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H. S. SALT. 





Much of the information given in the following pages is 
drawn from the Prefaces and Notes to Messrs. Forman's 
and Kossetti's editions of Shelley's works, and from the 
critical and biographical writings of other Shelley students. 
I am especially indebted to Mr. C. Kegan Paul and Mr. 
W. M. Rossetti for their kind advice and many valuable 

H. S. S. 







VL THE POEMS ....... 50 

Vn. PROSE WORKS . . . . . .101 









Politics. — The period of thirty years (1792-1822)10 which 
the life of Shelley was cast was a time at once of innova- 
tion and repression, of fierce conflict between governors and 
subjects, of strong popular movements on the one side, and 
equally stern reprisals on the other. Towards the close of the 
eighteenth century the spirit of inquiry had been abroad, and 
there had been a great awakening of the nations, which had 
taken visible form in the declaration of American Independ- 
ence and the French Revolution. The immediate effect of 
these heart-stirring events was to stimulate reformers, all the 
world over, to further exertions, and to inspire them with 
hopes, which to us seem Quixotic, of realising in the near 
future their most sanguine dreams of Liberty and Justice. 
Spain, Italy, and Greece were all preparing themselves for 
the coming struggle ; while^ in the ISTew World, Mexico and 
the Spanish colonies were striving to break away from the 
mother-country's control. Ireland was in revolt in 1798, 
and after the passing of the Act of Union in 1800 the per- 
sistent rejection of the Catholic Relief Bill was the cause of 
prolonged agitation. Then came a time of disappointment 
and reaction. In England, where the horrors of the French 
Revolution had filled men's minds with misgiving, the Tories, 


with " alarm " as their watchword of government, now ruled 
supreme. The first quarter of this century has been de- 
scribed as " an awful period for any one who ventured to 
maintain Liberal opinions ; " perhaps the gloomiest time of 
all was the Regency of the Prince of Wales (1811-1820), 
with which Shelley's literary career almost coincided. 
England was then governed by such men as Castlereagh 
the author of the "gagging bills;" Sidmouth, the Home 
Secretary, whose one idea of sound policy lay in " crushing 
sedition;" Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, for forty years the 
enemy of every sort of reform ; and EUenborough, the Chief 
Justice, who in the numerous state-prosecutions of those 
days did not scruple to strain the law to the utmost against 
the accused. Under this Government civil and religious 
liberty was for the time trampled under foot, while the social 
condition of the working-classes grew more desperate every 
year. The close of the war with Napoleon in 18 15 failed 
to bring any relief, and the riots that took place in many 
parts of the country were suppressed with great severity, 
the Government even going so far as to employ spies, as in 
the case of the notorious Oliver, for the purpose of inciting 
the discontented workmen to violence, and then betraying 
them to the gallows, which were constantly in use. Yet 
such books as Paine's Age of Reason, Godwin's Political 
Justice, and Mary WoUstonecraf t's Vindication of the Rights 
of Women had not in reality failed in their effect ; in spite 
of every obstacle the revolution of thought was being gradu- 
ally accomplished, while the wide popularity gained by the 
writings of Cobbett in England and Owen in America proved 
that the demand for poUtical and social reform was intensi- 
fiecl rather than extinguished by the harsh measures dealt out 
to the reformers. 

Literature. — In literature, as in politics, it was an age of 
conflict and revolution. The monotonous tyranny of the 
"correct" school of poetry, of which Pope may stand as 
the representative, was giving way to a truer, simpler, more 


natural style, of which Cowper and Burns were the fore- 
runners and Wordsworth the first apostle. Thus there 
uprose a new generation of poets, who, in their regard for 
the spirit rather than the letter of the laws of poetry, resem- 
bled the Elizabethans of old, and stood in strong contrast to 
their immediate predecessors of the eighteenth century. Break- 
ing through the trammels of formalism which had long been 
held indispensable, they proved that it was possible to unite 
the most passionate feeling to the utmost simplicity of ex- 
pression, and a close study of man to a deep sympathy with 
nature. It was not to be expected that this literary revolu- 
tion would be efi'ected without a struggle ; here also there 
were periods of repression and reaction, and by the help of 
such critics as Gifford and his Quarterly reviewers — the 
Eldons and Ellenboroughs of literature — the champions of 
the old system often found effective means of retaliating on 
their opponents. In such an age as this, the world, as 
Leigh Hunt has remarked, " requires the example of a spirit 
not so prostrate as its own, to make it believe that all hearts 
are not alike kept under, and that the hope of reformation 
is not everywhere given up." 

( lo ) 



Life. — Percy Bysshe Shelley was bom at Field Place, 
Horsham, Sussex, the seat of the Shelley family, on August 
4th, 1792. He was named Bysshe after his grandfather, a 
vigorous but eccentric old man, who received a baronetcy 
in 1806. Sir Bysshe was twice married, and founded two 
families, the Shelleys of Field Place and the Shelley-Sidneys 
of Penshurst, who number Sir Philip Sidney among their 
ancestors. Timothy Shelley, the poet's father, who succeeded 
to the baronetcy in 1 815, was an old-fashioned country gentle- 
man, much in his element as Tory member for the borough of 
Shoreham,^_but ill qualified to understand the character of his 
son. The mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Pilfold, 
had great personal beauty and fair intellectual power, but little 
taste for literature. The poet was the eldest child ; there were 
afterwards born five daughters and another son. Shelley's 
childhood was spent at Field Place, where he delighted in 
certain mysterious passages and garrets, and in the society of 
a " great old snake " which haunted the lawn. At the age 
of ten he was sent to Sion House, Brentford, from which 
school he passed to Eton in 1804. Here his strange disposi- 
tion and his refusal to fag caused him to be teased by his 
schoolfellows, who called him "mad Shelley" and "the 
atheist." He learnt the classics with rapidity, and wrote 
fluent, if not correct, Latin verses ; but his chief interest was 
in private study of chemistry and in translating Pliny's 
Natural History. The only instructor for whom Shelley felt 


any respect was Dr. Lind, a retired physician living at 
"Windsor, the original of the Hermit in Laon and Cythna. 
Shelley did not leave Eton prematurely, as has generally 
been supposed, but stayed there till the middle of 1810, 
by which time he had completed his novel Zastrozzi. In 
October 18 10 he went to University College, Oxford, where 
he became intimate with Thomas Jefferson Hogg, who after- 
wards recorded the events of their college career in his Life 
of Shelleij (vide p. 126). Their stay at Oxford was cut short 
by the publication of Shelley's pamphlet on The Necessihj 
of Atheism, which resulted in the expulsion of both Shelley 
and Hogg, March 25, 181 1. 

Shelley had been deeply attached to his cousin, Harriet 
Grove, in 1809, but their intimacy was now broken off on 
account of his religious opinions. His father refusing to 
receive him at Field Place, he lodged for a time in London at 
15 Poland Street ; but in May 181 1 he came to terms with 
his father, who agreed to allow him ;£"200 a year. His rest- 
less and discontented state culminated in his elopement with 
Harriet Westbrook, the daughter of the proprietor of a Lon- 
don hotel, in the latter part of August 181 1, not on account 
of any deep love for Harriet, but from a chivalrous desire to 
protect her from real or supposed tyranny. It is probable 
that Eliza "Westbrook, Harriet's elder sister, had a great 
share in the ill-advised marriage and its disastrous termination. 
Harriet herself was good-tempered and good-looking, but not 
intellectually fit to be Shelley's companion, while Eliza, who 
lived with them, certainly widened the breach between 
Shelley and his wife. The marriage took place at Edinburgh 
on August 28th, 181 1, and Shelley and Harriet were after- 
wards joined by Hogg, who accompanied them to York, 
where Shelley found it necessary to break off his intimacy 
with Hogg on account of his advances to Harriet. The Shel- 
leys accordingly proceeded to Keswick, where they made the 
acquaintance of Southey. Then followed the visit to Dublin 
(February 12 to April 7, 181 2), of which the fullest descrip- 


tion is given in McCarthy's Shelley s Early Life. After 
issuing his Dublin pamphlets and addressing a meeting of 
Irish Catholics, Shelley left Dublin and travelled through 
"Wales to Devonshire, where he settled awhile at Lynmouth. 
Here his party was visited by Miss Hitchener, a lady of 
advanced opinions, with whom he had corresponded for some 
time, but whose society proved to be less agreeable than he 
expected. From Lynmouth the Shelleys went to Tanyrallt, 
near Tremadoc, in Carnarvonshire, where Shelley took part in 
raising subscriptions to save the earthworks across the Port- 
madoc estuary. Here a mysterious attack was made one 
night on the Shelleys' house, but whether the attempted 
" assassination " was a reality or an illusion has never been 
satisfactorily determined. In May 1813 the Shelleys re- 
turned to London, where lanthe Eliza, Harriet's first child, 
was born some time in June. In the summer of 18 13 
Shelley took a cottage at Bracknell, Berks., where he had 
the society of the Newtons, a vegetarian family with whom 
he had become intimate in London; a friendship which 
influenced him strongly towards the adoption of certain 
humanitarian views which seemed very ridiculous to his 
friends Hogg and Peacock. Mrs. Newton was the sister of 
a Mrs. Boinville, whom Shelley greatly liked. Towards the 
end of 1 8 13 an estrangement already existed between Shelley 
and Harriet, owing partly to their growing divergence of 
tastes, and partly to graver causes, it being Shelley's belief 
that Harriet had been unfaithful to him. In the early 
months of 18 14 Shelley spent much time at Mrs. Boinville's 
house at Bracknell, the final separation taking place in June, 
when Harriet went with her child lanthe to her father and 
sister at Bath. Towards the end of the same year, she gave 
birth to a son, Charles Bysshe. Although Shelley delibe- 
rately separated himself from Harriet, he did not, as has often 
been wrongly stated, desert her, or fail to make due provision 
for her wants ; on the contrary, he continued to correspond 
with her, visit her, and advise her, after the separation. 


Mary Godwin, who was at this time in her seventeenth 
year, was the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Woll- 
stonecraft, and inherited great intellectual powers from 
both parents. Shelley did not know her till May 18 14, and 
it was not till after the separation from Harriet that they 
pledged their love by the grave of Mary Wollstonecraft in 
St. Pancras Churchyard. On July 28th Shelley and Mary 
left England in the company of Miss Clairmont, a step- 
daughter of Godwin, henceforth a frequent inmate of 
Shelley's family. Their tour on the Continent, which lasted 
till September 13th, was described by Mrs. Shelley in the 
History of a Six Weehs^ Tour. During the closing months 
of 18 14 Shelley was in London, much troubled by debts and 
creditors, but on the death of his grandfather, Sir Bysshe, 
early in 18 15, his annual income was increased to ;;^iooo, 
and he became immediate heir to the entailed estate, 
though he had sacrificed his prospect of inheriting a still 
larger property by his refusal to agree to a further entail. 
The summer of 181 5 was spent at Bishopsgate, on the skirts 
of "Windsor Forest, where Alastor was written. After the 
birth of William, their eldest son, January 24, 181 6, 
Shelley and Mary started with Miss Clairmont on their 
second Continental tour (May to September, 1816). At 
S^cheron, near Geneva, they met Byron, with whom Shelley 
made a trip round the lake. " Monk " Lewis was another 
acquaintance at Geneva, and it was under his influence that 
Mary Shelley then wrote her novel Fraiikenstein. Soon 
after his return to England Shelley received news of 
Harriet's suicide in the Serpentine, on, or soon after Novem- 
ber 9th, 1 816. During the last few months of her life she 
had sunk into lower and lower degradation, and the imme- 
diate cause of her suicide was remorse at being turned from 
her father's door. On December 30th, 18 16, Shelley was 
married to Mary in London, and early in 181 7 they settled 
near their friend Peacock at Marlow, where they stayed a 
year, a period fruitful in literary work, including Laon and 


Cythna. A daughter, Clara, was born September 3, 18 17. 
After the death of Harriet her father had refused to give 
up the two children, and took proceedings in Chancery to 
deprive Shelley of their control, the result being that Lord 
Eldon's judgment was given against Shelley in March, 18 17, 
and the children were handed over to the care of a Dr. Hume. 
The boy died in 1826 j lanthe afterwards became Mrs. 
Esdaile. This loss of his children, next to Harriet's suicide, 
affected Shelley more deeply than any other misfortune of 
his life. 

For various reasons, notably the state of Shelley's health, 
Shelley and Mary left England for Italy, March 11, 1818, 
again accompanied by Miss Clairmont. After first visiting 
Milan, the Lake of Como, Pisa, and Leghorn, where they 
met the Gisbornes, they settled for a time at Bagni di Lucca. 
On August 17 th Shelley left Mary at this place, and visited 
Byron at Venice (vide Julian and Maddalo). He was after- 
wards joined by his family at I Capucini, a villa belonging 
to Byron at Este, where they stayed till November 5 th. 
Their daughter Clara died on September 24th. They next 
travelled to Naples, spending a few days at Eome on the 
way, and arriving at Naples early in December 181 8. They 
stayed there three months, Shelley suffering much from ill 
health and dejection during this winter. In March 18 19 
they returned to Rome, where their son William died on 
June 7th, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery. At 
Eome Shelley wrote the greater part of Prometheus Unbound 
and commenced The Cenci. Shortly after William's death 
Shelley and Mary went to Leghorn, where they stayed in 
the Villa Valsovano, and saw much of the Gisbornes. In 
September they went on to Florence, where their last child, 
Percy Florence, was born, November 12, 18 19. At 
Florence, as at Rome, Shelley passed much time in the 
picture-galleries. In January 1820 Shelley and his wife left 
Miss Clairmont at Florence and settled at Pisa, where 
they made a lengthy stay, broken at times by visits to Bagni 


di Pisa and Leghorn, and enjoyed more congenial society 
than at any time since they left England. In the autumn 
of 1820 they were visited by Med win, and about the same 
time they became acquainted with Emilia Viviani (vide 
Epipsychidion). Early in 182 1 they met Edward and Jane 
Williams, with whom they soon became intimate friends. 
In August 182 1 Shelley visited Eyron at Kavenna, and 
discussed the plan of starting a magazine in conjunction 
with Leigh Hunt ; Byron shortly afterwards came to Pisa, 
where he spent the winter in a house near that occupied by 
Shelley. Lastly, in January 1822, "Captain" Trelawny 
arrived at Pisa and saw much of Shelley during the last 
six months of his life. On April 26th, 1822, the Shelleys, 
with the Williamses and Trelawny, took up their abode in 
the Casa Magni, a solitary house on the shore of the Gulf 
of Spezzia, near Lericl A great part of Shelley's time was 
now spent on board his small yacht, named the "Ariel," or 
in writing The Triumph of Life. The summer was sultry 
and foreboded storms, and some strange portents are said to 
have startled the small circle of friends at the Casa Magni. 
On July ist, Shelley sailed with Williams to Leghorn, and 
greeted Leigh Hunt, who had just arrived in Italy. On 
Monday, July 8th, Shelley and Williams, with their sailor 
boy, Charles Vivian, started from Leghorn on their return 
voyage at 3 p.m. The afternoon was very hot, and a 
thunderstorm presently burst on the sea, during which 
the "Ariel" disappeared in the haze. When the storm 
cleared off, all traces of the yacht were lost ; but she was 
found two months later in fifteen fathoms water, with the 
appearance of having been run down by a felucca during 
the squall. Whether this was due to accident or design 
will probably never be ascertained ; there is, however, some 
slight ground for supposing that the boat was purposely run 
down by some Italian sailors, under the impression that 
Byron was on board with a large sum of money. Shelley's 
body was found, July 22, on the Tuscan coast, and buried 


in the sand. On August i6th it was burned, according to 
the Italian law, the heart remaining unconsumed. The 
ashes were buried in the Protestant cemetery at Rome. 

There are several points in Shelley's life which have never 
been satisfactorily cleared up, and in which it seems impossible 
to distinguish between fact and fiction. Among these may 
be mentioned his idea in boyhood that his father meditated 
sending him to an asylum and was only restrained by Dr. 
Lind's intercession; his statement as to his being expelled 
from Eton and afterwards permitted to return ; the detailed 
account of the attempted assassination at TanyraUt; the 
story of the mysterious lady who followed Shelley from 
England to Naples and died there; the assault made on 
Shelley by some unknown Englishmen at the post-office at 
Pisa ; and the dreams and visions recorded during the last 
residence at the Casa Magni. The frequent allusions to 
drowning in Shelley's writings are very remarkable. He is 
stated to have said that shipwreck was " a death he should 
like better than any other." " If you can't swim, beware 
of Providence," is Maddalo's warning to Julian ; and we 
note that Shelley, who never learned to swim, was in danger 
of drowning on several occasions before the final catastrophe, 
viz., during the first voyage to Dublin ; in crossing to Calais 
in 1814 ; with Byron on the Lake of Geneva in 1816 ; and 
in his light skiff on the Arno in 182 1. One or two anecdotes 
told by Trelawny touch on the same point. (Cf. Alastor, 
lines 304, 305 ; the final stanzas of Adonais, Ode to Liberty, 
and Lines written in Dejection near Naples ; and a striking 
passage quoted in SJielley Memorials, p. 126.) 

After Shelley's death his widow, as we see from her poem 
The Choice, reproached herself for her supposed coldness and 
neglect, but it would be easy to take such reproaches too 
seriously. In spite of her dissimilarity to Shelley in 
character, notably in her liking for society and greater 
respect for conventionalities, she was well suited to be his 
companion, and their affection and mutual respect were deep 


and lasting. During the last period of their married life 
some misunderstanding arose between them, which drove 
Shelley to seek relief in the society of Edward and Jane 
Williams {vide the poem To Edivard Williams, The Mag- 
netic Lady, &c.). These misunderstandings were not due to 
Shelley's feelings for Emilia Yiviani and Jane Williams, 
which indicated rather his craving after the ideal perfection 
of love, and certainly implied no loss of affection for Mary. 
But it seems that the affairs of Claire Clairmont, with 
whom Mary latterly often disagreed, had a disturbing in- 
fluence on their household, and led to a temporary lack of 
sympathy between Shelley and Mary {vide Dowden's Life of 
Shelley, a. 470). Mrs. Shelley returned to England in 1823. 
She edited editions of Shelley's works in 1824, 1839, 1840 
{vide p. 120), besides writing several works of fiction. Her 
father, William Godwin, died in 1836; and in 1844, on the 
death of Sir Timothy Shelley, her son succeeded to the 
baronetcy. She died in London, February 21, 1851, and 
was buried at Bournemouth. 

Character. — When Shelley's character is judged by the 
usual standard of morality, many of his opinions and actions, 
which from his own point of view were justifiable and 
conscientious, must necessarily appear strange and repre- 
hensible. Love was at all times his dominant quality, and 
it is remarkable how all his intimate friends, although 
differing widely from him and from each other in opinions 
and disposition, bore united testimony to this moral beauty. 
His prominent traits were a rare unworldliness and an 
ardent enthusiasm ; he felt that he had a mission to perform, 
and that he was charged with a message to his fellow-men. 
His generosity alike to friends and strangers was as muni- 
ficent as it was unassuming, while his unselfishness in all 
the minor details of life was equally striking. His impulsive 
nature, chivalrous to a fault, was shown in his impatience of 
every sort of authority in which there could be any sus- 
picion of tyranny, and in the culpable recklessness with 


which he took up and " wore as a gauntlet " the name cf 
" Atneist " (cf. his use of the term " Assassin " in the 
romance of that title ; his representation of the serpent as 
the emblem of good; and the relationship of Laon and 
Cythna). ]N'ot less conspicuous, however, was the gentle- 
ness which made him shrink from all violence and cruelty, 
whether inflicted on man or the lower animals ; the purity 
of mind which prompted him to resent any coarse or vulgar 
utterance as " blasphemy against the divine beauty of life ; " 
the simplicity of taste which renounced the luxuries and 
self-comforts of the class to which he by birth belonged. 
"As perfect a gentleman as ever crossed a drawing-room," 
was Byron's remark on Shelley. Yet he was absolutely free 
from all class prejudice and aristocratic pride ; the connec- 
tion with Sir Philip Sidney, with whom he has often been 
compared in character, being the only link in the family 
genealogy which he cared to recall. His restless and mer- 
curial temperament was another distinctive feature; at no 
period of his life had he what could be called a permanent 
home, but like the Wandering Jew, who figures so often in 
his writings, he roamed from place to place and settled 
nowhere. His dislike of ordinary society was very marked, 
but he delighted in the intellectual converse of friends and 
in argumentative encounter. His chief failing, especially in 
his earlier career, was his inclination to form his judgments 
of other men by his own standard ; this constantly led him 
into a position of antagonism and disappointment, when he 
attempted to advance his doctrines in quarters where success 
was wholly impossible. In one sense he was certainly 
dreamy and unpractical, and by his forgetfulness of times 
and seasons he was ill qualified to be an inmate of an 
ordinary household. Yet it is a great error to suppose that 
he was altogether deficient in practical force and energy ; on 
the contrary, what he said to Trelawny, " I always go on 
till I am stopped, and I never am stopped," was distinctly 
true of his character in some particulars. The shrewd 


determination he showed in publishing his juvenile writings 
gave an early proof that he was not wanting in that capacity 
for business matters which was afterwards to be made still 
more evident in some of his letters from Italy ; while his 
practical kindness to the poor was long remembered at 
the places he visited. It was rather his dissimilarity to 
other men than any inherent inaptitude for business that 
made him seem visionary and unpractical ; there was an 
elemental and primeval simplicity about his nature, which 
renders the expression "the eternal child," applied to him 
by Gilfillan, a peculiarly appropriate one. Yet it is not fair 
to argue that because he died young Shelley's opinions were 
merely crude and immature ; for life and experience are not 
measured only by time. " If I die to-morrow," he himself 
said on a memorable occasion, "I have lived to be older 
than my father ; " while, years before, in the Notes to Queen 
Mab, he had spoken of "the life of a man of virtue and 
talent who should die in his thirtieth year" as being by 
comparison a long one. 

Habits. — It was Shelley's habit to rise early, study or 
write in the morning, and spend the evening in talking with 
his friends or reading aloud his favourite authors. He was 
seldom without a book in his hand, and it is related that he 
used to read even in a crowded London thorouglifare. The 
number of books that he read with his wife was very large ; 
one or the other was almost always reading aloud. Next to 
reading, love of boating was his strongest passion ; it is not 
quite clear whether he acquired this at Eton, or during an 
excursion up the Thames in 18 15, but he was constantly on 
the water at Geneva and Marlow, and again in Italy. His 
habit of floating paper boats is amusingly described by Hogg 
and Peacock, and is referred to once or twice in his own 
writings (vide The Assassins, ch. 4, and Letter to Maria 
Gisborne, lines 72-75). When Byron and Shelley were 
together at Venice and Kavenna, riding and pistol-practice 
were their daily amusements, Shelley being an indifferent 


horsenican but a good shot. One of Shelley's peculiarities, 
noticed by Hogg, was his habit of falling asleep on the 
hearth-rug with his head exposed to the full glow of the 
fire ; we read also that in Italy he would bask bare-headed 
in the full heat of an Italian summer. His practice of 
vegetarianism was adopted early in 1812, and maintained, 
though not with entire consistency, during the rest of his 
stay in England. In his later years in Italy he to some 
extent gave it up, less from any change of principle than 
from the inconvenience caused to the household. But at all 
times bread was practically his staff of life, and his inclina- 
tion was always to the simplest diet. He drank tea, but 
not wine. His habit in early life of beginning a corre- 
spondence with strangers deserves a passing mention. In 
this way he introduced himself to Felicia Hemans, Leigh 
Hunt, Godwin, and others. 

Personal Appearance and Health.— Shelley was tall and 
active in figure, though he was slightly built and stooped 
considerably. His features, though not regular, were singu- 
larly expressive, and retained to the last their youthful 
aspect and almost feminine grace. His head was very small, 
and thickly covered with wavy dark -brown hair, which 
began to turn grey at an early age. His eyes were blue, 
with a fixed and earnest expression that gave the appearance 
of short sight. His voice was peculiar, being very high- 
pitched in tone, especially in moments of excitement, when, 
according to some of his biographers, it became "excruciat- 
ing." At other times it was capable of pleasant modulation, 
both in conversing and reading aloud. It has been well 
remarked that both his appearance and voice were keen and 
high-pitched in harmony with his general character. Of the 
two original portraits of Shelley one was in oil, done by 
Miss Curran at Rome in 1 8 1 9, and one in water-colours, by 
Edward Williams, done probably in 182 1. From these two 
Clint composed a portrait after Shelley's death, and both 
this and the original by Miss Curran have been engraved 


and re-engraved. According to Mrs. Shelley's authority, 
Miss Curran's portrait is the better one ; on the other hand, 
Trelawny preferred that by Clint. Exception has been 
taken, however, to all the extant portraits, as not giving a 
true likeness of Shelley, for the spiritual and ever-varying 
expression of his features rendered the task a very difficult 
one. Mulready said that he was "too beautiful" to paint. 

Mrs. Shelley spoke of her husband as a martyr to ill- 
health, and his own statements were to the same effect, but 
some doubt has been thrown on this by Hogg and other 
writers. It seems certain that Shelley at times suffered great 
pain from nervous spasms, though he had intervals of good 
health. In 181 5 he had consumptive tendencies which 
threatened to be serious, but these had passed away by 1 8 1 8. 
It is less clear what was the nature of Shelley's malady 
during the last few years of his life. At Pisa he consulted 
the famous Italian physician, Vacca, who at first thought 
that the disease was nephritis, but afterwards changed his 

Shelley's Friends. — Thomas Med win, Shelley's second 
cousin, was one of his schoolfellows at Sion House. He 
afterwards corresponded regularly with Shelley, and visited 
him in Italy in 1820 and 1821. (On \ns> Life of Shelley, 
vide p. 125.) 

Thomas Jefferson Hogg was Shelley's intimate friend at 
Oxford. An estrangement arose between Shelley and Hogg 
after Shelley's first marriage, but they afterwards saw much 
of each other in London, and Hogg is more than once men- 
tioned with affection in the letters from Italy. In his early 
life Hogg was to some extent in sympathy with Shelley, 
though latterly of a cynical turn of mind. In 1826 he 
married Edward Williams' widow. {Vide ^. 126.) 

William Godwin had corresponded for some months with 
Shelley before they met in London, October 181 2. After 
the elopement with Mary in 18 14, Shelley's relations with 
Godwin were much strained, and it was not till the end of 


1816, when the marriage with Mary took place, that a recon- 
ciliation was effected. In later years Shelley gave Godwin 
much pecuniary assistance. 

Leigh Hunt became intimate with Shelley in 18 16, their 
friendship ripening apace during that year and the following, 
as Hunt was perhaps the most sympathetic of all Shelley's 
friends. They met again for a few days at Leghorn and 
Pisa immediately before Shelley's death. " To see Hunt is 
to like him," Shelley wrote in 1820, and this feeling was 
reciprocated by Hunt. Shelley's liberality to his friend was 

Thomas Love Peacock became acquainted with Shelley in 
181 2, and visited him at Bishopsgate in 181 5, when they 
went on a boating excursion up the Thames. They were 
intimate at Marlow in 181 7, and some of Shelley's best 
letters from abroad were written to Peacock. Shelley 
greatly admired his writings, and liked him personally, but 
Peacock's cynical disposition rendered him unable to appre- 
ciate Shelley's best qualities. " His enthusiasm is not very 
ardent, nor his views very comprehensive," Shelley wrote to 
Hogg. {Vide p. 126.) 

