstract from our inter- 
course the shadow of impropriety. 
How happy should I be to see you ! 
There is no need to tell you this ; and 
my happiness is not so great that it 
becomes a friend to be sparing in that 
society which constitutes its only charm. 
I will close this letter. I have 
enough to say, but will wait for your 
answer until I write again. 

Your great friend, 

P. B. Shelley. 



50 LETTERS TO 



LETTER X. 



York, 
[Wednesday, i6] October^ 1811. 

I write to-day, because not to 
answer such a letter as yours instantly, 
eagerly — I will add, gratefully — were 
impossible. But I shall be at Cuckfield 
on Friday night. My dearest friend 
(for I will call you so), you, who under- 
stand my motives to action, which, I 
flatter myself, unisionize with your own, 
— you, who can contemn the world's 
prejudices, whose views are mine, — I 
will dare to say I love: nor do I risk 
the possibility of that degrading and 
contemptible interpretation of this 
sacred word, nor do I risk the sup- 
position that the lump of organized 
matter which enshrines thy soul excites 
the love which that soul alone dare 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 51 

claim. Henceforth will I be yours — 
yours with truth, sincerity, and unreserve. 
Not a thought shall arise which shall 
not seek its responsion in your bosom ; 
not a motive of action shall be un- 
enwafted by your cooler reason : and, by 
so doing, do I not choose a criterion 
more infallible than my own conscious- 
ness of right and wrong (though this 
may not be required) ? for what conflict 
of a frank mind is more terrible than the 
balance between two opposing imparl- 
ances of morality ? This is surely the 
only wretchedness which a mind who 
only acknowledges virtue its master can 
feel. 

I leave York to-night for Cuckfield, 
where I shall arrive on Friday. That 
mistaken man, my father, has refused 
us money, and commanded that our 
names should never be mentioned. I 
had thought that this blind resentment 
had long been banished to the regions 
of Dullness, comedies and farces: or 



52 LETTERS TO 

was used merely to augment the 
difficulties, and consequently the at- 
tachment, of the hero and heroine of a 
modem novel. I have written fre- 
quently to this thoughtless man, and 
am now determined to visit him, in 
order to try the force of truth ; though 
I must confess I consider it merely as 
hyperbolical as "music rending the 
knotted oak." Some philosophers have 
ascribed indefiniteness to the powers of 
intellect; but I question whether it 
ever would make an ink-stand capable 
of free agency. Is this too severe? 
But, you know, I, like the God of the 
Jews, set myself up as no respec- 
ter of persons ; and relationship is con- 
sidered by me as bearing that relation 
to reason which a band of straw does 
to fire. I love you more than any 
relation; I profess you are the sis- 
ter of my soul, its dearest sister; 
and I think the component parts 
of that soul must undergo complete 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 53 

dissolution before its sympathies can 
perish. 

Some philosophers have taken a 
world of pains to persuade us that 
congeniality is but romance. Cer- 
tainly, reason can never either account 
for, or prove the truth of, feeling. I 
have considered it in every possible 
light; and reason tells me that death 
is the boundary of the life of man : yet 
I feel, I believe, the direct contrary. 
The senses are the only inlets of know- 
ledge, and there is an inward sense 
that has persuaded me of this. 

How I digress ! how does one rea- 
soning lead to another, involving a 
chain of endless considerations ! Cer- 
tainly, everything is connected. Both 
in the moral and physical world there 
is a train of events ; and (though not 
likely) it is impossible to deny that 
the turn which my mind has taken 
originated from the conquest of England 
by William of Normandy. 



54 LETTERS TO 

By the bye, I have something to talk 
to you of — Money. I covet it. — 
"What, you? you a miser ! you desire 
gold ! you a slave to the most con- 
temptible of ambitions ! " — No, I am 
not; but I still desire money, and I 
desire it because J think I know the 
use of it. It commands labour, it gives 
leisure; and to give leisure to those 
who will employ it in the forwarding 
of truth is the noblest present an in- 
dividual can make to the whole. I 
will open to you my views. On my 
coming to the estate which, worldly 
considered, is mine, but which actually 
I have not more, perhaps not so great 
a right to, as you, — ^justice demands 
that it should be shared between my 
sisters. Does it, or does it not ? Man- 
kind are as much my brethren and 
sisters as they: all ought to share. 
This cannot be; it must be confined. 
But thou art a sister of my soul, he is 
its brother : surely these have a right. 



ELI Z ABE TH HITCH EN ER. 5 5 

Consider this subject, write to me on 
it. Divest yourself of individuality: 
dare to place self at a distance, which 
I know you can : spurn those bugbears, 
gratitude, obhgation, and modesty. 
The world calls these "virtues." They 
are well enough for the world. It 
wants a chain : it hath forged one for 
itself. But with the sister of my soul 
I have no obligation : to her I feel no 
gratitude: I stand not on etiquette, 
alias insincerity. The ideas excited by 
these words are varying, frequently un- 
just, always selfish. Love, in the sense 
in which we understand it, needs not 
these succedanea. — Consider the ques- 
tion which I have proposed to you. I 
know you are above that pretended 
confession of your own imbecility which 
the world has nicknamed modesty, and 
you must be conscious of your own high 
worth. To underrate your powers is an 
evil of greater magnitude than the con- 
trary : the former benumbs, whilst the 



56 LETTERS TO 

latter excites to action. My friend 
Hogg and myself consider our property 
in common : that the day will arrive 
when we shall do the same is the wish 
of my soul, whose consummation I 
most eagerly anticipate. 

My uncle is a most generous fellow. 
Had he not assisted us, we should still 
[have] been chained to the filth and 
commerce of Edinburgh. Vile as aris- 
tocracy is, commerce — purse-proud 
ignorance and illiterateness — is more 
contemptible. 

I still see ReHgion to be immoral. 
When I contemplate these gigantic 
piles of superstition — when I consider, 
too, the leisure for the exercise of mind 
which the labour which erected them 
annihilated — I set them down as so 
many retardations of the period when 
Truth becomes omnipotent. Every 
useless ornament — the pillars, the iron 
railings, the juttings of wainscot, and 
(as Southey says) the cleaning of grates 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 57 

— are all exertions of bodily labour 
which — though trivial, separately con- 
sidered, — when united, destroy a vast 
proportion of this invaluable leisure. 
How many things could we do with- 
out ! How unnecessary are mahogany 
tables, silver vases, myriads of viands 
and liquors, expensive printing, — that, 
worst of all. Look even [around some] 
little habitation, — the dirtiest cottage, 
which [exhibits] myriads of instances 
where ornament is sacrificed [? pre- 
ferred] to cleanliness or leisure. 

Whither do I wander ? Certainly, I 
wish to prove, by my own proper 
prowess, that the chain which I spoke 
of is real. 

The letter at Field Place has been 
opened and read, exposed to all the 
remarks of impertinence : not that they 
understood it. 

Henceforth I shall have no secrets 
from you; and indeed I have much 
then to tell you — wonderful changes ! 



S8 LETTERS TO 

Direct to me at the Captain's until you 
hear again : but I only stay two days 
in Sussex, — but I shall see you. 
Sister of my soul, adieu. 

With, I hope, eternal love, 
Your 

Percy Shelley. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 59 



LETTER XI. 

CUCKFIELD. 

{^Saturday, 19 October, 181 1.?] 

I do not know that I shall have time 
to see you, my dear friend, whilst in 
Sussex. On Monday or Tuesday I 
must return. The intervening periods 
will be employed in the hateful task of 
combating prejudice and mistake. Yet 
our souls can meet, for these become 
embodied on paper: all else is even 
emptier than the breath of fame. 

I omitted mentioning something in 
my last : 'tis of your visiting us. You 
say that at some reitiote period^ &c. 
What is this remote period ? when will 
it arrive ? The term is indefinite, and 
friendship cannot be satisfied with this. 
I do not mean to-day, to-morrow, or 
this week ; but the time approaches 
when you need not attend the business 



6o LETTERS TO 

of the school : then you have your own 
choice to make of the place of your 
intermediate residence. If that choice 
were in favour of me ! 

I shall come to live in this county. 
My friend Hogg, Harriet, my new 
sister, . . . could but be added to these 
the sister of my soul ! That I cannot 
hope : but still she may visit us. 

I have been convinced of the even- 
tual omnipotence of mind over matter. 
Adequacy of motive is sufficient to any- 
thing : and my Golden Age is when the 
present potence will become omnipo- 
tence. This will be the millennium ot 
Christians, when "the lion shall lie 
down with the lamb " : though neither 
will it be accomplished to complete a 
prophecy, nor by the intervention of 
a miracle. This has been the favourite 
idea of all religions, the thesis on which 
the impassioned and benevolent have 
delighted to dwell. Will it not be the 
task of human reason, human powers, — 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 6i 

whose progression in improvement has 
been so great since the remotest tradi- 
tion, tracing general history to the point 
where now we stand ? The series is in- 
finite — can never end ! 

Now you will laugh at what I am 
about to tell you. Whence think [you] 
this reasoning has arisen? Just [con- 
ceive] its possible origin ! Never [could] 
you have [conceived] that three days on 
the outside of a coach caused it. [Yet] 
so it is. I am now at Cuckfield; I 
arrived this morning; and, though 
three nights without sleep, I feel now 
neither sleepy nor fatigued. This is 
adequacy of motive. During my jour- 
ney I had the proposed end in view 
of accumulating money to myself for 
the motives which I stated in my last 
letter. 

I know I have something more to 
tell you — I forget what. The Captain 
is talking. 



r 

62 LETTERS TO 

I must settle my plan of attack to- 
morrow. 

Adieu, my dear friend. 

Your 

Percy S. 
I am happy to hear what I have just 
heard. You are to come to dine here, 
and bring Emma, on Monday 21st, in 
the coach. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 63 



LETTER XII. 

Mr. Strickland's, Blake St., York. 
\^Saturday, 26 October, 181 1..?] 

