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the jail-birds who had lately formed his society might have been readily available for such a purpose. Or some such rascal might, even without Daniel's privity, have heard from him details sufficiently suggestive of such an enterprise on his own account. In either of these cases, the offender, being a perfect stranger in the district, would be the more likely to remain untracked. If, on the contrary, we incline to disbelief of the alleged facts, we may find something confirmatory in the nocturnal conditions : the night was one of rain, and "wind as loud as thunder," which may have started in Shelley's perturbed brain the notion of pistol-snappings: it is a fact, however, that some pistol was really fired. Another point (hardly hitherto dwelt on) is that Shelley expected, on going to bed, to need his firearms : if the expectation was a mere fantasy, the subsequent assumed actual need of them may have been the same. But Lady Shelley and Mr. Thornton Hunt discover no ground for scepticism: “Miss Westbrook was also in the house at the time, and often, in after years, related the circumstance as a frightful fact.”. This last evidence is of great weight, and must, even were there nothing else to be pleaded on the same side, give us pause before we dismiss the whole story as delusive.
Miss Westbrook became one of Shelley's bitterest enemies, and certainly would not, out of any consideration for him, have upheld “in after years” his account of the matter. But it is conceivable that, having at first committed herself to a figment, she found it impossible afterwards, for her own sake if not for Shelley's, to recant. Here I must leave this still debateable mystery.
A short stay in Mr. Lawless's house, No. 35 Great Cuffe Street, Dublin, preceded a tour to Killarney, uniting enjoyment with discomfort-more satisfactory at any rate to the Shelleys and Miss Westbrook than to Hogg, who, arriving in Dublin by invitation, learned that they had left for the lake-trip. And, when Shelley and Harriet (in brief respite from Eliza, who remained at Killarney) returned on purpose to the Cork Hotel, Dublin, on the 31st of March, Hogg had started back to London. These little incidents may stand as a sample of the hurried and unconcerted movements in which Shelley was continually engaging. The spouses left Dublin again about the 4th of April; and why they had ever gone thither, unless to be far from Tanyrallt, or as a stage towards a holiday at Killarney,
Shelley Memorials, p. 56.
is not apparent. They reached the house of Mr. Westbrook in Chapel Street in May. Eliza soon joined them in London, where they took to living in hotels for a while ; but she was apparently not just at present a fixed member of their household. Daniel Hill now quitted their service; being still, in Harriet's eyes, a model of fidelity. They afterwards lodged in Halfmoon Street; seeing much of Hogg, and of other society, including some literary acquaintances-nothing of Shelley's own relatives. Somewhere about this time, but presumably a little later, Shelley indulged his wife in a whim to set-up a carriage ; and the culpable extravagance was very near sending him to prison for debt.
On or about the 28th of June Harriet was delivered of her first child, Ianthe Eliza,' at Cooke's Hotel, Dover Street: it was a very easy confinement. There was some blemish in one of Ianthe's eyes; her mother did not nurse her, but handed her over to the cares of a wet-nurse whom Shelley disliked; and Eliza, whom he was now getting to loathe, was continually hovering and busying herself (no doubt with genuine good-feeling) about the infant. These circumstances were all vexatious to Shelley, and it has even been said that he exhibited no interest in the baby; but this is distinctly disproved by Mr. Peacock. “He was extremely fond of it, and would walk up and down a room with it in his arms for a long time together, singing to it a monotonous melody of his own making, which ran on the repetition of a word of his own coining. His song was Yáhmani, Yáhmani, Yáhmani, Yáhmani.' It did not please me ; but, what was more important, it pleased the child, and lulled it when it was fretful. Shelley was extremely fond of his children: he was pre-eminently an affectionate father.” In later years we read of his playing for hours with his last child Percy on the floor. Mr. Trelawny, however, tells me that (at least within his experience) Shelley was not "fond of children,” in the ordinary sense of the term : they obtained little notice from him.
VIII. -QUEEN MAB. Among the various writings of Shelley which I have hitherto had occasion to mention-and there were many besides—the only one having any moderate degree of literary merit is the Necessity of Atheism. We have next to contemplate him as a poet taking a certain actual rank among poets ; no high rank
* The lady who became Mrs. Esdaile, and died in June 1876.
as yet, but still one which is not to be ignored. The poem of Queen Mab places him in this position. He began this work in the spring or summer of 1812, subsequent to his first return from Ireland:' it was finished in February 1813, after which he compiled the lengthy notes. He had at first thought of publishing it; but eventually limited himself to a private edition of 250 copies, for which he bespoke fine paper, thinking that, though the aristocrats would not read it themselves, “it was probable their sons and daughters would.” Shelley sent copies to many writers of the day—to Byron among others. The thorough genuineness of his character and feelings appears in the fact that, in transmitting Queen Mab to the all-famous author of Childe Harold, Shelley wrote a letter detailing all the accusations he had heard against him, and saying that, if these were not true, he would like to make his acquaintance. The letter, however, did not reach Byron, though the book did, and was read by him with some admiration. Indeed, it produced a certain general sensation and impression, within the limits of its circulation. It was first pirated in 1821.