Lord Byron first met Shelley in 1816 at Geneva ; then at 
Venice in 1818, at Ravenna in 182 1, and again at Pisa 
during the last year of Shelley's life. Byron had a liking 
for Shelley, and highly respected his character ; but though 
their friendship was cordial, they were never on a footing of 
perfect ease. Shelley was justly indignant with Byron on 
account of his treatment of Claire Clairmont, but he greatly 
admired his genius. (Vide Julian and Maddalo, p. 59.) 

Horace Smith was introduced to Shelley by Leigh Hunt in 

181 7, and afterwards managed some business matters for 
him during his absence in Italy. Shelley speaks of him 
warmly in his Letter to Maria Gishorne and elsewhere. 

John Keats also met Shelley at Leigh Hunt's house. He 
did not respond very cordially to Shelley's friendly overtures, 
and seems to have scarcely appreciated the genius of his 


fellow-poet. In July 1820 Shelley invited Keats to join 
him at Pisa. (Vide Adonais, p. 70.) 

The Gisbornes became intimate with Shelley and Mary at 
Leghorn, where they had a house. Mrs. Gisborne taught 
Shelley Spanish. ( Vide p. 1 13, and Letter to Maria Gisborne, 
p. 66.) 

Edward Ellerker Williams and his wife, Jane, were intro- 
<luced to the Shelleys by Medwin at Pisa, in January 1821. 
Williams had been in the navy, and rivalled Shelley in his 
fondness for the water ; Jane Williams was very musical, 
and delighted Shelley by her singing. They lived near the 
Shelleys at Pisa, and shared the Casa Magni at Lerici. 
Shelley was much attached to Williams, and his affection 
for Jane inspired some of his most beautiful lyrics of 182 1 
and 1822. 

Edward John Trelawny, Shelley's latest but not least 
intimate friend, had travelled in many parts of the world 
and led a romantic seafaring life, which lent a considerable 
charm to his society. In spite of the contrast in their char- 
acters and the short period of their acquaintance, he under- 
stood Shelley better than some of his earlier friends. After 
the death of Shelley and Williams, the duty of arranging for 
the burning of their bodies and the subsequent burial of the 
ashes fell on Trelawny. (On his Records of Shelley, vide 
p. 125.) 

Local Records. — Field Place. — An engraved plate, with 
an inscription, has been placed over the fireplace in the room 
where Shelley was born. 

Eton. — There is no visible record of Shelley at Eton, 
the school authorities having hitherto discountenanced any 
attempt to class him among the Eton "worthies." The 
house in which he boarded was pulled down about twenty- 
five years ago. 

Oxford. — Shelley's rooms at University College, in the 
corner of the quadrangle, near the hall, are now known as 
" the Shelley lecture-room." 


Keswick. — Chestnut Cottage, where Shelley stayed in 
1811, is still in existence. 

Marlow. — An inscription has been placed on the outer 
wall of the house where Shelley lived. It records, incor- 
rectly, that Shelley was there visited by Byron. 

Home. — The following is the inscription on Shelley's grave 
in the new Protestant cemetery at Eome : — 


Cor Cordium, 

natus iv. aug. mdccxcii, 

obiit viii. jul. mdcccxxii. 

" Nothing of him that doth fade 
But doth suffer a sea- change 
Into something rich and strange." 

The relics of Shelley's heart, which Trelawny rescued 
from the funeral-pile, are preserved at Boscombe, Sir Percy 
Shelley's residence, together with the manuscripts of his 
works, the Sophocles clasped in his hand when he was 
drowned, and other memorials. 

( 25 ) 


(i.) Philosophical and Religious Opinions. Doctrine of 
Necessity. — Shelley's first inclination was towards philo- 
sophy rather than poetry, a preference which he again ex- 
pressed as late as 1819 in a letter to Peacock. It is suggested 
by Mrs. Shelley that, had he lived longer, he might have 
written a " complete theory of mind ; " as it stands, how- 
ever, his philosophy is by no means consistent throughout* 
In early life he was imbued with the materialism of the 
French school, and the doctrine of necessity is strongly urged 
in the Notes to Queen Mab (vide p. 103), though this, as has 
often been pointed out, can scarcely be reconciled with the 
enthusiastic moral exhortations and the belief in the power 
of the will which pervade most of his poems, Queen Mab 

Idealism. — But his mind, as it has been truly said, 
"possessed an original bias towards Transcendentalism," and 
he soon became discontented with the cold and colourless 
tenets of materialism. By about 18 15 he had adopted the 
immaterial philosophy of Berkeley, who asserted that nothing 
exists but as it is perceived, i.e., matter itself is only a 
perception of the mind (vide essay On Life, p. 105). His 
Platonic studies confirmed this belief in idealism, and he 
must be considered, in his maturer years, as distinctly a 
Platonist and idealist in thought. In accordance with this 
philosophy he regarded as unreal and transitory all the 
phenomena of life and death, space and time, which can 


exist only as we think of them ; while he sought to grasp 
the one reality of thought, the inner idea which underlies all 
outer and material appearances {vide Ahasuerus's speech in 
Hellas, lines 766-806, for a succinct expression of this 
doctrine). It will be seen that in all Shelley's later writings, 
whether philosophical or poetical, the ideal is the dominant 

Tlie Existence of Evil. — On this question Shelley held a 
kind of Manichean doctrine, which is very clearly expressed 
in Laon and Cythna (canto i., stanzas 25-33), and again, 
though less simply, in Frometlieus Unbound (act ii. sc. 4). 
Evil is not inevitable in the nature of man : but from the 
beginning of all things there have been two rival, co-existing 
powers of Good and Evil, typified in Laon and Cythna by 
the serpent and the eagle, in Prometheus Unbound by 
Prometheus and Jupiter. These " twin Genii, equal Gods," 
maintain a ceaseless combat, in which, in spite of temporary 
defeat and suffering, the good will ultimately prevail. In 
short, Shelley firmly believed in the perfectibility of man by 
the power of the human will. This forms the subject of 
Queen Mab, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound. 

The Existence of a Deity. — Shelley's belief or disbelief on 
this point is not easy to define, but pantheism is probably 
the term most expressive of his views, since he certainly 
believed in a universal world-spirit pervading all substance 
(cf. Adonais, stanza 42, and similar passages). The ambig- 
uous use of the name atheist, for which Shelley was himself 
primarily responsible, was the cause of considerable miscon- 
ception of his religious opinions ; and it is to be regretted 
that he did not define more distinctly what meaning he 
attached to words of this class. In Queen Mab, for instance, 
and in most other places where he speaks of God, he evi- 
dently uses the name in the strictly theological sense, to denote 
the personal deity whose existence he denied. Yet there are 
a fewpassages in Prornetheus Unbound, Epipsychidion, Adonais, 
and Tlie Boat on tJie Serchio, where God seems to signify 


rather the soul of the universe, in wliich Shelley as certainly 
believed. He himself in his youth adopted the name of 
atheist, and appears not to have disowned it towards the 
close of his life ; but it should be remembered that he did 
this chiefly in a spirit of chivalrous defiance. The word 
atheist, in its present opprobrious sense, is not justly appli- 
cable to him ; for his atheism was simply a disbelief in the 
personal deity of orthodox theology. 

Nature. — According to Shelley's pantheistic view, all 
nature, " from man's high mind even to the central stone of 
sullen lead," is animated by one eternal spirit, which under- 
lies all passing phenomena. Man, himself a portion of 
nature, turns to her for comfort and guidance, recognising the 
beauty of her manifestations by the kindred emotion of his 
own heart ; while nature in her turn sympathises with the 
joys and sorrows of man (cf. Prometheus Unbound^ act iv.). 

I'he Immoi'tality of the Soul. — Shelley seems, like his 
master, Plato, to have been content to suspend judgment on 
this point, under the stress of two conflicting tendencies of 
thought. Medwin asserts that he believed in ante-natal 
life, and Hogg tells a story of his interrogating a new-born 
infant about its previous existence; but this idea is only 
incidentally referred to twice or thrice in the poems (cf. 
Epipsychidion, Prince Athanase, and The Triwnph of Life)^ 
while it is discountenanced in the essay On a Future Life. 
As regards a future existence, the negative opinion, based on 
pure reason, is advanced in the last-named essay {vide p. 106) 
and other passages ; while the affirmative view, expressed as 
a hope rather than an argument, may be found in Adonais^ 
The Sensitive Plant, the Essay on Christianity, and The 
Punishment of Death. In one of the Notes on Hellas 
Shelley says that the desire of immortality "must remain 
the strongest and the only presumption that eternity is the 
inheritance of every thinking being ; " and in some conver- 
sations recorded by Trelawny he expresses the same opinion. 
It was useless, he maintained, to dogmatise on a question 


which is quite insoluble. In the meantime he had no 
curiosity about the system of the Universe. " My mind is 
tranquil," he said; "I have no fears and some hopes." It 
therefore seems probable that Shelley was inclined to believe 
in immortality; not, however, in the sense of a separate 
individual existence, but rather a fusion of the individual 
mind in the universal. 

Christianity. — His attitude towards Christianity was more 
clearly marked. He resembled Blake in the strong contrast 
of feeling with which he regarded Christ on the one hand, 
and the Christian religion on the other. For the " sublime 
human character of Jesus Christ " he felt the deepest respect 
and veneration, as may be seen from the famous chorus in 
Hellas, and the notes to that poem, the Essay on Christianity, 
Letter to Lord Mlenborough, and passages in Prometheus Un- 
bound. But he repudiated and condemned in the strongest 
manner the dogmas of the Christian faith, and thought it a duty 
to utter his opinions plainly on the subject of the existing 
religion. " If every man," he wrote, "said what he thought, 
it could not subsist a day." He felt that the spirit of estab- 
lished Christianity was wholly out of harmony with that of 
its Founder, and that a similarity to Christ was one of the 
qualities most detested by the modern Christian ; if a second 
Jesus should arise in these days, his fate would be "lengthened 
imprisonment and infamous punishment." That Shelley, 
whether right or wrong in his general view of Christianity, 
did scant justice to the inner force which determined its 
historical development, at any rate in its earlier stages, can 
scarcely be denied ; but there is no warrant whatever for the 
strange theory propounded by several writers, ^ that under 
different circumstances he might himself have adopted the 
Christian tenets. His objections to Christianity were far too 
deeply rooted, and rested on too real a foundation, to admit 

1 Vide Browning's Introduction to Letters, published 1852 ; F. W. 
Robertson's Address to Brighton Working Men ; Gilfillan's Gallery of 
Literary Portraits, &c. 


of any such mental transition, unless we gratuitously suppose 
a total change in his nature, character, and habits of thought. 
This has been very clearly put by De Quincey in his essay on 

Again, in his mention oi faith, which he calls an "obscene 
worm" and the "foulest birth of time," it must be under- 
stood that he means the faith of the theologian only ; of 
faith in its fuller and wider sense he himself possessed no 
small portion. Repentance is another of the Christian virtues 
which he more than once condemns (cf. Laon and Cythna, 
viii. 22), but only in the special sense of that morbid self- 
abasement and useless brooding over the past which retard 
the omnipotence of man's will in the future. It is important 
to note these points, for Shelley did himself an injustice in 
liere leaving some scope for ambiguity and misrepresentation. 
His hostility to Christianity as a religion was at all times 
characteristic and determined, but it was not that mere 
unreasoning antipathy, that " midsummer madness," with 
which he has been charged. His intimate knowledge and 
love of the Bible should alone be sufficient to refute that 
idea. So far from being, as he has often been lightly called, 
an " irreligious" man, he was in the truest sense profoundly 
religious, though his faith was intuitive rather than tradi- 
tional, and therefore could not harmonise with any established 
creed. He claimed for himself and for all others absolute 
freedom of opinion in religious matters, on the ground that 
belief and disbelief are equally involuntary (vide Letter to 
Lord Eltenhorougli, p. 102). 

(2.) Morals. — The power of the human will, in other 
words, the perfectibility of man, is the cardinal point in 
Shelley's moral teaching. We might be wise and virtuous 
and happy, if we would but set aside the tyranny of custom, 
and allow scope for the intuitive excellence of our true 
nature ; for original goodness, and not original sin, is the 
inalienable birthright of mankind. The foundation of true 
morality is therefore that innate benevolence which, together 


with a sense of justice, is the parent of virtue. At one time 
Shelley meditated an essay on this subject, " to show how 
virtue resulted from the nature of man," and holding this 
opinion he condemned custom and compulsion of all kinds 
as hostile to the essential conditions of virtue. Kings and 
priests are outlawed and anathematised, not on any foolish 
supposition of their personal wickedness, but as being the 
representatives of civil and religious oppression ; and, accord- 
ing to Shelley's doctrine, perfect liberty is absolutely indis- 
pensable to the existence of virtue. "Gentleness, virtue, 
wisdom, and endurance," are the four great moral qualities 
on which Shelley insists ; while of the opposing vices, 
tyranny, custom, and revenge are those that he most often 
deprecates. In the Essay on Christianity he quotes the 
authority of Christ against " the absurd and execrable doctrine 
of vengeance." For Shelley's definition of Virtue, Benevo- 
lence, and Justice, vide Speculations on Morals, p. io6. 

Love. — Love, which in Shelley's view is an almost equi- 
valent term to Liberty and ^N'ature, is the great power through 
which the world may be regenerated. This Love is repre- 
sented under three aspects, between which it is difficult to 
draw a very strict distinction, viz., the ideal, the personal, 
the philanthropic. The ideal Love is defined in the essay 
On Love as the " soul within our own soul," the " something 
within us, which, from the instant that we live, more and 
more thirsts after its likeness." It is the yearning after that 
divine spirit which pervades the universe ; the recognition 
of outward beauty by the corresponding inward ideal ; the 
"Uranian Venus" towards which we must needs struggle, 
though we often meet her counterfeit the " Pandemian 
Venus," and in our quest for the ideal are disappointed by 
contact with the actual (vide Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, 
Alastor, Epipsychidion^ Essay on Love^ The Coliseum, &c.). 
The subject of personal Love, though often merged into that 
of the ideal, is treated with some directness in the lyrics, 
especially the later love-songs. Lastly, the philanthropic 


Love is that spirit of unselfishness which Shelley considered 
to be the only remedy for all moral, social, and political 
evils; "the great secret of morals," he wrote, " is Love." 

(3.) Social Views. Necessity of Social Reform. — In 
social as in moral regeneration. Love is to be the great 
motive power. " If there be no love among men, whatever 
institutions they may frame must be subservient to the same 
purpose — to the continuance of inequality." Starting from 
this principle, Shelley strongly condemns the present system 
of society, which, he says, " must be overthrown from the 
foundation, with all its superstructure of maxims and forms." 
His views are distinctly revolutionary and socialistic, not 
only in Queen Mah and its Notes, but in the whole body of 
his writings. The twenty-eighth Declaration of Rights runs 
as follows : "No man has a right to monopolise more than 
he can enjoy ; what the rich give to the poor, whilst millions 
are starving, is not a perfect favour, but an imperfect right." 
He repeatedly insists that there is no real wealth but the 
labour of man, and that the rich are directly indebted to the 
poor for the comforts they possess ; " the labourer, he that 
tills the ground and mauufactures cloth, is the man who has 
to provide, out of what he would bring home to his wife 
and children, for the luxuries and comforts" of the rich. 
He " shuddered to think" that even the roof that covered 
him and the bed on which he lay were provided from the 
same source. Under these conditions the boasted freedom 
of Englishmen was little better than a delusion ; there can 
be no true freedom where there is poverty and want (cf. 
Masque of Anarchy, stanzas 39-56). It is no wonder that 
Owen should have spoken admiringly of the holder of these 
opinions, or that Queen Mah became, as Medwin tells us, the 
gospel of the Owenites. For a remedy for these social evils 
Shelley looked to the growing sense of disinterestedness and 
justice; he had little faith in political economy, or the 
doctrines of Malthus, but he hoped that a reformed Parlia- 
ment might see the necessity of abolishing the National 


Debt, and investigating the claims of all fund-holders. 
Neither, on the other hand, did he trust to mere legislative 
changes, still less to any violence or force, being of opinion 
that all reform is useless unless accompanied by a correspond- 
ing self -improvement. " Reform yourselves," is the keynote 
of the Address to the Irish People, and the same warning is 
enforced in the Essay on Christianity, where the failure of 
the early Chrietian socialism is attributed to the fact that it 
preceded that moral improvement from which it ought rather 
to have resulted. For this reason simplicity of life is fre- 
quently inculcated by Shelley ; to decrease his own physical 
wants is the duty of every earnest man, for he " who has 
fewest bodily wants approaches nearest to the divine nature." 
The world has enough, and more than enough, of science and 
inventions and mechanical skill ; but it is sadly deficient in 
generous impulse, unselfishness, and the poetry of life ; hence 
has resulted " the abuse of all invention for abridging and 
combining labour, to the exasperation of the inequality of man- 
kind." (The passages where Shelley's social views are most 
clearly stated are in Notes to Queen Mah, Address to the Irish 
People, Declaration of Bights, On Christianity, On the Death 
of the Princess Charlotte, Letters from Italy, and the unpub- 
lished Philosophical Vieiv of Reform.) 

The Emancipation of Woman is another of Shelley's great 
social themes. He painted in glowing colours the happiness 
that might result if women could burst the bonds of restraint 
imposed on them by ignorance and custom, and stand forth 
as the free and equal companions of men. In Laon and 
Cythna this vision is presented in its fullest form ; Cythna 
being the type of the perfect woman, at once the tender and 
gentle comforter, and the swift and fearless liberator. In 
The Cenci we note the same spirit in Beatrice, though, warped 
and repressed by the pitiless conditions of her life. In Rosa- 
lind and Helen he deals with the subject of the social degra- 
dation of woman, though in a less direct and powerful manner 
than in Laon and Cythna. Shelley's views on the marriage- 


laws are well-known from the famous Note to Queen Mob 
{vide p. 103), and a passage in JEpipsychidzon. He regarded 
the marriage-bond as disastrous both for woman and man, 
while the inconsistency in his own practice was due solely 
to the desire of shielding the woman from what is at pre- 
sent regarded as a social disgrace. 

Humanitarianism. — Shelley's humanitarian opinions are 
generally passed over as an amiable eccentricity, but in reality 
they form a very characteristic and necessary part of his 
moral teaching. He condemns war as a criminal and foolish 
practice in the Address to the Irish People, and capital 
punishment was equally incompatible with his doctrine of 
gentleness (vide p. 105). He deprecated cruelt and violence 
of all kinds ; and his vegetarianism, as set forth in his Vindi- 
cation of Natural Diet^ and Laon and Gythna (canto v.), and 
referred to in Alastor and the Refutation of Deism, was no 
mere fastidious crotchet, but directly connected with his 
belief in universal Love. He was too large-hearted and 
clear-minded to be able to restrict his benevolence to man- 
kind alone, or to view with equanimity the sufferings of the 
lower animals (vide p. 104). 

(4.) Politics. — We find the axioms of Shelley's political 
opinions in the Declaration of Bights and Speculations on 
Morals. " Politics are only sound when conducted on prin- 
ciples of morality." "The basis of all political error" is 
inability to recognise that unselfishness is intuitive ; that it 
is wiser to promote the happiness of mankind than to con- 
sider self or class-interests, although this fact cannot be 
mathematically proved. Shelley was an ardent reformer and 
republican, and if his early zeal was somewhat modified in 
his later years, there is no reason to suppose that his convic- 
tions were altered. He regarded political freedom as a 
necessary means to an end, for only the free can be just and 
wise. He therefore advocated the extension of the franchise 
in his Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote {vide p. 108). 
Catholic Emancipation is demanded in the Address to the 


Irish People, while in the Proposals for an Association he 
suggests a method of obtaining this result and also the 
Repeal of the Union {vide p. i o i ). After leaving England, 
Shelley continued to take great interest in public affairs, as 
may be seen from the group of political poems of 1819 {vide 
p. 96), which he intended to work up into a regular series, 
and many of his letters testify to the same political watch- 
fulness (cf. the Philosophical View of Reform, 18 19, p. 109). 
He expected national bankruptcy, as well as revolution, 
and considerately warned his friends, the Gisbornes, who 
had invested in English funds, that their ruin was de- 
manded by "justice, policy, and the hopes of the nation." 
But though his heart was entirely with the popular party, 
he always insisted strongly on the necessity of caution and 
moderation. Laws, however bad they may be, must not 
be resisted by force, for a good cause can only be injured by 
employing violence ; it is right to protest, but it is not right 
to rebel. This characteristic doctrine of a passive protest is 
fully developed in the Masque of Anarchy {stanzas 74-90). 
Caution is also recommended in the Proposals for Putting 
Reform to the Vote about the method of extending the 
franchise and abolishing royalty. In political matters, as in 
moral, Shelley earnestly deprecates a policy of vengeance ; in 
Peter Bell he deplores the tendency of the poor to take 
" Cobbett's snuff, Revenge." 

Shelley had a strong dislike to party politics and the nar- 
row views of newspapers ; his own opinions being thoroughly 
cosmopolitan : " The only perfect and genuine republic is 
that which comprehends every living being." His sympathies 
with all oppressed nations were intense, and he watched with 
the keenest anxiety the outbreaks in Spain, Italy, and Greece, 
1820-1821 (vide Ode to Liberty, Ode to Naples, Hellas, &c.). 
In the preface to Hellas he remarks that England's true 
policy should be to maintain the independence of Greeks 
a^^ainst both Turks and Russians. There is a fine tribute to 
America, the " home for freedom," in Laon and Cythna 


(xi. 24), and again in the last scene of Charles the First, 
while the constitution of the United States is spoken of with 
approval in the Philosophical View of Reforin. 

(5.) Literature and Art. — Shelley's views on these subjects 
may be gathered from his Defence of Poetry ; Prefaces to 
Laon and Ci(thna, Prometheus Unbound, and The Genci ; 
Letters from Italy, and I^otes on Sculpture. The scope of 
art is to portray the impression made on man in his contact 
with nature and society, poetry being the most direct method 
of doing this. The function of poetry, as an art, is to quicken 
the imaginative powers, and not to convey any direct teach- 
ing. Didactic poetry was Shelley's " abhorrence," though he 
did not shrink from enlisting his poetical powers in the 
cause of reform. The catholicity of his literary tastes is 
shown by his enthusiastic admiration for the Old Testament, 
-^schylus, and Calderon, writings of a style very different to 
that of the Eevolution. In Italy his few chosen books con- 
sisted of the Greek Plays, Plato, Lord Bacon, Shakspere, the 
Elizabethan dramatists, Milton, Goethe, Schiller, Dante, 
Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Calderon, and 
the Bible. In contemporary literature he preferred Byron's 
Cain and Don Juan, the odes of Coleridge, some of Words- 
worth's early poems, and Landor's Gehir. As a critic, how- 
ever, he was hardly in his element ; his delight in giving 
pleasure causing. him to praise too much; as appears from 
his criticisms on the writings of such friends as Godwin, 
Leigh Hunt, Peacock, Hogg, Medwin, and Williams ; while 
he was too apt to idealise and exaggerate the merits of any 
book that fascinated him. 

Shelley's appreciation of the fine arts was dormant till 
roused by the treasures of Rome and Florence, where he 
studied intently, jotted down the Notes, and wrote long 
descriptive letters to Peacock, more valuable for literary 
style than any correctness of art-criticism. He seems to 
have disliked Michel Angelo, and to have had an exaggerated 
admiration for Guido and Salvator Eosa, being attracted 


probably by the sentiment of tlie former and the energy of 
the latter. At Pisa he had no opportunities of continuing 
these studies. 

Before concluding this chapter it may be worth while to 
consider to what writers Shelley is most indebted for the sug- 
gestion of thoughts and opinions. Among philosophers he 
constantly mentions Plato and Lord Bacon as holding the 
highest rank — the antipodes to Paley and Malthus. The 
influence of Plato is very strong throughout all Shelley's ideal 
poetry, especially in the doctrine of love (cf. Epipsychidion) ; 
he was also inspired by Rousseau in a smaller degree. On 
the other hand, in all ethical and political questions of the 
day he was a follower of Godwin. He himself says that 
Godwin's Political Justice materially influenced his char- 
acter. His opinion that no punishment is justifiable, except 
as correction for the sake of the culprit, and that the death- 
penalty is therefore objectionable ; tliat all laws, especially 
the marriage-law, are mischievous, though for other reasons 
it may be necessary to conform to them ; that property 
belongs justly to him who needs it most ; that all coercion, 
even in education, does harm rather than good ; that unsel- 
fishness is the only true guide in political and social life ; all 
this, together with the doctrine of passive protest and absten- 
tion from violence, was inspired by the writings of Godwin. 
Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women 
doubtless inspired much of Shelley's ardour in that cause. 

( Zl ) 


Ideality. — The dominant characteristic of Shelley's poetry 
is its ideality. He constantly endeavours to penetrate the 
outer cloak of appearances and grasp the idea, the reality 
that underlies all forms ; what he strives to depict is there- 
fore not so much the actual object perceived by the senses, 
as the idealised image of it, apprehended only by the mind. 
Whether he is preaching a crusade of social liberty and free 
thought, as in Queen Mah, Laon and CytJma, and Prometheus 
Unbound ; or of national and political freedom, as in Hellas, 
the Ode to Liberty, and The Masque of Anarchy ; or eulo- 
gising the poetic character, as in Alastor and Adonais ; or 
singing of love, as in Epipsychidion ; or the imaginative 
faculty, as in The Witch of Atlas, — we find always the same 
ideal treatment of the subject on which he writes. 

Subjectivity. — Next to his ideality, subjectivity is Shelley's 
most important quality. He is one of the most subjective 
of poets, many of the characters in his longer poems being 
idealised portraits of his own, and the most beautiful of his 
short lyrics being direct outpourings of his own emotions. 
With the single exception of The Cenci, where he was com- 
pelled to curb this tendency, it would be difficult to point 
to any important poem by Shelley which is not to some 
extent subjective. 

Nature-Worship. — Another marked feature is his sym- 
pathy with nature, which may be traced in his many 
descriptions of skies, dawns, sunsets, clouds, storms, forests, 


flowers, moiTiitains, caves, seas, and rivers. Shelley told 
Trelawny that " he always wrote best in the open air, in a 
boat, under a tree, or on the banks of a river ; " and his 
poems have accordingly much of the vitality and elementary 
freshness of nature itself. He may claim to share with 
Wordsworth the title of " Poet of Nature," for his treat- 
ment of natural scenery is not the less true because it is 
idealised, and instinct with passionate adoration and love, 
rather than careful thought and patiently, diligent observa- 
tion {vide p. 27). 