It is no " generosity " : it is justice — 
bare, simple justice. Oh, to what a 
state must poor human nature have 
arrived when simply to do our duty 
merits praise ! Let us delight in the 
anticipation (though it may not be our 
lot to breathe that air of paradise) that 
the time will arrive when all that now 
is called generosity will be simply, 
barely duty. But you shall not refuse 
it. Private feelings must not be grati- 
fied at the expense of public benefit by 
your refusal : deeply would the latter 
suffer. I know you speak from con- 
viction ; nor, except from conviction, 
should I allow you to act as far as con- 
cerns me. It is impossible that you 
should do otherwise. Yet I hope to 



64 LETTERS TO 

produce that conviction. You cannot 
be convinced — quite convinced. It is 
impossible that any one should thor- 
oughly know themselves, particularly in 
an instance like this, where self-deceit 
is so likely to creep in from the con- 
tagious sophistications of society, and, 
assuming the garb of virtue, represent 
itself to you as its substance. I know 
you to be superior to that mock-modesty 
of self- depreciation : this therefore has 
no weight. See yourself, then, as you 
are. I esteem you more than I esteem 
myself. Am I not right therefore in 
giving you at least equal opportunities 
of conferring on mankind the benefits 
of that which has excited this esteem ? 
You may then share your possessions 
with that friend whom I ardently long 
to know and to love, but who must 
receive the tribute of gratitude from 
you, — though, if she has made you what 
you are, what claims may not just re- 
tribution make upon me in her behalf? 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 65 

I have thus said what I think, at 
least two years before I can accomplish 
the projects which I have to execute. 
"It is the mere prodigality of promise," 
would the slave of others' opinion ex- 
claim, " never to be executed : two 
months will dissipate the sickly rav- 
ings ; it demands two years of uniform 
opinion." Let them thus rave, — 'tis 
their element ! But, whilst the sister of 
my soul, the friend of my heart, knows 
its unchangeableness, how futile are 
these gnat-bites ! But it is necessary 
that the world should not know this : to 
preserve in some measure the good 
opinion of Prejudice is necessary to its 
destruction. This must be the most 
secret of communications : thine are 
most sacredly secret to me. But the 
time you lose in thus acquiring money 
for the noblest of human purposes 
would be saved by your acceptance 
of my offer. There are two years, 
however, to argue this subject in. We 



66 LETTERS TO 

have now begun : I am convinced that 
I shall conquer. 

When may I see the woman who 
indeed deserves my love, if she was thy 
instructress? Let not the period be 
very distant. I already reverence her 
as a mother. How useful are such 
characters ! how they propagate intel- 
lect, and add to the list of the virtuous 
and free ! Every error conquered, every 
mind enlightened, is so much added to 
the progression of human perfectibility. 
Sure, such as you, then, ought to 
possess the amplest leisure for a task to 
the completion of which each of those 
excellencies which excite my love for 
you is so adapted. Believe that I do 
not flatter; suspect me not of rash 
judgment. My judgment of you has 
been unimpassioned, though now un- 
itnpassionateness is over, and I could 
not believe you other than the being I 
have hitherto considered as enshrined 
in the identity of Elizabeth Kitchener. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 67 

I hesitate not a moment to write to 
you : rare though it be in this existence, 
communion with you can unite mental 
benefit with pure gratification. I will 
explain, however, the circumstances 
which caused my marriage : these must 
certainly have caused much conjecture 
in your mind. 

Some time ago, when my sister was 
at Mrs. Fenning's school, she contracted 
an intimacy with Harriet. At that 
period I attentively watched over my 
sister, designing, if possible, to add her 
to the list of the good, the disinterested, 
the free. I desired therefore to inves- 
tigate Harriet's character: for which 
purpose I called on her, requested to 
correspond with her, designing that her 
advancement should keep pace with, 
and possibly accelerate, that of my 
sister. Her ready and frank accept- 
ance of my proposal pleased me ; and, 
though with ideas the remotest to those 
which have led to this conclusion of our 



68 LETTERS TO 

intimacy, [I] continued to correspond 
with her for some time. The frequency 
of her letters became greater during my 
stay in Wales. I answered them : they 
became interesting. They contained 
complaints of the irrational conduct of 
her relations, and the misery of living 
where she could love no one. Suicide 
was with her a favourite theme, her total 
uselessness was urged in its defence. 
This I admitted, supposing she could 
prove her inutility, [and that she] was 
powerless. Her letters became more 
and more [gloomy]. At length one 
assumed a tone of such despair as in- 
duced me to quit Wales precipitately. 
I arrived in London. I was shocked 
at observing the alteration of her looks. 
Little did I divine its cause : she had 
become violently attached to me, and 
feared that I should not return her 
attachment. Prejudice made the con- 
fession painful. It was impossible to 
avoid being much affected I promised 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 69 

to unite my fate with hers. I stayed in 
London several days, during which she 
recovered her spirits. I had promised at 
her bidding to come again to London. 
They endeavoured to compel her to 
return to a school where malice and 
pride embittered every hour : she wrote 
to me. I came to London. I pro- 
posed marriage, for the reasons which 
I have given you, and she complied. — 
Blame me if thou wilt, dearest friend, 
for still thou art dearest to me : yet pity 
even this error, if thou blamest me. 
If Harriet be not, at sixteen, all that 
you are at a more advanced age, assist 
me to mould a really noble soul into 
all that can make its nobleness useful 
and lovely. Lovely it is now, or I am 
the weakest slave of error. 

Adieu to this subject until I hear 
again from you. Write soon, in pity 
to my suspense. 

We did not call on Whitton as we 
passed. We find he means absolutely 



70 LETTERS TO 

nothing: he talks of disrespect, duty, 
&c. 

I observed that you were much 
shocked at my mother's depravity. I 
have heard some reasons (and as mere 
reasons they are satisfactory) that there 
is no such thing as moral depravity. 
But it does not prove the non-existence 
of a thing that it is not discoverable by 
reason : feeling here affords us sufficient 
proof. I pity those who have not this 
demonstration, though I can scarce 
believe that such exist. 

Those who really feel the being of a 
God, have the best right to believe it. 
They may, indeed, pity those who do 
not ; they may pity me : but, until I 
feel it, I must be content with the sub 
stitute, Reason. 

Here is a letter ! — well, answer some 
of it, — though I allow 'tis terribly long. 

Southey has pubHshed something new 
— The Bridal of Fernandez : have you 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 71 

seen it ? Have you read St. Leon or 
Caleb Williams'^ 

Adieu, dear friend. Believe me 
Ever yours sincerely, 

Percy B. Shelley. 

Have you heard anything of Cap- 
tain P[ilford*s] proceedings at F[ield] 
P[lace] ? — I have more to say, but no 
more room, so adieu. 



72 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XIII. 

[Keswick, 
Friday y 8 November, 1811. ?] 

My friend will be surprised to hear 
of me from Keswick in Cumberland : 
more so will [she] be astonished at the 
occasion. It is a thing that makes my 
blood run cold to think of. I almost 
lose my confidence in the power of 
truth, its unalterableness. Human na- 
ture appears so depraved. Even those 
in whom we place unlimited confidence, 
between whom and yourself suspicion 
never came, appear depraved as the 
rest. High powers appear but to pre- 
sent opportunities for occasioning supe- 
rior misery. Can it be thus always ? 

You know how I have described 
Hogg, — my enthusiasm in his defence, 
my love for him. You know I have 
considered him but little below perfec- 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 73 

tion. I have spoken to you of him — 
have described him not with the exag- 
gerations but with the truth of friend- 
ship. I have resolved, because I am 
your friend, to make you the deposi- 
tary of a secret : it is to me a most 
terrible one. 

Hogg is a mistaken man — vilely, 
dreadfully mistaken. But you shall 
hear ; then judge of the extent of the 
evil which I deplore. That he whom 
my fond expectations had pictured the 
champion of virtue, the enemy of pre- 
judice, should himself become the 
meanest slave of the most contemptible 
of prejudices, is indeed dreadful. But 
listen. How fast you read this ! I 
fancy I behold you ! 

You know I came to Sussex to settle 
my affairs, and left Harriet at York 
under the protection of Hogg. You 
know the implicit faith I had in him, 
the unalterableness of my attachment, 
the exalted thoughts I entertained of 



74 LETTERS TO 

his excellence. Can you then conceive 
that he would have attempted to seduce 
my wife 7 that he should have chosen 
the very time for this attempt when I 
most confided in him, when least I 
doubted him? Yet when did I ever 
doubt him? Yet, my friend, this is 
the case. And such an attempt ! You 
may conceive his sophistry ; you may 
conceive the energy of vice, for energy 
is inseparable from high powers : but 
never could you conceive, never having 
experienced it, that resistless and pathe- 
tic eloquence of his, never the illumi- 
nation of that countenance, on which I 
have sometimes gazed till I fancied the 
world could be reformed by gazing too ! 
You — you have never seen him, never 
heard him; or Harriet would have 
stood first in your regards as the heroic, 
or the unfeeling, who could have done 
other than as he directed. The latter 
she is not. 

Conjecture, conceive, friend, how I 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. -js 

love you ! how firm my reliance is on 
your principles, how impossible to be 
shaken is my faith in your nobleness ! 
Then, then imagine what I have felt at 
losing by so terrible a reverse, a friend 
like you — lost too not only to me but 
to the world ! Virtue has lost one of 
its defenders, Vice has gained a prose- 
lyte. The thought makes me shudder ! 
But must it be thus ? Cannot I pre- 
vent it? cannot I reason with him? 
Is he dead, cold, gone, annihilated? 
None, none of these ! therefore Jiot 
irretrievable — not fallen like Lucifer, 
never to rise again ! 

Before I quitted York, I spoke to 
him. Our conversation was long. He 
was silent, pale, over-whelmed. The 
suddenness of the disclosure — and oh 
I hope its heinousness — had affected 
him. I told him that I pardoned him 
— freely, fully, completely pardoned ; 
that not the least anger against him 
possessed me. His vices, and not 



76 LETTERS TO 

himself, were the objects of my horror 
and my hatred, I told him I yet 
ardently panted for his real welfare; 
but that ill-success in crime and misery 
appeared to me an earnest of its oppo- 
site in benevolence. I engaged him to 
promise to write to me. You can con- 
jecture that my letters to him will be 
neither infrequent nor short. 

I have little time to-day, but I pay 
this short tribute to friendship. Never, 
dearest friend, may you experience a 
disappointment so keen as mine ! Write. 
I am at Mr. D. Crosthwaite's, Town- 
head, Keswick, Cumberland. The 
scenery is awfully grand : it even affects 
me in such a time as this. Adieu : 
write to me. I am in need of your 
sympathy. 

Harriet and her sister liked this part 
of the country ; and / was, at the mo- 
ment of our sudden departure, indiffe- 
rent to all places. 

A letter, I suppose, is waiting for me 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER, 77 

at York. H. will forward them. Adieu, 
my almost only friend. 

Yours eternally, sincerely, 

Percy B. Shelley. 



78 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XIV. 

[Chesnut Cottage, Keswick. 

Ttiesday^ ii November, i8ii]. 

Your letter of the ist hath this 
moment reached me. I answer it 
according to our agreement, which 
shall be inviolable. 

