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Full text of "Peacock's memoir of Shelley, with Shelley's letters to Peacock"

A3P33 



L/ f 
,06 



PEACOCK'S 
MEMOIRS OF SHELLEY 

WITH 

SHELLEY'S LETTERS TO PEACOCK 



EDITED BY 
H. F. B. BRETT-SMITH 



LONDON 

HENRY FROWDE 

1909 



OXFORD : HORACE HART 
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY 



PREFACE 

All Peacock's reminiscences of Shelley made their 
first appearance in the pages of Eraser's Magazine. 
Part I was the first article in the July number of 
1858, and was printed as a review of the following 
volumes : — 

Shelley and his Writings. By Charles S. Middleton. 

London : Newby, 1856. [An error, repeated 

in Cole's edition, for 1858.] 
Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron. 

By E. J. Trelawny. London : Moxon, 1858. 
The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. By Thomas 

Jefferson Hogg. In Four Volumes. Vols. I 

and II. London : Moxon, 1858. 

It is to the titles of these works that Peacock refers 

on page 4. Part II of the Memoirs appeared in the 

January number of 1860, after the publication of 

the Shelley Memorials; the Supplementary Notice 

was added in the March number of 1862 ; and 

the seventeen letters, with the introductory note on 

pp. 93-4, formed the first article in the March 

number of 1860. 

a 2 



iv PREFACE 

Of these, Shelley's letters have been included in 
various collections, but the Memoirs have been re- 
printed only once, in the three volume edition of 
Peacock's works edited in 1875 by Sir Henry Cole. 
From the sheets of this edition the present text has 
been prepared, but every word has been collated with 
the original articles in Fraser, and their earliest form 
has been strictly preserved. Cole's editing was far 
from satisfactory ; he frequently omitted or inserted 
words, and made other alterations ; these errors have 
been corrected, and Peacock's original punctuation 
retained except when it is untenable. Occasionally, 
however, it has been necessary to follow the later 
version when the earlier is manifestly wrong ; Cole, 
for example, tacitly corrects a mistake in the age of 
Brown the novelist, which was originally printed as 
twenty-nine instead of thirty-nine. 

The most difficult question has been that of quo- 
tations. Peacock very rarely gave a reference (not 
always correct), and invariably quoted with peculiar 
inaccuracy. In the present edition, every citation 
of more than half a dozen words from an English, 
Greek or Latin author, except in the case of legal 
documents, has been traced or verified, and the 
reference supplied. Where Peacock merely altered 
the punctuation, the reference has been considered 



PREFACE v 

sufficient ; where he altered the text, the correct 
version is supplied in a footnote. In the case of 
quotations in French, Italian, Portuguese and Welsh, 
I have been content to reproduce the exact words 
of the Fraser text. In justice to Peacock, it must 
be admitted that many of his sins in reforming his 
quotations are due to a reluctance to soil his pen 
with the abominable English of Med win and Hogg. 
For the verification of two references which the 
Bodleian Library did not afford, and the generous 
sacrifice of time far more valuable than my own, 
I have to thank Mr. Percy Simpson. 

In regard to the letters, my gratitude is due to 
Mr. H. Buxton Forman, who kindly permitted the 
text of his monumental edition of Shelley's Prose 
Works to be used for purposes of revision and ampli- 
fication. From his high authority I have rarely 
departed, and never, except in a point of typography 
or the correction of an obvious misprint, without due 
acknowledgement. To his edition I am indebted also 
for a few identifications, and for one essential note, 
all of which are marked by the initials H. B. F. 
Notes added by Mary Shelley are subscribed M. S., 
and I have occasionally given variae lectiones from 
the text of her edition and those of Garnett and 
Rhys. It was found necessary to distinguish Peacock's 



vi PREFACE 

own notes throughout the volume by his initials ; 
note 3 on page 133 has unluckily escaped this process. 
For all other unsigned notes and references the editor 
is alone responsible. 

The text of the letters is now reproduced as fully 
as possible : Peacock, editing them in 1860, omitted 
besides the markedly anti-Christian passages all the 
more pointed references to Mr. Gisborne, and the 
names of some persons — Barry Cornwall, for example 
— who are ungently used. To preserve his lacunae 
would have been needless and annoying, but it is 
necessary to call attention to his original scrupulosity, 
and to the note on pp. 201-2. 

Letters 1 and 3 — those which Middleton pirated — 

are particularly imperfect. From the sale catalogue 

of Peacock's library, however, it is possible to supply 

one interesting passage selected from the third letter 

by an astute auctioneer : 

Lord Byron is an exceedingly interesting person, 
and as such is it not to be regretted that he is a slave 
to the vilest and most vulgar prejudices, and as mad 
as the winds ? 

The same source yields an explanation of the 

opening of the twenty-seventh letter, which enclosed 

' a letter from a creditor pressing for settlement or 

threatening outlawry', and an addition to the 

Gisborne passages of the twenty-eighth : 



PREFACE vii 

Cobbett persuaded you, you persuaded me, and I 
have persuaded the Gisbornes that the British funds 
are very insecure. They come to England accord- 
ingly to sell out their property. 

Finally, it ought perhaps to be mentioned that 
Professor Dowden, in his Life of Shelley, observes 
that 'the dates of Shelley's letter from Ferrara, 
November 8 and 9 [1818], must be incorrect. The 
journal shows that the true dates are November 6 
and 7.' But for this explanation, a comparison of 
the heading of this letter with that of the next — 
Bologna, Nov. 9th — would certainly have been liable 
to breed suspicion, 

H. F. B. B-S. 



INTRODUCTION 

Among the early accounts of Shelley, the Memoirs 
of Thomas Love Peacock hold an important but 
isolated position, which resembles in many points 
that of Matthew Arnold's Essay among the later 
lives. The likeness, indeed, is somewhat marked. 
Each piece made its first appearance as a review, by 
a writer of acute observation and comparatively 
impartial judgement, of a more pretentious and more 
biased piece of Shelley biography; and each review 
has become a classic on this very limited subject. 
Their authority, indeed, differs in its essence. Peacock 
combines with the sympathy and comprehension of 
a personal friend of Shelley, the impartiality of 
a man, never subject to enthusiasms, who looks back 
on his companion's lifetime with the added dis- 
interestedness of six and thirty years ; while the 
criticism of Arnold, with equal clarity of thought, 
is strong in the breadth of view and the complete 
candour which could only come with a later and 
quite unprejudiced generation. Yet in the biography 
of Shelley — an unsavoury and debatable tract, from 
which that reader is fortunate who escapes no more 
a partisan than he entered in — the short critical 
papers of Peacock and Arnold are alike in their 
value as purges for the petty disingenuousness of 
apologists, who have not yet perceived that Shelley's 
vindication, as Peacock claimed, is best permitted 



x INTRODUCTION 

to rest on the grounds on which it was placed by 
himself. 

When biography becomes controversial, it should 
hibernate for a century ; Shelley's biography, cradled 
in a limbo of conflicting witness, has never had a fair 
chance. The first fault lay with the reviewers of his 
own day, who regarded him, very naturally, as 
'a rare prodigy of crime and pollution, whose look 
even might infect \ They were faced with the opinions 
of his early poems, and the facts of his early life ; and 
it was inevitable that they should attack him with 
the utmost bitterness of a moral and uncensored 
press. From this assault the writers on Shelley's life 
have never recovered; they either compile or demolish 
needless defences, and the chaos is made worse by the 
untrustworthy nature of many of the best qualified 
accounts. Medwin's Life is highly inaccurate. That of 
Hogg is unrivalled for the Oxford period, but is some- 
what discredited in its later development, both by the 
writer's peculiar relations with Shelley and his first 
wife, and by his tendency to indulge in lurid detail 
and caustic satire. Lady Shelley's Shelley Memorials 
were written to counteract the influence of Hogg ; 
and Trelawny, who gives a pleasing and vigorous 
picture of the last months of Shelley's life, reminds 
us by frequent discrepancies of Lord Byron's state- 
ment that even to save his life he could not tell the 
truth. The value of all these books lies chiefly in 
their material: method, disinterestedness, and just 
perspective could only come with the professional, 



INTRODUCTION xi 

not the amateur historian. Yet it is not too much 
to say that the latter qualities are more conspicuous 
in the Memoirs of Peacock, which were written, be it 
remembered, as a critical review, than in any of the 
accounts of contemporaries ; and during the period 
between Shelley's residence at Bracknell and his final 
departure from England, Peacock had unequalled 
opportunities of observation. Nor is his authority 
lessened by the fact that he long refused to write on 
Shelley's life ; most lovers of the poet will sympathize 
with such reluctance ; and his desire that Shelley, ' like 
his own Skylark, had been left unseen in his congenial 
region, and that he had been only heard in the 
splendour of his song,' is echoed with a more poignant 
regret in the pages of Arnold's Essay. 

Thomas Love Peacock, the son of a London 
merchant, was born towards the end of 1785, and 
lost his father before he was four years old. His 
mother settled at Chertsey, and the boy was educated 
at a private school in Engl efi eld Green. A short 
experience as a city clerk at fourteen, and an equally 
short one at twenty-three as under-secretary to 
Sir Home Popham on board a man-of-war, seem 
to have been little to his liking, and certainly did 
not interrupt the course of classical study which he 
pursued after leaving school. In 1804 and 1806 he 
published small collections of verses, and in 1810 
appeared his first venture of importance, The Genius 
of the Thames. He met Shelley for the first time 
two years later. 



xii INTRODUCTION 

Peacock, at all times an attractive figure, must 
have made a considerable impression on the younger 
poet, now only in his twentieth year. He was seven 
years older, 

a fine, tall, handsome man, with a profusion of 
bright brown hair, eyes of fine dark blue, massive 
brow, and regular features, a Roman nose, a handsome 
mouth which, when he laughed, as I well remember, 
turned up at the corners, and a complexion, fair as 
a girl's ; his hair was peculiar in its wild luxuriant 
growth, it seemed to grow all from the top of his 
head, had no parting, but hung about in thick locks 
with a rich wave all through it. 

So says his grand- daughter, Edith Nicolls, de- 
scribing a portrait taken about 1810. 

In mind, he was little less distinguished; he 
possessed already the keenness of intellect, the wit, 
and the half- contemptuous, half-amused insight into 
the springs of human conduct, which mark his 
subsequent novels. Moreover, he had a genuine 
knowledge and love of the classics, and in ancient 
literature Shelley found him a guide of greater learn- 
ing and no less devotion. And while their pursuits 
were harmonious, their natures and views were dis- 
similar enough for mutual interest, for Peacock was 
to Shelley that curious creature, a man of the world, 
and Shelley to Peacock, that rara avis, sl genius. 
Yet Peacock was no worldling, except in a combina- 
tion of clear-headedness, humour, and genial good- 
fellowship; his affections were deep, if unobtrusive, 
and his friendships were permanent. In one respect, 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

indeed, he was most unworldly; a distaste for 
uncongenial work had kept him out of any regular 
profession, and his means were consequently restricted. 

It was at Nant Gwillt, in Radnorshire, in the spring 
of 1812, that Shelley and Harriet made his acquaint- 
ance. But their movements about this time were 
rapid and uncertain ; they passed successively from 
Nant Gwillt to Lynmouth, Tanyrallt, Dublin and 
Killarney ; and although they returned to London 
in May, 1813, they saw little of their new friend 
till he visited them, some months later, in their tem- 
porary house at Bracknell. 

Shelley had gone there in order to be near the 
de Boinvilles, who were the centre of a little literary 
clique of which Peacock gives an amusing account. 
Hogg, who had also been there, and had gone away 
in disgust, is much more brutal. 

'I generally found there,'* he says, 'two or three 
sentimental young butchers, an eminently philosophi- 
cal tinker, and several very unsophisticated medical 
practitioners or medical students, all of low origin 
and vulgar and offensive manners. They sighed, 
turned up their eyes, retailed philosophy, such as it 
was, and swore by William Godwin and Political 
Justice, acting, moreover, and very clumsily, the 
parts of Petrarchs, Werthers, St. Leons, and Fleet- 
woods/ 

Peacock was more tolerant ; and though he joined 
Harriet in laughing at their misdirected energies, he 
was evidently a congenial companion, for in October 
he occupied a seat in the Shelleys' carriage on their 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

second journey to Edinburgh. Unfortunately he 
says little of this visit, or some light might be thrown 
on the unsupported statement of the 'informant, 
exceedingly unlikely to be mistaken', who told Rossetti 
that when Shelley came of age, his ' first act was to 
marry Harriet over again in an Episcopal Chapel in 
Edinburgh'. Had. this been so, Peacock would 
hardly have ignored a piece of evidence which lent 
such strong support to his argument on the separation. 

The Shelleys returned to London at the end of 
1813, and there, in March of the following year, 
they were formally remarried. Peacock speaks of this 
ceremony as witness to the absence of any estrange- 
ment, but the claim is not conclusive, for Shelley's 
object was merely to place beyond all doubt the 
legitimacy of his expected heir, and in another four 
months he had deserted Harriet. 

This incident, the most painful in Shelley's life, 
demands detailed notice both from the space devoted 
to it in the Memoirs, and because it has stumbled so 
many of Shelley's biographers. Rossetti and Symonds 
were hampered by the want of documents which were 
not made public until the appearance, in 1886, of 
Professor Dowden's weighty Life ; and Professor 
Dowden's unconscious bias in Shelley's favour has 
grievously obscured his account of the separation. 
The main contention of Peacock — that it did not 
take place by mutual consent — stands confirmed, in 
spite of Garnett's attack ; but in various minor 
matters his account requires correction. That there 



INTRODUCTION xv 

was 'no shadow of a thought of separation' before 
Shelley met Mary Godwin is likely enough, but that 
there was 'no estrangement ' is not so probable: 
Harriet's intellectual development had not kept 
pace with her husband's, and his letter to Hogg 
(March 16, 1814) shows clearly enough that even 
before the meeting with Mary, the attractions of 
Mrs. de Boinville's daughter Cornelia had seriously 
engaged his highly susceptible heart. Its ultimate 
conquest by some one other than Harriet was humanly 
certain. 

Peacock's reply, in his Supplementary Notice, to 
Garnett's criticism in Macmillan's Magazine, provoked 
a rejoinder in the same year. In this article, printed 
at the end of his Relics of Shelley, and distinguished 
by peculiar acrimony and lack of taste, Garnett 
showed the probability of an earlier estrangement, 
and the reason of the second marriage, and proved 
Peacock to have misquoted Harriet's letter of July 7 
(p. 86), and also the interview with Southey (p. 50). 
In the latter case Shelley is as likely to have been at 
fault as Peacock, who admits his uncertainty of the 
facts; and the letter must have been quoted from 
memory or hearsay. But Garnett still relied on the 
unpublished documents for his main point, that the 
separation was 'an amicable agreement effected in 
virtue of a mutual understanding ', and their publica- 
tion has shown that Peacock was right. 

The flaws in Professor Dowden's treatment of the 
question have been brilliantly exposed in Matthew 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

Arnold's Essay. Both Professor Dowden and 
Dr. Garnett have hinted that Shelley was unlikely 
to make Peacock his confidant over the separation, 
and this is highly probable. Shelley could always 
persuade himself, quite genuinely, of anything which 
he wished to believe ; he had probably persuaded 
himself that Harriet no longer loved him ; and 
instinct would warn him not to expose the desired 
illusion to the searchlight of Peacock's logic, which 
had been proved too strong for so many former 
hallucinations. He was evidently much annoyed by 
Peacock's attitude of tacit disapproval, and his 
irritation is clearly shown by a sentence in the 
almost ludicrously tactless letter to Harriet from 
Troyes : 

I have written to Peacock to superintend money 
affairs; he is expensive, inconsiderate, and cold, but 
surely not utterly perfidious and unfriendly and un- 
mindful of our kindness to him ; besides, interest 
will secure his attention to these things. 

The last sentence probably refers to the annual sum 
of i?100 which Shelley allowed Peacock for some 
time prior to his India House appointment. 

Shelley left London for Switzerland, with Mary 
Godwin and Claire Claremont, on July 28, 1814, and 
did not return until the following September. By a 
clerical error, Peacock mentions the letters he received 
during the second tour in Switzerland, two years 
later, as belonging to this period : if any reached 
him in 1814, all trace of them is now lost. After 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

their return Shelley and Mary took rooms in London 
for the winter, and Peacock several times gave the 
poet a night's lodging, lest he should be arrested for 
debt at his own door. But early in the following 
year the death of Sir Bysshe Shelley placed his grand- 
son's affairs on a better footing ; a house was taken 
at Bishopgate, and in the summer Peacock, who had 
been a frequent visitor there, accompanied the 
Shelleys and Charles Clairmont on a river expedition 
up the Thames. 

To this holiday belongs one of the many amusing 
incidents of the Memoirs. Shelley had published the 
treatise, A Vindication of Natural Diet, in 1813, but 
the practice of his vegetarian principles brought fre- 
quent trouble, and on their river trip Peacock's simple 
prescription — 'Three mutton chops, well peppered' — 
was immediately successful. ' While he was living 
from inn to inn,' says an earlier passage, 'he was 
obliged to live, as he said, " on what he could get " ; 
that is to say, like other people. When he got well 
under this process he gave all the credit to locomotion, 
and held himself to have thus benefited, not in 
consequence of his change of regimen, but in spite of 
it.' There is curious confirmation of this statement 
in a letter to Hogg written in September, 1815, 'on 
my return from a water excursion on the Thames,' 
in which Shelley remarks that 'the exercise and 
dissipation of mind attached to such an expedition 
have produced so favourable an effect on my health, 
that my habitual dejection and irritability have 
b 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

almost deserted me.' Not a word here of the change 
of diet from tea and bread and butter to a liberal 
allowance of mutton ! 

From this time until Shelley's final departure from 
England, his intercourse with Peacock was broken 
only by the second Swiss tour of 1816, and both 
Alastor and the Revolt of Islam had the advantage of 
his friend's criticism. 

In 1819, twelve months after the Shelley s went to 
Italy, Peacock became a clerk in the service of the 
East India Company, and the next twenty years 
changed the idle litterateur into a busy and able 
official. But before this he had published his third 
novel, Nightmare Abbey, which takes rank, in its 
bearing on Shelley, with the Memoirs and the Four 
Ages of Poetry. The character of Scythrop, in this 
novel, is a lively portrait of the poet as he was when 
Peacock first met him, and their adventures in love 
have a distinct resemblance. Scythrop's early and 
transient affection for his cousin Emily is a repetition 
of Shelley's for his cousin Harriet Grove ; and his 
hesitation between the two heroines, Marionetta and 
Stella, recalls the doubtful supremacy of Harriet 
Shelley and Mary Godwin. The similarity of situa- 
tion required careful handling, but by making his 
hero lose both the ladies, Peacock secured the tale 
from any infringement of good taste : and his treat- 
ment of Scythrop is delightful. Scythrop is a brilliant 
realization of the undeveloped Shelley of 1812 : he 
devours tragedies and German romances, is troubled 



INTRODUCTION xix 

with the ' passion for reforming the workV which his 
original never lost, and publishes a treatise entitled 
Philosophical Gas ; or, a Project for a General Illu- 
mination of the Human Mind. * He slept with 
Horrid Mysteries under his pillow, and dreamed 
of venerable eleutherarchs and ghastly confederates 
holding midnight conventions in subterranean caves.** 
And his soliloquies echo the views of 'the sublime 
Kant, who delivers his oracles in language which none 
but the initiated can comprehend \ 

Shelley's instant and joyful recognition of the 
identity of Scythrop, and his keen appreciation of 
a novel which presented him in a somewhat ludicrous 
light, have usually been regarded with surprise. 
Probably he was flattered by the implied compliment ; 
in any case he must have recognized the good feeling 
of the picture and the brilliance of its setting ; but 
the real secret of his pleasure lay, no doubt, in the re- 
trospective aspect of Nightmare Abbey — all the events 
shown there, and most of the foibles displayed, were 
things of the past, and he could afford to join Peacock 
in the laugh against his old self. Perhaps his friend's 
comprehension of the nature of Shelley's early heroics 
appears as well as anywhere at the close of the novel, 
where Scythrop, seated over a pistol and a pint of port, 
and faced with an unfortunate decision to take his 
own life at twenty-five minutes past seven, uses the 
pistol for the more reasonable purpose of persuading his 
butler vi et armis that the clock is fast. Yet Peacock 
could hardly have seen the letter to Hogg, written 
b 2 



xx INTRODUCTION 

seven years earlier, in which Shelley naively wrote : 
' Is suicide wrong ? I slept with a loaded pistol and 
some poison last night, but did not die."' 

Only one of Peacock's remaining prose works has 
much interest in regard to Shelley, although there 
are distinct traces of his opinions to be found in both 
the earlier novels, Headlong Hall and Melincourt. 
This is the essay entitled The Four Ages of Poetry, 
published by Oilier in 1820 : a humorous and very 
characteristic attack, to which Shelley's Defence of 
Poetry was a direct reply. The utter difference in 
the point of view, and the omission by John Hunt 
of the polemic passages of the Defence, have altogether 
obscured its controversial origin: in fact, few pro- 
cesses bring out the essential dissimilarity between 
the minds of the two friends so clearly as a comparison 
of these essays. Peacock, who loved poetry as well 
as any man, could no more help laughing at some of 
its aspects than he could help laughing at some of 
Shelley's ; he traces its history from Orpheus and 
Amphion, ' building cities with a song, and leading 
brutes with a symphony ; which are only metaphors 
for the faculty of leading multitudes by the nose,' 
down to the dark ages, ■ in which the light of the 
Gospel began to spread over Europe, and in which, 
by a mysterious and inscrutable dispensation, the 
darkness thickened with the progress of the light.' 
As Shelley said in the Letter to Maria Gisborne : 

His fine wit 
Makes such a wound, the knife is lost in it. 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

But his real quarrel is with the moderns, and especially 
the Lake Poets in their mountain retirement, ' passing 
the whole day in the innocent and amiable occupation 
of going up and down hill, receiving poetical impres- 
sions, and communicating them in immortal verse to 
admiring generations.' 

Shelley had neither the wish nor the power to 
tackle his opponent on his own ground, but his 
incomplete Defence is a serious effort to obtain light, 
and all Peacock's wit pales before the glow of the 
great definition 'A poem is the very image of life 
expressed in its eternal truth 1 . Shelley believed in the 
future, and blundered after better things : Peacock 
in the past, and saw the weak points of reformers : the 
outlook of the two essays is characteristic of the men. 

Yet the clear comprehension of Shelley's foibles 
never biased the author of the Memoirs ; he painted 
the man as he was, and did not strive after telling 
points with Hogg's satiric licence. ' Nothing,' said 
Robert Buchanan, who knew him in his old age, 
1 can be more gentle, more guarded, than Peacock's 
printed account of Shelley. His private conversation 
on the subject was, of course, very different. Two 
subjects he did not refer to in his articles may safely 
be mentioned now — Shelley's violent fits of passion, 
and the difficulty Peacock found in keeping on friendly 
terms with Mary Godwin.' There is no hint of 
either here, although the instance of petulance which 
Buchanan gives would have made a good story in the 
manner of Hogg. 



xxii ■ INTRODUCTION 

On the very difficult question of Shelley's hallucina- 
tions — ' the degree in which his imagination coloured 
events' — the Memoirs are peculiarly rich. They 
include the imaginary visit in his childhood, the 
Eton incident, the madhouse scare, the affray at 
Tanyrallt, the dread of elephantiasis, Williams's 
warning, and the cloaked man at Florence. The list 
might be doubled from other sources ; the Keswick 
robbery and Medwin's veiled lady occur at once, with 
the mysterious cry of * Cenci, Cenci ', which thrilled 
the poet in the streets of Rome — and proved to be 
the request for < old rags ' ! Adventures of this kind, 
as Symonds observed, blend fact and fancy in a now 
inextricable tangle, but there is no better explanation 
of them than that which Peacock suggests : that on 
some basis — usually the idea that his father and uncle 
had designs on his liberty — % his imagination built a 
fabric of romance, and when he presented it as sub- 
stantive fact, and it was found to contain more or less 
of inconsistency, he felt his self-esteem interested in 
maintaining it by accumulated circumstances, which 
severally vanished under the touch of investigation.' 
The remarkable blend of fact and fiction in Shelley's 
second letter to Godwin shows that this habit of 
romance must have been very deeply rooted. 

The great value of the Memoirs lies in their stand- 
point : they attain the just blend of sympathy and 
discernment which the nature of their subject makes 
so difficult. When Shelley settled himself to the 
poetical contemplation of life, he found it a thing 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

Of error, ignorance, and strife, 
Where nothing is, but all things seem, 
And we the shadows of the dream, 

and this aspect of unreality appealed to him very 
strongly : he even found that 

Death is the veil which those who live call life : 
They sleep, and it is lifted. 

But in his actual passage through the world, the 
smugness of everyday existence oppressed him with 
all the pompous absurdity of a well-regulated public 
meeting ; and like all highly-strung persons, he felt 
an irresistible desire to shriek — to put the dull orator, 
Custom, into a false gallop. This might be done 
either willingly or accidentally ; by hooting, or 
hysterics. Sometimes he hooted : flicked bread-pellets 
into the faces of the Sir Oracles who passed him in 
the street, or startled staid old ladies in public 
vehicles with the suggestion : 

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground 
And tell sad stories of the death of kings ! 

— ( not eccentricity so much as painful discourtesy ', 
wrote de Quincey, who did not know the man. 
Sometimes he became hysterical, and the reviewers 
received a shock. But always he needed an under- 
standing observer more than most objects of criticism ; 
and it is intelligent sympathy, neither idealizing nor 
vilifying, in which Peacock's Memoirs excel. 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 



Probably few modern readers will agree with John 
Addington Symonds in the opinion that Shelley's 
Italian letters to Peacock, ' taken altogether, are the 
most perfect specimens of descriptive prose in the 
English language.' The writer's brain is too often, 
as he admits, ' like a portfolio of an architect, or a 
print-shop, or a commonplace-book,' and the poetry 
of his continual word-painting occasionally cloys. 
' The tourists tell you all about these things,' he says, 
6 and I am afraid of stumbling on their language 
when I enumerate what is so well known.' There 
was little need for the apprehension, though we see 
that Shelley could be tourist enough at times, and 
could misquote Lycidas and hack pieces off dungeon 
doors with the worst. But the magnificence and 
variety of the ancient and modern art of Rome 
oppressed him ; he laboured to convey his sensations, 
and we can see the effort in the presence of one small 
but significant phrase — the ; as it were ' of his 
descriptions. 

There is nothing of the tourist, however, in his 
views on art; without pretending to taste, he had 
his own opinions and the courage of them. Occasion- 
ally there is an excusable blunder — he thought, for 
example, that the painted dome of Milan Cathedral 
was carved in marble fretwork. But he disliked 
Michael Angelo, and had the rare courage to say so. 
And in general, his instinct for painting is less true 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

than for sculpture ; but he is at his best under the 
open sky, in the Baths of Caracalla, or meditating on 
Greek life among the ruins of Pompeii. This is not 
to say that he did not appreciate painting, but he 
had a standard of his own for it, as he had for music 
and the drama, and in neither art was it a normal 
one. Though in the case of the stage, his failure to 
enjoy comedy must have been due not only to his 
hatred of any injustice, but to that inability to 
perceive the essential humour of incongruity which 
allowed him to write ■ Single sheet, by God ! ' on the 
cover of a letter to Miss Hitchener, by way of 'a 
strong, though vulgar appeal to the feelings of the 
postmaster". 

Michael Angelo is not the only sufferer in the 
letters. It is startling, after reading Peacock's state- 
ment that Shelley devotedly admired Wordsworth 
and Coleridge, to come upon the exclamation : 
6 What a beastly and pitiful wretch that Wordsworth! ' 
But it is not the poet, but the political pervert, 
who suffers this denunciation : the Two Addresses 
to the Freeholders of Westmorland had just been 
published, and Shelley's boundless indignation showed 
itself with little less strength in his sonnet to 
Wordsworth, and in Peter Bell the Third. Yet 
although he admired Wordsworth as a poet, his 
reference to the forest pool as * sixteen feet long and 
ten feet wide, to venture an unrythmical paraphrase ', 
shows that he was no more blind than Peacock to the 
dangers of the extreme simplicity of The Thorn. 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

Finally, these letters yield much information to the 
student of Shelley's poetry. Even among the most 
subjective English poets it may be doubted whether 
there are any, save Wordsworth, whose verse so 
habitually reflects their daily life — of which letters 
are the record. And both the manner and the matter 
of Shelley's poetry find representation here. For the 
former, there are no better instances than two passages 
in the letter of March 23, 1819— the period of the 
second act of the Prometheus. Speaking of the arch 
of Constantine, he describes the supporters of the 
keystones : ' two winged figures of Victory, whose hair 
floats on the wind of their own speed': and later 
4 their lips are parted : a delicate mode of indicating 
the fervour of their desire to arrive at the destined 
resting-place, and to express the eager respiration of 
their speed '. The three main ideas of these sentences 
all find a place within ^ve lines of the Prometheus 
(II. iv. 135-9) : 

Others, with burning eyes, lean forth, and drink 
With eager lips the wind of their own speed, 
As if the thing they loved fled on before. 
And now, even now, they clasped it. Their bright 

locks 
Stream like a comet's flashing hair. 

It is a fine example of the truth of Browning's 
admirable remark, that in Shelley's letters 'the 
musician speaks on the note he sings with ; there is 
no change in the scale, as he diminishes the volume 
into familiar intercourse ' : and that ' we find even 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

his carnal speech to agree faithfully, at faintest as 
at strongest, with the tone and rhythm of his most 
oracular utterances \ 

And for an instance of a sketch attempted before 
the subject is finally chosen to grace a poem, there 
is the picture of the forest pool given with so much 
detail in the ninth letter, with its water 'as transparent 
as the air, so that the stones and sand at the bottom 
seem, as it were, trembling in the light of noonday \ 
Surely this pool must have been in the mind of 
Shelley — who had as keen a zest for the brilliance of 
unbroken light as Milton had for the play of light 
and shade — when he wrote the lines in the Prometheus 
(IV. 503) : 

I rise as from a bath of sparkling water, 
A bath of azure light, among dark rocks, 
Out of the stream of sound, 

and surely there is no doubt that just as the paper 
boats which Shelley and Peacock launched, and the 
wherries in which they skimmed the Thames, sail for 
ever as magic barques on the rivers of Alastor and 
Ahrimanes, so the memory of this pool which the 
poet loved lives here for a brief moment on Panthea's 
lips. 

H. F. B. BRETT-SMITH. 

Oxford, 

September, 1909. 



MEMOIRS OF PERCY BYSSHE 
SHELLEY 

* Rousseau, ne recevant aucun auteur, remercie Madame 

de ses bontes, et la prie de ne plus venir chez hnV 

Rousseau had a great aversion to visitors of all 
classes, but especially to literary visitors, feeling sure 
that they would print something about him. A lady 
who had long persisted in calling on him, one day 
published a brochure, and sent him a copy. He re- 
joiced in the opportunity which brought her under 
his rule of exclusion, and terminated their intercourse 
by the above billet-doux. 

Rousseau's rule bids fair to become general with all 
who wish to keep in the secretum iter et fallentis semita 
vitce, and not to become materials for general gossip. 
For not only is a departed author of any note con- 
sidered a fair subject to be dissected at the tea-table 
of the reading public, but all his friends and con- 
nexions, however quiet and retiring and unobtrusive 
may have been the general tenor of their lives, must 
be served up with him. It is the old village scandal 
on a larger scale ; and as in these days of universal 
locomotion people know nothing of their neighbours, 
they prefer tittle-tattle about notorieties to the retail- 
ing of whispers about the Jenkinses and Tomkinses of 
the vicinity. 

This appetite for gossip about notorieties being once 
created in the ' reading public *, there will be always 
found persons to minister to it ; and among the 
volunteers of this service, those who are best informed 
and who most valued the departed will probably not 



2 MEMOIRS OF 

be the foremost. Then come biographies abounding 
with errors ; and then, as matter of defence perhaps, 
comes on the part of friends a tardy and more 
authentic narrative. This is at best, as Mr. Hogg 
describes it, a J difficult and delicate task . But it is 
always a matter of choice and discretion. No man 
is bound to write the life of another. No man who 
does so is bound to tell the public all he knows. On 
the contrary, he is bound to keep to himself whatever 
may injure the interests or hurt the feelings of the 
living, especially when the latter have in no way in- 
jured or calumniated the dead, and are not necessarily 
brought before the tribunal of public opinion in the 
character of either plaintiff's or defendants. Neither 
if there be in the life of the subject of the biography 
any event which he himself would willingly have 
blotted from the tablet of his own memory, can it 
possibly be the duty of a survivor to drag it into day- 
light. If such an event be the cardinal point of a 
life ; if to conceal it or to misrepresent it would be to 
render the whole narrative incomplete, incoherent, 
unsatisfactory alike to the honour of the dead and the 
feelings of the living ; then, as there is no moral com- 
pulsion to speak of the matter at all, it is better to 
let the whole story slumber in silence. 

Having lived some years in very familiar intimacy 
with the subject of these memoirs ; having had as 
good opportunities as any, and better than most 
persons now living, to observe and appreciate his great 
genius, extensive acquirements, cordial friendships, 
disinterested devotion to the well-being of the few 
with whom he lived in domestic intercourse, and 
ardent endeavours by private charity and public ad- 
vocacy to ameliorate the condition of the many who 
pass their days in unremunerating toil ; having been 
named his executor conjointly with Lord Byron, 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 3 

whose death, occurring before that of Shelley's father, 
when the son's will came into effect, left me alone in 
that capacity; having lived after his death in the same 
cordial intimacy with his widow, her family, and one 
or two at least of his surviving friends, I have been con- 
sidered to have some peculiar advantages for writing 
his life, and have often been requested to do so ; but 
for the reasons above given I have always refused. 
Wordsworth says to the Cuckoo : — 

O blithe new-comer ! I have heard, 

I hear thee, and rejoice. 
O Cuckoo ! shall I call thee Bird, 

Or but a wandering Voice ? 

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring ! 

Even yet thou art to me 
No bird, but an invisible thing, 

A voice, a mystery. 1 

Shelley was fond of repeating these verses, and 
perhaps they were not forgotten in his poem ■ To a 
Skylark':- 

Hail to thee, blithe spirit ! 

Bird thou never wert, 
That from heaven, or near it, 
Pourest thy full heart, 
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. 

The pale purple even 

Melts around thy flight : 
Like a star of heaven, 
In the broad daylight, 
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight. 

Now, I could have wished that, like Wordsworth's 
Cuckoo, he had been allowed to remain a voice and 

1 Stanzas 1 and 4- of the earlier (1804) poem * To the Cuckoo '. 

B 2 



4 MEMOIRS OF 

a mystery : that, like his own Skylark, he had been 
left unseen in his congenial region, 

Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot 
Which men call earth/ 

and that he had been only heard in the splendour of 
his song. But since it is not to be so, since so much 
has been, and so much more will probably be, written 
about him, the motives which deterred me from 
originating a substantive work on the subject, do not 
restrict me from commenting on what has been pub- 
lished by others, and from correcting errors, if such 
should appear to me to occur, in the narratives which 
I may pass under review. 

I have placed the works at the head of this article 
in the order in which they were published. I have 
no acquaintance with Mr. Middleton. Mr. Trelawny 
and Mr. Hogg I may call my friends. 

Mr. Middleton's work is chiefly a compilation from 
previous publications, with some very little original 
matter, curiously obtained. 

Mr. Trelawny's work relates only to the later days 
of Mr. Shelley's life in Italy. 

Mr. Hogg's work is the result of his own personal 
knowledge, and of some inedited letters and other 
documents, either addressed to himself or placed at 
his disposal by Sir Percy Shelley and his lady. It is 
to consist of four volumes, of which the two just pub- 
lished bring down the narrative to the period imme- 
diately preceding Shelley's separation from his first 
wife. At that point I shall terminate this first part 
of my proposed review. 

I shall not anticipate opinions, but shall go over 
all that is important in the story as briefly as I can, 

1 Milton, Conrns, 11. 5, 6. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 5 

interspersing such observations as may suggest them- 
selves in its progress. 

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at his father's seat, 
Field Place, in Sussex, on the 4th of August 1792 
His grandfather, Sir Bysshe Shelley, was then living, 
and his father, Timothy Shelley, Esquire, was then 
or subsequently a Member of Parliament. The family 
was of great antiquity ; but Percy conferred more 
honour on it than he derived from it. 

He had four sisters and a brother, the youngest of 
the family, and the days of his childhood appear to 
have passed affectionately in his domestic society. 

To the first ten years of his life we have no direct 
testimony but that of his sister Hellen, in a series of 
letters to Lady Shelley, published in the beginning 
of Mr. Hogg's work. In the first of these she says : — 

A child who at six years old was sent daily to learn 
Latin at a clergyman's house, and as soon as it was o 
expedient removed to Dr. Greenland's, from thence to 
Eton, and subsequently to college, could scarcely have 
been the uneducated son that some writers would en- 
deavour to persuade those who read their books to 
believe he ought to have been, if his parents despised 
education. 1 

Miss Hellen gives an illustration of Shelley's boyish 
traits of imagination : — 

On one occasion he gave the most minute details of 
a visit he had paid to some ladies with whom he was 
acquainted at our village. He described their recep- 
tion of him, their occupations, and the wandering in 
their pretty garden, where there was a well-remembered 
filbert- walk and an undulating turf-bank, the delight of 
our morning visit. There must have been something 
peculiar in this little event ; for I have often heard it 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 6. 



6 MEMOIRS OF 

mentioned as a singular fact, and it was ascertained 
almost immediately, that the boy had never been to 
the house. It was not considered as a falsehood to be 
punished ; but I imagine his conduct altogether must 
have been so little understood and unlike that of the 
generality of children, that these tales were left 
unnoticed. 1 

Mr. Hogg says at a later date : — 

He was altogether incapable of rendering an account 
of any transaction whatsoever, according to the strict 
and precise truth, and the bare naked realities of 
actual life ; not through an addiction to falsehood, 
which he cordially detested, but because he was the 
creature, the unsuspecting and unresisting victim, of 
his irresistible imagination. 

Had he written to ten different individuals the 
history of some proceeding in which he was himself 
a party and an eye-witness, each of his ten reports 
would have varied from the rest in essential and impor- 
tant circumstances. The relation given on the morrow 
would be unlike that of the day, as the latter would 
contradict the tale of yesterday. 1 

Several instances will be given of the habit, thus 
early developed in Shelley, of narrating, as real, events 
which had never occurred ; and his friends and rela- 
tions have thought it necessary to give prominence to 
this habit as a characteristic of his strong imagina- 
tiveness predominating over reality. Coleridge has 
written much and learnedly on this subject of ideas 
with the force of sensations, of which he found many 
examples in himself. 

At the age of ten, Shelley was sent to Si on House 
Academy, near Brentford. 'Our master,'' says his 
schoolfellow, Captain Medwin, 'a Scotch Doctor of 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 13. 

2 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 68. ■ 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 7 

Law, and a divine, was a choleric man, of a sanguin- 
ary complexion, in a green old age, not wanting in 
good qualities, but very capricious in his temper, 
which, good or bad, was influenced by the daily 
occurrences of a domestic life not the most harmoni- 
ous, and of which his face was the barometer and his 
hand the index.' This worthy was in the habit of 
cracking unbecoming jokes, at which most of the boys 
laughed ; but Shelley, who could not endure this sort 
of pleasantry, received them with signs of aversion. 
A day or two after one of these exhibitions, when 
Shelley's manifestation of dislike to the matter 
had attracted the preceptor's notice, Shelley had a 
theme set him for two Latin lines on the subject of 
Tempestas. 

He came to me (says Medwin) to assist him in the 
task. I had a cribbing book, of which I made great 
use, Ovid's Tristibus. I knew that the only work of 
Ovid with which the Doctor was acquainted was the 
Metamorphoses, and by what I thought good luck, I 
happened to stumble on two lines exactly applicable 
to the purpose. The hexameter I forget, but the 
pentameter ran thus : 

Jam, jam tacturos sidera celsa putes. 1 

So far the story is not very classically told. The 
title of the book should have been given as Tristia, 
or De Tristibus ; and the reading is tacturas, not 

1 Peacock has altered and contracted this quotation, to the 
benefit, certainly, of Medwin's grammar. The second and third 
sentences should run : 

' I had got a cribbing book, and of which I made great use — 
Ovid's Tristibus. I knew that the only work of Ovid with which 
the Doctor was acquainted was the Metamorphoses, the only 
one, indeed, read in that and other seminaries of learning, and 
by what I thought great good luck, happened to stumble on two 
lines exactly applicable to the purpose.' 

Medwin, Life of Shelley, vol. ii, p. 24. 



8 MEMOIRS OF 

tacturos ; surnma, not celsa : the latter term is inap- 
plicable to the stars. The distich is this : 

Me miserum ! quanti montes volvuntur aquarum ! 
Jam, jam tacturas sidera summa putes. 1 

Something was probably substituted for Me 
miserum ! But be this as it may, Shelley was grievously 
beaten for what the schoolmaster thought bad Latin. 2 
The Doctor's judgement was of a piece with that 
of the Edinburgh Reviewers, when taking a line of 
Pindar, which Payne Knight had borrowed in a 
Greek translation of a passage in Gray's Bard, to have 
been Payne Knight's own, they pronounced it to be 
nonsense. 3 

The name of the Brentford Doctor according to 
Miss Hellen Shelley was Greenland, and according to 
Mr. Hogg it was Greenlaw. Captain Medwin does 
not mention the name, but says, 'So much did we 
mutually hate Sion House, that we never alluded to 
it in after-life.' Mr. Hogg says, ' In walking with 
Shelley to Bishopsgate 4 from London, he pointed 
out to me more than once a gloomy brick house as 
being this school. He spoke of the master, Doctor 

1 Tristium Lib. i. Eleg. ii. 19, 20. 

2 Not for the erroneous use of celsa, but for the true Ovidian 
Latin, which the Doctor held to be bad. [T. L. P. J 

3 etpfici 5' t TC77CWV dditpva arovaxais. This line, which a synod 
of North British critics has peremptorily pronounced to be 
nonsense, is taken from the tenth Nemean of Pindar, v. 141 ; 
and until they passed sentence upon it in No. xiv. of the Edinburgh 
Review, was universally thought to express with peculiar force 
and delicacy the mixture of indignation and tenderness so appro- 
priate to the grief of the hero of the modern as well as of the 
ancient ode. — Principles of Taste, part ii. c. 2. 

I imagine there are many verses in the best classical poets 
which, if presented as original, would not pass muster with either 
teachers or critics. [T. L. P. ] 

4 More properly Bishopgate, without the s : the entrance to 
Windsor Park from Englefield Green. Shelley had a furnished 
house, in 1815-16,very near to this park gate. [T. L. P.] 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 9 

Greenlaw, not without respect, saying, " he was a 
hard-headed Scotchman, and a man of rather liberal 
opinions." ' l Of this period of his life he never gave 
me an account, nor have I heard or read any details 
which appeared to bear the impress of truth. Between 
these two accounts the Doctor and his character seem 
reduced to a myth. I myself know nothing of the 
matter. I do not remember Shelley ever mentioning 
the Doctor to me. But we shall find as we proceed, 
that whenever there are two evidences to one trans- 
action, many of the recorded events of Shelley's life 
will resolve themselves into the same mythical 
character. 

At the best, Sion House Academy must have been 
a bad beginning of scholastic education for a sensitive 
and imaginative boy. 

After leaving this academy, he was sent, in his 
fifteenth year, to Eton. The head master was Doctor 
Keate, a less mythical personage than the Brentford 
Orbilius, but a variety of the same genus. Mr. Hogg 
says : — 

Dr. Keate was a short, short-necked, short-legged, 
man — thick-set, powerful, and very active. His coun- 
tenance resembled that of a bull-dog ; the expression 
was not less sweet and bewitching : his eyes, his nose, 
and especially his mouth, were exactly like that comely 
and engaging animal, and so were his short crooked 
legs. It was said in the school that old Keate could 
pin and hold a bull with his teeth. His iron sway was 
the more unpleasant and shocking after the long mild 
Saturnian reign of Dr. Goodall, whose temper, character, 
and conduct corresponded precisely with his name, and 
under whom Keate had been master of the lower 



1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 22. In Fraser's Magazine the 
quotation is wrongly made to include the next sentence. 



10 MEMOIRS OF 

school. Discipline, wholesome and necessary in modera- 
tion, was carried by him to an excess. It is reported 
that on one morning he flogged eighty boys. Although 
he was rigid, coarse, and despotical, some affirm that 
on the whole he was not unjust, nor altogether devoid 
of kindness. His behaviour was accounted vulgar and 
ungentlemanlike, and therefore he was particularly 
odious to the gentlemen of the school, especially to the 
refined and aristocratical Shelley. 1 

But Shelley suffered even more from his school- 
fellows than he did from his master. It had been so 
at Brentford, and it was still more so at Eton, from 
the more organized system of fagging, to which no 
ill-usage would induce him to submit. But among 
his equals in age he had several attached friends, and 
one of these, in a letter dated February 27th, 1857, 
gives the following reminiscences of their Eton days: — 
(Hogg i. 43.) 

My dear Madam, — Your letter has taken me back to 
the sunny time of boyhood, 'when thought is speech 
and speech is truth/ when I was the friend and com- 
panion of Shelley at Eton. What brought us together 
in that small world was, I suppose, kindred feelings, 
and the predominance of fancy and imagination. Many 
a long and happy walk have I had with him in the 
beautiful neighbourhood of dear old Eton. We used 
to wander for hours about Clewer, Frogmore, the park 
at Windsor, the Terrace ; and I was a delighted and 
willing listener to his marvellous stories of fairyland, 
and apparitions, and spirits, and haunted ground ; and 
his speculations were then (for his mind w r as far more 
developed than mine) of the world beyond the grave. 
Another of his favourite rambles was Stoke Park, and 
the picturesque churchyard where Gray is said to 
have written his ( Elegy ', of which he was very fond. 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 45. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 11 

I was myself far too young to form any estimate of 
character, but I loved Shelley for his kindliness and 
affectionate ways. He was not made to endure the 
rough and boisterous pastime at Eton, and his shy and 
gentle nature was glad to escape far away, to muse 
over strange fancies, for his mind was reflective and 
teeming with deep thought. His lessons were child's 
play to him, and his power of Latin versification 
marvellous. I think I remember some long work he 
had even then commenced, but I never saw it. His 
love of nature was intense, and the sparkling poetry of 
his mind shone out of his speaking eye when he was 
dwelling on anything good or great. He certainly was 
not happy at Eton, for his was a disposition that needed 
especial personal superintendence to watch and cherish 
and direct all his noble aspirations and the remarkable 
tenderness of his heart. He had great moral courage, 
and feared nothing but what was base, and false, and 
low. He never joined in the usual sports of the boys, 
and what is remarkable, never went out in a boat on 
the river. What I have here set down will be of little 
use to you, but will please you as a sincere and truthful 
and humble tribute to one whose good name was sadly 
whispered away. Shelley said to me when leaving 
Oxford under a cloud, ( Halliday, I am come to say 
good-bye to you, if you are not afraid to be seen with 
me ! ' I saw him once again in the autumn of 1 8 1 4, 1 
when he was glad to introduce me to his wife. I think 
he said he was just come from Ireland. You have done 
quite right in applying to me direct, and I am only 
sorry that I have no anecdotes or letters of that period 
to furnish. 

I am, yours truly, 

Walter S. Halliday. 

This is the only direct testimony to Shelley's Eton 
life from one who knew him there. It contains two 

1 This letter, as quoted by Hogg, contains the words * in 
London,' at this point. 



12 MEMOIRS OF 

instances of how little value can be attached to any 
other than such direct testimony. That at that time 
he never went out in a boat on the river I believe to 
be strictly true: nevertheless Captain Medwin says: — 
' He told me the greatest delight he experienced at 
Eton was from boating. . . . He never lost the fond- 
ness with which he regarded the Thames, no new 
acquaintance when he went to Eton, for at Brent- 
ford we had more than once played the truant, and 
rowed to Kew, and once to Richmond.' l But these 
truant excursions were exceptional. His affection 
for boating began at a much later period, as I 
shall have occasion to notice. The second instance 
is : — ■ I think he said he was just come from Ireland.' 
In the autumn of 1814 it was not from Ireland, but 
from the Continent that he had just returned. 

Captain Medwin's Life of Shelley abounds with 
inaccuracies ; not intentional misrepresentations, but 
misapprehensions and errors of memory. Several of 
these occur in reference to Shelley's boyish passion for 
his cousin Harriet Grove. This, like" Lord Byron's 
early love for Miss Chaworth, came to nothing. 
But most boys of any feeling and imagination have 
some such passion, and, as in these instances, it 
usually comes to nothing. Much more has been made 
of both these affairs than they are worth. It is 
probable that few of Johnson's poets passed through 
their boyhood without a similar attachment, but 
if it came at all under the notice of our literary 
Hercules, he did not think it worth recording. 
I shall notice this love-affair in its proper place, but 
chiefly for the sake of separating from it one or 
two matters which have been erroneously assigned 
to it. 

Shelley often spoke to me of Eton, and of the per- 

1 Medwin, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 52. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 13 

secutions he had endured from the elder boys, with 
feelings of abhorrence which I never heard him express 
in an equal degree in relation to any other subject, 
except when he spoke of Lord Chancellor Eldon. He 
told me that he had been provoked into striking 
a penknife through the hand of one of his young 
tyrants, and pinning it to the desk, and that this was 
the cause of his leaving Eton prematurely : but his 
imagination often presented past events to him as 
they might have been, not as they were. Such a cir- 
cumstance must have been remembered by others if 
it had actually occurred. But if the occurrence was 
imaginary, it was in a memory of cordial detestation 
that the imagination arose. 