Varieties of Style. — The scope of Shelley's literary powers 
was far wider than is usually supposed ; to think of him as 
a lyric poet only is to make a very common but very com- 
plete mistake. The versatility of his genius was shown in 
the following ways, (i.) Lyric poetry, as befitting a sub- 
jective writer, was certainly the element in which Shelley 
was most at ease ; in passionate fervour of imagination and 
melody of language he is generally admitted to be unsurpassed. 
Out of his many odes, songs, and lyrical pieces there are very 
few that do not reach a high standard ; and his later lyrics are 
masterpieces of beauty and simplicity combined. He is at 
his best in those metres which allow free play for sustained 
imaginative flight ; in the more artificial metres, such as the 
sonnet, he is not often successful. (2.) As a dramatist 
Shelley relies for fame on The Cenci and the fragment 
of Charles the First. Dramatic power was precisely what 
one would least have expected to find in a writer of Shelley's 
temperament. In a letter of 1 8 1 8 he himself remarks : 
" 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 tragedy a person without dramatic talent could 
write." The success of The Cenci is indisputable; yet it 
may fairly be urged that this is in great measure due to the 
happy choice of subject ; a struggle against parental tyranny 
being a theme specially suited to Shelley's genius. When 
in his Charles the First he attempted to deal with history, 


"that record of crimes and miseries," as he elsewhere 
described it, he could not make the same progress, and the 
drama remains a fragment, though too fine a fragment to be 
set down as a failure. Whether Shelley could ever have 
produced a series of great dramas, must therefore remain 
under debate. As it is, he can scarcely be called a great 
dramatist, though he has the merit of having produced the 
greatest drama of modern English literature. (3.) Narrative 
poetry in the ordinary sense was perhaps Shelley's weakest 
point; his attempts in this direction, as seen in parts of 
Queen Mab, Alastor, Rosalind and Helen^ and even Laon and 
Cythna, lack directness and concentration. On the other 
hand, in the familiar-narrative style of Julian and. Maddalo 
and the Letter to Maria Gisborne, he is at his strongest and 
best. A study of these two poems, where simple incidents 
are touched on with inimitable grace and versatility, yet with 
a firm and steady grasp, should suffice to dispel the notion that 
Shelley's genius was entirely visionary and transcendental. 
(4.) Shelley's position in satirical writing, as in dramatic, 
is difficult to define with any certainty. Satire was not 
quite congenial to his gentle and kindly spirit ; and the 
question of his humour, or lack of humour, is still an open 
one. Humour is the quality of which enthusiasts are pro- 
verbially devoid ; yet in Shelley's case it seems to have been 
latent rather than absent ; for though many of his works are 
conspicuously destitute of it, we see it very plainly in Peter 
Bell, the essay On the Devil and Devils, and some passages 
of some of the poems and letters. The wit in Sivellfoot is 
rather laboured and ponderous ; and perhaps it may be said 
that while some of Shelley's humorous pieces are far from un- 
successful, we feel that this style of writing was rather against 
the grain. (5.) As a translator Shelley had great qualities. 
He was well aware of the difficulty, or rather impossibility, 
of reproducing the melody of another language, but he strove 
to make his versions true English poems ; one of his canons 
of work being that " translations are intended for those who 


do not 'understand the original, and therefore should be 
purely English." In spite of occasional mistakes, due to 
carelessness or ignorance of idiom, he seldom fails to catch 
the spirit of his originals, though he is not careful to follow 
them in metre. His translations were generally thrown oif 
at a time when he felt unfit for original writing, as a 
secondary occupation on which he placed little value. In 
his translations from the ancient languages the Greek largely 
predominates, for Shelley cared little for Latin, and looked 
on the Romans as " pale copyists " of the Greeks, for whom 
his admiration was unbounded. He is said to have learnt 
the Classics almost by intuition. In modern languages he 
translated from the Italian, Spanish, and German, but not 
from the French, for which literature, one or two writers 
excepted, he had a strong dislike. He had studied Italian 
with Hogg in 1813, and he afterwards read much with Mary 
in Italy. Considering his familiarity with Italian literature, 
we are surprised Shelley did not translate more. For his 
introduction to the Spanish tongue Shelley was indebted to 
the Gisbornes {vide p. 23) ; there is a conflict of evidence 
as to when he became acquainted with German, but it was 
probably not until 181 5. (6.) As a prose writer Shelley 
was at his best in some of the essays and the letters from 
Italy. His boyish Romances are entirely worthless, except 
as a proof of his early determination to make his mark in 
literature. The earlier essays and pamphlets are remark- 
able for vigour and keen logical insight rather than 
weight, and except in the Essay on Christianity, Defence 
of Poetry^ and a few other masterpieces, the literary 
style of the essays has been affected, perhaps unavoidably, 
by the polemical nature of the subject-matter, a fault which 
is also discoverable in the earlier letters. But in the letters 
written during the last few years of his life, his ease and 
mastery are at once apparent; as in the "poetic-familiar" 
vein of Julian and Maddalo, so too in his familiar prose 
correspondence he strikes the golden mean between the over- 


elaborate style of the last century, and the practical but 
somewhat inartistic method of his contemporaries. The 
descriptive letters may be regarded as a kind of prose-poetry, 
suggested by the same impulses as many of the poems, and 
written, like them, under the immediate stress of inspiration. 
They give a view of the conditions under which the poems 
were composed, and thus indirectly afford a proof of their 
sincerity in thought and style. Medwin tells us that Shelley 
used to write his letters on his knees during intervals at 
meals, " his pen flowing with extraordinary rapidity, and his 
mind mirrored on the paper." 

Favourite Subjects, Images, and Words. — The repetition 
of certain images and words is one of Shelley's most marked 
characteristics. Among metaphors frequently used are 
those drawn from the instruments of weaving, the warp, 
woof, and web ; from a lyre or ^olian harp hung up to the 
wind ; an eagle and serpent locked together in fight. The 
references to serpents are very numerous, and perhaps owe 
their origin to the "great old snake" that haunted the 
garden at Field Place. In the first canto of Laon and 
Cythna, and elsewhere, the serpent is used by Shelley to 
represent the spirit of good ; but often also in the contrary 
sense. "The Snake" was the nickname given to Shelley 
by Byron. Boats and rivers furnished another common 
theme, the "little shallop" playing an important part in 
Alastor, as also in Laon and Cytlina, The Witch of Atlas, 
and many other poems. Flowers and plants are often men- 
tioned, as in The Question, The Sensitive Plant, and The 
Zucca, while the sky, with all its shifting scenery of clouds 
and storms, was ever present in Shelley's imagination. Of 
human characters, that of the ideal Sage or venerable Al- 
chemist figures in The Coliseum, Laon and Cythna, and Prince 
Athanase, as an exception to the usual tyranny of Age ; and 
still more common is the " Youth with hoary hair," doubt- 
less meant in some measure for Shelley himself. Perhaps 
the strangest instance of Shelley's recurrence to a favourite 


idea is in his references to Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. 
One of the juvenile poems dealt with that story; and the 
same character appears in Queen Mob and its Notes, — where 
the legend is told at some length, — Alastor, Hellas, and 2^he 
Assassins. Here too should be mentioned the quotation 
" Letting I dare not luait upon I would," which recurs with 
odd persistency in Shelley's writings. As a typical example 
of the repetition of a particular image, it may be noted that 
the description of the reflection of a city quivering on a 
river's surface appears in at least four passages, viz., Ode to 
Liberty (stanza 6), the lines on Evening (182 1), Witch of 
Atlas (stanza 59), and Ode to the West Wind (stanza 3). Lair, 
den, doedal, moonstone, hyaline, nursling, windless, anarch, 
are instances of words that Shelley is fond of using. 

Metre. — Blank verse is used in Queen Mah, Alastor, Pro- 
metheus Unbound, The Cenci, Swellfoot, Hellas, and some of 
the translations, with great mastery and success. With the 
exception of Keats, Shelley has scarcely a rival in this metre 
among modern English poets. In parts of Queen Mab we 
find unrhymed lyrical iambics, as in Southey's Thalaba. 
The following are the chief rhymed metres used by Shelley. 
The Spenserian Stanza, revived by Byron, appears in Laon 
and Cytlina and Adonais. Shelley's stanzas are not so com- 
pact and forcible as Byron's, but have greater fluency and 
grace, the number of double rhymes being a noteworthy 
feature. The Heroic metre is that of Julian and Maddalo, 
Epijpsychidion, Letter to Maria Gisborne, Ginevra, and some 
sliorter pieces. In Shelley's hands it becomes free, unfet- 
tered, and familiar, recalling the " mighty line " of Marlowe 
rather than that of the eighteenth century school. The seven- 
syllabled trochaic, the metre of Milton's U Allegro and II 
Penseroso, is a favourite with Shelley ; e.g., Euganean Hills, 
The Invitation, Ariel to Miranda, Lines at Lerici, The 
Masque of Anarchy, some of the lyrics in Prometheus Un- 
bound, and some political poems and translations. The 
ia7nhic tetrameter, the metre of Scott, is less common, but is 


found in parts of Rosalind and Helen. The ottava rhna is 
used with rare skill and delicacy in The Dream, The Zucca, 
Witch of Atlas, and translation of Hymn to Mercury ; while 
the intricacies of the terza rima, that most difficult of metres 
for an English poet, are wonderfully handled in Prince 
Athanase, The Woodman and the Nightingale, The Triumph 
of Life, Ode to the West Wind, and a translation from Dante. 
The lyric arrangements used by Shelley are far too nume- 
rous to mention. The Sonnet he seldom attempted, and 
only once or twice with success. Most of his sonnets are 
loosely constructed, and in some cases the usual sonnet-laws 
are completely set at defiance. 

Rhythm and Rhyme. — In language and power of expression 
Shelley is rich almost to excess, his teeming fancies finding a 
ready outlet in the inexhaustible flow of words. He could 
use alliteration freely without abusing it, and a treasury of 
metaphorical imagery was always ready to his hand. He 
Avrote at a white heat of passionate inspiration, and this 
lyric fervour was one cause of his frequent neglect of so-called 
" rules of poetry ; " correctness of particular rhymes being 
unhesitatingly sacrificed to the general musical effect. Such 
half-rhymes as nest, east ; move, love, are frequent on every 
page ; and we occasionally meet with more questionable 
aberrations, such as accept not, reject not; frost, almost; 
leaves, peace ; ruin, pursuing ; and many instances (especi- 
ally in Laon and Cythna) of such loose rhyming as motion, 
emotion ; fell, hefell. It has been remarked that Shelley's 
poems are never unrhythmical, though the rhyme and metre 
are sometimes at fault. In some cases the charge of metrical 
defect is due to not recognising that Shelley often deliberately 
chose an unusual cadence, as in the line " And wild roses 
and ivy serpentine ; " or purposely suppressed one syllable 
for the sake of the effect, e.g., "Is it with thy kisses or thy 
tears ? " " Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar." 
Signs of haste and inaccurate workmanship, where they 
exist, must be attributed partly to the eagerness of poetic 


inspiration and the profusion of images and ideas, partly to 
the moral enthusiasm which pervades most of the poems ; it 
must he remembered also that Shelley regarded mere artistic 
perfection and elaborate style as of distinctly secondary im- 
portance. It may be fairly urged that the fragmentary state 
of so many poems and essays is a sign of desultory work ; 
this was caused in some measure by his solitary life in Italy, 
where he lacked the encouragement of literary society ; also, 
no doubt, by the restless and transitory impulses of his 
own nature. Shelley was always and essentially the poet of 
youth, and, together with its fervid hopes and yearnings 
after an ideal justice and love, he possessed somewhat of its 
restlessness and lack of repose. This appears as plainly in 
his literary style as in his life and character. Just as Words- 
worth's writings are full of tranquillity and sober contempla- 
tion, so Shelley's breathe the spirit of zeal and activity. He 
represents a particular phase of thought and feeling, which, 
though not universal, has special charms at certain periods 
and for certain natures. 

Mysticism. — Another charge often brought against Shelley's 
style is that of obscurity and lack of human interest. That 
occasional lines and passages are very obscure, there can be no 
question, but the obscurity is generally only a verbal one, or 
caused by some corruption of the text. In the Myths, how- 
ever, which Shelley handles in Prometheus Unbound and 
elsewhere, his love of allegory and metaphysical subtleties 
occasionally renders the meaning difficult ; while the unex- 
plained personal allusions in Epipsychidion, Julian and Mad- 
dalo, and some other poems are less pardonable blemishes. 
But as a rule it may be said that the general sense of 
Shelley's writings is lucid and well-expressed ; though of 
course his meaning is more likely to escape those who are 
unaccustomed to his line of thought, than those who are in 
sympathy with him. The same explanation will apply to 
his so-called want of human interest. It is true that he 
does not deal, as Wordsworth does, with simple, homely 


incidents of everyday life, yet no writer has ever been more 
in earnest in the cause of humanity, and the powerful interest 
of his writings is strongly felt by readers of a kindred dis- 
position, though others may remain unmoved by it. He 
was, in fact, the poet-prophet of the future, and his vistas of 
thought are therefore of necessity somewhat vague, vast, and 
spiritual ; but though the outline, like a landscape by Turner, 
may be misty in detail, there is no obscurity in the general 

Plagiarisms, — The "plagiarisms" of Shelley are, as Pro- 
fessor Baynes has remarked, " psychological curiosities rather 
than serious blemishes." Shelley's mind was naturally recep- 
tive, and it is not surprising that from his multifarious read- 
ing he should sometimes have unconsciously appropriated 
the thoughts and even the words of other writers. In the 
Preface to Prometheus Unbound he admits that the study of 
contemporary writings may have " tinged his composition ; " 
but it is evident that he was quite unaware of the extent to 
which he had absorbed favourite images and cadences from 
old poets as well as new. In the Preface to Tlie Cenci he 
is careful to acknowledge a debt to Calderon as the only 
plagiarism he had intentionally committed, though in reality 
there are others quite as striking; while in Alastor he 
assigns inverted commas to the Wordsworthian phrase " too 
deep for tears," but not to " natural piety " and " obstinate 
questionings." Queen Mah shows traces not only of Southey 
but of Pope, Gray, Collins, Akenside, and Thomson ; Alastor 
is deeply tinged with the influence of Wordsworth; Laon 
and Cythna has many echoes of Spenser; and The Genci 
often recalls passages in Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and 
other Shaksperean plays. 

Grammar. — Shelley's grammar, owing to his hasty style of 
composition, is at times slipshod and defective. We meet 
with such solecisms as "like thou," "let you and / try," 
^^ these sort," ^^ to- lay'' (for lie), "to imprecate for," &c. 
The past participle is sometimes used loosely, and there is 


often a confusion about the 2nd person sing, of the verb, e.g., 
" thou lovest, but ne'er knew." Another kind of error where 
a plural verb follows a singular noun (e.g., "the shadow of 
thy moving wings imbue ") was probably caused by the pre- 
sence in Shelley's mind of the plural " wings ; " a similar 
mistake at the beginning of the Preface to Adonais may be 
accounted for in the same way. (Comp. also a passage in the 
Lines loritten among the Euganean Hills, lines 40-43, and the 
strange phrase " those deluded crew " in The Triumph of 
Life.) It was characteristic of Shelley to care less for gram- 
matical accuracy than the general sense ; but it seems scarcely 
necessary to suppose that he purposely sacrificed grammar to 

His usual though not invariable method of spelling some 
words was peculiar, but apparently deliberate : e.g., desart ; 
eetherial, etherial ; recal ; extacy, ecstacy ; falshood ; knarled ; 
stedfast ; tyger ; &c. {vide Appendix to Forman's edition). 
He sometimes adopted the phonetic style, as in " vext." 

Archaic words.— Many archaic words borrowed from 
Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspere, or Milton, are used by Shelley, 
especially in Laon and Cythna. Among these are hlosmy 
(blossomy) ; undight (dishevelled) ; thwart (cross-grained) ; 
forbid (accursed) ; brere (briar) ; crudded (curded) ; besprent 
(besprinkled) ; teint (tint) ; sill (seat) ; sivinh (labour) ; foison 
(plenty) ; frore (frozen) ; griding (cleaving) ; grain (dye) ; 
pranht (variegated) ; the obsolete plurals eyne and treen ; 
and the past tenses glode, strooJc, clombe. Uprest in the 
sense of uprising (noun) occurs in Laon aiid Cythna, being 
apparently adapted from Chaucer's upriste. The German 
griff (grip) was oddly introduced by Shelley into The 
Sensitive Plant. 

( 47 ) 


I. Juvenile Period (1808-181 1). — The love of the marvel- 
lous was Shelley's ruling passion at this time, his imagination 
running freely on "bandits, castles, ruined towers, wild 
mountains, storms, and apparitions," while his favourite 
authors were Southey and M. G. Lewis. His cliief juvenile 
works were the two romances, Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne 
{vide p. 114); the poem on The Wandering Jew^ Original 
Poetry, hy Victor and Cazire, and Posthumous Fragments of 
Margaret Nicholson (vide p. 79). Besides these, Shelley 
wrote also a number of short pieces, which are included in 
Rossetti's and Forman's editions. It is said that many of 
these were printed at Horsham at the expense of Sir Bysshe 
Shelley. None of those extant are of any literary value ; 
and the worthlessness of Shelley's juvenile writings is their 
most conspicuous feature. 

II. Propagandist Period (1811-1814). — This is the true 
beginning of Shelley's literary career, the tract on The 
Necessity of Atheism marking his first serious effort. The 
romances now give way to pamphlets and propagandist writ- 
ings, and the prose predominates largely over the poetry. 
The chief works of this period are The Necessity of Atheism, 
The Irish Pamphlets, the Letter to Lord Ellenhorough, Notes 
to Queen Mab, and A Refutation of Deism {vide p. 1 01 -104). 
The only poems of any note are The Devil's Walk and Quee?i 
Mab. Some of these writings are occasionally classed with 
Shelley's juvenilia ; but, with the exception perhaps of The 


Devil's Walk, they are distinguished from the real juvenilia 
above mentioned by their greater earnestness of tone and 
increased power of expression. The doctrines advanced are 
often sound in their main purport, even where the actual 
application is foolish and unseasonable ; and though it would 
be futile to deny the great superiority of the later produc- 
tions, it would be equally unjust to class The Irish Pamphlets 
or Queen Mab with the puerilities of St. Irvyne or Margaret 
Nicholson. It will be observed that this second period coin- 
cides with Shelley's life with Harriet, during which he took 
up the gauntlet against custom and society in the too con- 
fident hope of effecting a speedy change. 

IIL Tlie Bishopsgate and Marlow Periods (1814-1818) 
date from the beginning of Shelley's life with Mary Godwin 
to their departure for Italy. Experience had taught Shelley 
the folly of expecting immediate results from his doctrines ; 
while the influence of Mary Godwin and the novelty of his 
travels on the Continent stimulated him to fresh efforts. 
There are now signs of wider sympathies with nature and 
man, and a vast improvement in descriptive power. Poetry 
begins to take precedence of prose ; and though the essays 
are still mainly propagandist, it is noticeable that they are 
often fragmentary, as if Shelley were tiring of direct didactic 
writing. It is possible, however, that ill-health was the 
cause of this. The Assassins (18 14) is an instance of 
Shelley's increased power. The Bishopsgate year (18 15) 
was full of literary plans, Alastor being then written, and 
possibly also the Essay on Christianity and the group of 
essays mentioned on p. 105. The Hymn to Intellectual 
Beauty (1816) is also remarkable. The Marlow period 
(181 7) was a very productive one, including Laon and 
Cythna, the two " Hermit of Marlow " pamphlets, and a 
number of short poems {vide p. 81). 

IV. The Italian Period (18 18-182 2). — Shelley now with- 
drew to a more contemplative life in Italy, " the land of 
ideal scenery," where his genius could develop more freely. 


and in a more congenial climate ; and we see accordingly that 
his natural bent towards the ideal henceforth dominates all 
his writings. The didactic element is now finally with- 
drawn ; prose is greatly reduced in scope, while poetry becomes 
all in all, the letters, which now appear as an important 
feature, being highly poetic in tone. Shelley's opinions still 
remained unchanged ; but they are henceforth expressed in a 
poetical rather than polemical method, as for instance in 
Prometheus and Hellas. Latterly, however, the purely lyric 
and personal element was strongly in the ascendant, the 
short poems of 182 1 and 1822 being remarkable for their 
extreme simplicity and directness. 

In this period the prose writings are reduced to the 
Defence of Poetry ^ Philosophical View of Reform, the Letters, 
Translations, Notes on Sculptures, and some fragmentary 
essays ; while no less than seven volumes of poetry were 
published between 18 19 and 1822 {vide p. 119), and many 
other poems, lyrics, and translations were written, but not 
published till after Shelley's death (p. 120). Julian and 
Maddalo and the Lines icritten among the Euganean Rills, 
both inspired by the visit to Venice, were the chief pro- 
ductions of 1 8 18. Prometheus Unbound and Jlie Cenci, 
together with some of the finest lyrics, date from 1819, 
which may be regarded as the crowning year of Shelley's 
life. The residence at Pisa, 1820 and 182 1, witnessed 
the writing of a large number of poems, among which were 
The Sensitive Plant, The Witch of Atlas, the Ode to Liberty, 
Hellas, Epipsychidion, and Adonais. The Bay of Spezzia, 
in 1822, was the scene of the last phase in Shelley's literary 
career ; and here were written some of the most impassioned 
of the lyrics addressed to " Jane," and the great fragment on 
The Triumph of Life. 

( 50 ) 


I. Longer Poems. Ideal and Subjective. — The poems 
})laced in this class are arranged in chronological order. It 
is impossible to draw any satisfactory line of demarcation 
between the ideal and subjective, as the two qualities are 
often combined by Shelley in the same poem (vide p. 37). 

(i.) Queen Mah. — Shelley seems to have begun Queen 
Mah as early as 1809, and to have corrected and recast it in 
1 81 2, finishing it in February 181 3, and then adding the 
Notes. In the same year he privately published an edition 
of 250 copies, which he sent to various friends and corre- 
spondents, among whom the poem made some sensation. 
In 1 82 1 a piratical edition was issued by Clark, a London 
bookseller, to Shelley's great annoyance, as expressed in 
several letters. Since Shelley's death Queen Mah and its 
Notes have been several times republished, both in England 
and America, and have had a wider circulation than any 
other of his writings, considerably influencing the working 
classes in the direction of free thought. The metre of Queen 
Mah is unrhymed lyrical iambic, like that employed by 
Southey, interspersed with declamatory passages of blank 
verse. There is a poetical dedication To Harriet *^***, 
which Shelley himself mentions in a letter of 182 1 as a 
reference to Harriet Westbrook, though it seems possible 
that it was first intended for Harriet Grove. 

Summary. — The sleeping lanthe is visited by Mab, the 
Fairy Queen (comp. the "Witch of Atlas," another personi- 


fication of tlie imaginative power), wlio summons her soul to 
leave her body and ascend the magic car. They soar aloft, 
and reach the Temple of Nature, whence they survey with 
mental vision the empires of the old world, Syria, Egypt, 
Judaea, Greece, Rome, and Carthage, the "stately city" of 
the West. lanthe thus learns the lessons of the Past, the 
mortality of man, and the vitality of the universe. Then 
follows a dissertation on the Present ; the crime of kingship ; 
tlie peace of nature broken by human wars ; the tyranny of 
kings, priests, and statesmen ; the selfishness of commerce ; 
of all which evils Religion is the guilty cause (conip. the 
doctrine of Lucretius, a writer dear to Shelley even in 
boyhood). This leads to the praise of Necessity, the true 
deity. To explain still further, Ahasuerus {vide p. 42) is 
summoned, who, though himself only a creation of the 
fancy, can yet tell a tale to illustrate the guilt of a fanciful 
religion. Lastly the Future is foretold, as an age of bliss 
when all the world shall be fruitful, and nature and mankind 
at peace. The magic car then descends to earth ; lanthe's 
soul rejoins the body, and she wakes to find her lover 
watching by her side. 

It will thus be seen that the Past, Present, and Euture 
are the "comprehensive topics" of Queen Mah. It is a 
vehement attack on established religion and society, written 
at a time when Shelley's expulsion from Oxford was still 
fresh in his mind. In spite of its declared atheism it 
contains a strong element of the pantheistic doctrines after- 
wards developed by Shelley when he had outgrown the 
Necessity of Queen Mah. . Its revolutionary speculations have 
made it the subject of much praise and much disparagement, 
some declaring it to be a great poem, while others allow it 
scarcely any merit. It is certainly vastly inferior to 
Shelley's true masterpieces; its arguments being confused 
and ill-arranged, with much repetition and unnecessary 
declamation, while the poetry lacks the peculiar music of 
Shelley's later verse. But many of the declamatory passages 


are exceedingly fine and sonorous, and the main conclusions 
advanced in the poem, however unpopular they may be, 
have not been disproved by time ; it therefore seems scarcely 
justifiable to class it with the juvenilia, for if not a great 
work, it is distinctly a notable one. Shelley in after years 
Avrote of it as *' villainous trash," but as he was then vexed 
at the issue of the pirated edition, and as he had not seen 
the poem for several years, and " hardly knew what it was 
about," it is safer to judge Queen Mat on its own merits 
than by the author's opinion of it. In the last year of his 
life Shelley remarked to Trelawny that the matter of Queen 
Mob was good, though the treatment was unequal. 

For Notes to Queen Mah, vide p. 103. 

The Daemon of the World may be here conveniently men- 
tioned. Under this title Shelley published in the Alastor 
volume (18 1 6) a variation from the first two sections of 
Queen Mah ; and the recent discovery of the very copy of 
QiLcen Mah worked upon by Shelley in making this revision 
has brought to light a second part of the Daemon of the 
World, made up from the concluding sections. The Daemon 
of the World is interesting as showing what parts of Queen 
Mah Shelley cared to preserve ; but it lacks the energy and 
the raison d'etre of the original poem. 

(2,) Alastor ; or, The Spirit of Solitude, was written at 
Bishopsgate in the summer of 18 15, and published with 
some shorter poems in 18 16. There is a Preface by Shelley, 
and a quotation from St. Augustine's Confessions which 
strikes the keynote of the poem — the " love of love." The 
title, which was suggested by Peacock, means primarily an 
Avenging Spirit, and must be understood to refer to the 
Spirit of Solitude and not to the youth who is haunted 
thereby ; though the latter interpretation is also permissible, 
according to the secondary meaning of the Greek word. We 
can trace in Alastor the influence of Shelley's w^anderings 
amidst wild scenery, his reminiscences of Lucerne, the Reuss, 
and the Rhine, which he had visited the preceding year, and 


his present seclusion among the oaks of Windsor Park ; it is 
also " softened by the recent anticipation of death." 

Summary. — After an invocation of Nature, the universal 
mother, the poet's story is told. He leaves his "alienated 
home," and wanders far through Athens, Tyre, Balbec, 
Jerusalem, Egypt, and Arabia, where he is tended by an 
Arab maiden, till he reaches Cashmere. Here he sees a 
vision of "a veiled maid," which banishes for ever his 
peace of mind. He wanders on, in search of this phantom 
love, to the " lone Chorasmian shore," where he finds a little 
shallop, and embarks. The boat is driven by a storm 
beneath the cliffs of Caucasus, through the long windings of 
a cavern, and stranded at last on the verge of a waterfall. 
Then follows a description of the forest scenery through 
which the poet roams, till he finds his resting-place in " a 
silent nook " and dies. The poem concludes with a wish 
that the secret of prolonged life, known only to " one living 
man " (Ahasuerus), could be attained by mankind. 

The allegory is sufficiently explained in Shelley's Preface. 
The poet is at first happy in calm communion with nature ; 
but when he seeks a human embodiment of his vision of 
loveliness, he finds that his happiness is gone, the Spirit of 
Solitude has undone him. The " veiled maid " whom he 
vainly follows is the ideal love, unattainable in earthly form ; 
his error consists in seeking the earthly and actual instead 
of the heavenly and ideal. (Comp. Hymn to Intellectual 
Beauty, EpipsycUidion, The Zucca, &c.) The poem is strongly 
subjective ; we feel throughout that the youthful poet is 
Shelley himself ; and the slightly morbid tone is accounted 
for by Shelley's state of health at the time. Alastor is 
written in blank verse of great beauty and strength, and is a 
distinct advance on Queen Mob from a literary standpoint, 
its descriptive passages ranking with some of Shelley's best 
work, while the aggressive optimism of Queen Mah is here 
temporarily replaced by the purely personal element. The 
text of Alastor is very corrupt in places, and there are some 


passages tliat almost baffle interpretation. For tlie poems 
published with Alastor in Shelley's original edition, vide 
p. 119. 