Truly did you say that, at our 
arising in the morning, Nature assumes 
a different aspect. Who could have 
conjectured the circumstances of my 
last letter ? Friend of my soul, this is 
terrible, dismaying : it makes one's 
heart sink, it withers vital energy. 
Had a common man done so, 'twould 
have been but a common event, but a 
common mistake. Now, if for a 
moment the soul forgets (as at times 
it will) that it must enshrine the body 
for others, how beautiful does death 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 79 

appear, what a release from the crimes 
and miseries of mortality ! To be con- 
demned to feed on the garbage of 
grinding misery, that hungry hyaena, 
mortal life ! — But no ! I will not, I do 
not, repine. Dear being, I am thine 
again : thy happiness shall again 
predominate over this fleeting tribute 
to self-interest. Yet who would not 
feel now ? Oh 'twere as reckless a 
task to endeavour to annihilate per- 
ception while sense existed, as to blunt 
the sixth sense to such impressions as 
these ! — Forgive me, dearest friend ! 
I pour out my whole soul to you. I 
write by fleeting intervals : my pen 
runs away with my senses. The im- 
passionateness of my sensations grows 
upon me. 

Your letter, too, has much af- 
fected me. Never, with my consent, 
shall that intercourse cease which has 
been the day-dawn of my existence, 
the sun which has shed warmth on the 



8o LETTERS TO 

cold drear length of the anticipated 
prospect of life. Prejudice might 
demand this sacrifice, but she is an 
idol to whom ive bow not. The world 
might demand it ; its opinion might 
require : but the cloud which fleets 
over yon mountain were as important 
to our happiness, to our usefulness. 
This must never be, never whilst this 
existence continues; and, when Time 
has enrolled us in the list of the 
departed, surely this one friendship 
will survive to bear our identity to 
heaven. 

What is love, or friendship? Is 
it something material — a ball, an apple, 
a plaything-«-which must be taken 
from one to be given to another? Is 
it capable of no extension, no com- 
munication ? Lord Kaimes defines love 
to be a particularization of the gen- 
eral passion. But this is the love of 
sensation, of sentiment — the absurdest 
of absurd vanities: it is the love of 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 8i 

pleasure, not the love of happiness. 
The one is a love which is self-centred, 
self-devoted, self-interested : it desires 
its own interest : it is the parent of 
jealousy. Its object is the plaything 
which it desires to monopolize. Selfish- 
ness, monopoly, is its very soul ; and 
to communicate to others part of this 
love were to destroy its essence, to 
annihilate this chain of straw. But 
love, the love which we worship, — 
virtue, heaven, disinterestedness — in a 
word, Friendship, — which has as 
much to do with the senses as with 
yonder mountains ; that which seeks 
the good of all, — the good of its object 
first, not because that object is a 
minister to its pleasures, not merely 
because it even contributes to its 
happiness, but because it is really 
worthy, because it has powers, sen- 
sibilities, is capable of abstracting self, 
and loving virtue for virtue's own love- 
liness,— desiring the happiness of others 



82 LETTERS TO 

not from the obligation of fearing hell 
or desiring heaven ; but for pure, simple, 
unsophisticated virtue. 

You will soon hear again. Adieu, 
my dearest friend. Continue to be- 
lieve that when I am insensible to 
your excellence, I shall cease to exist. 
Yours most sincerely, 

inviolably, eternally, 
Percy S. 

I have filled my sheet before I 
was aware of it. I told Harriet of your 
scruples, for which there is not the 
slightest foundation. You have mis- 
taken her character, if you consider 
her a slave to this meanest of mean 
jealousies. She desires to add some- 
thing : I have scarcely room for her. 

Southey lives at Keswick. I 
have been contemplating the outside 
of his house. More of him hereafter. 

Write : I need not tell you, write. 
I am in need of your letters. 

Harriet desires her love to you and 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER, 83 

begs you will not entertain so un- 
favourable an opinion of her. She 
desires me to say that she longs to see 
you, — to welcome you to our habitation, 
wherever we are, as my best friend and 
sister. 

Direct me at Chesnut Cottage, 
Mr. Dayer's, Keswick, Cumberland. 



84 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XV. 

Keswick, Chesnut Hill, Cumberland. 

{Thursday t 14 November, 1811]. 

My dearest Friend, 

Probably my letters have not 
left Keswick sufficiently long for your 
answer, I have more to tell you, how- 
ever, which relates to this late terrible 
affair. 

The day we left him, he wrote 
several letters to me, — the first evidently 
in the frenzy of his disappointment (for 
I had not told him the titne of our 
departure). " I will have Harriet's 
forgiveness, or blow my brains out at 
her feet." The others, being written in 
moments of tranquillity, appeased im- 
mediate alarm on that score. You are 
already surprised, shocked : I can con- 
ceive it. Oh, it is terrible ! this stroke 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 85 

has almost withered my being ! Were it 
not for that dear friend whose happi. 
ness I so much prize, which at some 
future period 1 may perhaps consti- 
tute, — did I not live for an end, an 
aim, sanctified, hallowed, — I might 
have slept in peace. Yet no — not 
quite that : I might have been a colo- 
nist of Bedlam. 

Stay: I promised to relate the cir- 
cumstances. I will proceed histori- 
cally. 

I had observed that Harriet's beha- 
viour to my friend had been greatly 
altered : I saw she regarded him with 
prejudice and hatred. I saw it with 
great pain, and remarked it to her. 
Her dark hints of his unworthiness 
alarmed me, yet alarmed me vaguely ; 
for, believe me, this alarm was un- 
tainted with the slightest suspicion of 
his disloyalty to virtue and friendship. 
Conceive my horror when, on pressing 
the conversation, the secret of his un- 



\ 



86 LETTERS TO 

faithfulness was divulged ! I sought 
him, and we walked to the fields be- 
yond York. I desired to know fully 
the account of this affair. I heard it 
from hinty and I believe he was sincere. 
All I can recollect of that terrible day 
was that I pardoned him — freely, fully 
pardoned him ; that I would still be a 
friend to him, and hoped soon to con- 
vince him how lovely virtue was ; that 
his crime, not himself, was the object 
of my detestation ; that I value a 
human being, not for what it has been, 
but for what it is ; that I hoped the 
time would come when he would re- 
gard this horrible error with as much 
disgust as I did. He said little: he 
was pale, terror-struck, remorseful. 

This character is not his own : it sits 
ill upon him, — it will not long be his. 
His account was this. He came to 
Edinburgh. He saw me ; he saw 
Harriet. He loved her (I use the 
word because he used it. You com- 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. Sy 

prebend the different ideas it excites 
under different modes of application). 
He loved her. This passion, so far 
from meeting with resistance, was en- 
couraged, — purposely encouraged, from 
motives which then appeared to him 
not wrong. On our arrival at York, he 
avowed it. Harriet forbade other 
mention ; yet forbore to tell me, 
hoping she might hear no more of it. 
On my departure from York to Sus- 
sex (when you saw me), he urged the 
same suit, — urged it with arguments of 
detestable sophistry. " There is no in- 
jury to him who knows it not : — why is 
it wrong to permit my love, if it does 
not alienate affection ? " These failed 
of success. At last, Harriet talked to 
him much of its immorality : and 
(though I fear her arguments were such 
as cou/d not be logically superior to his) 
he confessed to her his conviction of 
having acted wrong, and, as some ex- 
piation, proposed instantly to inform 



88 LETTERS TO 

me by letter of the whole. This Har- 
riet refused to permit, fearing its effect 
upon my mind at such a distance : she 
could not know wJmi I should return 
home. I returned the very next day. 

This, as near as I recollect, was 
the substance of what cool considera- 
tion can extract from his account. The 
circumstances are true : Harriet's ac- 
count coincides. 

I have since written to him — fre- 
quently, and at great length. His 
letters are exculpatory : you shall see 
them. — Adieu at present to the subject. 

No, my dearest friend, I will never 
cease to write to you. I never can 
cease to think of you. 

Happiness, fleeting creation of cir- 
cumstances, where art thou? I read 
your letter with delight; but this de- 
light is even mixed with melancholy. 
And you ! Tell me that you too are 
unhappy, — the cup of my misfortunes 
is then completed to the dregs. Yet 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 89 

did you not say that we should stimu- 
late each other to virtue? Shall 
I be the first to fail ? No ! This 
listless torpor of regret will never 
do — it never shall possess me. Be- 
hold me then reassuming myself, de- 
serving your esteem, — you, my second 
self I 

Harriet has laughed at your sup- 
positions. She invites you to our 
habitation wherever we are : she does 
this sincerely, and bids me send her 
love to you. 

Eliza, her sister, is with us. She is, 
I think, a woman rather superior to 
the generality. She is prejudiced ; but 
her prejudices I do not consider un- 
vanquishable. Indeed, I have already 
conquered some of them. 

The scenery here is awfully beauti- 
ful. Our window commands a view of 
two lakes, and the giant mountains 
which confine them. But the ob- 
ject most interesting to my feelings is 



90 LETTERS TO 

Southey's habitation. He is now on 
a journey : when he returns, I shall 
call on him. 

Adieu, dearest friend. 

Ever yours, with true devotement 
and love, 

Percy Shelley. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 9] 



LETTER XVI. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 
\Wednesday, ^o November, 181 1.] 

Writing is slow, soulless, incommu- 
nicative. I long to talk with you. My 
soul is bursting. Ideas, millions of 
ideas, are crowding into it : it pants for 
communion with you. 

Your letter, too, has affected me 
deeply. You must not quite despair 
of human nature. Our conceptions 
are scarcely vivid enough to picture 
the degree of crime, of degradation, 
which sullies human society : but what 
words are equal to express their inade- 
quacy to picture its hidden virtue? 
My friend, my dear only friend, never 
doubt virtue so long as yourself exists. 
Be yourself a living proof that human 
nature is a creation of its own, resolves 
its own determinations; that on the 



92 LETTERS TO 

vividness of these depends the inten- 
sity of our characters. 

It was a terrible, a soul- appalling 
fall : but it was not, it could not be, a 
fall never to rise again. It shall not, if 
I can retrieve it. He desires to live 
with us again. His supplications (if 
his letters are, as mine have been, the 
language of his soul) have much of 
ardency, passionateness, and sincerity, 
in them. But this must not be. I 
have endeavoured to judge on this 
subject, if possible, with disinterested- 
ness ; and I think I owe to Harriet's 
happiness and his reformation that this 
should not be. Keen as might have 
been my feelings, I think, if virtue 
compelled it, I could have lived with 
him now. 

