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half-mad volume of poems, called the “Posthumous Works of Margaret Nicholson," which has happily fallen out of remembrance. At the time of his expulsion he was only seventeen, but he was already deeply attached to a cousin who had been born on the same day with himself. His expulsion from Oxford and its cause disappointed this affection, and his beloved cousin became the wife of another. Shelley had naturally given great offence to his family, but his father offered to forgive him if he would return home, give up his friend Hogg, and study with a private tutor. These terms appear all that any lad of Shelley's age could hope for; nevertheless he refused them, and remained in London ; but, as he himself informed Hogg, his father allowed him 200l. a year.
The sorrow and sympathy of his sisters were naturally awakened by this event, and they sent him loving gifts by the hand of a schoolfellow, Harriet Westbrook, a beautiful girl of sixteen, of inferior station to themselves, her father being the landlord of a tavern. Shelley undertook to teach Miss Westbrook his principles, and found her an apt pupil. The young girl, finally resenting what Shelley calls the “brutal tyranny of her father, who has persecuted her in the most horrible way by endeavouring to compel her to go to school,” came to Shelley, and threw herself on his protection. The youth acted honourably; his instincts as a gentleman prevailed against the hateful doctrines he thought he had embraced ; he married Miss Westbrook.
Not long after he printed the “Hermit of Marlow," on occasion of the death of the Princess Charlotte. It was a mere political skit. Under the lament for the Princess he typified the death of Liberty. Not very long after he printed for private circulation a poem, begun at seventeen, “Queen Mab.” We think it is a pity that this poem should still hold a place in his collected works; his second wife, Mary Shelley, believed that his mature taste would have rejected it. Nor in fact did he ever publish it ; it was brought to light by a literary piracy. All that he thought worth retaining in it he reprinted in “ The Demon of the World.” Shelley's first marriage proved unhappy. In 1814 he abandoned his wife, child, and an infant born after this desertion; and started for Italy with Mary Godwin, the daughter of the well-known author of Caleb Williams” and Mary Wollstonecraft, whose opinions resembled those embraced by Shelley. It appears that, though he had abandoned Harriet, he still felt a friendly regard for her, and even wished her, we are informed, to live in the house with him and Miss Godwin as a friend! A legal adviser showed him that this was impossible. Two years afterwards the unhappy Harriet drowned herself, leaving her two orphan babes in the care of her father, with whom she had taken refuge, and who had settled 2000l. upon the poor children. Shelley would have retaken his children after Harriet's death, but Mr. Westbrook refused to yield them up. A Chancery suit ensued, and the babes were placed under other guardianship than their father's. In fact, he had never seen the boy (born after his desertion of the mother), and had never manifested any parental affection for either till he made this claim. He had an illegitimate son by Mary Godwin ; he had written a poem wholly against Christianity ;-therefore we think the law rightly adjudged the guardianship of poor Harriet's children to wiser hands than Shelley's. Before his wife's death Shelley wrote and published " Alastor," his first mature poem. After her death he married Miss Godwin, and went with her to Italy. Previously however a friendly rivalry with Keats led to his writing The Revolt of Islam"—the rival poem being the “ Endymion.”
Shelley never again revisited England. At Rome he wrote his finest poem, the “Prometheus Unbound." The awful tragedy of the “ Cenci” followed, and in various parts of Italy his other poems of that date. His friend, Captain Medwin, tells us that “Julian and Maddalo" were meant to delineate himself and Lord Byron, with whom he was for some time on terms of great intimacy.
The life of this very original and gifted poet terminated at the early age of thirty. He was fond of boating, and a friend who had located near him at Venice--Captain Williams—and himself returning from Leghorn to their home near Lerici in a new boat he had built, were overtaken by a sudden storm. The boat went down instantly. Captain Williams attempted to save himself by swimming. His body, half undressed, was cast upon the beach; but Shelley was
found with one hand locked in his waistcoat where he had in haste thrust a volume of Keats that he was reading. Owing to a law peculiar to Italy—which enjoins that bodies thus cast on shore should be burned as a precaution against plague—the families of the lost men were compelled to consent to their cremation, and the dead were burned with much solemnity in the presence of Mr. Trelawney, Capt. Shenley, Lord Byron, and Leigh Hunt.
Shelley's remains were taken to Rome, and deposited near those of his little son and of Keats in the Protestant cemetery.
With regard to his genius there is no longer a dissentient voice. We may regret that he ever wrote “Queen Mab” and “The Revolt of Islam,” but “ Prometheus” is unrivalled in the language; and his minor poems have proved what perfect music English may become in the hand of a master.
Shelley was much beloved by his friends in spite of the eccentricities and peculiarities of his character; he was, we learn, very liberal, even generous, and full of a desire to promote (as well as he knew how) the welfare of humanity. His imagination preponderated over judgment and reason; and he even imagined events to have occurred to himself, which, according to the testimony of his dearest friends, had never happened. Such a life offers much ground for reflection and regret ; but we cannot think that Shelley lived wholly in vain when we remember that to him his nation owes the glorious dramatic poem of “Prometheus," and lyrics unequalled in beauty in any modern language.
The following curious ghost story respecting Shelley was related by Byron to Captain Medwin, after his death :
“Shortly before his fatal voyage to Leghorn, the inhabitants of the country house at San Lorenzo were alarmed, at midnight, by piercing shrieks. They rushed out of their bedrooms, and found Shelley in the saloon with his eyes wide open, and gazing on vacancy, as though he beheld some spectre. On waking him, he related that he had had a vision. He thought that a figure wrapped in a mantle came to his bedside, and beckoned to him. up and followed it; when in the hall, the phantom lifted up the
hood of his cloak, showed Shelley the phantasm of himself—and saying, “Siete satisfatto ??—vanished.
“Shelley had been reading a strange drama, which is supposed to have been written by Calderon, entitled, “El embozado, ó el encapotado.' It is so scarce, that Washington Irving told me 'he had sought for it without success in several of the public libraries of Spain. The story is—that a kind of Cipriano or Faust is through life thwarted in all his plans for the acquisition of wealth, or honour, or happiness, by a masked stranger, who stands in his way like some Alastor or evil spirit. He is at length in love—the day is fixed for his marriage,—when the unknown contrives to sow dissension between him and his betrothed, and to break off the match. Infuriate with his wrongs, he breathes nothing but revenge, but all his attempts to discover his mysterious foe prove abortive : at length his persecutor appears of his own accord. When about to fight, the Embozado unmasks, and discovers the phantasm of himself, saying, “Are you satisfied ?' The hero of the play dies with horror.
“ This play had worked strongly on Shelley's imagination, and accounts for the awful scene at San Lorenzo.”