(3.) Laon and Cytlma ; or, The Revolution of the Golden 
City, usually known as The Revolt of Islam, was written at 
Marlow in the summer of 18 17, and printed at the close of 
the same year. A certain number of copies, probably more 
than has generally been supposed, had already been issued, 
when the publisher, Oilier, took alarm at some passages of 
the poem, especially those treating of the relationship of 
Laon and Cythna, and insisted on delaying further publica- 
tion until changes had been introduced. Shelley was com- 
pelled, much against his will, to assent to this ; the title was 
accordingly changed, the final paragraph of the preface 
omitted, and some fifty lines of the text revised and modi- 
fied. It so happened that all this could be done by merely 
cancelling a few pages, and using the old sheets ; the poem 
was thus published in January 18 18. 

Laon and Cythna was written in the open air, partly 
among the Bisham woods, and partly on the Thames. The 
love of natural scenery is strongly stamped on every page ; 
while Shelley's hatred of human tyranny was intensified by 
the Chancery suit, which deprived him of the care of his 
children in the spring of that year. The subject of Laon and 
Cythna (Laon from Greek Xaog^ a people), which is stated at 
some length in Shelley's Preface, was the emancipation, in 
poetic vision, of Islam {i.e., the nations of the Levant), 
whereby the "Golden City" is liberated for a time from the 
Sultan's yoke ; but it must also be understood in a wider 
sense as typical of the struggle between the principles of free 
thought and conventional morality (comp. Hellas). The 
Spenserian stanza was chosen as more suitable than blank 

Summary. — The dedication " To Mary " (Mary 

Wollstonecraft Shelley) is a piece of poetical autobiography, 
describing Shelley's first awakening in his schooldays to the 


higher life (either Sion House or Eton is referred to, pro- 
bably the former ; vide Hymn to Intellectual Beauty) ; his 
loneHness until he met with Mary Godwin ; and their sub- 
sequent happiness. There is a reference in stanza 12 to the 
death of Mary WoUstonecraft. Canto I. is introductory. 
The poet tells how he witnessed a contest between the eagle 
and serpent (emblems of tyranny and free thought), and how 
the wounded serpent took refuge with a woman "beautiful 
as morning " (the spirit of nature and love). She invites the 
poet to accompany her in her boat ; and as they sail, tells 
him of the eternal struggle between the two powers of Good 
and Evil ; also the story of her own life, in which there 
may possibly be a reference to the personality of Mary 
WoUstonecraft ; which would account for the otherwise puzz- 
ling statement that she is " a human form," and the mention 
of her visit to Paris at the time of the Revolution. Thus 
they reach the Temple of the Spirit, where sit the " mighty 
Senate" of the dead, to join whom two spirits {i.e., Laon 
and Cythna) have just arrived. Canto II. Laon is now the 
speaker. He describes his youth and early resolutions at 
Argolis ; his love for his little sister Cythna (" orphan" was 
substituted in The Revolt of Islam), and their determination 
to liberate the Golden City. Canto III. Laon and Cythna 
are suddenly seized by the soldiers of the tyrant, Othman ; 
Cythna is carried into captivity, and Laon is chained to a 
lofty column, where he is rescued from death by the Hermit 
(vide p. 11). Canto IV. The Hermit carries Laon to his 
tower, where, after a madness of seven years, he recovers ; 
and hearing of a revolution in the Golden City, brought 
about by a mysterious maiden, he sets out thither. Canto V> 
describes the peaceful triumph of the revolutionists. The 
tyrant himself, with his daughter (who afterwards turns out 
to be the child of Cythna), are befriended by Laon. The 
liberated people rejoice round the "Altar of the Federation," 
where Laone (Cythna) sings her triumph-song of Wisdom, 
Love, and Equality, which is followed by a bloodless feast. 


Canto VI. Tlie tyrant's troops attack and treacherously 
massacre the citizens. Laon, resisting with a few followers, 
is rescued by Cythna on her Tartar steed, and they escape to 
a ruined castle, where they pledge their love. Cantos VII., 
VIII. , IX. Three cantos are now devoted to Cythna s 
account of her life since she was parted from Laon. She 
tells him of the tyrant's harem ; a mysterious cave to which 
she was taken by a diver j the birth of her daughter, who 
was afterwards taken from her ; and her escape on a slave- 
ship. (The narrative here leaves us in some doubt whether 
Othman or Laon is to be regarded as the father of Cythna's 
daughter. There is some countenance for the latter view in 
Cantos vii. i8, xii. 24; but on the whole the former seems 
more probable.) Her eloquence had induced the seamen to 
set the captives free ; and, on reaching the Golden City, she 
had begun her revolutionary crusade. Here her story ends, and 
Laon recommences. Canto X. The plague which followed 
the massacres is now described. As an expiation, the priests 
doom Laon and Cythna to the funeral-pile. Canto XL Laon, 
after leaving Cythna at the castle, appears in disguise before 
the tyrant, and reveals his name, on condition that Cythna 
is allowed a safe passage to America. Canto XII. Cythna, 
however, arrives, and shares Laon's death. As they die 
the tyrant's child also falls lifeless. They awake after death, 
and are greeted by the child-spirit, Cythna's daughter, who 
guides them in her pearly boat down a mighty stream to the 
Temple of the Spirit mentioned in the introductory canto. 

Shelley was careful to state that Laon and Gijtlina is a 
narrative, not didactic poem ; it is nevertheless a return 
from the somewhat morbid " self-seclusion " of Alastor to the 
more vigorous enthusiasm of Queen Mob. It' is the epic of 
free thought, free love, and humanity in the widest sense ; 
and in no other English poem is the emancipation of woman 
preached with such earnestness and force. Yet it is also 
subjective in a high degree ; Laon, like the two other char- 
acters sketched at Marlow, Athanase and Lionel, being 


a portrait of the poet himself; while Cythna is Shelley's 
ideal of womanly perfection, gentle, frank, eloquent, and full 
of tender pity for all suffering and grief. Laon and Cythna 
is the crowning effort of Shelley's career in England ; it has 
great merits, but it has also corresponding faults. For lofty 
sentiments, gorgeous imagery, and subtle melody, it could 
scarcely be surpassed ; yet, as Shelley himself admits in a 
letter to Godwin, there is '' an' absence of that tranquillity 
which is the attribute and accompaniment of power." The 
polemical cast of the poem could not but be fatal to artistic 
repose ; it consists, in fact, of a brilliant " succession of 
pictures " rather than a perfect work. The plot of the nar- 
rative is vague and loose in the extreme, and sometimes, as 
in the first part of Cythna's story (canto vii.), recalls to our 
mind the fantastic and incredible conceptions of Shelley's 
early romances. The Spenserian stanza is wielded with much 
grace and fluency, but not with the same uniform mastery as 
in Adonais. There are several cases of deficient rhyme and 
metrical oversights, an Alexandrine being twice left in the 
middle of a stanza, while the Alexandrine is itself sometimes 
supplanted by a line of five or seven feet ; the language also 
is, in places, involved and obscure. But with all its artistic 
defects Laon and Cythna can never lose its hold on the 
affection of those readers who sympathise with the spirit of 
the poem. 

The relationship of Laon and Cythna in the original 
edition was intended not to condone incest, but " to startle 
the reader from the trance of ordinary life." This subject is 
several times introduced by Shelley in all frankness and 
simplicity, first during the Mario w period in Laon and Cythna 
and several passages of liosalind and Helen^ and later still 
in parts of EpipsychidioUj and a letter of 1819. When Laon 
and Cijthna was altered to The Revolt of Islam, Shelley pro- 
tested that the poem was spoiled. The true text and title 
have now been restored in Mr. Eorman's edition. 

(4.) Prince Athanase^ a fragment in terza rima, was 


written at Marlow in 1817, probably late in the year. In 
1820 Shelley meditated publishing it in a volume with 
Julian and Maddalo and other poems, but this was not 
done, and it first appeared in the Posthumous Poems in 1824. 
In the first sketch the title was Pandemos and Urania. 

Summary.^ Part I. describes the character of Prince 
Athanase, the grey-haired youth, who bears a close resem- 
blance to the Poet in Alastor, Laon in Laon and Cythna, and 
Lionel in Rosalind and Helen, and is evidently an auto- 
biographical sketch. The first and second fragments of Part 
II. narrate the friendship of Athanase and Zonoras, the 
" divine old man," who, like the Hermit in Laon and Cythna, 
was intended for Dr. Lind. In the third fragment Prince 
Athanase sets forth on his travels, and in the fourth the 
subject of love is commenced. 

Prom Mrs. Shelley's note it appears that the main subject 
of the complete poem would have been Prince Athanase's 
search after the Uranian Yenus, the ideal love, and his meet- 
ing with Pandemos, the earthly Yenus, who disappoints and 
deserts him. The poem would thus have borne a close 
resemblance to Alastor and Epipsychidion, q.v. It was 
abandoned by Shelley as being morbid and over-refined, but 
his intention of publishing it three years later shows that he 
held it in some estimation. It was his first attempt in terza 
rima, and in skilful handling of that metre is only inferior 
to TJie Triumph of Life. 

(5.) Rosalind and Helen, a Modern Eclogue, was begun 
at Marlow in 181 7, whether before or after the writing of 
Laon and Cythna is uncertain, and finished at Mrs. Shelley's 
request at the Baths of Lucca in the summer of 18 18. It 
was published in a volume with three other poems in the 
spring of 18 19 {vide p. 119). There is a prefatory "Adver- 
tisement " by Shelley in which he defines the scope of the 
poem. The metre is chiefly the iambic tetrameter, popular- 
ised by Scott and Byron, but varying and irregular, some 
lines having no corresponding rhymes. 


Summary. — The scene is laid at the Lake of Como, wliere 
Helen "with her cliild meets Rosalind, who had renounced her 
friendship on account of her connection with Lionel. They 
now become reconciled, and sitting on a stone seat beside a 
spring in the forest they compare the stories of their lives. 
Rosalind first relates how she had been betrothed to a youth 
who, at the very altar, was found to be her half-brother. 
He died ; and she was then married to a tyrant husband, 
after whose death, her children, by his will, were taken 
from her charge. Helen's story is devoted to a description 
of the character of her lover, Lionel ; her love for him ; his 
imprisonment, release, and death. In the conclusion of the 
poem we learn that Rosalind and Helen henceforth live 
together in Helen's house ; Rosalind's daughter is restored 
to her, and afterwards betrothed to Helen's son. Helen 
outlives Rosalind. 

The story of Rosalind and Helen was probably suggested 
by Mary Shelley's early friendship with Isabel Baxter 
having been broken off on account of her connection with 
Shelley. It is called a Modern Eclogue because it attempts 
to treat of real life, like the domestic idyll, the social de- 
gradation of women being the principal theme. It contains 
fine passages, but is on the whole the least successful of the 
longer poems. Shelley himself remarks that he laid "no 
stress on it," and that it was "not an attempt in the highest 
style of poetry." The narrative is certainly weak and dis- 
jointed, and leaves no strong impression on the mind. 

(6.) Julian and Maddalo, a Conversation^ was written 
at Este in the autumn of 1818, and sent to England for 
publication, but for some reason Leigh Hunt kept it back, 
and it first appeared in Posthumous Poems, 1824. In August 
18 1 8, Shelley visited Byron at Venice, and rode with him 
every evening ; this was the origin of Julian and Maddalo, 
which Shelley wrote in a summer-house at I Capuccini, 
Byron's villa at Este, among the Euganean Hills, about 
thirty miles from Venice. The two chief characters of the 


*' Conversation " are Count Maddalo (Byron) and Julian 
(Shelley, doubtless with reference to the Emperor Julian, 
" the apostate "), while the Maniac, a mysterious person of 
whom Shelley affects in his Preface to know nothing, is pro- 
bably, as is hinted in a letter to Leigh Hunt, another portrait 
of himself, " but with respect to time and place, ideal." 

Summary. — Julian relates a conversation held with Mad- 
dalo as they rode along the Lido (with this part of the poem 
compare the letter to Mrs. Shelley of August 23, 18 18, 
where the Lido is described as " a long sandy island, which 
defends Venice from the Adriatic "). To gain a better view 
of the sunset they embark in the Count's gondola, in which 
they pass a madhouse where a bell was tolling for vespers. 
(There is a doubt whether Shelley referred to the madhouse of 
San Servola, or to a building on the isle of San Clemente, now 
a penitentiary.) Next day Julian calls on Maddalo and 
sees his daughter, a fair and lovely child. (Allegra, daughter 
of Byron and Claire Clairmont, born in 181 7.) They again 
go to the island, to see the maniac whom Maddalo had 
befriended. They are led to his chamber in the madhouse, 
where they overhear him as he talks to himself. The 
Maniac's soliloquy which follows has been rendered almost 
unintelligible for want of the full story of Shelley's life. It 
is partly autobiographical, partly ideal ; the story of his 
unhappy marriage with Harriet being merged in the account 
of the fruitless search after the Uranian Yenus (vide Alastor 
and Epipsychidion). Julian and Maddalo then leave him, 
and years later, Julian returning to Venice, hears further 
news of him from Maddalo's^daughter, now grown to woman- 
hood. He refuses, however, to communicate what he learnt 
to " the cold world." (This of course was a purely imaginary 
anticipation. Shelley never revisited Venice ; and Allegra 
died in 1822.) 

In Julian and Maddalo Shelley shows a firmer grasp of 
his subject than in any previous poem, and uses the heroic 
metre, as in the Letter to Maria Gishorne, in a familiar and 


yet tlioronglily poetical manner which was altogether his 
own. Julian and Maddalo has sometimes been instanced 
together with The Cenci as an objective poem, but it is in 
reality highly subjective, presenting us at once with a sketch 
of Shelley's character at the time, and an episode of his past 
life. The obscurity of the personal allusions in the latter 
part of the poem, like those in EpipsTjcMdion, is its chief 
blemish. For his relations with Byron, vide p. 22. 

(7.) Ldnes ivritten among the Euganean Hills. This poem 
was written at Este in October 1818, after an excursion 
among the Euganean Hills, on the southern slopes of which 
Este lies. It was published in the Rosalind and Helen 
volume early in 18 19. Shelley here first uses the seven- 
syllabled trochaic metre, which afterwards became a favourite 
with him. 

Summary. — The opening lines strike a note of deep de- 
spondency (vide "Advertisement" prefixed to Rosalind and 
Helen). Life is a sea of misery, made tolerable to the 
mariner only by occasional flowery islands, intervals of 
rest and comfort, such as the day the poet had just spent 
among the Euganean Hills. He describes the sunrise he 
had there witnessed, and the view of distant Venice. This 
leads him to moralise on the departed greatness of Venice, 
and her present slavery under the yoke of Austria, the 
" Celtic Anarch ; " and to refer to Byron, who had there 
found a refuge. Then, as the sun rises higher, he looks 
down on Padua, once the seat of learning, now enslaved by 
the "Celts " ; there is also a reference to the death of Ezzelin 
(tyrant of Padua in the thirteenth century ; mentioned by 
Dante, Inferno ^ xii. no). Noon and evening are in turn 
described ; and with evening sorrowful remembrances come 
back. The island of rest is now to be left behind; the 
pilot. Pain, again sits at the helm ; but the poet is com- 
forted by the hope of touching at similar resting-places in 
his future voyage through life, and concludes with a pro- 
phetic vision of one such perfect island home. 


Shelley is at his best in this mood and metre ; the de- 
scriptions of the autumnal sunrise and noon, with the views 
of Yenice and Padua, are among the finest in his writings. 
Mr. Swinburne has described this poem as " a rhapsody of 
thought and feeling, coloured by contact with nature, but 
not born of the contact." The same idea of a blissful isle 
of refuge is worked out more fully in Epipsychidion and its 
"Advertisement." In a letter to Mrs. Shelley in 182 1, he 
talks of retiring with her and their child " to a solitary 
island in the sea." It is noticeable that in Julian cmd 
Maddalo the Euganean hills are described as resembling "a 
clump of peaked isles," when seen from the Lido at 

(8.) Prometheus Unbound was begun at Este in 18 18, and 
the first three acts were completed at Rome in the spring 
of 181 9. The fourth act, an afterthought, was written 
at Florence in December 181 9. It was published about 
August 1820, with nine shorter poems {vide p. 119). Pro- 
inetheus Unbound was in great part written among the 
ruined Baths of Caracalla, described in one of the letters to 
Peacock, scenery well suited to so lofty and solemn a theme. 
The subject is in the main the same as that of Queen Mah 
and Laon and Cythna — the struggle of humanity against its 
oppressors ; but it is treated in a more ideal and less polemi- 
cal manner. For the title and general form of the poem 
Shelley was indebted to ^schylus, who in his Prometheus 
Bound represented Prometheus (" forethought "), the cham- 
pion of mankind, fettered by the tyrant Zeus; and also 
wrote a concluding drama now lost, in which Zeus and 
Prometheus were reconciled. Shelley, dismissing the idea 
of reconciliation, depicts the release and triumph of Prome- 
theus, in other words, the emancipation of humanity. For 
Prometheus, in Shelley's poem, is the incarnation of the 
Human Mind; Asia, his consort, representing ISTature, the 
spirit of immortal Love, and Jupiter being the embodiment 
of Tyranny and Custom. Prometheus Unbound^ like Hellas, 


is entitled a lyrical drama ; the lyrics in fact are as pro- 
minent as the blank verse, and the lack of "dramatic 
action " was intentional. 

Summary. — In the Preface, Shelley touches on his debt 
to ^schylus, his position with regard to his contemporaries, 
and his "passion for reforming the world." Act I. Prome- 
theus, chained to a precipice of the Indian Caucasus, solilo- 
quises on his centuries of suffering, and converses with the 
Earth, his mother. Mercury, Jove's herald (the spirit of 
compromise), then brings the Furies (demons of doubt and 
remorse) to torture Prometheus; who is comforted by the 
two sisters of Asia, the nymphs Panthea and lone (faith 
and hope ?), and by the songs of the spirits of the human 
mind sent up by the Earth. Act II. describes the journey 
of Asia with Panthea, who acts as the messenger of love 
between Prometheus and his consort, from a lonely vale in 
the Caucasus (scene i.), through forests and rocky heights 
(scenes ii., iii.), to the cave of Demogorgon (Eternity; the 
stern justice which awaits tyranny). There she inquires 
when the time of liberation shall come, and sees the vision 
of the Hours (scene iv.). Thence they ascend to a mountain 
top where a voice is heard (that of Prometheus?) singing 
the hymn of the genius of humanity to the spirit of nature, 
to which Asia replies in another song. Act III. Jupiter, 
exulting on his throne in heaven, is confronted by Demo- 
gorgon, who arrives in the Car of the Hour and summons 
him to the abyss (scene i.). Apollo relates Jove's fall to 
Neptune (scene ii.). Hercules unbinds Prometheus, who is 
united to Asia. The " Spirit of the Hour " receives a 
mystic shell, from which is to be breathed the trumpet- 
blast of freedom. Then follow the speeches of tlie renovated 
Earth (scene iii.) ; the Spirit of the Earth (distinct from the 
Earth herself); and the Spirit of the Hour, who describes 
how the fall of tyranny everywhere resulted from the sound 
of the shell. (Here the poem ended in Shelley's first plan.) 
Act IV. is chiefly lyrical, " the choral song of the regenerated 


universe." Panthea and lone listen to spirit songs, and 
then see a vision of the chariots of the moon (feminine 
grace), and the Spirit of the Earth (masculine energy), who 
sing to each other in alternate strains. The poem closes 
with the solemn words of Demogorgon. 

Prometheus Unbound is Shelley's greatest and most 
characteristic work; he himself considered it his master- 
piece, though he foresaw that it could not he popular. The 
Myth, for such it is, is cast in a colossal mould, and resembles 
the mysterious conceptions of Blake; yet the meaning is 
clear enough in outline, if not in every detail. The principle 
that underlies it is that evil is accidental to man's nature 
and not inherent in it, and that the world may he regene- 
rated by the power of love. Shelley thus put a new and 
deeper meaning into the framework of the old Greek legend. 
The first union of Prometheus and Asia, which is under- 
stood to have existed before Jove's . tyranny began, is the 
Saturnian Age of primitive innocence and natural simplicity ; 
then follows the dominion of the usurper, when man is 
separated from nature ; lastly, by the release of Prometheus, 
and his final union with Asia, is inaugurated the perfect 
age of mature w^isdom and natural love. Prometheus Un- 
hound is the poem of liberated liumanity; the supreme 
expression of the great humanitarian movement of this 
century. It is for this reason that the conception of the 
Titan Prometheus is loftier than that of Milton's Satan, or 
any of the other titanic creations of poets and myth-writers. 
The character of Job is perhaps the one with which Prome- 
theus may be most fitly compared. 

The Italian influence is very perceptible in Prometheus 
Unhomid in the calmer and stronger tone inspired by climate 
and surroundings. The mind is directed to the worship of 
ideal beauty, rather than to the denunciation of existing 
wrongs. There is a corresponding increase in poetical 
strength, the majestic melody of the blank verse being 
only surpassed by the sweetness of the lyrics, which reach 


their crowning excellence in the chorus at the end of Ad I., 
the two songs at the end of Act II. y and the spirit voices of 
Act IV. The hymn to the spirit of nature ("Life of 
Life ") is the most impassioned of all Shelley's poems. The 
chief fault of Prometheus Unbound is that Shelley was 
occasionally led by his subtle metaphysical fancies to over- 
ingenious conceptions — as in the case of the " phantasm of 
Jupiter" in the opening act (comp. Mahmud's "Phantom" 
in Hellas), nor has he always succeeded in making the 
titanic dignity of the characters quite harmonise with their 
quasi-human relationship. 

(9.) The Sensitive Plant was written at Pisa, in winter, 
early in 1820, and published with Prometheus Unbound the 
same year. The idea is said to have been suggested by the 
numerous flowers in Mrs. Shelley's drawing-room at Pisa; 
but we naturally recall to mind the account in Hogg's Life 
of Shelley (vol. i., p. 117) of Shelley and Hogg discovering a 
secluded flower-garden in one of their country rambles at 
Oxford, and Shelley's rhapsody about the imaginary Lady 
of the garden. In a letter of 1822, Shelley says that Jane 
Williams was "the exact antitype of the Lady," although 
the story was written before he knew her. The reference 
to flowers and plants during the residence at Pisa are 
numerous (cf. The Question, The Zucca, the gourd-boats 
of The Witch of Atlas (stanzas 32, 33), and Fragments of an 
Unfinished Drama). In a letter of January 1822, Shelley 
writes : *' Our windows are full of plants which turn the 
sunny winter into spring." 

Summary. — Part I. describes the garden in spring-time, 
the various flowers, and the Sensitive Plant, ever thirst- 
ing for absent love. Part II. gives the character of the 
Lady of the garden, her tender care of the flowers, and 
her death. Part III. The gradual decay of the neglected 
garden in autumn and winter; the death of the Sensitive 
Plant. In the " Conclusion " we find some striking specula- 
tions on death. Are the Sensitive Plant and the Lady in 



reality dead ? Or may not death itself be a mere illusion, 
love and beauty the only true reality ? 

The " companionless " Sensitive Plant, with its insatiable 
yearning for the ideal Beauty, is a type of the poet, in fact 
of Shelley himself (cf. Alastor and JSpipsychidion). The 
concluding remarks about death are an instance of Shelley's 
leaning to the Berkeleyan philosophy, which regarded the 
material universe as only existing by a perception of the 
mind, the mind itself being eternal. There are many sug- 
gestions in Shelley's works of this unreality of death (comp. 
Adonais, "'Tis death is dead, not he," and vide p. 27). 

(10.) Letter to Maria Gisbarne, dated July i, but prob- 
ably written in June 1 820, at Leghorn. Published in Posthu- 
7nous Poems, 1824. The Gisbornes, who were absent on a 
journey to England, had lent their house to the Shelleys, 
and Shelley wrote the letter in the workshop of Henry 
Reveley, an engineer, son of Mrs. Gisborne by a former 
marriage. Maria Gisborne was a lady of keen and sensitive 
nature, once closely acquainted with Godwin and Mary 
Wollstonecraft, and now a cordial friend of the Shelleys. 
The letter is written in the poetic-familiar style of Julian 
and Maddulo, and is interesting as describing Shelley's way 
of life at Leghorn, and enumerating his friends in London. 
It should be compared with a prose letter to Mr. and Mrs. 
Gisborne written from Pisa on May 26th, 1820, in which 
Godwin, Hunt, and Hogg are also m-entioned. 

Summary. — Shelley describes Reveley 's workshop, in 
which he was writing, overlaid with screws, cones, wheels, 
and blocks. On the table is a bowl of quicksilver, with 
mathematical instruments, bills, books, and all kinds of 
litter, lying about. He expresses hopes of renewed meet- 
ings with the Gisbornes, and reminiscences of old pleasures ; 
and then proceeds to enumerate the friends they will see in 
London, viz., Godwin, Coleridge (vide p. 80, Shelley did not 
himself know Coleridge), Leigh Hunt, Hogg, Peacock, and 
Horace Smith {vide pp. 21, 22). He concludes by contrasting 

THE POEMS. (i-j 

London and Italy, and urges that they must pass next 
winter with him. 

(ii.) Tlie Witch of Atlas was written in August 1820, at 
the Baths of San Giuliano, near Pisa, in the three days im- 
mediately following a solitary excursion to Monte San Pelle- 
grino. It was sent to London, but not published till the 
Posthumous Poems appeared in 1824. The idea was probably 
suggested by the Homeric Hymn to Mercury which Shelley 
had just translated {vide p. 98), for the elfish nature of the 
Witch is very like that of Mercury, to whom indeed she is 
related by birth as well as character, both being grand- 
children of Atlas. Both poems have the same metre, ottava 
rima, and are written in the same fantastic tone ; there is 
also a striking resemblance between the opening passages. 
This subtle Mercurial character had doubtless a sympathetic 
attraction for Shelley, who used to be told by Leigh Hunt 
that "he had come from the planet Mercury" (cf. the 
remarks on the bowl of quicksilver, "that dew which the 
gnomes drink," in Letter to Maria Gishorne). But here 
again, as in the Myth of Prometheus, Shelley breathed a 
new spirit into the old Classical form. His " lady witch " 
is the incarnation of ideal beauty, and, like the fairy Mab, 
the patroness of free thought and free love among mankind. 
The Witch of Atlas is perhaps the most impalpable of all 
Shelley's poems, and by its very nature baffles criticism and 

Summary. — In the Dedication To Mary Shelley playfully 
alludes to her being "critic-bitten," she having objected to 
his "visionary rhyme," because it lacked human interest. 
The opening stanzas describe the birth of the lady witch, 
and how she was visited by " all living things " — wild beasts, 
fawns, nymphs, Pan, Priapus, centaurs, satyrs, and shep- 
herds. Then we read of her dwelling on Mount Atlas, with 
its stores of treasures, visions, odours, scrolls, chalices, and 
spices ; her magic boat, scooped out of a gourd (comp. a 
similar idea in the Fragments of an Unfinished Drama) ; 


her attendant creature, " Hermaphroditus ; " her voyages to 
the "Austral lake," "Old Kilus," and cloud-land; her 
pranks and visits to mortals (comp. Queen Mob) ; lastly, her 
beneficence, especially to poets and lovers. 