You say he mistook the love of 

virtue for the practice. I think that 

you have endeavoured to separate cause 

and effect. No cause do I esteem so 

indissolubly annexed to its effect as the 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 93 

real sincere love of virtue to the dis- 
interested practice of its dictates. You 
seem to have confounded love of virtue 
with talking of the love of virtue. Yet 
was not his conduct most nobly disin- 
terested at Oxford? This appeared 
real love of virtue. Then what a fall ! 
But not a remediless one. How are 
we to tell a tree ? Not even by its 
fruits. Are changes possible so quick, 
so sudden ? I am immersed in a 
labyrinth of doubt. My friend, I need 
your advice, your reason : my own 
seems almost withered. 

Will you come here in your Christ- 
mas holidays? Harriet delights so 
much in this place that I do not think 
I can quit it. Will you come here? 
The poison-blast of calumny will not 
dare to infect you. Besides, what is 
the world ? Eliza Westbrook is here : 
it is not likely, therefore, that anything 
would be said. 

We will never part in spirit : we are 



94 LETTERS TO 

too firmly convinced of what we 
are ever to fear failure. Let the Chris- 
tian talk of faith, but I am convinced 
that the wildest bigot who ever carried 
fury and fanaticism through a country 
never could so firmly believe his idol 
as I believe in you. Be you but false, 
and I have no more to accomplish : 
my usefulness is ended. 

You talk of religion, — the influence 
human depravity gained over your 
mind towards acceding to it. But, 
for this purpose, the religion of the 
deist or the worshiper of virtue would 
suffice, without involving the persecu- 
tion, battles, bloodshed, which counten- 
ancing Christianity countenances. I 
think, my friend, we are the devoutest 
professors of true religion I know, — if 
the perverted and prostituted name of 
" religion " is applicable to the idea of 
devotion to virtue. 

" The just man made perfect " I 
doubt not of : but to this simple truth 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 95 

where is the necessity of answering 
fifty contradictory dogmas, in order 
that men may destroy each other to 
know which is right ? You see even 
now I can write against Christianity, 
" the enormous faith of many made 
for one." 

I write this hasty letter by return of 
post, because I do not wish to excite 
the anxiety you name : it is a terrible 
feeling. 

My friend, my dearest friend, adieu. 
One blessing has Fate given, to coun- 
terpoise all the evil she has thrown 
into my balance ; and, when I cease to 
estimate this blessing — a true, dear 
friend — may I cease to live ! 

Your true, sincere, affectionate, 

Percy Shelley. 



96 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XVII. 

Keswick, 

Nm). 23, 18 1 1— Saturday. 
My dearest Friend, 

Your letter reached me one day 
too late, on account of a tempest 
happening, and delaying the mail. It 
hath at length reached me ; and dear, 
sacredly dear, to me is every line of it. 
I feel as if this occurrence had de- 
prived me of the breath of life which 
now with such eagerness I inhale. Oh 
friendship like ours ! its most soul- 
lulling comforts can, ought, never to 
be called selfish; for, although we 
give each other pleasure, our love is 
not selfish. Reasoning is necessary to 
selfishness ; and the delight I feel in 
bracing my mind with the energies of 
yours is involuntary. It is the remote 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 97 

result of reason \ but, in cases of this 
nature, it is necessary that a pleasure 
should immediately arise from the cool 
calculation of degree of benefit result- 
ing to itself, before it can be called 
selfishness. Your letter has soothed, 
tranquiUized me : it seems as if every 
bitter disappointment had changed its 
bitter character. 

I could have borne to die, to die 
eternally, with my once-loved friend. 
I could coolly have reasoned: to the 
conclusions of reason I could have un- 
hesitatingly submitted. Earth seemed 
to be enough for our intercourse : on 
earth its bounds appeared to be stated, 
as the event hath dreadfully proved. 
But with you — your friendship seems 
to have generated a passion to which 
fifty such fleeting inadequate existences 
as these appear to be but the drop in 
the bucket, too trivial for account. 
With you, I cannot submit to perish 
like the flower of the field. I cannot 



98 LETTERS TO 

consent that the same shroud which 
shall moulder around these perishing 
frames shall enwrap the vital spirit 
which hath produced, sanctified-^may 
I say, eternized ? — a friendship such 
as ours. Most high and noble feelings 
are referable to passion : but these — 
these are referable to reason (certainly 
" inspiration " hath nothing to do with 
the latter). I say, passion is referable 
to reason : but I mean the great aspir- 
ing passions of disinterested Friend- 
ship, Philanthropy. It is necessary 
that reason should disinterestedly de- 
termine : the passion of the virtuous 
will then energetically put its decrees 
in execution. 

Your fancy does not run away with 
your reason ; but your too great de- 
pendence on mine does. Preserve 
your individuality; reason for yourself; 
compare and discuss with me, I will do 
the same with you : for are you not 
my second self, the stronger shadow of 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. c^c) 

that soul whose dictates I have been 
accustomed to obey ? 

I have taken a long solitary ramble 
to-day. These gigantic mountains 
piled on each other, these water-falls, 
these million-shaped clouds tinted by 
the varying colours of innumerable 
rainbows hanging between yourself and 
a lake as smooth and dark as a plain 
of polished jet — oh, these are sights 
attunable to the contemplation ! I 
have been much struck by the gran- 
deur of its imagery. Nature here sports 
in the awful waywardness of her soli- 
tude. The summits of the loftiest of 
these immense piles of rock seem but 
to elevate Skiddaw and Helvellyn. 
Imagination is resistlessly compelled 
to look back upon the myriad ages 
whose silent change placed them here ; 
to look back when perhaps this retire- 
ment of peace and mountain-simplicity 
was the pandemonium of druidical 
imposture, the scene of Roman poUu- 



loo LETTERS TO 

tion, the resting-place of the savage 
denizen of these solitudes with the 
wolf.— Still, still further. Strain thy 
reverted fancy when no rocks, no lakes, 
no cloud-soaring mountains, were here ; 
but a vast, populous and licentious 
city stood in the midst of an immense 
plain. Myriads flocked towards it. 
London itself scarcely exceeds it in the 
variety, the extensiveness of its corrup- 
tion. Perhaps ere Man had lost rea- 
son, and lived an happy, happy race : 
no tyranny, no priestcraft, no war. — 
Adieu to the dazzling picture ! 

I have been thinking of you and of 
human nature. Your letter has been 
the partner of my solitude, — or rather 
I have not been alone, for you have 
been with me. Ought I to grieve? 
I ? and hath not Fate been more than 
kind to me? Did I expect her to 
lavish on me the inexhaustible stores of 
her munificence? Yet hath she not 
done so ? What right have I to 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. loi 

lament, to accuse her of barbarity? 
Hath she not given you to me? Oh 
how pityful ought all her other boons, 
how contemptible ought all her inju- 
ries, now to be considered ! and you 
to share my sorrows ! Oh am I not 
doubly now a wretch to cherish them ? 
I will tear them from my remembrance. 
I cannot be gay — gaiety is not my 
nature : I have seen too much ever to 
be so. Yet I will be happy: and I 
claim it as a sacred right too that you 
should share my happiness. I will 
not be very long at this distance from 
you. 

I transcribe a little poem I found 
this morning. It was written some 
time ago ; but, as it appears to show 
what I then thought of eternal life, I 
send it. 



I02 LETTERS TO 

TO MARY, 

WHO DIED IN THIS OPINION. 

Maiden, quench the glare of sorrow 

Struggling in thine haggard eye : 
Firmness dare to borrow 

From the wreck of destiny ; 
For the ray morn's bloom revealing 

Can never boast so bright an hue 
As that which mocks concealing. 

And sheds its loveliest light on you. 

Yet is the tie departed 

Which bound thy lovely soul to bliss? 
Has it left thee broken-hearted 

In a world so cold as this ? 
Yet, though, fainting fair one. 

Sorrow's self thy cup has given, 
Dream thou'lt meet thy dear one, 

Never more to part, in heaven. 

Existence would I barter 

For a dream so dear as thine, 

And smile to die a martyr 

On affection's bloodless shrine. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 103 

Nor would I change for pleasure 
That withered hand and ashy cheek, 

If my heart enshrined a treasure 
Such as forces thine to break. 

Pardon me for thus writing on. I 
preserve no connexion : I do not 
hesitate, I do not pause one moment, 
in writing to you. It seems to me as 
if some spirit guided my pen. 

I feel with you. I will stifle all 
these idle regrets. I will sympathize 
with you. Write to me your sensa- 
tions, your feelings : ah, I fear I have 
monopolized them ! Would that this 
terrible sensation had not forced me 
to call them thus into action ! But to 
share grief is a sacred right of friend- 
ship — to share every thought, every 
idea. Remember, this is a sacred right. 
But why need I remind you of what 
neither of us is in any danger of 
forgetting ? 

Harriet will write to you : I have 



I04 LETTERS TO 

persuaded her. May she not share 
the sunshine of my Hfe ? O lovely sym- 
pathy 1 thou art indeed life's sweetest, 
only solace ! and is not my friend the 
shrine of sympathy ? 

I hear nothing of my temporal 
affairs. The D[uke] of N[orfolk] hath 
written to me : I have answered his 
letter. He is polite enough. In truth, 
I do not covet any ducal intercourse 
or interference. I suppose this is 
inevitable and necessary. 

I have not seen Southey : he is not 
now at Keswick. Believe that, on his 
return, I will not be slow to pay 
homage to a really great man. 

Oh I have much, much to say ! Me- 
thinks words can scarcely embody ideas: 
how wretchedly inadequate are letters ! 

Adieu, dearest of friends. Never do 
I for a moment forget how eternally, 
sincerely, I am 

Yours, 

Percy S. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 105 

Your letters are six days in coming. 
Perhaps one of those hateful Sundays 
has been envious of my solace. 



lo6 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XVIII. 

Keswick, Cumberland, 

Stcnday^ Nov. 24, 181 1. 

I ANSWER your letter, my dearest 
Friend, not by return of post, because 
the Keswick post comes in at seven and 
goes out at nine, and we are some 
distance. 

Your letters revive me : they resus- 
citate my slumbering hopes. The 
languid flame of life, which before 
burns feebly, glows at communication 
with that vivid spark of friendship. 
*' Love " I do not think is so adequate 
a sign of the idea : its usual significa- 
tion involves selfish monopoly, the 
sottish idiotism of frenzy-nourished 
fools, as once I was. But let that era 
be blotted from the memory of my 
shame, when purity, truth, reason, 
virtue, all sanctify a friendship which 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 107 

shall endure when the " love " of com- 
mon souls shall sleep where the shroud 
moulders around their soulless bodies. 
— What a rhapsody ! But with you I 
feel half inspired ; and then feel half 
ashamed, lest my inspiration, like that 
of others, result [not] from a little 
vanity. 