Mr. Hogg vindicates the system of fagging, and 
thinks he was himself the better for the discipline in 
after life. But Mr. Hogg is a man of imperturbable 
temper and adamantine patience : and with all this 
he may have fallen into good hands, for all big boys 
are not ruffians. But Shelley was a subject totally 
unfit for the practice in its best form, and he seems 
to have experienced it in its worst. 

At Eton he became intimate with Doctor Lind, 
' a name well known among the professors of medical 
science,' says Mrs. Shelley, who proceeds : — 

1 This man/ Shelley has often said, ' is exactly what 
an old man ought to be. Free, calm-spirited, full of 
benevolence, and even of youthful ardour ; his eye 
seemed to burn with supernatural spirit beneath his 
brow, shaded by his venerable white locks ; he was 
tall, vigorous, and healthy in his body, tempered, as it 
had ever been, by his amiable mind. I owe to that 
man far, ah ! far more than I owe to my father ; he 
loved me, and I shall never forget our long talks, when ! 

1 Hogg has ' where \ 



14 MEMOIRS OF 

he breathed the spirit of the kindest tolerance 
and the purest wisdom. Once, when I was very ill 
during the holidays, as I was recovering from a fever 
which had attacked my brain, a servant overheard my 
father consult about sending me to a private madhouse. 
I was a favourite among all our servants, so this fellow 
came and told me, as I lay sick in bed. My horror was 
beyond words, and I might soon have been mad indeed 
if they had proceeded in their iniquitous plan. I had 
one hope. I was master of three pounds in money, 
and with the servant's help I contrived to send an 
express to Dr. Lind. He came, and I shall never 
forget his manner on that occasion. His profession 
gave him authority ; his love for me ardour. He dared 
my father to execute his purpose, and his menaces had 
the desired effect.' l 

Mr. Hogg subjoins : — 

I have heard Shelley speak of his fever, and this 
scene at Field Place, more than once, in nearly the 
same terms as Mrs. Shelley adopts. It appeared to 
myself, and to others also, that his recollections were 
those of a person not quite recovered from a fever, and 
still disturbed by the horrors of the disease. 

However this may have been, the idea that his 
father was continually on the watch for a pretext 
to lock him up, haunted him through life, and a 
mysterious intimation of his father's intention to effect 
such a purpose was frequently received by him, and 
communicated to his friends as a demonstration of 
the necessity under which he was placed of chang- 
ing his residence and going abroad. 

I pass over his boyish schemes for raising the devil, 
of which much is said in Mr. Hogg's book. He often 
spoke of them to me ; but the principal fact of which 
I have any recollection was one which he treated 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 31 . 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 15 

only as a subject of laughter — the upsetting into the 
fire in his chamber at Eton of a frying-pan full of 
diabolical ingredients, and the rousing up all the in- 
mates in his dame's house in the dead of the night by 
the abominable effluvia. If he had ever had any 
faith in the possible success of his incantations, he 
had lost it before I knew him. 

We now come to the first really important event 
of his life — his expulsion from Oxford. 

At University College, Oxford, in October, 1810, 
Mr. Hogg first became acquainted with him. In 
their first conversation Shelley was exalting the 
physical sciences, especially chemistry. Mr. Hogg 
says : — 

1 As I felt but little interest in the subject of his 
conversation, I had leisure to examine, and I may add 
to admire, the appearance of my very extraordinary 
guest. It was a sum of many contradictions. His 
figure was slight and fragile, and yet his bones and 
joints were large and strong. He was tall, but he 
stooped so much that he seemed of a low stature. His 
clothes were expensive, and made according to the 
most approved mode of the day ; but they were 
tumbled, rumpled, unbrushed. His gestures were 
abrupt and sometimes violent, occasionally even 
awkward, yet more frequently gentle and graceful. 
His complexion was delicate and almost feminine, of 
the purest white and red; yet he was tanned and 
freckled by exposure to the sun. . . . His features, his 
whole face, and particularly his head, were in fact 
unusually small ; yet the last appeared of a remarkable 
bulk, for his hair was long and bushy ... he often 
rubbed it up 2 fiercely with his hands, or passed his 
fingers through his locks unconsciously, so that it was 

1 Hogg : * As I felt, in truth, but a slight interest '— &c. 

2 Hogg: 'rubbed it fiercely with his hands, or passed his 
fingers quickly through his locks unconsciously.' 



16 MEMOIRS OF 

singularly wild and rough. . . . His features were not 
symmetrical (the mouth perhaps excepted) ; yet was 
the effect of the whole extremely powerful. They 
breathed an animation, a fire, an enthusiasm, a vivid 
and preternatural intelligence, that I never met with 
in any other countenance. Nor was the moral expres- 
sion less beautiful than the intellectual. ... I admired 
the enthusiasm of my new acquaintance, his ardour in 
the cause of science, and his thirst for knowledge. But 
there was one physical blemish that threatened to 
neutralize all his excellence. 1 

This blemish was his voice. 

There is a good deal in these volumes about 
Shelley's discordant voice. This defect he certainly 
had ; but it was chiefly observable when he spoke 
under excitement. Then his voice was not only dis- 
sonant, like a jarring string, but he spoke in sharp 
fourths, the most unpleasing sequence of sound that 
can fall on the human ear: but it was scarcely so 
when he spoke calmly, and not at all so when he read ; 
on the contrary, he seemed then to have his voice 
under perfect command : it was good both in tune 
and in tone ; it was low and soft, but clear, distinct, 
and expressive. I have heard him read almost all 
Shakespeare's tragedies, and some of his more poetical 
comedies, and it was a pleasure to hear him read 
them. 

Mr. Hogg's description of Shelley's personal ap- 
pearance gives a better idea of him than the portrait 
prefixed to his work, which is similar to that prefixed 
to the work of Mr. Trelawny, except that Mr. 
Trelawny's is lithographed 2 and Mr. Hogg's is en- 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 54. 

2 Mr. Trelawny says — 'With reference to the likeness of 
Shelley in this volume, I must add, that he never sat to a pro- 
fessional artist. In 1819, at Rome, a daughter of the celebrated 
Curran began a portrait of him in oil, which she never finished, 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 17 

graved. These portraits do not impress themselves 
on me as likenesses. They seem to me to want the 
true outline of Shelley's features, and above all, to 
want their true expression. There is a portrait in 
the Florentine Gallery which represents him to me 
much more truthfully. It is that of Antonio Leisman, 
No. 155 of the Ritratti de* Pittori, in the Paris re- 
publication. 

The two friends had made together a careful 
analysis of the doctrines of Hume. The papers were 
in Shelley's custody, and from a small part of them he 
made a little book, which he had printed, and which 
he sent by post to such persons as he thought would 
be willing to enter into a metaphysical discussion. 
He sent it under an assumed name, with a note, re- 
questing that if the recipient were willing to answer 
the tract, the answer should be sent to a specified 
address in London. He received many answers ; but 
in due time the little work and its supposed authors 
were denounced to the college authorities. 

It was a fine spring morning, on Lady-day, in the 
year 1811 (says Mr. Hogg), when I went to Shelley's 
rooms. He was absent ; but before I had collected 
our books he rushed in. He was terribly agitated. 
I anxiously inquired what had happened. 

' I am expelled/ he said, as soon as he had recovered 

and left in an altogether flat and inanimate state. In 1821 or 
1822, his friend Williams made a spirited water-colour drawing, 
which gave a very good idea of the poet. Out of these materials 
Mrs. Williams, on her return to England after the death of 
Shelley, got Clint to compose a portrait, which the few who 
knew Shelley in the last year of his life thought very like him. 
The water-colour drawing has been lost, so that the portrait 
done by Clint is the only one of any value. I have had it copied 
and lithographed by Mr. Vinter, an artist distinguished both 
forthe fidelity and refinement of his works, andit is nowpublished 
for the first time/ [T. L. P.] [This passage occurs at the end 
of Trelawny's Preface to the Recollections.] 

PEACOCK C 



18 MEMOIRS OF 

himself a little. i I am expelled ! I was sent for 
suddenly a few minutes ago ; I went to the common 
room, where I found our master, and two or three of 
the fellows. The master produced a copy of the little 
syllabus, and asked me if I were the author of it. He 
spoke in a rude, abrupt, and insolent tone. I begged 
to be informed for what purpose he put the question. 
No answer was given ; but the master loudly and 
angrily repeated, " Are you the author of this book ? " 
w If I can judge from your manner," I said, " you are 
resolved to punish me if I should acknowledge that it 
is my work. If you can prove that it is, produce your 
evidence ; it is neither just nor lawful to interrogate 
me in such a case and for such a purpose. Such 
proceedings would become a court of inquisitors, but 
not free men in a free country." " Do you choose to 
deny that this is your composition ? " ■ the master 
reiterated in the same rude and angry voice. 

Shelley complained much of his violent and un- 
gentlemanlike deportment, saying, ( I have experienced 
tyranny and injustice before, and I well know what 
vulgar violence is, but I never met with such unworthy 
treatment. I told him calmly but firmly that I was 
determined not to answer any questions respecting the 
publication on the table/ 

c He immediately repeated his demand ; I persisted 
in my refusal. And he said furiously, " Then you are 
expelled ; and I desire you will quit the college early 
to-morrow morning at the latest." 

1 One of the fellows took up two papers, and handed 
one of them to me ; here it is.' He produced a regular 
sentence of expulsion, drawn up in due form, under 
the seal of the college. Shelley was full of spirit and 
courage, frank and fearless ; but he was likewise shy, 
unpresuming, and eminently sensitive. I have been 
with him in many trying situations of his after-life, but 
I never saw him so deeply shocked and so cruelly 
agitated as on this occasion. 

A nice sense of honour shrinks from the most distant 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 19 

touch of disgrace — even from the insults of those men 
whose contumely can bring no shame. He sat on the 
sofa, repeating with convulsive vehemence the words, 
' Expelled, expelled ! ' his head shaking with emotion, 
and his whole frame quivering. 1 

A similar scene followed with Mr. Hogg himself, 
which he very graphically describes. The same 
questions, the same refusal to answer them, the same 
sentence of expulsion, and a peremptory order to quit 
the college early on the morrow. And accordingly, 
early on the next morning, Shelley and his friend took 
their departure from Oxford. 

I accept Mr. Hogg's account of this transaction as 
substantially correct. In Shelley's account of it to 
me there were material differences ; and making all 
allowance for the degree in which, as already noticed, 
his imagination coloured the past, there is one matter 
of fact which remains inexplicable. According to 
him, his expulsion was a matter of great form and 
solemnity ; there was a sort of public assembly, before 
which he pleaded his own cause, in a long oration, in 
the course of which he called on the illustrious spirits 
who had shed glory on those walls to look down on 
their degenerate successors. Now, the inexplicable 
matter to which I have alluded is this : he showed 
me an Oxford newspaper, containing a full report of 
the proceedings, with his own oration at great length. 
I suppose the pages of that diurnal were not death- 
less, 2 and that it would now be vain to search for it ; 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 278. 

2 Registered to fame eternal 
In deathless pages of diurnal. 

Hudibras. [T. L. P.] 
[This is misquoted from part I, canto III, 11. 19-20 : 
And register'd by fame eternal, 
In deathless pages of diurnal.] 
c 2 



20 MEMOIRS OF 

but that he had it, and showed it to me, is absolutely 
certain. His oration may have been, as some of 
Cicero's published orations were, a speech in the 
potential mood ; one which might, could, should, or 
would, have been spoken : but how in that case it got 
into the Oxford newspaper passes conjecture. 1 

His expulsion from Oxford brought to a summary 
conclusion his boyish passion for Miss Harriet Grove. 
She would have no more to say to him ; but I cannot 
see from his own letters, and those of Miss Hellen 
Shelley, that there had ever been much love on her 
side ; neither can I find any reason to believe that it 
continued long on his. Mr. Middleton follows Captain 
Med win, who was determined that on Shelley's part it 
should be an enduring passion, and pressed into its 
service as testimonies some matters which had nothing 
to do with it. He 2 says Queen Mab was dedicated to 
Harriet Grove, whereas it was certainly dedicated to 
Harriet Shelley ; he even prints the dedication with 
the title, 'To Harriet G.,' whereas in the original 
the name of Harriet is only followed by asterisks; 
and of another little poem, he says, ■ That Shelley's 
disappointment in love affected him acutely, may be 
seen by some lines inscribed erroneously, " On F. G.," 
instead of " H. G.", and doubtless of a much earlier 
date than assigned by Mrs. Shelley to the frag- 
ment.' 3 Now, I know the circumstances to which the 
fragment refers. The initials of the lady's name were 
F. G., and the date assigned to the fragment, 1817, 
was strictly correct. The intrinsic evidence of both 
poems will show their utter inapplicability to Miss 
Harriet Grove. 

1 All attempts to discover this report have failed. 

3 Medwin, not Middleton. 

8 Medwin, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 164. In her first edition 
of the Poetical Works, 1839, Mrs, Shelley had printed these lines 
among the poems of 1817. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 21 

First let us see what Shelley himself says of her, in 
letters to Mr. Hogg : — 

Dec. 23, 1810. — Her disposition was in all probability 
divested of the enthusiasm by which mine is charac- 
terized. . . . My sister attempted sometimes to plead 
my cause, but unsuccessfully. She said : ' Even sup- 
posing I take your representation of your brother's 
qualities and sentiments, which, as you coincide in 
and admire, I may fairly imagine to be exaggerated, 
although you ' may not be aware of the exaggeration, 
what right have I *, admitting that he is so superior, 
to enter into an intimacy which must end in delusive 
disappointment when he finds how really inferior I am 
to the being ' his heated imagination has pictured ? ' 

Dec. 26, 1810. — Circumstances have operated in such 
a manner that the attainment of the object of my 
heart was impossible, whether on account of extraneous 
influences, or from a feeling which possessed her mind, 
which told her not 2 to deceive another, not to give 
him the possibility of disappointment. 

Jan. 3, 1811. — She is no longer mine. She abhors 
me as a sceptic, as what she was before. 3 

Jan. 11, 1811. — She is gone. She is lost to me for 
ever. She is married — married to a clod of earth. 
She will become as insensible herself: all those fine 
capabilities will moulder. 

Next let us see what Miss Hellen Shelley says of the 
matter : — 

His disappointment in losing the lady of his love 
had a great effect upon him. ... It was not put an 
end to by mutual consent ; but both parties were very 
young, and her father did not think the marriage would 

1 Hogg has you and / in italics, and ■ which ' after * being *. 
The passage is quoted from vol. i, p. 146. 

2 Hogg prints not in italics : vol. i, p. 149. 

3 * She is no longer mine ! She abhors me as a sceptic, as what 
she was before ! ' Hogg, vol. i, p. 156. 



22 MEMOIRS OF 

be for his daughter's happiness. He, however, with 
truly honourable feeling, would not have persisted in 
his objection if his daughter had considered herself 
bound by a promise to my brother ; but this was not 
the case, and time healed the wound by means of 
another Harriet, whose name and similar complexion 
perhaps attracted the attention of my brother. 1 

And lastly, let us see what the young lady's brother 
(C. H. G.) says of it :— 

After our visit at Field Place (in the year 1810), we 
went to my brother's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, 
where Bysshe, his mother, and Elizabeth joined us, 
and a very happy month we spent. Bysshe was full 
of life and spirits, and very well pleased with his 
successful devotion to my sister. In the course of that 
summer, to the best of my recollection, after we had 
retired into Wiltshire, a continual correspondence was 
going on, as I believe, between Bysshe and my sister 
Harriet. 2 But she became uneasy at the tone of his 
letters on speculative subjects, at first consulting my 
mother, and subsequently my father also, on the 
subject. This led at last, though I cannot exactly tell 
how, to the dissolution of an engagement between 
Bysshe and my sister which had previously been per- 
mitted both by his father and mine. 

We have here, I think, as unimpassioned a damsel 
as may be met in a summer's day. And now let us 
see the poems. 

First, the dedication of Queen Mab : bearing in 
mind that the poem was begun in 1812, and finished 
in 1813, and that, to say nothing of the unsuitability 
of the offering to her who two years before had 

1 Hogg, Life of Shelley, vol. i, p. 18. 

2 In Charles Grove's letter, printed by Hogg (vol. ii, p. 551), 
the latter part of this sentence runs : * a continual corre- 
spondence was going on, as, I believe, there had been before, 
between Bysshe and my sister Harriet/ 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 23 

abhorred him as a sceptic and married a clod, she had 
never done or said any one thing that would justify 
her love being described as that which had warded off 
from him the scorn of the world : quite the contrary : 
as far as in her lay, she had embittered it to the 
utmost. 



To Harriet 



Whose is the love that, gleaming thro' the world, 
Wards off the poisonous arrow of its scorn? 
Whose is the warm and partial praise, 
Virtue's most sweet reward? 

Beneath whose looks did my reviving soul 
Riper in truth and virtuous daring grow ? 
Whose eyes have I gazed fondly on, 
And loved mankind the more ? 

Harriet ! on thine : — thou wert my purer mind, 
Thou wert the inspiration of my song ; 
Thine are these early wilding flowers, 
Though garlanded by me. 

Then press into thy breast this pledge of love, 
And know, though time may change and years 

may roll 
Each flowret gathered in my heart 
It consecrates to thine. 

Next the verses on F. G. : — 

Her voice did quiver as we parted, 
Yet knew I not that heart was broken 
From which it came, and I departed, 
Heeding not the words then spoken. 
Misery — oh, Misery ! 
This world is all too wide for thee ! 

Can anything be more preposterously inappropriate 
to his parting with Harriet Grove ? These verses 
relate to a far more interesting person and a deeply 



24 MEMOIRS OF 

tragic event ; but they belong, as I have said, to the 
year 1817, a later period than this article embraces. 1 

From Oxford the two friends proceeded to London, 
where they took a joint lodging, in which, after a 
time, Shelley was left alone, living uncomfortably on 
precarious resources. It was here that the second 
Harriet consoled him for the loss of the first, who, 
I feel thoroughly convinced, never more troubled his 
repose. 

To the circumstances of Shelley's first marriage 
I find no evidence but in my own recollection of 
what he told me respecting it. He often spoke to 
me of it ; and with all allowance for the degree in 
which his imagination coloured events, I see no 
improbability in the narration. 

Harriet Westbrook, he said, was a schoolfellow of 
one of his sisters ; and when, after his expulsion from 
Oxford, he was in London, without money, his father 
having refused him all assistance, this sister had 
requested her fair schoolfellow to be the medium of 
conveying to him such small sums as she and her 
sisters could afford to send, and other little presents 
which they thought would be acceptable. Under 
these circumstances the ministry of the young and 
beautiful girl presented itself like that of a guardian 
angel, and there was a charm about their intercourse 
which he readily persuaded himself could not be ex- 
hausted in the duration of life. The result was that 
in August, 1811, they eloped to Scotland, and were 
married in Edinburgh. 2 Their journey had absorbed 
their stock of money. They took a lodging, and 
Shelley immediately told the landlord who they were, 

1 Shelley commemorated in these lines his last parting from 
Fanny Godwin, who committed suicide in the October of 1816. 

2 Not at Gretna Green, as stated by Captain Medwin. 
[T. L. P.] 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 25 

what they had come for, and the exhaustion of their 
resources, and asked him if he would take them in, 
and advance them money to get married and to carry 
them on till they could get a remittance. This the 
man agreed to do, on condition that Shelley would 
treat him and his friends to a supper in honour of the 
occasion. It was arranged accordingly ; but the man 
was more obtrusive and officious than Shelley was 
disposed to tolerate. The marriage was concluded, 
and in the evening Shelley and his bride were alone 
together, when the man tapped at their door. Shelley 
opened it, and the landlord said to him — ■ It is 
customary here at weddings for the guests to come 
in, in the middle of the night, and wash the bride 
with whisky." ' I immediately,'' said Shelley, 'caught 
up my brace of pistols, and pointing them both at 
him, said to him, — I have had enough of your im- 
pertinence ; if you give me any more of it I will 
blow your brains out ; on which he ran or rather 
tumbled down stairs, and I bolted the doors.' 

The custom of washing the bride with whisky is 
more likely to have been so made known to him than 
to have been imagined by him. 

Leaving Edinburgh, the young couple led for some 
time a wandering life. At the lakes they were kindly 
received by the Duke of Norfolk, and by others through 
his influence. They then went to Ireland, landed at 
Cork, visited the lakes of Killarney, and stayed some 
time in Dublin, where Shelley became a warm repealer 
and emancipator. They then went to the Isle of 
Man, then to Nant Gwillt l in Radnorshire, then to 

1 Nant Gwillt, the Wild Brook, flows into the Elan (a tribu- 
tary of the Wye), about five miles above Rhayader. Above the 
confluence, each stream runs in a rocky channel through a 
deep narrow valley. In each of these valleys is or was a spacious 
mansion, named from the respective streams. Cwm Elan House 
was the seat of Mr. Grove, whom Shelley had visited there 



26 MEMOIRS OF 

Lymouth near Barnstaple, 1 then came for a short time 
to London ; then went to reside in a furnished house 
belonging to Mr. Maddocks at Tanyrallt, 2 near 
Tremadoc, in Caernarvonshire. Their residence at 
this place was made chiefly remarkable by an imag- 
inary attack on his life, which was followed by their 
immediately leaving Wales. 

Mr. Hogg inserts several letters relative to this 
romance of a night : the following extract from one 
of Harriet Shelley's, dated from Dublin, March 12th, 
1813, will give a sufficient idea of it : — 

Mr. Shelley promised you a recital of the horrible 
events that caused us to leave Wales. I have under- 
taken the task, as I wish to spare him, in the present 
nervous state of his health, everything that can recall 
to his mind the horrors of that night, which I will 
relate. 

On the night of the 26th February we retired to 
bed between ten and eleven o'clock. We had been in 

bed about half an hour, when Mr. S heard a noise 

proceeding from one of the parlours. He immediately 
went down stairs with two pistols which he had loaded 
that night, expecting to have occasion for them. He 
went into the billiard-room, when he heard footsteps 
retreating ; he followed into another little room, which 
was called an office. He there saw a man in the act of 
quitting the room through a glass window which opened 
into the shrubbery ; the man fired at Mr. S , which 

before his marriage in 1811. Nant Gwillt House, when Shelley 
lived in it in 1812, was inhabited by a farmer, who let some of 
the best rooms in lodgings. At a subsequent period I stayed a 
day in Rhayader, for the sake of seeing this spot. It is a scene 
of singular beauty. [T. L. P. ] 

1 He had introduced himself by letter to Mr. Godwin, and 
they carried on a correspondence some time before they met. 
Mr. Godwin, after many pressing invitations, went to Lymouth 
on an intended visit, but when he arrived the birds had flown. 
[T. L. P.] 

3 Tan-yr-allt— Under the precipice. [T. L. P.] 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 27 

he avoided. Bysshe then fired, but it flashed in the 
pan. The man then knocked Bysshe down, and they 
struggled on the ground. Bysshe then fired his second 
pistol, which he thought wounded him in the shoulder, 
as he uttered a shriek and got up, when he said these 
words — ' By God, I will be revenged. I will murder 
your wife, and will ravish your sister ! By God, I will 
be revenged ! ' He then fled, as we hoped for the 
night. Our servants were not gone to bed, but were 
just going when this horrible affair happened. This 
was about eleven o'clock. We all assembled in the 

parlour, where we remained for two hours. Mr. S 

then advised us to retire, thinking it was impossible he 
would make a second attack. We left Bysshe and our 
man-servant — who had only arrived that day, and who 
knew nothing of the house — to sit up. I had been in 
bed three hours when I heard a pistol go off. I im- 
mediately ran down stairs, when I perceived that 
Bysshe's flannel gown had been shot through, and the 
window-curtain. Bysshe had sent Daniel to see what 
hour it was, when he heard a noise at the window ; he 
went there, and a man thrust his arm though the glass 
and fired at him. Thank heaven ! the ball went through 

his gown and he remained unhurt. Mr. S happened 

to stand sideways ; had he stood fronting, the ball must 
have killed him. Bysshe fired his pistol, but it would 
not go off; he then aimed a blow at him with an old 
sword which we found in the house. The assassin 
attempted to get the sword from him, and just as he 
was pulling it away Dan rushed into the room, when 
he made his escape. This was at four in the morning. It 
had been a most dreadful night ; the wind was as loud as 
thunder, and the rain descended in torrents. Nothing 
has been heard of him, and we have every reason to 
believe it was no stranger, as there is a man .... who, 
the next morning, 1 went and told the shopkeepers that 

1 Hogg prints : * as there is a man of the name of Luson, who, 
the next morning that it happened, went ' — &c. Life of Shelley, 
vol. ii, pp. 208-10. The name was really Leeson. 



28 MEMOIRS OF 

it was a tale of Mr. Shelley's to impose upon them, 
that he might leave the country without paying his bills. 
This they believed, and none of them attempted to do 
anything towards his discovery. We left Tanyrallt on 
Sunday. 

Mr. Hogg subjoins : — 

Persons acquainted with the localities and with the 
circumstances, and who had carefully investigated the 
matter, were unanimous in the opinion that no such 
attack was ever made. 

I may state more particularly the result of the 
investigation to which Mr. Hogg alludes. I was in 
North Wales in the summer of 1813, and heard the 
matter much talked of. Persons who had examined 
the premises on the following morning had found that 
the grass of the lawn appeared to have been much 
trampled and rolled on, but there were no footmarks 
on the wet ground, except between the beaten spot 
and the window ; and the impression of the ball on 
the wainscot showed that the pistol had been fired 
towards the window, and not from it. This appeared 
conclusive as to the whole series of operations having 
taken place from within. The mental phenomena 
in which this sort of semi-delusion originated will 
be better illustrated by one which occurred at a 
later period, and which, though less tragical in its 
appearances, was more circumstantial in its develop- 
ment, and more perseveringly adhered to. It will 
not come within the scope of this article. 

I saw Shelley for the first time in 1812, just 
before he went to Tanyrallt. I saw him again once 
or twice before I went to North Wales in 1813. 
On my return he was residing at Bracknell, and 
invited me to visit him there. This I did, and 
found him with his wife Harriet, her sister Eliza, 
and his newly-born daughter Ian the. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 29 

Mr. Hogg says : — 

This accession to his family did not appear to afford 
him any gratification, or to create an interest. He never 
spoke of this child to me, and to this hour I never set 
eyes on her. 1 

Mr. Hogg is mistaken about Shelley's feelings as 
to his first child. He was extremely fond of it, and 
would walk up and down a room with it in his arms 
for a long time together, singing to it a monotonous 
melody of his own making, which ran on the 
repetition of a word of his own making. His song 
was i Yahmani, Y&hmani, Yahmani, Ydhmani.' 2 It 
did not please me, but, what was more important, 
it pleased the child, and lulled it when it was 
fretful. Shelley was extremely fond of his children. 
He was pre-eminently an affectionate father. But to 
this first-born there were accompaniments which did 
not please him. The child had a wet-nurse whom 
he did not like, and was much looked after by his 
wife's sister, whom he intensely disliked. I have 
often thought that if Harriet had nursed her own 
child, and if this sister had not lived with them, 
the link of their married love would not have been 
so readily broken. But of this hereafter, when we 
come to speak of the separation. 

At Bracknell, Shelley was surrounded by a 
numerous society, all in a great measure of his own 
opinions in relation to religion and politics, and 
the larger portion of them in relation to vegetable 

1 Hogg wrote * his child ', not * this child ' {Life of Shelley, 
vol. ii, p. 462). 

2 The tune was the uniform repetition of three notes, not very 
true in their intervals. The nearest resemblance to it will be 
found in the second, third, and fourth of a minor key : BCD, 
for example, on the key of A natural : a crotchet and two 
quavers. [T. L. P.] 



30 MEMOIRS OF 

diet. But they wore their rue with a difference. 
Every one of them adopting some of the articles of 
the faith of their general church, had each neverthe- 
less some predominant crotchet of his or her own, 
which left a number of open questions for earnest 
and not always temperate discussion. I was some- 
times irreverent enough to laugh at the fervour with 
which opinions utterly unconducive to any practical 
result were battled for as matters of the highest 
importance to the well-being of mankind ; Harriet 
Shelley was always ready to laugh with me, and 
we thereby both lost caste with some of the more 
hot-headed of the party. Mr. Hogg was not there 
during my visit, but he knew the whole of the persons 
there assembled, and has given some account of them 
under their initials, which for all public purposes are 
as well as their names. 

The person among them best worth remembering 
was the gentleman whom Mr. Hogg calls J. F. N., 1 
of whom he relates some anecdotes. 

I will add one or two from my own experience. 
He was an estimable man and an agreeable com- 
panion, and he was not the less amusing that he 
was the absolute impersonation of a single theory, 
or rather of two single theories rolled into one. 
He held that all diseases and all aberrations, moral 
and physical, had their origin in the use of animal 
food and of fermented and spirituous liquors; that 
the universal adoption of a diet of roots, fruits, and 
distilled 2 water, would restore the golden age of 
universal health, purity, and peace ; that this most 
ancient and sublime morality was mystically incul- 

1 Newton, whom Shelley met first in November, 1812. 

3 He held that water in its natural state was full of noxious 
impurities, which were only to be got rid of by distillation. 
[T. L. P.] 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 31 

cated in the most ancient Zodiac, which was that 
of Dendera; that this Zodiac was divided into two 
hemispheres, the upper hemisphere being the realm 
of Oromazes or the principle of good, the lower that 
of Ahrimanes or the principle of evil ; that each of 
these hemispheres was again divided into two com- 
partments, and that the four lines of division 
radiating from the centre were the prototype of 
the Christian cross. The two compartments of 
Oromazes were those of Uranus or Brahma the 
Creator, and of Saturn or Veishnu the Preserver. 
The two compartments of Ahrimanes were those of 
Jupiter or Seva the Destroyer, and of Apollo or 
Krishna the Restorer. The great moral doctrine 
was thus symbolized in the Zodiacal signs : — In the 
first compartment, Taurus the Bull, having in the 
ancient Zodiac a torch in his mouth, was the type 
of eternal light. Cancer the Crab was the type of 
celestial matter, sleeping under the all-covering 
water, on which Brahma floated in a lotus-flower 
for millions of ages. From the union, typified by 
Gemini, of light and celestial matter, issued in the 
second compartment Leo, Primogenial Love, mounted 
on the back of a Lion, who produced the pure and 
perfect nature of things in Virgo, and Libra the 
Balance denoted the coincidence of the ecliptic with 
the equator, and the equality of man's happy 
existence. In the third compartment, the first 
entrance of evil into the system was typified by 
the change of celestial into terrestrial matter — Cancer 
into Scorpio. Under this evil influence man became 
a hunter, Sagittarius the Archer, and pursued the 
wild animals, typified by Capricorn. Then, with 
animal food and cookery, came death into the 
world, and all our woe. But in the fourth compart- 
ment, Dhanwantari or ^Esculapius, Aquarius the 



82 MEMOIRS OF 

Waterman, arose from the sea, typified by Pisces 
the Fish, with a jug of pure water and a bunch of 
fruit, and brought back the period of universal 
happiness under Aries the Ram, whose benignant 
ascendancy was the golden fleece of the Argonauts, 
and the true talisman of Oromazes. 

He saw the Zodiac in everything. I was walking 
with him one day on a common near Bracknell, 
when we came on a public-house which had the 
sign of the Horse-shoes. They were four on the 
sign, and he immediately determined that this 
number had been handed down from remote anti- 
quity as representative of the compartments of the 
Zodiac. He stepped into the public-house, and said 
to the landlord, i Your sign is the Horse-shoes ? ' — 
1 Yes, sir. 1 ' This sign has always four Horse-shoes ? ' 
— 'Why mostly, sir." 'Not always?' — 'I think I 
have seen three.' ' I cannot divide the Zodiac into 
three. But it is mostly four. Do you know why it 
is mostly four ? ' — ' Why, sir, I suppose because a 
horse has four legs.' He bounced out in great 
indignation, and as soon as I joined him, he said to 
me, c Did you ever see such a fool ? • 

I have also very agreeable reminiscences of Mrs. B. 
and her daughter Cornelia. 1 Of these ladies Shelley 
says (Hogg, ii. 515) : — 

I have begun to learn Italian again. Cornelia assists 
me in this language. Did I not once tell you that I 
thought her cold and reserved ? She is the reverse of 
this, as she is the reverse of everything bad. She in- 
herits all the divinity of her mother. 

Mr. Hogg 6 could never learn why Shelley called 

1 Mrs. De Boinville was a relative of Mrs. Newton, by whom 
Shelley was introduced to her and her daughter. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 33 

Mrs. B. Meimoune.' 1 In fact he called her, not 
Meimoune, but Maimuna, from Southey's Thalaba : — 

Her face was as a damsel's face, 
And yet her hair was grey. 2 

She was a young-looking woman for her age, and 
her hair was as white as snow. 

About the end of 1813, Shelley was troubled by 
one of his most extraordinary delusions. He fancied 
that a fat old woman who sat opposite to him in a 
mail coach was afflicted with elephantiasis, that the 
disease was infectious and incurable, and that he 
had caught it from her. He was continually on the 
watch for its symptoms ; his legs were to swell to 
the size of an elephant's, and his skin was to be 
crumpled over like goose-skin. He would draw the 
skin of his own hands, arms, and neck very tight, 
and if he discovered any deviation from smoothness, 
he would seize the person next to him, and en- 
deavour by a corresponding pressure to see if any 
corresponding deviation existed. He often startled 
young ladies in an evening party by this singular 
process, which was as instantaneous as a flash of 
lightning. His friends took various methods of 
dispelling the delusion. I quoted to him the words 
of Lucretius : — 

Est elephas morbus, qui propter flumina Nili 
Gignitur Aegypto in media, neque praelerea usquam. 3 

He said these verses were the greatest comfort he 
had. When he found that, as the days rolled on, 
his legs retained their proportion, and his skin its 
smoothness, the delusion died away. 

1 Condensed from a paragraph in the Life of Shelley, vol. ii, 
pp. 317-18. 

2 Thalaba the Destroyer : Book viii, stanza 23. 

3 De Rerum Natura: Book vi, 11. 1114-15. 



34 MEMOIRS OF 

I have something more to say belonging to this 
year 1813, but it will come better in connexion with 
the events of the succeeding year. In the meantime 
I will mention one or two traits of character in 
which chronology is unimportant. 

It is to be remarked that, with the exception of the 
clergyman from whom he received his first instruc- 
tions, the Reverend Mr. Edwards, of Horsham, 
Shelley never came, directly or indirectly, under 
any authority, public or private, for which he 
entertained, or had much cause to entertain, any 
degree of respect. His own father, the Brentford 
schoolmaster, the head master of Eton, the Master 
and Fellows of his college at Oxford, the Lord 
Chancellor Eldon, all successively presented them- 
selves to him in the light of tyrants and op- 
pressors. It was perhaps from the recollection of 
his early preceptor that he felt a sort of poetical 
regard for country clergymen, and was always 
pleased when he fell in with one who had a 
sympathy with him in classical literature, and was 
willing to pass sub sllentio the debateable ground 
between them. But such an one was of rare 
occurrence. This recollection may also have in- 
fluenced his feeling under the following transitory 
impulse. 

He had many schemes of life. Amongst them 
all, the most singular that ever crossed his mind 
was that of entering the church. Whether he had 
ever thought of it before, or whether it only arose 
on the moment, I cannot say : the latter is most 
probable ; but I well remember the occasion. We 
were walking in the early summer through a village 
where there was a good vicarage house, with a nice 
garden, and the front wall of the vicarage was 
covered with corchorus in full flower, a plant less 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 35 

common then than it has since become. He stood 
some time admiring the vicarage wall. The extreme 
quietness of the scene, the pleasant pathway through 
the village churchyard, and the brightness of the 
summer morning, apparently concurred to produce 
the impression under which he suddenly said to 
me, — ' I feel strongly inclined to enter the church.' 
4 What,' I said, ' to become a clergyman, with your 
ideas of the faith ? ' ' Assent to the supernatural 
part of it, 1 he said, ■ is merely technical. Of the 
moral doctrines of Christianity I am a more decided 
disciple than many of its more ostentatious professors. 
And consider for a moment how much good a good 
clergyman may do. In his teaching as a scholar 
and a moralist ; in his example as a gentleman and 
a man of regular life ; in the consolation of his 
personal intercourse and of his charity among the 
poor, to whom he may often prove a most beneficent 
friend when they have no other to comfort them. 
It is an admirable institution that admits the possi- 
bility of diffusing such men over the surface of the 
land. And am I to deprive myself of the advantages 
of this admirable institution because there are certain 
technicalities to which I cannot give my adhesion, 
but which I need not bring prominently forward ?" 
I told him I thought he would find more restraint 
in the office than would suit his aspirations. He 
walked on some time thoughtfully, then started 
another subject, and never returned to that of 
entering the church. 

He was especially fond of the novels of Brown — 
Charles Brockden Brown, the American, who died 
at the age of thirty-nine. 

The first of these novels was Wieland. Wieland's 
father passed much of his time alone in a summer- 
house, where he died of spontaneous combustion. 

D 2 



36 MEMOIRS OF 

This summer-house made a great impression on 
Shelley, and in looking for a country house he 
always examined if he could find such a summer- 
house, or a place to erect one. 

The second was Ormond. The heroine of this 
novel, Constantia Dudley, held one of the highest 
places, if not the very highest place, in Shelley's 
idealities of female character. 

The third was Edgar Huntley ; or, the Sleep- 
walker. In this his imagination was strangely 
captivated by the picture of Clitheroe in his sleep 
digging a grave under a tree. 

The fourth was Arthur Mervyn : chiefly remark- 
able for the powerful description of the yellow fever 
in Philadelphia and the adjacent country, a subject 
previously treated in Ormond. No descriptions of 
pestilence surpass these of Brown. The transfer of 
the hero's affections from a simple peasant-girl to 
a rich Jewess, displeased Shelley extremely, and he 
could only account for it on the ground that it was 
the only way in which Brown could bring his story 
to an uncomfortable conclusion. The three pre- 
ceding tales had ended tragically. 

These four tales were unquestionably works of 
great genius, and were remarkable for the way in 
which natural causes were made to produce the 
semblance of supernatural effects. The superstitious 
terror of romance could scarcely be more strongly 
excited than by the perusal of Wieland. 

Brown wrote two other novels, Jane Talbot and 
Philip Stanley, in which he abandoned this system, 
and confined himself to the common business of life. 
They had little comparative success. 

Brown's four novels, Schiller's Robbers, and 
Goethe's Faust, were, of all the works with which 
he was familiar, those which took the deepest root 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 37 

in his mind, and had the strongest influence in the 
formation of his character. He was an assiduous 
student of the great classical poets, and among these 
his favourite heroines were Nausicaa and Antigone. 
I do not remember that he greatly admired any of 
our old English poets, excepting Shakespeare and 
Milton. He devotedly admired Wordsworth and 
Coleridge, and in a minor degree Southey : these 
had great influence on his style, and Coleridge 
especially on his imagination ; but admiration is 
one thing and assimilation is another ; and nothing 
so blended itself with the structure of his interior 
mind as the creations of Brown. Nothing stood so 
clearly before his thoughts as a perfect combination 
of the purely ideal and possibly real, as Constantia 
Dudley. 

He was particularly pleased with Wordsworth's 
Stanzas written in a pocket copy of Thomson's 
Castle of Indolence. He said the fifth of these 
stanzas always reminded him of me. I told him the 
four first stanzas were in many respects applicable 
to him. 1 He said : ■ It was a remarkable instance 
of Wordsworth's insight into nature, that he should 
have made intimate friends of two imaginary charac- 
ters so essentially dissimilar, and yet severally so true 
to the actual characters of two friends, in a poem 
written long before they were known to each other, 
and while they were both boys, and totally unknown 
to him.' 

The delight of Wordsworth's first personage in 
the gardens of the happy castle, the restless spirit 
that drove him to wander, the exhaustion with which 
he returned and abandoned himself to repose, might 
all in these stanzas have been sketched to the life 

1 See Appendix I. 



88 MEMOIRS OF 

from Shelley. The end of the fourth stanza is 
especially apposite : — 

Great wonder to our gentle tribe it was 

Whenever from our valley he withdrew ; 

For happier soul no living creature has 

Than he had, being here the long day through. 

Some thought he was a lover, and did woo : 

Some thought far worse of him, and judged him wrong : 

But verse was what he had been wedded to; 

And his oivn mind did like a tempest strong 

Come to him thus, and drive the weary wight along. 1 

He often repeated to me, as applicable to himself, 
a somewhat similar passage from Childe Harold : — 

On the sea 

The boldest steer but where their ports invite : 
But there are wanderers o'er Eternity, 
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor' d ne'er 
shall be. 2 

His vegetable diet entered for something into his 
restlessness. When he was fixed in a place he 
adhered to this diet consistently and conscientiously, 
but it certainly did not agree with him ; it made 
him weak and nervous, and exaggerated the sensitive- 
ness of his imagination. Then arose those thick - 
coming fancies which almost invariably preceded his 
change of place. While he was living from inn 
to inn he was obliged to live, as he said, ' on what 
he could get ' ; that is to say, like other people. 
When he got well under this process he gave all 
the credit to locomotion, and held himself to have 
thus benefited, not in consequence of his change of 
regimen, but in spite of it. Once, when I was 

1 Wordsworth wrote ■ drove *, not ■ drive \ 

2 Canto iii, stanza lxx. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 39 

living in the country, I received a note from him 
wishing me to call on him in London. I did so, 
and found him ill in bed. He said, ' You are looking 
well. I suppose you go on in your old way, living 
on animal food and fermented liquor ? ' I answered 
in the affirmative. ' And here,' he said, ' you see 
a vegetable feeder overcome by disease.' I said, 
' Perhaps the diet is the cause.' This he would by 
no means allow ; but it was not long before he was 
again posting through some yet unvisited wilds, and 
recovering his health as usual, by living ' on what 
he could get '. 

He had a prejudice against theatres which I took 
some pains to overcome. I induced him one evening 
to accompany me to a representation of the School 
for Scandal. When, after the scenes which exhibited 
Charles Surface in his jollity, the scene returned, 
in the fourth act, to Joseph's library, Shelley said 
to me — ' I see the purpose of this comedy. It is 
to associate virtue with bottles and glasses, and 
villany with books.' I had great difficulty to make 
him stay to the end. He often talked of * the 
withering and perverting spirit of comedy'. I do 
not think he ever went to another. But I remember 
his absorbed attention to Miss O'Neill's performance 
of Bianca in Fazio} and it is evident to me that 
she was always in his thoughts when he drew the 
character of Beatrice in the Cenci. 

In the season of 1817, I persuaded him to 
accompany me to the opera. The performance was 
Don Giovanni. Before it commenced he asked me 
if the opera was comic or tragic. I said it was 
composite, — more comedy than tragedy. After the 
killing of the Commendatore, he said, ' Do you call 
this comedy ? ' By degrees he became absorbed in 
1 Dean Milman's early drama. 



40 MEMOIRS OF 

the music and action. I asked him what he thought 
of Ambrogetti ? He said, ' He seems to be the very 
wretch he personates.'' The opera was followed by 
a ballet, in which Mdlle. Milanie was the principal 
danseuse. He was enchanted with this lady ; said 
he had never imagined such grace of motion ; and 
the impression was permanent, for in a letter he 
afterwards wrote to me from Milan he said, 'They 
have no Mdlle. Milanie here.' 

From this time till he finally left England he 
was an assiduous frequenter of the Italian Opera. 
He delighted in the music of Mozart, and especially 
in the Nozze di Figaro, which was performed several 
times in the early part of 1818. 

With the exception of Fazio, I do not remember 
his having been pleased with any performance at an 
English theatre. Indeed I do not remember his having 
been present at any but the two above mentioned. 
I tried in vain to reconcile him to comedy. I re- 
peated to him one day, as an admirable specimen 
of diction and imagery, Michael Perez's soliloquy in 
his miserable lodgings, from Rule a Wife and Have a 
Wife. When I came to the passage : 

There 's an old woman that 's now grown to marble, 

Dried in this brick-kiln : and she sits i' the chimney 

(Which is but three tiles, raised like a house of cards), 

The true proportion of an old smoked Sibyl. 

There is a young thing, too, that Nature meant 

For a maid-servant, but 'tis now a monster : 

She has a husk about her like a chestnut, 

With laziness, and living under the line here : 

And these two make a hollow sound together, 

Like frogs, or winds between two doors that murmur — 1 

1 Beaumont and Fletcher, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, Act 
III, Sc. ii. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 41 

he said, ' There is comedy in its perfection. Society 
grinds down poor wretches into the dust of abject 
poverty, till they are scarcely recognizable as human 
beings ; and then, instead of being treated as what 
they really are, subjects of the deepest pity, they 
are brought forward as grotesque monstrosities to be 
laughed at.' I said, ' You must admit the fineness 
of the expression . , ' It is true,' he answered ; ■ but 
the finer it is the worse it is, with such a perversion 
of sentiment.' 

I postpone, as I have intimated, till after the 
appearance of Mr. Hogg's third and fourth volumes, 
the details of the circumstances which preceded 
Shelley's separation from his first wife, and those of 
the separation itself. 

There never was a case which more strongly 
illustrated the truth of Payne Knight's observation, 
that * the same kind of marriage, which usually ends 
a comedy, as usually begins a tragedy '. l 



MEMOIRS OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 

Part II 

Y Gwir yn erbyn y Byd. 

The Truth against the World. 

Bardic Maxim. 

Mr. Hogg's third and fourth volumes not having 
appeared, and the materials with which Sir Percy 
and Lady Shelley had supplied him having been 
resumed by them, and so much of them as it was 

1 No person in his senses was ever led into enterprises of 
dangerous importance by the romantic desire of imitating the 
fictions of a drama. If the conduct of any persons is influenced 



42 MEMOIRS OF 

thought desirable to publish having been edited by 
Lady Shelley, 1 with a connecting thread of narrative, 
I shall assume that I am now in possession of all 
the external information likely to be available 
towards the completion of my memoir ; and I shall 
proceed to complete it accordingly, subject to the 
contingent addition of a postscript, if any subsequent 
publication should render it necessary. 
Lady Shelley says in her preface : 

We saw the book (Mr. Hoggs) for the first time when 
it was given to the world. It was impossible to imagine 
beforehand that from such materials a book could have 
been produced which has astonished and shocked those 
who have the greatest right to form an opinion on the 
character of Shelley ; and it was with the most painful 
feelings of dismay that we perused what we could only 
look upon as a fantastic caricature, going forth to the 
public with my apparent sanction, — for it was dedicated 
to myself. 

Our feelings of duty to the memory of Shelley left 
us no other alternative than to withdraw the materials 
which we had originally entrusted to his early friend, 
and which we could not but consider had been strangely 
misused ; and to take upon ourselves the task of laying 
them before the public, connected only by as slight 

by the examples exhibited in such fictions, it is that of young 
ladies in the affairs of love and marriage : but I believe that such 
influence is much more rare than severe moralists are inclined 
to suppose ; since there were plenty of elopements and stolen 
matches before comedies or plays of any kind were known. If, 
however, there are any romantic minds which feel this influence, 
they may draw an awful lesson concerning its consequences from 
the same source, namely, that the same kind of marriage, which 
usually ends a comedy, as usually begins a tragedy. — Principles 
of Taste, Book III, c. 2, sec. 17. [T. L. P.] [Peacock suppresses 
the quotation : • viderunt primos argentea secula moechos ' after 
1 were known > ] 

1 Shelley Memorials. From Authentic Sources. Edited by 
Lady Shelley. London : Smith and Elder. 1859. [T. L. P.J 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 48 

a thread of narrative as would suffice to make them 
intelligible to the reader. 

I am very sorry, in the outset of this notice, to 
be under the necessity of dissenting from Lady 
Shelley respecting the facts of the separation of 
Shelley and Harriet. 

Captain Medwin represented this separation to 
have taken place by mutual consent. Mr. Leigh 
Hunt and Mr. Middleton adopted this statement; 
and in every notice I have seen of it in print it has 
been received as an established truth. 

Lady Shelley says — 

Towards the close of 1813 estrangements, which for 
some time had been slowly growing between Mr. and 
Mrs. Shelley, came to a crisis. Separation ensued, and 
Mrs. Shelley returned to her father's house. Here she 
gave birth to her second child — a son, who died in 1826. 

The occurrences of this painful epoch in Shelley's 
life, and of the causes which led to them, I am spared 
from relating. In Mary Shelley's own words — ( This is 
not the time to relate the truth ; and I should reject any 
colouring of the truth. No account of these events has 
ever been given at all approaching reality in their details, 
either as regards himself or others ; nor shall I further 
allude to them than to remark that the errors of action 
committed by a man as noble and generous as Shelley, 
may, as far as he only is concerned, be fearlessly avowed 
by those who loved him, in the firm conviction that, 
were they judged impartially, his character would stand 
in fairer and brighter light than that of any con- 
temporary.' 

Of those remaining who were intimate with Shelley 
at this time, each has given us a different version of this 
sad event, coloured by his own views or personal feelings. 
Evidently Shelley confided to none of these friends. 
We, who bear his name, and are of his family, have in our 
possession papers written by his own hand, which in 



44 MEMOIRS OF 

after years may make the story of his life complete ; and 
which few now living, except Shelley's own children, 
have ever perused. 

One mistake, which has gone forth to the world, we 
feel ourselves called upon positively to contradict. 

Harriet's death has sometimes been ascribed to 
Shelley. This is entirely false. There was no immediate 
connexion whatever between her tragic end and any 
conduct on the part of her husband. It is true, how- 
ever, that it was a permanent source of the deepest 
sorrow to him ; for never during all his after-life did 
the dark shade depart which had fallen on his gentle 
and sensitive nature from the selfsought grave of the 
companion of his early youth. 