(i2.) Epijpsychidion ; Verses addressed to tlie nolle and 

unfortunate Lady Emilia V , now imprisoned in the 

Convent of , was written at Pisa in 182 1, probably early 

in the year, and published anonymously in 182 1, for "the 
esoteric few" who were likely to appreciate it {vide p. 120). 
The meaning of the title is " a poem on the soul " (Psyche) ; 
the lady to whom this poem was addressed was Emilia 
Viviani, who was shut up by her father, an Italian count, 
in the convent of St. Anne, Pisa, where the Shelley s made 
her acquaintance and befriended her. The subject of 
Epipsycliidion, which was inspired by the Vita Nuova of 
Dante, is the ideal love, here identified with Shelley's spiritual 
affection for Emilia ; he also gives us " an idealised history " 
of his own life and feelings. The poem is attributed in the 
" Advertisement " to a writer who died at Florence. 

Summary. — Epipsychidion begins with an invocation of 
Emilia, which rises higher and higher in successive grada- 
tions of passionate appeal. In a famous passage, which 
recalls Queen Mah and its Notes, the difference between 
true love and the matrimonial bondage is insisted on. Then 
the poet relates his own career ; how in his search for the 
ideal, he found in her stead the earthly love, " one whose 
voice was venomed agony." (His first marriage is prob- 
ably alluded to.) While he rashly sought "the shadow" in 
many mortal forms (the personal allusions are here too ob- 
scure for satisfactory explanation), deliverance at last shines 
on him in a moon-like shape (Mary Godwin), the reflection 
of the true ideal light. After more storms, the vision of 
the Sun (Emilia) rises on him, in which he recognises the 
real object of his search. Henceforth he will live under the 
alternate empire of Sun and Moon. Finally, he summons 
Emilia to sail with him to an Ionian isle, which is described 


at some length (comp. the closing passage of Lines icritten 
among the Euganean Hills). At the end of EpipsycMdion are 
subjoined thirteen lines in which the poet bids his verses go 
forth to the initiated few who will appreciate them. Among 
these are " Marina " (Mrs. Shelley), " Vanna " (diminutive 
for Giovanna, Jane Williams), and " Primus " (Edward 
Williams ?). 

In EpipsycMdion we have Shelley's fullest, though not 
most consistent, development of his doctrine of love, based 
on Plato's Symposium and Dante's Vita Nuova. In this 
respect EpipsycMdion is closely akin to Alastor, Hymn to 
Intellectual Beauty, and Prince Athanase ; though it should 
be noticed that in identifying Emilia with the spirit of love, 
he was confusing the actual with the ideal, and so trans- 
gressing his own Platonic doctrine as stated in The Zucca. 
In the autobiographical passages of EpipsycMdion there is 
much resemblance to the story of the Maniac in Julian and 
Maddalo, the obscurity of the personal allusions being the 
chief poetical flaw in both cases. EpipsycMdion has always 
been the despair of the critics ; it is a rhapsody which only 
the sympathetic will understand, and Shelley was well 
aware of this himself, as appears from his " Advertisement," 
the instructions sent to his publisher, and letters to friends. 
As regards the beauty of the heroic verse in which Ejnpsy- 
chidion is written, there can be little difference of opinion ; 
to find anything comparable to it, we must go back to 
Marlowe's Hero and Leander. 

The fullest account of Emilia Viviani is that given by 
Medwin {Life of Shelley, vol. ii.), and quoted in the appen- 
dix to Eorman's edition. Emilia is stated to have been 
married to a husband whom she did not love, and to have 
died six years later ; but there is some reason for doubting 
Medwin's correctness on the latter point. Shelley's lines 
To E V (182 1) should be read with EpipsycM- 
dion; vide also Fiordispina. There are some interesting 
fragments and cancelled passages of EpipsycMdion. 


(13.) Adonais, an Elegy on the Death of John Keats, was 
written and printed at Pisa about June 1821, copies being 
sent to London for publication the same' year {vide p. 120). 
Keats, of whom Shelley was a friend and correspondent, 
had died at Rome, February 23, 182 1, and Shelley, as his 
Preface shows, shared the common but erroneous belief that 
his death was caused by the savage criticism of the Quarterly 
Revieio. The name Adonais, here given to Keats, was 
doubtless suggested by Bion's dirge for Adonis, of which 
Adonais is the Doric form. 

Summary. — The Muse, Urania, is bidden lament for 
Adonais, her youngest poet, as she wept before for Milton, 
now "the third among the sons of light." (Homer and 
Dante are probably alluded to as the first and second, vide 
A Defence of Poetry, p. no.) The dreams and fancies of 
Adonais are pictured as mourning round his body, while 
nature itself weeps in sympathy. Urania speeds to the 
death-chamber, and utters her lamentation ; then come the 
" mountain shepherds," the " pilgrim of eternity " (Byron), 
lerne's lyrist (Moore), the frail Form, "a phantom among 
men" (Shelley), and the "gentlest of the wise" (probably 
Leigh Hunt). The poet, after briefly lashing the anonymous 
writer of the review, then turns to the subject of im- 
mortality. Adonais is not dead, but absorbed into the 
loveliness of nature ; for the world's luminaries, such as 
Chatterton, Sidney, Lucan, may be eclipsed, but cannot be 
extinguished. Rome, where Adonais lies, is the subject of 
the concluding stanzas ; the English burying-place under the 
pyramid of Cestius is alluded to (comp. the prose description 
in the letter to Peacock from Naples, December 22, 18 18), 
and by a strange prescience Shelley speaks of himself as 
about to follow Adonais. 

In Adonais Shelley again makes use of a classical model ; 
this time taking as a framework the style of those Greek 
idyllic writers, whose poetry he describes in his Defence of 
Poetry as "intensely melodious," though "with an excess of 


sweetness." His intimacy with Bion and Moschus is shown 
by some of his translations {vide p. 99). In the first part of 
the poem this classical influence is as clearly traced as in 
Milton's LycidaSj to which Adonais has many points of 
resemblance ; but Shelley is more successful in avoiding the 
confusion of ancient with modern ideas ; there are no fauns 
and satyrs in his elegy, but all is transformed by modern 
thought and poetical mysticism. In the second part he 
breaks away from his originals, to treat of the subject of 
death and immortality, his utterances in Adanais being the 
most positive indications he gives of a belief in a future life 
{vide p. 27). The personal forebodings of death in the last 
stanzas are one of those strange occurrences of wliich there 
are several instances in Shelley's life {vide p. 16). His friend- 
ship and admiration for Keats, though very cordial and 
sincere, as is shown by several of his letters, especially that 
to the editor of the Quarterly Mevieiv (1820)., would hardly 
of themselves have made him long to rejoin his lost friend ; 
but it must be remembered that his feelings towards Keats 
are idealised in Adonais, as was his love for Emilia in Upi- 
psychidion. As regards style and workmanship^ Adonais is 
generally considered, as Shelley himself belie.ved it, the 
most perfect of his longer poems. The Spenserian metre 
is used with more finish and mastery than in Laon and 
Cythna; but through his adhesion to a classical model, we 
perhaps miss some of the charm of his wild originality and 
lyric rapture. 

(14.) Hellas, a Lyrical Drama, written at Pisa in the 
autumn of 1 821, and published early the next year (wc?e p. 120), 
was the last poem given to the world in Shelley's lifetime. 
It is a tribute to the Greek nation, inspired by the enthu- 
siasm Shelley felt on hearing of the proclamation of Greek 
independence (182 1), and in its general form is based on the 
PerscB of ^schylus, which was a triumph-song over the 
defeat of the Persians at Salamis. Hellas, which describes 
in sanguine anticipation the fall of the Moslem empire and 


the freedom of Greece (a vision realised in part by the battle 
of Navarino, 1827), is lyrical rather than dramatic, and 
cannot be classed with precision \Aath any of the other 
poems, being, as Shelley himself wrote of it, "a sort of 
lyrical, dramatic, nondescript piece of business." Though 
professing to deal with contemporary events, it is, in the 
main, ideal, being a poetic description of the world's passion 
for liberty; herein resembling Laon and Cytlina^ and the 
more so since in both poems the scene is laid in the " Golden 
City " and the Levant. The Dedication to Prince Mavro- 
cordato, who first brought Shelley the news of the insurrec- 
tion, is dated November i, 1821. In his Preface, Shelley 
insists on the world's debt to Greece, and points out the 
true policy of England. The title Hellas was suggested by 
Edward Williams. 

Summary. — The scene is Constantinople. A chorus of 
Greek captives sing of the hopes of freedom, while the 
Sultan (Mahmud IL, who reigned 1 808-1 839) sleeps and 
dreams of danger. He wakes in sudden alarm, and learns 
from Hassan of a Jew, Ahasuerus {vide p. 42), a wizard and 
interpreter of dreams, who has been summoned for consulta- 
tion. Presently Daood brings news that the Janizaries are 
in revolt, and to satisfy their demand the Sultan is com- 
pelled to devote the treasures of Solyman. He is represented 
throughout as foreseeing the ruin of his empire, and his 
conversation with Hassan is so contrived as to emphasize 
this foreboding. Then messengers arrive in succession with 
news of repeated disasters. Lastly Ahasuerus enables Mah- 
mud to see visions of the past, and also to divine the 
impending ruin by raising his own " imperial shadow " from 
the phantom-world (comp. the "Phantasm of Jupiter," in 
Prometheus Unbound). 

Of the sublime choric songs with which Hellas is inter- 
spersed three are especially noteworthy, viz., those commenc- 
ing *'In the great morning of the world," "Worlds on 
worlds are rolling ever," and the concluding chorus " The 


world's great age begins anew," which may be compared 
with Byron's Isles of Greece. The second illustrates Shelley's 
attitude towards Christianity, a subject treated more fully 
in his Notes to Hellas. As in The Cenei he represents reli- 
gion not from his own standpoint but from that of a Catholic 
country, so in Hellas he recognises the fact that Christianity 
compared with other religions may possess a relative if not 
an absolute truth (vide p. 28). In a striking fragment, en- 
titled Prologue to Hellas^ probably part of an earlier sketch 
(Forman's edition, iv, 94), Christ, Satan, and Mahomet are 
represented as contending before the throne of God for the 
possession of Greece, Christ being the champion of liberty 
and civilisation. 

(15.) The Triumph of Life was written at Lerici on the 
Gulf of Spezzia in the spring and early summer of 1822 and 
published in Posthumous Poems, 1824. It was the last of 
Shelley's great works, a fragment in terza rima. The sub- 
ject, as indicated by the title, is the triumphal procession of 
the powers of Life, dragging captive the spirit of Man ; but 
we can only guess at what the full poem would have been 
from the majestic proportions of the fragment. It was com- 
posed by Shelley as he sailed along the Italian coast in his 
yacht, the "Ariel," under the blaze of the summer sun, or as 
he sat floating in a little " shallop " on the moonlit waves ; 
and these influences have left a strong mark on the rhythm 
and imagery. Dante and Petrarch are the poets to whom 
Shelley was here most indebted. 

Summary. — The opening of the poem is similar in form 
to that of Laon and Cythna, Ode to Liberty, and Ode to 
Naples, and describes a trance that fell on the poet at sun- 
rise (the sun is possibly meant to be a type of the ideal, as 
the moon of actual life, cf. Epipsychidion). The vision is 
then described. The poet sees an onward-streaming multi- 
tude accompanying a moon-like chariot in which sits a gloomy 
shape (Life ; the actual, as opposed to the spiritual). The 
chariot is driven by a " Janus-visaged shadow" (Destiny; 


or human reason (?) ), while round and behind it troop the 
captive multitudes. A voice from the wayside proves to be 
that of Eousseau, who appears in strangely distorted shape, 
and his conversation with Shelley continues to the end of 
the fragment. He points out other captives, Napoleon, 
Voltaire, Plato, "the tutor and his pupil" (Aristotle and 
Alexander), Bacon, and a company of other great men. His 
own story is then given ; which resembles parts of Ejoipsy- 
chidion and Julian and Maddalo. He relates how he awoke 
to "the young year's dawn," and how a temptress, "a shape 
all light," gave him the cup which betrayed him from the 
ideal to the actual, and made him a victim of life's pageant. 
The fragment ends with Shelley's question, " Then what is 

The Triumph of Life may be compared with Tennyson's 
Vision of Sin. That, so far as it goes, it was written in no 
hopeful tone is clear from even Plato being classed among 
the misguided captives ; but it is possible that the poem, if 
completed, would have dealt with the liberating power of 
Love. As it stands there is much in it that is mysterious 
and obscure. The long line and mazy dance of the visionary 
multitude is wonderfully expressed in the continuous rhythm 
of the terza rima. 

11. Dramas. 

(i.) The Cenci was begun at Rome, May 14, 18 19, the 
dedication to Leigh Hunt being dated May 29; but it was 
not finished till about the middle of August, the greater 
part being written at Leghorn in a small roofed terrace at 
the top of the Villa Valsovano. It was printed at Leghorn 
in 181 9, and published in England in the spring of .1820; 
a second edition followed in 182 1, a proof of popularity 
which none of Shelley's other poems achieved. It was 
Shelley's desire that The Cenci should be acted at Covent 
Garden, with Miss O'Neil as Beatrice ; but this was 
declined by the manager of the theatre on account of the 


nature of tlie play. Shelley derived the material of the 
tragedy from an old manuscript which came into his hands 
in Italy ; his enthusiasm was roused by Guido's picture of 
Beatrice and the national interest which the story had 
excited ; and he was thus induced by Mrs. Shelley to write 
a drama on the subject, in spite of his deficiency, real or 
fancied, in dramatic talent. His remarks on the manuscript 
account, which he wished to prefix to his play, and the 
proper method of treating it dramatically, may be seen in his 
Preface. The actual date of the events alluded to was 1599, 
in the Pontificate of Clement YIII. ; but the latest historical 
investigations tend to take away much of the romantic ele- 
ment of the story. 

The interest of The Cenci centres almost exclusively on 
the two chief characters, which it happened were such as 
Shelley was well qualified to draw. Count Cenci is the 
embodiment of a long life spent in tyranny and crime, which 
have been fostered by success till they amount almost to 
madness. His cruel and restless spirit still craves new 
victims on whom to wreak its fury ; hence he conceives the 
idea of inflicting a crowning outrage on his daughter Beatrice, 
while co-existing with this diabolic wickedness is a firm faith 
in religion, and a superstitious disposition to see in every- 
thing the direct agency of God's providence. The character 
of Beatrice is a mixture of womanly gentleness and unfalter- 
ing courage; the crimes and miseries with which the cir- 
cumstances of her life have encircled her are quite external 
to her true nature. She errs in seeking revenge for the 
wrong her father inflicts on her ; but it is precisely in this 
error that the dramatic interest of her position consists. The 
weakness of the other characters, whether intentional or not 
on Shelley's part, serves to throw those of Count Cenci and 
Beatrice into stronger relief ; though it is to be regretted 
that Orsino, the crafty priest, was not more powerfully 

Summary. — The play falls naturally into two parts, Count 


Cenci being the prominent character in the first, Beatrice in 
the second. The first three acts, in which the scene is laid 
at Kome, exhibit Cenci at the height of his monstrous career 
of wickedness, now rapidly approaching its close. In the 
banquet scene (act i. sc. 3) we see him exulting over the 
death of his sons, and then planning worse outrage against 
his daughter. This drives his family in desperation to devise 
the plot against his life, in which they are aided by the 
double-dealing Orsino, who himself has crafty designs on 
Beatrice. The fourth act opens at the Castle of Petrella, 
Cenci's stronghold in the Apulian Apennines ; but after the 
first scene, which describes his summons to Beatrice, and the 
curse pronounced on her when she refuses to obey, Cenci 
does not again appear on the stage, and our whole attention 
is henceforth riveted on Beatrice. The murder scene is 
immediately followed by the arrival of the Pope's Legate 
with a warrant for Cenci's death ; but that just punishment 
has been anticipated by the lawless vengeance of his family, 
on whom suspicion at once falls. The last act, where the 
scene is again at Rome, is occupied with Beatrice's splendid 
though paradoxical denial of the charge of parricide. Her 
intrepid spirit rises higher and higher, as the toils close 
around her in hall of justice and prison cell, while her 
tenderness and gentle pity for her mother and brother are 
equally conspicuous. As the darkness of hatred and horror 
broods over the earlier parts of The Cenci, so the closing 
scenes are illuminated by the glory of love. 

Shelley's chief deviation from the manuscript account con- 
sists in making the detection of Count Cenci's murder follow 
immediately on the crime, instead of six months later; he 
also touches more lightly and delicately on the darker details 
of the story. The (Edipus Tyrayinus of Sophocles was 
doubtless in his mind when dealing with a subject so full of 
horror ; there are also many passages suggestive of the in- 
fluence of Ford and Webster, the determination of Beatrice 
not to confess the murder resembling that of Vittoria Corom- 

THE POEMS. 'j'j 

bona in The WJiite Devil. Unconscious plagiarisms from 
Shakspere are numerous in The Cenci {vide p. 45) ; the 
most obvious being that from Macbeth in the murder scene. 
In spite of these obligations The Cenci is by far the grandest 
and most original English drama produced since the Eliza- 
bethan period. In this poem Shelley deliberately curtailed 
the profusion of poetical imagery with which his lyrics 
abound ; the blank verse is direct and concentrated, and 
there can be no possible suggestion of a 'lack of human 
interest.' It has remained for the Shelley Society to carry 
out the wish of the poet by the performance of The Cenci^ 
May 7, 1886, sixty-seven years after it was written. The 
subject of the Cenci trial is treated of in Landor's Five 
Scenes, and alluded to in Browning's Oenciaja. Count 
Cenci's character has been compared with that of Guido 
Eranceschini in The Ring and the Booh. 

(2.) Charles the First, a fragment, was written in the winter 
of 1821-22, at Pisa. Part of it was published in the 
Posthumous Poems, 1824, and the rest added by Mr. Rossetti 
in his edition of 1870. Shelley had for some time meditated 
a drama on this subject ; but when he began to write it his 
progress was slow, and he finally abandoned it in favour of 
The Triumph of Life, his dislike of history being probably 
the chief cause of the failure. Yet, as far as it goes, Charles 
the First is a striking and powerful attempt. In scene i. the 
murmuring of the discontented citizens as they watch the 
Queen's masque passing through the streets forebodes the 
troubles that are to come. Scene ii. shows us the King, 
amiable by nature, but the slave of circumstances, urged into 
tyrannous courses by the ambition of the Queen, the bigotry 
of Laud, and the cunning of Strafford. Archy, the Eool (an 
imitation of the Fool in King Lear), is alone wise enough to 
foresee the gathering storm. The three remaining scenes are 
quite fragmentary, but Hampden's tribute to America (scene 
iv.) and Archy's song (" A Widow-bird," scene 5) are specially 
noteworthy. SheUey speaks severely of the character of 


Charles in his Philosophical View of Reform, but he was 
careful to repress his party spirit in the drama. 

(3.) Fragments of an Unfinished Drama, written at Pisa, 
probably in the spring of 1822. The opening portions were 
published in the Posthumous Poems, 1824, and the rest added 
in Garnett's Belies of Shelley, 1862 (under the title of 21ie 
Magic Plant), and Eossetti's edition of 1870. The intended 
plot of the fragment, which was written to amuse Shelley's 
circle of friends at Pisa, is explained in Mrs. Shelley's Notes. 
In the first short fragment an enchantress living in an isle of 
the Indian Archipelago laments the departure of a Pirate, 
whose life she had saved ; and summons a Spirit for the 
purpose of luring him back to her. The Spirit's speech is 
the most striking instance of unconscious 'plagiarism in all 
Shelley's writings, being almost a reproduction of the opening 
lines of Milton's Comus. The second fragment is a conversa- 
tion between an Indian Youth and a Lady. The Lady is in 
quest of her lover, the Pirate, and has met the Indian Youth 
on the island, his love for her being returned by sympathy and 
the affection of a sister. She tells him how she was brought 
to the island by a "magic plant" (comp. Witch of Atlas, 32, 
33, and The Zucca, and vide p. 65). These fragments are 
rather a playful effort of the fancy than a serious dramatic 
attempt. Trelawny is evidently alluded to in the Pirate "of 
savage but noble nature ; " while Shelley and Jane Williams 
are perhaps the originals of the Youth and the Lady. There 
is an entry in Edward Williams' Diary for April 10, 1822, 
which seems to refer to the composition of this fragment. 

The Scene from Tasso {Relics of Shelley, 1862) and Song 
for Tasso (Posthumous Poems, 1824) were written in 18 18, 
when Shelley was meditating a tragedy on the subject of 
Tasso's madness, a plan which was perhaps given up on the 
appearance of Byron's Lament of Tasso. Another of Shelley's 
schemes was a drama founded on the Book of Job, but no 
traces exist of any attempt at this. The so-called Prologue 
to Hellas {vide p. 73) is a magnificent dramatic fragment, first 


published in Relics of Shelley, 1862. As regards Shelley's 
dramatic powers, vide p. 38. 

III. Shorter Poems. Lyrics, Odes, Songs, &c., in Chrono- 
logical Order. 

Original Poetry, hy Victor and Cazire, was published, 18 10, 
by Stockdale, but withdrawn on his discovering that some 
of the poetry was not original. It was a joint composition ; 
Shelley being "Victor," with Harriet Grove, or Shelley's 
sister Elizabeth, or his friend Graham, as " Cazire." The 
poem is now missing. 

Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, published 
at Oxford in 18 10, was a semi-burlesque volume in which 
Hogg had some part, the poems being attributed to a mad 
washerwoman who had attempted the life of George III. 
According to Hogg's account the hoax was successful, and 
the book had some circulation at Oxford, but the truth of 
this cannot be relied on. 

The Wandering Jeio, written, according to Medwin, about 
181 1, dealt at considerable length with a subject which 
made a great impression on Shelley's mind {vide p. 42). 
It was not published by Shelley, but four cantos appeared 
in Fraser's Magazine, July 1831, which Medwin asserted 
to be only a portion of the poem, viz., that which he himself 
had contributed to a joint composition. It was therefore 
supposed that Shelley's portion had been lost; but it is now 
thought probable that the poem was complete in the four 
cantos, and that Medwin's share in the writing was very 
small. (Of. new edition of The Wandering Jew, with Notes 
by B. Dobell. Shelley Society's Publications.) 

1812-1815. — The Devil's Walk, printed and distributed by 
Shelley in 1 8 1 2, was founded on the poem by Southey and Cole- 
ridge of the same title. It was distributed, together with the 
Declaration of Rights, by Shelley's servant, Daniel Hill, who 
was for that reason arrested at Barnstaple in August 181 2. 

Stanzas, April 1814, published with Alastor, 18 16. 


("Away! the moor is dark beneath the moon.") These 
lines were written in reference to Shelley's leaving Mrs. 
Boinville's house at Bracknell to return to his unhappy life 
with Harriet. 

To Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (''Mine eyes w^ere dim"), 
written June 1814, and published in Posthumous Poems. 
Previous to Rossetti's edition, 1870, this poem was wrongly 
dated 182 1, under the title To . In reality it is an ex- 
pression of Shelley's feelings a few weeks before his separa- 
tion from Harriet. 

To ("Oh there are spirits in the air"), published 

with Alastor, 1 8 1 6, with a quotation prefixed from Euripides 
(Hippolytus, 1 143). The lines are addressed to Coleridge, 
whose change of opinions and consequent unhappiness are 
deplored. Shelley did not know Coleridge personally, but 
alludes to him in the Letter to Maria Gislorne, and Peter 
Bell, part 5, stanzas 1-5. 

A Summer-Evening Churcliyard, LecUdale, Gloucestershire. 
These lines, which are pervaded by the melancholy tone 
common to all the poems published with Alastor, 181 6, were 
written during Shelley's boating excursion to visit the source 
of the Thames, in the autumn of 18 15. 

Mutability. Published with Alastor, 1816. There is 
another poem of the same title, written in 182 1. Shelley's 
mobile and changeful temperament made him an apt disciple 
of the doctrine of Heraclitus, viz., that "restless movement 
is the ultimate fact which meets us in every part of the 
universe. Such knowledge as shifting senses give of shifting 
particulars is not knowledge, but if all things are mutable, 
there is a law of mutability which is itself immutable." 
Compare his treatment of The Cloud, which changes but 
cannot die. 

To Wordsworth. A sonnet, published with Alastor. 
Shelley, in spite of his admiration for Wordsworth's poetry, 
regarded him as " a lost leader." " That such a man should 
be such a poet ! " he wrote in a letter to Peacock in July, 


1818. (Compare also a reference to Wordsworth in the 
Remarks on " Mandeville") In Peter Bell (vide p. 93) 
Shelley gave full vent to his indignation. This sonnet 
bears a striking resemblance to one translated by Shelley 
from the Italian in 18 15 {Guido Cavalcante to Dante^ 
vide p. 99). 

1816. — Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, written in Switzer- 
land in the summer of 18 16 ; first published in the Examiner 
in January 181 7 ; and included in the Rosalind and Helen 
volume, 18 19. The idea of the poem, which in some ways 
resembles Wordsworth's ode on Litimations of Immortality, 
was conceived during Shelley's excursion with Byron on 
the Lake of Geneva, when his mind was full of Eousseau. 
The Spirit of Beauty to which Shelley appeals, the " unseen 
Power," whose visits to mortals are represented as incon- 
stant and intermittent, is identical with the ideal Love of 
which Asia is the personification in Prometheus Unbound 
{vide also Alastor and Epipsychidion). Stanzas 5 and 6 should 
be read in connection with stanzas 3-5 of the Dedication 
of Laon and Cythna, as they refer to the same intellectual 
awakening at Sion House or Eton. There is also an allusion 
to this event in Julian and Maddalo, 380-382. 

Mont Blanc, Lines written in the Vale of Chamouni, 
dated June 23, 1816, published in 181 7 with the History of a 
Six Weeks' Tour (vide p. 119), and reprinted with Posthumous 
Poems. It was inspired by the view from the Bridge of 
Arve, and, as Shelley tells us in his Preface to the Six JFeeks' 
Tour, is " an attempt to imitate the untameable wildness " of 
the scenes among which it was written. Mont Blanc is 
regarded as typical of the power and majesty of nature ; 
while in the first and last stanzas we see traces of Shelley's 
Berkeleyan philosophy ; even the Alps cannot exist indepen- 
dently of human thought. 

1817. — Marianne's Dream, written at Marlow, 181 7, and 
first published in Leigh Hunt's Literary Pocket Book for 
1 8 19; then with Posthumous Poems. Marianne was the 



name of Mrs. Leigh Hunt, wlio related to Slielley tlie dream 
here descrihed. 

To JFUliam Shelley. These lines, published by Mrs. 
Shelley in 1839, were written in 181 7, after the decision of 
the Chancery suit, under the idea that an attempt would be 
made to take away all Shelley's children. William, his 
eldest son by the second marriage, was born January 24, 
18 16. Comp. the two fragments written after his death 
(p. 84). The fourth stanza of this poem reappears in 
Rosalind and Helen. 

To Gonstantia, Singing, published in Posthumous Poems, 
1824. The lines were probably meant for Miss Clairmont. 
The name Gonstantia was that of the heroine of a novel, 
Ormond, which Shelley admired. There is a fragment To 
Gonstantia, also written in 18 17. 

Ozymandias, the finest of Shelley's sonnets, was published 
with Rosalind and Helen, 18 19, and has been wrongly sup- 
posed to be the one written by Shelley in competition with 
Keats and Leigh Hunt. The sonnet-laws are here violated 
by the rhymes of the octave and sextell being interwoven. 
Ozymandias, or Kameses II., the Pharaoh of the oppression, 
reigned over Egypt about B.C. 1322, and is supposed to be 
the Sesostris of Greek legend. The fragments of his colossal 
statue lie near Thebes, with the inscription, " I am Ozyman- 
dias, king of kings. If you would know how great I am, 
and where I lie, surpass my works." 