I am discouraged. His letters of 
late appear to me to betray cunning, 
deep cunning. But I may be de- 
ceived : oh that I were in all that 
these five weeks had brought forth ! 
His letters are long ; but they never ex- 
press any conviction or unison. They 
appear merely calculated to bring about 
what he calls " intimacy on the same 
happy terms as formerly." This I 
have positively forbade the very thought 
of. I tell him that I am open to rea- 
son, — I wish, ardently wish, that he 
would reason sincerely ; but that, were 

even convinced that his conduct re- 
sulted from disinterested love of virtue, 



lo8 LETTERS TO 

he could not live with us, as I should 
thereby barter Harriet's happiness for 
his short-lived pleasure, — since, my 
friend, if it is true that such passions 
are unconquerable (which I do not 
believe), how much greater ascend- 
ency will they gain when under the 
immediate influence of their original 
excitement ! 

Love of what ? Not love of my 
wife, for love seeks the happiness of its 
object, even when combined with the 
common-place infatuation of novels 
and gay life (oh no ! I don't know 
that). Love of self; aye, as genuine 
and complete as the most bigoted 
believer in original sin could desire to 
defile mankind, — these fi7ie suscepti- 
bilities, to which casual deformity and 
advanced age are such wonderful cures 
and preventatives. But these have 
nothing to do with real love, with 
friendship. Suppose your frame were 
wasted by sickness, your brow covered 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 109 

with wrinkles ; suppose age had bowed 
your form till it reached the ground, 
would you not be as lovely as now ? 
Yet one of these beings would pass 
that intellect, that soul, that sensi- 
bility, with as much indifference as I 
would show to the night-star of a ball- 
room, the magnet of the apes, asses, 
geese, its inhabitants. So much for 
real [ ? false] and so much for true 
love. The one perishes with the body 
whence on earth it never dares to soar ; 
the other lives with the soul which was 
the exclusive object of its homage. 
Oh if this last be but true ! 

You talk of a future state : "is not 
this imagination," you ask, " a proof of 
it?" To me it appears so: to me 
everything proves it. But what we 
earnestly desire we are very much 
prejudiced in favour of. It seems to 
me that everything lives again. — What 
is the Soul ? Look at yonder flower. 
The blast of the North sweeps it from 



no LETTERS TO 

the earth ; it withers beneath the 
breath of the destroyer. Yet that 
flower hath a soul : for what is soul 
but that which makes an organized 
being to be what it is, — without which 
it would not be so ? On this hypo- 
thesis, must not that (the soul) without 
which a flower cannot be a flower 
exist, when the earthly flower hath 
perished? Yet where does it exist — 
in what state of being? Have not 
flowers also some end which Nature 
destines their being to answer ? Doubt- 
less, it ill becomes us to deny this 
because we cannot certainly discover 
it ; since so many analogies seem to 
favour the probability of this hypo- 
thesis. I will say, then, that all Na- 
ture is animated ; that microscopic 
vision, as it hath discovered to us 
millions of animated beings whose pur- 
suits and passions are as eagerly fol- 
lowed as our own; so might it, if 
extended, find that Nature itself was 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER.wi 

but a mass of organized animation. 
Perhaps the animative intellect of all 
this is in a constant rotation of change : 
perhaps a future state is no other 
than a different mode of terrestrial 
existence to which we have fitted our- 
selves in this mode. 

Is there any probability in this sup- 
position ? On this plan, congenial souls 
must meet ; because, having fitted 
themselves for nearly the same mode 
of being, they cannot fail to be near 
each other. Free-will must give energy 
to this infinite mass of being, and 
thereby constitute Virtue. If our 
change be in this mortal life, do not 
fear that we shall be among the gro- 
velling souls of heroes, aristocrats, and 
commercialists. — Adieu to this. 

I have scribbled a great deal : all 
my feeling, all my ideas as they arise, 
are thus yours. My dear friend, be- 
lieve that thou art the cheering beam 
which gilds this wintry day of life, — 



112 LETTERS TO 

perhaps ere long to be the exhaustless 
sun which shall gild my millenniums 
of immortality. 
Adieu, my dearest friend. 
Ever, ever yours, 

Percy S. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER.ii^ 



LETTER XIX. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

[Tuesday^ 26 Novembei', 181 1.} 

Your letters are like angels sent 
from heaven on missions of peace. 
They assure me that existence is not 
valueless; they point out the path 
which it is paradise to tread. And 
yet, my dearest friend, I am not satis- 
fied that we should be so far asunder. 
Methinks letters are but imperfect pic- 
tures of the mind. They give the 
permanent and energic outline, but a 
thousand minutiae of varied expres- 
sions are omitted in the portraiture. 
I am therefore sorry that you cannot 
come now. Cannot the sweet little 
nurslings of liberty come ? But I will 
not press you. 

Strange prejudices have these coun- 
try people ! I must relate one very 



114 LETTERS TO 

singular one. The other night I was 
explaining to Harriet and Eliza the 
nature of the atmosphere ; and, to 
illustrate my theory, I made some ex- 
periments on hydrogen gas, one of its 
constituent parts. This was in the 
garden, and the vivid flame was seen 
at some distance. A few days after, 
Mr. Dare entered our cottage, and 
said he had something to say to me. 
"Why, sir," said he, "I am not satis- 
fied with you. I wish you to leave my 
house." " Why, sir ? " " Because the 
country talks very strangely of your 
proceedings. Odd things have been 
seen at night near your dwelling. I 
am very ill satisfied with this. Sir, I 
don't like to talk of it : I wish you to 
provide yourself elsewhere." — I have, 
with much difficulty, quieted Mr. D.'s 
fears. He does not, however, much 
like us ; and I am by no means cer- 
tain that he will permit us to remain. 
Have you found a house? I have 



ELI Z ABE TH HITCHENER. 1 1 5 

your promise : next Midsummer will 
be my holidays. Heaven ! were I the 
charioteer of Time, his burning wheels 
would rapidly attain the goal of my 
aspirations. 

You believe, firmly believe me. 
How invaluably dear ought now to be 
that credit, when an example so ter- 
rible has warned you to be sceptical ! 
That I believe in you cannot be won- 
derful, for the first words you spoke to 
me, the manner, are eternal earnests of 
your taintlessness and sincerity. But 
wherefore do I talk thus, when we 
know, feel, each other ; when every sen- 
timent is reciprocal ; when congeniality, 
so often laughed at, both have found 
proof strong as internal evidence can 
afford ? 

I do not love him now: bear wit- 
ness for me, thou reciprocity of thought, 
that I do not ! It is, it is true — too 
true : what you say is conclusive. It 
tallies too well with what I have yet to 



Ii6 LETTERS TO 

tell you. Oh I have been fearfully de- 
ceived ! It is not the degradation of 
imposition that I lament ; but that a 
character moulded, as I imagined, in 
all the symmetry of virtue, should ex- 
hibit the loathsome deformity of vice — 
that a saviour should change to a de- 
stroyer. — But adieu to that now. 

I shall not accuse my friend of en- 
deavouring to insinuate the tenets of a 
religion in one sentence, the founda- 
tion, the corner-stone, of which she 
defies all the powers that exist to make 
her believe, in the next. 

Miss Weeke's marriage induces you 
to think marriage an evil. / think it 
an evil — an evil of immense and ex- 
tensive magnitude : but I think a pre- 
vious reformation in myself — and that 
a general and a great one — is requisite 
before it may be remedied. Man is 
the creature of circumstances ; and 
these, casual circumstances, custom 
hath made unto him a second nature. 



ELIZABETH HTTCHENER. 117 

That which hath no more to do with 
virtue than the most indifferent actions 
of our lives hath been exalted into its 
criterion ; and, from being C07isidered 
so, hath become one of its criterions. 
Marriage is monopolizing, exclusive, 
jealous. The tie which binds it bears 
the same relation to ** friendship in 
which excess is lovely " that the body 
doth to the soul. Everything which 
relates simply to this clay-formed dun- 
geon is comparatively despicable ; and, 
in a state of perfectible society, could 
not be made the subject of either 
virtue or vice. The most delicious 
strains of music, viands the most titil- 
lating to the palate, wines of the most 
exquisite flavour, if it be innocent to 
derive delight from them (supposing 
such a case), it surely must be as inno- 
cent in whosesoever company it were 
derived. A law to compel you to 
hear this music, in the company of 
such a particular person, appears to me 



Ii8 LETTERS TO 

parallel to that of marriage. Were there 
even now such a law as this, were this 
exclusiveness reckoned the criterion of 
virtue, it certainly would not be worth 
the while of rational people to ** offend 
their weak brothers " (as St. Paul says) 
"by eating meats placed before the 
idols." It ill would become them to 
risk the peace of others, however pre- 
judiced, by gaining to themselves what 
from their souls they hold in contempt. 

Am I right ? It delights me to dis- 
cuss and to be sceptical : thus we must 
arrive at truth — that introducer of 
virtue and usefulness. 

Have you read Godwin's Enquirer 
(i)— his St. Leon (2)— his Political 
Justice (3) — his Caleb Williams (4) ? — 
I is very good ; 2 is good, very good ; 
3 is long, sceptical, good j 4 is good. 
I put them in the order that I would 
advise you to read them. 

I understand you when you say we 
are free. Liberty is the very soul of 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 119 

friendship, and from the very soul of 
Hberty art thou my friend ; aye, and 
such a sense as this can never fade. 

" Earthly those passions of the earth 
Which perish where they had their birth, 
But Love is indestructible." 

I almost wish that Southey had not 
made the Glendover a male : these 
detestable distinctions will surely be 
abolished in a future state of being. 

** The holy flame for ever burneth : 
From heaven it came, to heaven returneth." 

Might there not have been a prior 
state of existence ? might we not have 
been friends then? The creation of 
soul at birth is a thing I do not like. 
Where we have no premisses, we can 
therefore draw no conclusions. It may 
be all vanity : but I cannot think so. 

I may be in Sussex soon. I do not 
know where I shall be : but, wherever 
I am, I shall be with you in spirit and 
in truth. Do not think I am going to 
insinuate Christianity, though I think 



120 LETTERS TO 

it is as likely a thing as that you should. 
I annihilate God; you destroy the 
Devil : and then we make a heaven 
entirely to our own mind. It must be 
owned that we are tolerably indepen- 
dent. As to your ghostly director, 
who told you to put out your sun of 
common sense in order that he might 
set up his rushlight, I can scarcely 
believe that he ever even imagined a 
" call." 

When shall you change your abode ? 
Are you fixed at Hurst for some years ? 
I wish to know, as this will enable me 
to determine on some place of resi- 
dence near to yours. 

This country is heavenly : I will 
describe it when I have seen more of 
it. I wish to stay, too, to see Southey. 
You may imagine, then, that I was 
very humble to Mr. Dare : I should 
think he was tolerably afraid of the 
devil. 