This passage ends the sixth chapter. The seventh 
begins thus — 

To the family of Godwin, Shelley had, from the 
period of his self-introduction at Keswick, been an 
object of interest ; and the acquaintanceship which had 
sprung up between them during the poet's occasional 
visits to London had grown into a cordial friendship. 
It was in the society and sympathy of the Godwins that 
Shelley sought and found some relief in his present 
sorrow. He was still extremely young. His anguish, 
his isolation, his difference from other men, his gifts of 
genius and eloquent enthusiasm, made a deep impression 
on Godwin's daughter Mary, now a girl of sixteen, who 
had been accustomed to hear Shelley spoken of as 
something rare and strange. To her, as they met one 
eventful day in St. Pancras* churchyard, by her mother's 
grave, Bysshe, in burning words, poured forth the tale 
of his wild past — how he had suffered, how he had been 
misled ; and how, if supported by her love, he hoped in 
future years to enrol his name with the wise and good 
who had done battle for their fellow-men, and been 
true through all adverse storms to the cause of humanity. 

Unhesitatingly she placed her hand in his, and linked 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 45 

her fortune with his own ; and most truthfully, as the 
remaining portion of these Memorials will prove, was the 
pledge of both redeemed. 

I ascribe it to inexperience of authorship, that 
the sequence of words does not, in these passages, 
coincide with the sequence of facts : for in the order 
of words, the present sorrow would appear to be 
the death of Harriet. This however occurred two 
years and a half after the separation, and the union 
of his fate with Mary Godwin was simultaneous with 
it. Respecting this separation, whatever degree of 
confidence Shelley may have placed in his several 
friends, there are some facts which speak for them- 
selves and admit of no misunderstanding. 

The Scotch marriage had taken place in August, 
1811. In a letter which he wrote to a female friend 
sixteen months later (Dec. 10, 1812), he had said — 

How is Harriet a fine lady? You indirectly accuse 
her in your letter of this offence — to me the most un- 
pardonable of all. The ease and simplicity of her 
habits, the unassuming plainness of her address, the 
uncalculated connexion of her thought and speech, 
have ever formed in my eyes her greatest charms : and 
none of these are compatible with fashionable life, or 
the attempted assumption of its vulgar and noisy eclat. 
You have a prejudice to contend with in making me 
a convert to this last opinion of yours, which, so long as 
I have a living and daily witness to its futility before 
me, I fear will be insurmountable. — Memorials, p. 44. 

Thus there had been no estrangement to the end 
of 1812. My own memory sufficiently attests that 
there was none in 1813. 

From Bracknell, in the autumn of 1813, Shelley 
went to the Cumberland lakes ; then to Edinburgh. 
In Edinburgh he became acquainted with a young 



46 MEMOIRS OF 

Brazilian named Baptista, who had gone there to 
study medicine by his father's desire, and not from 
any vocation to the science, which he cordially 
abominated, as being all hypothesis, without the 
fraction of a basis of certainty to rest on. They 
corresponded after Shelley left Edinburgh, and 
subsequently renewed their intimacy in London. 
He was a frank, warm-hearted, very gentlemanly 
young man. He was a great enthusiast, and 
sympathized earnestly in all Shelley's views, even 
to the adoption of vegetable diet. He made some 
progress in a translation of Queen Mab into Portu- 
guese. He showed me a sonnet, which he intended 
to prefix to his translation. It began — 

Sublime Shelley, cantor di verdade ! 

and ended — 

Surja Queen Mab a restaurar o mundo. 

I have forgotten the intermediate lines. But he 
died early, of a disease of the lungs. The climate 
did not suit him, and he exposed himself to it 
incautiously. 

Shelley returned to London shortly before 
Christmas, then took a furnished house for two or 
three months at Windsor, visiting London occasion- 
ally. In March, 1814, he married Harriet a second 
time, according to the following certificate : — 

Marriages in March 1814. 

1 64. Percy Bysshe Shelley and Harriet Shelley (formerly 
Harriet Westbrook, Spinster, a Minor), both of 
this Parish, were remarried in this Church by 
Licence (the parties having been already married 
to each other according to the Rites and Cere- 
monies of the Church of Scotland), in order to 
obviate all doubts that have arisen, or shall or 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 47 

may arise, touching or concerning the validity of 

the aforesaid Marriage (by and with the consent 

of John Westbrook, the natural and lawful father 

of the said Minor), this Twenty-fourth day of 

March, in the Year 1814. 

Byrne, 

Edward Williams, Curate. 

^ r ( Percy Bysshe Shelley, 

1 his Marriage was Harriet She formerl 

pmni/pn hPTWPPn lie 1 __ . 



solemnized between us ( Harriet Westbrook. 

T .1 n (John Westbrook, 

In the presence of \ T c ' 

r (John Stanley. 

The above is a true extract from the Register Book 
of Marriages belonging to the Parish of Saint George, 
Hanover-square ; extracted thence this eleventh day of 
April, 1859.— By me, 

H. Weightman, Curate. 

It is, therefore, not correct to say that ■ estrange- 
ments which had been slowly growing came to a crisis 
towards the close of 1813 \ The date of the above 
certificate is conclusive on the point. The second 
marriage could not have taken place under such cir- 
cumstances. Divorce would have been better for 
both parties, and the dissolution of the first marriage 
could have been easily obtained in Scotland. 

There was no estrangement, no shadow of a thought 
of separation, till Shelley became acquainted, not long 
after the second marriage, with the lady who was 
subsequently his second wife. 

The separation did not take place by mutual con- 
sent. I cannot think that Shelley ever so represented 
it. He never did so to me : and the account which 
Harriet herself gave me of the entire proceeding was 
decidedly contradictory of any such supposition. 

He might well have said, after first seeing Mary 
Wollstonecraft Godwin, * Ut vidi! ut peril ! ' Nothing 



48 MEMOIRS OF 

that I ever read in tale or history could present 
a more striking image of a sudden, violent, irresistible, 
uncontrollable passion, than that under which I found 
him labouring when, at his request, I went up from 
the country to call on him in London. Between his 
old feelings towards Harriet, from whom he was not 
then separated, and his new passion for Mary, he 
showed in his looks, in his gestures, in his speech, the 
state of a mind ' suffering, like a little kingdom, the 
nature of an insurrection \ His eyes were bloodshot, 
his hair and dress disordered. He caught up a bottle 
of laudanum, and said : ' I never part from this.' ! 
He added : * I am always repeating to myself your 
lines from Sophocles * : 

Man's happiest lot is not to be : 

And when we tread life's thorny steep, 

Most blest are they, who earliest free 
Descend to death's eternal sleep.' 

Again, he said more calmly : ' Every one who knows 
me must know that the partner of my life should be 
one who can feel poetry and understand philosophy. 
Harriet is a noble animal, but she can do neither.' 
I said, ' It always appeared to me that you were very 

* Soph. 0. C. 1225. 

1 In a letter to Mr. Trelawny, dated June 18th, 1822, Shelley- 
says : — * You of course enter into society at Leghorn. Should 
you meet with any scientific person capable of preparing the 
Prussic Acid, or Essential Oil of Bitter Almonds, I should regard 
it as a great kindness if you could procure me a small quantity. 
It requires the greatest caution in preparation, and ought to be 
highly concentrated. I would give any price for this medicine. 
You remember we talked of it the other night, and we both 
expressed a wish to possess it. My wish was serious, and sprung 
from the desire of avoiding needless suffering. I need not tell you 
I have no intention of suicide at present ; but I confess it would 
be a comfort to me to hold in my possession that golden key to the 
chamber of perpetual rest. The Prussic Acid is used in medicine 
in infinitely minute doses ; but that preparation is weak, and 
has not the concentration necessary to medicine all ills infallibly. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 49 

fond of Harriet.' Without affirming or denying this, 
he answered : ' But you did not know how I hated 
her sister.' 

The terra ■ noble animal ' he applied to his wife, in 
conversation with another friend now living, intimat- 
ing that the nobleness which he thus ascribed to her 
would induce her to acquiesce in the inevitable transfer 
of his affections to their new shrine. She did not so 
acquiesce, and he cut the Gordian knot of the diffi- 
culty by leaving England with Miss Godwin on the 
28th of July, 1814. 

Shortly after this I received a letter from Harriet, 
wishing to see me. I called on her at her father's 
house in Chapel Street, Grosvenor Square. She then 
gave me her own account of the transaction, which, 
as I have said, decidedly contradicted the supposition 
of anything like separation by mutual consent. 

She at the same time gave me a description, by no 
means flattering, of Shelley's new love, whom I had 
not then seen. I said, 'If you have described her 
correctly, what could he see in her ? ' ? Nothing,' she 
said, ■ but that her name was Mary, and not only 
Mary, but Mary Wollstonecraft.' 

The lady had nevertheless great personal and in- 
tellectual attractions, though it is not to be wondered 
at that Harriet could not see them. 

I feel it due to the memory of Harriet to state my 
most decided conviction that her conduct as a wife 



A single drop, even less, is a dose, and it acts by paralysis.' — 
Trelawny, pp. 100, 101. 

I believe that up to this time he had never travelled without 
pistols for defence, nor without laudanum as a refuge from intoler- 
able pain. His physical suffering was often very severe ; and 
this last letter must have been written under the anticipation 
that it might become incurable, and unendurable to a degree 
from which he wished to be permanently provided with the 
means of escape. [T. L. P.] 
peacock E 



50 MEMOIRS OF 

was as pure, as true, as absolutely faultless, as that of 
any who for such conduct are held most in honour. 

Mr. Hogg says : • Shelley told me his friend Robert 
Southey once said to him, " A man ought to be able 
to live with any woman. You see that I can, and so 
ought you. It comes to pretty much the same thing, 
I apprehend. There is no great choice or differ- 
ence." ' — Hogg: vol. i, p. 423. Any woman, I 
suspect, must have been said with some qualification. 
But such an one as either of them had first chosen, 
Southey saw no reason to change. 

Shelley gave me some account of an interview he 
had had with Southey. It was after his return from 
his first visit to Switzerland, in the autumn of 1814. 
I forget whether it was in town or country ; but it 
was in Southey's study, in which was suspended a 
portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft. Whether Southey 
had been in love with this lady, is more than I know. 
That he had devotedly admired her is clear from his 
Epistle to Amos Cottle, prefixed to the latter's Icelandic 
Poetry (1797) ; in which, after describing the scenery 
of Norway, he says : — 

Scenes like these 
Have almost lived before me, when I gazed 
Upon their fair resemblance traced by 1 him, 
Who sung the banished man of Ardebeil ; 
Or to the eye of Fancy held by her, 
Who among women left no equal mind 
When from this world she passed ; and I could weep 
To think that she 8 is to the grave gone down ! 

Where a note names Mary Wollstonecraft, the allusion 
being to her Letters from Norway. 

1 In Cottle's Icelandic Poetry, p. xxxvi, a footnote on this word 
runs as follows: — * Alluding to some views in Norway, taken by 
Mr. Charles Fox— -Whose Plains, Consolations, and Delights of 
Achmed Ardebeili, from the Persian, are well known.' 

> <SHE y in the Epistle. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 51 

Shelley had previously known Southey, and wished 
to renew or continue friendly relations ; but Southey 
was repulsive. He pointed to the picture, and ex- 
pressed his bitter regret that the daughter of that 
angelic woman should have been so misled. It was 
most probably on this occasion that he made the re- 
mark cited by Mr. Hogg : his admiration of Mary 
Wollstonecraft may have given force to the obser- 
vation : and as he had known Harriet, he might have 
thought that, in his view of the matter, she was all 
that a husband could wish for. 

Few are now living who remember Harriet Shelley. 
I remember her well, and will describe her to the best 
of my recollection. She had a good figure, light, 
active, and graceful. Her features were regular and 
well proportioned. Her hair was light brown, and 
dressed with taste and simplicity. In her dress she 
was truly simplex munditiis. Her complexion was 
beautifully transparent ; the tint of the blush rose 
shining through the lily. The tone of her voice was 
pleasant ; her speech the essence of frankness and 
cordiality ; her spirits always cheerful ; her laugh 
spontaneous, hearty, and joyous. She was well edu- 
cated. She read agreeably and intelligently. She 
wrote only letters, but she wrote them well. Her 
manners were good ; and her whole aspect and de- 
meanour such manifest emanations of pure and truth- 
ful nature, that to be once in her company was to 
know her thoroughly. She was fond of her husband, 
and accommodated herself in every way to his tastes. 
If they mixed in society, she adorned it ; if they lived 
in retirement, she was satisfied ; if they travelled, she 
enjoyed the change of scene. 

That Shelley's second wife was intellectually better 
suited to him than his first, no one who knew them 
both will deny ; and that a man, who lived so totallv 
e 2 



52 MEMOIRS OF 

out of the ordinary world and in a world of ideas, 
needed such an ever-present sympathy more than the 
general run of men, must also be admitted ; but 
Southey, who did not want an intellectual wife, and 
was contented with his own, may well have thought 
that Shelley had equal reason to seek no change. 

After leaving England, in 1814, the newly-affianced 
lovers took a tour on the Continent. He wrote to 
me several letters from Switzerland, which were sub- 
sequently published, together with a Six Weeks' Tour, 
written in the form of a journal by the lady with 
whom his fate was thenceforward indissolubly bound. 
I was introduced to her on their return. 

The rest of 1814 they passed chiefly in London. 
Perhaps this winter in London was the most solitary 
period of Shelley's life. I often passed an evening 
with him at his lodgings, and I do not recollect ever 
meeting any one there, excepting Mr. Hogg. Some 
of his few friends of the preceding year had certainly 
at that time fallen off from him. At the same time 
he was short of money, and was trying to raise some 
on his expectations, from * Jews and their fellow- 
Christians', as Lord Byron says. One day, as we 
were walking together on the banks of the Surrey 
Canal, and discoursing of Wordsworth, and quoting 
some of his verses, Shelley suddenly said to me : ' Do 
you think Wordsworth could have written such poetry, 
if he had ever had dealings with money-lenders ? * 
His own example, however, proved that the association 
had not injured his poetical faculties. 

The canal in question was a favourite walk with us. 
The Croydon Canal branched off from it, and passed 
very soon into wooded scenery. The Croydon Canal 
is extinct, and has given place to the, I hope, more 
useful, but certainly less picturesque, railway. 
Whether the Surrey exists, I do not know. He had 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 53 

a passion for sailing paper-boats, which he indulged 
on this canal, and on the Serpentine river. The best 
spot he had ever found for it was a large pool of 
transparent water, on a heath above Bracknell, with 
determined borders free from weeds, which admitted 
of launching the miniature craft on the windward, 
and running round to receive it on the leeward, side. 
On the Serpentine, he would sometimes launch a boat 
constructed with more than usual care, and freighted 
with halfpence. He delighted to do this in the 
presence of boys, who would run round to meet it, 
and when it landed in safety, and the boys scrambled 
for their prize, he had difficulty in restraining him- 
self from shouting as loudly as they did. The river 
was not suitable to this amusement, nor even Virginia 
Water, on which he sometimes practised it ; but the 
lake was too large to allow of meeting the landing. 
I sympathized with him in this taste : I had it before 
I knew him : I am not sure that I did not originate 
it with him ; for which I should scarcely receive the 
thanks of my friend, Mr. Hogg, who never took any 
pleasure in it, and cordially abominated it, when, as fre- 
quently happened, on a cold winter day, in a walk from 
Bishopgate over Bagshot Heath, we came on a pool of 
water, which Shelley would not part from till he had 
rigged out a flotilla from any unfortunate letters he 
happened to have in his pocket. Whatever may be 
thought of this amusement for grown gentlemen, it was 
at least innocent amusement, and not mixed up with 
any ' sorrow of the meanest thing that feels V 

1 This lesson, shepherd, let us two divide, 

Taught both by what she 2 shows and what conceals, 
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride 
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels. 

Wordsworth, Hartleap Well. [T. L. P.] 
[Wordsworth wrote 'One lesson', not 'This lesson'.] 
2 Nature. 



54 MEMOIRS OF 

In the summer of 1815, Shelley took a furnished 
house at Bishopgate, the eastern entrance of Wind- 
sor Park, where he resided till the summer of 181 6. At 
this time he had, by the sacrifice of a portion of his 
expectations, purchased an annuity of ^lOOO a-year 
from his father, who had previously allowed him 
£200. 

I was then living at Marlow, and frequently walked 
over to pass a few days with him. At the end of 
August, 1815, we made an excursion on the Thames 
to Lechlade, in Gloucestershire, and as much higher 
as there was water to float our skiff. It was a dry 
season, and we did* not get much beyond Inglesham 
Weir, which was not then, as now, an immovable 
structure, but the wreck of a movable weir, which 
had been subservient to the navigation, when the 
river had been, as it had long ceased to Jbe, navigable 
to Cricklade. A solitary sluice was hanging by 
a chain, swinging in the wind and creaking dismally. 
Our voyage terminated at a spot where the cattle 
stood entirely across the stream, with the water 
scarcely covering their hoofs. We started from, and 
returned to, Old Windsor, and our excursion occupied 
about ten days. This was, I think, the origin of 
Shelley^s taste for boating, which he retained to the 
end of his life. On our way up, at Oxford, he was so 
much out of order that he feared being obliged to 
return. He had been living chiefly on tea and bread 
and butter, drinking occasionally a sort of spurious 
lemonade, made of some powder in a box, which, 
as he was reading at the time the Tale of a Tub, he 
called the powder of pimperlimpimp. He consulted 
a doctor, who may have done him some good, but it 
was not apparent. I told him, * If he would allow me 
to prescribe for him, I would set him to rights." He 
asked, * What would be your prescription ? ' I said, 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 55 

' Three mutton chops, well peppered/ He said, ' Do 
you really think so ? ' I said, ' I am sure of it." He 
took the prescription ; the success was obvious and 
immediate. He lived in my way for the rest of our 
expedition, rowed vigorously, was cheerful, merry, 
overflowing with animal spirits, and had certainly one 
week of thorough enjoyment of life. We passed two 
nights in a comfortable inn at Lechlade, and his lines, 
* A Summer Evening on the Thames at Lechlade,' 
were written then and there. Mrs. Shelley (the 
second, who always bore his name), who was with us, 
made a diary of the little trip, which I suppose is 
lost. 

The whole of the winter 1815-16 was passed 
quietly at Bishopgate. Mr. Hogg often walked 
down from London ; and I, as before, walked over 
from Marlow. This winter was, as Mr. Hogg ex- 
pressed it, a mere Atticism. Our studies were 
exclusively Greek. To the best of my recollection, 
we were, throughout the whole period* his only 
visitors. One or two persons called on him ; but 
they were not to his mind, and were not encouraged 
to reappear. The only exception was a. physician 
whom he had called in ; the Quaker, Dr. Pope, of 
Staines. This worthy old gentleman came more 
than once, not as a doctor, but a friend. He liked 
to discuss theology with Shelley* Shelley at first 
avoided the discussion, saying his opinions would 
not be to the Doctor's taste ; but the Doctor 
answered, ' I like to hear thee talk, friend Shelley ; 
I see thee art very deep/ 

At this time Shelley wrote his Alastor. He was 
at a loss for a title, and I proposed that which he 
adopted: Alastor; or, the Spirit of Solitude. The 
Greek word 'AAaorcop is an evil genius, KaKobaifxcov, 
though the sense of the two words is somewhat 



56 MEMOIRS OF 

different, as in the Pavels 'AAaoTcoo 17 kclkos baCfjLonv 
TToOev, of Aeschylus. 1 The poem treated the spirit 
of solitude as a spirit of evil. I mention the true 
meaning of the word because many have supposed 
Alastor to be the name of the hero of the poem. 

He published this, with some minor poems, in the 
course of the winter. 

In the early summer of 1816, the spirit of restless- 
ness again came over him, and resulted in a second 
visit to the Continent. The change of scene was 
preceded, as more than once before, by a mysterious 
communication from a person seen only by himself, 
warning him of immediate personal perils to be 
incurred by him if he did not instantly depart. 

I was alone at Bishopgate, with him and Mrs. 
Shelley, when the visitation alluded to occurred. 
About the middle of the day, intending to take 
a walk, I went into the hall for my hat. His was 
there, and mine was not. I could not imagine what 
had become of it ; but as I could not walk without 
it, I returned to the library. After some time had 
elapsed, Mrs. Shelley came in, and gave me an 
account which she had just received from himself, 
of the visitor and his communication. I expressed 
some scepticism on the subject, on which she left me, 
and Shelley came in, with my hat in his hand. He 
said, ' Mary tells me, you do not believe that I have 
had a visit from Williams/ I said, ' I told her there 
were some improbabilities in the narration.'' He 
said, ' You know Williams of Tremadoc ? ' I said, 
fc I do. 1 He said, 6 It was he who was here to-day. 
He came to tell me of a plot laid by my father and 

1 T Hp£€i/ /x4u, fit b€(Tiroiva 9 rov iravrbs fcaKov 
ipavils aXaoTcup rj /catco? daifjicjv iroOiv. Aesch. Pers. 353-4. 
[The author of the mischief, O my mistress, 
Was some foul fiend or Power on evil bent. Plumptre.'] 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 57 

uncle, to entrap me and lock me up. He was in 
great haste, and could not stop a minute, and 
I walked with him to Egham. 1 I said, ' What hat 
did you wear ? ' He said, • This, to be sure.' I said, 
' I wish you would put it on. 1 He put it on, and 
it went over his face. I said, ' You could not have 
walked to Egham in that hat. 1 He said, ' I snatched 
it up hastily, and perhaps I kept it in my hand. 
I certainly walked with Williams to Egham, and he 
told me what I have said. You are very sceptical. 1 
I said, 'If you are certain of what you say, my 
scepticism cannot affect your certainty. 1 He said, 
6 It is very hard on a man who has devoted his life 
to the pursuit of truth, who has made great sacrifices 
and incurred great sufferings for it, to be treated as 
a visionary. If I do not know that I saw Williams, 
how do I know that I see you ? ' I said, $ An idea 
may have the force of a sensation ; but the oftener 
a sensation is repeated, the greater is the probability 
of its origin in reality. You saw me yesterday, and 
will see me to-morrow. 1 He said, ■ I can see Williams 
to-morrow if I please. He told me he was stopping 
at the Turk's Head Coffee-house, in the Strand, and 
should be there two days. I want to convince you 
that I am not under a delusion. Will you walk 
with me to London to-morrow, to see him ? ' I said, 
*■ I would most willingly do so. 1 The next morning 
after an early breakfast we set off on our walk to 
London. We had got half way down Egham Hill, 
when he suddenly turned round, and said to me, 
1 I do not think we shall find Williams at the 
Turk's Head. 1 I said, 'Neither do I. 1 He said, 
' You say that, because you do not think he has been 
there ; but he mentioned a contingency under which 
he might leave town yesterday, and he has probably 
done so. 1 I said, * At any rate, we should know 



58 MEMOIRS OF 

that he has been there.' He said, i I will take other 
means of convincing you. I will write to him. 
Suppose we take a walk through the forest." We 
turned about on our new direction, and were out all 
day. Some days passed, and I heard no more of the 
matter. One morning he said to me, ' I have some 
news of Williams ; a letter and an enclosure. 1 I said, 
' I shall be glad to see the letter.' He said, 
' I cannot show you the letter ; I will show you the 
enclosure. It is a diamond necklace. I think you 
know me well enough to be sure I would not throw 
away my own money on such a thing, and that if 
I have it, it must have been sent me by somebody 
else. It has been sent me by Williams.' ' For what 
purpose,' I asked. He said, * To prove his identity 
and his sincerity.' w Surely,' I said, *- your showing 
me a diamond necklace will prove nothing but that 
you have one to show.' i Then,' he said, 4 1 will not 
show it you. If you will not believe me, I must 
submit to your incredulity.' There the matter 
ended. I never heard another word of Williams, 
nor of any other mysterious visitor. I had on one 
or two previous occasions argued with him against 
similar semi-delusions, and I believe if they had 
always been received with similar scepticism, they 
would not have been often repeated ; but they were 
encouraged by the ready credulity with which they 
were received by many who ought to have known 
better. I call them semi-delusions, because, for the 
most part, they had their basis in his firm belief 
that his father and uncle had designs on his liberty. 
On this basis, his imagination built a fabric of 
romance, and when he presented it as substantive 
fact, and it was found to contain more or less of 
inconsistency, he felt his self-esteem interested in 
maintaining it by accumulated circumstances, which 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 59 

severally vanished under the touch of investigation, 
like Williams's location at the Turk's Head Coffee- 
house. 

I must add, that in the expression of these differ- 
ences, there was not a shadow of anger. They were 
discussed with freedom and calmness ; with the good 
temper and good feeling which never forsook him in 
conversations with his friends. There was an evident 
anxiety for acquiescence, but a quiet and gentle 
toleration of dissent. A personal discussion, how- 
ever interesting to himself, was carried on with the 
same calmness as if it related to the most abstract 
question in metaphysics. 

Indeed, one of the great charms of intercourse with 
him was the perfect good humour and openness to 
conviction with which he responded to opinions 
opposed to his own. I have known eminent men, 
who were no doubt very instructive as lecturers to 
people who like being lectured ; which I never did ; 
but with whom conversation was impossible. To 
oppose their dogmas, even to question them, was to 
throw their temper off its balance. When once this 
infirmity showed itself in any of my friends, I was 
always careful not to provoke a second ebullition. 
I submitted to the preachment, and was glad when 
it was over. 

The result was a second trip to Switzerland. 
During his absence he wrote me several letters, some 
of which were subsequently published by Mrs. Shelley; 
others are still in my possession. Copies of two of 
these were obtained by Mr. Middleton, who has 
printed a portion of them. Mrs. Shelley was at 
that time in the habit of copying Shelley's letters, 
and these were among some papers accidentally left 
at Marlow, where they fell into unscrupulous hands. 
Mr. Middleton must have been aware that he had 



60 MEMOIRS OF 

no right to print them without my consent. I might 
have stopped his publication by an injunction, but 
I did not think it worth while, more especially as 
the book, though abounding with errors adopted from 
Captain Medwin and others, is written with good 
feeling towards the memory of Shelley. 

During his stay in Switzerland he became ac- 
quainted with Lord Byron. They made together 
an excursion round the lake of Geneva, of which he 
sent me the detail in a diary. This diary was pub- 
lished by Mrs. Shelley, but without introducing the 
name of Lord Byron, who is throughout called fc my 
companion 1 . The diary was first published during 
Lord Byron's life ; but why his name was concealed 
I do not know. Though the changes are not many, 
yet the association of the two names gives it great 
additional interest. 

At the end of August, 1816, they returned to 
England, and Shelley passed the first fortnight of 
September with me at Marlow. July and August, 
1816, had been months of perpetual rain. The first 
fortnight of September was a period of unbroken 
sunshine. The neighbourhood of Marlow abounds 
with beautiful walks ; the river scenery is also fine. 
We took every day a long excursion, either on foot 
or on the water. He took a house there, partly, 
perhaps principally, for the sake of being near me. 
While it was being fitted and furnished, he resided 
at Bath. 

In December, 1816, Harriet drowned herself in 
the Serpentine river, not, as Captain Medwin says, 
ill a pond at the bottom of her father's garden at 
Bath. Her father had not then left his house in 
Chapel Street, and to that house his daughter's body 
was carried. 

On the 30th of December, 1816, Shelley married his 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 61 

second wife; and early in the ensuing year they 
took possession of their house at Marlow. It was 
a house with many large rooms and extensive 
gardens. He took it on a lease for twenty-one 
years, furnished it handsomely, fitted up a library 
in a room large enough for a ball-room, and settled 
himself down, as he supposed, for life. This was an 
agreeable year to all of us. Mr. Hogg was a frequent 
visitor. We had a good deal of rowing and sailing, 
and we took long walks in all directions. He had 
other visitors from time to time. Amongst them 
were Mr. Godwin and Mr. and Mrs. Leigh Hunt. 
He led a much more social life than he had done at 
Bishopgate; but he held no intercourse with his 
immediate neighbours. He said to me more than 
once, 'I am not wretch enough to tolerate an 
acquaintance. 1 

In the summer of 1817 he wrote the Revolt of 
Islam, chiefly on a seat on a high prominence in 
Bisham Wood, where he passed whole mornings 
with a blank book and a pencil. This work, when 
completed, was printed under the title of Laon and 
Cythna. In this poem he had carried the expression 
of his opinions, moral, political, and theological, 
beyond the bounds of discretion. The terror which, 
in those days of persecution of the press, the perusal 
of the book inspired in Mr. Oilier, the publisher, 
induced him to solicit the alteration of many 
passages which he had marked Shelley was for 
some time inflexible; but Mr. Ollier's refusal to 
publish the poem as it was, backed by the advice of 
all his friends, induced him to submit to the required 
changes. Many leaves were cancelled, and it was 
finally published as The Revolt of Islam, Of Laon 
and Cythna only three copies had gone forth. One 
of these had found its way to the Quarterly Review, 



62 MEMOIRS OF 

and the opportunity was readily seized of pouring 
out on it one of the most malignant effusions of the 
odium theologicum that ever appeared even in those 
days, and in that periodical. 

During his residence at Marlow we often walked 
to London, frequently in company with Mr. Hogg. 
It was our usual way of going there, when not 
pressed by time. We went by a very pleasant route 
over fields, lanes, woods, and heaths to Uxbridge, 
and by the main road from Uxbridge to London. 
The total distance was thirty-two miles to Tyburn 
turnpike. We usually stayed two nights, and walked 
back on the third d.ay. I never saw Shelley tired 
with these walks. Delicate and fragile as he ap- 
peared, he had great muscular strength. We took 
many walks in all directions from Marlow, and saw 
everything worth seeing within a radius of sixteen 
miles. This comprehended, among other notable 
places, Windsor Castle and Forest, Virginia Water, 
and the spots which were consecrated by the 
memories of Cromwell, Hampden, and Milton, in the 
Chiltern district of Buckinghamshire. We had also 
many pleasant excursions, rowing and sailing on the 
river, between Henley and Maidenhead. 

Shelley, it has been seen, had two children by his 
first wife. These children he claimed after Harriet's 
death, but her family refused to give them up. 
They resisted the claim in Chancery, and the decree 
of Lord Eldon was given against him. 

The grounds of Lord Eldon's decision have been 
misrepresented. The petition had adduced Queen 
Mab, and other instances of Shelley's opinions on 
religion, as one of the elements of the charges 
against him ; but the judgement ignores this element, 
and rests entirely upon moral conduct. It was 
distinctly laid down that the principles which Shelley 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 63 

had professed in regard to some of the most impor- 
tant relations of life, had been carried by him into 
practice ; and that the practical development of 
those principles, not the principles themselves, had 
determined the judgement of the Court. 

Lord Eldon intimated that his judgement was not 
final ; but nothing would have been gained by an 
appeal to the House of Peers. Liberal law lords 
were then unknown ; neither could Shelley have 
hoped to enlist public opinion in his favour. A 
Scotch marriage, contracted so early in life, might 
not have been esteemed a very binding tie : but the 
separation which so closely followed on a marriage 
in the Church of England, contracted two years and 
a half later, presented itself as the breach of a much 
more solemn and deliberate obligation. 

It is not surprising that so many persons at the 
time should have supposed that the judgement had 
been founded, at least partly, on religious grounds. 
Shelley himself told me, that Lord Eldon had 
expressly stated that such grounds were excluded, 
and the judgement itself showed it. But few read 
the judgement. It did not appear in the newspapers, 
and all report of the proceedings was interdicted. 
Mr. Leigh Hunt accompanied Shelley to the Court 
of Chancery. Lord Eldon was extremely courteous ; 
but he said blandly, and at the same time deter- 
minedly, that a report of the proceedings would be 
punished as a contempt of Court. The only ex- 
planation I have ever been able to give to myself of his 
motive for this prohibition was, that he was willing 
to leave the large body of fanatics among his political 
supporters under delusion as to the grounds of his 
judgement ; and that it was more for his political 
interest to be stigmatized by Liberals as an inquisitor, 
than to incur in any degree the imputation of 



64 MEMOIRS OF 

theological liberality from his own persecuting 
party. 

Since writing the above passages I have seen, in 
the Morning Post of November 22nd, the report of 
a meeting of the Juridical Society, 1 under the 
presidency of the present Lord Chancellor, in which 
a learned brother read a paper, proposing to revive 
the system of persecution against ' blasphemous 
libel'; and in the course of his lecture he said — 
' The Court of Chancery, on the doctrine Parens 
patriae, deprived the parent of the guardianship of 
his children when his principles were in antagonism 
to religion, as 2 in the case of the poet Shelley.'' 
The Attorney-General observed on this : 4 With 
respect 3 to the interference of the Court of Chancery 
in the case of Shelley's children, there was a great 
deal of misunderstanding. It was not because their 
father was an unbeliever in Christianity, but because 
he violated and refused to acknowledge the ordinary 
usages of morality."' The last words are rather vague 
and twaddling, and I suppose are not the ipsissima 
verba of the Attorney-General. The essence and 
quintessence of Lord Eldon's judgement was this : 
' Mr. Shelley long ago published and maintained the 
doctrine that marriage is a contract binding only 
during mutual pleasure. He has carried out that 
doctrine in his own practice ; he has done nothing 
to show that he does not still maintain it; and 
I consider such practice injurious to the best interests 
of society.' I am not apologizing for Lord Eldon, 
nor vindicating his judgement. I am merely ex- 
plaining it, simply under the wish that those who 
talk about it should know what it really was. 

Some of Shelley's friends have spoken and written 

1 See Appendix II. 2 Morning Post : ' as it did in the case '. 
3 Morning Post : * With regard to \ 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 65 

of Harriet as if to vindicate him it were necessary 
to disparage her. They might, I think, be content 
to rest the explanation of his conduct on the ground 
on which he rested it himself — that he had found in 
another the intellectual qualities which constituted 
his ideality of the partner of his life. But Harriet's 
untimely fate occasioned him deep agony of mind, 
which he felt the more because for a long time he 
kept the feeling to himself. I became acquainted 
with it in a somewhat singular manner. 

I was walking with him one evening in Bisham 
Wood, and we had been talking, in the usual way, 
of our ordinary subjects, when he suddenly fell into 
a gloomy reverie. I tried to rouse him out of it, 
and made some remarks which I thought might 
make him laugh at his own abstraction. Suddenly 
he said to me, still with the same gloomy expression : 
' There is one thing to which I have decidedly made 
up my mind. I will take a great glass of ale every 
night.'' I said, laughingly, ' A very good resolution, 
as the result of a melancholy musing. 1 'Yes,' he 
said ; * but you do not know why I take it. I shall 
do it to deaden my feelings : for I see that those 
who drink ale have none.' The next day he said to 
me : w You must have thought me very unreasonable 
yesterday evening ? ' I said, c I did, certainly.' 
' Then,' he said, • I will tell you what I would not 
tell any one else. I was thinking of Harriet. ' I told 
him, 4 1 had no idea of such a thing : it was so long 
since he had named her. I had thought he was 
under the influence of some baseless morbid feeling ; 
but if ever I should see him again in such a state of 
mind, I would not attempt to disturb it.' 

There was not much comedy in Shelley's life ; but 
his antipathy to ' acquaintance ' led to incidents of 
some drollery. Amongst the persons who called 



66 MEMOIRS OF 

on him at Bishopgate, was one whom he tried hard 
to get rid of, but who forced himself on him in 
every possible manner. He saw him at a distance 
one day, as he was walking down Egham Hill, and 
instantly jumped through a hedge, ran across a field, 
and laid himself down in a dry ditch. Some men 
and women, who were haymaking in the field, ran up 
to see what was the matter, when he said to them, 
4 Go away, go away: don't you see it's a bailiff?' 
On which they left him, and he escaped discovery. 

After he had settled himself at Marlow, he was in 
want of a music-master to attend a lady staying in 
his house, and I inquired for one at Maidenhead. 
Having found one, I requested that he would call on 
Mr. Shelley. One morning Shelley rushed into my 
house in great trepidation, saying: 'Barricade the 
doors ; give orders that you are not at home. Here 

is in the town.' He passed the whole day with 

me, and we sat in expectation that the knocker or 
the bell would announce the unwelcome visitor ; but 
the evening fell on the unfulfilled fear. He then 
ventured home. It turned out that the name of the 
music-master very nearly resembled in sound the 
name of the obnoxious gentleman ; and when Shelley's 

man opened the library door and said, ' Mr. , 

sir," 1 Shelley, who caught the name as that of his 
Monsieur Tonson, exclaimed, 'I would just as soon 
see the devil ! \ sprang up from his chair, jumped 
out of the window, ran across the lawn, climbed over 
the garden-fence, and came round to me by a back- 
path : when we entrenched ourselves for a day's siege. 
We often laughed afterwards at the thought of what 
must have been his man's astonishment at seeing his 
master, on the announcement of the musician, dis- 
appear so instantaneously through the window, with 
the exclamation, 'I would just as soon see the 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 67 

devil ! ' and in what way he could explain to the 
musician that his master was so suddenly 'not at 
home \ 

Shelley, when he did laugh, laughed heartily, the 
more so as what he considered the perversions of 
comedy excited not his laughter but his indignation, 
although such disgusting outrages on taste and 
feeling as the burlesques by which the stage is now 
disgraced had not then been perpetrated. The 
ludicrous, when it neither offended good feeling, nor 
perverted moral judgement, necessarily presented 
itself to him with greater force. 

Though his published writings are all serious, yet 
his letters are not without occasional touches of 
humour. In one which he wrote to me from Italy, 
he gave an account of a new acquaintance * who had 
a prodigious nose. ■ His nose is something quite 
Slawkenbergian. It weighs on the imagination to 
look at it. It is that sort of nose that transforms all 
the g's its wearer utters into k's. It is a nose once 
seen never to be forgotten, and which requires the 
utmost stretch of Christian charity to forgive. I, 

you know, have a little turn-up nose, H has a 

large hook one ; but add them together, square them, 
cube them, you would have but a faint notion of the 
nose to which I refer.' 

I may observe incidentally, that his account of 
his own nose corroborates the opinion I have pre- 
viously expressed of the inadequate likeness of the 
published portraits of him, in which the nose has no 
turn-up. It had, in fact, very little; just as much 
as may be seen in the portrait to which I have 
referred, in the Florentine Gallery. 

The principal employment of the female population 

1 Mr. Gisborne. 
F % 



68 MEMOIRS OF 

in Marlow was lace-making, miserably remunerated. 
He went continually amongst this unfortunate popu- 
lation, and to the extent of his ability relieved the 
most pressing cases of distress. He had a list of 
pensioners, to whom he made a weekly allowance. 

Early in 1818 the spirit of restlessness again came 
over him. He left Marlow, and, after a short stay 
in London, left England in March of that year, never 
to return. 

I saw him for the last time, on Tuesday the 10th 
of March. The evening was a remarkable one, as 
being that of the first performance of an opera of 
Rossini in England, and of the first appearance here 
of Malibran's father, Garcia. He performed Count 
Almaviva in the Barbiere di Siviglia. Fodor was 
Rosina; Naldi, Figaro; Ambrogetti, Bartolo ; and 
Angrisani, Basilio. I supped with Shelley and his 
travelling companions after the opera. They de- 
parted early the next morning. 

Thus two very dissimilar events form one epoch in 
my memory. In looking back to that long-past time, 
I call to mind how many friends, Shelley himself 
included, I saw around me in the old Italian Theatre, 
who have now all disappeared from the scene. I 
hope I am not unduly given to be laudator temporis 
acti, yet I cannot but think that the whole arrange- 
ment of the opera in England has changed for the 
worse. Two acts of opera, a divertissement, and a 
ballet, seem very ill replaced by four or five acts of 
opera, with little or no dancing. These, to me, 
verify the old saying, that I Too much of one thing 
is good for nothing'; and the quiet and decorous 
audiences, of whom Shelley used to say, 'It is delightful 
to see human beings so civilized, 1 are not agreeably 
succeeded by the vociferous assemblies, calling and 
recalling performers to the footlights, and showering 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 69 

down bouquets to the accompaniment of their noisy 
approbation. 

At the time of his going abroad, he had two 
children by his second wife — William and Clara; 
and it has been said that the fear of having these 
taken from him by a decree of the Chancellor had 
some influence on his determination to leave England; 
but there was no ground for such a fear. No one 
could be interested in taking them from him ; no 
reason could be alleged for taking them from their 
mother ; the Chancellor would not have entertained 
the question, unless a provision had been secured for 
the children ; and who was to do this ? Restlessness 
and embarrassment were the causes of his determina- 
tion ; and according to the Newtonian doctrine, it is 
needless to look for more causes than are necessary to 
explain the phenomena. 

These children both died in Italy; Clara, the 
youngest, in 1818, William, in the following year. 
The last event he communicated to me in a few lines, 
dated Rome, June 8th, 1819 : — 

f Yesterday, after an illness of only a few days, my 
little William died. There was no hope from the 
moment of the attack. You will be kind enough to tell 
all my friends, so that I need not write to them. It is 
a great exertion to me to write this, and it seems to me 
as if, hunted by calamity as I have been, that I should 
never recover any cheerfulness again.' 

A little later in the same month he wrote to me 
again from Livorno : — 

' Our melancholy journey finishes at this town ; but 
we retrace our steps to Florence, where, as I imagine, 
we shall remain some months. O that I could return 
to England ! How heavy a weight when misfortune is 
added to exile ; and solitude, as if the measure were 



70 MEMOIRS OF 

not full, heaped high on both. O that I could return 
to England ! I hear you say, " Desire never fails to 
generate capacity." Ah ! but that ever-present Mal- 
thus, necessity, has convinced desire, that even though 
it generated capacity its offspring must starve/ 

Again from Livorno; August, 1819 (they had 
changed their design of going to Florence) : — 

f I most devoutly wish that I were living near London. 
I don't think that I shall settle so far off as Richmond, 
and to inhabit any intermediate spot on the Thames, 
would be to expose myself to the river damps. Not to 
mention that it is not much to my taste. My inclina- 
tions point to Hampstead ; but I don't know whether I 
should not make up my mind to something more com- 
pletely suburban. What are mountains, trees, heaths, 
or even the glorious and ever-beautiful sky, with such 
sunsets as I have seen at Hampstead, to friends? 
Social enjoyment in some form or other is the Alpha 
and Omega of existence. All that I see in Italy, and 
from my tower window I now see the magnificent 
peaks of the Apennine, half enclosing the plain, is 
nothing — it dwindles to smoke in the mind, when I 
think of some familiar forms of scenery, little perhaps in 
themselves, over which old remembrances have thrown 
a delightful colour. How we prize what we despised 
when present ! So the ghosts of our dead associations 
rise and haunt us, in revenge for our having let them 
starve and abandoned them to perish/ 

This seems to contrast strangely with a passage in 
Mrs. Shelley's journal, written after her return to 
England : — 

' Mine own Shelley ! What a horror you had of return- 
ing to this miserable country ! To be here without you 
is to be doubly exiled ; to be away from Italy is to lose 
you twice/ — Shelley Memorials, p. 224. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 71 

It is probable, however, that as Mrs. Shelley was 
fond of Italy, he did not wish to disturb her enjoy- 
ment of it, by letting her see fully the deep-seated 
wish to return to his own country, which lay at the 
bottom of all his feelings. 

It is probable also that, after the birth of his last 
child, he became more reconciled to residing abroad. 

In the same year, the parents received the best 
consolation which nature could bestow on them, in 
the birth of another son, the present Sir Percy, who 
was born at Florence, on the 12th of November, 
1819. 

Shelley's life in Italy is best traced by his letters. 
He delighted in the grand aspects of nature; 
mountains, torrents, forests, and the sea ; and in the 
ruins, which still reflected the greatness of antiquity. 
He described these scenes with extraordinary power 
of language, in his letters as well as in his poetry ; 
but in the latter he peopled them with phantoms of 
virtue and beauty, such as never existed on earth. 
One of his most striking works in this kind is the 
Prometheus Unbound. He only once descended into 
the arena of reality, and that was in the tragedy of 
the Cenci. 1 This is unquestionably a work of great 
dramatic power, but it is as unquestionably not a 
work for the modern English stage. It would have 

1 Horace Smith's estimate of these two works appears to me 
just : * 1 got from Oilier last week a copy of the Prometheus 
Unbound, which is certainly a most original, grand, and occasion- 
ally sublime work, evincing in my opinion a higher order of talent 
than any of your previous productions ; and yet, contrary to your 
own estimation, I must say I prefer the Cenci, because it contains 
a deep and sustained human interest, of which we feel a want in 
the other. Prometheus himself certainly touches us nearly ; but 
we see very little of him after his liberation ; and, though I have 
no doubt it will be more admired than anything you have written, 
I question whether it will be so much read as the Cenci.' — Shelley 
Memorials, p. 145. [T. L. P.] [This letter is dated September 
4th, 1820.] 



72 MEMOIRS OF 

been a great work in the days of Massinger. He 
sent it to me to introduce it to Covent Garden 
Theatre. I did so ; but the result was as I expected. 
It could not be received ; though great admiration 
was expressed of the author's powers, and great hopes 
of his success with a less repulsive subject. But he 
could not clip his wings to the littleness of the acting 
drama; and though he adhered to his purpose of 
writing for the stage, and chose Charles I for his 
subject, he did not make much progress in the task. 
If his life had been prolonged, I still think he would 
have accomplished something worthy of the best days 
of theatrical literature. If the gorgeous scenery of 
his poetry could have been peopled from actual life, 
if the deep thoughts and strong feelings which he 
was so capable of expressing, had been accommodated 
to characters such as have been and may be, however 
exceptional in the greatness of passion, he would 
have added his own name to those of the masters of 
the art. He studied it with unwearied devotion in 
its higher forms ; the Greek tragedians, Shakespeare, 
and Calderon. Of Calderon, he says, in a letter to 
me from Leghorn, September 21st, 1819 : — 

( C. C. ' is now with us on his way to Vienna. He has 
spent a year or more in Spain, where he has learnt 
Spanish ; and I make him read Spanish all day long. It 
is a most powerful and expressive language, and I have 
already learnt sufficient to read with great ease their poet 
Calderon. I have read about twelve of his plays. Some 
of tliem certainly deserve to be ranked among the 
grandest and most perfect productions of the human 
mind. He excels all modern dramatists, with the ex- 
ception of Shakespeare, whom he resembles, however, 
in the depth of thought and subtlety of imagination of 
his writings, and in the one rare power of interweaving 

1 Charles Clairmont. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 73 

delicate and powerful comic traits with the most tragic 
situations, without diminishing their interest. I rank 
him far above Beaumont and Fletcher.' 

In a letter to Mr. Gisborne dated November, 1820, 
he says : 'I am bathing myself in the light and odour 
of the flowery and starry Autos, I have read them 
all more than once.' 1 These were Calderon's religious 
dramas, being of the same class as those which were 
called Mysteries in France and England, but of a far 
higher order of poetry than the latter ever attained. 

The first time Mr. Trelawny saw him, he had a 
volume of Calderon in his hand. He was translating 
some passages of the Magico Prodigioso. 

I arrived late, and hastened to the Tre Palazzi, on the 
Lung' Arno, where the Shelleys and Williamses lived on 
different flats under the same roof, as is the custom on 
the Continent. The Williamses received me in their 
earnest, cordial manner ; we had a great deal to com- 
municate to each other, and were in loud and animated 
conversation, when I was rather put out by observing in 
the passage near the open door, opposite to where I 
sat, a pair of glittering eyes steadily fixed on mine ; it 
was too dark to make out whom they belonged to. 
With the acuteness of a woman, Mrs. Williams's eyes 
followed the direction of mine, and going to the door- 
way, she laughingly said — 

' Come in, Shelley ; it 's only our friend Tre just 
arrived.' 

Swiftly gliding in, blushing like a girl, a tall, thin 
stripling held out both his hands ; and although I could 
hardly believe, as I looked at his flushed, feminine, and 
artless face, that it could be the poet, I returned his 
warm pressure. After the ordinary greetings and 
courtesies he sat down and listened. I was silent from 
astonishment : was it possible this wild-looking, beard- 
less boy, could be the veritable monster at war with all 



74 MEMOIRS OF 

the world ? — excommunicated by the Fathers of the 
Church, deprived of his civil rights by the fiat of a grim 
Lord Chancellor, discarded by every member of his 
family, and denounced by the rival sages of our liter- 
ature as a founder of a Satanic school ? I would not 
believe it ; it must be a hoax. He was habited like 
a boy, in a black jacket and trousers, which he seemed 
to have outgrown, or his tailor, as is the custom, had 
most shamefully stinted him in his * sizings \ Mrs. 
Williams saw my embarrassment, and to relieve me 
asked Shelley what book he had in his hand ? His face 
brightened, and he answered briskly — 

' Calderon's Magico Prodigioso ; I am translating some 
passages in it/ 

c Oh, read it to us ! ' 

Shoved off from the shore of commonplace incidents 
that could not interest him, and fairly launched on 
a theme that did, he instantly became oblivious of every- 
thing but the book in his hand. The masterly manner 
in which he analysed the genius of the author, his lucid 
interpretations of the story, and the ease with which he 
translated into our language the most subtle and imagina- 
tive passages of the Spanish poet, were marvellous, as 
was his command of the two languages. After this 
touch of his quality, I no longer doubted his identity. 
A dead silence ensued ; looking up, I asked — ■ 

c Where is he ? * 

Mrs. Williams said, c Who ? Shelley ? Oh, he comes 
and goes like a spirit, no one knows when or where.' — 
Trelawny, pp. 19-22. 

From this time Mr. Trelawny was a frequent visitor 
to the Shelleys, and, as will be seen, a true and inde- 
fatigable friend. 