Lines to a Gritic, published in The Liberal, 1823, and 
Posthumous Poems, 1824, should be compared with Lines to 
a Revieiver, 1820, as illustrative of Shelley's quiet and tolerant 
attitude towards hostile criticism. In a letter of 1822 he 
wrote, " The man must be enviably happy whom reviews 
can make miserable. I have neither curiosity, interest, pain, 
nor pleasure in anything, good or evil, they can say of me." 

Lines ("That time is dead for ever, child") dated by Mrs. 
Shelley, November 5, 181 7. Harriet's suicide, which seems 
to be referred to, took place about November 9, 1816. 


On F. 6*., written 181 7, published in edition of 1839. 
Fanny Godwin, Mary Godwin's half-sister, committed suicide 
October 9, 18 16. 

1818. — Sonnet to tJie Nile, written early in 181 8, before 
Shelley left England, and first published among Shelley's 
works in Forman's edition, 1877. This, and not Ozyrnandias, 
was probably the sonnet written in friendly competition 
with Keats and Leigh Hunt. It is as distinctly the least 
successful of the three as Hunt's is the best. 

The Woodman and the Nightingale, a fragmentary poem, 
in terza rima; written at Naples in the winter of 1818 ; pub- 
lished in Posthumous Poems in 1824. The nightingale is 
the type of love ; the rough woodman represents the hard 
hearts who expel it. 

Maj-enghi {Mazenghi in edition of 1839) was written at 
Kaples, December 18 18. Some of it appeared in Posthumous 
Poems, 1824; the rest was added in Rossetti's edition, 1870. 
It is a fragment of a narrative poem in six-line stanzas, de- 
scribing the conquest of Pisa by Florence, and the exploits of 
Marenghi, an exiled Florentine. The materials are drawn 
from Sismondi's Histoire des R'epuUiques Italiennes. 

Stanzas, written in dejection, near Naples, published in 
Posthumous Poems, 1824, dated December, 18 18. The 
winter spent by Shelley at Naples, a time of depression and ill- 
health, left its mark on the poems then written — the desj^ond- 
ent tone of which recalls that of Alaslor. Medwin asserts 
that Shelley's dejection was caused by the death of the myste- 
rious lady who was said to have followed him to Naples. 

Song on a Faded Violet, published in Posthumous Poems, 
1824, and classed by Mrs. Shelley with poems of 1818. 

Sonnet (" Lift not the painted veil ") published in Post- 
humous Poems, 1824, is interesting as containing a sketch of 
Shelley's own character, and his yearning after the spirit of 
love. It should be compared with the prose fragment On 
Love. In this so-called sonnet the sextell is found to pre- 
cede the octave instead of following it. 


Invocation to Misery was published in Tlie AtJiencewn, 
1832, The Shelley Papers, 1833, and under title of Misery 
— a Fragment, in the edition of 1839. 

1819. — The Indian Serenade, first published in The 
Liheral, 1822. In the Posthumous Poems and edition of 
1839 i^ "^^s headed Lines to an Indian Air, and dated 182 1. 
It has now been traced back at least to 18 19, which dis- 
proves the tradition that Shelley first wrote the lines for an 
air brought from India by Jane Williams, though he doubt- 
less rewrote them for her. Trelawny (i. 159) says Shelley 
spoke of having written the lines "long ago," and in- 
tended to improve them. There are several variations in 
the text. 

To Sophia. These four stanzas, addressed by Shelley to 
Miss Sophia Stacey, who was a friend of the Shelleys in 
Italy, were first published in Rossetti's edition, 1870. 

Lovers Philosophy was published in The Indicator in 
December 181 9. In Posthumous Poems it was wrongly 
dated 1820. It is inspired by Shelley's doctrine of uni- 
versal love, and is apparently modelled on the form of an 
ode of Anacreon (xxi.) Whether Shelley was acquainted 
with the original Greek, or with the imitations by Ronsard 
and Cowley, is a matter of conjecture. 

To William Shelley. There are two fragments with this 
title; one ("My lost William") written in June 1819, and 
published in Posthumous Poems, 1824; the other ("Thy 
little footsteps") first published in 1839. William Shelley 
died at Rome on June 7th, 18 19, and was buried in the 
Protestant cemetery. He is referred to in The Cenci, act v. 
scene ii., in the account of Cardinal Camillo's nephew, " that 
fair blue-eyed child." Vide the lines To William Shelley, 
p. 82. 

Ode to Heaven, published with Prometheus Unbound, 
1820, is conceived in the lofty spirit of Shelley's Berkeleyan 
philosophy ; its subject is the immensity of creation. 

An Exhortation, published with Prometheus Unbound, 


1820. It is probably the "little thing about poets" which 
Shelley sent to Maria Gisborne, May 8th, 1820. 

Ode to the West Wind was written in the autumn of 
1 81 9 in the Cascine, "a wood that skirts the Arno, near 
Florence " {vide Shelley's Note), and published with Prome- 
theus Unbound in 1820. The leading idea of the poem is 
the sequence and balance of seasons (comp. the Dirge for 
the Year 182 1, and Laon and Cythna, ix. 21); winter is at 
hand, yet spring cannot be far behind, a comforting thought 
which is applied in the last two stanzas to the genius of the 
poet himself. This ode, the most perfectly finished of all 
Shelley's lyrics, consists of five stanzas, each of fourteen 
lines, with the rhymes arranged after the fashion of the 
terza rima rather than the sonnet. The "foliage of the 
ocean," mentioned in the third stanza and the note thereon, 
is a favourite subject with Shelley, appearing again in The 
Recollection^ Ode to Naples, Ode to Liberty, &c. 

On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci, in the Florentine 
Gallery, written in the autumn of 1 8 1 9, at Florence ; pub- 
lished in Posthumous Poems, 1824. This poem, which was 
inspired by Shelley's studies in the picture galleries of 
Florence {vide p. 113), is full of intensely vivid descriptive 
power. Leigh Hunt wrote of it, "The poetry seems, sculp- 
tured and grinning, like the subject; the words are cut 
with a knife." In this respect it may be compared with 

For the chief lyrics in Prometheus Unbound, vide p. 65. 

1820. — Arethusa is dated Pisa, 1820, and was probably 
written early in the year. It was published in Posthumous 
Poems, 1824. It is a poetical version of the Greek legend 
of the pursuit of the nymph Arethusa by the river god 
Alpheus. They start from Peloponnesus, and pass under 
the sea to their " Dorian home " in Sicily. 

The Cloud, dated 1820 by Mrs. Shelley, was published 
with Prometheus Unbound the same year. Its metre is the 
same as that of Arethusa, which makes it probable that it 


was written at Pisa about the same time. Cloud scenery 
had at all times a great attraction for Shelley, and from his 
"tower window" at Leghorn he had special opportunities 
of watching it. Mrs. Shelley in her Preface speaks of 
Shelley " marking the cloud while he floated in his boat on 
the Thames," which has suggested the idea that this poem 
was written as early as 1818. The sixth stanza of The 
Cloud should be compared with a cancelled passage of 
Epipsycliidion (Forman's Edition IL, 393). 

Ode to a Skylark, written at Leghorn in the summer of 
1820, while the Shelleys were staying at the house of the 
Gisbornes, and published with Prometheus Unbound the 
same year. The idea was conceived during an evening walk 
among myrtle hedges, while the skylark was singing over- 
head. Here, as in the Ode to the West Wind, Tlie Sensitive 
Plant, and many other poems, we note that strong personal 
element which led Shelley, like Wordsworth, to draw hope 
and comfort for man from the study of nature. Shelley's 
ode should be read with Wordsworth's poem To a Skylark, 
and Keats' Ode to a Nightingale. 

Hymn of Apollo and Hymn of Pan, published in Post- 
humous Poems, were written at a friend's request to be 
inserted in a drama on the subject of Midas. Apollo and 
Pan are supposed to be contending for a prize. 

The Question, published in Posthumous Poems, 1824. 
The title is explained by the concluding lines of the poem. 
It is written in ottava rima, which makes it probable that it 
dates from about the same time as the translation of Homer's 
Hymn to Mercury and The Witch of Atlas, i.e., the summer 
of 1820. Shelley's love of flowers is here exemplified, as in 
other poems of his Pisan period (vide TJie Sensitive Plant, 
p. 65). It is noticeable that the last line of the first stanza 
has one redundant foot. The sixth line of stanza ii. (''Like 
a child, half in tenderness and mirth"), omitted in early 
editions, was restored by Dr. Garnett in 1870. 

Ode to Liberty, written in the earlier half of 1820, and 


published the same year with Prometlieus Unbound. It was 
suggested by the insurrection in Spain in 1820, caused by 
the tyranny of Ferdinand YII. The ode is an idealised 
history of Liberty narrated to the poet by a spiritual " Voice 
out of the deep " {vide first and last stanzas), in the same 
way as the events in Laon and Cytlina, the Ode to Naples, 
and The Triumph of Life are recorded as if seen in a vision. 
The progress of Liberty is traced after the first ages of chaos 
and tyranny (there is no mention here of a primeval golden 
age as in Prometheus Unhound, &c.), in the glories of Athens 
and Rome, which are -succeeded by a thousand years of 
Christian oppression. At last the spirit of freedom is re- 
vived in the Renaissance, and again in the French Revolu- 
tion (stanzas 11, 12, where Napoleon is also alluded to). 
Then follows an appeal to England, Germany, and Italy. 
The free and wise are adjured to banish the names of King 
and Priest {King is the word concealed in early editions by 
the four asterisks in stanza 1 5 ; not Christ, as some have 
supposed), that Science and Art may be unfettered ; but the 
true Liberty will ever be accompanied by Wisdom, Love, 
and Justice. The Ode to Liberty, in its stately rhythm, 
sublime imagery, and passionate worship of true freedom, as 
distinct from anarchy, is similar in many points to Coleridge's 
Ode to France, which Shelley greatly admired. 

Liberty, a short poem of four stanzas, was written the 
same year as the ode, and published in Posthumous Poems. 

Ode to Naples, published with Posthumous Poems, 1824, 
and dated by Mrs. Shelley in her diary August 25, 1820, 
was written, like Hellas, at a time of enthusiasm, on hearing 
of the insurrection at Naples against the Bourbon dynasty. 
In the "introductory Epodes^^ (so called by Shelley, though 
JEpode means properly an after-song) he makes use of his 
reminiscences of Pompeii and Baiae, where he imagines him- 
self inspired by an oracular voice (comp. Ode to Liberty, 
stanza i.), to which he gives utterance. In a succession of 
strophes and antistrophes he cries "All hail" to Naples, 


where the spirit of freedom is abroad. The two last Epodes 
contain a description of the march of the " Anarchs of the 
North" (comp. Lines written among the Euganean Hills, 
where Austria is called the " Celtic Anarch ") to repress the 
revolution, and an invocation of the spirit of Love to keep 
Naples free. 

To ("I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden "), published in 

Posthumous Poems, 1824. 

Song of Proserpine, first printed in Mrs. Shelley's first 
edition, 1839. 

Fiordispina, a fragmentary poem, probably written late in 
1820, when Shelley became acquainted with Emilia Yiviani. 
Part of it was published in Posthumous Poems, under title of 
A Fragment (" They were two cousins ") ; the rest was added 
in Relics of Shelley, 1862. Some lines originally in Fiordis- 
pina were transferred to EpipsycJddion. 

Lines to a Reviewer, published in Posthumous Poems 
(comp. the Lines to a Critic, p. 82). 

Good Night, published in Posthumous Poems, 1824, and 
dated 182 1. But there is another version which can be traced 
back to 1820. There is also an Italian version, published 
by Medwin in 1834, and reproduced in his Life of Shelley. 

The World's Wanderers, published in Posthumous Poems, 
1824. A fourth stanza, to balance the third, seems to have 
been lost. 

Sonnet ("Ye hasten to the dead"), published in Posthu- 
mous Poems, 1824, illustrates Shelley's state of suspended 
judgment on the question of future life. 

Autumn: a Dirge, published in Posthumous Poems, 1824. 
Comp. the Dirge for the Year (182 1). 

1821. — To E V , so headed in Posthumous 

Poems, 1824. These lines, addressed to Emilia Yiviani, were 
doubtless written early in 182 1 (vide Epipsychidion). 

From the Arabic, an Imitation. Posthumous Poems, 1824. 
Said by Medwin to be derived from Antar, a Bedoween 


To Nightj an invocation of the spirit of night, published 
in Posthumous Poems, 1824. 

The Fugitives, Posthumous Poems, 1824, deals with a 
story like that of Campbell's Lord UllirCs Daughtei', but in a 
far more imaginative manner. In the account of the storm 
we have doubtless a reminiscence of Shelley's experiences in 
his boat. 

Ginevra, a fragment in rhyming heroics, written at Pisa, 
182 1, and pablished in Posthumous Poems, 1824, was part of 
a poem Shelley had in mind, based on a story in a book 
called nOsservatore Fiorentino. Ginevra, who has just been 
married to Gherardi by her parents' compulsion, meets her 
lover Antonio, who upbraids her. The same evening she is 
found lifeless. Here Shelley's fragment ends ; but it appears 
from the original story that Ginevra was in reality not dead 
but in a trance, and that she was subsequently united to her 
lover. Leigh Hunt's drama, A Legend of Florence, treats 
of the same story, and Shelley's Ginevra is referred to in the 

Tlie Aziola, published in The Keepsake, 1829, and Mrs. 
Shelley's edition, 1839. Shelley's joy on discovering that 
the Aziola, whose presence was announced, was "a little 
downy owl " instead of " some tedious woman," is one in- 
stance out of many of his dislike of ordinary " society." He 
spoke to Trelawny of the torture of " being bored to death 
by idle ladies and gentlemen." 

The Boat on the Serchio was mostly published in Post- 
humous Poems, 1824, but completed in Eossetti's edition, 
1870. Melchior (Williams) and Lionel (Shelley) converse 
about their boat on the Serchio, a river to the north of the 
Arno, with which it was connected by a canal. In this 
poem we have an instance of the great simplicity of treat- 
ment that marked Shelley's later style. There is an in- 
teresting reference to his schooldays, the only one in which 
he directly mentions Eton. 

To Edivard Williams. These lines, which were included 


in Mrs. Shelley's edition, 1839, headed Stanzas^ had been 
publislied in a piratical edition in 1834, and perhaps still 
earlier in some periodical. In some editions they are 

headed To . They were written by Shelley at Bagni 

di Pisa, and sent, with a letter, to his friend Williams, 
then staying at Pugnano, a village four miles off. They are 
remarkable both for their sadness of tone and the startling 
directness of their personal allusions. The mention of " the 
serpent " in the first line, recalls the nickname of " the snake " 
given by Byron to Shelley. On Shelley's married life with 
Mary, vide p. 16. 

Rememhrance ("Swifter far than summer's flight"), of 
which there are two versions, was headed, in Fosthumous 
Poems, A Lameiit. It was one of the songs sent by Shelley 
to Jane Williams. 

Bridal Song (*' The golden gates of Sleep unbar "), in Post- 
Immous Poems, 1824. There are two variations from this 
song, one in Medwin's Life of Shelley, and another in a MS. 
play by Williams, to which Shelley contributed an Epithala- 

The following lyrics were also written in 1821, and pub- 
lished in Fosthumous Poems, 1824: Time ("Unfathomable 
sea"); Song ("Earely, rarely, comest thou"); Mutability: 
A Lament ("0 World; Life; Time"); Dirge for the 
Year ; Evening, Fonte a Mare, Pisa; Music ("I pant for 

the music that is divine"); To ("Music, when soft 

voices die") ; To (" One word is too often profaned") ; 

To (" When passion's trance is overpast "). Several 

of the last-mentioned were addressed to Jane Williams. 

For chief lyrics in Hellas, vide p. 72. 

1822. — The Zucca, a fragment in ottava rima, written at 
Pisa, January 22, 1822; published in Posthumous Poems, 
1824. It describes how Shelley found a frost-nipt Zucca 
(gourd) and revived it in the warmth of his chamber. In 
this there is a striking resemblance to the last part of the 
Fragments of an Unfinished Drama, written about the same ^ 


time. (Comp. also The Witch of Atlas, stanzas 32, 33.) 
The opening stanzas of The Zucca contain Shelley's most 
direct exposition of his doctrine of ideal love, and furnish a 
key to the right understanding of Alastor, Hymn to In- 
tellectual Beauty, Epipsychidion, and kindred poems. The 
third stanza should he compared with a passage in a letter to 
Hogg written as early as 181 1. "Do I love the person, the 
embodied identity, if I may be allowed the expression 1 No ; 
I love what is superior, what is excellent, or what I conceive 
to be so." 

The Magnetic Lady to her Patient, first published in Med- 
win's Shelley Papers, 1833. The Magnetic Lady is Jane 
Williams; the Patient, Shelley. Some light is thrown on 
the subject by Med win's Memoir prefixed to Shelley Papers, 
from which it appears that Shelley was mesmerised by 
Medwin and afterwards by Mrs. Williams (comp. Lines 
written in the Bay of Lerici, 15-18). The poem is another 
instance of the remarkable directness and simplicity of 
Shelley's later lyrics. 

To a Lady loith a Guitar, written at Pisa early in 1822. 
The second part (lines 42-90) was published in The 
Athenceum, 1832, the first part in Fraser, January 1833; 
the whole was given in Mrs. Shelley's edition, 1839. The 
MS. title is With a Guitar, to Jane. The characters are 
borrowed from Shakspere's Tempest. Ariel was already a 
nickname for Shelley in his circle of friends at Pisa, 
Miranda is Jane, Ferdinand is Edward Williams. Trelawny 
accompanied Shelley to Leghorn to purchase the guitar as a 
present to Jane, and also gives an account of finding Shelley 
writing this poem in the pine forest near Pisa {Records of 
Shelley, i. 107). 

To Jane: The Invitation, written at Pisa, in February 
1822. Part of it was combined with part of The Recollec- 
tion in the Posthumous Poems, 1824, headed The Pine 
Forest of the Cascine near Pisa; the complete poem not 
being published till the second edition of 1839. It is an 


invitation to Jane Williams to visit Shelley's favourite 
haunts in the neighbourhood of Pisa, the pine forests and 
the sandy flats near the sea. Trelawny says of him that 
"when compelled to take up his quarters in a town, he 
every morning, with the instinct that guides the Avater-birds, 
fled to the nearest lake, river, or sea-shore." 

To Jane : The Recollection^ was partly given among the 
Posthumous Poems ; completed in 1839. In this poem, 
which is a sequel to The Invitation^ Shelley describes how he 
wandered with Jane Williams through the Pisan pine forests, 
of which scenery this is his fullest description. (Comp. 

Trelawny's account, vol. i. 102, 104.) By "/S " in the 

last line but one Shelley's name was of course intended, now 
printed in full in Kossetti's and Forman's editions. 

Lines written in the Bay of Lerici, probably written early 
in May 1822. The poem remained unknown, till dis- 
covered by Dr. Garnett and published by him in Macmillan 
and Relics of Shelley, 1862. It is another of the lyrics 
inspired by the sympathy of Jane Williams, whose magnetic 
influence is referred to in lines 15-18 (comp. The Magnetic 
Lady to her Patient). In the closing sentences the scenery 
of the Bay of Spezzia is described. Lerici is a town in this 
bay, near which was the Casa Magni, Shelley's last dwelling- 

To Jane (" The keen stars were twinkling ") was published, 
without the first stanza, in Tlie Athenaeum and Shelley 
Papers, 1832, and completed in Mrs. Shelley's second edi- 
tion, 1839, under title To , with the name Jane omitted 

in line 3. The guitar here mentioned is presumably the 
one immortalised in To a Lady, with a Guitar. 

Lines ("When the lamp is shattered"), another of the 
lyrics addressed to Jane, A Dirge ("Rough wind"), and 
The Isle were all published with the Posthumous Poems, 
1824. The Song ("A widow bird"), published at the same 
time, belongs properly to Charles the First, scene 5. 


ly. Satirical and Political Poems. 

(i.) Peter Bell the Third was written between May and 
November 1819, probably at the Yilla Yalsovano, Leghorn. 
It was sent to Leigh Hunt for anonymous publication, but 
did not appear till Mrs. Shelley published it in her second 
edition of 1839. She describes it in her Note as an ideal 
poem, suggested by a critique on Wordsworth's Peter Bell ; 
but one cannot doubt that it was also a direct satire on 
Wordsworth himself, whom Shelley, in spite of his real 
admiration of his poetical genius, regarded as a typical in- 
stance of political self-seeking and tergiversation (vide Sonnet 
to Wordsworth, 18 16, and dedication of The Witch of Atlas. 
Comp. Browning's poem, A Lost Leader). The dulness of 
Wordsworth's later writings is also ridiculed in this " long 
wild laugh of a young Greek god at the vision of a highly 
respectable English Sunday-school teacher toiling up Par- 
nassus." Peter Bell the Third purports to be written by 
" Miching Mallecho, Esq." {i.e., secret mischief, Hamlet, act 
iii. scene 2), and is dedicated to "Thomas Brown, Esq., the 
younger, H. F." {i.e., Moore, the poet, who wrote The Fudge 
Family under this title. H.F. = Historian of the Fudges (?) ) 
In the concluding sentence of the Dedication, Macaulay's 
famous picture of the New Zealander standing on the ruins 
of London Bridge is curiously anticipated. Shelley's poem 
is called Peter Bell the Third because it was preceded by 
(i) Peter Bell, a Lyrical Ballad, by J. H. Reynolds, a clever 
skit on Wordsworth, which appeared between the advertise- 
ment and actual publication of the true Peter; (2) Peter 
Bell, by Wordsworth himself. This succession of Peters is 
alluded to in Shelley's Prologue. Wordsworth's poem left 
Peter a reformed character, and Shelley starts from this 

Summary. — Part I. Death. Peter, now grown old, falls 
sick, and is persuaded by his friends that he is predestined 
to damnation. He dies. Part II. The Devil. Peter, now 
dead, accepts the livery, and enters the service of the devil 


(spirit of selfishness). Part III. Hell. Under this title 
London life is described, with its follies, crimes, and injus- 
tice. Part IV. Sin. Peter's character rapidly degenerates. 
The Prince Eegent is satirised under the character of the 
Devil. Part V. Grace. The conversation of "a mighty 
poet " (Coleridge) rouses Peter to become an author, and ho 
therefore gives warning to his master, the Devil. Part VI. 
Damnation. The critics set upon Peter. He finds the 
way to appease them is to praise tyranny and write odes 
to the devil. Part VII. Double damnation. The Devil 
obtains a sinecure for Peter, and himself dies. Peter is now 
afflicted with the malady of exceeding dulness, a " drowsy 
curse " which infects all about him (comp. the close of Pope's 

On Shelley's satirical powers, vide p. 39. 

(2.) The Masque of Anarchy was written at Leghorn or 
Florence in the autumn of 18 19, and sent to The Examiner. 
Leigh Hunt, however, did not insert it in his paper, but 
kept it till 1832, when he published it in a small volume 
with a preface of his own dealing with Shelley's political 
views. The exact title in Shelley's MS. is The Mash of 
Anarchy^ written on the occasion of the massacre at Man- 
chester. The massacre alluded to was the affair at " Peterloo " 
(a parody on Waterloo) when the soldiers fired on the people 
at a Reform meeting held in St. Peter's Field, Manchester, 
August 16, 1 8 19 {vide Martineau's History of the Peace, 
book i. chaps. 16, 17). 

Summary. — The poet, as he lies asleep in Italy, sees a 
vision of murder, fraud, and hypocrisy in the forms of 
Castlereagh, Eldon, and Sidmouth (vide p. 8), with other 
" destructions " passing before him in procession. It is the 
masque of Anarchy, who himself rides last. They pass on- 
ward in triumph to London, where the maiden, Hope, flings 
herself down under their horses' feet, but is saved by an appa- 
rition of Liberty. Then are heard the solemn " words of joy 
and fear," which take up the rest of the poem. The voice of 


Earth calls on Englishmen to rise, reminding them that they 
are many, and their oppressors few ; that the true slavery 
is poverty, and the true freedom is plenty. Let a great 
assembly of Englishmen be called to demand their rights, 
without violence, but with passive and resolute protest. 

Shelley's treatment of the subject is partly ideal, but the 
personal allusions are easily distinguishable through the alle- 
gorical veil (cf. the reference to the Chancery suit in stanzas 
4, 5). The poem has been compared to Langland's vision of 
Piers Plowman, while in style there is certainly considerable 
resemblance to Blake. One of its strongest features is the 
markedly socialistic tone. 

(3.) CEdipus Tyr annus, or Swellfoot the Tyrant, was written 
in August 1820, at San Giuliano, near Pisa. It was published 
anonymously the same year, but the hostility of the Society 
for the Suppression of Vice caused its withdrawal. It is a 
burlesque on Sophocles' tragedy CEdipus Tyrannus, and was 
intended to ridicule the prosecution of Queen Caroline, at a 
time when the Queen's entry into London and the proposed 
Divorce Bill were causing much indignation in England (vide 
Martineau's History of the Peace, book ii. ch. 2). Swellfoot 
the Tyrant, the gouty monarch, is George the Fourth, who 
had recently succeeded to the throne ; lona Taurina is Queen 
Caroline, about whose real character Shelley was under no 
delusions, though the king's attempt to divorce her had won 
the sympathy of the people. The idea of the " Chorus of the 
Swinish Multitude " (i.e., the English populace) was suggested 
by the grunting of the pigs at a fair at San Giuliano, with 
allusion also to the proverbial Greek expression of ^' Theban 
pigs," and the dulness of the Theban climate and character. 
There are many minor characters and references which it is 
impossible to explain with any certainty. 

Summary. — The scene is laid at Thebes, as in Sophocles' 
tragedy. Act I. The chorus of swine vainly entreat Swell- 
foot for redress and food. Mammon and Purganax (Castle- 


reagh) discuss an obscure oracle relating to the entry of the 
Queen. Purganax summons his assistants, the Leech, Gad- 
fly, and Rat (taxes, slander, espionage (?) ). Then comes 
news of the Queen's arrival. Laoctonos (Wellington) and 
Dakry (Eldon) have vainly tried to repress the popular 
enthusiasm by force and fraud. Mammon, however, dis- 
closes his scheme of the Green Bag (in allusion to the green 
bag laid on the table of the House of Lords containino^ 
papers criminatory of the Queen), a test by which the Queen's 
condemnation is to be secured. Act II. In scene i. the 
test is accepted by the swine and the Queen. Scene ii. de- 
scribes the application of the test, and the discomfiture of 
Swellfoot and his court. The Minotaur (John Bull) appears, 
and the oracle is fulfilled. 

Swellfoot the Tyrant is grotesque in style, but the wit is 
rather forced and ponderous. Most critics consider it a 
failure, but it should be remembered that it was not meant 
to be taken as a serious effort. 

(4.) Shorter Poems : — 

To the Lord Chancellor^ written in 181 7, and first printed 
in Mrs. Shelley's edition, 1839. The poem can scarcely be 
classed as satirical, being a father's solemn curse on the 
tyrant who had robbed him of his children. The idea of 
Lord Eldon's false tears being like millstones braining their 
victims, occurs again in The Masque of Anarchy^ stanzas 
4, 5, and Swellfoot the Tyrant, act i., where Eldon is called 
" Dakry " (the weeper). The Chancery suit was decided in 
March 181 7. 