I have heard from Hogg since, often : 



ELIZABETH HirCHENER. 121 

his letters give me little hope. He 
still earnestly desires to live with us. 
You have brought me into a dilemma, 
concerning his conduct, from which it 
is impossible to escape. I do not 
love him. I have examined his con- 
duct, I hope with cool impartiality; 
and I grieve to find the conclusion 
thus unfavourable. 

I hope you are indebted (as you call 
it) to the coolness of my judgment for 
my opinion of you. I have repeatedly 
told you what I think of you. I con- 
sider you one of those beings who 
carry happiness, reform, liberty, wher- 
ever they go. To me you are as my 
better genius — the judge of my reason- 
ings, the guide of my actions, the 
influencer of my usefulness. Great 
responsibility is the consequence of 
high powers. 

/ am, as you must be, a despiser of 
the mock-modesty of the world, which 
is accustomed to conceal more defects 



122 LETTERS TO 

than excellencies. I know I am su- 
perior to the mob of mankind : but I 
am inferior to you in everything but 
the equality of friendship. 

But my paper ends. Adieu. I bid 
adieu to-day to what is to me inex- 
pressibly dear, your society. 

Ever yours unalterably, 

Percy S, 



Tuesday morning. On what day 
does this letter reach you ? 

Harriet desires me to send her love, 
and hopes you will answer her letter 
very soon. 



ELIZABETH HITCH ENER. 123 



LETTER XX. 

[Keswick. 
Monday, 9 Dec ember ^ 1811?] 

My dearest Friend, 

I have just found your letters. 
Three of them were here on our return 
from Greystoke. What will you think 
of not hearing from me so long ? Not 
that I have forgotten you. Your 
letters were indeed a most valuable 
treasure. I have just finished reading 
them. I shall answer them to-morrow. 

We met several people at the Duke's. 
One in particular struck me. He was 
an elderly man, who seemed to know 
all my concerns; and the expression 
of his face, whenever I held the argu- 
ments, which I do everywhere^ was such 
as I shall not readily forget. I shall 



124 LETTERS TO 

have more to tell of him, for we have 
met him before in these mountains, and 
his particular look then struck Harriet. 
Adieu, my dearest friend. I am 
compelled to break off in the middle 
of my letter by the conviction that this 
may be too late. You will hear from 
me to-morrow. 

Yours, ever yours, 

Percy Shelley. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 125 



LETTER XXI. 

Keswick, Cumberland. 

[ Tuesday, i o December, 1 8 1 1 . ] 

You received a fleeting letter from 
me yesterday. An immediate acknow- 
ledgement of your letters I judged 
equal in value to the postage of a blank 
sheet of paper. 

Your letters, my dearest friend, are 
to me an exhaustless mine of pleasure. 
Fatigued with aristocratical insipidity, 
left alone scarce one moment by those 
senseless monopolizers of time that 
form the court of a Duke, who would 
be very well as a man, how delightful to 
commune with the soul which is undis- 
guised — whose importance no arts are 
necessary nor adequate to exalt I 

I admire your father, but I do not 
think him capable of sympathizing 
with you. I, you know, consider mind 



126 LETTERS TO 

to be the creature of education : that, 
in proportion to the characters thereon 
impressed by circumstance or inten- 
tion, so does it assume the appearances 
which vary with these varying events. 
Divest every event of its improper ten- 
dency, and evil becomes annihilate. 
Thus, then, I am led to love a being, 
not because it stands in the physical 
relation of blood to me, but because 
I discern an intellectual relationship. 
It is because chance hath placed us in 
a situation most fit for rendering hap- 
piness to our relations that, if higher 
considerations intervene not, makes it 
our duty to devote ourselves to this 
object. This is your duty, and nobly 
do you fulfil it. Your father, I plainly 
see, has some mistakes. Cannot you 
reason him out of that rough exterior ? 
It has the semblance of sincerity : in 
reality is it not deceit ? Your attention 
to his happiness is at once so noble, so 
delicate, so desirous of accomplishing 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER, 127 

its design, that how could he fail, if he 
knew it, to give you that esteem and 
respect, besides the love which he 
does ? Methinks he is not your equal 
— that I have not found you equalled. 
Were he so, would he not discern your 
attentions ? No : he must be like you, 
before I can ever institute a comparison 
between your characters. 

Of your mother I have not much 
opinion. She appears to me one of 
those every-day characters by whom 
the stock of prejudice is augmented 
rather than decreased. 

Obedience (were society as I could 
wish it) is a word which ought to be 
without meaning. If virtue depended 
on duty, then would prudence be 
virtue, and imprudence vice ; and the 
only difference between the Marquis 
Wellesley and William Godwin would 
be that the latter had more cunningly 
devised the means of his own benefit. 
This cannot be. Prudence is only an 



128 LETTERS TO 

auxiliary of virtue, by which it may be- 
come useful. Virtue consists in the 
motive. Paley's Moral Philosophy be- 
gins : •' Why am I obliged to keep my 
word ? Because I desire heaven, and 
hate hell." Obligation and duty, there- 
fore, are words of no value as the 
criterion of excellence. — So much for 
obedience — parents and children. Do 
you agree to my definition of Virtue 
— "Disinterestedness?" — Why do I 
enquire ? 

I am as little inclined as you are to 
quarrel with Taffy : I am as much 
obliged to him for the complex idea, 
Tyranny. You do understand Locke. 
This is one of his "complex ideas." 
The ideas of power, evil, pain, together 
with a very clear perception of the two 
latter which may almost define the idea 
"hatred," together with other minor 
ideas, enter into its composition. 

What you say about residing near 
you is true. We cannot either get a 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 129 

house there immediately. At mid- 
summer, perhaps before, we see you 
here : that is certain. Oh how you 
will delight in this scenery ! These 
mountains are now capped with snow. 
The lake, as I see it hence, is glassy 
and calm. Snow-vapours, tinted by 
the loveliest colours of refraction, pass 
far below the summits of these giant 
rocks. The scene, even in a winter 
sunset, is inexpressibly lovely. The 
clouds assume shapes which seem pe- 
culiar to these regions. What will it 
be in summer? What when you are 
here ? Oh give me a little cottage in 
that scene ! Let all live in peaceful 
little houses — let temples and palaces 
rot with their perishing masters! Be 
society civilized ; be you with us ; 
grant eternal life to all ; and I will ask 
not the paradise of religionists ! I 
think the Christian heaven (with its 
hell) would be to us no paradise : but 
such a scene as this ! 



I30 LETTERS TO 

How my pen runs away with me ! — 
We design, after your visit (which 
Heaven knows, I wish would never 
end), to visit Ireland. We are very 
near Port-Patrick. If you could ex- 
tend your time, could you not accom- 
pany us ? But am I not building on a 
foundation more flimsy than air ? Can 
I look back to the last year, and decide 
with certainty on anything but the 
eternity of my regard for you ? 

Every day augments the strength of 
my friendship for you, dearest friend. 
Every day makes me feel more keenly 
that our being is eternal. Every day 
brings the conviction how futile, how 
inadequate, are all reasonings to de- 
monstrate it ? Yet are we — are these 
souls which measure in their circum- 
scribed domain the distance of yon 
orbs — are we but bubbles which arise 
from the filth of a stagnant pool, merely 
to be again re-absorbed into the mass 
of its corruption ? I think not : I feel 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 131 

not. Can you prove it? Yet the 
eternity of man has ever been believed. 
It is not merely one of the dogmas of 
an inconsistent religion, though all reli- 
gions have taken it for their foundation. 
The wild American, who never heard 
of Christ, or dreamed of original sin, 
whose " Great Spirit " was nothing but 
the Soul of Nature, could not reconcile 
his feelings to annihilation. He too 
has his paradise. And in truth is not 
the Iroquois's " human life perfected " 
better than to " circle with harps the 
golden throne " of one who dooms half 
of his creatures to eternal destruction ? 
— Thus much for the Soul. 

I have now, my dear friend, in con- 
templation a poem. I intend it to be 
by anticipation a picture of the manners, 
simplicity, and delights of a perfect state 
of society, though still earthly. Will 
you assist me ? I only thought of it 
last night I design to accomplish it, 
and publish. After, I shall draw a 



132 LETTERS TO 

picture of Heaven. I can do neither 
without some hints from you. The 
latter I think you ought to make. 

I told you of a strange man I met 
the other day : I am going to see him. 
I shall also see Southey, Wordsworth, 
and Coleridge, there. I shall then give 
you a picture of them. ' 

I owe you several letters, nor shall I 
be slack to pay you. I even now have 
much — oh, much ! — to say. But never 
can I express the abundance of pleasure 
which your three letters have given me. 
Surely, my dearest friend, you must 
have known by intuition all my thoughts 
to write me as you have done. 

Give my love to Anne: what does 
she think of me ? You delight me by 
what you tell me of her. Every preju- 
dice conquered, every error rooted out, 
every virtue given, is so much gained 
in the cause of reform. I am never 
unmindful of this : I see that you are 
not. Tell Anne that if she would 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 133 

write to me, I would answer her 
letters. 

Now, my dearest friend, adieu. This 
paper is at an end, but what I have to 
say is not. I owe you several letters, 
and shall not fail in the payment. 

What think you of my undertaking ? 
Shall I not get into prison ? Harriet 
is sadly afraid that his Majesty will pro- 
vide me with a lodging, in consideration 
of the zeal which I evince for the 
bettering of his subjects. 

I think I shall also make a selection 
of my younger poems for publication. 
You will give me credit for their 
morality. 

Well, adieu, my dearest friend — ^thou 
to whom every thought, every shade of 
thought, is owing, since last I wrote. 
Adieu. 

Your sincerest, 

Percy S. 

Harriet sends her love to you : the 
dear girl will write to you. 



134 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XXII. 

Keswick, [Cumberland.] 

Sunday y December 15 [1811]. 

My dearest Friend, 

You will before now have my last 
letter. I have felt the distrustful recur- 
rences of the post-office, which you felt 
when no answer to all your letters 
came. I have regretted that visit to 
Greystoke, because this delay must 
have given you uneasiness. 