In the year 1818, Shelley renewed his acquaintance 
with Lord Byron, and continued in friendly intercourse 
with him till the time of his death. Till that time 
his life, from the birth of his son Percy, was passed 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 75 

chiefly in or near Pisa, or on the seashore between 
Genoa and Leghorn. It was unmarked by any 
remarkable events, except one or two, one of which 
appears to me to have been a mere disturbance of 
imagination. This was a story of his having been 
knocked down at the post office in Florence, by a 
man in a military cloak, who had suddenly walked 
up to him, saying, 'Are you the damned atheist 
Shelley ? ' This man was not seen by any one else, 
nor ever afterwards seen or heard of; though a man 
answering the description had on the same day left 
Florence for Genoa, and was followed up without 
success. 

I cannot help classing this incident with the Tan- 
yr-allt assassination, and other semi-delusions, of 
which I have already spoken. 

Captain Medwin thinks this ■ cowardly attack • was 
prompted by some article in the Quarterly Review. 
The Quarterly Reviewers of that day had many sins 
to answer for in the way of persecution of genius, 
whenever it appeared in opposition to their political 
and theological intolerance ; but they were, I am 
satisfied, as innocent of this ' attack ' on Shelley, as 
they were of the death of Keats. Keats was con- 
sumptive, and foredoomed by nature to early death. 
His was not the spirit ' to let itself be snuffed out by 
an article \ x 

With the cessation of his wanderings, his beautiful 
descriptive letters ceased also. The fear of losing 

1 Peacock had in mind the lines in Don Juan, canto xi, stanza lx : 
Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle, 
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article, 
where Byron refers to Croker's attack on Keats in the Quarterly, 
vol. xix, pp. 204-8, taking Shelley's view (an unfounded one) of 
its deadly effect on 

John Keats, who was killed off by one critique, 
Just as he really promised something great. 



76 MEMOIRS OF 

their only surviving son predominated over the love 
of travelling by which both parents were characterized. 
The last of this kind which was addressed to me was 
dated Rome, March 23rd, 1819. This was amongst 
the letters published by Mrs. Shelley. It is preceded 
by two from Naples — December 22nd, 1818, and 
January 26th, 1819. There was a third, which is 
alluded to in the beginning of his letter from Rome : 
y I wrote to you the day before our departure from 
Naples.' When I gave Mrs. Shelley the other letters, 
I sought in vain for this. I found it, only a few 
months since, in some other papers, among which it 
had gone astray. 

His serenity was temporarily disturbed by a 
calumny, which Lord Byron communicated to him. 
There is no clue to what it was; and I do not 
understand why it was spoken of at all. A mystery 
is a riddle, and the charity of the world will always 
give such a riddle the worst possible solution. 

An affray in the streets of Pisa was a more serious 
and perilous reality. Shelley was riding outside the 
gates of Pisa with Lord Byron, Mr. Trelawny, and 
some other Englishmen, when a dragoon dashed 
through their party in an insolent manner. Lord 
Byron called him to account. A scuffle ensued, in 
which the dragoon knocked Shelley off his horse, 
wounded Captain Hay in the hand, and was danger- 
ously wounded himself by one of Lord Byron's 
servants. The dragoon recovered ; Lord Byron left 
Pisa ; and so ended an affair which might have had 
very disastrous results. 

Under present circumstances the following passage 
in a letter which he wrote to me from Pisa, dated 
March, 1820, will be read with interest : — 

6 1 have a motto on a ring in Italian : " 77 buon tempo 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 77 

verra." There is a tide both in public and in private 
affairs which awaits both men and nations. 

( l have no news from Italy. We live here under 
a nominal tyranny, administered according to the philo- 
sophic laws of Leopold, and the mild opinions which are 
the fashion here. Tuscany is unlike all the other Italian 
States in this respect.' 

Shelley's last residence was a villa on the Bay of 
Spezzia. Of this villa Mr. Trelawny has given a view. 

Amongst the new friends whom he had made to 
himself in Italy were Captain and Mrs. Williams. To 
these, both himself and Mrs. Shelley were extremely 
attached. Captain Williams was fond of boating, 
and furnished a model for a small sailing vessel, 
which he persisted in adopting against the protest of 
the Genoese builder and of their friend Captain 
Roberts, who superintended her construction. She 
was called the Don Juan. It took two tons of iron 
ballast to bring her down to her bearings, and even 
then she was very crank in a breeze. Mr. Trelawny 
dispatched her from Genoa under the charge of two 
steady seamen and a boy named Charles Vivian. 
Shelley retained the boy and sent back the two 
sailors. They told Mr. Trelawny that she was 
a ticklish boat to manage, but had sailed and worked 
well, and that they had cautioned the gentlemen 
accordingly. 

It is clear from Mr. Trelawny's account of a trip 
he had with them, that the only good sailor on board 
was the boy. They contrived to jam the mainsheet 
and to put the tiller starboard instead of port. ' If 
there had been a squall,' he said, ' we should have had 
to swim for it/ 

1 Not I,' said Shelley ; 1 I should have gone down 
with the rest of the pigs at the bottom of the boat,' 
meaning the iron pig-ballast. 



78 MEMOIRS OF 

In the meantime, at the instance of Shelley, Lord 
Byron had concurred in inviting Mr. Leigh Hunt and 
his family to Italy. They were to co-operate in 
a new quarterly journal, to which it was expected 
that the name of Byron would ensure an immediate 
and extensive circulation. This was the unfortunate 
Liberal, a title furnished by Lord Byron, of which 
four numbers were subsequently published. It proved 
a signal failure, for which there were many causes; 
but I do not think that any name or names could 
have buoyed it up against the dead weight of its title 
alone. A literary periodical should have a neutral 
name, and leave its character to be developed in 
its progress. A journal might be pre-eminently, 
on one side or the other, either aristocratical or 
democratical in its tone; but to call it the ' Aristocrat 1 
or the ' Democrat ' would be fatal to it. 

Leigh Hunt arrived in Italy with his family on 
the 14th of June, 1822, in time to see his friend 
once and no more. 

Shelley was at that time writing a poem called the 
Triumph of Life. The composition of this poem, 
the perpetual presence of the sea, and other causes 
(among which I do not concur with Lady Shelley in 
placing the solitude of his seaside residence, for his 
life there was less solitary than it had almost ever 
been), 

contributed to plunge the mind of Shelley into a state 
of morbid excitement, the result of which was a tendency 
to see visions. One night loud cries were heard issuing 
from the saloon. The Williamses rushed out of their 
room in alarm ; Mrs. Shelley also endeavoured to reach 
the spot, but fainted at the door. Entering the saloon, 
the Williamses found Shelley staring horribly into the 
air, and evidently in a trance. They waked him, and 
he related that a figure wrapped in a mantle came to 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 79 

his bedside and beckoned him. He must then have 
risen in his sleep, for he followed the imaginary figure 
into the saloon, when it lifted the hood of its mantle, 
ejaculated ' Siete sodisfatto ? ' ■ and vanished. The 
dream is said to have been suggested by an incident 
occurring in a drama attributed to Calderon. 

Another vision appeared to Shelley on the evening 
of May 6th, when he and Williams were walking 
together on the terrace. The story is thus recorded 
by the latter in his diary : — 

Fine. Some heavy drops of rain fell without a cloud 
being visible. After tea, while walking with Shelley on 
the terrace, and observing the effect of moonshine on 
the waters, he complained of being unusually nervous, 
and, stopping short, he grasped me violently by the 
arm, and stared steadfastly on the white surf that broke 
upon the beach under our feet. Observing him sensibly 
affected, I demanded of him if he was in pain ; but he 
only answered by saying ' There it is again ! there ! ' 
He recovered after some time, and declared that he 
saw, as plainly as he then saw me, a naked child ( Allegra, 
who had recently died) rise from the sea, and clasp its 
hands as if in joy, smiling at him. This was a trance 
that it required some reasoning and philosophy entirely 
to wake him from, so forcibly had the vision operated 
on his mind. Our conversation, which had been at first 
rather melancholy, led to this, and my confirming his 
sensations by confessing that I had felt the same, gave 
greater activity to his ever- wandering and lively imagina- 
tion. — Shelley Memorials, pp. 191-3. 2 

On the afternoon of the 8th of July, 1822, after 

1 Are you satisfied ? 

2 The whole of the foregoing extract, from * contributed ' to 
1 imagination ', including the sentences printed in Fraser's 
Magazine as a connecting link of Peacock's, forms one continuous 
passage in the Shelley Memorials. 



80 MEMOIRS OF 

an absence of some days from home, Shelley and 
Williams set sail from Leghorn for their home on the 
Gulf of Spezzia. Trelawny watched them from Lord 
Byron's vessel, the Bolivar. The day was hot and 
calm. Trelawny said to his Genoese mate, 'They 
will soon have the land breeze."' g May be,' said the 
mate, ' they 1 will soon have too much breeze. That 
gaff-topsail is foolish, in a boat with no deck and no 
sailor on board. Look at those black lines, and the 
dirty rags hanging under 2 them out of the sky. 3 
Look at the smoke on the water. The devil is brew- 
ing mischief. ' Shelley's boat disappeared in a fog. 

Although the sun was obscured by mists, it was op- 
pressively sultry. There was not a breath of air in the 
harbour. The heaviness of the atmosphere, and an 
unwonted stillness benumbed my senses. I went down 
into the cabin and sank into a slumber. I was roused 
up by a noise over-head and went on deck. The men 
were getting up a chain cable to let go another anchor. 
There was a general stir amongst the shipping ; shifting 
berths, getting down yards and masts, veering out cables, 
hauling in of hawsers, letting go anchors, hailing from 
the ships and quays, boats scudding 4 rapidly to and fro. 
It was almost dark, although only half-past six o'clock. 
The sea was of the colour, and looked as solid and 
smooth as a sheet of lead, and covered with an oily 
scum. Gusts of wind swept over without ruffling it, and 
big drops of rain fell on its surface, rebounding, as if they 
could not penetrate it. There was a commotion in the 
air, made up of many threatening sounds, coming upon 
us from the sea. Fishing-craft and coasting-vessels 
under bare poles rushed by us in shoals, running foul 
of the ships in the harbour. As yet the din and 

1 Trelawny : 4 she ' not * they \ 

2 Trelawny : 4 on ' not * under \ 

3 Peacock omits Trelawny's ' they are a warning after * sky \ 

4 Trelawny : ' sculling ' not * scudding \ 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 81 

hubbub was that made by men, but their shrill pipings 
were suddenly silenced by the crashing voice of a 
thunder-squall that burst right over our heads. For 
some time no other sounds were to be heard than the 
thunder, wind and rain. When the fury of the storm, 
which did not last for more than twenty minutes, had 
abated, and the horizon was in some degree cleared, 
I looked to seaward anxiously, in the hope of descrying 
Shelley's boat amongst the many small craft scattered 
about. I watched every speck that loomed on the 
horizon, thinking that they would have borne up on 
their return to the port, as all the other boats that had 
gone out in the same direction had done. — Trelawny, 
pp. 116-18. 

Mrs. Shelley and Mrs. Williams passed some days 
in dreadful suspense. Mrs. Shelley, unable to endure 
it longer, proceeded to Pisa, and rushing into Lord 
Byron's room with a face of marble, asked passion- 
ately, 'Where is my husband?' Lord Byron afterwards 
said, he had never seen anything in dramatic tragedy 
to equal the terror of Mrs. Shelley's appearance on 
that day. 

At length the worst was known. The bodies of 
the two friends and the boy were washed on shore. 
That of the boy was buried in the sand. That of 
Captain Williams was burned on the 15th of August. 
The ashes were collected and sent to England for 
interment. The next day the same ceremony was 
performed for Shelley ; and his remains were collected 
to be interred, as they subsequently were, in the 
Protestant cemetery at Rome. Lord Byron and Mr. 
Leigh Hunt were present on both occasions. Mr. 
Trelawny conducted all the proceedings, as he had 
conducted all the previous search. Herein, and in 
the whole of his subsequent conduct towards Mrs. 
Shelley, he proved himself, as I have already observed, 



82 MEMOIRS OF 

a true and indefatigable friend. In a letter which 
she wrote to me, dated Genoa, Sept. 29th, 1822, she 
said : — 

'Trelawny is the only quite disinterested friend I 
have here ; the only one who clings to the memory of my 
loved ones as I do myself; but he, alas ! is not ' one of 
them, though he is really kind and good.' 

The boat was subsequently recovered ; the state in 
which everything was found in her, showed that she 
had not capsized. Captain Roberts first thought 
that she had been swamped by a heavy sea ; but on 
closer examination, finding many of the timbers on 
the starboard quarter broken, he thought it certain 
that she must have been run down by a felucca in 
the squall. 

I think the first conjecture the most probable. 
Her masts were gone, and her bowsprit broken. 
Mr. Trelawny had previously dispatched two large 
feluccas with ground-tackling to drag for her. This 
was done for five or six days. They succeeded in 
finding her, but failed in getting her up. The task 
was accomplished by Captain Roberts. The specified 
damage to such a fragile craft was more likely to 
have been done by the dredging apparatus, than by 
collision with a felucca. 

So perished Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the flower of 
his age, and not perhaps even yet in the full flower 
of his genius ; a genius unsurpassed in the description 
and imagination of scenes of beauty and grandeur ; 
in the expression of impassioned love of ideal beauty ; 
in the illustration of deep feeling by congenial 
imagery ; and in the infinite variety of harmonious 

1 It is notable that in Peacock's longer citation of this letter 
(p. 215) he prints ' not as one of them ' — a much more probable 
reading. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 83 

versification. What was, in my opinion, deficient in 
his poetry, was, as I have already said, the want of 
reality in the characters with which he peopled his 
splendid scenes, and to which he addressed or imparted 
the utterance of his impassioned feelings. He was 
advancing, I think, to the attainment of this reality. 
It would have given to his poetry the only element 
of truth which it wanted ; though at the same time, 
the more clear development of what men were would 
have lowered his estimate of what they might be, and 
dimmed his enthusiastic prospect of the future des- 
tiny of the world. I can conceive him, if he had lived 
to the present time, passing his days like Volney, 
looking on the world from his windows without taking 
part in its turmoils ; and perhaps like the same, or 
some other great apostle of liberty (for I cannot at 
this moment verify the quotation), desiring that 
nothing should be inscribed on his tomb, but his 
name, the dates of his birth and death, and the 
single word, 

1 DESILLUSIONNE.' 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTICE 

In MacmillarCs Magazine for June, 1860, there 
is an article entitled * Shelley in Pall Mall; by 
Richard Garnett', which contains the following 



Much has been written about Shelley during the last 
three or four years, and the store of materials for his 
biography has been augmented by many particulars, 
some authentic and valuable, others trivial or mythical, 
or founded on mistakes or misrepresentations. It does 
t G % 



84 MEMOIRS OF 

not strictly fall within the scope of this paper to notice 
any of these, but some of the latter class are calculated 
to modify so injuriously what has hitherto been the 
prevalent estimate of Shelley's character, and, while 
entirely unfounded, are yet open to correction from the 
better knowledge of so few, that it would be inexcusable 
to omit an opportunity of comment which only chance 
has presented, and which may not speedily recur. It 
will be readily perceived that the allusion is to the 
statements respecting Shelley's separation from his first 
wife, published by Mr. T. L. Peacock, in Frasers 
Magazine for January last. According to these, the 
transaction was not preceded by long-continued un- 
happiness, neither was it an amicable agreement effected 
in virtue of a mutual understanding. The time cannot 
be distant when these assertions must be refuted by 
the publication of documents hitherto withheld, and 
Shelley's family have doubted whether it be worth 
while to anticipate it. Pending their decision, I may 
be allowed to state most explicitly that the evidence 
to which they would in such a case appeal, and 
to the nature of which I feel fully competent to 
speak, most decidedly contradicts the allegations of 
Mr. Peacock. 

A few facts in the order of time will show, I will 
not say the extreme improbability, but the absolute 
impossibility, of Shelley's family being in possession 
of any such documents as are here alleged to exist. 

In August, 1811, Shelley married Harriet West- 
brook in Scotland. 

On the 24th of March, 1814, he married her a 
second time in the Church of England, according 
to the marriage certificate printed in my article of 
January, 1860. This second marriage could scarcely 
have formed an incident in a series of 4 long-continued 
unhappiness \ 

In the beginning of April, 1814, Shelley and 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 85 

Harriet were together on a visit to Mrs. B., 1 at 
Bracknell. This lady and her family were of the 
few who constituted Shelley's most intimate friends. 
On the 18th of April, she wrote to Mr. Hogg : — 
4 Shelley is again a widower. His beauteous half 
went to town on Thursday with Miss Westbrook, 
who is gone to live, I believe, at Southampton. 2 

Up to this time, therefore, at least, Shelley and 
Harriet were together; and Mrs. B.'s letter shows 
that she had no idea of estrangement between them, 
still less of permanent separation. 

I said in my article of January, 1860 : * There 
was no estrangement, no shadow of a thought of 
separation, till Shelley became acquainted, not long 
after the second marriage, with the lady who was 
subsequently his second wife.'' 

When Shelley first saw this lady, she had just 
returned from a visit to some friends in Scotland; 
and when Mr. Hogg first saw her, she wore \ a frock 
of tartan, an unusual dress in London at that time \ 3 
She could not have been long returned. 

Mr. Hogg saw Mary Godwin for the first time on 
the first day of Lord Cochrane's trial. This was 
the 8th of June, 1814. He went with Shelley to 
Mr. Godwin's. < We entered a room on the first floor. 
. . . William Godwin was not at home. . . . The 
door was partially and softly opened. A thrilling 
voice called " Shelley ! f A thrilling voice answered 
" Mary ! " And he darted out of the room like an 
arrow from the bow of the far-shooting king.' 3 

Shelley's acquaintance with Miss Godwin must, 
therefore, have begun between the 18th of April 
and the 8th of June ; much nearer, I apprehend, to 

1 Mrs. De Boinville. 

2 Hogg's Life of Shelley, vol. ii, p. 533. [T. L. P.] 

3 Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 537-8. [T. L. P.] 



86 MEMOIRS OF 

the latter than the former, but I cannot verify the 
precise date. 

On the 7th of July, 1814, Harriet wrote to a 
mutual friend, still living, a letter in which ' she 
expressed a confident belief that he must know 
where Shelley was, and entreating his assistance to 
induce him to return home '. She was not even then 
aware that Shelley had finally left her. / 

On the 28th of the same month, Shelley and Miss 
Godwin left England for Switzerland. 

The interval between the Scotch and English 
marriages was two years and seven months. The 
interval between the second marrriage and the 
departure for Switzerland, was four months and 
four days. In the estimate of probabilities, the 
space for voluntary separation is reduced by 
Mrs. B.'s letter of April 18, to three months and 
thirteen days ; and by Harriet's letter of July 7, 
to twenty-one days. If, therefore, Shelley's family 
have any document which demonstrates Harriet's 
consent to the separation, it must prove the consent 
to have been given on one of these twenty-one days. 
I know, by my subsequent conversation with Harriet, 
of which the substance was given in my article of 
January, 1860, that she was not a consenting party ; 
but as I have only my own evidence to that con- 
versation, Mr. Garnett may choose not to believe 
me. Still, on other evidence than mine, there remain 
no more than three weeks within which, if at all, 
the * amicable agreement ' must have been concluded. 

But again, if Shelley's family had any conclusive 
evidence on the subject, they must have had some 
clear idea of the date of the separation, and of the 
circumstances preceding it. That they had not, is 
manifest from Lady Shelley's statement, that ' towards 
the close of 1813, estrangements, which for some time 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 87 

had been slowly growing between Mr. and Mrs. 
Shelley, came to a crisis: separation ensued, and 
she x returned to her father's house.'' 2 Lady Shelley 
could not have written thus if she had known the 
date of the second marriage, or had even adverted 
to the letter of the 18th of April, 1814, which had 
been published by Mr. Hogg long before the pro- 
duction of her own volume. 

I wrote the preceding note immediately after the 
appearance of Mr. Garnett's article ; but I postponed 
its publication, in the hope of obtaining copies of 
the letters which were laid before Lord Eldon in 
1817. These were nine letters from Shelley to 
Harriet, and one from Shelley to Miss Westbrook 
after Harriet's death. These letters were not filed ; 
but they are thus alluded to in Miss Westbrook's 
affidavit, dated 10th January, 1817, of which I have 
procured a copy from the Record Office : — 

Elizabeth Westbrook, of Chapel Street, Grosvenor 
Square, in the parish of Saint George, Hanover Square, 
in the county of Middlesex, spinster, maketh oath and 
saith, that she knows and is well acquainted with the 
handwriting of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Esquire, one of 
the defendants in this cause, having frequently seen 
him write ; and this deponent saith that she hath 
looked upon certain paper writings now produced, 
and shown to her at the time of swearing this her 
affidavit, and marked respectively 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 
7, 8, 9 ; and this deponent saith that the female 
mentioned or referred to in the said letters, marked 
respectively 2, 4, 6, 9, under the name or designation 
of ' Mary ', and in the said other letters by the character 
or description of the person with whom the said 
defendant had connected or associated himself, is Mary 

1 Shelley Memorials : ' Mrs. Shelley returned. 
a Shelley Memorials, pp. 64 5. [T. L. P.] 



88 MEMOIRS OF 

Godwin, in the pleadings of this cause named, whom 
the said defendant, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in the life- 
time of his said wife, and in or about the middle of 
the year 1814, took to cohabit with him, and hath ever 
since continued to cohabit, and still doth cohabit with ; 
and this deponent saith that she hath looked upon a 
certain other paper writing, produced and shown to this 
deponent now at the time of swearing this her affidavit, 
and marked 1 ; and this deponent saith that the 
same paper writing is of the handwriting of the said 
defendant, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and was addressed by 
him to this deponent, since the decease of her said sister, 
the late wife of the said Percy Bysshe Shelley. And 
this deponent saith that the person referred to in the 
said last mentioned letter as ( the Lady whose union with 
the said defendant this deponent might excusably regard as 
the cause of her Sisters Ruin', is also the said Mary 
Godwin. 

The rest of the affidavit relates to Queen Mab. 

The words marked in italics could not possibly 
have been written by Shelley, if his connexion with 
Miss Godwin had not been formed till after a 
separation from Harriet by mutual consent. 

In a second affidavit, dated 13th January, 1817, 
Miss Westbrook stated in substance the circum- 
stances of the marriage, and that two children were 
the issue of it : that after the birth of the first 
child, Eliza Ianthe, and while her sister was pregnant 
with the second, Charles Bysshe, Percy Bysshe 
Shelley deserted his said wife, and cohabited with 
Mary Godwin; and thereupon Harriet returned to 
the house of her father, with her eldest child, and 
soon afterwards the youngest child was born there ; 
that the children had always remained under the 
protection of Harriet's father, and that Harriet 
herself had resided under the same protection until 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 89 

a short time previous to her death in December, 
1816. It must be obvious that this statement could 
not have been made if the letters previously referred 
to had not borne it out ; if, in short, they had not 
demonstrated, first, that the separation was not by 
mutual consent ; and secondly, that it followed, not 
preceded, Shelley's first acquaintance with Mary 
Godwin. The rest of the affidavit related to the 
provision which Mr. Westbrook had made for the 
children. 

Harriet suffered enough in her life to deserve that 
her memory should be respected. I have always 
said to all whom it might concern, that I would 
defend her, to the best of my ability, against all 
misrepresentations. Such are not necessary to 
Shelley's vindication. That is best permitted to 
rest, as I have already observed, on the grounds on 
which it was placed by himself. 1 

The Quarterly Review for October, 1861, has an 
article on Shelley's life and character, written in a tone 
of great fairness and impartiality, with an evident 
painstaking to weigh evidence and ascertain truth. 
There are two passages in the article, on which 
I wish to offer remarks, with reference solely to 
matters of fact. 

Shelley's hallucinations, though not to be confounded 
with what is usually called insanity, are certainly not 
compatible with perfect soundness of mind. They 
were the result of an excessive sensibility, which, only 
a little more severely strained, would have overturned 
reason altogether. It has been said that the horror of 
his wife's death produced some such effect, and that for 
a time at least he was actually insane. Lady Shelley 

1 Fraser's Magazine, January, 1860, p. 102. [T.L.P.] [See 
p. 65 of this volume.] 



90 MEMOIRS OF 

says nothing about this, and we have no explicit 
statement of the fact by any authoritative biographer. 
But it is not in itself improbable. — p. 323. j 

It was not so, however. He had at that time 
taken his house at Marlow, where I was then living. 
He was residing in Bath, and I was looking after 
the fitting-up of the house and the laying out of 
the grounds. I had almost daily letters from him 
or Mary. He was the first to tell me of Harriet's 
death, asking whether I thought it would become 
him to interpose any delay before marrying Mary. 
I gave him my opinion that, as they were living 
together, the sooner they legalized their connexion 
the better. He acted on this opinion, and shortly 
after his marriage he came to me at Marlow. We 
went together to see the progress of his house and 
grounds. I recollect a little scene which took place 
on this occasion. There was on the lawn a very fine 
old wide- spreading holly. The gardener had cut it 
up into a bare pole, selling the lop for Christmas 
decorations. As soon as Shelley saw it, he asked 
the gardener, i What had possessed him to ruin that 
beautiful tree ? ' The gardener said, he thought he 
had improved its appearance. Shelley said : * It is 
impossible that you can be such a fool.' The culprit 
stood twiddling his thumbs along the seams of his 
trousers, receiving a fulminating denunciation, which 

1 This extract begins with the second sentence of a paragraph 
that extends for two pages of the Quarterly Review. It opens 
as follows : — 

1 The man,' says Coleridge, ' who mistakes his thoughts for 
persons and things is mad.' And Shelley's hallucinations, [&c. 
as above] . . . improbable, and there are not wanting in his own 
writings indication of such a calamity. We cannot tell how much 
of the description of the maniac in ■ Julian and Maddalo ' may 
not be taken from the history of his own mind. There are other 
poems which suggest the same observation. 



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 91 

ended in his peremptory dismissal. A better man was 
engaged, with several assistants, to make an extensive 
plantation of shrubs. Shelley stayed with me two 
or three days. I never saw him more calm and self- 
possessed. Nothing disturbed his serenity but the 
unfortunate holly. Subsequently, the feeling for 
Harriet's death grew into a deep and abiding sorrow : 
but it was not in the beginning that it was felt 
most strongly. 

It is not merely as a work of art that the Revolt of 
Islam must be considered. It had made its first ap- 
pearance under the title of Laon and Cythna, but Laoti 
and Cythna was still more outspoken as to certain 
matters than the Revolt of Islam, and was almost 
immediately withdrawn from circulation, to appear * with 
alterations 4 under its present name. There is something 
not quite worthy of Shelley in this transaction. On 
the one hand, merely prudential reasons, mere dread 
of public indignation, ought not to have induced him to 
conceal opinions 2 which for the interest of humanity he 
thought it his duty to promulgate. But those who 
knew most of Shelley will be least inclined to attribute 
to him such a motive as this. On the other hand, if 
good feeling induced him to abstain from printing what 
he knew must be painful 3 to the great majority of his 
countrymen, the second version should have been sup- 
pressed as well as the first. — pp. 314-15. 

Shelley was not influenced by either of the 
motives supposed. Mr. Oilier positively refused to 
publish the poem as it was, and Shelley had no hope 
of another publisher. He for a long time refused to 
alter a line : but his friends finally prevailed on him 

1 Quarterly Review : * reappear \ 

2 Ibid. : * opinions which he believed that, for the sake of 
humanity, it was his bounden duty at all risks to promulgate \ 

3 Ibid. : * painful and shocking to '. 



92 MEMOIRS 

to submit. Still he could not, or would not, sit 
down by himself to alter it, and the whole of the 
alterations were actually made in successive sittings 
of what I may call a literary committee. He con- 
tested the proposed alterations step by step : in the 
end, sometimes adopting, more frequently modifying, 
never originating, and always insisting that his 
poem was spoiled. 



LETTERS OF SHELLEY 
TO PEACOCK 

Shelley wrote to me many letters from Italy — scarcely 
less than fifty. Of these, thirteen were published by 
Mrs. Shelley, and I now publish seventeen more. These 
are all I can find, and are perhaps all that contain any- 
thing of general interest. 

I have from time to time thought of printing these 
letters, but I have always hesitated between two op- 
posite disinclinations — on the one hand to omit the 
passages which show my friend's kind feelings towards 
me, and on the other, to bring myself personally before 
the public. But as these passages, especially those 
relating to Nightmare Abbey (in which he took to him- 
self the character of Scythrop), are really illustrative of 
his affectionate, candid, and ingenuous character, I have 
finally determined not to suppress them. 

We were for some time in the habit of numbering 
our letters. The two first in the following series were 
numbered 6 and 7, and the third 16. Of the letters 
preceding No. 6, Mrs. Shelley published four; and of 
those between Nos. 7 and 16 she published six, leaving 
a deficiency of three, of which I can give no account. 
No. 16 was the last numbered letter, so that I have no 
clue to my subsequent losses. 

In his letter to me from Naples, dated January 26th, 
1819 (published by Mrs. Shelley), he said: — 'In my 
accounts of pictures and things, I am more pleased to 
interest you than the many ; and this is fortunate, 
because in the first place I have no idea of attempting 
the latter, and if I did attempt it, I should assuredly 
fail. * A perception of the beautiful characterizes those 
who differ from ordinary men, and those who can 



94 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

perceive it would not buy enough to pay the printer. 
Besides, I keep no journal, and the only records of my 
voyage will be the letters I send you.' 

The letter from Naples, dated February 25th, 1819, is 
the last I can find unpublished ; and that from Rome, 
June 5th, 1819, published by Mrs. Shelley, was probably 
the last of his beautiful descriptive letters to me. 

Of the cessation of his wanderings, and consequently 
of his descriptions, I have spoken in my last paper. 
There is something to the point in one of the following 
letters: 'Livorno, June, 1819- — I do not as usual send 
you an account of my journey, for I had neither the 
health nor the spirit to take notes.' 

[The preceding paragraphs form Peacock's introduc- 
tion to the sixteen letters, or portions of letters, which he 
published in Frasers Magazine for March, 1 860. Letter 
27, of which he had already used the more important part 
in the Memoirs, he merely referred to, and did not print ; 
but presumably he counted it as his seventeenth. 

It will be noticed that he speaks of a total number of 
thirty letters, while the present edition contains thirty- 
four — all that are known to exist. Of the remaining 
four, two (Nos. 2 and 4) had been published separately 
by Shelley in 1817, with Mrs. Shelley's History of a Six 
Weeks' Tour through France, Switzerland, Germany and 
Holland ; and two more (Nos. 1 and 3) are portions of 
letters which were also sent to Peacock during Shelley's 
second visit to Switzerland. These last form the 
'some very little original matter, curiously obtained' 
which Peacock mentions, early in the first part of the 
Memoirs, as figuring in Middleton's Shelley and his 
Writings. How Middleton procured them is explained 
in the second part of the Memoirs, page 59 of this 
edition. The letters which Peacock speaks of above 
as having been numbered 6, 7, and 16 in Shelley's corre- 
spondence with him, are respectively Nos. 9, 10 and 17 
of this edition.] 



TO PEACOCK 95 

LETTER 1 

Hotel de Secheron, Geneva, May 15th, 1816. 

After a journey of ten days, we arrived at Geneva. 
The journey, like that of life, was variegated with 
intermingled rain and sunshine, though these many 
showers were to me, as you know, April showers, 
quickly passing away, and foretelling the calm bright- 
ness of summer. 

The journey was in some respects exceedingly delight- 
ful, but the prudential considerations arising out of the 
necessity of preventing delay, and the continual attention 
to pecuniary disbursements, detract terribly from the 
pleasure of all travelling schemes. 

You live by the shores of a tranquil stream, among 
low and woody hills. You live in a free country, where 
you may act without restraint, and possess that which 
you possess in security ; and so long as the name of 
country and the selfish conceptions it includes shall 
subsist, England, I am persuaded, is the most free and 
the most refined. 

Perhaps you have chosen wisely, but if I return and 
follow your example, it will be no subject of regret to 
me that I have seen other things. Surely there is much 
of bad and much of good, there is much to disgust and 
much to elevate, which he cannot have felt or known 
who has never passed the limits of his native land. 

So long as man is such as he now is, the experience 
of which I speak will never teach him to despise the 
country of his birth — far otherwise, like Wordsworth, 
he will never know what love subsists between that 
and him until absence shall have made its beauty more 
heartfelt ; our poets and our philosophers, our mountains 
and our lakes, the rural lanes and fields which are so 
especially our own, are ties which, until I become utterly 
senseless, can never be broken asunder. 

These, and the memory of them, if I never should 



96 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

return, these and the affections of the mind, with which, 
having been once united, [they] l are inseparable, will 
make the name of England dear to me for ever, even 
if I should permanently return to it no more. 

But I suppose you did not pay the postage of this, 
expecting nothing but sentimental gossip, and I fear it 
will be long before I play the tourist properly. I will, 
however, tell you that to come to Geneva we crossed 
the Jura branch of the Alps. 

The mere difficulties of horses, high bills, postilions, 
and cheating, lying aubergistes, you can easily conceive ; 
fill up that part of the picture according to your own 
experience, and it cannot fail to resemble. 

The mountains of Jura exhibit scenery of wonderful 
sublimity. Pine forests of impenetrable thickness, 
and untrodden, nay, inaccessible expanse, spreading on 
every side. Sometimes, descending, they follow the 
route into the valleys, clothing the precipitous rocks, 
and struggling with knotted roots between the most 
barren clefts. Sometimes the road winds high into the 
regions of frost, and there these forests become scattered, 
and loaded with snow. 

The trees in these regions are incredibly large, and 
stand in scattered clumps over the white wilderness. 
Never was scene more utterly desolate than that which 
we passed on the evening of our last day's journey. 

The natural silence of that uninhabited desert con- 
trasted strangely with the voices of the people who 
conducted us, for it was necessary in this part of the 
mountain to take a number of persons, who should assist 
the horses to force the chaise through the snow, and 
prevent it from falling down the precipice. 

We are now at Geneva, where, or in the neighbour- 
hood, we shall remain probably until the autumn. I 
may return in a fortnight or three weeks, to attend to 

1 Mr. Buxton Forman suggests 'we ' before ■ are \ which is 
without a subject in Middleton's text ; I follow Rhys, however, 
in the opinion that ' they ! is the word omitted. 



TO PEACOCK 97 

the last exertions which L l is to make for the 

settlement of my affairs ; of course I shall then see 
you ; in the meantime it will interest me to hear all 
that you have to tell of yourself. 



P. B. Shelley. 



LETTER 2 



MEILLERIE, CLARENS, CHILLON, VEVAI, LAUSANNE. 

Montalegre, near Coligni, Geneva, July 12th, [181 6.] 

It is nearly a fortnight since I have returned 
from Vevai. This journey has been on every account 
delightful, but most especially, because then I first knew 
the divine beauty of Rousseau's imagination, as it exhibits 
itself in Julie. It is inconceivable what an enchantment 
the scene itself lends to those delineations, from which 
its own most touching charm arises. But I will give you 
an abstract of our voyage, which lasted eight days, and 
if you have a map of Switzerland, you can follow me. 

We left Montalegre at half-past two on the 23rd of 
June. The lake was calm, and after three hours of 
rowing we arrived at Hermance, a beautiful little 
village, containing a ruined tower, built, the villagers 
say, by Julius Caesar. There were three other towers 
similar to it, which the Genevese destroyed for their 
own fortifications in 1560. We got into the tower by a 
kind of window. The walls are immensely solid, and 
the stone of which it is built so hard, that it yet retained 
the mark of chisels. The boatmen said, that this tower 
was once three times higher than it is now. There are 
two staircases in the thickness of the walls, one of which 
is entirely demolished, and the other half ruined, and 
only accessible by a ladder. The town itself, now an 
inconsiderable village inhabited by a few fishermen, was 
built by a queen of Burgundy, and reduced to its present 
state by the inhabitants of Berne, who burnt and ravaged 
everything they could find. 

1 Longdill, Shelley's solicitor, I presume. [H. B. F.] 



98 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Leaving Hermance, we arrived at sunset at the 
village of Nerni. After looking at our lodgings, which 
were gloomy and dirty, we walked out by the side of the 
lake. It was beautiful to see the vast expanse of these 
purple and misty waters broken by the craggy islets near 
to its slant and ' beached margin*. There were many 
fish sporting in the lake, and multitudes were collected 
close to the rocks to catch the flies which inhabited them. 

On returning to the village, we sat on a wall beside 
the lake, looking at some children who were playing at 
a game like ninepins. The children here appeared in 
an extraordinary way deformed and diseased. Most of 
them were crooked, and with enlarged throats ; but one 
little boy had such exquisite grace in his mien and 
motions, as I never before saw equalled in a child. 
His countenance was beautiful for the expression with 
which it overflowed. There was a mixture of pride and 
gentleness in his eyes and lips, the indications of 
sensibility, which his education will probably pervert 
to misery or seduce to crime ; but there was more of 
gentleness than of pride, and it seemed that the pride 
was tamed from its original wildness by the habitual 
exercise of milder feelings. My companion gave him a 
piece of money, which he took without speaking, with 
a sweet smile of easy thankfulness, and then with an 
unembarrassed air turned to his play. All this might 
scarcely be ; but the imagination surely could not 
forbear to breathe into the most inanimate forms, some 
likeness of its own visions, on such a serene and glowing 
evening, in this remote and romantic village, beside the 
calm lake that bore us hither. 

On returning to our inn, we found that the servant 
had arranged our rooms, and deprived them of the 
greater portion of their former disconsolate appearance. 
They reminded my companion of Greece : it was five 
years, he said, since he had slept in such beds. The 
influence of the recollections excited by this circumstance 
on our conversation gradually faded, and I retired to 
rest with no unpleasant sensations, thinking of our 



TO PEACOCK 99 

journey to-morrow, and of the pleasure of recounting 
the little adventures of it when we return. 

The next morning we passed Y voire, a scattered 
village with an ancient castle, whose houses are inter- 
spersed with trees, and which stands at a little distance 
from Nerni, on the promontory which bounds a deep 
bay, some miles in extent. So soon as we arrived at 
this promontory, the lake began to assume an aspect of 
wilder magnificence. The mountains of Savoy, whose 
summits were bright with snow, descended in broken 
slopes to the lake : on high, the rocks were dark with 
pine forests, which become deeper and more immense, 
until the ice and snow mingle with the points of naked 
rock that pierce the blue air ; but below, groves of 
walnut, chestnut, and oak, with openings of lawny fields, 
attested the milder climate. 

As soon as we had passed the opposite promontory, 
we saw the river Drance, which descends from between 
a chasm in the mountains, and makes a plain near the 
lake, intersected by its divided streams. Thousands of 
besolets, beautiful water-birds, like sea-gulls, but smaller, 
with purple on their backs, take their station on the 
shallows where its waters mingle with the lake. As 
we approached Evian, the mountains descended more 
precipitously to the lake, and masses of intermingled 
wood and rock overhung its shining spire. 

We arrived at this town about seven o'clock, after 
a day which involved more rapid changes of atmosphere 
than I ever recollect to have observed before. The 
morning was cold and wet ; then an easterly wind, and the 
clouds hard and high ; then thunder showers, and wind 
shifting to every quarter ; then a warm blast from the 
south, and summer clouds hanging over the peaks, with 
bright blue sky between. About half an hour after we had 
arrived at Evian, a few flashes of lightning came from a 
dark cloud, directly overhead, and continued after the 
cloud had dispersed. ' Diespiter per pura tonantes egit 
equos :' a phenomenon which certainly had no influence on 
me, corresponding with that which it produced on Horace. 
H 2 



100 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

The appearance of the inhabitants of Evian is more 
wretched, diseased and poor, than I ever recollect to 
have seen. The contrast indeed between the subjects of 
the King of Sardinia and the citizens of the independent 
republics of Switzerland, affords a powerful illustration 
of the blighting mischiefs of despotism, within the space 
of a few miles. They have mineral waters here, eaux 
savonnenses, they call them. In the evening we had 
some difficulty about our passports, but so soon as the 
syndic heard my companion's rank and name, he apolo- 
gized for the circumstance. The inn was good. During 
our voyage, on the distant height of a hill, covered with 
pine-forests, we saw a ruined castle, which reminded 
me of those on the Rhine. 

We left Evian on the following morning, with a wind 
of such violence as to permit but one sail to be carried. 
The waves also were exceedingly high, and our boat so 
heavily laden, that there appeared to be some danger. 
We arrived, however, safe at Meillerie, after passing with 
great speed mighty forests which overhung the lake, 
and lawns of exquisite verdure, and mountains with bare 
and icy points, which rose immediately from the summit 
of the rocks, whose bases were echoing to the waves. 

We here heard that the Empress Maria Louisa had 
slept at Meillerie — before the present inn was built, 
and when the accommodations were those of the most 
wretched village — in remembrance of St. Preux. How 
beautiful it is to find that the common sentiments of 
human nature can attach themselves to those who are 
the most removed from its duties and its enjoyments, 
when Genius pleads for their admission at the gate of 
Power. To own them was becoming in the Empress, 
and confirms the affectionate praise contained in the 
regret of a great and enlightened nation. A Bourbon 
dared not even to have remembered Rousseau. She 
owed this power to that democracy which her husband's 
dynasty outraged, and of which it was, however, in some 
sort, the representative among the nations of the earth. 
This little incident shows at once how unfit and how 



TO PEACOCK 101 

impossible it is for the ancient system of opinions, or for 
any power built upon a conspiracy to revive them, 
permanently to subsist among mankind. We dined 
there, and had some honey, the best I have ever tasted, 
the very essence of the mountain flowers, and as fragrant. 
Probably the village derives its name from this produc- 
tion. Meillerie is the well-known scene of St. Preux's 
visionary exile ; but Meillerie is indeed enchanted 
ground, were Rousseau no magician. Groves of pine, 
chestnut, and walnut overshadow it ; magnificent and 
unbounded forests to which England affords no parallel. 
In the midst of these woods are dells of lawny expanse, 
inconceivably verdant, adorned with a thousand of the 
rarest flowers, and odorous with thyme. 

The lake appeared somewhat calmer as we left 
Meillerie, sailing close to the banks, whose magni- 
ficence augmented with the turn of every promontory. 
But we congratulated ourselves too soon : the wind 
gradually increased in violence, until it blew tremen- 
dously ; and, as it came from the remotest extremity of 
the lake, produced waves of a frightful height, and 
covered the whole surface with a chaos of foam. One 
of our boatmen, who was a dreadfully stupid fellow, 
persisted in holding the sail at a time when the boat 
was on the point of being driven under water by the 
hurricane. On discovering his error, he let it entirely 
go, and the boat for a moment refused to obey the 
helm ; in addition, the rudder was so broken as to render 
the management of it very difficult ; one wave fell in, and 
then another. My companion, an excellent swimmer, 
took off his coat, I did the same, and we sat with our 
arms crossed, every instant expecting to be swamped. 
The sail was, however, again held, the boat obeyed the 
helm, and still in imminent peril from the immensity of 
the waves, we arrived in a few minutes at a sheltered 
port, in the village of St. Gingoux. 

I felt in this near prospect of death a mixture of 
sensations, among which terror entered, though but 
subordinately. My feelings would have been less painful 



102 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

had I been alone ; but I knew that my companion would 
have attempted to save me, and I was overcome with 
humiliation, when I thought that his life might have 
been risked to preserve mine. When we arrived at 
St. Gingoux, the inhabitants, who stood on the shore, 
unaccustomed to see a vessel as frail as ours, and fearing 
to venture at all on such a sea, exchanged looks of 
wonder and congratulation with our boatmen, who, as 
well as ourselves, were well pleased to set foot on shore. 

St. Gingoux is even more beautiful than Meillerie ; 
the mountains are higher, and their loftiest points of 
elevation descend more abruptly to the lake. On high, 
the aerial summits still cherish great depths of snow in 
their ravines, and in the paths of their unseen torrents. 
One of the highest of these is called Roche de St. Julien, 
beneath whose pinnacles the forests become deeper and 
more extensive ; the chestnut gives a peculiarity to the 
scene, which is most beautiful, and will make a picture 
in my memory, distinct from all other mountain scenes 
which I have ever before visited. 

As we arrived here early, we took a voiture to visit the 
mouth of the Rhone. We went between the mountains 
and the lake, under groves of mighty chestnut trees, 
beside perpetual streams, which are nourished by the 
snows above, and form stalactites on the rocks, over 
which they fall. We saw an immense chestnut tree, 
which had been overthrown by the hurricane of the 
morning. The place where the Rhone joins the lake 
was marked by a line of tremendous breakers ; the river 
is as rapid as when it leaves the lake, but is muddy and 
dark. We went about a league farther on the road to 
La Valais, and stopped at a castle called La Tour de 
Bouverie, which seems to be the frontier of Switzerland 
and Savoy, as we were asked for our passports, on the 
supposition of our proceeding to Italy. 

On one side of the road was the immense Roche de 
St. Julien, which overhung it ; through the gateway of 
the castle we saw the snowy mountains of La Valais, 
clothed in clouds, and, on the other side, was the 



TO PEACOCK 103 

willowy plain of the Rhone, in a character of striking 
contrast with the rest of the scene, bounded by the 
dark mountains that overhang Clarens, Vevai, and the 
lake that rolls between. In the midst of the plain rises 
a little isolated hill, on which the white spire of a 
church peeps from among the tufted chestnut woods. 
We returned to St. Gingoux before sunset, and I passed 
the evening in reading Julie. 

As my companion rises late, I had time before break- 
fast, on the ensuing morning, to hunt the waterfalls of 
the river that fall into the lake at St. Gingoux. The 
stream is indeed, from the declivity over which it falls, 
only a succession of waterfalls, which roar over the rocks 
with a perpetual sound, and suspend their unceasing spray 
on the leaves and flowers that overhang and adorn its sav- 
age banks. The path that conducted along this river 
sometimes avoided the precipices of its shores, by leading 
through meadows ; sometimes threaded the base of the 
perpendicular and caverned rocks. I gathered in these 
meadows a nosegay of such flowers as I never saw in 
England, and which I thought more beautiful for that rarity. 

On my return, after breakfast, we sailed for Clarens, 
determining first to see the three mouths of the Rhone, 
and then the Castle of Chillon ; the day was fine, and 
the water calm. We passed from the blue waters of 
the lake over the stream of the Rhone, which is rapid 
even at a great distance from its confluence with the 
lake ; the turbid waters mixed with those of the lake, 
but mixed with them unwillingly. (See Nouvelle Helo'ise, 
Lettre 1 7, Part. 4). I read Julie all day ; an overflow- 
ing, as it now seems, surrounded by the scenes which it 
has so wonderfully peopled, of sublimest genius, and 
more than human sensibility. Meillerie, the Castle of 
Chillon, Clarens, the mountains of La Valais and Savoy, 
present themselves to the imagination as monuments of 
things that were once familiar, and of beings that were 
once dear to it. They were created indeed by one 
mind, but a mind so powerfully bright as to cast a shade 
of falsehood on the records that are called reality. 



104 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

We passed on to the Castle of Chillon, and visited its 
dungeons and towers. These prisons are excavated 
below the lake ; the principal dungeon is supported by 
seven columns, whose branching capitals support the 
roof. Close to the very walls, the lake is eight hundred 
feet deep ; iron rings are fastened to these columns, 
and on them were engraven a multitude of names, 
partly those of visitors, and partly doubtless of the 
prisoners, of whom now no memory remains, and who 
thus beguiled a solitude which they have long ceased to 
feel. One date was as ancient as 1670. At the com- 
mencement of the Reformation, and indeed long after 
that period, this dungeon was the receptacle of those who 
shook, or who denied the system of idolatry, from the 
effects of which mankind is even now slowly emerging. 

Close to this long and lofty dungeon was a narrow 
cell, and beyond it one larger and far more lofty and 
dark, supported upon two unornamented arches. Across 
one of these arches was a beam, now black and rotten, 
on which prisoners were hung in secret. I never saw 
a monument more terrible of that cold and inhuman 
tyranny, which it has been the delight of man to exercise 
over man. It was indeed one of those many tremen- 
dous fulfilments which render the 'pernicies humani 
generis ' of the great Tacitus so solemn and irrefragable 
a prophecy. The gendarme, who conducted us over 
this castle, told us that there was an opening to the 
lake, by means of a secret spring, connected with which 
the whole dungeon might be filled with water before 
the prisoners could possibly escape ! 

We proceeded with a contrary wind to Clarens against 
a heavy swell. I never felt more strongly than on 
landing at Clarens, that the spirit of old times had 
deserted its once cherished habitation. A thousand 
times, thought I, have Julia and St. Preux walked on 
this terraced road, looking towards these mountains 
which I now behold ; nay, treading on the ground 
where I now tread. From the window of our lodging 
our landlady pointed out Me bosquet de Julie'. At 



TO PEACOCK 105 

least the inhabitants of this village are impressed with 
an idea, that the persons of that romance had actual 
existence. In the evening we walked thither. It is, 
indeed, Julia's wood. The hay was making under the 
trees ; the trees themselves were aged, but vigorous, 
and interspersed with younger ones, which are destined 
to be their successors, and in future years, when we are 
dead, to afford a shade to future worshippers of nature, 
who love the memory of that tenderness and peace of 
which this was the imaginary abode. We walked 
forward among the vineyards, whose narrow terraces 
overlook this affecting scene. Why did the cold maxims 
of the world compel me at this moment to repress the 
tears of melancholy transport which it would have been 
so sweet to indulge, immeasurably, even until the dark- 
ness of night had swallowed up the objects which 
excited them. 

I forgot to remark, what indeed my companion 
remarked to me, that our danger from the storm took 
place precisely in the spot where Julie and her lover 
were nearly overset, and where St. Preux was tempted 
to plunge with her into the lake. 