Song to the Men of England, written 18 19, published 
1839, is an appeal in a socialistic tone to Englishmen, urging 
them to refuse to toil longer for idle masters. In 18 19 
Shelley meditated writing a series of political poems, in a 
stirring and popular style, of which this and the four follow- 
ing are examples. 

England in 1819. This sonnet, which was published in 


1839, tersely describes the social and political lethargy of 
England at the close of George the Third's reign. It may be 
compared with Wordsworth's sonnet to Milton. 

Lines ivritten during the Castlereagh Administration, 
written 1819, published in the The Athenceum, 1832. Eng- 
land in this time of despair is as a mother pale from the 
abortive birth of dead Liberty. The oppressor is free to 
triumph and to wed his bride, Ruin. Castlereagh is else- 
where alluded to in Swellfoot the Tyrant, The Masque of 
Anarchy, and the next poem. 

Similes, for two Political Characters of 18 19, published 
in The Shelley Papers, 1833. Castlereagh and Sidmouth 
are referred to under various similes. 

National Anthem, published in second edition of 1839 — a 
parody on God save the Queen, the Queen in Shelley's poem 
being Liberty. At the end of the address On the Death 
of the Princess OJiarlotte (p. 108) there is a similar idea. 

An Ode to the Assertors of Liberty was published with 
Prometheus Unbound, in 1820, under the title An Ode, 
tvritten October 1819, before the Spaniards had recovered 
their liberty. This implies a reference to Spanish affairs, 
whereas the poem seems rather to refer to the " Peterloo 
massacre " (vide Masque of Anarchy, p. 94) and Shelley's 
doctrine of passive protest. The title was changed in Mrs. 
Shelley's edition. 

Sonnet; Political Greatness, written 1821, published in 
Posthumous Poems, 1824, repeats the warning about the 
necessity for self-reform (comp. Irish Pamphlets). 

Feelings of a Eepublican on the Fall of Bonaparte, pub- 
lished in 18 16 ^?f ii\i Alastor, expresses Shelley's belief that 
even the tyrant who could revel on the grave of liberty is 
not so formidable a foe to virtue as custom and faith. 

Lines written on Hearing the Neios of the Death of Napo- 
leon, written 182 1, published with Hellas, 1822, The earth 
is represented as exulting at again folding to her bosom the 
great conqueror, whose return restores to her the energy 



which he had borrowed from her for a while. The elemental 
and titanic vigour of this poem recalls passages in Prometheus 
Unbound. That Napoleon's character powerfully affected 
Shelley may be seen by other references (vide Ode to Liberty, 
s'anza xii., and Tlie Triumph of Life, 11. 21 5-224). 

V. Translations {vide p. 39). 

L Greek. 

(i.) Hymns of Homer. — Hymn to Mercury, written July 
1820, at Mr. Gisborne's house at Leghorn, and published in 
Posthumous Poems, 1824. In a letter of July 12, Shelley 
says that the ottava rima precluded a literal translation, but 
that he aimed at making a readable one. It was written 
shortly before The Witch of Atlas, to which it has many 
resemblances {vide p. 67). The grotesque element of the 
hymn, underlaid by a certain natural simplicity and reality, 
was reintroduced by Shelley in his account of the lady witch. 

Hymns to Castor and Pollux; The Moon; The Sun; The 
Earth, Mother of All; Minerva. These five translations 
were probably made not later than 181 8 (?), and were first 
published in Mrs. Shelley's second edition of 1839. They 
are written in rhymed heroic lines. 

Hymn to Venus, written in 18 18, first published in Relics 
of Shelley, 1862. 

(2.) The Cyclo2)s of Euripides, written 1819, published in 
Posthumous Foems, 1824. The Cyclops is the only extant 
specimen of the Greek Satyric Drama. In this a grotesque 
element was mingled with the solemnity of tragedy. It 
was written in tragic iambic metre, and was distinct from 
comedy proper. Shelley's translation, in blank verse, is very 
successful, but it never received his final revision, and the 
text is often faulty {vide Swinburne's Notes on the Text of 
Shelley in Essays and Studies). 

(3.) Greek Epigrams. Four translations of Greek epigrams 
were published in Mrs. Shelley's edition of 1839. The best 
known is the one To Stella, from Plato, the Greek of which 


is prefixed to Adonais. This translation is said by Medwin to 
have been improvised by Shelley in conversation with him. 

(4). Translations from Bion and Moschus. These are 
interesting as showing Shelley's early liking for the poets on 
whose style Adonais is modelled (vide p. 70). There is a 
Sonnet Translated from the Greek of Moschus in the Alastor 
volume (1816) ; a Translation from Moschus, called *' sonnet " 
in most editions, but consisting of twelve lines only, in the 
Posthumous Poems ; also two fragments first given in For- 
man's edition under titles, Eleg]j on the Death of Adonis, 
from Bion, and Elegy on the Death of Bion, from the Greek 
of Moschus. 

II. Latin. 

A Fragment from Virgil's Tenth Eclogue, published in 
Eossetti's edition, 1870, is the only translation from the Latin. 
{Vide p. 40.) 

III. Italian. 

Dante's Sonnet to Guido Cavalcanti, published with 
Alastor, 1816. The translation of the companion sonnet 
of ^Guido Cavalcanti to Dante was probably written as early 
as 1815, but was not included in the Alastor volume, 
possibly because the Sonnet to Wordsworth was an imita- 
tion of it. The translations from the Italian include also 
a fragment from The Convito of Dante (1820 ?), another in 
terza rima from the Purgatorio, preserved by Medwin, also 
one written by Medwin and corrected by Shelley from the 
Inferno (canto xxxiii. 22-75). 

lY. Spanish. 

Scenes from Calderon's Magico Prodigioso, translated at 
Pisa in March 1822, and published in Posthumous Poems, 
1824. The assonant verse of Calderon is represented in 
blank verse by Shelley, who considered this one of his best 
translations. He remarks on the similarity of this play to 
Faust, of which it " furnished the germ." Shelley's Spanish 
studies with Mrs. Gisborne are often mentioned in his 


V. German. 

Scenes from Faust {i.e., the Prologue in Heaven and the 
Walpnrgisnacht), written in spring of 1822, and published in 
Posthumous Poems, 1824. Shelley was led to this transla- 
tion by seeing Eetzsch's illustrations of Faust. He strongly 
felt the difficulty of the task, and said that none but Coleridge 
was " capable of this work." Goethe, however, is said to have 
expressed gratification at it. The rhymed lines of the original 
are translated by blank verse. 

( loi ) 


I. Essays, PampMets, and Reviews. 

The Necessity of Atheism^ the tract which caused Shelle3^'s 
expulsion from Oxford, was printed at Worthing early in 
i8i I, and circulated at Oxford. It was the result of Shelley's 
study of Hume's Essays. It starts with the statement that 
all belief rests on one of the three following sources of con- 
viction : (i) the senses, (2) the reason, (3) testimony ; and 
proceeds to argue that in the case of the Deity none of these 
proofs are available, ending with a Q.E.D. The Necessity of 
Atheism was afterwards incorporated in the Notes to Queen 
Mah ; the original tract is now exceedingly scarce. 

The Dublin Pam^phlets, 181 2. — (i.) An Address to the Irish 
Peojple, printed at Dublin, February 181 2, and there distri- 
buted by Shelley, was an attempt to show in what temper 
and by what methods the Irish people would best secure 
Catholic Emancipation and a repeal of the Union Act. The 
pamphlet is purposely written in a popular and simple style. 
It begins by stating the duty of universal toleration — 
Catholics persecuted Protestants in the past, but no reta- 
liations are justifiable, and the Irish demand for Catholic 
Emancipation is just. Then follow repeated warnings 
against violent and sudden rebellion ; the best way to insure 
success is by self-reform. A second pamphlet is promised on 
the subject of organisation. 

(2.) Proposals for an Association, published at Dublin, 
early in March 181 2, is a sequel to the Address, and calls 


on all philanthropists to unite in demanding Catholic Emanci- 
pation and the repeal of the Union Act. The latter question 
is declared to be the more serious one, as affecting the whole 
Irish people and not only the richer classes. Such an Asso- 
ciation must be open-handed and sincere, disregarding the 
hostility of government and aristocracy, and aiming at a 
peaceful revolution, unlike that in France. In this way 
happiness may be restored to Ireland ; nor need we fear the 
warnings of Malthus, for the dangers he predicts would not 
come to pass for some six thousand years. 

We cannot but smile at Shelley's youthful ardour in these 
Dublin pamphlets, and his idea that the Irish people, like 
the inhabitants of the golden city in Laon and Cythna, were 
in a mood for a philosophical survey of their position, and 
the prompt adoption of self-reform. ]S"evertheless, the moral 
teaching is excellent, and the political outlook shrewd. In 
1824 the Catholic Association was formed, and in 1829 the 
Emancipation took place. Still later events have proved 
that Shelley was also right in considering the Union Act a 
yet more vital point. 

Declaration of Rights, a broadside printed during Shelley's 
stay in Dublin, February and March 181 2, the distribution 
of which at Barnstaple in the following August caused the 
arrest of Daniel Hill, Shelley's Irish servant. The " Rights " 
are thirty-one short statements relating to governments, indi- 
vidual liberty, free speech, moral rights and moral duties, 
religious tolerance, social inequality, and the need of self- 
reform. They bear a strong resemblance to parts of the 
second Dublin pamphlet, both being perhaps derived from a 
French source. Godwin's influence is also noticeable. 

A Letter to Lord Ellenhorough, written at Lynmouth, in 
the summer of 18 12, and printed either at Barnstaple or 
London. A bookseller named Eaton had been sentenced a 
few months before by Lord Ellenborough {vide p. 8) to 
pillory and imprisonment for the publication of Paine's Age 
of Reason. The chief topics of the Letter are the injustice 


of using antiquated precedents where there is no moral 
offence and no crime but inquiry. Belief and disbelief 
being alike involuntary, morality is quite independent of 
opinions, and to punish for opinions is to persecute (this 
argument is elsewhere advanced by Shelley in Notes to 
Queen Mab, The Necessity of Atheism^ A Refutation of 
Deism, &c.). Socrates and Jesus Christ are instanced ; the 
latter would himself be persecuted by so-called " Christians " 
if he lived now. It is absurd to attempt to assist " revealed 
truth " by temporal punishments ; truth will reveal itself. 
The Letter to Lord Ellenhorough is far the best of Shelley's 
writings published up to 18 12, remarkable alike for its grave 
and lofty tone, clear reasoning, and good literary style. A 
portion of it was included in the Notes to Queen Mab, and 
it has been reprinted in America (1881) and England (1883) 
on appropriate occasions. 

Notes to Queen Mab. The poem of Queen Mab was 
finished in February 1813 ; the Notes were written after- 
wards, and issued privately with the poem the same year 
{vide p. 119). Some of them were partly drawn^^from earlier 
writings {e.g., The Necessity of Atheism and A Letter to 
Lord Ellenborough), while others were subsequently repro- 
duced in A Refutation of Deism and A Vindication of 
Natural Diet. The chief notes are as follows : — 

(i.) On] Wealth ("And statesmen boast of wealth"). A 
thoroughly socialistic note, showing the fallacy of supposing 
luxury to benefit the poor. Labour, the only real wealth, is 
expended wastefully and unfairly ; the poor losing the benefit 
of leisure, and the rich of work. 

(2.) On Marriage ("Even love is sold"). A protest 
against the tyrannical marriage-bond which chains love, 
whose very essence is liberty. 

(3.) On Necessity (" Necessity, thou mother of the 
world"). The world is governed by an invariable law of 
cause and effect, in mind no less than matter. This doctrine 
overthrows the present notions of morality; for "praise" 


and "blame," ''reward" and " punishment " become mean- 
ingless, except as recognitions of an unalterable fact. Neces- 
sity is incompatible with a belief in a personal god or future 

(4.) On Deism (" There is no God "). This note is mainly 
a reproduction of The Necessity of Atheism^ to which are 
added some quotations from the French Systeme de la Nature 
and Pliny's Natural History. 

(5.) On Christianity (" I will beget a Son"). An amplifi- 
cation of parts of the Letter to Lord Ellenhorough. 

(6.) On Flesh-eating ("No longer now he slays the Iamb 
that looks him in the face "). An argument in favour of 
Vegetarianism, reproduced in 18 13 as a separate pamphlet, 
entitled A Vindication of Natural Diet. Shelley's reasoning 
that a vegetable diet is the most natural and wholesome for 
man is based on the writings of Lambe and Newton, and 
his own experience {vide p. 33). 

A Refutation of Deism, published early in 18 14, is a 
dialogue between Eusebes, a Christian^ and Theosophus, a 
Deist ; its object being to show that there is no alternative 
between Christianity and Atheism. Eusebes, alarmed for 
the spiritual welfare of his friend, begs Theosophus to re- 
consider his heterodox opinions, to which Theosophus replies 
by criticising the evidence of Christianity. Eusebes, assum- 
ing the part of a rationalist, shows that the same difficulties 
attend a belief in Deism, and that there is no middle course 
between accepting revealed religion and disbelieving the 
existence of a deity. Theosophus, worsted in argument, pro- 
mises to think of adopting Christianity. The conclusion 
that Shelley meant to be drawn from the dialogue is of course 
the very opposite to that of Theosophus, " the refutation of 
Deism" being another way of stating the "necessity of 
Atheism." Some of the Qiieen Mab notes are again made 
use of, and Shelley again urges that "belief is not an act 
of volition." There is also a reference to the question of 


Series of Fragmentary Essays^ attributed to 1815 : — 

On the Punishment of Death, published in Essays and 
Letters, 1840, was evidently based in great measure on God- 
win's writings. Much of the reasoning is now familiar to us, 
but it should be remembered that in 1815 the death penalty 
was attached to a long list of offences, and that the more 
barbarous parts of an execution had only just been discon- 
tinued. The argument is as follows. The question of an 
after-life being insoluble, the death punishment is a vague 
and incalculable penalty. It is also useless as a deterrent, 
because (i) it makes the beholders sympathise with the 
criminal, (2) accustoms them to brutal sights, and fosters the 
passion of revenge by suggesting a connection between their 
own security and the suffering of others. All unnecessary 
punishment has a bad effect on society. 

On Life, published in The Athenceuin and Shelley Papers, 
1832, 1833, a fragment inspired by Berkeley's ideal philo- 
sophy, and probably written in Italy in 1819, rather than 
at the earlier date to which it has been attributed. After 
dwelling on the mystery of life, Shelley avows his adherence 
to the belief that " nothing exists but as it is perceived." 
Materialism once had charms for him, as a protest against the 
popular philosophy, but now he had adopted this intellectual 
system. The distinction between ideas and external objects 
is merely nominal ; unity is the right view of life. 

On Love, a fragment attributed by Mrs. Shelley to the later 
period of Shelley's life, but dated 181 5, or thereabouts, by 
Rossetti and Form an. It was published in The Keepsake, 
1829, and included in Essays and Letters, 1840. After a 
reference to his own isolated and loveless lot, Shelley defines 
love as "the bond and the sanction which connects not only 
man with man, but with everything that exists;" perfect 
sympathy is "the invisible and unattainable point to which 
love tends." (Comp. Alastor and Epipsychidion, to which 
the essay On Love in several ways corresponds; also a passage 
in the Coliseum.) 


On a Future State, included in Essays and Letters, 1840 : 
a portion of it, on Death, had been already published in The 
AthencBum and Shelley Pampers, In this fragment Shelley- 
advances the negative view as regards a future life (vide 
p. 27). Premising that we must lay aside all irrelevant 
topics, such as the existence of a deity, he describes the 
phenomena of death, and argues that the correspondence 
between mental and bodily powers indicates that both perish 
together. Thought is not independent of natural laws. It 
is impossible to show that we existed before birth; how then 
can we hope to exist after death ? 

Speculations on Metaphysics, published in Essays and 
Letters, 1840. These are five fragmentary chapters, dealing 
with (i) the mind; nothing can exist beyond the limits of 
thought and sensation; (2) a definition of metaphysics as 
" the science of facts," as opposed to logic, the science of 
words ; (3, 4) the difficulty of analysing the mind, and the 
right method of doing so; (5) the phenomena of dreams. 
The essay breaks off suddenly from a description of certain 
impressions experienced by Shelley at Oxford in reference to 
a particular dream, the recollection of which caused him to 
be " overcome by thrilling horror." Mrs. Shelley also records 
the occasion in her notes. 

Speculations on Morals, published in Essays and Letters, 
1840. Shelley meditated a greater work on morals, for 
which the "Speculations," written about 18 15, were frag- 
mentary notes. They are full of deep thought, and very 
characteristic of Shelley. He shows that happiness is the 
object of human society, and that virtue is the disposition in 
an individual to promote this happiness. The constituent 
parts of virtue are benevolence and justice, the former of 
which is inherent and intuitive, though regulated by justice. 
The promotion of general happiness is the only criterion of 
virtue, the conduct of individuals being based on no uniform 
principle, but in each case peculiar and distinctive. Moral 
science should consist in appreciating those " little nameless 


unremembered acts" which, are truly characteristic, i.e., in 
considering the difference, not the resemblance of indivi- 

A System of Government hy Juries, published in The 
Athenceum and Shelley Papers, 1833, but omitted by Mrs. 
Shelley from ^ssa?/s and Letters. After defining "govern- 
ment " and " law," Shelley asserts that the passions of 
revenge and fear influence the law towards undue severity in 
punishments and injustice in awards, in cases of property, 
compacts, violence, fraud, &c. The best remedy would be 
government by juries, i.e., to discard old legal precedents, 
and trust to the fairness of contemporary opinion. 

Essay on Christianity, first published in the Shelley 
Memorials, 1859 ; the date of writing is conjectured to have 
been about 18 15. Shelley appears .to have thought of writ- 
ing a Life of Christ, from which idea this essay, the most 
important except the Defence of Poetry, may have originated. 
He shows that Christ's idea of God was pantheistic rather 
than personal, and that his condemnation of vengeance 
belies the doctrine of eternal punishment falsely attributed 
to him. Historical examples are cited to illustrate the differ- 
ence between just punishment and vengeance. Christ's as- 
sertions about a future life are a beautiful conception, whether 
true or not. As regards Christ's character we must form a 
general idea of ^it in the absence of clear historical record ; 
probably, like all reformers, he was compelled to accommodate 
his teaching in some degree to national prejudices, his main 
object being the equality of mankind. Unselfishness, sim- 
plicity, and frugality in private life, with wide cosmopolitan 
benevolence, are the best means of improving the condition 
of men. The cause of the failure of the early Christian com- 
munity is explained (vide p. 32). Finally, Christ's doctrines 
are not merely Jewish, but allied to the best philosophy of 
Greece and Rome, and the attempt to establish their mira- 
culous "originality," and to connect them with a popular 
religion, can only trammel them. 


Marlow Pamphlets, 1817. — (i.) A Proposal for putting 
Reform to the Vote, written at Marlow, and published early 
in 18 1 7, under the nom de plume of " The Hermit of Mar- 
low." At this time the discontent of the working-classes 
had taken shape in a demand for Parliamentary Eeform. 
" Hampden clubs " were organised in many of the large 
towns, the Crown and Anchor Tavern being the meeting- 
place in London. The object of Shelley's " proposal " was to 
ascertain the real will of the people on the subject of Eeform. 
He suggests that a meeting should be held at the Crown 
and Anchor Tavern, at which it should be arranged to divide 
the kingdom into three hundred districts, in each of which 
an inspector might collect the signatures of those favourable 
to Reform. Towards this inquiry Shelley offers to subscribe 
;2f 100. He concludes by urging the adoption of annual 
Parliaments, but not of universal suffrage ; the abolition of 
royalty and aristocracy must be gradual. 

(2.) An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess 
Charlotte, by the Hermit of Marlow, was written in the 
second week of JS^ovember 1 8 1 7, and published immediately. 
It bears the motto (not title), " We pity the plumage, but 
forget the dying bird," derived from Paine's Rights of Man, 
where it is applied to Burke. In this pamphlet Shelley 
unites two subjects then exciting national interest, viz.,, 
the death of the Princess Charlotte, the daughter of 
the Prince Eegent (November 6), and the execution of 
three misguided men for high treason (November 7). After 
dwelling on the solemnity of sudden death, he asserts that 
the death of the three rebels was not less lamentable than 
that of the Princess. The increasing troubles of the country 
and the creation of a national debt had laid heavier burdens 
on the working-classes. The Government had taken advan- 
tage of the discontent to stir up rebellion by the spy, Oliver, 
and these three men were the victims. (This refers to the 
"Derby Insurrection," suppressed in June 181 7, which the 
famous spy, Oliver, was believed to have instigated.) In 


conclusion the people are called on to mourn for the death 
of the Princess, who died by the will of God; and still more 
for the death of Liberty, who was murdered by the wicked- 
ness of man. 

A PhilosojpMcal Vieio of Reform, the longest of Shelley's 
essays, was written in 18 19, and has not yet been published, 
though a summary was given by Professor Dowden in the 
Fortnightly Review for ISTovember 1886. It contains a full 
statement of Shelley's views on the subject of social and 
political reform ; the most important points being his demand 
for the abolition of the national debt, the disbanding of the 
army, and the gradual extension of the representative system. 
These remedies are to be sought by the passive protest 
advocated so often in Shelley's writings ; but the possibility 
of civil war is boldly faced, and the right of resistance 
asserted when all peaceful means have failed. 

A Defence of Poetry was written early in 1821, soon after 
Epipsychidion, and was first published in the Essays and 
Letters, 1840. It was meant as an answer to Peacock's 
article on The Four Ages of Poetry, whicli appeared in 
Oilier' s Literary Miscellany, 1820; but the discontinuance of 
the magazine prevented its publication. Peacock had ridi- 
culed the nineteenth century poetry under the title of the 
" Age of Brass." This Shelley intended to refute in a second 
part of his essay, which was never written. The title was 
doubtless suggested by Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesie. 
This is decidedly the finest and most finished of all Shelley's 
prose writings, the train of thought being as profound as the 
language and imagery are majestic. 

Poetry is defined to be "the expression of the imagina- 
tion," and the poets, in the widest sense, are they who by 
language, music, dance, architecture, statuary, or painting, 
can express the impressions made on man in his contact first 
with nature, and then with society. They are also teachers 
and " prophets." Poetry, in the restricted sense of language, 
is a more direct medium than the other arts ; it may include, 


also, certain kinds of prose, e.g.^ the writings of Plato and 
Lord Bacon. The influence of poetry is pleasurable and 
beneficial ; its function is not to convey any direct teaching, 
but to replenish the imagination, '' the great instrument of 
moral good." Shelley then proceeds to examine the chief 
phases of ancient poetry, e.g.^ (i) Epic; Homer and the 
cyclic poets ; (2) Dramatic ; seen in greatest perfection at 
Athens — a kind of poetry which flourishes or decays together 
with the social life; (3) Eucolic ; a style which marks still 
further decay through lack of inner thought. Roman litera- 
ture was inferior to Greek — Rome's poetry consisting in 
deeds and her dramas in history. The ruin of ancient poetry 
was succeeded by a new style derived from the poeti- 
cal doctrines of Christ and the Celtic mythology. Hence 
sprung (i) the abolition of personal slavery ; (2) the eman- 
cipation of women, and the poetry of chivalry and love. 
Dante is the connecting bridge between the old and the 
new. Homer,'Dante, Milton — these are the three great epic 
poets {vide p. 70, and comp. Adonais^ stanza 4). In conclu- 
sion, Shelley shows that poetry is not only pleasing, but 
also useful in the higher sense. The world could better 
spare its philosophers than its poets. The cultivation of 
mere science produces unhappy social results ; but poetry is 
divine, the source of thought, and consolation of life. 

"With A Defence of Poetry comp. Shelley's Prefaces to Laon 
and Cythna, Pi^ometheus Unbound, The Cenci, and Hellas. 

On the Devil and Devils. The date of this humorous 
essay is not known ; it was first published in Forman's edi- 
tion of the Prose Works, 1880. 

The Fragment of an Essay on Friendship, published in 
Hogg's Life of Shelley, contains an interesting reference to 
Shelley's schooldays at Sion House. The dedication alludes 
to his difi'erence with Hogg {vide p. 21). 

Reviews. — Shelley's review of Hogg's novel entitled Me- 
moirs of Prince Alexy Haimaioff appeared in The Critical 
Revieiv, December 18 14. Its authorship, long unknown. 


was discovered in 1884 {vide Professor Dowden's article, 
" Some Early Writings of Shelley," Contemporary Review, 
September 1884). 

The Remarks on Mandeville, a review of Godwin's 
romance, and the short critique on Mrs. Shelley's Franlien- 
steiu, were written in 18 16 or 18 17, and published in The 
Shelley Papers, 1833. 

The note on Peacock's poem Rhododaphne was written in 
181 8, and sent to Leigh Hunt. It was published in For- 
man's edition of Prose Works, 1880. 

II. Letters. 

On Shelley's style and method of letter-writing, vide 
p. 41. All the published letters may be seen in Forman's 
edition of the Prose Works, 1880, except those that appeared 
in Hogg's Life of Shelley and the Shelley Memorials, and 
those published for the first time in Garnett's Selected Letters, 
1882, and Dowden's Life of Shelley, 1886. Many letters 
have been lost, and forgeries have been frequent, notably 
in the collection published by Moxon in 1852. The chief 
groups of letters are as follows : — 

(i.) To Stockdale (Forman's edition, vol. 3). These are 
some of Shelley's earliest letters, written, 1810-11, to a Pall 
Mall publisher, with whom he afterwards quarrelled. They 
were published in Stockdale^ s Budget, 1826-27. They have 
no literary value, but contain interesting references to 
Shelley's juvenile writings. 

(2.) To Hogg (Hogg's Life of Shelley). The earlier of 
these, written from Field Place or Poland Street, 1810-11, 
are on the subject of Harriet Grove's inconstancy, Shelley's 
crusade against intolerance, money matters, and Shelley's 
relations with his family. They include the famous letter 
about the engagement with Harriet Westbrook. Others date 
from Keswick and North Wales in 181 2. They are all poor 
and inflated in style, and in some cases there is a suspicion 
of their being garbled. 


(3.) To Miss Hitchener. In Garnett's Selected Letters six 
are given from a large unpublished collection. They date 
from York and Keswick, and refer to Shelley's first marriage 
and his general opinions, on which subjects they throw some 
light. There are a few further extracts in Dowden's Life of 

(4.) To HooTiliam {Slielley Memorials), from Lynmouth 
and Tanyrallt, 18 12-13, concerning Queen Mob, the at- 
tempted " assassination," and political topics. Hookham 
was a publisher and an early friend of Shelley. 

(5.) To Godicin (Hogg's Life of Shelley , vol. 2, Shelley 
Memorials, Dow^den's Life of Shelley, &c.). Shelley's self- 
introduction to Godwin and requests for advice and direction 
form the subject of the earlier letters from Keswick and 
Dublin, 18 1 2. The later ones refer chiefly to Godwin's 
pecuniary difficulties, and Shelley's attempts to relieve him. 

(6.) To Claire Clair7nont {Do\Ydeii's Life of Shelley). The 
published letters, mostly written 182 0-1822, are full of 
sympathy and advice respecting Claire's troubles. 

(7.) To Mrs. Shelley (Forman's edition, vol. 4). These 
letters contain interesting accounts of Shelley's visits to Byron, 
first at Venice in 18 18, and again at Ravenna in 182 1. 