I have since heard from Captain P. 
His letter contains the account of a 
meditated proposal, on the part of my 
father and grandfather, to make my 
income immediately larger than the 
former's, in case I will consent to entail 
the estate on my eldest son, and, in 
default of issue, on my brother. Silly 
dotards ! do they think I can be thus 
bribed and ground into an act of such 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 135 

contemptible injustice and inutility? 
that I will forswear my principles in 
consideration of ^£2000 a year ? that the 
good-will I could thus purchase, or the 
ill-will I could thus overbear, would 
recompense me for the loss of self- 
esteem, of conscious rectitude? And 
with what face can they make to me a 
proposal so insultingly hateful ? Dare 
one of them propose such a condition 
to my face — to the face of any virtuous 
man — and not sink into nothing at 
his disdain? That I should entail 
j;^! 20,000 of command over labour, of 
power to remit this, to employ it for 
beneficient purposes, on one whom I 
know not — who might, instead of being 
the benefactor of mankind, be its bane, 
or use this for the worst purposes, 
which the real delegates of my chance- 
given property might convert into a 
most useful instrument of benevolence ! 
— No ! this you will not suspect 
me of. 



136 LETTERS TO 

What I have told you will serve to 
put in its genuine light the grandeur of 
aristocratical distinctions ; and to show 
that contemptible vanity will gratify its 
unnatural passion at the expense of 
every just, humane, and philanthropic 
consideration, — 

" Though to a radiant angel linked 
Will sate itself in a celestial bed, 
And prey on garbage." 

I have written this to you just as I 
have received the Captain's letter. My 
indignant contempt has probably con- 
fused ray language, and rendered my 
writing rather illegible. But it is my 
custom to communicate to you, my 
dearest friend, — to that brain of sym- 
pathetic sensibility — every idea as it 
comes, as I do to my own. 

Hogg at length has declared himself 
to be one of those mad votaries of 
selfishness who are cool to destroy the 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 137 

peace of others, and revengeful, when 
their schemes are foiled, even to idiot- 
ism. In answer to a letter in which 
I strongly insisted on the criminality of 
exposing himself to the inroads of a 
passion which he had proved himself 
unequal to control, and endangering 
Harriet's happiness, he has talked of 
my '* consistency in despising religion, 
despising duelling, and despising sin- 
cere friendship" — with some hints as 
to duelHng, to induce me to meet him 
in that manner. I have answered his 
letter ; in which I have said I shall not 
fight a duel with him, whatever he may 
say or do ; that I have no right either 
to expose my own life, or take his — in 
addition to the wish I have, from 
various motives, to prolong my exist- 
tence. Nor do I think that his life is 
a fair exchange for mine ; since I have 
acted up to my principles, and he has 
denied his, and acted inconsistently 
with any morality whatsoever. That, 



138 LETTERS TO 

if he would show how I had wronged 
him, I would repair it to the utter- 
most mite; but I would not fight a 
duel. 

Now, dearest partner of that friend- 
ship which once he shared, now I am 
at peace. He is incapable of being 
other but the every-day villain who 
parades St. James's Street ; though even 
as a villain will he be eminent and im- 
posing. The chances are now much 
against my ever influencing him to 
adopt habits of benevolence and phi- 
lanthropy. This passion of animal 
love which has seized him, this which 
the false refinements of society have 
exalted into an idol to which its mis- 
guided members burn incense, has 
intoxicated him, and rendered him 
incapable of being influenced by any 
but the consideration of self-love. How 
much worthier of a rational being is 
friendship ! which, though it wants 
none of the *' impassionateness " which 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER, 139 

some have characterized as the inse- 
parable of the other, yet retains judg- 
ment, which is not blind though it 
may chance to see something like 
perfections in its object, which re- 
tains its sensibility, but whose sen- 
sibility is celestial and intellectual, 
unallied to the grovelling passions of 
the earth. 

Southey has changed. I shall see 
him soon, and I shall reproach him 
for his tergiversation. He, to whom 
bigotry, tyranny, law were hateful, has 
become the votary of these idols in a 
form the most disgusting. The Church 
of England — its Hell and all — has be- 
come the subject of his panegyric. The 
war in Spain, that prodigal waste of 
human blood to aggrandize the fame of 
statesmen, is his delight. The constitu- 
tion of England — with its Wellesley, its 
Paget, and its Prince — is inflated with 
the prostituted exertions of his pen. I 
feel a sickening distrust when I see all 



I40 LETTERS TO 

that I had considered good, great, or 
imitable, fall around me into the gulf of 
error. But we will struggle on its brink 
to the last ; and, if compelled we fall, 
we shall have at all events the consola- 
tion of knowing that we have struggled 
with a nature that is bad, and that this 
nature — not the imbecility of our proper 
cowardice — has involved us in the 
ignominy of defeat. 

Wordsworth, a quondam associate of 
Southey, yet retains the integrity of his 
independence ; but his poverty is such 
that he is frequently obliged to beg for 
a shirt to his back. 

Well, dearest friend, adieu. Changes 
happen, friends fall around us: what 
once was great sinks into the imbe- 
cility of human grandeur. Empires 
shall fade, kings shall be peasants, 
and peasants shall be kings : but 
never will we cease to regard each 
other, because we never will cease to 
deserve it. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 141 

My Harriet desires her love to you. 

Yours most imperishably, and eter- 
nally, 

P. B. Shelley. 

I shall write again. Do these letters 
come as a single sheet ? 



142 LETTERS TO 



LETTER XXIII. 

Keswick, [Cumberland, 

Thursday ^^ December 26, 181 1. 

My dearest Friend, 

I have delayed writing for two days, 
that my letters might not succeed each 
other so closely as one day. I have 
also been engaged in talking with 
Southey. You may conjecture that a 
man must possess high and estimable 
qualities if, with the prejudices of such 
total difference from my sentiments, I 
can regard him great and worthy. In 
fact, Southey is an advocate of liberty 
and equality. He looks forward to a 
state when all shall be perfected, and 
matter become subjected to the omni- 
potence of mind. But he is now an 
advocate for existing establishments. 
He says he designs his three statues in 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 143 

Kehama to be contemplated with re- 
publican feelings, but not in this age. 
Southey hates the Irish : he speaks 
against Catholic Emancipation, and 
Parliamentary Reform. In these things 
we diifer, and our differences were the 
subject of a long conversation. Southey 
calls himself a Christian ; but he does 
not believe that the Evangelists were 
inspired \ he rejects the Trinity, and 
thinks that Jesus Christ stood precisely 
in the same relation to God as himself. 
Yet he calls himself a Christian. Now, 
if ever there were a definition of a 
Deist, I think it could never be clearer 
than this confession of faith. But 
Southey, though far from being a man 
of great reasoning powers, is a great 
man. He has all that characterizes the 
poet,— great eloquence, though obsti- 
nacy in opinion, which arguments are 
the last thing that can shake. He is a 
man of virtue. He will never belie 
what he thinks ; his professions are in 



144 LETTERS TO 

strict compatibility with his practice. — 
More of him another time. 

With Calvert, the man whom I men- 
tioned to you in that pygmy letter, we 
have now become acquainted. He 
knows everything that relates to my 
family and myself : my expulsion from 
Oxford, the opinions that caused it, are 
no secrets to him. We first met Southey 
at his house. He has been very kind 
to us. The rent of our cottage was 
two guineas and a half a week, with 
linen provided : he has made the pro- 
prietor lower it to one guinea, and has 
lent us linen himself. We are likely 
therefore to continue where we are, as 
we have engaged, on these terms, for 
three months. After that, we will 
augment his rent. 

Believe me, my most valued friend, 
that I am, no less than yourself, an ad- 
mirer of sincerity and openness. Mys- 
tery is hateful and foreign to all my 
habits : I wish to have no reserves. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 145 

Were the world composed of such 
individuals as that which shares my 
soul, it should be the keeper of my 
conscience. But I do not know whe- 
ther, in the first place, the circumstance 
of Hogg's apostacy is such as would 
in any wise contribute to benefit by its 
publication ; and, not knowing this, 
should I not be highly criminal to risk 
anything by its disclosure ? Though I 
have much respect and love for my 
uncle and aunt, and indeed can never 
be sufficiently thankful for their un- 
limited kindness, yet I know that no 
good end, save explicitness, is to be 
answered by this explanation ; and my 
uncle's indignation would be so great 
that I have frequently pictured to 
myself the possibility of [its] out- 
stepping the limits of justice. My 
aunt, too, would be voluble in resent- 
ment; and I am conscious that she 
suspected, long before its event, the oc- 
currence of this terrible disappointment. 



140 LETTERS TO 

To you I tell everything that passes 
in my soul, even the secret thoughts 
sacred alone to sympathy. But you 
are my dearest friend ; and, so long as 
the present system of things continues 
(which I fear is not yet verging to its 
demolition), so long must some dis- 
tinction be established between those 
for whom you have a great esteem, a 
high regard, and those who are to you 
what Eliza Kitchener is to me. 

Since I have answered Hogg's letter, 
I have received another. It was not 
written until after the receipt of my 
answer. Its strain is humble and 
compliant : he talks of his quick pas- 
sions, his high sense of honour. I 
have not answered it, nor shall I. He 
has too deeply plunged into hypocrisy 
iox my arguments to effect any change. 
I leave him to his fate. Would that I 
could have reached him ! It is an 
unavailing wish — the last one that I 
shall breathe over departed excellence. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 147 

How I have loved him you can leel. 
But he is no longer the being whom 
perhaps 'twas the warmth of my ima 
gination that pictured. I love no 
longer what is not that which I loved. 

Do not praise me so much : my 
counsellor will overturn the fabric she 
is erecting. You strengthen me in 
virtue : but weaken not the energy of 
your example by proposing your so 
high esteem as a reward for acting well. 
I know none, of my principles, who 
would do otherwise. 

This proposal will be (if made) a 
proof of the imbecility of aristocracy. 
I have been led into reasonings which 
make me hate more and more the 
existing establishment, of every kind. 
I gasp when I think of plate and balls 
and titles and kings. I have beheld 
scenes of miser}-. The manufactureis 
are reduced to starvation. My friends 
the military are gone to Nottingham. 
Curses light on them for their motives, 



148 LETTERS TO 

if they destroy one of its famine-wasted 
inhabitants ! But, if I were a friend to 
the destroyed, myself about to perish, 
I fancy that I could bless them for 
saving my friend the bitter mockery of 
a trial. Southey thinks that a revolution 
is inevitable : this is one of his reasons 
for supporting things as they are. But 
let us not belie our principles. They 
may feed and may riot and may sin to 
the last moment. The groans of the 
wretched may pass unheeded till the 
latest moment of this infamous revelry, 
— till the storm burst upon them, and 
the oppressed take ruinous vengeance 
on the oppressors. 

I do not proceed with my poem : 
the subject is not now to my mind. I 
am composing some essays which I 
design to publish in the summer. The 
minor poems I mentioned you will see 
soon : they are about to be sent to the 
printers. I think it wrong to publish 
anything anonymously, and shall annex 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 149 

my name, and a preface in which I 
shall lay open my intentions, as the 
poems are not wholly useless. 