For the speculative qualities of Queen Mab and its notes I have to refer the reader to the book itself; only further observing that, while it is declaredly atheistic in the ordinary sense, and highly hostile to theologic christianity, it has also a certain element of pantheism, and is decidedly not the writing of a selfconsistent materialist
, or disbeliever in spirit as something other than a function of body. The ardour of Shelley for his own beliefs, and his unreasoning youthfulness of self-confidence, made him actually imagine that such a performance as Queen Mab was capable of producing a change in the ideas and practices of society. He seems to have retained notions of this sort up to the year 1816 or 1817, when he became both less sanguine and less aggressive-never less nobly and enthusiastically self-devoted. As to the poetical merits of Queen Mab, I think the ordinary run of criticism is at fault. Some writers go to the ridiculous excess of speaking of it as not only a grand poem, but actually the masterpiece of its author; and even those who stop far short of this expatiate in loose talk about its splendid ideal passages, gorgeous elemental imagery, and the like. The fact is that Queen Mab is a juvenile production in the fullest sense of the term—as nobody knew better than Shelley himself a few years afterwards; and furthermore (unless I am much mistaken) the most juvenile and unremarkable section of it is the ideal one. The part which has some considerable amount of promise, and even of positive merit at times, is the declamatory part—the passages of flexible and sonorous blank verse in which Shelley boils over against kings or priests, or the present misery of the world of man, and in acclaiming augury of an æra of regeneration. These passages, with all their obvious literary crudities and imperfections, are in their way of real mark, and not easily to be overmatched by other poetic writing of that least readable sort, the didacticdeclamatory.
* So says Shelley in a letter quoted in the Shelley Memorials, p. 39. But there may be some nucleus of truth in Medwin's assertion (Life, vol. I. p. 53) that the poem had been begun, as a mere imaginative effusion, as early as about the autumn of 1809, and that it was only after his expulsion from Oxford that Shelley continued it into an attack on religious and other systems.
Moore's Life of Byron, vol. ii. p. 22. Moore states this distinctly as a fact; but there is another story (Medwin, Life of Shelley, vol. i. p. 237), that Shelley, on reaching Sécheron in 1816, wrote to Byron detailing the accusations made against Shelley himself, and saying that he, if Byron disbelieved them, would like to become known to him. I should incline to suppose this the true version of the story, but that I find no sort of con. firmation of it in Dr. Polidori's MS. journal.
The reader will observe that the name Shelley bestowed on his first-born daughter, Ianthe, is the same which he had already appropriated to the mortal heroine of his poem.
IX.-HARRIET SHELLEY AND MARY GODWIN. Shelley's next removal was into a quiet street in Pimlico, for the more especial purpose of being near the Boinville family, with whom he had become intimate. Mrs. Boinville (or Madame de Boinville, widow of a French émigré) was a lady past middle age, but more than commonly young in general appearance, save for her snow-white hair : hence Shelley named her Maimuna, after a personage in Southey's Thalaba. He regarded her as “the most admirable specimen of a human being he had ever seen,” though “it was hardly possible for a person of the extreme subtlety and delicacy of Mrs. Boinville's understanding and affections to be quite sincere and constant.” She had a daughter, Cornelia, married to Mr. Newton, a vegetarian enthusiast whose views had a considerable influence at this time upon Shelley-as testified in the notes to Queen Mab. The society that he met at Mrs. Boinville's was of the freethinking and levelling kind, and included no doubt its full proportion of crotchet-mongers and pretenders: it was highly distasteful to Hogg, and after a while not altogether congenial to Shelley himself, supremely free as he was from any feeling of exclusiveness or social disdain.
He was now in pecuniary straits, with no resources beyond the £200 from his father; and, with a view to economy, he retreated, before the end of July, to a small cottage named High Elms, at Bracknell in Berkshire, where the Newtons, with their family of five children, stayed with him awhile.
It was probably in the summer of 1813that Shelley saw his birthplace for the last time. He walked down from Bracknell to Horsham, at his mother's request, his father and the three youngest children being then absent from Field Place. A very youthful military officer named Kennedy was on a visit there at the time; and, as Bysshe's advent was a secret, the two used to interchange costumes whenever the prodigal son walked out. Captain Kennedy has noted down his impressions of Shelley in a few paragraphs full of good feeling and much to the purpose. Let us appropriate one detail. “I never mer a man who so immediately won upon me.
The generosity of his disposition and utter unselfishness imposed upon him the necessity of strict self-denial in personal comforts : consequently he was obliged to be most economical in his dress. He one day asked us how we liked his coat, the only one he had brought with him : we said it was very nice, it looked as if new. "Well,' said he, “it is an old black coat which I have had done up, and smartened with metal buttons and a velvet collar.'"
In August Shelley came of age, “and his first act was to marry Harriet over again in an Episcopal Chapel in Edinburgh."3 They were accompanied by Mr. Thomas Love Peacock.4 This gentleman had been known to Shelley just before the latter went to Tanyrallt : Mrs. Newton describes him in 1813 as “a cold scholar, who, I think, has neither taste nor feeling." But Mrs. Newton may have regarded with some prejudice a gentleman who, seconded by Harriet,
* See two important letters, from Mr. Shelley senr., 26th May 1813, and from Percy Shelley, a few days later, published in Notes and Queries, 2nd ser., vol. vi, p. 405. The father, learning that Percy (whom he addresses as “ My dear boy") has not changed his speculative opinions, finally declines all further communication; and the poet (addressing the Duke of Norfolk) spiritedly says : " 1. am not so degraded and miserable a slave as publicly to disavow an opinion which I believe to be true.
. The date given by Hogg is the beginning of the summer of 1814.".. Lady Shelley, who reproduces the letter printed by Hogg, says 1813," and must, I think, be right.
This detail, which I give in the words of an informant exceedingly unlikely to be mistaken, has never hitherto been recorded ; and the journey to Edinburgh had passed as being one of Shelley's motiveless and costly freaks.
• Perhaps it was now that Shelley saw Matlock. A letter to Mr. Peacock (22nd July 1816) shows that he had been there at some time, and, it might be inferred, in Peacock's company.