On the following day we went to see the castle of 
Clarens, a square strong house, with very few windows, 
surrounded by a double terrace that overlooks the 
valley, or rather the plain of Clarens. The road which 
conducted to it wound up the steep ascent through 
woods of walnut and chestnut. We gathered roses on 
the terrace, in the feeling that they might be the 
posterity of some planted by Julie's hand. We sent 
their dead and withered leaves to the absent. 

We went again to e the bosquet de Julie ', and found 
that the precise spot was now utterly obliterated, and 
a heap of stones marked the place where the little 
chapel had once stood. Whilst we were execrating the 
author of this brutal folly, our guide informed us that 
the land belonged to the convent of St. Bernard, and 
that this outrage had been committed by their orders. 
I knew before, that if avarice could harden the hearts 



106 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

of men, a system of prescriptive religion has an influence 
far more inimical to natural sensibility. I know that an 
isolated man is sometimes restrained by shame from 
outraging the venerable feelings arising out of the 
memory of genius, which once made nature even love- 
lier than itself; but associated man holds it as the very 
sacrament of his union to forswear all delicacy, all 
benevolence, all remorse ; all that is true, or tender, or 
sublime. 

We sailed from Clarens to Vevai. Vevai is a town 
more beautiful in its simplicity than any I have ever 
seen. Its market-place, a spacious square interspersed 
with trees, looks directly upon the mountains of Savoy 
and La Valais, the lake, and the valley of the Rhone. It 
was at Vevai that Rousseau conceived the design of Julie. 

From Vevai we came to Ouchy, a village near 
Lausanne. The coasts of the Pays de Vaud, though 
full of villages and vineyards, present an aspect of 
tranquillity and peculiar beauty which well compensates 
for the solitude which I am accustomed to admire. 
The hills are very high and rocky, crowned and inter- 
spersed with woods. Waterfalls echo from the cliffs, 
and shine afar. In one place we saw the traces of two 
rocks of immense size, which had fallen from the moun- 
tain behind. One of these lodged in a room where a 
young woman was sleeping, without injuring her. The 
vineyards were utterly destroyed in its path, and the 
earth torn up. 

The rain detained us two days at Ouchy. We, how- 
ever, visited Lausanne, and saw Gibbon's house. We 
were shown the decayed summer-house where he finished 
his History, and the old acacias on the terrace, from 
which he saw Mont Blanc, after having written the last 
sentence. There is something grand and even touching 
in the regret which he expresses at the completion of 
his task. It was conceived amid the ruins of the 
Capitol. The sudden departure of his cherished and 
accustomed toil must have left him, like the death of 
a dear friend, sad and solitary. 



TO PEACOCK 107 

My companion gathered some acacia leaves to preserve 
in remembrance of him. I refrained from doing so, 
fearing to outrage the greater and more sacred name of 
Rousseau ; the contemplation of whose imperishable 
creations had left no vacancy in my heart for mortal 
things. Gibbon had a cold and unimpassioned spirit. 
I never felt more inclination to rail at the prejudices 
which cling to such a thing, than now that Julie and 
Clarens, Lausanne and the Roman Empire, compelled 
me to a contrast between Rousseau and Gibbon. 

When we returned, in the only interval of sunshine 
during the day, I walked on the pier which the lake 
was lashing with its waves. A rainbow spanned the 
lake, or rather rested one extremity of its arch upon the 
water, and the other at the foot of the mountains of 
Savoy. Some white houses, I know not if they were 
those of Meillerie, shone through the yellow fire. 

On Saturday the 30th of June we quitted Ouchy, and 
after two days of pleasant sailing arrived on Sunday 
evening at Montalegre. 

LETTER 3 

Geneva } July Mth, 18l6. 

My opinion of turning to one spot of earth and calling 
it our home, and of the excellencies and usefulness of 
the sentiments arising out of this attachment, has at 
length produced in me the resolution of acquiring this 
possession. 

You are the only man who has sufficient regard for 
me to take an interest in the fulfilment of this design, 
and whose tastes conform sufficiently to mine to engage 
me to confide the execution of it to your discretion. 

I do not trouble you with apologies for giving you 
this commission. I require only rural exertions, walks, 
and circuitous wanderings, some slight negotiations 
about the letting of a house — the superintendence of 
a disorderly garden, some palings to be mended, some 
books to be removed and set up. 



108 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

I wish you would get all my books and all my furni- 
ture from Bishopgate, and all other effects appertaining 
to me. I have written to ... to secure all that belongs 

to me there to you. I have written also to L to 

give up possession of the house on the third of August. 

When you have possessed yourself of all my affairs, I 
wish you to look out for a home for me and Mary and 
William, and the kitten, who is now en pension. I wish 
you to get an unfurnished house, with as good a garden 
as may be, near Windsor Forest, and take a lease of it 
for fourteen or twenty-one years. The house must not 
be too small. I wish the situation to resemble as nearly 
as possible that of Bishopgate, and should think that 
Sunning Hill, or Winkfield Plain, or the neighbourhood 
of Virginia Water would afford some possibilities. 

Houses are now exceedingly cheap and plentiful ; but 
I entrust the whole of this affair entirely to your own 
discretion. 

I shall hear from you of course, as to what you have 
done on this subject, and shall not delay to remit you 
whatever expenses you may find it necessary to incur. 
Perhaps, however, you had better sell the useless part 
of the Bishopgate furniture — I mean those odious 
curtains, &c. 

Will you write to L to tell him that you are 

authorized on my part to go over the inventory with 

Lady L 's people on the third of August, if they 

please, and to make whatever arrangements may be 
requisite. I should be content with the Bishopgate 

house, dear as it is, if Lady L would make the sale 

of it a post obit transaction. I merely suggest this, 
that if you see any possibility of proposing such an 
arrangement with effect, you might do it. 

My present intention is to return to England, and to 
make that most excellent of nations my perpetual resting 
place. I think it is extremely probable that we shall 
return next spring — perhaps before, perhaps after, but 
certainly we shall return. 

On the motives and on the consequences of this 



TO PEACOCK 109 

journey, I reserve much explanation for some future 
winter walk or summer expedition. This much alone is 
certain, that before we return we shall have seen, and 
felt, and heard, a multiplicity of things which will haunt 
our talk and make us a little better worth knowing than 
we were before our departure. 

If possible, we think of descending the Danube in a 
boat, of visiting Constantinople and Athens, then Rome 
and the Tuscan cities, and returning by the south of 
France, always following great rivers. The Danube, the 
Po, the Rhone, and the Garonne ; rivers are not like 
roads, the work of the hands of man ; they imitate 
mind, which wanders at will over pathless deserts, and 
flows through nature's loveliest recesses, which are 
inaccessible to anything besides. They have the viler 
advantage also of affording a cheaper mode of conveyance. 

This eastern scheme is one which has just seized on our 
imaginations. I fear that the detail of execution will 
destroy it, as all other wild and beautiful visions ; but 
at all events you will hear from us wherever we are, and 
to whatever adventures destiny enforces us. 

Tell me in return all English news. What has 
become of my poem ? l I hope it has already sheltered 
itself in the bosom of its mother, Oblivion, from whose 
embraces no one could have been so barbarous as to 
tear it except me. 

Tell me of the political state of England. Its litera- 
ture, of which when I speak Coleridge is in my thoughts ; 
— yourself, lastly your own employments, your historical 
labours. 

I had written thus far when your letter to Mary 
dated the 8th arrived. What you say of Bishopgate of 
course modifies that part of this letter which relates to 
it. I confess I did not learn the destined ruin without 
some pain, but it is well for me perhaps that a situation 
requiring so large an expense should be placed beyond 
our hopes. 

1 Presumably Alastor. [H. B. F.] 



110 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

You must shelter my roofless Penates, dedicate some 
new temple to them, and perform the functions of a 
priest in my absence. They are innocent deities, and 
their worship neither sanguinary nor absurd. 

Leave Mammon and Jehovah to those who delight in 
wickedness and slavery — their altars are stained with 
blood, or polluted with gold, the price of blood. But 
the shrines of the Penates are good wood fires, or 
window frames intertwined with creeping plants ; their 
hymns are the purring of kittens, the hissing of kettles ; 
the long talks over the past and dead, the laugh of 
children ; the warm wind of summer filling the quiet 
house, and the pelting storm of winter struggling in 
vain for entrance. In talking of the Penates, will you 
not liken me to Julius Caesar dedicating a temple to 
Liberty ? 

As I have said in the former part of my letter, I trust 
entirely to your discretion on the subject of a house. 
Certainly the Forest engages my preference, because of 
the sylvan nature of the place, and the beasts with 
which it is filled. But I am not insensible to the 
beauties of the Thames, and any extraordinary eligibility 
of situation you mention in your letter would over- 
balance our habitual affection for the neighbourhood of 
Bishopgate. 

Its proximity to the spot you have chosen is an argu- 
ment with us in favour of the Thames. Recollect, how- 
ever, we are now choosing a fixed, settled, eternal home, 
and as such its internal qualities will affect us more con- 
stantly than those which consist in the surrounding 
scenery, which whatever it may be at first, will shortly 
be no more than the colours with which our own habits 
shall invest it. 

I am glad that circumstances do not permit the choice 
to be my own. I shall abide by yours as others abide by 
the necessity of their birth. 

P. B. S. 



TO PEACOCK 111 

LETTER 4 

ST. MARTIN, SERVOZ, CHAMOUNI, MONTANVERT, 
MONT BLANC. 

Hotel de Londres, Chamouni, July 22nd, 1816. 

Whilst you, my friend, are engaged in securing a home 
for us, we are wandering in search of recollections to 
embellish it. I do not err in conceiving that you are 
interested in details of all that is majestic or beautiful 
in nature ; but how shall I describe to you the scenes by 
which I am now surrounded ? To exhaust the epithets 
which express the astonishment and the admiration — 
the very excess of satisfied astonishment, where expecta- 
tion scarcely acknowledged any boundary, is this to 
impress upon your mind the images which fill mine now, 
even till it overflow? I too have read the raptures of 
travellers ; I will be warned by their example ; I will 
simply detail to you all that I can relate, or all that, if 
related, would enable you to conceive of what we have 
done or seen since the morning of the 20th, when we 
left Geneva. 

We commenced our intended journey to Chamouni at 
half-past eight in the morning. We passed through the 
champain country, which extends from Mont Saleve to 
the base of the higher Alps. The country is sufficiently 
fertile, covered with corn-fields and orchards, and inter- 
sected by sudden acclivities with flat summits. The day 
was cloudless and excessively hot, the Alps were per- 
petually in sight, and as we advanced, the mountains, 
which form their outskirts, closed in around us. We 
passed a bridge over a stream, which discharges itself 
into the Arve. The Arve itself, much swollen by the 
rains, flows constantly to the right of the road. 

As we approached Bonneville through an avenue 
composed of a beautiful species of drooping poplar, we 
observed that the corn-fields on each side were covered 
with inundation. Bonneville is a neat little town, with 
no conspicuous peculiarity, except the white towers of 



112 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

the prison, an extensive building overlooking the town. 
At Bonneville the Alps commence, one of which, clothed 
by forests, rises almost immediately from the opposite 
bank of the Arve. 

From Bonneville to Cluses the road conducts through 
a spacious and fertile plain, surrounded on all sides by 
mountains, covered like those of Meillerie with forests 
of intermingled pine and chestnut. At Cluses the road 
turns suddenly to the right, following the Arve along 
the chasm, which it seems to have hollowed for itself 
among the perpendicular mountains. The scene assumes 
here a more savage and colossal character : the valley 
becomes narrow, affording no more space than is sufficient 
for the river and the road. The pines descend to the 
banks, imitating, with their irregular spires, the pyra- 
midal crags, which lift themselves far above the regions 
of forest into the deep azure of the sky, and among the 
white dazzling clouds. The scene, at the distance of 
half a mile from Cluses, differs from that of Matlock in 
little else than in the immensity of its proportions, and 
in its untameable inaccessible solitude, inhabited only 
by the goats which we saw browsing on the rocks. 

Near Maglans, within a league of each other, we saw 
two waterfalls. They were no more than mountain 
rivulets, but the height from which they fell, at least of 
twelve hundred feet, made them assume a character 
inconsistent with the smallness of their stream. The 
first fell from the overhanging brow of a black precipice 
on an enormous rock, precisely resembling some colossal 
Egyptian statue of a female deity. It struck the head 
of the visionary image, and gracefully dividing there, fell 
from it in folds of foam more like to cloud than water, 
imitating a veil of the most exquisite woof. It then 
united, concealing the lower part of the statue, and 
hiding itself in a winding of its channel, burst into a 
deeper fall, and crossed our route in its path towards 
the Arve. 

The other waterfall was more continuous and larger. 
The violence with which it fell made it look more 



TO PEACOCK 113 

like some shape which an exhalation had assumed, than 
like water, for it streamed beyond the mountain, which 
appeared dark behind it, as it might have appeared 
behind an evanescent cloud. 

The character of the scenery continued the same 
until we arrived at St. Martin (called in the maps 
Sallanches), the mountains perpetually becoming more 
elevated, exhibiting at every turn of the road more 
craggy summits, loftier and wider extent of forests, 
darker and more deep recesses. 

The following morning we proceeded from St. Martin, 
on mules, to Chamouni, accompanied by two guides. We 
proceeded, as we had done the preceding day, along the 
valley of the Arve, a valley surrounded on all sides by 
immense mountains, whose rugged precipices are inter- 
mixed on high with dazzling snow. Their bases were 
still covered with the eternal forests, which perpetually 
grew darker and more profound as we approached the 
inner regions of the mountains. 

On arriving at a small village at the distance of a league 
from St. Martin, we dismounted from our mules, and 
were conducted by our guides to view a cascade. We 
beheld an immense body of water fall two hundred and 
fifty feet, dashing from rock to rock, and casting a spray 
which formed a mist around it, in the midst of which hung 
a multitude of sunbows, which faded or became unspeak- 
ably vivid, as the inconstant sun shone through the 
clouds. When we approached near to it, the rain of 
the spray reached us, and our clothes were wetted by the 
quick-falling but minute particles of water. The 
cataract fell from above into a deep craggy chasm at 
our feet, where, changing its character to that of a 
mountain stream, it pursued its course towards the Arve, 
roaring over the rocks that impeded its progress. 

As we proceeded, our route still lay through the 
valley, or rather, as it had now become, the vast ravine, 
which is at once the couch and the creation of the 
terrible Arve. We ascended, winding between moun- 
tains, whose immensity staggers the imagination. We 

PEACOCK I 



114 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

crossed the path of a torrent, which three days since had 
descended from the thawing snow, and torn the road 
away. 

We dined at Servoz, a little village, where there are 
lead and copper mines, and where we saw a cabinet of 
natural curiosities, like those of Keswick and Bethgelert. 
We saw in this cabinet some chamois' horns, and the 
horns of an exceedingly rare animal called the bouquetin, 
which inhabits the deserts of snow to the south of Mont 
Blanc : it is an animal of the stag kind ; its horns weigh, 
at least, twenty-seven English pounds. It is inconceiv- 
able how so small an animal could support so inordinate 
a weight. The horns are of a very peculiar conforma- 
tion, being broad, massy, and pointed at the ends, and 
surrounded with a number of rings, which are supposed 
to afford an indication of its age : there were seventeen 
rings on the largest of these horns. 

From Servoz three leagues remain to Chamouni. — 
Mont Blanc was before us — the Alps, with their in- 
numerable glaciers on high all around, closing in the 
complicated windings of the single vale — forests inex- 
pressibly beautiful, but majestic in their beauty — inter- 
mingled beech and pine, and oak, overshadowed our road, 
or receded, whilst lawns of such verdure as I have never 
seen before, occupied these openings, and gradually be- 
came darker in their recesses. Mont Blanc was before 
us, but it was covered with cloud ; its base, furrowed 
with dreadful gaps, was seen above. Pinnacles of snow 
intolerably bright, part of the chain connected with Mont 
Blanc, shone through the clouds at intervals on high. 
I never knew — I never imagined — what mountains were 
before. The immensity of these aerial summits excited, 
when they suddenly burst upon the sight, a sentiment of 
ecstatic wonder, not unallied to madness. And remember 
this was all one scene, it all pressed home to our regard 
and our imagination. Though it embraced a vast extent 
of space, the snowy pyramids which shot into the bright 
blue sky seemed to overhang our path ; the ravine, clothed 
with gigantic pines, and black with its depth below, 



TO PEACOCK 115 

so deep that the very roaring of the untameable Arve, 
which rolled through it, could not be heard above — all 
was as much our own, as if we had been the creators of 
such impressions in the minds of others as now occupied 
our own. Nature was the poet, whose harmony held our 
spirits more breathless than that of the divinest. 

As we entered the valley of Chamouni (which in fact, 
may be considered as a continuation of those which we 
have followed from Bonneville and Cluses), clouds hung 
upon the mountains at the distance perhaps of 6,000 feet 
from the earth, but so as effectually to conceal, not only 
Mont Blanc, but the other aiguilles, as they call them 
here, attached and subordinate to it. We were travel- 
ling along the valley, when suddenly we heard a sound 
as of the burst of smothered thunder rolling above ; yet 
there was something earthly in the sound, that told us it 
could not be thunder. Our guide hastily pointed out 
to us a part of the mountain opposite, from whence the 
sound came. It was an avalanche. We saw the smoke 
of its path among the rocks, and continued to hear at 
intervals the bursting of its fall. It fell on the bed of 
a torrent, which it displaced, and presently we saw its 
tawny-coloured waters also spread themselves over the 
ravine, which was their couch. 

We did not, as we intended, visit the Glacier des 
Bossons to-day, although it descends within a few 
minutes' walk of the road, wishing to survey it at least 
when unfatigued. We saw this glacier, which comes close 
to the fertile plain, as we passed. Its surface was broken 
into a thousand unaccountable figures ; conical and pyra- 
midical crystallizations, more than fifty feet in height, 
rise from its surface, and precipices of ice, of dazzling 
splendour, overhang the woods and meadows of the 
vale. This glacier winds upwards from the valley, until 
it joins the masses of frost from which it was produced 
above, winding through its own ravine like a bright belt 
flung over the black region of pines. There is more in 
all these scenes than mere magnitude of proportion : 
there is a majesty of outline ; there is an awful grace in 



116 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

the very colours which invest these wonderful shapes 
— a charm which is peculiar to them, quite distinct even 
from the reality of their unutterable greatness. 

Juh) 24. 

Yesterday morning we went to the source of the 
Arveiron. It is about a league from this village ; the 
river rolls forth impetuously from an arch of ice, and 
spreads itself in many streams over a vast space of the 
valley, ravaged and laid bare by its inundations. The 
glacier by which its waters are nourished, overhangs 
this cavern and the plain, and the forests of pine which 
surround it, with terrible precipices of solid ice. On 
the other side rises the immense glacier of Montanvert, 
fifty miles in extent, occupying a chasm among moun- 
tains of inconceivable height, and of forms so pointed 
and abrupt, that they seem to pierce the sky. From 
this glacier we saw, as we sat on a rock, close to one of 
the streams of the Arveiron, masses of ice detach them- 
selves from on high, and rush with a loud dull noise 
into the vale. The violence of their fall turned them 
into powder, which flowed over the rocks in imitation 
of waterfalls, whose ravines they usurped and filled. 

In the evening, I went with Ducree, my guide, the 
only tolerable person I have seen in this country, to visit 
the glacier of Bossons. This glacier, like that of Mont- 
anvert, comes close to the vale, overhanging the green 
meadows and the dark woods with the dazzling white- 
ness of its precipices and pinnacles, which are like spires 
of radiant crystal, covered with a net-work of frosted 
silver. These glaciers flow perpetually into the valley, 
ravaging in their slow but irresistible progress the 
pastures and the forests which surround them, per- 
forming a work of desolation in ages, which a river of 
lava might accomplish in an hour, but far more irre- 
trievably ; for w T here the ice has once descended, the 
hardiest plant refuses to grow ; if even, as in some 
extraordinary instances, it should recede after its pro- 
gress has once commenced. The glaciers perpetually 



TO PEACOCK 117 

move onward, at the rate of a foot each day, with a 
motion that commences at the spot where, on the 
boundaries of perpetual congelation, they are produced 
by the freezing of the waters which arise from the 
partial melting of the eternal snows. They drag with 
them, from the regions whence they derive their origin, 
all the ruins of the mountain, enormous rocks, and 
immense accumulations of sand and stones. These are 
driven onwards by the irresistible stream of solid ice ; 
and when they arrive at a declivity of the mountain, 
sufficiently rapid, roll down, scattering ruin. I saw one 
of these rocks which had descended in the spring 
(winter here is the season of silence and safety), which 
measured forty feet in every direction. 

The verge of a glacier, like that of Bossons, presents 
the most vivid image of desolation that it is possible to 
conceive. No one dares to approach it ; for the enormous 
pinnacles of ice which perpetually fall, are perpetually 
reproduced. The pines of the forest, which bound it at 
one extremity, are overthrown and shattered, to a wide 
extent, at its base. There is something inexpressibly 
dreadful in the aspect of the few branchless trunks, 
which, nearest to the ice rifts, still stand in the uprooted 
soil. The meadows perish, overwhelmed with sand and 
stones. Within this last year, these glaciers have ad- 
vanced three hundred feet into the valley. Saussure, the 
naturalist, says, that they have their periods of increase 
and decay : the people of the country hold an opinion 
entirely different ; but as I judge, more probable. It is 
agreed by all, that the snow on the summit of Mont 
Blanc and the neighbouring mountains perpetually 
augments, and that ice, in the form of glaciers, subsists 
without melting in the valley of Chamouni during its 
transient and variable summer. If the snow which pro- 
duces this glacier must augment, and the heat of the 
valley is no obstacle to the perpetual existence of such 
masses of ice as have already descended into it, the 
consequence is obvious ; the glaciers must augment and 
will subsist, at least until they have overflowed this vale, 



118 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

I will not pursue Buflfon's sublime but gloomy theory 
— that this globe which we inhabit will, at some future 
period, be changed into a mass of frost by the encroach- 
ments of the polar ice, and of that produced on the 
most elevated points of the earth. Do you, who assert 
the supremacy of Ahriman, imagine him throned among 
these desolating snows, among these palaces of death and 
frost, so sculptured in this their terrible magnificence 
by the adamantine hand of necessity, and that he casts 
around him, as the first essays of his final usurpation, 
avalanches, torrents, rocks, and thunders, and above all 
these deadly glaciers, at once the proof and symbols of his 
reign; — add to this, the degradation of the human species 
— who, in these regions, are half deformed or idiotic, and 
most of whom are deprived of anything that can excite 
interest or admiration. This is part of the subject more 
mournful and less sublime ; but such as neither the 
poet nor the philosopher should disdain to regard. 

This morning we departed, on the promise of a fine 
day, to visit the glacier of Montanvert. In that part 
where it fills a slanting valley, it is called the Sea of Ice. 
This valley is 950 toises, or 7,600 feet, above the level of 
the sea. We had not proceeded far before the rain 
began to fall, but we persisted until we had accom- 
plished more than half of our journey, when we returned, 
wet through. 

Chamouni, July 25th. 

We have returned from visiting the glacier of Mont- 
anvert, or as it is called the Sea of Ice, a scene in truth 
of dizzying wonder. The path that winds to it along 
the side of a mountain, now clothed with pines, now 
intersected with snowy hollows, is wide and steep. The 
cabin of Montanvert is three leagues from Chamouni, 
half of which distance is performed on mules, not so 
surefooted but that on the first day the one which I 
rode fell in what the guides call a mauvais pas, so that 
I narrowly escaped being precipitated down the moun- 
tain. We passed over a hollow covered with snow, 



TO PEACOCK 119 

down which vast stones are accustomed to roll. One 
had fallen the preceding day, a little time after we had 
returned : our guides desired us to pass quickly, for it is 
said that sometimes the least sound will accelerate their 
descent. We arrived at Montanvert, however, safe. 

On all sides precipitous mountains, the abodes of 
unrelenting frost, surround this vale : their sides are 
banked up with ice and snow, broken, heaped high, and 
exhibiting terrific chasms. The summits are sharp and 
naked pinnacles, whose overhanging steepness will not 
even permit snow to rest upon them. Lines of dazzling 
ice occupy here and there their perpendicular rifts, and 
shine through the driving vapours with inexpressible 
brilliance : they pierce the clouds like things not belong- 
ing to this earth. The vale itself is filled with a mass 
of undulating ice, and has an ascent sufficiently gradual 
even to the remotest abysses of these horrible deserts. 
It is only half a league (about two miles) in breadth, 
and seems much less. It exhibits an appearance as if 
frost had suddenly bound up the waves and whirlpools 
of a mighty torrent. We walked some distance upon its 
surface. The waves are elevated about twelve or fifteen 
feet from the surface of the mass, which is intersected 
by long gaps of unfathomable depth, the ice of whose 
sides is more beautifully azure than the sky. In these 
regions everything changes, and is in motion. This 
vast mass of ice has one general progress, which ceases 
neither day nor night ; it breaks and bursts for ever : 
some undulations sink while others rise ; it is never the 
same. The echo of rocks, or of the ice and snow which 
fall from their overhanging precipices, or roll from their 
aerial summits, scarcely ceases for one moment. One 
would think that Mont Blanc, like the god of the Stoics, 
was a vast animal, and that the frozen blood for ever 
circulated through his stony veins. 

We dined (Mary, Claire, and I) on the grass, in the 
open air, surrounded by this scene. The air is piercing 
and clear. We returned down the mountain sometimes 
encompassed by the driving vapours, sometimes cheered 



120 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

by the sunbeams, and arrived at our inn by seven 
o'clock. 

Montalegre, July 28th. 

The next morning we returned through the rain to 
St. Martin. The scenery had lost something of its im- 
mensity, thick clouds hanging over the highest moun- 
tains ; but visitings of sunlight intervened between the 
showers, and the blue sky shone between the accumu- 
lated clouds of snowy whiteness which brought them ; 
the dazzling mountains sometimes glittered through a 
chasm of the clouds above our heads, and all the charm 
of its grandeur remained. We repassed Pont Pellisier, 
a wooden bridge over the Arve, and the ravine of the 
Arve. We repassed the pine forests which overhang 
the defile, the chateau of St. Michael ; a haunted ruin, 
built on the edge of a precipice, and shadowed over by the 
eternal forest. We repassed the vale of Servoz, a vale 
more beautiful, because more luxuriant, than that of 
Chamouni. Mont Blanc forms one of the sides of this 
vale also, and the other is enclosed by an irregular amphi- 
theatre of enormous mountains, one of which is in ruins, 
and fell fifty years ago into the higher part of the valley : 
the smoke of its fall was seen in Piedmont, and people 
went from Turin to investigate whether a volcano had 
not burst forth among the Alps. It continued falling 
many days, spreading, with the shock and thunder of 
its ruin, consternation into the neighbouring vales. In 
the evening we arrived at St. Martin. The next day 
we wound through the valley, which I have described 
before, and arrived in the evening at our home. 

We have bought some specimens of minerals and 
plants, and two or three crystal seals, at Mont Blanc, 
to preserve the remembrance of having approached it. 
There is a cabinet of histoire naturelle at Chamouni, just 
as at Keswick, Matlock, and Clifton ; the proprieter of 
which is the very vilest specimen of that vile species of 
quack, that, together with the whole army of aubergistes 
and guides, and indeed the entire mass of the popu- 



TO PEACOCK 121 

lation, subsist on the weakness and credulity of 
travellers as leeches subsist on the sick. The most 
interesting of my purchases is a large collection of all 
the seeds of rare alpine plants, with their names written 
upon the outside of the papers that contain them. 
These I mean to colonize in my garden in England, and 
to permit you to make what choice .you please from 
them. They are companions which the Celandine — the 
classic Celandine — need not despise ; ' they are as wild 
and more daring than he, and will tell him tales of 
things even as touching and sublime as the gaze of 
a vernal poet. 

Did I tell you that there are troops of wolves among 
these mountains ? In the winter they descend into the 
valleys, which the snow occupies six months of the year, 
and devour everything that they can find out of doors. 
A wolf is more powerful than the fiercest and strongest 
dog. There are no bears in these regions. We heard, 
when we were in Lucerne, that they were occasionally 
found in the forests which surround that lake. 

Adieu, S. 

LETTER 5 

Milan, April, 1818. 
My Dear Peacock, 

Behold us arrived at length at the end of our 
journey — that is, within a few miles of it — because we 
design to spend the summer on the shore of the lake of 
Como. Our journey was somewhat painful from the 
cold — and in no other manner interesting until we 
passed the Alps : of course I except the Alps them- 
selves ; but no sooner had we arrived at Italy, than the 
loveliness of the earth and the serenity of the sky made 
the greatest difference in my sensations. I depend on 
these things for life ; for in the smoke of cities, and the 
tumult of human kind, and the chilling fogs and rain of 
our own country, I can hardly be said to live. With 
what delight did I hear the woman, who conducted us 

1 Compare Peacock's note on the celandine, Letter 22. 



\m LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

to see the triumphal arch of Augustus at Susa, speak 
the clear and complete language of Italy, though half 
unintelligible to me, after that nasal and abbreviated 
cacophony of the French. A ruined arch of magnificent 
proportions, in the Greek taste, standing in a kind of road 
of green lawn overgrown with violets and primroses, 
and in the midst of stupendous mountains, and a blonde 
woman, of light and graceful manners, something 
in the style of Fuseli's Eve, were the first things we met 
in Italy. 

This city is very agreeable. We went to the opera 
last night — which is a most splendid exhibition. The 
opera itself was not a favourite, and the singers very 
inferior to our own. But the ballet, or rather a kind of 
melodrama or pantomimic drama, was the most splendid 
spectacle I ever saw. We have no Miss Melanie here 
— in every other respect, Milan is unquestionably 
superior. The manner in which language is translated 
into gesture, the complete and full effect of the whole 
as illustrating the history in question, the unaffected 
self-possession of each of the actors, even to the 
children, made this choral drama more impressive than 
I could have conceived possible. The story is Othello, 
and strange to say, it left no disagreeable impression. 

I write, but I am not in the humour to write, and 
you must expect longer, if not more entertaining, letters 
soon — that is, in a week or so — when I am a little re- 
covered from my journey. Pray tell us all the news 
with regard to our own offspring, whom we left at 
nurse in England ; as well as those of our friends. 
Mention Cobbett and politics too — and Hunt — to whom 
Mary is now writing — and particularly your own plans 
and yourself. You shall hear more of me and my plans 
soon. My health is improved already — and my spirits 
something — and I have many literary schemes, and one 
in particular — which I thirst to be settled that I may 
begin. I have ordered Oilier to send you some sheets, 
&c, for revision. Adieu. — Always faithfully yours, 

P. B. S, 



TO PEACOCK 123 

LETTER 6 

Milan, April 20, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I had no conception that the distance between 
us, measured by time in respect of letters, was so great. 
I have but just received yours dated the 2nd — and 
when you will receive mine written from this city 
somewhat later than the same date, I cannot know. I 
am sorry to hear that you have been obliged to remain 
at Marlow ; a certain degree of society being almost a 
necessity of life, particularly as we are not to see you 
this summer in Italy. But this, I suppose, must be as 
it is. I often revisit Marlow in thought. The curse of 
this life is, that whatever is once known, can never be 
unknown. You inhabit a spot, which before you inhabit 
it, is as indifferent to you as any other spot upon earth, 
and when, persuaded by some necessity, you think to 
leave it, you leave it not ; it clings to you — and with 
memories of things, which, in your experience of them, 
gave no such promise, revenges your desertion. Time 
flows on, places are changed ; friends who were with us, 
are no longer with us ; yet what has been seems yet to 
be, but barren and stripped of life. See, I have sent 
you a study for Nightmare Abbey. 

Since I last wrote to you we have been to Como, 
looking for a house. This lake exceeds any thing I 
ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the 
arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, 
and has the appearance of a mighty river winding 
among the mountains and the forests. We sailed from 
the town of Como to a tract of country called the 
Tremezina, and saw the various aspects presented by 
that part of the lake. The mountains between Como 
and that village, or rather cluster of villages, are covered 
on high with chestnut forests (the eating chestnuts, on 
which the inhabitants of the country subsist in time of 
scarcity), which sometimes descend to the very verge 



124 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

of the lake, overhanging it with their hoary branches. 
But usually the immediate border of this shore is com- 
posed of laurel-trees, and bay, and myrtle, and wild 
fig-trees, and olives, which grow in the crevices of the 
rocks, and overhang the caverns, and shadow the deep 
glens, which are filled with the flashing light of the 
waterfalls. Other flowering shrubs, which I cannot name, 
grow there also. On high, the towers of village churches 
are seen white among the dark forests. Beyond, on 
the opposite shore, which faces the south, the moun- 
tains descend less precipitously to the lake, and although 
they are much higher, and some covered with perpetual 
snow, there intervenes between them and the lake a 
range of lower hills, which have glens and rifts opening 
to the other, such as I should fancy the abysses of Ida 
or Parnassus. Here are plantations of olive, and orange, 
and lemon trees, which are now so loaded with fruit, 
that there is more fruit than leaves — and vineyards. 
This shore of the lake is one continued village, and the 
Milanese nobility have their villas here. The union of 
culture and the untameable profusion and loveliness of 
nature is here so close, that the line where they are 
divided can hardly be discovered. But the finest 
scenery is that of the Villa Pliniana ; so called from a 
fountain which ebbs and flows every three hours, de- 
scribed by the younger Pliny, which is in the court- 
yard. This house, which was once a magnificent palace, 
and is now half in ruins, we are endeavouring to procure. 
It is built upon terraces raised from the bottom of the 
lake, together with its garden, at the foot of a semi- 
circular precipice, overshadowed by profound forests of 
chestnut. The scene from the colonnade is the most 
extraordinary, at once, and the most lovely that eye 
ever beheld. On one side is the mountain, and 
immediately over you are clusters of cypress-trees 
of an astonishing height, which seem to pierce the sky. 
Above you, from among the clouds, as it were, descends 
a waterfall of immense size, broken by the woody rocks 
into a thousand channels to the lake. On the other 



TO PEACOCK 125 

side is seen the blue extent of the lake and the moun- 
tains, speckled with sails and spires. The apartments 
of the Pliniana are immensely large, but ill furnished 
and antique. The terraces, which overlook the lake, 
and conduct under the shade of such immense laurel- 
trees as deserve the epithet of Pythian, are most 
delightful. We staid at Como two days, and have now 
returned to Milan, waiting the issue of our negotiation 
about a house. Como is only six leagues from Milan, 
and its mountains are seen from the cathedral. 

This cathedral is a most astonishing work of art. It 
is built of white marble, and cut into pinnacles ot 
immense height, and the utmost delicacy of work- 
manship, and loaded with sculpture. The effect of it, 
piercing the solid blue with those groups of dazzling 
spires, relieved by the serene depth of this Italian 
heaven, or by moonlight when the stars seem gathered 
among those clustered shapes, is beyond any thing I 
had imagined architecture capable of producing. The 
interior, though very sublime, is of a more earthly 
character, and with its stained glass and massy granite 
columns overloaded with antique figures, and the silver 
lamps, that burn for ever under the canopy of black 
cloth beside the brazen altar and the marble fretwork of 
the dome, give it the aspect of some gorgeous sepulchre. 
There is one solitary spot among those aisles, behind 
the altar, where the light of day is dim and yellow under 
the storied window, which I have chosen to visit, and 
read Dante there. 

I have devoted this summer, and indeed the next 
year, to the composition of a tragedy on the subject of 
Tasso's madness, which I find upon inspection is, if 
properly treated, admirably dramatic and poetical. But, 
you will say, I have no dramatic talent ; very true, in a 
certain sense ; but I have taken the resolution to see 
what kind of a tragedy a person without dramatic talent 
could write. It shall be better morality than Fazio, 1 and 

1 By Dean Milman. 



126 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

better poetry than Bertram, 1 at least. You tell me 
nothing of Rhododaphne, 2 a book from which, I confess, 
I expected extraordinary success. 

Who lives in my house at Marlow now, or what is to 
be done with it? I am seriously persuaded that the 
situation was injurious to my health, or I should be 
tempted to feel a very absurd interest in who is to be 
its next possessor. The expense of our journey here 
has been very considerable — but we are now living at 
the hotel here, in a kind of Pension, which is very 
reasonable in respect of price, and when we get into 
a menage of our own, we have every reason to expect 
that we shall experience something of the boasted 
cheapness of Italy. The finest bread, made of a sifted 
flour, the whitest and the best I ever tasted, is only 
one English penny a pound. All the necessaries of life 
bear a proportional relation to this. But then the 
luxuries, tea, &c, are very dear, — and the English, as 
usual, are cheated in a way that is quite ridiculous, if 
they have not their wits about them. We do not know 
a single human being, and the opera, until last night, 
has been always the same. Lord Byron, we hear, has 
taken a house for three years, at Venice ; whether we 
shall see him or not, I do not know. The number of 
English who pass through this town is very great. 
They ought to be in their own country in the present 
crisis. Their conduct is wholly inexcusable. The 
people here, though inoffensive enough, seem both in 
body and soul a miserable race. The men are hardly 
men ; they look like a tribe of stupid and shrivelled 
slaves, and I do not think that I have seen a gleam of 
intelligence in the countenance of man since I passed 
the Alps. The women in enslaved countries are always 
better than the men ; but they have tight-laced figures, 

1 By Maturin. Both these tragedies had been staged in 
London within three years of the date of this letter. 

2 Shelley wrote a review of this, the most ambitious of 
Peacock's poems, for Leigh Hunt ; but it was not published. 
It has been printed in Mr. Buxton Forman's third volume. 



TO PEACOCK 127 

and figures and mien which express (O how unlike the 
French !) a mixture of the coquette and prude, which re- 
minds me of the worst characteristics of the English. 1 
Everything but humanity is in much greater perfection 
here than in France. The cleanliness and comfort of the 
inns is something quite English. The country is beauti- 
fully cultivated ; and altogether, if you can, as one ought 
always to do, find your happiness in yourself, it is a most 
delightful and commodious place to live in. 

Adieu. — Your affectionate friend, 

P. B. S. 

LETTER 7 

Milan, April 30th, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I write, simply to tell you, to direct your next 
letters, Poste Restante, Pisa. We have engaged a 
vetturino for that city, and leave Milan to-morrow 
morning. Our journey will occupy six or seven days. 

Pisa is not six miles from the Mediterranean, with 
which it communicates by the river Arno. We shall 
pass by Piacenza, Parma, Bologna, the Apennines, and 
Florence, and I will endeavour to tell you something of 
these celebrated places in my next letter ; but I can- 
not promise much, for, though my health is much 
improved, my spirits are unequal, and seem to desert 
me when I attempt to write. 

Pisa, they say, is uninhabitable in the midst of 
summer — we shall do, therefore, what other people do, 
retire to Florence, or to the mountains. But I will 
write to you our plans from Pisa, when I shall under- 
stand them better myself. 

1 These impressions of Shelley, with regard to the Italians, 
formed in ignorance, and with precipitation, became altogether 
altered after a longer stay in Italy. He quickly discovered the 
extraordinary intelligence and genius of this wonderful people, 
amidst the ignorance in which they are carefully kept by their 
rulers, and the vices, fostered by a religious system, which these 
same rulers have used as their most successful engine. [M. S.] 



128 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

You may easily conjecture the motives which led us 
to forego the divine solitude of Como. To me, whose 
chief pleasure in life is the contemplation of nature, 
you may imagine how great is this loss. 

Let us hear from you once a fortnight. Do not 
forget those who do not forget you. 

Adieu. — Ever most sincerely yours, 
P. B. Shelley. 

LETTER 8 

Livorno, June 5, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

We have not heard from you since the middle of 
April — that is, we have received only one letter from 
you since our departure from England. It necessarily 
follows that some accident has intercepted them. 
Address, in future, to the care of Mr. Gisborne, Livorno 
— and I shall receive them, though sometimes some- 
what circuitously, yet always securely. 

We left Milan on the 1st of May, and travelled across 
the Apennines to Pisa. This part of the Apennine is 
far less beautiful than the Alps ; the mountains are 
wide and wild, and the whole scenery broad and 
undetermined — the imagination cannot find a home in 
it. The plain of the Milanese, and that of Parma, is 
exquisitely beautiful — it is like one garden, or rather 
cultivated wilderness ; because the corn and the meadow- 
grass grow under high and thick trees, festooned to one 
another by regular festoons of vines. On the seventh 
day we arrived at Pisa, where we remained three or 
four days. A large disagreeable city, almost without 
inhabitants. We then proceeded to this great trading 
town, where we have remained a month, and which, in 
a few days, we leave for the Bagni di Lucca, a kind of 
watering-place situated in the depth of the Apennines ; 
the scenery surrounding this village is very fine. 

We have made some acquaintance with a very amiable 
and accomplished lady, Mrs. Gisborne, who is the sole 



TO PEACOCK 129 

attraction in this most unattractive of cities. We had 
no idea of spending a month here, but she has made it 
even agreeable. We shall see something of Italian 
society at the Bagni di Lucca, where the most fashion- 
able people resort. 

When you send my parcel — which, by the bye, I 
should request you to direct to Mr. Gisborne — I wish 
you could contrive to enclose the two last parts of 
Clarke's Travels, relating to Greece, and belonging to 
Hookham. You know I subscribe there still — and I 
have determined to take the Examiner here. You 
would, therefore, oblige me, by sending it weekly, after 
having read it yourself, to the same direction, and so 
clipped, as to make as little weight as possible. 

I write as if writing where perhaps my letter may 
never arrive. 

With every good wish from all of us, 

Believe me most sincerely yours, 

P. B. S. 

LETTER 9 

Bagni di Lucca, July 9,5th, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I received on the same day your letters marked 
5 and 6, the one directed to Pisa and the other to 
Livorno, and I can assure you they are most welcome 
visitors. 

Our life here is as unvaried by any external events 
as if we were at Marlow, where a sail up the river or 
a journey to London makes an epoch. Since I last 
wrote to you, I have ridden over to Lucca, once with 
Claire, and once alone ; and we have been over to the 
Casino, where I cannot say there is anything remarkable, 
the women being far removed from anything which the 
most liberal annotator could interpret into beauty or 
grace, and apparently possessing no intellectual ex- 
cellences to compensate the deficiency. I assure you 
it is well that it is so, for the dances, especially the 



130 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

waltz, are so exquisitely beautiful that it would be 
a little dangerous to the newly unfrozen senses and 
imaginations of us migrators from the neighbourhood of 
the pole. As it is — except in the dark — there could be 
no peril. The atmosphere here, unlike that of the rest 
of Italy, is diversified with clouds, which grow in the 
middle of the day, and sometimes bring thunder and 
lightning, and hail about the size of a pigeon's egg, and 
decrease towards the evening, leaving only those finely 
woven webs of vapour which we see in English skies, 
and flocks of fleecy and slowly moving clouds, which all 
vanish before sunset ; and the nights are for ever 
serene, and we see a star in the east at sunset — I think 
it is Jupiter — almost as fine as Venus was last summer ; 
but it wants a certain silver and aerial radiance, and soft 
yet piercing splendour, which belongs, I suppose, to the 
latter planet by virtue of its at once divine and female 
nature. I have forgotten to ask the ladies if Jupiter 
produces on them the same effect. I take great 
delight in watching the changes of the atmosphere. 
In the evening, Mary and I often take a ride, for horses 
are cheap in this country. In the middle of the day, I 
bathe in a pool or fountain, formed in the middle of 
the forests by a torrent. It is surrounded on all sides 
by precipitous rocks, and the waterfall of the stream 
which forms it falls into it on one side with perpetual 
dashing. Close to it, on the top of the rocks, are alders, 
and above the great chestnut trees, whose long and 
pointed leaves pierce the deep blue sky in strong 
relief. The water of this pool, which, to venture 
an unrythmical paraphrase, is ' sixteen feet long and 
ten feet wide ', is as transparent as the air, so that the 
stones and sand at the bottom seem, as it were, trembling 
in the light of noonday. It is exceedingly cold also. 
My custom is to undress and sit on the rocks, reading 
Herodotus, until the perspiration has subsided, and then 
to leap from the edge of the rock into this fountain — a 
practice in the hot weather excessively refreshing. This 
torrent is composed, as it were, of a succession of pools 



TO PEACOCK 131 

and waterfalls, up which I sometimes amuse myself by 
climbing when I bathe, and receiving the spray over all 
my body, whilst I clamber up the moist crags with 
difficulty. 

I have lately found myself totally incapable of 
original composition. I employed my mornings, there- 
fore, in translating the Symposium, which I accomplished 
in ten days. Mary is now transcribing it, and I am 
writing a prefatory essay. I have been reading scarcely 
anything but Greek, and a little Italian poetry with 
Mary. We have finished Ariosto together — a thing I 
could not have done again alone. 

Frankenstein seems to have been well received ; for 
although the unfriendly criticism of the Quarterly is an 
evil for it, yet it proves that it is read in some con- 
siderable degree, and it would be difficult for them, 
with any appearance of fairness, to deny it merit 
altogether. Their notice of me, and their exposure of 
their true motives for not noticing my book, shows how 
well understood an hostility must subsist between me 
and them. 

The news of the result of the elections, especially that 
of the metropolis, is highly inspiriting. I received 
a letter, of two days' later date, with yours, which 
announced the unfortunate termination of that of 
Westmoreland. I wish you had sent me some of the 
overflowing villany of those apostates. What a beastly 
and pitiful wretch that Wordsworth ! That such a man 
should be such a poet ! I can compare him with no 
one but Simonides, that flatterer of the Sicilian tyrants, 
and at the same time the most natural and tender of 
lyric poets. 

What pleasure would it have given me if the wings 
of imagination could have divided the space which 
divides us, and I could have been of your party. I have 
seen nothing so beautiful as Virginia Water in its kind. 
And my thoughts for ever cling to Windsor Forest, and 
the copses of Marlow, like the clouds which hang upon 
the woods of the mountains, low trailing, and though 
k 2 



132 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

they pass away, leave their best dew when they them- 
selves have faded. You tell me that you have finished 
Nightmare Abbey, I hope that you have given the 
enemy no quarter. Remember, it is a sacred war. 
We have found an excellent quotation in Ben Jonson's 
Every Man in his Humour. I will transcribe it, as I do 
not think you have these plays at Marlow. 

' Matthew. O, it's your only fine humour, sir. 
Your true melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit, sir. 
I am melancholy myself divers times, sir; and then 
do I no more but take pen and paper presently, and 
overflow you half a score or a dozen of sonnets at 
a sitting. 

'Ed. Knowell. Sure, he utters them by the gross. 

' Stephen. Truly, sir ; and I love such things out 
of measure. 

'Ed. Knowell. V faith, better than in measure, I'll 
undertake. 

* Matthew. Why, I pray you, sir, make use of my 
study ; it 's at your service. 

' Stephen. I thank you, sir; I shall be bold, I 
warrant you. Have you a stool there to be melancholy 
upon ? ' — Every Man in his Humour, Act 3, scene i. 

The last expression would not make a bad motto. 1 

LETTER 10 

Bagni de Lucca, Aug. 1 6th, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

No new event has been added to my life since I 
wrote last : at least none which might not have taken 
place as well on the banks of the Thames as on those of 
the Serchio. I project soon a short excursion, of a week 
or so, to some of the neighbouring cities ; and on the 
10th of September we leave this place for Florence, 

1 I adopted this passage as a second motto, omitting E. 
Knq well's interlocutions. [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 133 

when I shall at least be able to tell you of some things 
which you cannot see from your windows. 

I have finished, by taking advantage of a few days of 
inspiration — which the Camoenae have been lately very 
backward in conceding — the little poem I began sending 
to the press in London. 1 Oilier will send you the 
proofs. Its structure is slight and aery; its subject 
ideal. The metre corresponds with the spirit of the poem, 
and varies with the flow of the feeling. I have trans- 
lated, and Mary has transcribed, the Symposium, as well 
as my poem ; and I am proceeding to employ myself on 
a discourse, upon the subject of which the Symposium 
treats, considering the subject with reference to the 
difference of sentiments respecting it, existing between 
the Greeks and modern nations ; a subject to be 
handled with that delicate caution which either I can- 
not or I will not practise in other matters, but which here 
I acknowledge to be necessary. Not that I have any 
serious thought of publishing either this discourse or the 
Symposium, at least till I return to England, when we 
may discuss the propriety of it. 

Nightmare Abbey finished. Well, what is in it ? What 
is it ? You are as secret as if the priest of Ceres had 
dictated its sacred pages. However, I suppose I shall 
see in time, when my second parcel arrives. My first is 
yet absent. By what conveyance did you send it ? 

Pray, are you yet cured of your Nympholepsy ? 'Tis 
a sweet disease : but one as obstinate and dangerous as 
any — even when the Nymph is a Poliad. 2 Whether 
such be the case or not, I hope your nympholeptic tale 
is not abandoned. 3 The subject, if treated with a due 
spice of Bacchic fury, and interwoven with the manners 
and feelings of those divine people, who, in their very 
errors, are the mirrors, as it were, in which all that is 

1 Rosalind and Helen. 

2 I suppose I understood this at the time ; but I have now not 
the most distant recollection of what it alludes to. [T. L. P.] 

8 I abandoned this design on seeing the announcement of 
Horace Smith's Amarynthus the Nympholept. 



134 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

delicate and graceful contemplates itself, is perhaps 
equal to any. What a wonderful passage there is in 
Vhaedrus — the beginning, I think, of one of the speeches 
of Socrates 1 — in praise of poetic madness, and in defini- 
tion of what poetry is, and how a man becomes a poet. 
Every man who lives in this age and desires to write 
poetry, ought, as a preservative against the false and 
narrow systems of criticism which every poetical empiric 
vents, to impress himself with this sentence, if he would 
be numbered among those to whom may apply this 
proud, though sublime, expression of Tasso : No?i ce in 
rnondo cki merita nome di creator e, che Dio ed il Poeta. 