(8.) To Peacock. There are four letters from Switzerland 
in 18 1 6, two of which were published with the History of a 
Six Weehs^ Tour. Probably more were written and are lost. 
Of those written from Italy, 1818-22, a large proportion 
are narrative and descriptive, dealing with travels, scenery, 
buildings, pictures, Rome, Naples, &c. ; others are on per- 
sonal matters, literary plans, domestic joys and troubles, 
friends and acquaintances. They are the most carefully 
finished and highly coloured of all Shelley's letters. 

(9.) To Oilier (Shelley Memorials). These letters, written 
from July 18 19-21, to Shelley's publisher in England, are 
specially interesting as showing Shelley's own views and inten- 
tions about his writings, his wise yet modest estimate of his 
own powers, and his clear-headed method in business matters. 


(10.) To the Gishornes and Henry Reveley (Forman's edi- 
tion, vol. 4). These, like the poetical Letter to Maria 
Gishorne^ are familiar and colloquial in tone, showing a 
keen insight into character, and much practical shrewdness. 
They are on all sorts of subjects — literature, business, steam- 
boats, investments, &c. 

(11.) To Leigh Hunt (Forman's edition, vol. 4), 18 18- 
22, are chiefly on literary subjects and Leigh Hunt's jour- 
ney to Italy to establish The Liberal. 

There are scattered letters to Byron, Keats, Horace Smith, 
Med win, and others. In Mrs. Shelley's edition of 1840, 
sixty-seven letters were published under the title of Letters 
from Abroad. 

III. Journals and Notebook. ^ 

From July 28, 1814, tbe date of Shelley's departure with 
Mary, a daily diary was kept regularly by one or the other. 
There is, however, a break for one period of fourteen months 
(May 1 8 15 to July 18 16). This journal has not been pub- 
lished, but extracts are given in Dowden's Life of Shelley. 

History of a Six Weelcs' Tour, published by Shelley in 
1 81 7, contains a combined record of the two Continental 
trips made by Shelley and Mary — one in 18 14, the other in 
18 1 6. The first part, arranged under headings of France, 
Switzerland, Germany, Holland, is the account given in Mrs. 
Shelley's journal of the tour in 18 14, edited three years 
later by Shelley. The four letters which follow — the first 
and second written by Mrs. Shelley, the third and fourth by 
Shelley himself to Peacock — refer to the second tour in 
1 81 6; as also does Shelley's poem on Mont Blanc {vide p. 
81), which concluded the volume. 

Journal at Geneva, dated i8th August 181 6, published in 
Essays, Letters, (fee, 1840. It deals chiefly with four ghost- 
stories told by M. G. Lewis, "Apollo's Sexton," to Byron 
and the Shelleys at Geneva. 
, Notes on Sculptures in Rome and Florence. — Some of these 



were published in Medwiii's Shelley Papers, 1833, ^^^ ^J 
Mrs. Shelley in her edition of 1840. Others have been 
added in Eorman's edition, making sixty in all. The most 
remarkable are those on the The Arch of Titus, Laocoon, 
Bacchus and Ampelus, Venus Anadyomene, A Statue of 
Minerva, The Niohe. Some characteristic remarks are scat- 
tered here and there. For Shelley's views on art, vide 
P- 35- 

YV. Eomances. 

Zastrozzi, written during Shelley's Eton days, and pub- 
lished in the spring of 18 10, is a wild story, full of descrip- 
tions of caves and forests, outlaws and assassinations. It is 
said to have been founded on a novel called Zofioya, or The 
Moor ; but it has also been suggested that Shelley's early 
romances may have been partly translated from some Ger- 
man source. Zastrozzi, the hero, is a desperate outlaw, 
round whose revengeful purposes the plot centres. 

St Irvyne, or The Rosici'ucian, was written at Oxford, 
and published in December 18 10. Though it shows some 
advance on Zastrozzi in harmony and general arrangement, 
its style is even more extravagant, the situations being as 
wildly impossible, and the language fully as inflated. St. 
Irvyne is the name of the birthplace and family of one 
"Wolfstein, to whom Ginotti, the Eosicrucian, a mysterious 
person of superhuman size, imparts the secret of magic. 
Shelley's original in this is said to have been Godwin's *S'^. 
Leon^ where the hero learns the secret of the philosopher's 
stone and elixir vitse. There are some songs interposed in 
*S'^. Irvyne, but of no value. It is curious to notice the ortho- 
doxy of the religious tone both in St. Irvyne and Zastrozzi. 

The Assassins, a fragment published in Essays and Letters, 
1840, was written at Brunnen, on the Lake of Lucerne, in 
1 8 14, during the first Continental tour. It is immensely 
superior at every point to the preceding romances, and marks 
a new departure in Shelley's literary style. The title has 


reference to that Mahometan clan to whom the name of 
"The Assassins " was given on account of their attacks on 
the Crusaders in the eleventh century. Shelley, however, 
who had lately been reading about the siege of Jerusalem, 
identifies the assassins with the Christians who escaped from 
the city before the siege. In chapter i. he relates their 
settlement in a valley of the Lebanon, the descriptions of 
mountain scenery prefiguring those in Alastor. In chapter 
ii. we see the assassins, four centuries having passed, still 
living apart from the world. " Assassin " is interpreted as 
meaning a freethinker, one who cuts away religious prejudice. 
The next two chapters are devoted to the personal part of 
the story. A youth, by name Albedir, finding a strange 
being (Ahasuerus) impaled on the branch of a tree, takes 
him to his home and assists him. The fragment ends in a 
beautiful account of Albedir's two children playing with a 
snake (comp. Laon and Cythna, canto i. stanzas 17-20). 
There is a resemblance to Prometheus in the position and 
character of Ahasuerus in this romance; and it seems as 
if Shelley here first conceived his idea of a sufiering yet 
triumphant humanity. Another characteristic feature of 
this romance is the way in which Shelley took up the title of 
" assassin," as he did that of " atheist," and used it in a good 
sense. (On Ahasuerus, vide p. 42.) 

Tlie Coliseum, a Fragment of a Romance, written probably 
in 181 9. Part of it was published in The Athenceum and 
The Shelley Papers, 1832, 1833, and the whole of it in Essays 
and Letters, 1840. The persons introduced are a blind 
father and his daughter, and a youthful stranger who meets 
them amidst the ruins of the Coliseum. We learn from Mrs. 
Shelley's note that this stranger would have been represented 
to be a Greek, brought up by an instructress named Diotima, 
and it is not difficult to see that the character was in some 
degree autobiographical. There is a fine description of the 
Coliseum, and a panegyric on Love, which should be com- 
pared with the essay On Love. 


Y. Prose Translations {vide pp. 39, 98). 

Plato's Symposium, translated by Shelley in July 1818 at 
Bagni di Lucca, and first published in Essays, Letters, dx., 
1840. It is an abridged version, and its merit consists in its 
brilliant rendering of the spirit of the original rather than in 
correct scholarship. Plato's Symposium is the fountain-head 
from which Shelley drew his inspiration on the subject of 
Love, and the distinction between the Uranian and the 
Pandemian Yenus, which plays so important a part in Alastor, 
Epipsycliidion, &c. The Discourse on the Manners of the 
Ancients, a fragment given in Essays, Letters, &c., was 
intended to be a commentary on the Symposium. 

Plato's Ion, A Portion of Menexenus, and Fragments from 
the Repuhlic were all published in Essays, Letters, d'C, 1840. 

( 117 ) 



The text of Shelley's poems is in many passages as defective 
or corrupt as if he were a classic instead of a modern writer. 
This is due partly to Shelley's own manner of writing, and 
partly to the circumstances under which his works were pub- 
lished. In the first place, he wrote with great rapidity, often 
with a pencil in the open air, correcting hastily or leav- 
ing spaces as he went on, and always giving free play to the 
eager inspiration of the moment. He would afterwards 
revise and complete his work, and then send it to the printer 
with all possible despatch in order to pass on to other sub- 
jects. He was also characteristically inaccurate in details of 
punctuation and grammar ; but it is probable that many of 
the supposed corruptions in the original editions were really 
deliberate on Shelley's part, and the result of his peculiar 
method of spelling and punctuating. A second fruitful 
cause of variations in the text was that Shelley had no oppor- 
tunity of correcting the proof-sheets of a great number of 
the poems published in his lifetime, which were printed in 
England during his absence in Italy ; and when his post- 
humous works were edited by his widow or friends, the 
difficulty of deciphering MSS. was often very great, owing to 
the many erasures and corrections and the hasty rather than 
careless style of writing. In Mrs. Shelley's collected edi- 
tions of 1839 there were numerous passages where the text 
was obviously faulty, and emendations have been freely sug- 
gested by later editors and commentators, of which some 
have MS. authority, while others are conjectural, and in 
many cases far from successful. The principle which guided 


Mr. Forman in his edition of 1876, which must be regarded 
as the most authoritative text, was to avoid with the most 
scrupulous care the alteration of anything, however eccentric, 
which was perhaps intentional on Shelley's part, but not to 
shrink from correcting inaccuracies which were distinctly un- 
intentional. (For critical remarks on the text of Shelley, 
vide Swinburne's Essays and Studies, Garnett's Relics of 
Shelley, Miss Blind's article in The Westminster Review, 
July 8, 1870, the writings of the late James Thomson 
(" B. Y."), and especially the Prefaces and Notes of Rossetti's 
and Forman's editions.) 

Original Editions. 

Of the original editions published in Shelley's lifetime the 
prose writings predominated largely during the English 
period, while those which were issued during his residence 
in Italy were entirely poems. The following were the chief 
volumes : — 

(i.) Prose Writings. — Zastrozzi, a Romance, i vol. 
duodecimo, London, 18 10. St. Irvyne ; or The Rosicru- 
dan, I vol. duodecimo, London, 181 1. The Necessity of 
Atheism, a tract, printed at Worthing in 181 1, now exceed- 
ingly scarce. An Address to the Irish People, octavo pam- 
phlet, Dublin, 1 81 2. Pi'oposals for an Association, octavo 
pamphlet, Dublin, 1 8 1 2. Declaration of Rights, a broadside, 
printed at Dublin, 181 2. A Letter to Lord Ellenhorough, 
181 2 (Barnstaple or London). A Vindication of Natural 
Diet, a duodecimo pamphlet, London, 18 13; now very 
scarce, reprinted by the Vegetarian Society in 1884. A 
Refutation of Deism, London, 18 14, a handsomely printed 
octavo, very scarce. A Proposal for putting Reform to the 
Vote, octavo pamphlet, London, 181 7. An Address to the 
People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, 181 7 ; only 
a reprint is now extant. History of a Six Weeks'^ Tour, 
London, 181 7 ; a foolscap octavo volume. 

(2.) Poems. — Juvenilia {vide p. 79). 

Queen Mah. London, 18 13. Crown octavo; on fine 


paper ; 250 copies only are said to have been printed. 
Among copies still extant is the one given by Shelley to 
Mary Godwin in July 18 14, and the one revised by Shelley 
in writing The Dcemon of the World. 

Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude, and other Poems. Lon- 
don, 18 16. A foolscap octavo volume, which was scarce 
even in 1824. The Shelley Society issued a facsimile re- 
print in 1885. The poems that accompanied Alastor are 
lieaded as follows : Aax^yg/ 5/o/(yw ttotimov a-Tror/xov (To Cole- 
ridge) ; Stanzas, April 1814 ; Mutability ; There is no ivork, 
nor device, nor Jcnoiuledge, nor ivisdom in the grave, ichither 
thou goest ; A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechddle, 
Gloucestershire; To Wordsworth; Feelings of a Republican 
on the Fall of Bonaparte; Superstition; Sonnet, from the 
Italian of Dante ; Translated from the Greek ofMoschus ; The 
Dcemon of the World. 

Loon and Cythna (The Revolt of Islam). London, 1818. 
An octavo volume. The actual copy revised by Shelley 
when changing Laon and Cythna into 2'he Revolt of Islam 
(vide p. 54) is in Mr. Forman's possession. 

Rosalind and Helen. London, 1 819. An octavo volume, 
containing also Lines written among the Euganean Hills, 
Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and the Sonnet on Ozymandias. 

The Cenci. London, 18 19. A second edition was issued 
in 1821. 

Prometheus Unbound. London, 1820. An octavo volume. 
The miscellaneous poems which accompanied Prometheus 
were — The Sensitive Plant; A Vision of the Sea; Ode to 
Heaven ; An Exhortation ; Ode to the West Wind ; An Ode, 
loritten October 1819, before the Spaniards had recovered their 
Liberty; The Cloud; To a Skylark ; Ode to Liberty. 

(Edipus Tyrannus, or Swellfoot the Tyrant. An octavo 
pamphlet. London, 1820. 

Epipsychidion. An octavo pamphlet. London, 182 1. 

Adonais. A small quarto in blue wrapper, with the 
types of Didot. Pisa, 1821. A facsimile of this very scarce 
volume was published by the Shelley Society in 1 886. 


Hellas. London, 1822. An octavo pamphlet, including 
the lyrical drama, Hellas, and the lines, Written on Hearing 
the Neics of the Death of Napoleon. 

Hellas was the last book published by Shelley. After his 
death the following volumes were issued from MSS. left in 
the hands of Mrs. Shelley, Leigh Hunt, Medwin, and other 
friends : — 

Posthumous Poems, 1824, edited by Mrs. Shelley. Con- 
tained most of Shelley's hitherto unpublished poems, to- 
gether with Alastor reprinted. 

The Masque of Anarchy, 1832, with a Preface by Leigh 
Hunt {vide p. 94). 

The Sitelley Papers, 1833, reprinted from The Athenceum, 
contained a few more of Shelley's short poems and fragmen- 
tary essays, edited by Medwin. 

Essays, Letters from Abroad, d:c., Moxon, 2 vols., 1840 
and 1845. This was to the Prose Works what the Post- 
humo2is Poems had been to the poetry, and consisted mainly, 
though not entirely, of unpublished essays and letters. The 
Essay on Christianity was not published till 1859. 

Belies of Shelley, edited by Richard Garnett, Moxon, 1862, 
contained some new fragments of great interest. 

Collected Editions. 

The chief collected editions are as follows : — 

The Poetical Works, Moxon, 1839, edited by Mrs. Shelley. 
A second edition was issued the same year. These must be 
classed as the first collected editions, though they also con- 
tained a good deal of original matter. 

The Complete Poetical Works, edited by W. M. Rossetti, 
Moxon, 1870, 2 vols. ; and J. Slark, 1878, 3 vols. 

The Poetical Works, 4 vols., 1876-77, and the Prose 
Works, 4 vols., 1880, edited by H. Buxton Forman (Reeves 
& Turner). In these editions all the previously published 
writings of Shelley have been collected, and a few new pieces 

( 121 ) 



The critic's joke on the title of Prometheus (" Unbound — • 
for who would bind it ? ") was a fair sample of the style of 
contemporary criticism dealt out to Shelley's poems, while his 
opinions and doctrines were still more recklessly misrepre- 
sented by the Quarterly Review and most other periodicals 
of that time, with the exception of Leigh Hunt's Examiner. 
Leigh Hunt, indeed, was the only one of Shelley's fellow- 
poets who seems to have appreciated his genius, which was 
certainly undervalued by Byron and Keats, and entirely mis- 
understood by Wordsworth, Southey, Campbell, and Moore? 
It was no wonder, therefore, that his books, with perhaps 
the exception of Queen Mah and The Cenci, gained hardly 
any recognition in his lifetime, and that, in spite of his good- 
humoured indifference to the abuse of his reviewers, he 
became latterly depressed by lack of sympathy and apprecia- 
tion. He was at all times inclined to take a singularly 
modest view of his own powers ; but it is recorded by 
Medwin that he sometimes said he looked to America and 
Germany for posthumous fame, or even quoted Milton's words 
— " This I know, that whether in prosing or in versing, there 
is something in my writings that shall live for ever." Dur- 
ing the past half century Shelley's fame as a lyric poet has 
been firmly established, and his reputation as a thinker has 
also been surely, though more slowly, progressing. No 
clearer proof could be needed of the power and originality of 


his genius than the fact that while those readers who under- 
stand and sympathise with him are filled with a personal 
love and admiration unique in the annals of literature, others 
regard him with contrary feelings of aversion and animosity. 
He represents the very soul and essence of a revolutionary 
movement which is even now only in its earlier stages of 
accomplishment ; and until that movement is fulfilled it can- 
not be doubted that men's opinions will be as sharply divided 
on the merits of Shelley's writings and character, as they are 
divided on the great cause of humanity which he so unflinch- 
ingly championed. 

(i.) Influence on Literature. — Though Shelley had not, 
like "Wordsworth, a direct school of followers, his indirect 
influence on poetry has been very great. The purely lyric 
element is now far more widely understood and genuinely 
valued than in the days when the Quarterly critics could 
discover nothing but "drivelling prose run mad" in Pro- 
metheus and Epipsychidion. The " lyric cry," first sounded 
in full perfection by Shelley, has been taken up and re- 
echoed by succeeding poets ; and all recent English poetry is 
indebted to the same source for greater spirituality of thought 
and richer melody of tone. Shelley has also shown, above 
all other poets, how entirely the true lyrist can transcend 
what Macaulay calls " the irrational laws which bad critics 
have framed for the government of poets;" with the recognition 
of the excellence of Shelley's lyrics, one can hardly fail to 
see the absurdity of that arbitrary and dogmatic system of 
criticism which was the terror of English writers at the 
beginning of this century. That the estimates of critics as 
to Shelley's place in literature are still somewhat conflicting, 
is not to be wondered at ; for the lyric spirit which is the 
chief feature of his poetry is by its very nature intelligible 
only to those who have been gifted with an instinctive 
sympathy ; a right appreciation of lyric poety is intuitive, 
and cannot be acquired by study. But though there are always 
critics who lay their own deficiencies of vision to the fault of 


a poet whom they cannot comprehend, the balance of opinion 
is rapidly becoming more and more favourable ; and Shelley's 
true position has been admirably defined by such clear-sighted 
and large-minded critics as Swinburne and Stopford Brooke. 
It cannot be doubted that Shelley will soon be recognised as 
occupying that important place in literature which belongs to 
one of England's greatest lyric poets. 

(2.) Influence on Thought. There is a disposition in some 
quarters to pass lightly over Shelley's protests against all 
forms of prejudice and injustice, as though such protests, 
however justifiable once, were no longer needed in these days 
of political enfranchisement. But, as a matter of fact, though 
the contest has passed into a difi'erent phase, few or none of 
the main objects of Shelley's teaching have yet been realised; 
and it should not be forgotten that if Shelley were living 
now, he would still be a discredited revolutionist, preaching 
a bloodless crusade against religion, property, and all the con- 
ventional notions of social morality. Queen Mah, for instance, 
is admitted to have done some service to the revolutionary 
cause ; but there is no ground whatever for the assumption 
that Shelley's socialist opinions are henceforth to fall out of 
notice ; on the contrary, as the struggle between labour and 
capital is year by year intensified, they are likely to become 
of more importance ; and the same is true of what he taught 
about Christianity, the marriage laws, and many other sub- 
jects. It is no use attempting to clothe Shelley's doctrines 
with the garb of social " respectability ;" it is wiser to recog- 
nise them at their real worth. On the other hand, those who 
cannot sympathise with his hopes and aspirations are apt to 
set down his views as crude and immature, a mass of wild, 
though perhaps well-meant, speculation; thus ignoring the 
fact that during the sixty years that have elapsed since his 
death all the movements which he advocated have advanced 
largely in importance, and while some of his opinions have 
been proved to be true, not one has been exploded by time. 
The only way to a correct understanding of Shelley's doctrines , 


is to realise that they are all part of one great revolutionary 
and humanitarian idea, the possibility or impossibility of 
which is still under debate, and which cannot be contemptu- 
ously disregarded as impracticable. Time alone can decide 
the question ; and Shelley believed that time would be on 
his side. 

(3.) Influence of Character. Nothing is more striking 
about Shelley than the extraordinary charm of his individual 
character, which not only impressed the friends who knew 
him personally {vide p. 17), but continues to affect later 
generations of readers. This feeling has at different times 
drawn tributes of admiration from such different writers as 
De Quincey, Browning, Frederick Robertson, Swinburne, and 
the late James Thomson. But here too, as in the case of his 
writings, we find equally strong hostility on the part of those 
to whom Shelley's character was unintelligible or uncon- 
geniah To Kingsley's school of "muscular Christianity" he 
appears, and probably must continue to appear, little better 
than a weak sentimentalist ; Carlyle speaks of him as " fill- 
ing the earth with inarticulate wail;" others again regard 
him as a mere visionary enthusiast; while many have been 
still more strongly prejudiced against him by the tragic end- 
ing of his first marriage and the delay in the publication of 
the true story. It is now full time for sincere admirers of 
Shelley to drop the half-apologetic tone sometimes adopted 
in speaking of him, and to recognise that there is a singular 
harmony between his writings and his character. His poetical 
genius cannot be justly estimated apart from his opinions, 
and his opinions, again, found a consistent expression in the 
actions of his life. 

The chief tributes paid to Shelley's genius by later poets 
are Robert Browning's Memorabilia; sonnets by Leigh 
Hunt, D. G. Rossetti, and Swinburne; and Shelley, an 
unpublished poem, by James Thomson ("B. V."). Leigh 
Hunt's poem Ahou Ben Adhem should probably be regarded 
as a sketch of Shelley's character. 

( 125 ) 



I. Biographical. 

(i.) Mrs. Shelley's Prefaces and Notes to Postlmmous 
Poems, 1824, collected editions, 1839, and Essays, Letters, 
(i'C, 1840, 1845, S^^^ much invaluable information. 

(2.) Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and some of His Con- 
temporaries, 1828, contains a record of Shelley, brief, but 
very afifectionate and appreciative. It was incorporated in 
Leigh Hunt's Autobiography, Smith & Elder, i860. 

(3.) Med win's Life of Shelley, Kewby, 1847, 2 vols., 
reproduced most of the information given in The Shelley 
Papers, 1833, by the same author. The style is loose and 
illiterate, and there are many inaccurate statements, but 
the book is interesting, especially the second volume. 

(4.) Middleton's Shelley and His Writings, Newby, 1856, 
a work of little merit, chiefly based on Hogg's articles in 
llie New Monthly Magazine, 1832, and Medwin's Life, but 
containing a little new information derived from a friend at 

(5.) Trelawny's Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley 
and Byron, Moxon, 1858; reissued as Records of Shelley, 
Byron, and the Author, 2 vols., Pickering, 1878. This is 
perhaps the pleasantest of all the records of Shelley, though 
some of the incidents look as if they were apocryphal. The 
second edition is less satisfactory than the first; additions 
being made which are very unfair to Mrs. Shelley, on the 


strength of the reminiscences of an author then in extreme 
old age. 

(6.) Hogg's Life of Shelley, vols. i. and ii., Moxon, 1858, 
includes the articles on Shelley at Oxford in The New 
Monthly Magazine, 1832, 1833. After the publication of 
the first two volumes the Shelley family withdrew the 
materials which they had placed at Hogg's disposal, and the 
book remains a fragment {vide Preface to Shelley Memorials). 
The older part, that on Shelley at Oxford, is told with 
admirable humour, force, and directness, but the rest is 
pointless and grotesque, and marred by the coarse anecdotes 
and extraordinary egotism of the writer. In 1832 Hogg 
was describing a part of Shelley's life on which he could 
speak with special authority; but in 1858 he seems to have 
been quite unable to deal with the life as a whole. Some 
passages of the later part have a certain amount of caustic 

(7.) Peacock's Memoirs of P. B. Shelley, Fraser's Maga- 
zine, 1858 and i860, have been over-rated and over-praised, 
but tell some important facts. Peacock, a shrewd, cynical 
satirist, was quite incapable of rightly depicting Shelley's 
character; and his positive statements about the cause of 
Shelley's separation from Harriet were disproved by Dr. 
Garnett in Relics of Shelley. 

(8.) Shelley Memorials, Smith & Elder, 1859, edited by 
Lady Shelley. This brief but comprehensive summary of 
Shelley's life was published after the cessation of the work 
by Hogg ; and, until the appearance of Professor Dowden's 
book, has been the most authoritative record. 

(9.) Garnett's Relics of Shelley, Moxon, 1862, contains 
among other important matter some valuable remarks on 
Shelley's separation from Harriet. 

(10.) W. M. Rossetti's Memoir of Shelley, prefixed to 
editions of 1870 and 1885, gives an admirable account of 
Shelley's life, with critical notices of his chief works. 

(II.) D. P. McCarthy's Shelley's Early Life, Chatto & 


Windus, I vol., 1872, is a faithful but formless account of 
Shelley's life up to 181 2, dealing at great length with the 
Dublin episode, and correcting various errors made by Hogg, 
Medwin, Peacock, anc^ others, A special feature of the 
book is the merciless exposure of Hogg's "so-called Life of 

(12.) C. Kegan Paul's William Godwin, his Friends and 
Contemporaries, 1876, shows clearly the relation subsisting 
between Godwin and Shelley. 

(13.) G. B. Smith's Shelley, a Critical Biography. David 
Douglas, 1877. 

(14.) J. A. Symonds' Shelley, 1878. (English Men of 
Letters series.) 

(15.) J. C. JeafFreson's The Real Shelley, 1885, professes 
to unmask Shelley's principles and character, while it does 
not deny his genius. It is remarkable for its grotesque 
vulgarity of tone and inaccuracy of statement. 

(16.) Dowden's Life of Shelley, 1886, gives the true story 
of Shelley's life for the first time, on the authority of the 
unpublished manuscripts in the possession of the Shelley 
family. It contains letters, hitherto unpublished, addressed 
to Mary Shelley, Godwin, Claire Clairmont, and others, and 
a notice of some early poems intended for publication in 

Magazine Articles. — Some of the chief biographical notices 
are to be reprinted by the Shelley Society ; among these are 
P. B. Shelley, in StocMale's Budget, 1826-27; A News- 
paper Editor's Reminiscences, writer unknown, Fraser, 1841; 
Shelley in Pall Mall, by K. Garnett, Macmillan, i860; 
Shelley, by one who knew him, by Thornton Hunt, Atlantic 
Monthly, 1863; Shelley in 181 2-13, by W. M. Kossetti, 
Fortnightly Revieiv, 1871 ; Shelleifs Last Days, by R. 
Garnett, Fortnightly Review, 1878 ; Shelley's Life near 
Spezzia, by H. B. Forman, Macmillan, 1880. De Quincey's 
Essay on Shelley (vol. 5 of his collected works) is kindly 
and appreciative, if allowance be made for its wide divergence 


of opinion. De Quincey had no personal knowledge of 
Shelley, and his information was chiefly based on the notice 
of Shelley in Gilfillan's Gallery of Literary Portraits. 

II. Critical. 

Some of the contemporary criticisms of Shelley's writings 
will be republished by the Shelley Society. Of later 
notices the most important are these — Browning's Introduc- 
tory Essay to Letters^ 1852 ; Prof. Baynes' article in the 
Edinhurgli Revieio, April 187 1 ; Miss Blind's article in the 
Westminster Review, July 1870; Swinburne's Note on tlie 
Text of Shelley, in Essays and Studies, 1875 ; The Poems of 
Shelley, in North British Review, 1870 ; Some Thoughts on 
Shelley, by Stopford Brooke, Macmillaiis Magazine, 1880, 
and Preface to Select Poems, Golden Treasury series ; James 
Thomson's (" B. V.") writings on Shelley, privately published 
in 1884 ; Garnett's Preface to Select Poems, Parchment series; 
J. Todhunter's Study of Shelley, Kegan Paul, Trench, and 
Co., 1880 ; Shelley's Prose Works, in the Edinburgh Revieio, 
July 1886. Many important critical remarks are found in 
the Prefaces and ISTotes to Rossetti's and Forman's editions.