" I sing, and Liberty may love the song." 
Can you assist my graver labours ? 

Harriet complains that I hurt my 
health, and fancies that I shall get into 
prison. The dear girl sends her love 
to you : she is quite what is called " in 
love " with you. 

What do you advise me about Hogg 
and my uncle ? If you think best, I 
will tell him. Do you be my mentor, 
my guide, my counsellor, the half of 
my soul : I demand it. 

I never heard of Parkinson. I have 
not room to say anything of Xeno- 
phanes. I shall send for the Organic 
Remains^ &c. You will like the Poli- 
tical Justice: for its politics you are 
prepared. I hope you have got the 
first edition. The chapters on Truth 
and sincerity are impressively true. — 
But I anticipate your opinions. 



I50 LETTERS TO 

I have neglected ten thousand things 
— in my next. 

I will live beyond this life. 
Yours, yours most imperishably, 
Percy S. 

If they charge you a double sheet 
show this,* or open it before them, and 
thev will retract. 



* Marked outside: "This is only z. lai^e 
single sheet." 



ELIZABETH HITCH ENER. 151 



LETTER XXIV. 

Keswick, [Cumberland, 
Thursday, '\ Jan. 2, 18 12. 

My dearest Friend, 

Your immense sheet, and the vol- 
uminousness of your writing, and my 
pleasure, demand an equivalent. I 
can give it at length : but do not flatter 
me so much as to suppose that I can 
equal you in interest. Your style may 
not be so polished ; sometimes I think it 
is not so legal as mine : but words are 
only signs of ideas, and their arrange- 
ment only valuable as it is adapted 
adequately to express them. Your elo- 
quence comes from the soul : it has 
the impassionateness of nature. I 
sometimes doubt the source of mine, 
and suspect the genuineness of my 
sincerity. But I do not think I have 
any reason : no, I am firm, secure, un- 



152 LETTERS TO 

changeable. — Pardon this scepticism; 
but I will incorporate, for the inspec- 
tion of my second conscience, each 
shadow, however fleeting, each idea 
which worth or chance imprints on my 
recollection. 

You have loved God, but not the 
God of Christianity. A God of par- 
dons and revenge, a God whose will 
could change the order of the universe, 
seems never to have been the object of 
your affections. I have lately had 
some conversation with Southey which 
has elicited my true opinions of God. 
He says I ought not to call myself an 
atheist, since in reality I believe that 
the Universe is God. I tell him I 
believe that " God " is another signifi- 
cation for "the Universe." I then 
explain : — I think reason and analogy 
seem to countenance the opinion that 
life is infinite ; that, as the soul which 
now animates this frame was once the 
vivifying principle of the infinitely 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 153 

lowest link in the chain of existence, so 
is it ultimately destined to attain the 
highest ; that everything is animation 
(as explained in my last letter) ; and in 
consequence, being infinite, we can 
never arrive at its termination. How, 
on this hypothesis, are we to arrive at 
a First Cause? — Southey admits and 
believes this. Can he be a Christian ? 
Can God be three ? Southey agrees in 
my idea of Deity, — the mass of infinite 
intelligence. I, you, and he, are con- 
stituent parts of this immeasurable 
whole. What is now to be thought of 
Jesus Christ's divinity? To me it 
appears clear as day that it is the false- 
hood of human-kind. 

You seem much to doubt Christi- 
anity. I do not : I cannot conceive in 
my mind even the possibility of its gen- 
uineness. I am far from thinking you 
weak and imbecile : you must know 
this. I look up to you as a mighty 
mind. I anticipate the era of reform 



154 LETTERS TO 

with the more eagerness as I picture to 
myself 7^?/ the barrier between violence 
and renovation. Assert your true char- 
acter, and believe one who loves you 
for what you are to be sincere. Know- 
ing you to be thus great, I should grieve 
that you countenanced imposture. 
Love God, if thou wilt (I do not think 
you ever feared Him), but recollect 
what God is. 

If what I have urged against Christ- 
ianity is insufficient, read its very books, 
that a nearer inspection may contribute 
to the rectifying any false judgment. 
Physical considerations must not be 
disregarded, when physical improbabili- 
ties are asserted by the witnesses of a 
contested question. Bearing in mind 
that disinterestedness is the essence of 
virtuous motive, any dogmas militating 
with this principle are to be rejected. 
Considering that belief is not a volun- 
tary operation of the mind, any system 
which makes it a subject of reward or 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 155 

punishment cannot be supposed to 
emanate from one who has a master- 
knowledge of the human mind. All 
investigations of the era of the world's 
existence are incongruous with that of 
Moses. Whether is it probable that 
Moses or Sir Isaac Newton, knew as- 
tronomy best ? Besides, Moses writes 
the history of his own death; which 
is almost as extraordinary a thing to do 
as to describe the creation of the world. 
Thus much for Christianity. This only 
relates to the truth of it : do not forget 
the weightier consideration of its direct 
effects. 

Southey is no believer in original sin : 
he thinks that which appears to be a 
taint of our nature is in effect the result 
of unnatural political institutions. 
There we agree. He thinks the pre- 
judices of education, and sinister influ- 
ences of political institutions, adequate 
to account for all the specimens of vice 
which have fallen within his observation. 



156 LETTERS TO 

You talk of Montgomery. We all 
sympathise with him, and often think 
and converse of him. I am going to 
write to him to-day. His story is a 
terrible one : it is briefly this. — His 
father and mother were Moravian 
missionaries. They left their country 
to convert the Indians : they were 
young, enthusiastic, and excellent. 
The Indians savagely murdered them. 
Montgomery was then quite a child ; 
but the impression of this event never 
wore away. When he grew up, he 
became a disbeUever of Christianity, 
having very much such principles as a 
virtuous enquirer for truth. In the 
mean time he loved an apparently ami- 
able female : he was about to marry her. 
Having some affairs in the West Indies, 
he went to settle them before his mar- 
riage. On his return to Sheffield, he 
actually met the marriage-procession of 
this woman, who had in the mean time 
chosen another love. He became 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 157 

melancholy-mad : the horrible events 
of his life preyed on his mind. He 
was shocked at having forsaken a faith 
for which a father and mother whom 
he loved had suffered martyrdom 
The contest between his reason and 
his faith was destroying. He is now a 
Methodist. Will not this tale account 
for the melancholy and religious cast 
of his poetry ? — This is what Southey 
told me, word for word. 

"POET'S EPITAPH. 

"Art thou a Statesman, in the van 
Of public business bom and bred ? 
First learn to love one living man ; 
Then mayest thou think upon the 
dead. 

" Art thou a lawyer ? Come not nigh : 
Go, carry to some other place 
The hardness of thy coward eye, 
The falsehood of thy sallow face. 



158 LETTERS TO 

" Art thou a man of rosy cheer, 
A purple man right plump to see ? 
Approach : but, Doctor, not too near ! 
This grave no cushion is for thee. 

** Physician art thou — one all eyes — 
Philosopher — a fingering slave — 
One who would peep and botanize 
Upon his mother's grave? 

" Wrapped closely in thy sensual fleece, 
Pass quickly on : and take, I pray. 
That he below may rest in peace, 
Thy pin-point of a soul away. 



"But who is he, with modest looks, 

And clad in homely russet — brown, 

Who murmurs near the running brooks 

A music sweeter than their own? 

" And you must love him, ere to you 
He will seem worthy of your love. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENER. 159 

*' All outward shows of sky and earth, 
Of sea and valley, he hath viewed ; 
And impulses of deeper birth 
Have come to him in solitude." 

I have transcribed a piece of 
Wordsworth's poetry. It may give 
you some idea of the man. How 
expressively keen are the first stanzas ! 
I shall see this man soon. 

I wish I knew your mother: I do 
not mean your natural, but your moral, 
mother. I have many thanks to give 
to her. I owe her much : more than 
I can hope to repay, yet not without 
the reach of an attempt at remunera- 
tion. 

I look forward to the time when you 
will live with us : I think you ought at 
some time. If then principle still 
directs you to take scholars, this will 
be no impediment : but I think you 
might be far more usefully employed. 
Your pen — so overflowing, so demon- 



i6o LETTERS TO 

strative, so impassioned — ought to 
trace characters for a nation's perusal, 
and not make grammar-books for chil- 
dren. This latter is undoubtedly a 
most useful employment: but who 
would consent that such powers should 
always be so employed ? This is, how- 
ever, a subject for afterwards. 

My Poems will make their appear- 
ance as soon as I can find a printer. 
As to the poem, I have for the present 
postponed its execution ; thinking that, 
if I can finish my Essays, and a Tale in 
which I design to exhibit the cause of 
the failure of the French Revolution, 
and the state of morals and opinions 
in France during the latter years of its 
monarchy.* Some of the leading pas- 
sions of the human mind will of course 
have a place in its fabric. I design to 
exclude the sexual passion ; and think 
the keenest satire on its intemperance 
will be complete silence on the subject. 

* Shelley has left this sentence uncompleted. 



ELIZABETH HITCHENEK. i6i 

I have already done about 200 pages 
of this work, and about 150 of the 
Essays. 

Now, you can assist me, and you do 
assist me. I must censure my friend's 
inadequate opinion of herself; for truly 
inadequate must it be if it inequalizes 
our intellectual powers. Have confi- 
dence in yourself: dare to believe "I 
am great." 

1 fear you cannot read my crossed 
writing : indeed, I very much doubt 
whether the whole of my scribbling be 
not nearly illegible. 

Adieu, my dearest friend. Harriet 
sends her love. 

Eliza, her sister, is a very amiable 
girl. Her opinions are gradually rectify- 
ing ; and, although I have never spoken 
of her to you before, it is injustice to 
her to conceal [her] from you so long. 

I have said nothing of Godwin — 
nothing of a thousand topics I had to 
write on. But I admire Godwin as 



l62 LETTERS, ETC, 

much as you can. 1 shall write to him 
too to-day or to-morrow. I do not sup 
pose that he will answer my address. I 
shall, however, call on him whenever I 
go to London. 

I am not sure that Southey is quite 
uninfluenced by venality. He is dis- 
interested, so far as respects his family ; 
but I question if he is so, as far as re- 
spects the world. His writings solely 
support a numerous family. His sweet 
children are such amiable creatures that 
I almost forgive what I suspect. His 
wife is very stupid : Mrs. Coleridge is 
worse. Mrs. Lovel, who was once an 
actress, is the best of them. 

Adieu, my friend and fellow-labourer ; 
and never think that I can be otherwise 
than devoted to you till annihilation. 
Yours for ever, 

P. B. Shelley. 

Southey says I am not an Atheisti 
but a Pantheist. 



Privately Printed: 1890. 



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