The weather has been brilliantly fine ; and now, 
among these mountains, the autumnal air is becoming 
less hot, especially in the mornings and evenings. The 
chestnut woods are now inexpressibly beautiful, for the 
chestnuts have become large, and add a new richness 
to the full foliage. We see here Jupiter in the east ; 
and Venus, I believe, as the evening star, directly after 
sunset. 

More and better in my next. Mary and Claire desire 
their kind remembrances. Most faithfully your friend, 

P. B. Shelley. 

LETTER 11 

Este, October 8, 1818. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I have not written to you, I think, for six weeks. 
But I have been on the point of writing many times, 
and have often felt that I had many things to say. But 
I have not been without events to disturb and distract 
me, amongst which is the death of my little girl. She 
died of a disorder peculiar to the climate. We have all 

1 The passage alluded to is this :— ■ There are several kinds, 1 
says Socrates, * of divine madness. That which proceeds from the 
Muses taking possession of a tender and unoccupied soul, awaken- 
ing, and bacchically inspiring it towards songs and other poetry, 
adorning myriads of ancient deeds, instructs succeeding genera- 
tions ; but * he who, without this madness from the Muses, 



TO PEACOCK 135 

had bad spirits enough, and I, in addition, bad health. 
I intend to be better soon ; there is no malady, bodily or 
mental, which does not either kill or is killed. 

We left the Baths of Lucca, I think, the day after I 
wrote to you — on a visit to Venice — partly for the sake 
of seeing the city. We made a very delightful acquain- 
tance there with a Mr. and Mrs. Hoppner, the gentleman 
an Englishman, and the lady a Swissesse, mild and 
beautiful, and unprejudiced, in the best sense of the 
word. The kind attentions of these people made our 
short stay at Venice very pleasant. I saw Lord Byron, 
and really hardly knew him again ; he is changed into 
the liveliest and happiest-looking man I ever met. He 
read me the first canto of his ' Don Juan ' — a thing in 
the style of Beppo, but infinitely better, and dedicated 
to Southey, in ten or a dozen stanzas, more like 
a mixture of wormwood and verdigrease than satire. 
Venice is a wonderfully fine city. The approach to it 
over the laguna, with its domes and turrets glittering in 
a long line over the blue waves, is one of the finest 
architectural delusions in the world. It seems to have 
— and literally it has — its foundations in the sea. The 
silent streets are paved with water, and you hear nothing 
but the dashing of the oars, and the occasional cries of 
the gondolieri. I heard nothing of Tasso. The gon- 
dolas themselves are things of a most romantic and 
picturesque appearance ; I can only compare them to 
moths of which a coffin might have been the chrysalis. 
They are hung with black, and painted black, and 
carpeted with grey ; they curl at the prow and stern, 
and at the former there is a nondescript beak of shining 
steel, which glitters at the end of its long black mass. 

approaches the poetical gates, having persuaded himself that by 
art alone he may become sufficiently a poet, will find in the end 
his own imperfection, and see the poetry of his cold prudence 
vanish into nothingness before the light of that which has sprung 
from divine insanity. ' — Platonis Phaedrus, p. 245 a. [T. L. P.] 
The passage occurs in § 49 of the Phaedrus, § 245 a of Plato's 
Works. Peacock's first sentence is introductory, not a translation. 
This is the third kind of madness which Plato enumerates. 



136 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

The Doge's palace, with its library, is a fine monu- 
ment of aristocratic power. I saw the dungeons, where 
these scoundrels used to torment their victims. They 
are of three kinds — one adjoining the place of trial, 
where the prisoners destined to immediate execution 
were kept. I could not descend into them, because the 
day on which I visited it was festa. Another under the 
leads of the palace, where the sufferers were roasted to 
death or madness by the ardours of an Italian sun : and 
others called the Pozzi — or wells, deep underneath, and 
communicating with those on the roof by secret passages 
— where the prisoners were confined sometimes half up 
to their middles in stinking water. When the French 
came here, they found only one old man in the dun- 
geons, and he could not speak. But Venice, which was 
once a tyrant, is now the next worst thing, a slave ; for 
in fact it ceased to be free, or worth our regret as 
a nation, from the moment that the oligarchy usurped 
the rights of the people. Yet, I do not imagine that it 
was ever so degraded as it has been since the French, 
and especially the Austrian yoke. The Austrians take 
sixty per cent, in taxes, and impose free quarters on the 
inhabitants. A horde of German soldiers, as vicious and 
more disgusting than the Venetians themselves, insult 
these miserable people. I had no conception of the 
excess to which avarice, cowardice, superstition, igno- 
rance, passionless lust, and all the inexpressible brutalities 
which degrade human nature, could be carried, until I 
had passed a few days at Venice. 

We have been living this last month near the little 
town from which I date this letter, in a very pleasant 
villa which has been lent to us, and we are now on the 
point of proceeding to Florence, Rome, and Naples — at 
which last city we shall spend the winter, and return 
northwards in the spring. Behind us here are the 
Euganean hills, not so beautiful as those of the Bagni 
di Lucca, with Arqua, where Petrarch's house and tomb 
are religiously preserved and visited. At the end of our 
garden is an extensive Gothic castle, now the habitation 



TO PEACOCK 137 

of owls and bats, where the Medici family resided before 
they came to Florence. We see before us the wide 
flat plains of Lombardy, in which we see the sun and 
moon rise and set, and the evening star, and all the 
golden magnificence of autumnal clouds. But I reserve 
wonder for Naples. 

I have been writing — and indeed have just finished 
the first act of a lyric and classical drama, to be called 
* Prometheus Unbound '. Will you tell me what there 
is in Cicero about a drama supposed to have been 
written by Aeschylus under this title. 

I ought to say that I have just read Malthus in 
a French translation. Malthus is a very clever man, 
and the world would be a great gainer if it would 
seriously take his lessons into consideration, if it were 
capable of attending seriously to anything but mischief 
— but what on earth does he mean by some of his 
inferences ! 

Yours ever faithfully, 

P. B. S. 

I will write again from Rome and Florence — in better 
spirits, and to more agreeable purpose, I hope. You 
saw those beautiful stanzas in the fourth canto about 
the Nymph Egeria. 1 Well, I did not whisper a word 
about nympholepsy : I hope you acquit me — and I hope 
you will not carry delicacy so far as to let this suppress 
anything nympholeptic. 

LETTER 12 

Ferrara, Nov. 8th, 1818. 
My Dear Peacock, 

We left Este yesterday on our journey towards 
Naples. The roads were particularly bad ; we have, 
therefore, accomplished only two days' journey, of 
eighteen and twenty-four miles each, and you may 
imagine that our horses must be tolerably good ones, to 

1 Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto iv, stanzas cxv to cxix. 



138 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

drag our carriage, with five people and heavy luggage, 
through deep and clayey roads. The roads are, how- 
ever, good during the rest of the way. 

The country is flat, but intersected by lines of wood, 
trellised with vines, whose broad leaves are now stamped 
with the redness of their decay. Every here and there 
one sees people employed in agricultural labours, and 
the plough, the harrow, or the cart, drawn by long teams 
of milk-white or dove-coloured oxen of immense size 
and exquisite beauty. This, indeed, might be the 
country of Pasiphaes. In one farm-yard I was shown 
sixty-three of these lovely oxen, tied to their stalls, in 
excellent condition. A farm-yard in this part of Italy 
is somewhat different from one in England. First, the 
house, which is large and high, with strange-looking 
unpainted window-shutters, generally closed, and dreary 
beyond conception. The farm-yard and out-buildings, 
however, are usually in the neatest order. The thresh- 
ing-floor is not under cover, but like that described in 
the Georgics, usually flattened by a broken column, and 
neither the mole, nor the toad, nor the ant, can find on 
its area a crevice for their dwelling. Around it, at this 
season, are piled the stacks of the leaves and stalks of 
Indian corn, which has lately been threshed and dried 
upon its surface. At a little distance are vast heaps of 
many-coloured zucche or pumpkins, some of enormous 
size, piled as winter food for the hogs. There are 
turkeys, too, and fowls wandering about, and two or 
three dogs, who bark with a sharp hylactism. The 
people who are occupied with the care of these things 
seem neither ill-clothed nor ill-fed, and the blunt in- 
civility of their manners has an English air with it, very 
discouraging to those who are accustomed to the 
impudent and polished lying of the inhabitants of the 
cities. I should judge the agricultural resources of this 
country to be immense, since it can wear so flourishing 
an appearance, in spite of the enormous discouragements 
which the various tyranny of the governments inflicts 
on it. I ought to say that one of the farms belongs to 



TO PEACOCK 139 

a Jew banker at Venice, another Shylock. — We arrived 
late at the inn where I now write ; it was once the 
palace of a Venetian nobleman, and is now an excellent 
inn. To-morrow we are going to see the sights of 
Ferrara. 

Nov. 9- 
We have had heavy rain and thunder all night ; and the 
former still continuing, we went in the carriage about 
the town. We went first to look at the cathedral, but 
the beggars very soon made us sound a retreat, so, 
whether, as it is said, there is a copy of a picture of 
Michael Angelo there or no, I cannot tell. At the 
public library we were more successful. This is, indeed, 
a magnificent establishment, containing, as they say, 
1 60,000 volumes. We saw some illuminated manuscripts 
of church music, with verses of the psalms interlined 
between the square notes, each of which consisted of 
the most delicate tracery, in colours inconceivably vivid. 
They belonged to the neighbouring convent of Certosa, 
and are three or four hundred years old ; but their hues 
are as fresh as if they had been executed yesterday. 
The tomb of Ariosto occupies one end of the largest 
saloon of which the library is composed ; it is formed of 
various marbles, surmounted by an expressive bust of 
the poet, and subscribed with a few Latin verses, in 
a less miserable taste than those usually employed for 
similar purposes. But the most interesting exhibitions 
here, are the writings, &c, of Ariosto and Tasso, which are 
preserved, and were concealed from the undistinguish- 
ing depredations of the French with pious care. There 
is the armchair of Ariosto, an old plain wooden piece 
of furniture, the hard seat of which was once occupied 
by, but has now survived its cushion, as it has its master. 
I could fancy Ariosto sitting in it ; and the satires in 
his own handwriting which they unfold beside it, and 
the old bronze inkstand, loaded with figures, which 
belonged also to him, assists the willing delusion. This 
inkstand has an antique, rather than an ancient appear- 



140 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

ance. Three nymphs lean forth from the circumference, 
and on the top of the lid stands a cupid, winged and 
looking up, with a torch in one hand, his bow in the 
other, and his quiver beside him. A medal was bound 
round the skeleton of Ariosto, with his likeness im- 
pressed upon it. I cannot say I think it had much 
native expression, but perhaps the artist was in fault. 
On the reverse is a hand, cutting with a pair of scissors 
the tongue from a serpent, upraised from the grass, with 
this legend — Pro bono malum. What this reverse of 
the boasted Christian maxim means, or how it applies to 
Ariosto, either as a satirist or a serious writer, I cannot 
exactly tell. The cicerone attempted to explain, and 
it is to his commentary that my bewildering is probably 
due — if, indeed, the meaning be very plain, as is possibly 
the case. 1 

There is here a manuscript of the entire Gerusalemme 
Liberata, written by Tasso's own hand ; a manuscript 
of some poems, written in prison, to the Duke Alfonso ; 
and the satires of Ariosto, written also by his own hand ; 
and the Pastor Fido of Guarini. The Gerusalemme, 
though it had evidently been copied and recopied, is 
interlined, particularly towards the end, with numerous 
corrections. The handwriting of Ariosto is a small, 
firm, and pointed character, expressing, as I should say, 
a strong and keen, but circumscribed energy of mind ; 
that of Tasso is large, free, and flowing, except that 
there is a checked expression in the midst of its flow, 
which brings the letters into a smaller compass than 

1 Dr. Garnett explains this legend by the following quotation 
from Mr. C. F. Keary's Guide to the Italian Medals exhibited in 
the British Museum : — * The motto of this medal [by Poggini] is 
the same as that on the medal of Ariosto by Pastorini of Siena. 
But the meaning of the reverse design is very different. Both, 
it is probable, refer to the quarrel between Ariosto and the elder 
Cardinal d'Este ; but one takes the side of the poet, who is 
symbolized by the bees, expelled from their home as an ungrate- 
ful return for the honey which they have given ; while the other 
medal, taking the side of Cardinal d'Este, symbolizes Ariosto as 
a serpent who stings those that have nurtured him/ 



TO PEACOCK 141 

one expected from the beginning of the word. It is the 
symbol of an intense and earnest mind, exceeding at 
times its own depth, and admonished to return by the 
chillness of the waters of oblivion striking upon its 
adventurous feet. You know I always seek in what I 
see the manifestation of something beyond the present 
and tangible object ; and as we do not agree in physiog- 
nomy, so we may not agree now. But my business is 
to relate my own sensations, and not to attempt to 
inspire others with them. Some of the MSS. of Tasso 
were sonnets to his persecutor, which contain a great 
deal of what is called flattery. If Alfonso's ghost were 
asked how he felt those praises now, I wonder what he 
would say. But to me there is much more to pity than 
to condemn in these entreaties and praises of Tasso. It 
is as a bigot prays to and praises his god, whom he knows 
to be the most remorseless, capricious, and inflexible of 
tyrants, but whom he knows also to be omnipotent. 
Tasso' s situation was widely different from that of any 
persecuted being of the present day ; for, from the depth 
of dungeons, public opinion might now at length be 
awakened to an echo that would startle the oppressor. 
But then there was no hope. There is something irre- 
sistibly pathetic to me in the sight of Tasso' s own hand- 
writing, moulding expressions of adulation and entreaty 
to a deaf and stupid tyrant, in an age when the most 
heroic virtue would have exposed its possessor to hope- 
less persecution, and — such is the alliance between 
virtue and genius — which unoffending genius could not 
escape. 

We went afterwards to see his prison in the hospital 
of Sant' Anna, and I enclose you a piece of the wood of 
the very door, which for seven years and three months 
divided this glorious being from the air and the light 
which had nourished in him those influences which, he 
has communicated, through his poetry, to thousands. 
The dungeon is low and dark, and when I say that it is 
really a very decent dungeon, I speak as one who has 
seen the prisons in the doge's palace of Venice. But it 



142 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

is a horrible abode for the coarsest and meanest thing 
that ever wore the shape of man, much more for one of 
delicate susceptibilities and elevated fancies. It is low, 
and has a grated window, and being sunk some feet 
below the level of the earth, is full of unwholesome 
damps. In the darkest corner is a mark in the wall 
where the chains were rivetted, which bound him hand 
and foot. After some time, at the instance of some 
Cardinal, his friend, the Duke allowed his victim a fire- 
place ; the mark where it was walled up yet remains. 

At the entrance of the Liceo, where the library is, we 
were met by a penitent ; his form was completely 
enveloped in a ghost-like drapery of white flannel ; his 
bare feet were sandalled ; and there was a kind of net- 
work visor drawn over his eyes, so as entirely to conceal 
his face. I imagine that this man had been adjudged to 
suffer this penance for some crime known only to 
himself and his confessor, and this kind of exhibition is 
a striking instance of the power of the Catholic supersti- 
tion over the human mind. He passed, rattling his 
wooden box for charity. 1 

Adieu. — You will hear from me again before I arrive 
at Naples. 

Yours, ever sincerely, 

P. B. S. 

LETTER 13 

Bologna, Monday, Nov. 9th, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I have seen a quantity of things here — churches, 
palaces, statues, fountains, and pictures ; and my brain 
is at this moment like a portfolio of an architect, or 
a print-shop, or a commonplace-book. I will try to 
recollect something of what I have seen ; for, indeed, it 
requires, if it will obey, an act of volition. First, we 
went to the cathedral, which contains nothing remark- 

1 These penitents ask alms, to be spent in masses for the souls 
in purgatory. [M. S.] 



TO PEACOCK 143 

able, except a kind of shrine, or rather a marble canopy, 
loaded with sculptures, and supported on four marble 
columns. We went then to a palace — I am sure I 
forget the name of it — where we saw a large gallery of 
pictures. Of course, in a picture gallery you see three 
hundred pictures you forget, for one you remember. I 
remember, however, an interesting picture by Guido, of 
the Rape of Proserpine, in which Proserpine casts back 
her languid and half-unwilling eyes, as it were, to the 
flowers she had left ungathered in the fields of Enna. 
There was an exquisitely executed piece of Correggio, 
about four saints, one of whom seemed to have a pet 
dragon in a leash. I was told that it was the devil who 
was bound in that style — but who can make anything 
of four saints ? For what can they be supposed to be 
about ? There was one painting, indeed, by this master, 
Christ beatified, inexpressibly fine. It is a half figure, 
seated on a mass of clouds, tinged with an aethereal, 
rose-like lustre ; the arms are expanded ; the whole 
frame seems dilated with expression ; the countenance 
is heavy, as it were, with the weight of the rapture of 
the spirit; the lips parted, but scarcely parted, with 
the breath of intense but regulated passion ; the eyes 
are calm and benignant ; the whole features harmonized 
in majesty and sweetness. The hair is parted on the 
forehead, and falls in heavy locks on each side. It is 
motionless, but seems as if the faintest breath would 
move it. The colouring, I suppose, must be very good, 
if I could remark and understand it. The sky is of 
a pale aerial orange, like the tints of latest sunset ; it 
does not seem painted around and beyond the figure, 
but everything seems to have absorbed, and to have 
been penetrated by its hues. I do not think we saw 
any other of Correggio, but this specimen gives me 
a very exalted idea of his powers. 

We went to see heaven knows how many more 
palaces — Ranuzzi, Marriscalchi, Aldobrandi. If you 
want Italian names for any purpose, here they are ; I 
should be glad of them if I was writing a novel. I saw 



144 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

many more of Guido. One, a Samson drinking water 
out of an ass's jaw-bone, in the midst of the slaughtered 
Philistines. Why he is supposed to do this, God, who 
gave him this jaw-bone, alone knows — but certain 
it is, that the painting is a very fine one. The figure 
of Samson stands in strong relief in the foreground, 
coloured, as it were, in the hues of human life, and full 
of strength and elegance. Round him lie the Philistines 
in all the attitudes of death. One prone, with the 
slight convulsion of pain just passing from his forehead, 
whilst on his lips and chin death lies as heavy as sleep. 
Another leaning on his arm, with his hand, white and 
motionless, hanging out beyond. In the distance, more 
dead bodies ; and, still further beyond, the blue sea and 
the blue mountains, and one white and tranquil sail. 

There is a Murder of the Innocents, also, by Guido, 
finely coloured, with much fine expression — but the sub- 
ject is very horrible, and it seemed deficient in strength 
— at least, you require the highest ideal energy, the 
most poetical and exalted conception of the subject, 
to reconcile you to such a contemplation. There was a 
Jesus Christ crucified, by the same, very fine. One gets 
tired, indeed, whatever may be the conception and 
execution of it, of seeing that monotonous and agonized 
form for ever exhibited in one prescriptive attitude of 
torture. But the Magdalen, clinging to the cross with 
the look of passive and gentle despair beaming from 
beneath her bright flaxen hair, and the figure of St. 
John, with his looks uplifted in passionate compassion ; 
his hands clasped, and his fingers twisting themselves 
together, as it were, with involuntary anguish ; his feet 
almost writhing up from the ground with the same 
sympathy ; and the whole of this arrayed in colours of 
a diviner nature, yet most like nature's self :— of the 
contemplation of this one would never weary. 

There was a ( Fortune', too, of Guido ; a piece of 
mere beauty. There was the figure of Fortune on a 
globe, eagerly proceeding onwards, and Love was trying 
to catch her back by the hair, and her face was half 



TO PEACOCK 145 

turned towards him ; her long chestnut hair was floating 
in the stream of the wind, and threw its shadow over 
her fair forehead. Her hazel eyes were fixed on her 
pursuer with a meaning look of playfulness, and a light 
smile was hovering on her lips. The colours which 
arrayed her delicate limbs were aethereal and warm. 

But, perhaps, the most interesting of all the pictures 
of Guido which I saw was a Madonna Lattante. She is 
leaning over her child, and the maternal feelings with 
which she is pervaded are shadowed forth on her soft 
and gentle countenance, and in her simple and affec- 
tionate gestures — there is what an unfeeling observer 
would call a dullness in the expression of her face ; her 
eyes are almost closed ; her lip depressed ; there is a 
serious, and even a heavy relaxation, as it were, of all 
the muscles which are called into action by ordinary 
emotions : but it is only as if the spirit of love, almost 
insupportable from its intensity, were brooding over and 
weighing down the soul, or whatever it is, without 
which the material frame is inanimate and inexpressive. 

There is another painter here, called Franceschini, 
a Bolognese, who, though certainly very inferior to 
Guido, is yet a person of excellent powers. One entire 
church, that of Santa Catarina, is covered by his works. 
I do not know whether any of his pictures have ever 
been seen in England. His colouring is less warm than 
that of Guido, but nothing can be more clear and 
delicate ; it is as if he could have dipped his pencil in 
the hues of some serenest and star-shining twilight. 
His forms have the same delicacy and aerial loveliness ; 
their eyes are all bright with innocence and love ; their 
lips scarce divided by some gentle and sweet emotion. 
His winged children are the loveliest ideal beings 
ever created by the human mind. These are generally, 
whether in the capacity of Cherubim or Cupid, acces- 
sories to the rest of the picture; and the underplot 
of their lovely and infantine play is something almost 
pathetic, from the excess of its unpretending beauty. 
One of the best of his pieces is an Annunciation of the 



146 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Virgin ; the Angel is beaming in beauty ; the Virgin, 
soft, retiring, and simple. 

We saw, besides, one picture of Raphael — St. Cecilia ; 
this is in another and higher style ; you forget that it is a 
picture as you look at it ; and yet it is most unlike any 
of those things which we call reality. It is of the 
inspired and ideal kind, and seems to have been 
conceived and executed in a similar state of feeling 
to that which produced among the ancients those 
perfect specimens of poetry and sculpture which are the 
baffling models of succeeding generations. There is a 
unity and a perfection in it of an incommunicable kind. 
The central figure, St. Cecilia, seems rapt in such 
inspiration as produced her image in the painter's mind ; 
her deep, dark, eloquent eyes lifted up ; her chestnut 
hair flung back from her forehead — she holds an organ 
in her hands — her countenance, as it were, calmed by 
the depth of its passion and rapture, and penetrated 
throughout with the warm and radiant light of life. 
She is listening to the music of heaven, and, as I 
imagine, has just ceased to sing, for the four figures 
that surround her evidently point, by their attitudes, 
towards her; particularly St. John, who, with a tender 
yet impassioned gesture, bends his countenance towards 
her, languid with the depth of his emotion. At her 
feet lie various instruments of music, broken and 
unstrung. Of the colouring I do not speak ; it eclipses 
nature, yet it has all her truth and softness. 

We saw some pictures of Domenichino, Caracci, Albano, 
Guercino, Elisabetta Sirani. The two former — remem- 
ber, I do not pretend to taste — I cannot admire. Of 
the latter there are some beautiful Madonnas. There 
are several of Guercino, which they said were very fine. 
I dare say they were, for the strength and complication 
of his figures made my head turn round. One, indeed, 
was certainly powerful. It was the representation of the 
founder of the Carthusians exercising his austerities in 
the desert, with a youth as his attendant, kneeling 
beside him at an altar ; on another altar stood a skull 



TO PEACOCK 147 

and a crucifix ; and around were the rocks and the 
trees of the wilderness. I never saw such a figure as 
this fellow. His face was wrinkled like a dried snake's 
skin, and drawn in long hard lines : his very hands 
were wrinkled. He looked like an animated mummy. 
He was clothed in a loose dress of death-coloured flannel, 
such as you might fancy a shroud might be, after it had 
wrapt a corpse a month or two. It had a yellow, 
putrefied, ghastly hue, which it cast on all the objects 
around, so that the hands and face of the Carthusian 
and his companion were jaundiced by this sepulchral 
glimmer. Why write books against religion, when we 
may hang up such pictures? But the world either 
will not or cannot see. The gloomy effect of this 
was softened, and, at the same time, its sublimity 
diminished, by the figure of the Virgin and Child in the 
sky, looking down with admiration on the monk, and 
a beautiful flying figure of an angel. 

Enough of pictures. I saw the place where Guido 
and his mistress, Elisabetta Sirani, were buried. This 
lady was poisoned at the age of twenty-six, by another 
lover, a rejected one of course. Our guide said she 
was very ugly, and that we might see her portrait to- 
morrow. 

Well, good-night, for the present. ' To-morrow to 
fresh fields and pastures new.' 

November 10. 

To-day we first went to see those divine pictures ot 
Raphael and Guido again, and then rode up the moun- 
tains, behind this city, to visit a chapel dedicated to 
the Madonna. It made me melancholy to see that 
they had been varnishing and restoring some of these 
pictures, and that even some had been pierced by the 
French bayonets. These are symptoms of the mortality 
of man ; and perhaps few of his works are more evan- 
escent than paintings. Sculpture retains its freshness 
for twenty centuries — the Apollo and the Venus are as 
they were. But books are perhaps the only productions 
L 2 



148 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

of man coeval with the human race. Sophocles and 
Shakspeare can be produced and reproduced for ever. 
But how evanescent are paintings ! and must necessarily 
be. Those of Zeuxis and Apelles are no more, and 
perhaps they bore the same relation to Homer and 
Aeschylus, that those of Guido and Raphael bear to 
Dante and Petrarch. There is one refuge from the 
despondency of this contemplation. The material part, 
indeed, of their works must perish, but they survive in 
the mind of man, and the remembrances connected with 
them are transmitted from generation to generation. 
The poet embodies them in his creations ; the systems 
of philosophers are modelled to gentleness by their 
contemplation ; opinion, that legislator, is infected with 
their influence ; men become better and wiser ; and the 
unseen seeds are perhaps thus sown, which shall produce 
a plant more excellent even than that from which they 
fell. But all this might as well be said or thought at 
Marlow as Bologna. 

The chapel of the Madonna is a very pretty Corinthian 
building — very beautiful, indeed. It commands a fine 
view of these fertile plains, the many -folded Apennines, 
and the city. I have just returned from a moonlight 
walk through Bologna. It is a city of colonnades, and 
the effect of moonlight is strikingly picturesque. There 
are two towers here — one 400 feet high — ugly things, 
built of brick, which lean both different ways ; and with 
the delusion of moonlight shadows, you might almost 
fancy that the city is rocked by an earthquake. They 
say they were built so on purpose ; but I observe in all 
the plain of Lombardy the church towers lean. 

Adieu. — God grant you patience to read this long 
letter, and courage to support the expectation of the 
next. Pray part them from the Cobbetts on your break- 
fast table — they may fight it out in your mind. 
Yours ever, most sincerely, 

P. B. S. 



TO PEACOCK 149 

LETTER 14 

Rome, November 20th, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

Behold me in the capital of the vanished world ! 
But I have seen nothing except St. Peter's and the 
Vatican, overlooking the city in the mist of distance, 
and the Dogana, where they took us to have our luggage 
examined, which is built between the ruins of a temple 
to Antoninus Pius. The Corinthian columns rise over 
the dwindled palaces of the modern town, and the 
wrought cornice is changed on one side, as it were, to 
masses of wave-worn precipice, which overhang you, 
far, far on high. 

I take advantage of this rainy evening, and before 
Rome has effaced all other recollections, to endeavour 
to recall the vanished scenes through which we have 
passed. We left Bologna, I forget on what day, and 
passing by Rimini, Fano, and Foligno, along the Via 
Flaminia and Terni, have arrived at Rome after ten 
days' somewhat tedious, but most interesting journey. 
The most remarkable things we saw were the Roman 
excavations in the rock, and the great waterfall of Terni. 
Of course you have heard that there are a Roman bridge 
and a triumphal arch at Rimini, and in what excellent 
taste they are built. The bridge is not unlike the 
Strand bridge, but more bold in proportion, and of 
course infinitely smaller. From Fano we left the coast 
of the Adriatic, and entered the Apennines, following 
the course of the Metaurus, the banks of which were 
the scene of the defeat of Asdrubal : and it is said (you 
can refer to the book) that Livy has given a very exact 
and animated description of it. I forget all about it, 
but shall look as soon as our boxes are opened. Follow- 
ing the river, the vale contracts, the banks of the river 
become steep and rocky, the forests of oak and ilex 
which overhang its emerald-coloured stream, cling to 
their abrupt precipices. About four miles from Fossom- 
brone, the river forces for itself a passage between the 



150 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

walls and toppling precipices of the loftiest Apennines, 
which are here rifted to their base, and undermined by 
the narrow and tumultuous torrent. It was a cloudy 
morning, and we had no conception of the scene that 
awaited us. Suddenly the low clouds were struck by 
the clear north wind, and like curtains of the finest 
gauze, removed one by one, were drawn from before 
the mountain, whose heaven-cleaving pinnacles and black 
crags overhanging one another, stood at length defined 
in the light of day. The road runs parallel to the river, 
at a considerable height, and is carried through the 
mountain by a vaulted cavern. The marks of the chisel 
of the legionaries of the Roman Consul are yet evident. 

We passed on day after day, until we came to Spoleto, 
I think the most romantic city I ever saw. There is 
here an aqueduct of astonishing elevation, which unites 
two rocky mountains — there is the path of a torrent 
below, whitening the green dell with its broad and 
barren track of stones, and above there is a castle, 
apparently of great strength and of tremendous magni- 
tude, which overhangs the city, and whose marble 
bastions are perpendicular with the precipice. I never 
saw a more impressive picture ; in which the shapes of 
nature are of the grandest order, but over which the 
creations of man, sublime from their antiquity and great- 
ness, seem to predominate. The castle was built by 
Belisarius or Narses, I forget which, but was of that epoch. 

From Spoleto we went to Terni, and saw the cataract 
of the Velino. The glaciers of Mon tan vert and the 
source of the Arveiron is the grandest spectacle I ever 
saw. This is the second. Imagine a river sixty feet in 
breadth, with a vast volume of waters, the outlet of a 
great lake among the higher mountains, falling 300 feet 
into a sightless gulf of snow-white vapour, which bursts 
up for ever and for ever from a circle of black crags, 
and thence leaping downwards, making ] five or six other 
cataracts, each fifty or a hundred feet high, which 
exhibit, on a smaller scale, and with beautiful and sub- 
1 I making \ Garnett : ■ make \ H. B. F. : * made \ M. S. and Rhys. 



TO PEACOCK 151 

lime variety, the same appearances. But words (and 
far less could painting) will not express it. Stand 
upon the brink of the platform of cliff which is directly 
opposite. You see the ever-moving water stream down. 
It comes in thick and tawny folds, flaking off like solid 
snow gliding down a mountain. It does not seem hollow 
within, but without it is unequal, like the folding of 
linen thrown carelessly down ; your eye follows it, and 
it is lost below ; not in the black rocks which gird it 
around, but in its own foam and spray in the cloud-like 
vapours boiling up from below, which is not like rain, nor 
mist, nor spray, nor foam, but water, in a shape wholly 
unlike anything I ever saw before. It is as white as 
snow, but thick and impenetrable to the eye. The 
very imagination is bewildered in it. A thunder comes 
up from the abyss wonderful to hear; for, though it 
ever sounds, it is never the same, but, modulated by the 
changing motion, rises and falls intermittingly ; we 
passed half an hour in one spot looking at it, and thought 
but a few minutes had gone by. The surrounding 
scenery is, in its kind, the loveliest and most sublime 
that can be conceived. In our first walk we passed 
through some olive groves, of large and ancient trees, 
whose hoary and twisted trunks leaned in all directions. 
We then crossed a path of orange trees by the river side, 
laden with their golden fruit, and came to a forest of 
ilex of a large size, whose evergreen and acorn-bearing 
boughs were intertwined over our winding path. 
Around, hemming in the narrow vale, were pinnacles of 
lofty mountains of pyramidical rock clothed with all 
evergreen plants and trees ; the vast pine, whose 
feathery foliage trembled in the blue air, the ilex, that 
ancestral inhabitant of these mountains, the arbutus 
with its crimson-coloured fruit and glittering leaves. 
After an hour's walk, we came beneath the cataract of 
Terni, within the distance of half a mile ; nearer you 
cannot approach, for the Nar, which has here its con- 
fluence with the Velino, bars the passage. We then 
crossed the river formed by this confluence, over a 



152 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

narrow natural bridge of rock, and saw the cataract 
from the platform I first mentioned. We think of 
spending some time next year near this waterfall. The 
inn is very bad, or we should have stayed there longer. 

We came from Terni last night to a place called Nepi, 
and to-day arrived at Rome across the much-belied 
Campagna di Roma, a place I confess infinitely to my 
taste. It is a flattering picture of Bagshot Heath. But 
then there are the Apennines on one side, and Rome 
and St. Peter's on the other, and it is intersected by 
perpetual dells clothed with arbutus and ilex. 
Adieu — verv faithfully yours, 

P. B. S. 
LETTER 15 

Naples, December 22, 1818. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I have received a letter from you here, dated 
November 1st; you see the reciprocation of letters 
from the term of our travels is more slow. I entirely 
agree with what you say about Childe Harold. The 
spirit in which it is written is, if insane, the most 
wicked and mischievous insanity that ever was given 
forth. It is a kind of obstinate and self-willed folly, in 
which he hardens himself. I remonstrated with him in 
vain on the tone of mind from which such a view of 
things alone arises. For its real root is very different 
from its apparent one. Nothing can be less sublime 
than the true source of these expressions of contempt 
and desperation. The fact is, that first, the Italian 
women with whom he associates, are perhaps the most 
contemptible of all who exist under the moon — the 
most ignorant, the most disgusting, the most bigoted ; 
countesses smell so strongly of garlic, that an ordinary 
Englishman cannot approach them. Well, L. B. is 
familiar with the lowest sort of these women, the 
people his gondolieri pick up in the streets. He associ- 
ates with wretches who seem almost to have lost the 
gait and physiognomy of man, and who do not scruple 
to avow practices which are not only not named, but I 



TO PEACOCK 153 

believe seldom even conceived in England. He says he 
disapproves, but he endures. He is heartily and deeply 
discontented with himself; and contemplating in the 
distorted mirror of his own thoughts the nature and the 
destiny of man, what can he behold but objects of con- 
tempt and despair ? But that he is a great poet, I think 
the address to Ocean ' proves. And he has a certain de- 
gree of candour while you talk to him, but unfortunately 
it does not outlast your departure. No, I do not doubt, 
and, for his sake, I ought to hope, that his present 
career must end soon in some violent circumstance. 

Since I last wrote to you, I have seen the ruins of 
Rome, the Vatican, St. Peter's, and all the miracles of 
ancient and modern art contained in that majestic city. 
The impression of it exceeds anything I have ever 
experienced in my travels. We stayed there only 
a week, intending to return at the end of February, and 
devote two or three months to its mines of inexhaustible 
contemplation, to which period I refer you for a minute 
account of it. We visited the Forum and the ruins of 
the Coliseum every day. The Coliseum is unlike any 
work of human hands I ever saw before. It is of 
enormous height and circuit, and the arches built of 
massy stones are piled on one another, and jut into the 
blue air, shattered into the forms of overhanging rocks. 
It has been changed by time into the image of an 
amphitheatre of rocky hills overgrown by the wild olive, 
the myrtle, and the fig-tree, and threaded by little 
paths, which wind among its ruined stairs and immeasur- 
able galleries : the copse wood overshadows you as you 
wander through its labyrinths, and the wild weeds of this 
climate of flowers bloom under your feet. The arena is 
covered with grass, and pierces, like the skirts of a 
natural plain, the chasms of the broken arches around. 
But a small part of the exterior circumference remains 
— it is exquisitely light and beautiful ; and the effect of 
the perfection of its architecture, adorned with ranges 

1 Stanzas clxxix-clxxxiv of the fourth canto, published early 
in 1818, of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. 



154 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

of Corinthian pilasters, supporting a bold cornice, is such 
as to diminish the effect of its greatness. The interior is 
all ruin. I can scarcely believe that when encrusted with 
Dorian marble and ornamented by columns of Egyptian 
granite, its effect could have been so sublime and so im- 
pressive as in its present state. It is open to the sky, and it 
was the clear and sunny weather of the end of November 
in this climate when we visited it, day after day. 

Near it is the arch of Constantine, or rather the 
arch of Trajan ; for the servile and avaricious senate of 
degraded Rome ordered that the monument of his pre- 
decessor should be demolished in order to dedicate 
one to the Christian reptile, who had crept among the 
blood of his murdered family to the supreme power. It 
is exquisitely beautiful and perfect. The Forum is a 
plain in the midst of Rome, a kind of desert full of heaps 
of stones and pits, and though so near the habitations of 
men, is the most desolate place you can conceive. The 
ruins of temples stand in and around it, shattered 
columns and ranges of others complete, supporting 
cornices of exquisite workmanship, and vast vaults of 
shattered domes distinct with regular compartments, 
once filled with sculptures of ivory or brass. The 
temples of Jupiter, and Concord, and Peace, and the Sun, 
and the Moon, and Vesta, are all within a short distance 
of this spot. Behold the wrecks of what a great nation 
once dedicated to the abstractions of the mind ! Rome 
is a city, as it were, of the dead, or rather of those who 
cannot die, and who survive the puny generations which 
inhabit and pass over the spot which they have made 
sacred to eternity. In Rome, at least in the first 
enthusiasm of your recognition of ancient time, you see 
nothing of the Italians. The nature of the city assists 
the delusion, for its vast and antique walls describe a 
circumference of sixteen miles, and thus the population 
is thinly scattered over this space, nearly as great as 
London. Wide wild fields are enclosed within it, and 
there are grassy lanes and copses winding among the 
ruins, and a great green hill, lonely and bare, which 



TO PEACOCK 155 

overhangs the Tiber. The gardens of the modern 
palaces are like wild woods of cedar, and cypress, 
and pine, and the neglected walks are overgrown with 
weeds. The English burying-place is a green slope 
near the walls, under the pyramidal tomb of Cestius, 
and is, I think, the most beautiful and solemn cemetery 
I ever beheld. To see the sun shining on its bright 
grass, fresh, when we first visited it, with the autumnal 
dews, and hear the whispering of the wind among the 
leaves of the trees which have overgrown the tomb of 
Cestius, and the soil which is stirring in the sun-warm 
earth, and to mark the tombs, mostly of women and 
young people who were buried there, one might, if one 
were to die, desire the sleep they seem to sleep. 
Such is the human mind, and so it peoples with its wishes 
vacancy and oblivion. 

I have told you little about Rome ; but I reserve the 
Pantheon, and St. Peter's, and the Vatican, and Raphael, 
for my return. About a fortnight ago I left Rome, and 
Mary and Claire followed in three days, for it was 
necessary to procure lodgings here without alighting at 
an inn. From my peculiar mode of travelling I saw little 
of the country, but could just observe that the wild 
beauty of the scenery and the barbarous ferocity of the 
inhabitants progressively increased. On entering Naples, 
the first circumstance that engaged my attention was an 
assassination. A youth ran out of a shop, pursued by a 
woman with a bludgeon, and a man armed witli a knife. 
The man overtook him, and with one blow in the neck 
laid him dead in the road. On my expressing the emo- 
tions of horror and indignation which I felt, a Calabrian 
priest, who travelled with me, laughed heartily, and 
attempted to quiz me, as what the English call a flat. 
I never felt such an inclination to beat any one. 
Heaven knows I have little power, but he saw that I 
looked extremely displeased, and was silent. This same 
man, a fellow of gigantic strength and stature, had ex- 
pressed the most frantic terror of robbers on the road : 
he cried at the sight of my pistol, and it had been with 



156 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

great difficulty that the joint exertions of myself and 
the vetturino had quieted his hysterics. 

But external nature in these delightful regions con- 
trasts with and compensates for the deformity and degra- 
dation of humanity. We have a lodging divided from the 
sea by the royal gardens, and from our windows we see 
perpetually the blue waters of the bay, forever changing, 
yet forever the same, and encompassed by the mountain- 
ous island of Capreae, the lofty peaks which overhang 
Salerno, and the woody hill of Posilipo, whose promon- 
tories hide from us Misenum and the lofty isle Inarime, 1 
which, with its divided summit, forms the opposite horn 
of the bay. From the pleasant walks of the garden we 
see Vesuvius ; a smoke by day and a fire by night is seen 
upon its summit, and the glassy sea often reflects its 
light or shadow. The climate is delicious. We sit 
without a fire, with the windows open, and have almost 
all the productions of an English summer. The weather 
is usually like what Wordsworth calls ' the first fine 
day of March ' ; sometimes very much warmer, though 
perhaps it wants that ' each minute sweeter than before ', 
which gives an intoxicating sweetness to the awakening 
of the earth from its winter's sleep in England. We 
have made two excursions, one to Baiae and one to 
Vesuvius, and we propose to visit, successively, the 
islands, Paestum, Pompeii, and Beneventum. 

We set off an hour after sunrise one radiant morning 
in a little boat ; there was not a cloud in the sky, nor 
a wave upon the sea, which was so translucent that you 
could see the hollow caverns clothed with the glaucous 
sea-moss, and the leaves and branches of those delicate 
weeds that pave the unequal bottom of the water. As 
noon approached, the heat, and especially the light, 
became intense. We passed Posilipo, and came first to the 
eastern point of the bay of Puzzoli, which is within the 
great bay of Naples, and which again incloses that of 
Baiae. Here are lofty rocks and craggy islets, with 
arches and portals of precipice standing in the sea, and 
1 The ancient name of Ischia. [M. S.] 



TO PEACOCK 157 

enormous caverns, which echoed faintly with the murmur 
of the languid tide. This is called La Scuola di 
Virgilio. We then went directly across to the pro- 
montory of Misenum, leaving the precipitous island of 
Nesida on the right. Here we were conducted to see the 
Mare Morto, and the Elysian fields ; the spot on which 
Virgil places the scenery of the Sixth Aeneid. Though 
extremely beautiful, as a lake, and woody hills, and this 
divine sky must make it, I confess my disappointment. 
The guide showed us an antique cemetery, where the 
niches used for placing the cinerary urns of the dead yet 
remain. We then coasted the Bay of Baiae to the left, 
in which we saw many picturesque and interesting ruins ; 
but I have to remark that we never disembarked but we 
were disappointed — while from the boat the effect of the 
scenery was inexpressibly delightful. The colours of 
the water and the air breathe over all things here the 
radiance of their own beauty. After passing the Bay of 
Baiae, and observing the ruins of its antique grandeur 
standing like rocks in the transparent sea under our 
boat, we landed to visit lake Avernus. We passed 
through the cavern of the Sibyl (not Virgil's Sybil) 
which pierces one of the hills which circumscribe the 
lake, and came to a calm and lovely basin of water, sur- 
rounded by dark woody hills, and profoundly solitary. 
Some vast ruins of the temple of Pluto stand on a 
lawny hill on one side of it, and are reflected in its 
windless mirror. It is far more beautiful than the 
Elysian fields — but there are all the materials for beauty 
in the latter, and the Avernus was once a chasm of 
deadly and pestilential vapours. About half a mile 
from Avernus, a high hill, called Monte Novo, was 
thrown up by volcanic fire. 

Passing onward we came to Pozzoli, the ancient 
Dicaearchea, where there are the columns remaining of 
a temple to Serapis, and the wreck of an enormous 
amphitheatre, changed, like the Coliseum, into a natural 
hill of the overteeming vegetation. Here also is the 
Solfatara, of which there is a poetical description in the 



158 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Civil War of Petronius, beginning — ' Est locus/ and in 
which the verses of the poet are infinitely finer than 
what he describes, for it is not a very curious place. 
After seeing these things we returned by moonlight to 
Naples in our boat. What colours there were in the sky, 
what radiance in the evening star, and how the moon 
was encompassed by a light unknown to our regions ! 

Our next excursion was to Vesuvius. We went to 
Resina in a carriage, where Mary and I mounted mules, 
and Claire was carried in a chair on the shoulders of four 
men, much like a Member of Parliament after he has 
gained his election, and looking, with less reason, quite 
as frightened. So we arrived at the hermitage of San 
Salvador, where an old hermit, belted with rope, set 
forth the plates for our refreshment. 

Vesuvius is, after the glaciers, the most impressive 
exhibition of the energies of nature I ever saw. It has 
not the immeasurable greatness, the overpowering 
magnificence, nor, above all, the radiant beauty of the 
glaciers ; but it has all their character of tremendous 
and irresistible strength. From Resina to the hermitage 
you wind up the mountain, and cross a vast stream of 
hardened lava, which is an actual image of the waves of 
the sea, changed into hard black stone by enchantment. 
The lines of the boiling flood seem to hang in the air, 
and it is difficult to believe that the billows which seem 
hurrying down upon you are not actually in motion. 
This plain was once a sea of liquid fire. From the 
hermitage we crossed another vast stream of lava, and 
then went on foot up the cone — this is the only part of 
the ascent in which there is any difficulty, and that 
difficulty has been much exaggerated. It is composed 
of rocks of lava, and declivities of ashes ; by ascending 
the former and descending the latter, there is very little 
fatigue. On the summit is a kind of irregular plain, 
the most horrible chaos that can be imagined ; riven into 
ghastly chasms, and heaped up with tumuli of great 
stones and cinders, and enormous rocks blackened and 
calcined, which had been thrown from the volcano upon 



TO PEACOCK 159 

one another in terrible confusion. In the midst stands 
the conical hill from which volumes of smoke, and the 
fountains of liquid fire, are rolled forth forever. The 
mountain is at present in a slight state of eruption ; and 
a thick heavy white smoke is perpetually rolled out, 
interrupted by enormous columns of an impenetrable 
black bituminous vapour, which is hurled up, fold after 
fold, into the sky with a deep hollow sound, and fiery 
stones are rained down from its darkness, and a black 
shower of ashes fell even where we sat. The lava, like 
the glacier, creeps on perpetually, with a crackling 
sound as of suppressed fire. There are several springs 
of lava ; and in one place it rushes 1 precipitously over 
a high crag, rolling down the half-molten rocks and 
its own overhanging waves ; a cataract of quivering 
fire. We approached the extremity of one of the rivers 
of lava ; it is about twenty feet in breadth and ten in 
height ; and as the inclined plane was not rapid, its 
motion was very slow. We saw the masses of its dark 
exterior surface detach themselves- as it moved, and 
betray the depth of the liquid flame. In the day the fire 
is but slightly seen ; you only observe a tremulous 
motion in the air, and streams and fountains of white 
sulphurous smoke. 

At length we saw the sun sink between Capreae and 
Inarime, and, as the darkness increased, the effect of 
the fire became more beautiful. We were, as it were, 
surrounded by streams and cataracts of the red and 
radiant fire ; and in the midst, from the column of bitu- 
minous smoke shot up into the air, fell the vast masses of 
rock, white with the light of their intense heat, leaving 
behind them through the dark vapour trains of splendour. 
We descended by torch-light, and I should have enjoyed 
the scenery on my return, but they conducted me, I know 
not how, to the hermitage in a state of intense bodily 
suffering, the worst effect of which was spoiling the 
pleasure of Mary and Claire. Our guides on the occa- 
sion were complete savages. You have no idea of the 
1 So M. S. and Rhys ; but Garnett and H. B. F. read ' gushes \ 



160 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

horrible cries which they suddenly utter, no one knows 
why ; the clamour, the vociferation, the tumult. Claire 
in her palanquin suffered most from it ; and when I had 
gone on before, they threatened to leave her in the 
middle of the road, which they would have done had 
not my Italian servant promised them a beating, after 
which they became quiet. Nothing, however, can be 
more picturesque than the gestures and the physiog- 
nomies of these savage people. And when, in the dark- 
ness of night, they unexpectedly begin to sing in chorus 
some fragments of their wild but sweet national music, 
the effect is exceedingly fine. 

Since I wrote this, I have seen the museum of this 
city. Such statues ! There is a Venus ; an ideal shape 
of the most winning loveliness. A Bacchus, more 
sublime than any living being. A Satyr, making love 
to a youth : in which the expressed life of the sculpture, 
and the inconceivable beauty of the form of the youth, 
overcome one's repugnance to the subject. There are 
multitudes of wonderfully fine statues found in Hercula- 
neum and Pompeii. We are going to see Pompeii the 
first day that the sea is waveless. Herculaneum is almost 
filled up ; no more excavations are made ; the king 
bought the ground and built a palace upon it. 

You don't see much of Hunt. I wish you could con- 
trive to see him when you go to town, and ask him 
what he means to answer to Lord Byron's invitation. 
He has now an opportunity, if he likes, of seeing Italy. 
What do you think of joining his party, and paying us 
a visit next year ; I mean as soon as the reign of winter 
is dissolved ? Write to me your thoughts upon this. I 
cannot express to you the pleasure it would give me to 
welcome such a party. 

I have depression enough of spirits and not good 
health, though I believe the warm air of Naples does 
me good. We see absolutely no one here. 
Adieu, my dear Peacock, 

Affectionately your friend, 

P. B. S. 



TO PEACOCK 161 

LETTER 16 

Naples, Jan. 26th, 1819. 

My Dear Peacock, 

Your two letters arrived within a few days of 
each other, one being directed to Naples, and the other 
to Livorno. They are more welcome visitors to me 
than mine can be to you. I writing as from sepulchres, 
you from the habitations of men yet unburied ; though 
the sexton, Castlereagh, after having dug their grave, 
stands with his spade in his hand, evidently doubting 
whether he will not be forced to occupy it himself. 
Your news about the bank-note trials is excellent good. 
Do I not recognize in it the influence of Cobbett? 
You don't tell me what occupies Parliament? I know 
you will laugh at my demand, and assure me that it is 
indifferent. Your pamphlet I want exceedingly to see. 
Your calculations in the letter are clear, but require 
much oral explanation. You know I am an infernal 
arithmetician. If none but me had contemplated 
c lucentemque globum lunae, Titaniaque astra', the world 
would yet have doubted whether they were many 
hundred feet higher than the mountain tops. 

In my accounts of pictures and things, I am more 
pleased to interest you than the many ; and this is 
fortunate, because, in the first place, I have no idea of 
attempting the latter, and if I did attempt it, I should 
assuredly fail. A perception of the beautiful character- 
izes those who differ from ordinary men, and those who 
can perceive it would not buy enough to pay the printer. 
Besides, I keep no journal, and the only records of my 
voyage will be the letters I send you. The bodily 
fatigue of standing for hours in galleries exhausts me ; 
I believe that 1 don't see half that I ought, on that 
account. And then we know nobody, and the common 
Italians are so sullen and stupid, it 's impossible to get 
information from them. At Rome, where the people 
seem superior to any in Italy, I cannot fail to stumble on 



162 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

something more. O, if I had health, and strength, and 
equal spirits, what boundless intellectual improvement 
might I not gather in this wonderful country ! At 
present I write little else but poetry, and little of that. 
My first act of Prometheus is complete, and I think you 
would like it. I consider poetry very subordinate to 
moral and political science, and if I were well, certainly 
I would aspire to the latter, for I can conceive a great 
work, embodying the discoveries of all ages, and harmon- 
izing the contending creeds by which mankind have 
been ruled. Far from me is such an attempt, and I 
shall be content, by exercising my fancy, to amuse 
myself, and perhaps some others, and cast what weight 
I can into the scale of that balance, which the Giant of 
Arthegall holds. 1 

Since you last heard from me, we have been to see 
Pompeii, and are waiting now for the return of spring 
weather, to visit, first, Paestum, and then the islands ; 
after which we shall return to Rome. I was astonished 
at the remains of this city; I had no conception of 
anything so perfect yet remaining. My idea of the 
mode of its destruction was this : — First, an earthquake 
shattered it, and unroofed almost all its temples, and 
split its columns ; then a rain of light, small pumice- 
stones fell ; then torrents of boiling water, mixed with 
ashes, filled up all its crevices. A wide, flat hill, from 

1 The allusion is to the Fairy Queen, book v, canto 3. The 
Giant has scales, in which he professes to weigh right and wrong, 
and rectify the physical and moral evils which result from 
inequality of condition. Shelley once pointed out this passage 
to me, observing, * Artegall argues with the Giant ; the Giant 
has the best of the argument ; Artegall's iron man knocks him 
over into the sea and drowns him. This is the usual way in which 
power deals with opinion.' I said, * That was not the lesson which 
Spenser intended to convey.' * Perhaps not,' he said ; ' it is the 
lesson which he conveys to me. I am of the Giant's faction.' 

In the same feeling, with respect to Thomson's Castle of 
Indolence, he held that the Enchanter in the first canto was a 
true philanthropist, and the Knight of Arts and Industry in the 
second an oligarchical impostor overthrowing truth by power. 
[T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 163 

which the city was excavated, is now covered by thick 
woods, and you see the tombs and the theatres, the 
temples and the houses, surrounded by the uninhabited 
wilderness. We entered the town from the side towards 
the sea, and first saw two theatres ; one more magnifi- 
cent than the other, strewn with the ruins of the white 
marble which formed their seats and cornices, wrought 
with deep, bold sculpture. In the front, between the 
stage and the seats, is the circular space occasionally 
occupied by the chorus. The stage is very narrow, but 
long, and divided from this space by a narrow enclosure 
parallel to it, I suppose for the orchestra. On each 
side are the consuls' boxes, and below, in the theatre at 
Herculaneum, were found two equestrian statues of 
admirable workmanship, occupying the same place as 
the great bronze lamps did at Drury Lane. The smallest 
of the theatres is said to have been comic, though I 
should doubt. From both you see, as you sit on the 
seats, a prospect of the most wonderful beauty. 

You then pass through the ancient streets ; they are 
very narrow, and the houses rather small, but all con- 
structed on an admirable plan, especially for this climate. 
The rooms are built round a court, or sometimes two, 
according to the extent of the house. In the midst 
is a fountain, sometimes surrounded with a portico, 
supported on fluted columns of white stucco ; the floor 
is paved with mosaic, sometimes wrought in imitation of 
vine leaves, sometimes in quaint figures, and more or 
less beautiful, according to the rank of the inhabitant. 
There were paintings on all, but most of them have been 
removed to decorate the royal museums. Little winged 
figures, and small ornaments of exquisite elegance, yet 
remain. There is an ideal life in the forms of these 
paintings of an incomparable loveliness, though most 
are evidently the work of very inferior artists. It seems 
as if, from the atmosphere of mental beauty which sur- 
rounded them, every human being caught a splendour 
not his own. In one house you see how the bedrooms 
were managed ; — a small sofa was built up, where the 
M 2 



164 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

cushions were placed ; two pictures, one representing 
Diana and Endymion, the other Venus and Mars, 
decorate the chamber ; and a little niche, which contains 
the statue of a domestic god. The floor is composed of 
a rich mosaic of the rarest marbles, agate, jasper, and 
porphyry ; it looks to the marble fountain and the snow- 
white columns, whose entablatures strew the floor of 
the portico they supported. The houses have only one 
storey, and the apartments, though not large, are very 
lofty. A great advantage results from this, wholly 
unknown in our cities. The public buildings, whose 
ruins are now forests, as it were, of white fluted columns, 
and which then supported entablatures, loaded with 
sculptures, were seen on all sides over the roofs of the 
houses. This was the excellence of the ancients. Their 
private expenses were comparatively moderate ; the 
dwelling of one of the chief senators of Pompeii is 
elegant indeed, and adorned with most beautiful 
specimens of art, but small. But their public buildings 
are everywhere marked by the bold and grand designs of 
an unsparing magnificence. In the little town of Pompeii 
(it contained about twenty thousand inhabitants), it 
is wonderful to see the number and the grandeur of 
their public buildings. Another advantage, too, is that, 
in the present case, the glorious scenery around is not 
shut out, and that, unlike the inhabitants of the Cim- 
merian ravines of modern cities, the ancient Pompeians 
could contemplate the clouds and the lamps of heaven ; 
could see the moon rise high behind Vesuvius, and the 
sun set in the sea, tremulous with an atmosphere of 
golden vapour, between Inarime and Misenum. 

We next saw the temples. Of the temple of Aesculapius 
little remains but an altar of black stone, adorned with 
a cornice imitating the scales of a serpent. His statue, 
in terra-cotta, was found in the cell. The temple of I sis 
is more perfect. It is surrounded by a portico of fluted 
columns, and in the area around it are two altars, and 
many ceppi for statues ; and a little chapel of white 
stucco, as hard as stone, of the most exquisite proportion ; 



TO PEACOCK 165 

its panels are adorned with figures in bas-relief, slightly 
indicated, but of a workmanship the most delicate and 
perfect that can be conceived. They are Egyptian 
subjects, executed by a Greek artist, who has harmonized 
all the unnatural extravagances of the original conception 
into the supernatural loveliness of his country's genius. 
They scarcely touch the ground with their feet, and 
their wind-uplifted robes seem in the place of wings. 
The temple in the midst, raised on a high platform, 
and approached by steps, was decorated with exquisite 
paintings, some of which we saw in the museum at 
Portici. It is small, of the same materials as the chapel, 
with a pavement of mosaic, and fluted Ionic columns of 
white stucco, so white that it dazzles you to look at it. 

Thence through other porticos and labyrinths of walls 
and columns (for I cannot hope to detail everything to 
you), we came to the Forum. This is a large square, 
surrounded by lofty porticos of fluted columns, some 
broken, some entire, their entablatures strewed under 
them. The temple of Jupiter, of Venus, and another 
temple, the Tribunal, and the Hall of Public Justice, 
with their forests of lofty columns, surround the 
Forum. Two pedestals or altars of an enormous size 
(for, whether they supported equestrian statues, or were 
the altars of the temple of Venus, before which they 
stand, the guide could not tell), occupy the lower end 
of the Forum. At the upper end, supported on an 
elevated platform, stands the temple of Jupiter. Under 
the colonnade of its portico we sate, and pulled out our 
oranges, and figs, and bread, and medlars (sorry fare, 
you will say), and rested to eat. Here was a magni- 
ficent spectacle. Above and between the multitudinous 
shafts of the sun-shining columns was seen the sea, 
reflecting the purple heaven of noon above it, and 
supporting, as it were, on its line the dark lofty 
mountains of Sorrento, of a blue inexpressibly deep, and 
tinged towards their summits with streaks of new-fallen 
snow. Between was one small green island. To the 
right was Capreae, Inarime, Prochyta, and Misenum. 



166 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Behind was the single summit of Vesuvius, rolling forth 
volumes of thick white smoke, whose foam-like column 
was sometimes darted into the clear dark sky, and fell 
in little streaks along the wind. Between Vesuvius 
and the nearer mountains, as through a chasm, was seen 
the main line of the loftiest Apennines, to the east. 
The day was radiant and warm. Every now and then 
we heard the subterranean thunder of Vesuvius ; its 
distant deep peals seemed to shake the very air and 
light of day, which interpenetrated our frames, with the 
sullen and tremendous sound. This scene was what 
the Greeks beheld (Pompeii, you know, was a Greek 
city). They lived in harmony with nature ; and the 
interstices of their incomparable columns were portals, 
as it were, to admit the spirit of beauty which animates 
this glorious universe to visit those whom it inspired. 
If such is Pompeii, what was Athens ? What scene was 
exhibited from the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the 
temples of Hercules, and Theseus, and the Winds ? 
The islands and the Aegean sea, the mountains of 
Argolis, and the peaks of Pindus and Olympus, and the 
darkness of the Boeotian forests interspersed ? 

From the Forum we went to another public place ; 
a triangular portico, half enclosing the ruins of an enor- 
mous temple. It is built on the edge of the hill over- 
looking the sea. ^ That black point is the temple. In 
the apex of the triangle stands an altar and a fountain, 
and before the altar once stood the statue of the builder 
of the portico. Returning hence, and following the 
consular road, we came to the eastern gate of the city. 
The walls are of enormous strength, and inclose a space 
of three miles. On each side of the road beyond the 
gate are built the tombs. How unlike ours ! They seem 
not so much hiding-places for that which must decay, 
as voluptuous chambers for immortal spirits. They are 
of marble, radiantly white ; and two, especially beautiful, 
are loaded with exquisite bas-reliefs. On the stucco- 
wall that incloses them are little emblematic figures, of a 
relief exceedingly low, of dead and dying animals, and 



TO PEACOCK 167 

little winged genii, and female forms bending in groups 
in some funeral office. The higher reliefs represent, 
one a nautical subject, and the other a Bacchanalian one. 
Within the cell stand the cinerary urns, sometimes one, 
sometimes more. It is said that paintings were found 
within ; which are now, as has been everything mov- 
able in Pompeii, removed, and scattered about in royal 
museums. These tombs were the most impressive things 
of all. The wild woods surround them on either side ; 
and along the broad stones of the paved road which 
divides them, you hear the late leaves of autumn shiver 
and rustle in the stream of the inconstant wind, as it 
were, like the step of ghosts. The radiance and mag- 
nificence of these dwellings of the dead, the white 
freshness of the scarcely finished marble, the impassioned 
or imaginative life of the figures which adorn them, 
contrast strangely with the simplicity of the houses 
of those who were living when Vesuvius overwhelmed 
them. 

I have forgotten the amphitheatre, which is of great 
magnitude, though much inferior to the Coliseum. 
I now understand why the Greeks were such great 
poets : and, above all, I can account, it seems to me, for 
the harmony, the unity, the perfection, the uniform 
excellence, of all their works of art. They lived in a 
perpetual commerce with external nature, and nourished 
themselves upon the spirit of its forms. Their theatres 
were all open to the mountains and the sky. Their 
columns, the ideal types of a sacred forest, with its roof 
of interwoven tracery, admitted the light and wind ; the 
odour and the freshness of the country penetrated the 
cities. Their temples were mostly upaithric ; and the 
flying clouds, the stars, or the deep sky, were seen above. 
O, but for that series of wretched wars which terminated 
in the Roman conquest of the world; but for the 
Christian religion, which put the finishing stroke on the 
ancient system ; but for those changes that conducted 
Athens to its ruin — to what an eminence might not 
humanity have arrived ! 



168 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

In a short time I hope to tell you something of the 
museum of this city. 

You see how ill I follow the maxim of Horace, at 
least in its literal sense : * nil admirari ■ — which I should 
say. 'prope res est una' — to prevent there ever being 
anything admirable in the world. Fortunately Plato is 
of my opinion ; and I had rather err with Plato than be 
right with Horace. 

At this moment I have received your letter, indicating 
that you are removing to London. I am very much 
interested in the subject of this change, and beg you 
would write me all the particulars of it. You will be 
able now to give me perhaps a closer insight into the 
politics of the times than was permitted you at Marlow. 

Of H I have a very slight opinion. There are 

rumours here of a revolution in Spain. A ship came in 
twelve days from Catalonia, and brought a report that 
the king was massacred ; that eighteen thousand insur- 
gents surrounded Madrid ; but that before the popular 
party gained head enough seven thousand were murdered 
by the Inquisition. Perhaps you know all by this time. 
The old king of Spain is dead here. Cobbett is a fine 
vfievonoios — does his influence increase or diminish ? 
What a pity that so powerful a genius should be com- 
bined with the most odious moral qualities. 

We have reports here of a change in the English 
ministry — to what does it amount ? for, besides my 
national interest in it, I am on the watch to vindicate 
my most sacred rights, invaded by the chancery court. 

I suppose now we shall not see you in Italy this 
spring, whether Hunt comes or not. It's probable 
I shall hear nothing from him for some months, par- 
ticularly if he does not come. Give me ses nouvelles. 

I am under an English surgeon here, who says I have 
a disease of the liver, which he will cure. We keep 
horses, as this kind of exercise is absolutely essential 
to my health. Elise * has just married our Italian 

1 A Swiss girl whom we had engaged as nursery-maid two 
years before, at Geneva. [M. S.] 



TO PEACOCK 169 

servant, and has quitted us ; the man was a great rascal, 
and cheated enormously : this event was very much 
against our advice. 

I have scarcely been out since I wrote last. 

Adieu ! yours most faithfully, 
P. B. S. 



LETTER 17 

Naples, February 25th, 1819- 

My Dear Peacock, 

I am much interested to hear your progress in 
the object of your removal to London, especially as I 
hear from Horace Smith of the advantages attending it. 
There is no person in the world who would more 
siucerely rejoice in any good fortune that might befall 
you than I should. 

We are on the point of quitting Naples for Rome. 
The scenery which surrounds this city is more delight- 
ful than any within the immediate reach of civilized 
man. I don't think I have mentioned to you the Lago 
d'Agnano and the Caccia d'Ischieri, and I have since 
seen what obscures those lovely forms in my memory. 
They are both the craters of extinguished volcanoes, and 
nature has thrown forth forests of oak and ilex, and 
spread mossy lawns and clear lakes over the dead or 
sleeping fire. The first is a scene of a wider and milder 
character, with soft sloping, wooded hills, and grassy 
declivities declining to the lake, and cultivated plains 
of vines woven upon poplar trees, bounded by the theatre 
of hills. Innumerable wild water-birds, quite tame, in- 
habit this place. The other is a royal chace, is surrounded 
by steep and lofty hills, and only accessible through 
a wide gate of massy oak, from the vestibule of which 
the spectacle of precipitous hills, hemming in a narrow 
and circular vale, is suddenly disclosed. The hills are 
covered with thick woods of ilex, myrtle, and laurustinus ; 
the polished leaves of the ilex, as they wave in their 



170 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

multitudes under the partial blasts which rush through 
the chasms of the vale, glitter above the dark masses of 
foliage below, like the white foam of waves upon a deep 
blue sea. The plain so surrounded is at most three 
miles in circumference. It is occupied partly by a lake, 
with bold shores wooded by evergreens, and interrupted 
by a sylvan promontory of the wild forest, whose mossy 
boughs overhang its expanse, of a silent and purple 
darkness, like an Italian midnight ; and partly by the 
forest itself, of all gigantic trees, but the oak especially, 
whose jagged boughs, now leafless, are hoary with thick 
lichens, and loaded with the massy and deep foliage of 
the ivy. The effect of the dark eminences that surround 
this plain, seen through the boughs, is of an enchanting 
solemnity. (There we saw in one instance wild boars 
and a deer, and in another — a spectacle little suited to 
the antique and Latonian nature of the place — King 
Ferdinand in a winter enclosure, watching to shoot wild 
boars.) The underwood was principally evergreen, all 
lovely kinds of fern and furze ; the cytisus, a delicate 
kind of furze with a pretty yellow blossom, the myrtle, 
and the myrica. The willow trees had just begun to 
put forth their green and golden buds, and gleamed like 
points of lambent fire among the wintry forest. The 
Grotta del Cane, too, we saw, because other people see 
it ; but would not allow the dog to be exhibited in 
torture for our curiosity. The poor little animals 1 stood 
moving their tails in a slow and dismal manner, as if 
perfectly resigned to their condition — a cur-like emblem 
of voluntary servitude. The effect of the vapour, which 
extinguishes a torch, is to cause suffocation at last, 
through a process which makes the lungs feel as if they 
were torn by sharp points within. So a surgeon told 
us, who tried the experiment on himself. 

There was a Greek city, sixty miles to the south of 
Naples, called Posidonia, now Pesto, where there still 

1 Several dogs are kept for exhibition, but only one is exhibited 
at a time. |T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 171 

subsist three temples of Etruscan 1 architecture, still 
perfect. From this city we have just returned. The 
weather was most unfavourable for our expedition. 
After two months of cloudless serenity, it began raining 
cats and dogs. The first night we slept at Salerno, 
a large city situate in the recess of a deep bay ; sur- 
rounded with stupendous mountains of the same name. 
A few miles from Torre del Greco we entered on the 
pass of the mountains, which is a line dividing the 
isthmus of those enormous piles of rock which compose 
the southern boundary of the Bay of Naples, and the 
northern one of that of Salerno. On one side is a lofty 
conical hill, crowned with the turrets of a ruined castle, 
and cut into platforms for cultivation ; at least every 
ravine and glen, whose precipitous sides admitted of 
other vegetation but that of the rock-rooted ilex : on 
the other, the aethereal snowy crags of an immense 
mountain, whose terrible lineaments were at intervals 
concealed or disclosed by volumes of dense clouds 
rolling under the tempest. Half a mile from this spot, 
between orange and lemon groves of a lovely village, 
suspended as it were on an amphitheatral precipice, 
whose golden globes contrasted with the white walls 
and dark green leaves which they almost outnumbered, 
shone the sea. A burst of the declining sunlight 
illumined it. The road led along the brink of the 
precipice, towards Salerno. Nothing could be more 
glorious than the scene. The immense mountains 
covered with the rare and divine vegetation of this 
climate, with many-folding vales, and deep dark recesses 
which the fancy scarcely could penetrate, descended from 
their snowy summits precipitously to the sea. Before us 
was Salerno, built into a declining plain, between the 
mountains and the sea. Beyond, the other shore of 
sky-cleaving mountains, then dim with the mist of 
tempest. Underneath, from the base of the precipice 
where the road conducted, rocky promontories jutted 

1 The architecture is Doric. [T. L. P.] 



172 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

into the sea, covered with olive and ilex woods, or with 
the ruined battlements of some Norman or Saracenic 
fortress. We slept at Salerno, and the next morning, 
before daybreak, proceeded to Posidonia. The night 
had been tempestuous, and our way lay by the sea sand. 
It was utterly dark, except when the long line of wave 
burst, with a sound like thunder, beneath the starless 
sky, and cast up a kind of mist of cold white lustre. 
When morning came, we found ourselves travelling in 
a wide desert plain, perpetually interrupted by wild 
irregular glens, and bounded on all sides by the Apennines 
and the sea. Sometimes it was covered with forest, 
sometimes dotted with underwood, or mere tufts of fern 
and furze, and the wintry dry tendrils of creeping plants. 
I have never, but in the Alps, seen an amphitheatre of 
mountains so magnificent. After travelling fifteen miles, 
we came to a river, the bridge of which had been broken, 
and which was so swollen that the ferry would not take the 
carriage across. We had, therefore, to walk seven miles 
of a muddy road, which led to the ancient city across 
the desolate Maremma. The air was scented with the 
sweet smell of violets of an extraordinary size and beauty. 
At length we saw the sublime and massy colonnades, 
skirting the horizon of the wilderness. We entered by the 
ancient gate, which is now no more than a chasm in the 
rock-like wall. Deeply sunk in the ground beside it 
were the ruins of a sepulchre, which the ancients were 
in the custom of building beside the public way. The 
first temple, which is the smallest, consists of an outer 
range of columns, quite perfect, and supporting a perfect 
architrave and two shattered frontispieces. 1 The pro- 
portions are extremely massy, and the architecture 
entirely unornamented and simple. These columns do 
not seem more than forty feet high, 2 but the perfect 

1 The three temples are amphiprostyle ; that is, they have two 
prospects or fronts, each of six columns in the two first, and of 
nine in the Basilica. See Major's Ruins of Paestum. 1768. 
[T.L.P.] 

2 The height of the columns is respectively 18 feet 6 inches, 



TO PEACOCK 173 

proportions diminish the apprehension of their magni- 
tude ; it seems as if inequality and irregularity of form 
were requisite to force on us the relative idea of great- 
ness. The scene from between the columns of the 
temple consists on one side of the sea, to which the 
gentle hill on which it is built slopes, and on the other, 
of the grand amphitheatre of the loftiest Apennines, dark 
purple mountains, crowned with snow, and intersected 
there by long bars of hard and leaden-coloured cloud. 
The effect of the jagged outline of mountains, through 
groups of enormous columns on one side, and on the 
other the level horizon of the sea, is inexpressibly grand. 
The second temple is much larger, and also more 
perfect. Beside the outer range of columns, it contains 
an interior range of column above column, and the 
ruins of a wall which was the screen of the pene- 
tralia. With little diversity of ornament, the order of 
architecture is similar to that of the first temple. The 
columns in all are fluted, and built of a porous volcanic 
stone, which time has dyed with a rich and yellow colour. 
The columns are one-third larger, and like that of the 
first, diminish from the base to the capital, so that, but 
for the chastening effect of their admirable proportions, 
their magnitude would, from the delusion of perspective, 
seem greater, not less, than it is ; though perhaps we 
ought to say, not that this symmetry diminishes your 
apprehension of their magnitude, but that it overpowers 
the idea of relative greatness, by establishing within 
itself a system of relations destructive of your idea of its 
relation with other objects, on which our ideas of size 
depend. The third temple is what they call a Basilica ; 
three columns alone remain of the interior range ; the 
exterior is perfect, but that the cornice and frieze in 
many places have fallen. This temple covers more 
ground than either of the others, but its columns are of 

and 28 feet 5 inches and 6| lines, in the two first temples ; and 
21 feet 6 inches in the Basilica. This shows the justice of the 
remarks on the difference of real and apparent magnitude. 
[T. L. P.] 



174 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

an intermediate magnitude between those of the second 
and the first. 

We only contemplated these sublime monuments for 
two hours, and of course could only bring away so im- 
perfect a conception of them as is the shadow of some 
half-remembered dream. 

The royal collection of paintings in this city is 
sufficiently miserable. Perhaps the most remarkable 
is the original studio by Michael Angelo, of the ( Day of 
Judgement ', which is painted in fresco on the Sixtine 
chapel of the Vatican. It is there so defaced as to be 
wholly indistinguishable. I cannot but think the genius 
of this artist highly overrated. He has not only no 
temperance, no modesty, no feeling for the just boun- 
daries of art (and in these respects an admirable genius 
may err), but he has no sense of beauty, and to want this 
is to want the sense of the creative power of mind. 
What is terror without a contrast with, and a connexion 
with, loveliness. How well Dante understood this 
secret— Dante, with whom this artist has been so 
presumptuously compared ! What a thing his c Moses ' 
is ; how distorted from all that is natural and majestic, 
only less monstrous and detestable than its historical 
prototype. In the picture to which I allude, God is 
leaning out of heaven, as it were eagerly enjoying the 
final scene of the infernal tragedy he set the Universe 
to act. The Holy Ghost, in the shape of a dove, is 
under Him. Under the Holy Ghost stands Jesus Christ, 
in an attitude of haranguing the assembly. This figure, 
which his subject, or rather the view which it became 
him to take of it, ought to have modelled of a calm, 
severe, awe-inspiring majesty, terrible yet lovely, is in 
the attitude of commonplace resentment. On one side 
of this figure are the elect ; on the other, the host of 
heaven ; they ought to have been what the Christians 
call glorified bodies, floating onward and radiant with 
that everlasting light (I speak in the spirit of their 
faith), which had consumed their mortal veil. They 
are in fact very ordinary people. Below is the ideal 



TO PEACOCK 175 

purgatory, I imagine, in mid-air, in the shapes of spirits, 
some of whom daemons are dragging down, others 
falling as it were by their own weight, others half 
suspended in that Mahomet-coffin kind of attitude 
which most moderate Christians, I believe, expect to 
assume. Every step towards hell approximates to the 
region of the artist's exclusive power. There is great 
imagination in many of the situations of these unfortu- 
nate spirits. But hell and death are his real sphere. 
The bottom of the picture is divided by a lofty rock, in 
which there is a cavern whose entrance is thronged by 
devils, some coming in with spirits, some going out for 
prey. The blood-red light of the fiery abyss glows 
through their dark forms. On one side are the devils 
in all hideous forms, struggling with the damned, who 
have received their sentence at the redeemer's throne, 
and chained in all forms of agony by knotted serpents, 
and writhing on the crags in every variety of torture. 
On the other, are the dead coming out of their graves — 
horrible forms. Such is the famous ' Day of Judgement ' 
of Michael Angelo ; a kind of Titus Andronicus in 
painting, but the author surely no Shakespeare. The 
other paintings are one or two of Raphael or his pupils, 
very sweet and lovely. A ' Danae ' of Titian, a picture, 
the softest and most voluptuous form, with languid and 
uplifted eyes, and warm yet passive limbs. A ' Madde- 
lena ', by Guido, with dark brown hair, and dark brown 
eyes, and an earnest, soft, melancholy look. And some 
excellent pictures, in point of execution, by Annibal 
Carracci. None others worth a second look. Of the 
gallery of statues I cannot speak. They require a 
volume, not a letter. Still less what can I do at Rome ? 
I have just seen the Quarterly for September (not 
from my own box). I suppose there is no chance now 
of your organizing a review ! This is a great pity. The 
Quarterly is undoubtedly conducted with talent, great 
talent, and affords a dreadful preponderance against the 
cause of improvement. If a band of staunch reformers, 
resolute yet skilful infidels, were united in so close and 



176 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

constant a league 1 as that in which interest and 
fanaticism have bound the members of that literary 
coalition ! 

Adieu. Address your next letter to Rome, whence 
you shall hear from me soon again. Mary and Clara 
unite with me in the very kindest remembrances. Most 
faithfully yours, 

P. B. S. 

A doctor here has been messing me, and I believe 
has done me an important benefit. One of his pretty 
schemes has been putting caustic on my side. You 
may guess how much quiet I have had since it was 
laid on. . . . 



LETTER 18 

Rome, March 23rd, 1819- 
Mv Dear Peacock, 

I wrote to you the day before our departure 
from Naples. We came by slow journeys, with our own 
horses, to Rome, resting one day at Mola di Gaeta, at 
the inn called Villa di Cicerone, from being built on the 
ruins of his Villa, whose immense substructions overhang 
the sea, and are scattered among the orange-groves. 
Nothing can be lovelier than the scene from the terraces 
of the inn. On one side precipitous mountains, whose 
bases slope into an inclined plane of olive and orange- 
copses — the latter forming, as it were, an emerald sky 
of leaves, starred with innumerable globes of their 
ripening fruit, whose rich splendour contrasted with 
the deep green foliage ; on the other the sea — bounded 
on one side by the antique town of Gaeta, and the 
other by what appears to be an island, the promontory 
of Circe. From Gaeta to Terracina the whole scenery 
is of the most sublime character. At Terracina preci- 

1 This was the idea which was subsequently intended to be 
carried out in the Liberal, [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 177 

pitous conical crags of immense height shoot into the sky 
and overhang the sea. At Albano we arrived again in 
sight of Rome. Arches after arches in unending lines 
stretching across the uninhabited wilderness, the blue 
defined line of the mountains seen between them; 
masses of nameless ruin standing like rocks out of the 
plain ; and the plain itself, with its billowy and unequal 
surface, announced the neighbourhood of Rome. And 
what shall I say to you of Rome ? If I speak of the 
inanimate ruins, the rude stones piled upon stones, 
which are the sepulchres of the fame of those who once 
arrayed them with the beauty which has faded, will 
you believe me insensible to the vital, the almost 
breathing creations of genius yet subsisting in their 
perfection? What has become, you will ask, of the 
Apollo, the Gladiator, the Venus of the Capitol ? What 
of the Apollo di Belvedere, the Laocoon? What of 
Raphael and Guido? These things are best spoken 
of when the mind has drunk in the spirit of their forms ; 
and little indeed can I, who must devote no more than 
a few months to the contemplation of them, hope to 
know or feel of their profound beauty. 

I think I told you of the Coliseum, and its impressions 
on me on my first visit to this city. The next most 
considerable relic of antiquity, considered as a ruin, is 
the Thermae of Caracalla. These consist of six enormous 
chambers, above 200 feet in height, and each enclosing 
a vast space like that of a field. There are, in addition, 
a number of towers and labyrinthine recesses, hidden 
and woven over by the wild growth of weeds and ivy. 
Never was any desolation more sublime and lovely. 
The perpendicular wall of ruin is cloven into steep 
ravines filled up with flowering shrubs, whose thick 
twisted roots are knotted in the rifts of the stones. At 
every step the aerial pinnacles of shattered stone group 
into new combinations of effect, and tower above the 
lofty yet level walls, as the distant mountains change 
their aspect to one travelling rapidly along the plain. 
The perpendicular walls resemble nothing more than that 



178 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

cliff of Bisham wood, that is overgrown with wood, and 
yet is stony and precipitous — you know the one I mean ; 
not the chalk-pit, but the spot that has the pretty copse 
of fir-trees and privet-bushes at its base, and where 
H and I scrambled up, and you, to my infinite dis- 
content, would go home. These walls surround green 
and level spaces of lawn, on which some elms have 
grown, and which are interspersed towards their skirts 
by masses of the fallen ruin, overtwined with the broad 
leaves of the creeping weeds. The blue sky canopies 
it, and is as the everlasting roof of these enormous 
halls. 

But the most interesting effect remains. In one of 
the buttresses, that supports an immense and lofty arch, 
which ( bridges the very winds of heaven ', are the 
crumbling remains of an antique winding staircase, 
whose sides are open in many places to the precipice. 
This you ascend, and arrive on the summit of these 
piles. There grow on every side thick entangled wilder- 
nesses of myrtle, and the myrletus, and bay, and the 
flowering laurestinus, whose white blossoms are just 
developed, the white fig, and a thousand nameless 
plants sown by the wandering winds. These woods are 
intersected on every side by paths, like sheep-tracks 
through the copse-wood of steep mountains, which wind 
to every part of the immense labyrinth. From the 
midst rise those pinnacles and masses, themselves like 
mountains, which have been seen from below. In one 
place you wind along a narrow strip of weed-grown 
ruin : on one side is the immensity of earth and sky, on 
the other a narrow chasm, which is bounded by an arch 
of enormous size, fringed by the many-coloured foliage 
and blossoms, and supporting a lofty and irregular 
pyramid, overgrown like itself with the all-prevailing 
vegetation. Around rise other crags and other peaks, 
all arrayed, and the deformity of their vast desolation 
softened down, by the undecaying investiture of nature. 
Come to Rome. It is a scene by which expression is 
overpowered ; which words cannot convey. Still further. 



TO PEACOCK 179 

winding up one-half of the shattered pyramids, by the 
path through the blooming copse-wood, you come to 
a little mossy lawn, surrounded by the wild shrubs ; it 
is overgrown with anemones, wallflowers, and violets, 
whose stalks pierce the starry moss, and with radiant 
blue flowers, whose names I know not, and which scatter 
through the air the divinest odour, which, as you recline 
under the shade of the ruin, produces sensations of 
voluptuous faintness, like the combinations of sweet 
music. The paths still wind on, threading the perplexed 
windings, other labyrinths, other lawns, and deep dells 
of wood, and lofty rocks, and terrific chasms. When 
I tell you that these ruins cover several acres, and that 
the paths above penetrate at least half their extent, 
your imagination will fill up all that I am unable to 
express of this astonishing scene. 

I speak of these things not in the order in which I 
visited them, but in that of the impression which they 
made on me, or perhaps chance directs. The ruins of 
the ancient Forum are so far fortunate that they have 
not been walled up in the modern city. They stand in 
an open, lonesome place, bounded on one side by the 
modern city, and the other by the Palatine Mount, 
covered with shapeless masses of ruin. The tourists 
tell you all about these things, and I am afraid of 
stumbling on their language when I enumerate what is 
so well known. There remain eight granite columns of 
the Ionic order, with their entablature, of the temple of 
Concord, founded by Camillus. I fear that the immense 
expense demanded by these columns forbids us to hope 
that they are the remains of any edifice dedicated by 
that most perfect and virtuous of men. It is supposed 
to have been repaired under the Eastern Emperors ; 
alas, what a contrast of recollections ! Near them stand 
three Corinthian fluted columns, which supported the 
angle of a temple ; the architrave and entablature are 
worked with delicate sculpture. Beyond, to the south, 
is another solitary column ; and still more distant, 
three more, supporting the wreck of an entablature. 
N % 



180 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Descending from the Capitol to the Forum, is the 
triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, less perfect than that 
of Constantine, though from its proportions and magni- 
tude a most impressive monument. That of Constantine, 
or rather of Titus (for the relief and sculpture, and even 
the colossal images of Dacian captives, were torn by 
a decree of the senate from an arch dedicated to the 
latter, to adorn that of this stupid and wicked monster, 
Constantine, one of whose chief merits consists in estab- 
lishing a religion, the destroyer of those arts which 
would have rendered so base a spoliation unnecessary), 
is the most perfect. It is an admirable work of art. It 
is built of the finest marble, and the outline of the 
reliefs is in many parts as perfect as if just finished. 
Four Corinthian fluted columns support, on each side, 
a bold entablature, whose bases are loaded with reliefs of 
captives in every attitude of humiliation and slavery. 
The compartments above express in bolder relief the 
enjoyment of success ; the conqueror on his throne, or in 
his chariot, or nodding over the crushed multitudes, who 
writhe under his horses' hoofs, as those below express 
the torture and abjectness of defeat. There are three 
arches, whose roofs are panelled with fretwork, and 
their sides adorned with similar reliefs. The keystone 
of these arches is supported each by two winged figures 
of Victory, whose hair floats on the wind of their own 
speed, and whose arms are outstretched, bearing trophies, 
as if impatient to meet. They look, as it were, borne 
from the subject extremities of the earth, on the breath 
which is the exhalation of that battle and desolation, 
which it is their mission to commemorate. Never were 
monuments so completely fitted to the purpose for 
which they were designed, of expressing that mixture 
of energy and error which is called a triumph. 

I walk forth in the purple and golden light of an 
Italian evening, and return by star or moonlight, through 
this scene. The elms are just budding, and the warm 
spring winds bring unknown odours, all sweet, from the 
country. I see the radiant Orion through the mighty 



TO PEACOCK 181 

columns of the temple of Concord, and the mellow 
fading light softens down the modem buildings of the 
Capitol, the only ones that interfere with the sublime 
desolation of the scene. On the steps of the Capitol 
itself, stand two colossal statues of Castor and Pollux, 
each with his horse, finely executed, though far inferior 
to those of Monte Cavallo, the cast of one of which you 
know we saw together in London. This walk is close 
to our lodging, and this is my evening walk. 

What shall I say of the modern city? Rome is yet 
the capital of the world. It is a city of palaces and 
temples, more glorious than those which any other city 
contains, and of ruins more glorious than they. Seen 
from any of the eminences that surround it, it exhibits 
domes beyond domes, and palaces, and colonnades 
interminably, even to the horizon ; interspersed with 
patches of desert, and mighty ruins which stand girt by 
their own desolation, in the midst of the fanes of living 
religions and the habitations of living men, in sublime 
loneliness. St. Peter's is, as you have heard, the loftiest 
building in Europe. Externally it is inferior in archi- 
tectural beauty to St Paul's, though not wholly devoid 
of it ; internally it exhibits littleness on a large scale, 
and is in every respect opposed to antique taste. You 
know my propensity to admire ; and I tried to persuade 
myself out of this opinion — in vain ; the more I see of 
the interior of St. Peter's, the less impression as a whole 
does it produce on me. I cannot even think it lofty, 
though its dome is considerably higher than any hill 
within fifty miles of London ; and when one reflects, it 
is an astonishing monument of the daring energy of 
man. Its colonnade is wonderfully fine, and there are 
two fountains, which rise in spire-like columns of water 
to an immense height in the sky, and falling on the 
porphyry vases from which they spring, fill the whole 
air with a radiant mist, which at noon is thronged with 
innumerable rainbows. In the midst stands an obelisk. 
In front is the palace-like facade of St. Peter's, certainly 
magnificent ; and there is produced, on the whole, an 



182 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

architectural combination unequalled in the world. But 
the dome of the temple is concealed, except at a very 
great distance, by the facade and the inferior part of 
the building, and that diabolical contrivance they call 
an attic. 

The effect of the Pantheon is totally the reverse of 
that of St. Peter's. Though not a fourth part of the 
size, it is, as it were, the visible image of the universe ; 
in the perfection of its proportions, as when you regard 
the unmeasured dome of heaven, the idea of magnitude 
is swallowed up and lost. It is open to the sky, and its 
wide dome is lighted by the ever-changing illumination 
of the air. The clouds of noon fly over it, and at night 
the keen stars are seen through the azure darkness, 
hanging immovably, or driving after the driving moon 
among the clouds. We visited it by moonlight ; it is 
supported by sixteen columns, fluted and Corinthian, of 
a certain rare and beautiful yellow marble, exquisitely 
polished, called here giallo antico. Above these are 
the niches for the statues of the twelve gods. This is 
the only defect of this sublime temple ; there ought to 
have been no interval between the commencement of 
the dome and the cornice, supported by the columns, 
Thus there would have been no diversion from the 
magnificent simplicity of its form. This improvement 
is alone wanting to have completed the unity of the 
idea. 

The fountains of Rome are, in themselves, magnificent 
combinations of art, such as alone it were worth coming 
to see. That in the Piazza Navona, a large square, is 
composed of enormous fragments of rock, piled on 
each other, and penetrated, as by caverns. This mass 
supports an Egyptian obelisk of immense height. On 
the four corners of the rock recline, in different attitudes, 
colossal figures representing the four divisions of the 
globe. The water bursts from the crevices beneath them. 
They are sculptured with great spirit ; one impatiently 
tearing a veil from his eyes ; another with his hands 
stretched upwards. The Fontana di Trevi is the most 



TO PEACOCK 183 

celebrated, and is rather a waterfall than a fountain ; 
gushing out from masses of rock, with a gigantic figure 
of Neptune ; and below are two river gods, checking 
two winged horses, struggling up from among the rocks 
and waters. The whole is not ill-conceived nor exe- 
cuted ; but you know not how delicate the imagination 
becomes by dieting with antiquity day after day ! The 
only things that sustain the comparison are Raphael, 
Guido, and Salvator Rosa. 

The fountain on the Quirinal, or rather the group 
formed by the statues, obelisk, and the fountain, is, 
however, the most admirable of all. From the Piazza 
Quirinale, or rather Monte Cavallo, you see the bound- 
less ocean of domes, spires, and columns, which is the 
City, Rome. On a pedestal of white marble rises an 
obelisk of red granite, piercing the blue sky. Before it 
is a vast basin of porphyry, in the midst of which rises 
a column of the purest water, which collects into itself 
all the overhanging colours of the sky, and breaks them 
into a thousand prismatic hues and graduated shadows — 
they fall together with its dashing water-drops into the 
outer basin. The elevated situation of this fountain 
produces, I imagine, this effect of colour. On each side, 
on an elevated pedestal, stand the statues of Castor and 
Pollux, each in the act of taming his horse, which are 
said, but I believe wholly without authority, to be the 
work of Phidias and Praxiteles. These figures combine 
the irresistible energy with the sublime and perfect 
loveliness supposed to have belonged to their divine 
nature. The reins no longer exist, but the position of 
their hands and the sustained and calm command of 
their regard, seem to require no mechanical aid to enforce 
obedience. The countenances at so great a height are 
scarcely visible, and I have a better idea of that of 
which we saw a cast together in London, than of the 
other. But the sublime and living majesty of their 
limbs and mien, the nervous and fiery animation of the 
horses they restrain, seen in the blue sky of Italy, and 
overlooking the city of Rome, surrounded by the light 



184 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

and the music of that crystalline fountain, no cast can 
communicate. 

These figures were found at the Baths of Constan- 
tine, but, of course, are of remote antiquity. I do not 
acquiesce however in the practice of attributing to 
Phidias, or Praxiteles, or Scopas, or some great master, 
any admirable work that may be found. We find little 
of what remained, and perhaps the works of these were 
such as greatly surpassed all that we conceive of most 
perfect and admirable in what little has escaped the 
deluge. If I am too jealous of the honour of the Greeks, 
our masters, and creators, the gods whom we should 
worship — pardon me. 

I have said what I feel without entering into any 
critical discussions of the ruins of Rome, and the mere 
outside of this inexhaustible mine of thought and 
feeling. Hobhouse, Eustace, and Forsyth, will tell all 
the show-knowledge about it — f the common stuff of the 
earth/ By the by, Forsyth is worth reading, as I judge 
from a chapter or two I have seen. I cannot get the 
book here. 

I ought to have observed that the central arch of the 
triumphal arch of Titus yet subsists, more perfect in its 
proportions, they say, than any of a later date. This I 
did not remark. The figures of Victory, with unfolded 
wings, and each spurning back a globe with outstretched 
feet, are, perhaps, more beautiful than those on either 
of the others. Their lips are parted : a delicate mode 
of indicating the fervour of their desire to arrive at the 
destined resting-place, and to express the eager respira- 
tion of their speed. Indeed, so essential to beauty were 
the forms expressive of the exercise of the imagination 
and the affections considered by Greek artists, that no 
ideal figure of antiquity, not destined to some represent- 
ation directly exclusive of such a character, is to be 
found with closed lips. Within this arch are two panelled 
alto-relievos, one representing a train of people bearing 
in procession the instruments of Jewish worship, among 
which is the holy candlestick with seven branches ; on 



TO PEACOCK 185 

the other, Titus standing in a quadriga, with a winged 
Victory. The grouping of the horses, and the beauty, 
correctness, and energy of their delineation, is remark- 
able, though they are much destroyed. 



LETTER 19 

Rome, April 6th, 1819. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I sent you yesterday a long letter, all about 
antique Rome, which you had better keep for some 
leisure day. I received yours, and one of Hunt's, 

yesterday.— So, you know the B s? I could not 

help considering Mrs. B. 1 , whea I knew her, as the 
most admirable specimen of a human being I had 
ever seen. Nothing earthly ever appeared to me more 
perfect than her character and manners. It is improb- 
able that I shall ever meet again the person whom I so 
much esteemed, and still admire. I wish, however, that 
when you see her, you would tell her that I have not 
forgotten her, nor any of the amiable circle once assem- 
bled round her ; and that I desired such remembrances 
to her as an exile and a Pariah may be permitted to 
address to an acknowledged member of the community 
of mankind. I hear they dined at your lodgings. But 

no mention of A and his wife — where were they ? 

C 2 , though so young when I saw her, gave indica- 
tions of her mother's excellencies ; and, certainly less 
fascinating, is, I doubt not, equally amiable, and more 
sincere. It was hardly possible for a person of the 
extreme subtlety and delicacy of Mrs. B 's under- 
standing and affections, to be quite sincere and constant. 

I am all anxiety about your I. H. 3 affair. There are 
few who will feel more hearty satisfaction at your 
success, in this or any other enterprise, than I shall. 
Pray let me have the earliest intelligence. 

1 Mrs. de Boinville. 2 Cornelia. 3 India House. 



186 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

When shall I return to England ? The Pythia has 
ascended the tripod, but she replies not. Our present 
plans — and I know not what can induce us to alter 
them — lead us back to Naples in a month or six weeks, 
where it is almost decided that we should remain until 
the commencement of 1820. You may imagine, when 
we receive such letters as yours and Hunt's, what this 
resolution costs us — but these are not our only communi- 
cations from England. My health is materially better. 
My spirits, not the most brilliant in the world ; but that 
we attribute to our solitary situation, and, though happy, 
how should I be lively ? We see something of Italian 
society indeed. The Romans please me much, especially 
the women, who, though totally devoid of every kind 
of information, or culture of the imagination, or affections, 
or understanding — and, in this respect, a kind of gentle 
savages — yet contrive to be interesting. Their extreme 
innocence and naivete, the freedom and gentleness of 
their manners ; the total absence of affectation, makes 
an intercourse with them very like an intercourse with 
uncorrupted children, whom they resemble in loveliness 
as well as simplicity. I have seen two women in society 
here of the highest beauty ; their brows and lips, and 
the moulding of the face modelled with sculptural 
exactness, and the dark luxuriance of their hair floating 
over their fine complexions — and the lips — you must 
hear the commonplaces which escape from them, before 
they cease to be dangerous. The only inferior part are 
the eyes, which, though good and gentle, want the 
mazy depth of colour behind colour, with which the 
intellectual women of England and Germany entangle 
the heart in soul-inwoven labyrinths. 

This is holy week, and Rome is quite full. The 
Emperor of Austria is here, and Maria Louisa is coming. 
On their journey through the other cities of Italy, she 
was greeted with loud acclamations, and vivas of 
Napoleon. Idiots and slaves ! Like the frogs in the 
fable, because they are discontented with the log, they 
call upon the stork, who devours them. Great festas, and 



TO PEACOCK 187 

magnificent funzioni here — we cannot get tickets to all. 
There are five thousand strangers in Rome, and only 
room for five hundred at the celebration of the famous 
Miserere, in the Sixtine chapel, the only thing I regret 
we shall not be present at. After all, Rome is eternal, 
and were all that is extinguished, that which has been, 
the ruins and the sculptures, would remain, and Raphael 
and Guido be alone regretted. 

In the square of St. Peter's there are about three 
hundred fettered criminals at work, hoeing out the 
weeds that grow between the stones of the pavement. 
Their legs are heavily ironed, and some are chained two 
by two. They sit in long rows, hoeing out the weeds, 
dressed in parti-coloured clothes. Near them sit or 
saunter groups of soldiers, armed with loaded muskets. 
The iron discord of those innumerable chains clanks 
up into the sonorous air, and produces, contrasted with 
the musical dashing of the fountains, and the deep 
azure beauty of the sky, and the magnificence of the 
architecture around, a conflict of sensations allied to 
madness. It is the emblem of Italy — moral degradation 
contrasted with the glory of nature and the arts. 

We see no English society here ; it is not probable 
that we could if we desired it, and I am certain that we 
should find it insupportable. The manners of the rich 
English are wholly insupportable, and they assume pre- 
tensions which they would not venture upon in their 
own country. I am yet ignorant of the event of 
Hobhouse's election. I saw the last numbers were — 
Lamb, 4,200 ; and Hobhouse, 3,900 — 14th day. There 
is little hope. That mischievous Cobbett has divided 
and weakened the interest of the popular party, so that 
the factions that prey upon our country have been able 

to coalesce to its exclusion. The N s 1 you have 

not seen. I am curious to know what kind of a girl 

Octavia becomes; she promised well. Tell H his 

Melpomene is in the Vatican, and that her attitude and 

drapery surpass, if possible, the graces of her countenance. 

1 Newtons. 



188 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

My Prometheus Unbound is just finished, and in a 
month or two I shall send it. It is a drama, with 
characters and mechanism of a kind yet unattempted ; 
and I think the execution is better than any of my 
former attempts. By the by, have you seen Oilier? I 
never hear from him, and am ignorant whether some 
verses I sent him from Naples, entitled, I think, Lines 
on the Euganean Hills, have reached him in safety or 
not. As to the Reviews, I suppose there is nothing but 
abuse ; and this is not hearty or sincere enough to amuse 
me. As to the poem now printing, 1 I lay no stress on 
it one way or the other. The concluding lines are 
natural. 

I believe, my dear Peacock, that you wish us to come 
back to England. How is it possible ? Health, compe- 
tence, tranquillity — all these Italy permits, and England 
takes away. I am regarded by all who know or hear 
of me, except, I think, on the whole, five individuals, 
as a rare prodigy of crime and pollution, whose look 
even might infect. This is a large computation, and I 
don't think I could mention more than three. Such is 
the spirit of the English abroad as well as at home. 2 

Few compensate, indeed, for all the rest, and if I 
were alone I should laugh ; or if I were rich enough to 

1 Mosalind and Helen. 

2 These expressions show how keenly Shelley felt the calum- 
nies heaped on him during his life. The very exaggeration of 
which he is guilty, is a clue to much of his despondency. His 
seclusion from society resulted greatly from his extreme ill- 
health, and his dislike of strangers and numbers, as well as the 
system of domestic economy which his lavish benevolence forced 
us to restrict within narrow bounds. In justice to our country- 
men, I must mention that several distinguished for intellectual 
eminence, among them, Frederic Earl of Guildford and Sir 
William Drummond, called on him at Rome. Accident at the 
time prevented him from cultivating their acquaintance— the 
death of our son, and our subsequent retirement at Pisa, shut 
us out still more from the world. I confess that the insolence 
of some of the more vulgar among the travelling English, 
rendered me anxious that Shelley should be more willing to 
extend his acquaintance among the better sort, but his health 
was an insuperable bar. [M. S.] 



TO PEACOCK 189 

do all things, which I shall never be. Pity me for my 
absence from those social enjoyments which England 
might afford me, and which I know so well how to 
appreciate. Still, I shall return some fine morning, out 
of pure weakness of heart. 

My dear Peacock, most faithfully yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

LETTER 20 

Rome, June 8th, 1819. 
My Dear Friend, 

Yesterday, after an illness of only a few days, 
my little William died. There was no hope from the 
moment of the attack. You will be kind enough to 
tell all my friends, so that I need not write to them. 
It is a great exertion to me to write this, and it seems 
to me as if, hunted by calamity as I have been, that 
I should never recover any cheerfulness again. 

If the things Mary desired to be sent to Naples have 
not been shipped, send them to Livorno. 

We leave this city for Livorno to-morrow morning 
where we have written to take lodgings for a month. 
I will then write again. 

Yours ever affectionately, 

P. B. Shelley. 

LETTER 21 

Livorno, June — *, 1819- 
My Dear Peacock, 

Our melancholy journey finishes at this town, 
but we retrace our steps to Florence, where, as I imagine, 
we shall remain some months. O that I could return 
to England ! How heavy a weight when misfortune is 

1 20th or 21st, the London postmark being July 6th. [T .L. P.] 



190 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

added to exile, and solitude, as if the measure were not 
full, heaped high on both. O that I could return to 
England ! I hear you say, ' Desire never fails to generate 
capacity.' Ah, but that ever-present Mai thus, Necessity, 
has convinced Desire that even though it generated 
capacity, its offspring must starve. Enough of melan- 
choly ! Nightmare Abbey, though no cure, is a palliative. 
I have just received the parcel which contained it, and 
at the same time the Examiners, by the way of Malta. 
I am delighted with Nightmare Abbey. I think Scythrop 
a character admirably conceived and executed; and I 
know not how to praise sufficiently the lightness, chastity, 
and strength of the language of the whole. It perhaps 
exceeds all your works in this. The catastrophe is 
excellent. I suppose the moral is contained in what 
Falstaff says — ( For God's sake, talk like a man of this 
world ' ; and yet, looking deeper into it, is not the 
misdirected enthusiasm of Scythrop what J. C. calls 
the ' salt of the earth ' ? My friends the Gisbornes here 
admire and delight in it exceedingly. I think I told 
you that they (especially the lady) are people of high 
cultivation. She is a woman of profound accomplish- 
ments and the most refined taste. 

Cobbett still more and more delights me, with all my 
horror of the sanguinary commonplaces of his creed. 
His design to overthrow bank notes by forgery is very 
comic. One of the volumes of Birkbeck interested me 
exceedingly. The letters I think stupid, but suppose 
that they are useful. 

I do not, as usual, give you an account of my journey, 
for I had neither the health nor the spirit to take notes. 
My health was greatly improving, when watching and 
anxiety cast me into a relapse. The doctors (I put little 
faith in the best) tell me I must spend the winter in 
Africa or Spain. I shall of course prefer the latter, if I 
choose either. 

Are you married, or why do I not hear from you ? 
That were a good reason. 

Mary and Claire unite with me in kindest remem- 



TO PEACOCK 191 

brances to you, and in congratulations, if she exist, to 
the new married lady. 

When shall I see you again ? 

Ever most faithfully yours, P. B. S. 

Pray do not forget Mary's things. 

I have not heard from you since the middle of April. 

LETTER 22 

My Dear Peacock, Livomo > ** 6 > 1S19 ' 

I have lost some letters, and, in all probability, at 
least one from you, as I can account in no other manner 
for not having heard from you since your letter dated 
March 26th . . . We have changed our design of going to 
Florence immediately, and are now established for three 
months in a little country house in a pretty verdant 
scene near Livorno. 

I have a study here in a tower, something like 
Scythrop's, where I am just beginning to recover the 
faculties of reading and writing. My health, whenever 
no Libecchio blows, improves. From my tower I see 
the sea, with its islands, Gorgona, Capraja, Elba, and 
Corsica, on one side, and the Apennines on the other. 
Milly surprised us the other day by first discovering a 
comet, on which we have been speculating. She may 
' make a stir, like a great astronomer \* 

1 Eyes of some men travel far 
For the finding of a star : 
Up and down the heavens they go, 
Men that make * a mighty rout : 
I'm as great as they, I trow, 
Since the day I found thee out, 
Little flower ! I'll make a stir, 
Like a great astronomer. 

Wordsworth. — To the Little Celandine. 
This little flower has a very starry aspect. It is not properly 
a Chelidonium, and will not be found with that name in modern 
botanical works. 

* Wordsworth wrote * keep \ The lines occur in the earlier 
poem of 1807, To the Small Celandine, 



192 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

The direct purpose of this letter, however, is to ask 
you about the box which I requested you to send to me 
to Naples. If it has been sent, let me entreat you (for 
really it is of the most serious consequence to us) to 
write to me by return of post, stating the name of the 
ship, the bill of lading, &c, so that I may get it with- 
out difficulty. If it has not been sent, do me the favour 
to send it instantly, direct to Livorno. If you have 
not the time, you can ask Hogg. If you cannot get the 
things from Mrs. Hunt (a possible case), send those you 
were to buy, and the things from Furnival 1 , alone. 
You can add what books you think fit. The last parcel 
I have received from you is that of last September. 

All good wishes, and many hopes that you have 
already that success on which there will be no 
congratulations more cordial than those you will receive 
from me. 

Ever most sincerely yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

I shall receive your letter, if written by return of post, 
in thirty days : a distance less formidable than Rome 
or Naples. 

The Chelidonivm majus— Celandine : Swallowwort— blossoms 
from April to October. It is supposed to begin and end blooming 
with the arrival and departure of the swallow. It belongs to the 
class Poliandria monogynia, and to the natural order of Papa- 
veraceae. 

Chelidonium minus— Little Celandine— is an obsolete name for 
the Ficaria ranunculoeides : Pilewort. It blossoms from the end 
of February to the end of April. It is so far connected with the 
arrival of the swallow, that it ceases to blossom when the swallow- 
wort begins. This probably was the reason for its being called 
celandine, though the plants have nothing in common. But I 
think, in honour of Wordsworth, its old name should not have 
been entirely banished from botanical nomenclature. It might 
have been left, in Homeric phraseology, as the flower which men 
call Pilewort and Gods call Celandine. Its French name is La 
Petite Ch&idoine. It belongs to the class Polyandria polygynia, 
and the natural order of Ranunculaceae. f T. L. P.] 

1 A surgeon at Egham, in whom Shelley had great confidence. 
[T. L. P.J 



TO PEACOCK 193 

LETTER 23 

Livorno, July, 1819. 
My Dear Peacock, 

We still remain, and shall remain nearly two 
months longer, at Livorno. Our house is a melancholy 
one, ' and only cheered by letters from England. I got 
your note, in which you speak of three letters having 
been sent to Naples, which I have written for. I have 

heard also from H , 2 who confirms the news of your 

success, an intelligence most grateful to me. 

The object of the present letter is to ask a favour of 
you. I have written a tragedy, on the subject of a story 
well known in Italy, and, in my conception, eminently 
dramatic. I have taken some pains to make my play fit 
for representation, and those who have already seen it 
judge favourably. It is written without any of the 
peculiar feelings and opinions which characterize my 
other compositions ; I having attended simply to the 
impartial development of such characters, as it is probable 
the persons represented really were, together with the 
greatest degree of popular effect to be produced by such 
a development. I send you a translation of the Italian 
manuscript on which my play is founded, the chief 
subject of which I have touched very delicately ; for my 
principal doubt, as to whether it would succeed as an 
acting play, hangs entirely on the question, as to 
whether such a thing as incest in this shape, however 
treated, would be admitted on the stage. I think, 
however, it will form no objection : considering, first, 
that the facts are matter of history ; and, secondly, the 
peculiar delicacy with which I have treated it. 

I am exceedingly interested in the question of 
whether this attempt of mine will succeed or no. I am 
strongly inclined to the affirmative at present, founding 
my hopes on this, that, as a composition, it is certainly 
not inferior to any of the modern plays that have been 

1 We had lost our eldest, and at that time, only child, the 
preceding month at Rome. [M. S.] 

2 Hunt 



i94 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

acted, with the exception of Remorse ; that the 
interest of its plot is incredibly greater and m'ore real ; 
and that there is nothing beyond what the multitude 
are contented to believe that they can understand, 
either in imagery, opinion, or sentiment. I wish to 
preserve a complete incognito, and can trust to you, that 
whatever else you do, you will at least favour me on 
this point. Indeed this is essential, deeply essential, to 
its success. After it had been acted, and successfully 
(could I hope such a thing), I would own it if I pleased, and 
use the celebrity it might acquire to my own purposes. 

What I want you to do is, to procure for me its pre- 
sentation at Covent Garden. The principal character, 
Beatrice, is precisely fitted for Miss O'Neill, and it might 
even seem written for her (God forbid that I should ever 
see her play it — it would tear my nerves to pieces), and, in 
all respects, it is fitted only for Covent Garden. The 
chief male character, I confess, I should be very unwill- 
ing that any one but Kean should play — that is impos- 
sible, and I must be contented with an inferior actor. 
I think you know some of the people of that theatre, 
or, at least, some one who knows them ; and when you 
have read the play, you may say enough, perhaps, to 
induce them not to reject it without consideration — but 
of this, perhaps, if I may judge from the tragedies which 
they have accepted, there is no danger at any rate. 

Write to me as soon as you can on this subject, 
because it is necessary that I should present it, or, if 
rejected by the theatre, print it this coming season ; lest 
somebody else should get hold of it, as the story, which 
now exists only in manuscript, begins to be generally 
known among the English. The translation which I 
send you is to be prefixed to the play, together with 
a print of Beatrice. I have a copy of her picture by 
Guido, now in the Colonna palace at Rome — the most 
beautiful creature you can conceive. 

Of course, you will not show the manuscript to any 
one — and write to me by return of post, at which time 
the play will be ready to be sent. 



TO PEACOCK 195 

I expect soon to write again, and it shall be a less 
selfish letter. As to Oilier, I don't know what has 
been published, or what has arrived at his hands. My 
Prometheus, though ready, I do not send till I know 
more. 

Ever yours, most faithfully, 

P. B. S. 

LETTER 24 

Livorno, August (probably 22nd J, 1819. 

Mv Dear Peacock, 

I ought first to say, that I have not yet received 
one of your letters from Naples ; in Italy such things 
are difficult ; but your present letter tells me all that 
I could desire to hear of your situation. 

My employments are these : I awaken usually at seven ; 
read half an hour ; then get up ; breakfast ; after break- 
fast ascend my tower, and read or write until two. Then 
we dine. After dinner I read Dante with Mary, gossip a 
little, eat grapes and figs, sometimes walk, though 
seldom, and at half-past five pay a visit to Mrs. Gisborne, 
who reads Spanish with me until near seven. We then 
come for Mary, and stroll about till supper time. Mrs. 
Gisborne is a sufficiently amiable and very accomplished 
woman ; she is SrjfxoKpaTLKr) and aOer) — how far she may 
be cfaiXavOpuyn-Y) I don't know, for she is the antipodes of 
enthusiasm. Her husband, a man with little thin lips, 
receding forehead, and a prodigious nose, is an [ 
bore. His nose is something quite Slawkenbergian — 
it weighs on the imagination to look at it. It is that 
sort of nose which transforms all the g's its wearer 
utters into k's. It is a nose once seen never to be for- 
gotten, and which requires the utmost stretch of 
Christian charity to forgive. I, you know, have a little 
turn-up nose ; Hogg has a large hook one ; but add 
them both together, square them, cube them, you will 
have but a faint idea of the nose to which I refer. 
02 



196 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

I most devoutly wish I were living near London. I 
do not think I shall settle so far off as Richmond ; and 
to inhabit any intermediate spot on the Thames would 
be to expose myself to the river damps ; not to mention 
that it is not much to my taste. My inclinations point 
to Hampstead ; but I do not know whether I should 
not make up my mind to something more completely 
suburban. What are mountains, trees, heaths, or 
even the glorious and ever-beautiful sky, with such 
sunsets as I have seen at Hampstead, to friends ? 
Social enjoyment, in some form or other, is the alpha 
and the omega of existence. All that I see in Italy — and 
from my tower window I now see the magnificent peaks 
of the Apennine half enclosing the plain — is nothing ; 
it dwindles into smoke in the mind, when I think of 
some familiar forms of scenery, little perhaps in them- 
selves, over which old remembrances have thrown a 
delightful colour. How we prize what we despised when 
present ! So the ghosts of our dead associations rise 
and haunt us, in revenge for our having let them starve, 
and abandoned them to perish. 

You don't tell me if you see the Boinvilles ; nor are 
they included in the list of the conviti at the monthly 
symposium. I will attend it in imagination. 

One thing, I own, I am curious about ; and in the 
chance of the letters not coming from Naples, pray tell 
me. What is it you do at the India House ? Hunt 
writes, and says you have got a situation in the India 
House : Hogg, that you have an honourable employment : 
Godwin writes to Mary that you have got so much or so 
much : but nothing of what you do. The devil take 
these general terms. Not content with having driven 
all poetry out of the world, at length they make war on 
their own allies ; nay, on their very parents, dry facts. 
If it had not been the age of generalities, any one of 
these people would have told me what you did. 1 

1 I did my best to satisfy his curiosity on this subject ; but it 
was in letters to Naples, which he had left before they arrived, 
and he never received them. I observed that this was the case 



TO PEACOCK 197 

I have been much better these last three weeks. My 
work on the Cenci, which was done in two months, was 
a fine antidote to nervous medicines, and kept up, 
I think, the pain in my side, as sticks do a fire. Since 
then, I have materially improved. I do not walk enough. 
Clare, who is sometimes my companion, does not dress 
in exactly the right time. I have no stimulus to 
walk. Now, I go sometimes to Livorno on business ; 
and that does me good. 

England seems to be in a very disturbed state, if we 
may judge from some Paris papers. I suspect it is 
rather exaggerated ; but when I hear them talk of 
paying in gold — nay I dare say take steps towards it, 
confess that the sinking fund is a fraud, &c, I no longer 
wonder. But the change should commence among the 
higher orders, or anarchy will only be the last flash 
before despotism. 

I have been reading Calderon in Spanish. A kind of 
Shakespeare is this Calderon ; and I have some thoughts, 
if I find that I cannot do anything better, of translating 
some of his plays. 

The Examiners I receive. Hunt, as a political writer, 
pleases me more and more. Adieu. Mary and Clare 
send their best remembrances. 

Your most faithful friend, 

P. B. Shelley. 

Pray send me some books, and Clare would take it as 
a great favour if you would send her music books. 

LETTER 25 

Livorno, September 9th, 1819- 
My Dear Peacock, 

I send you the tragedy 1 , addressed to Stamford 
Street, fearing lest it might be inconvenient to receive 
such bulky packets at the India House. You will see 

with the greater portion of the letters which arrived at any town 
in Italy after he had left it. [T. L. P.] 
1 The Cenci. 



198 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

that the subject has not been treated as you suggested, 
and why it was not susceptible of such treatment. In 
fact, it was then already printing when I received your 
letter, and it has been treated in such a manner that I do 
not see how the subject forms an objection. You know 
Oedipus is performed on the fastidious French stage, 1 
a play much more broad than this. I confess I have some 
hopes, and some friends here persuade me that they are 
not unfounded. 

Many thanks for your attention in sending the papers 
which contain the terrible and important news of Man- 
chester. 2 These are, as it were, the distant thunders 
of the terrible storm which is approaching. The tyrants 
here, as in the French Revolution, have first shed blood. 
May their execrable lessons not be learnt with equal 
facility ! Pray let me have the earliest political news 
which you consider of importance at this crisis. 

Yours ever most faithfully, 
P. B. S. 

I send this to the India House, the tragedy to Stam- 
ford Street. 

LETTER 26 

Leghorn, September 2lst, 1819- 
My Dear Peacock, 

You will have received a short letter sent with the 
tragedy, and the tragedy itself by this time. I am, you 

1 The Oedipus of Dryden and Lee was often performed in the 
last century ; but never in my time. There is no subject of this 
class treated with such infinite skill and delicacy as in Alfierfs 
beautiful tragedy, Mirra. It was the character in which Madame 
Ristori achieved 4 her great success in Paris ; but she was 
prohibited from performing it in London. If the Covent 
Garden managers had accepted the Cenci, I doubt if the 
licenser would have permitted the performance. [T. L. P.] 

2 These papers doubtless gave an account of the Reform 
Meeting of August 16th, which was dispersed by government 
troops at the cost of half a dozen lives. The incident made 
a deep impression upon Shelley, who promptly wrote and sent 
off to Leigh Hunt his Mask of (Anarchy. 



TO PEACOCK 199 

may believe, anxious to hear what you think of it, and 
how the manager talks about it. I have printed in Italy 
250 copies, because it costs, with all duties and freight- 
age, about half what it would cost in London, and these 
copies will be sent by sea. My other reason was a 
belief that the seeing it in print would enable the people 
at the theatre to judge more easily. Since I last wrote 
to you, Mr. Gisborne is gone to England for the purpose 
of obtaining a situation for Henry Reveley. 1 I have 
given him a letter to you, and you would oblige me by 
showing what civilities you can, and by forwarding his 
views, either by advice or recommendation, as you may 
find opportunity, not for his sake, who is a great bore, 
but for the sake of Mrs. Gisborne and Henry Reveley, 
people for whom we have a great esteem. Henry is a 
most amiable person, and has great talents as a mechanic 
and engineer. I have given him also a letter to Hunt, 
so that you will meet him there. Mr. Gisborne is a man 
who knows I cannot tell how many languages, and 
has read almost all the books you can think of ; but all 
that they contain seems to be to his mind what water is to 
a sieve. His liberal opinions are all the reflections of 
Mrs. G.'s, a very amiable, accomplished, and completely 
unprejudiced woman. 

Charles Clairmont is now with us on his way to Vienna. 
He has spent a year or more in Spain, where he has 
learnt Spanish, and I make him read Spanish all day 
long. It is a most powerful and expressive language, 
and I have already learnt sufficient to read with great 
ease their poet Calderon. I have read about twelve of 
his plays. Some of them certainly deserve to be ranked 
among the grandest and most perfect productions of the 
human mind. He exceeds all modern dramatists, with 
the exception of Shakespeare, whom he resembles, 
however, in the depth of thought and subtlety of imag- 
ination of his writings, and in the rare power of inter- 
weaving delicate and powerful comic traits with the 

1 A son of Mrs. Gisborne by a former marriage. [T. L, P.] 



200 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

most tragical situations, without diminishing their in- 
terest. I rate him far above Beaumont and Fletcher. 

I have received all the papers you sent me, and the 
Examiners regularly, perfumed with muriatic acid. What 
an infernal business this of Manchester ! What is to be 
done? Something assuredly. H. Hunt has behaved, I 
think, with great spirit and coolness in the whole affair. 

I have sent you my Prometheus, which I do not wish 
to be sent to Oilier for publication until I write to that 
effect. Mr. Gisborne will bring it, as also some volumes 
of Spenser, and the two last of Herodotus and Paradise 
Lost, which may be put with the others. 

If my play should be accepted, don't you think it 
would excite some interest, and take off the unexpected 
horror of the story, by showing that the events are real, 
if it could be made to appear in some paper in some 
form? 

You will hear from me again shortly, as I send you by 
sea the Cencis printed, which you will be good enough 
to keep. Adieu. 

Yours most faithfully, 

P. B. Shelley. 



LETTER 27 

[Postmark, Pisa, Mr. 25, 1820.] 

My Dear Peacock, 

I have received your letter, and in a few days 

afterwards that of B and E and I enclose you 

theirs and my answer. ... I have written to them a plain 
statement of the case, and a plain account of my situa- 
tion. ... I think by the interposition of your kind 
offices the affair may be arranged. 

I see with deep regret in to-day's papers the attempt 
to assassinate the Ministry. Everything seems to con- 
spire against Reform. How Cobbett must laugh at the 
f resumption of gold payments '. I long to see him. 



TO PEACOCK 201 

I have a motto on a ring in Italian 'II buon tempo 
verra '. There is a tide both in public and in private 
affairs, which awaits both men and nations. 

I have no news from Italy. We live here under a 
nominal tyranny administered according to the philo- 
sophic laws of Leopold and the mild opinions which are 
the fashion here. . . . Tuscany is unlike all the other 
Italian States, in this respect. 



LETTER 28 

Pisa, May, 1820. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I congratulate you most sincerely on your choice 
and on your marriage. ... I was very much amused by 
your laconic account of the affair. It is altogether 
extremely like the denouement of one of your own novels, 
and as such serves to l a theory I once imagined, that in 
everything any man ever wrote, spoke, acted, or ima- 
gined, is contained, as it were, an allegorical idea of his 
own future life, as the acorn contains the oak. 

But not to ascend in my balloon. I have written to 
Hogg to ask him to pay me a visit, and though I had no 
hope of success, I commissioned him to endeavour to 
bring yon. This becomes still more improbable from 
your news ; but I need not say that your amiable 
mountaineer would make you still more welcome. My 
friends the Gisbornes are now really on their way to 
London, where they propose to stay only six weeks. I 
think you will like Mrs. Gisborne. Henry is an excellent 
fellow, but not very communicative. If you find any- 
thing in the shape of dullness or otherwise to endure in 
Mr. Gisborne, endure it for the lady's sake and mine ; 
but for Heaven's sake ! do not let him know that I 
think him stupid. Indeed, perhaps I do him an injustice, 2 

1 H. B. F. inserts [support ?] 

a I think he did. I found Mr. Gisborne an agreeable and 
well-informed man. He and his amiable and accomplished wife 



202 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

though certainly he proses. Hogg will find it very 
agreeable (if he postpones his visit so long, or if he 
visits me at all) to join them on their return. I wish you, 
and Hogg, and Hunt, and — I know not who besides — 
would come and spend some months with me together 
in this wonderful land. 

We know little of England here. I take in Galignani's 
paper, which is filled with extracts from the Courier, and 
from those accounts it appears probable that there is 
but little unanimity in the mass of the people ; and that 
a civil war impends from the success of ministers, and 
the exasperation of the poor. 

I see my tragedy has been republished in Paris ; if 
that is the case, it ought to sell in London ; but I hear 
nothing from Oilier. 

I have suffered extremely this winter; but I feel 
myself most materially better at the return of spring. 
I am on the whole greatly benefited by my residence in 
Italy, and but for certain moral causes should probably 
have been enabled to re-establish my system completely. 
Believe me, my dear Peacock, yours very sincerely, 

P. B. S. 

Pray make my best regards acceptable to your new 
companion. 

LETTER 29 

Leghorn, July 12th, 1820. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I remember you said that when Auber married 
you were afraid you would see or hear but little of him. 
* There are two voices/ says Wordsworth, \ one of the 
mountains and one of the sea, both a mighty voice.' 
So you have two wives — one of the mountains, all of 
whose claims I perfectly admit, whose displeasure I 
deprecate, and from whom I feel assured that I have 
nothing to fear : the other of the sea, the India House, 

have long been dead. I should not have printed what Shelley- 
says of him if; any person were living whom the remembrance 
could annoy, g [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 

who perhaps makes you write so much that I suppose you 
have not a scrawl to spare. I make bold to write to you 
on the news that you are correcting my Prometheus, for 
which I return thanks, and I send some things which 
may be added. I hear of you from Mr. Gisborne, but 
from you I do not hear. Well, how go on the funds and 
the Romance ? ' Cobbett's euthanasia seems approach- 
ing, and I suppose you will have some rough festivals 
at the apotheosis of the Debt. 

Nothing, I think, shows the generous gullibility of 
the English nation more than their having adopted her 
Sacred Majesty as the heroine of the day, in spite of 
all their prejudices and bigotry. I, for my part, of course 
wish no harm to happen to her, even if she has, as 
I firmly believe, amused herself in a manner rather 
indecorous with any courier or baron. But I cannot help 
adverting to it as one of the absurdities of royalty, that 
a vulgar woman, with all those low tastes which prejudice 
considers as vices, and a person whose habits and 
manners every one would shun in private life, without 
any redeeming virtues, should be turned into a heroine 
because she is a queen, or, as a collateral reason, because 
her husband is a king ; and he, no less than his minis- 
ters, are so odious that everything, however disgusting, 
which is opposed to them, is admirable. The Paris 
paper, which I take in, copied some excellent remarks 
from the Examiner about it. 

We are just now occupying the Gisbornes' house at 
Leghorn, and I have turned Mr. Reveley's workshop 
into my study. The Libecchio here howls like a chorus 
of fiends all day, and the weather is just pleasant, — not 
at all hot, the days being very misty, and the nights 
divinely serene. I have been reading with much 
pleasure the Greek romances. The best of them is the 
pastoral of Longus : but they are all very entertaining, 
and would be delightful if they were less rhetorical and 
ornate. I am translating in ottava rima the Hymn to 

1 Presumably Peacock's Maid Marian. 



204 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

Mercury of Homer. Of course my stanza precludes 
a literal translation. My next effort will be, that it 
should be legible — a quality much to be desired in 
translations. 

I am told that the magazines, &c, blaspheme me at 
a great rate. I wonder why I write verses, for nobody 
reads them. It is a kind of disorder, for which the 
regular practitioners prescribe what is called a torrent 
of abuse ; but I fear that can hardly be considered as 
a specific. . . . 

I enclose two additional poems, to be added to those 
printed at the end of Prometheus : and I send them to 
you, for fear Oilier might not know what to do in case 
he objected to some expressions in the fifteenth and 
sixteenth stanzas ; 1 and that you would do me the 
favour to insert an asterisk, or asterisks, with as little 
expense of the sense as may be. The other poem I send 
to you, not to make two letters. I want Jones's Greek 
Grammar very much for Mary, who is deep in Greek. 
I thought of sending for it in sheets by the post ; but 
as I find it would cost as much as a parcel, I would 
rather have a parcel, including it and some other books, 
which you would do me a great favour by sending by 
the first ship. Never send us more reviews than two 
back on any of Lord Byron's works, as we get them 
here. Ask Oilier, Mr. Gisborne, and Hunt whether 
they have anything to send. 

Believe me, my dear Peacock, 

Sincerely and affectionately yours, 

P. B. S. 

Jones's Greek Grammar ; Schrevelii Lexicon ; The 
Greek Exercises ; Melincourt, and Headlong Hall ; papers, 
and Indicators, and whatever else you may think inter- 
esting. Godwin's Answer to Malthus, if out. Six copies 
of the second edition of Cenci. 

1 These were the fifteenth and sixteenth stanzas of the Ode to 
Liberty. [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 205 

LETTER 30 
Pisa, November (probably 8th J, 1820. 

My Dear Peacock, 

I also delayed to answer your last letter, because 
I was waiting for something to say : or at least, some- 
thing that should be likely to be interesting to you. 
The box containing my books, and consequently your 
Essay against the cultivation of poetry, has not arrived ; 
my wonder, meanwhile, in what manner you support 
such a heresy in this matter of fact and money- 
loving age, holds me in suspense. Thank you for your 
kindness in correcting Prometheus, which I am afraid 
gave you a great deal of trouble. Among the modern 
things which have reached me is a volume of poems by 
Keats : in other respects insignificant enough, but con- 
taining the fragment of a poem called Hyperion. I dare 
say you have not time to read it ; but it is certainly an 
astonishing piece of writing, and gives me a conception 
of Keats which I confess I had not before. 

I hear from Mr. Gisborne that you are surrounded 
with statements and accounts, — a chaos of which you 
are the God ; a sepulchre which encloses in a dormant 
state the chrysalis of the Pavonian Psyche. May you 
start into life some day, and give us another Melincourt. 
Your Melincourt is exceedingly admired, and I think 
much more so than any of your other writings. In this 
respect the world judges rightly. There is more of the 
true spirit, and an object less indefinite, than in either 
Headlong Hall or Scythrop. 

I am, speaking literally, infirm of purpose. I have 
great designs, and feeble hopes of ever accomplishing 
them. I read books, and, though I am ignorant enough, 
they seem to teach me nothing. To be sure, the 
reception the public have given me might go far enough 
to damp any man's enthusiasm. They teach you, it may 
be said, only what is true. Very true, I doubt not, and 
the more true the less agreeable. I can compare my 



206 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

experience in this respect to nothing but a series of wet 
blankets. I have been reading nothing but Greek and 
Spanish. Plato and Calderon have been my gods. We 
are now in the town of Pisa. A schoolfellow of mine 
from India l is staying with me, and we are beginning 
Arabic together. Mary is writing a novel/ illustrative 
of the manners of the Middle Ages in Italy, which she 
has raked out of fifty old books. I promise myself 
success from it ; and certainly, if what is wholly original 
will succeed, I shall not be disappointed. . . . 

Adieu. In publica commoda peccem, si longo sermone. 
Ever faithfully yours, 

P. B. Shelley. 

LETTER 31 

Pisa } February \bth, 1821. 
My Dear Peacock, 

The last letter I received from you, nearly 
four months from the date thereof, reached me by the 
boxes which the Gisbornes sent by sea. I am happy to 
learn that you continue in good external and internal 
preservation. I received at the same time your printed 
denunciations against general, and your written ones 
against particular poetry ; and I agree with you as 
decidedly in the latter as I differ in the former. The 
man whose critical gall is not stirred up by such ottava 
rimas as Barry Cornwall's, may safely be conjectured to 
possess no gall at all. The world is pale with the sick- 
ness of such stuff. At the same time, your anathemas 
against poetry itself excited me to a sacred rage, or 
caloethes 3 scribendi of vindicating the insulted Muses. 
I had the greatest possible desire to break a lance with 
you, within the lists of a magazine, in honour of my 
mistress Urania ; but God willed that I should be too 

1 Thomas Medwin. 2 Valperga. 

3 Peacock printed cacoethes for caloethes, apparently not per- 
ceiving Shelley's joke. It is certainly caloethes in the letter. 
[H. B. F.] 



TO PEACOCK 207 

lazy, and wrested the victory from your hope : since 
first having unhorsed poetry, and the universal sense of 
the wisest in all ages, an easy conquest would have 
remained to you in me, the knight of the shield of 
shadow and the lance of gossamere. Besides, I was at 
that moment reading Plato's Ion, which I recommend 
you to reconsider. Perhaps in the comparison of 
Platonic and Malthusian doctrines, the mavis errare of 
Cicero is a justifiable argument ; but I have a whole 
quiver of arguments on such a subject. 

Have you seen Godwin's answer to the apostle of the 
rich ? 1 And what do you think of it ? It has not yet 
reached me, nor has your box, of which I am in daily 
expectation. 

We are now in the crisis and point of expectation in 
Italy. The Neapolitan and Austrian armies are rapidly 
approaching each other, and every day the news of 
a battle may be expected. The former have advanced 
into the Ecclesiastical States, and taken hostages 
from Rome to assure themselves of the neutrality of 
that power, and appear determined to try their strength 
in open battle. I need not tell you how little chance 
there is that the new and undisciplined levies of Naples 
should stand against a superior force of veteran troops. 
But the birth of liberty in nations abounds in examples 
of a reversal of the ordinary laws of calculation : the 
defeat of the Austrians would be the signal of insur- 
rection throughout all Italy. 

I am devising literary plans of some magnitude. But 
nothing is more difficult and unwelcome than to write 
without a confidence of finding readers ; and if my play 
of the Cenci found none or few, I despair of ever 
producing anything that shall merit them. 

Among your anathemas of the modern attempts in 
poetry, do you include Keats' s Hyperion ? I think it very 
fine. His other poems are worth little ; but if the 
Hyperion be not grand poetry, none has been produced 
by our contemporaries. 

1 Godwin's treatise Of Population, in answer to Malthus. 



208 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

I suppose you are writing nothing but Indian laws, 
&c. I have but a faint idea of your occupation ; but 
I suppose it has much to do with pen and ink. 

Mary desires to be kindly remembered to you ; and 
I remain, my dear Peacock, yours very faithfully, 

P. B. Shelley. 



LETTER 32 

Pisa, March 2lst, 1821. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I dispatch by this post the first part of an essay 
intended to consist of three parts, which I design for an 
antidote to your Four Ages of Poetry. 1 You will see 
that I have taken a more general view of what is poetry 
than you have, and will perhaps agree with several of 
my positions, without considering your own touched. 
But read and judge ; and do not let us imitate the 
great founders of the picturesque, Price and Payne 
Knight, who, like two ill-trained beagles, began snarling 
at each other when they could not catch the hare. 

I hear the welcome news of a box from England 
announced by Mr. Gisborne. How much new poetry 
does it contain ? The Bavii and Maevii of the day are 
very fertile ; and I wish those who honour me with boxes 

1 The Four Ages of Poetry here alluded to was published in 
Ollier's Literary Miscellany. Shelley wrote the Defence of 
Poetry as an answer to it ; and as he wrote it, it contained many 
allusions to the article and its author, such as * If I know the 
knight by the device of his shield, I have only to inscribe Cas- 
sandra, Antigone, or Alcestis on mine to blunt the point of his 
spear *; taking one instance of a favourite character from each 
of the three great Greek tragedians. All these allusions were 
struck out by Mr. John Hunt when he prepared the paper for 
publication in the Liberal. The demise of that periodical pre- 
vented the publication, and Mrs. Shelley subsequently printed 
it from Mr. Hunt's rifacciamento, as she received it. The paper 
as it now stands is a defence without an attack. Shelley 
intended this paper to be in three parts, but the other two were 
not written. IT. L - p 



TO PEACOCK 209 

would read and inwardly digest your Four Ages of Poetry ; 
for I had much rather, for my own private reading, 
receive political, geological, and moral treatises, than 
this stuff in terza, ottava, and tremillesima rima whose 
earthly baseness has attracted the lightning of your 
undiscriminating censure upon the temple of immortal 
song. Procter's verses enrage me far more than those of 
Codrus did Juvenal, and with better reason. Juvenal 
need not have been stunned unless he had liked it ; 
but my boxes are packed with this trash, to the 
exclusion of what I want to see. But your box will 
make amends. 

Do you see much of Hogg now ? and the Boinvilles 
and Colson ? Hunt I suppose not. And are you occu- 
pied as much as ever? We are surrounded here in 
Pisa by revolutionary volcanoes, which, as yet, give 
more light than heat : the lava has not yet reached 
Tuscany. But the news in the papers will tell you far 
more than it is prudent for me to say ; and for this once 
I will observe your rule of political silence. The Aus- 
trians wish that the Neapolitans and Piedmontese would 
do the same. 

We have seen a few more people than usual this 
winter, and have made a very interesting acquaintance 
with a Greek Prince, perfectly acquainted with ancient 
literature, and full of enthusiasm for the liberties and 
improvement of his country. Mary has been a Greek 
student for several months, and is reading Antigone 
with our turbaned friend, who, in return, is taught 
English. Claire has passed the carnival at Florence, and 
has been preternaturally gay. I have had a severe 
ophthalmia, and have read or written little this winter ; 
and have made acquaintance in an obscure convent with 
the only Italian for whom I ever felt any interest. 1 

1 Lady Emilia Viviani, the subject of his Epipsychidion. She 
was the daughter of an Italian Count, who shut her up in a 
convent till he could find for her a husband to his own taste. It 
was there Shelley became acquainted with her. He was struck 
by the beauty of her person, the graces of her mind, the misery 



210 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

I want you to do something for me : that is, to get 
me two pounds' worth of Tassi's gems, in Leicester 
Square, the prettiest, according to your taste ; among 
them, the head of Alexander ; and to get me two seals 
engraved and set, one smaller, and the other hand- 
somer ; the device a dove with outspread wings, and 
this motto round it : 

Marris elf* icrOXCjv dycovoov. 

Mary desires her best regards * ; and I remain, my 
dear Peacock, ever most sincerely yours, 

P. B. S. 

LETTER 33 
Ravenna, August (probably 10th), 1821. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I received your last letter just as I was setting 
off from the Bagni on a visit to Lord Byron at this place. 

of her imprisonment in dismal society. He took for the motto 
of his poem her own words, Vanima amante si slancia fuori del 
creato, e si crea nelV infinite un mondo tutto per essa, diverso assai 
da questo oscuro e pauroso baratro. *She was subsequently 
married to a gentleman chosen for her by her father, and after 
pining in his society, and in the marshy solitudes of the 
Maremma, for six years, she left him, with the consent of her 
parent, and died of consumption, in a dilapidated old mansion 
at Florence. 1 (Shelley Memorials, p. 149.) Though she was 
not killed by her husband, her fate always recalls to me the 
verses of Dante : 

Ricordati di me, che son la Pia : 
Siena mi fe\ disfecemi Maremma 
Salsi colui che innanellata pria 
Disposando m'avea con la sua gemma. 

Purgatorio, v. 133-6. [T. L. P.] 

1 There is a postscript from Mrs. Shelley, asking me to execute 
one or two small commissions, and adding : — 

Am I not lucky to have got so good a master ? I have finished 
the two plays of Oedipus, and am now reading the Antigone. 
The name of the prince is A\e£av8pos MavpoK6pdaros. He can read 
English perfectly well. [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 211 

Many thanks for all your kind attention to my accursed 
affairs. . . . 

I have sent you by the Gisbornes a copy of the Elegy 
on Keats. The subject, I know, will not please you ; 
but the composition of the poetry, and the taste in 
which it is written, I do not think bad. You and the 
enlightened public will judge. Lord Byron is in excel- 
lent cue both of health and spirits. He has got rid 
of all those melancholy and degrading habits which he 
indulged at Venice. He lives with one woman, a lady of 
rank here, to whom he is attached, and who is attached 
to him, and is in every respect an altered man. He 
has written three more cantos of Don Juan. I have yet 
only heard the fifth, and I think that every word of 
it is pregnant with immortality. I have not seen his 
late plays, except Marino Faliero, which is very well, 
but not so transcendently fine as Don Juan. Lord 
Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to 
my usual custom (but one must sleep or die, like 
Southey's sea-snake in Kehama), at twelve. After 
breakfast, we sit talking till six. From six till eight we 
gallop through the pine forests which divide Ravenna 
from the sea ; we then come home and dine, and sit up 
gossiping till six in the morning. I don't suppose this 
will kill me in a week or fortnight, but I shall not try 
it longer. Lord B.'s establishment consists, besides 
servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three mon- 
keys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon ; and all 
these, except the horses, walk about the house, which 
every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated 
quarrels, as if they were the masters of it. Lord B. 
thinks you wrote a pamphlet signed John Bull ; he says 
he knew it by the style resembling Melincourt, of which 
he is a great admirer. I read it, and assured him that 
it could not possibly be yours. 1 I write nothing, and 

1 Most probably Shelley's partiality for me and my book put 

too favourable a construction on what Lord Byron may have 

said. Lord Byron told Captain Medwin that a friend of Shelley's 

had written a novel, of which he had forgotten the name, founded 

p2 



212 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

probably shall write no more. It offends me to see 
my name classed among those who have no name. 
If I cannot be something better, I had rather be 
nothing . . . and the accursed cause to the downfall of 
which I dedicated what powers I may have had — flour- 
ishes like a cedar and covers England with its boughs. 
My motive was never the infirm desire of fame ; and 
if I should continue an author, I feel that I should 
desire it. This cup is justly given to one only of an age ; 
indeed, participation would make it worthless : and 
unfortunate they who seek it and find it not. 

I congratulate you — I hope I ought to do so — on 
your expected stranger. He is introduced into a rough 
world. My regards to Hogg, and Colson if you see him. 
Ever most faithfully yours, 

P. B. S. 

After I have sealed my letter, I find that my enumera- 
tion of the animals in this Circaean Palace was defective, 
and that in a material point. I have just met on the 
grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea-hens, and an 
Egyptian crane. I wonder who all these animals were, 
before they were changed into these shapes. 



LETTER 34 

Pisa, January (probably 11th J, 1822. 
My Dear Peacock, 

I am still at Pisa, where I have at length fitted 
up some rooms at the top of a lofty palace that overlooks 

on his bear. He described it sufficiently to identify it, and 
Captain Medwin supplied the title in a note : but assuredly, when 
I condensed Lord Monboddo's views of the humanity of the Oran 
Outang into the character of Sir Oran Haut-ton, I thought 
neither of Lord Byron's bear nor of Caligula's horse. But Lord 
Byron was much in the habit of fancying that all the world was 
spinning on his pivot. As to the pamphlet signed John Bull, I 
certainly did not write it. I never even saw it, and do not know 
what it was about. [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 213 

the city and the surrounding region, and have collected 
books and plants about me, and established myself for 
some indefinite time, which, if I read the future, will 
not be short. I wish you to send my books by the very 
first opportunity, and I expect in them a great augmen- 
tation of comfort. Lord Byron is established here, and 
we are constant companions. No small relief this, after 
the dreary solitude of the understanding and the 
imagination in which we past the first years of our 
expatriation, yoked to all sorts of miseries and dis- 
comforts. 

Of course you have seen his last volume, and if you 
before thought him a great poet, what is your opinion 
now that you have read Cain ! The Foscari and 
Sardanapalus I have not seen ; but as they are in the 
style of his later writings, I doubt not they are very fine. 
We expect Hunt here every day, and remain in great 
anxiety on account of the heavy gales which he must 
have encountered at Christmas. 1 Lord Byron has fitted 
up the lower apartments of his palace for him, and 
Hunt will be agreeably surprised to find a commodious 
lodging prepared for him after the fatigues and dangers 
of his passage. I have been long idle, and, as far as 
writing goes, despondent ; but I am now engaged on 
Charles the First, and a devil of a nut it is to crack. 

Mary and Clara (who is not with us just at present) are 
well, and so is our little boy, the image of poor William. 
We live as usual, tranquilly. I get up, or at least wake 

1 Mr. Hunt and his family were to have embarked for Italy 
in September, 1821 ; but the vessel was delayed till the 16th of 
November. They were detained three weeks by bad weather at 
Ramsgate, and were beaten up and down channel till the 22nd 
of December, when they put in at Dartmouth. Mrs. Hunt being 
too ill to proceed, they went to Plymouth, resumed their voyage 
in another vessel on the 13th of May, 1822, and arrived at 
Leghorn about the end of June, having been nine months from 
the time of their engagement with the first vessel in finding 
their way to Italy. In the present days of railways and steam 
navigation, this reads like a modern version of the return of 
Ulysses. [T. L. P.] 



214 LETTERS OF SHELLEY 

early ; read and write till two ; dine ; go to Lord B.'s, 
and ride, or play billiards, as the weather permits ; and 
sacrifice the evening either to light books or whoever 
happens to drop in. Our furniture, which is very neat, 
cost fewer shillings than that at Marlow did pounds 
sterling ; and our windows are full of plants, which turn 
the sunny winter into spring. My health is better — 
my cares are lighter ; and although nothing will cure 
the consumption of my purse, yet it drags on a sort of 
life in death, very like its master, and seems, like 
Fortunatus's, always empty yet never quite exhausted. 
You will have seen my Adonais and perhaps my Hellas, 
and I think, whatever you may judge of the subject, 
the composition of the first poem will not wholly displease 
you. I wish I had something better to do than furnish 
this jingling food for the hunger of oblivion, called verse, 
but I have not ; and since you give me no encourage- 
ment about India 1 I cannot hope to have. 

How is your little star, and the heaven which contains 
the milky way in which it glimmers ? 

Adieu. — Yours ever, most truly, 

S. 

[The following extract, which forms the conclusion of 
a letter to him from Mrs. Shelley, was printed by Peacock 
at the end of Shelley's letters. It was dated,] 

Genoa, Sept 29th, 1822. 

1 have written you a letter entirely about business. 
When I hold my pen in my hand, my natural impulse is 
to express the feelings that overwhelm me ; but resisting 
that impulse, I dare not for a moment stray from my 
subject, or I should never find it again. . . . Alas, find 
in the whole world so transcendent a being as mine 
own Shelley, and then tell me to be consoled ! And it 

1 He had expressed a desire to be employed politically at the 
court of a native prince, and I had told him that such employ- 
ment was restricted to the regular service of the East India 
Company. [T. L. P.] 



TO PEACOCK 215 

is not he alone I have lost, though that misery, swallow- 
ing up all others, has hitherto made me forgetful of all 
others. My best friend, my dear Edward, 1 whom 
next to S. 1 loved, and whose virtues were worthy of 
the warmest affection, he too is gone ! Jane (i. e. 
Mrs. Williams), driven by her cruel fate to England, 
has also deserted me. What have I left ? Not one that 
can console me ; not one that does not show by 
comparison how deep and irremediable my losses are. 
Trelawny is the only quite disinterested friend 1 have 
here — the only one who clings to the memory of my 
loved ones as I do myself; but he, alas, is not as one of 
them, though he is really good and kind. Adieu, my 
dear Peacock ; be happy with your wife and child. I 
hear that the first is deserving of every happiness, and 
the second a most interesting little creature. I am 
glad to hear this. Desolate as I am, I cling to the idea 
that some of my friends at least are not like me. 
Again, adieu. 

Your attached friend, 

Mary W. Shelley. 

1 Captain Williams, who was drowned with Shelley. [T. L. P.] 



216 



APPENDIX I 

STANZAS 

Written in my Pocket Copy of Thomson's Castle of 
Indolence. 1 

Within our happy Castle there dwelt One 

Whom without blame I may not overlook ; 

For never sun on living creature shone 

Who more devout enjoyment with us took : 

Here on his hours he hung as on a book, 

On his own time here would he float away, 

As doth a fly upon a summer brook ; 

But go to-morrow, or belike to-day, 

Seek for him, — he is fled ; and whither none can say. 

Thus often would he leave our peaceful home, 

And find elsewhere his business or delight ; 

Out of our Valley's limits did he roam : 

Full many a time, upon a stormy night, 

His voice came to us from the neighbouring height : 

Oft could we see him 2 driving full in view 

At mid-day when the sun was shining bright ; 

What ill was on him, what he had to do, 

A mighty wonder bred among our quiet crew. 

Ah ! piteous sight it was to see this Man 

When he came back to us, a withered flower, — 

Or like a sinful creature, pale and wan. 

Down would he sit ; and without strength or power 

Look at the common grass from hour to hour ; 

1 See p. 37. 

2 1836. 

1815. Oft did we see him .... 



APPENDIX I 217 

And oftentimes, how long I fear to say, 
When apple-trees in blossom made a bower, 
Retired in that sunshiny shade he lay ; 
And, like a naked Indian, slept himself away. 

Great wonder to our gentle tribe it was 

Whenever from our Valley he withdrew ; 

For happier soul no living creature has 

Than he had, being here the long day through. 

Some thought he was a lover, and did woo : 

Some thought far worse of him, and judged him wrong ; 

But verse was what he had been wedded to ; 

And his own mind did like a tempest strong 

Come to him thus, and drove the weary Wight along. 

With him there often walked in friendly guise, 

Or lay upon the moss by brook or tree, 

A noticeable Man with large grey eyes, 

And a pale face that seemed undoubtedly 

As if a blooming face it ought to be ; 

Heavy his low-hung lip did oft appear, 

Deprest by weight of musing Phantasy ; 

Profound his forehead was, though not severe ; 

Yet some did think that he had little business here ; 



There are three more stanzas in the poem, which was 
composed at Grasmere in 1802, and published in 1815. 
Wordsworth himself and Coleridge are the persons de- 
scribed ; but Shelley could not have known this at the 
time when he discussed the Stanzas with Peacock. The 
text given above is Wordsworth's own final textus receptus, 
as printed in Knight's Edinburgh edition of 1882. 



218 



APPENDIX II 

The report of this meeting 1 fills near a column of the 
Morning Post of Nov. 22, 1859- The meeting is stated 
to have taken place ' last night ', and the paper, which 
was read by ( Mr. Lewis, Q.C. ', was followed by a dis- 
cussion * of more than ordinary interest \ Appended is 
a bare outline of the paper, condensed from this account. 

The reader maintained the right of the state 'to 
protect the Christian religion from ribald and scurrilous 
attacks \ The state, he argued, is * under a twofold 
obligation to do so — first, for the sake of protecting 
society from the public evil that would ensue, should 
the sanctions of that creed be weakened ; and secondly, 
for the preservation of the law which is based upon 
it \ The dicta of various justices are quoted, and e he 
gathered from them that the reason of the law making 
blasphemy an indictable offence was — first, that 
Christianity was part and parcel of the law ; so that 
when Christianity was attacked, the law itself was 
attacked ; secondly, because blasphemy endangered 
Government and society; thirdly, that it was pre- 
judicial to morality ; and fourthly, that it interfered 
with the due administration of justice, inasmuch as a 
denial of revealed religion implied a disbelief in a state of 
future rewards and punishments, the belief in which 
was the basis of the oath administered in the courts of 
justice.' 

The reader proceeded to enumerate three classes as 
incurring liability, of which he would have the first include 
e such cases as were matters of police ' ; for example, 
that of the publishers of Paine* s Age of Reason. In the 
second class he placed * foundations for unchristian 
1 See p. 64. 



APPENDIX II 219 

objects ', instancing ' Lady Hudley's charity' ; and c the 
third class comprised all those in which the Court of 
Chancery, on the doctrine Parens 'patriae, deprived the 
parent of the guardianship of his children when his 
principles were in antagonism to religion, as it did in 
the case of the poet Shelley.' 



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