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hair, dark brown and of a wild growth; his eyes were prominent, very open and fixed, hardly ever so much as winking : "stag-eyes " is the picturesque epithet for them which I have frequently heard Mr. Trelawny employ.' He looked "preternaturally intelligent,” or (as Lieutenant Williams said at a later date) “ of most astonishing genius.". His gestures were abrupt, yet often graceful; his clothes good, but carelessly worn. He was a finished gentleman, and, as Mr. Hogg emphatically puts it, “a ladies' man "—the elect of dames and damsels. And certainly Shelley repaid this preference without stint; for nothing is more manifest throughout his life and writings than the intense love he entertained for the feminine nature in its ideal, and in many approximate realizations of that ideal, and the delight with which he hailed any symptoms of superiority of intellect or faculty in women. I think he stands next to Shakespeare among great poets in love of the female character. His voice was peculiar, and Mr. Hogg found it at first “excruci. ating ;” Mr. Peacock, "discordant ;” Captain Medwin, "a cracked soprano;” Mr. Thornton Hunt, “a high natural counter-tenor," comparable to the Lancashire tone of speech. Its unpleasant quality, however, is ignored altogether by some authorities : and others, while admitting it, say that, although disagreeable when the poet was excited, the voice was of varied modulation, and, in reading poetry, not only good but wonderfully effective. His dominant passion at this time was argument, and his favourite recreation a country-ramble. He was also now and henceforward an insatiable reader, occupying himself with books sometimes as much as sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, and under all circumstances of locality or environment. His diet was of the simplest, tending already strongly towards vegetarianism, which in the sequel (from the beginning of March, 1812) he adopted absolutely, and persevered in for long periods of time together, though not with. out breaks now and then. Bread was his staple food ; with water and tea to drink, and occasionally wine-but he could scarcely be reckoned among wine-drinkers at all, and sometimes totally rejected that beverage, and spirits (it may be said) invariably.
Omitting a host of other details (without which, however, no true picture can be given of Shelley in his supreme capacities, varied traits, and numerous peculiarities), a few words must says that Shelley wis very near-sighted ; Trelawny does not now remember
* Trelai , Kecollections, p. 12.
Medwin nor believe it.
here be said regarding his health. He considered himself a permanent and grievous invalid, of a consumptive habit, and afflicted by nervous and spasmodic attacks; he said also that he had ruined his health at Eton by swallowing in a fit of amorous dejection' arsenic or some mineral poison. Another account (which I find in no Shelleyan writer save Mr. Thornton Hunta) is that “Shelley himself ascribed the injury from which he suffered to a pressure of the assassin's knee upon him in the struggle” which he had had to wage with a mysterious assailant at Tanyrallt in 1813, and of which more anon. At one time, towards the end of that same year, Shelley had a fancy, no doubt a baseless one, that he was about to be visited with elephantiasis. Hogg, in his caustic way, makes light of all these statements and alarms; but it is, I think, only too abundantly clear from the evidence that such of them as related to facts, not inferences, to an actual and not a prospective state of body, were perfectly true. Mrs. Shelley speaks of her husband as a martyr to ill-health all his life, and suffering constant pain; and other eye-witnesses testify to spasms which made him roll on the ground in agony, though without losing his gentleness of temper, which induced a deleterious and lifelong use of opium (especially towards 1812), and which continually threatened to end fatally. Medwin, who thinks the disease must eventually have thus ended, speaks of it as nephritis, and of lithotomy as a dangerous remedy that might have been, but never was, tried ; Trelawny regards “occasional spasms” as the only complaint, but without discussing their origin or extenuating their severity, and he intimates that the poet's long fasts brought on the attacks. The usual remedies adopted on the exigency of the moment were cold water and friction with the hand. Nothing is clearer from Shelley's own correspondence than that he was often tantalized by intervals of what he considered improved health, and perpetually thrown back again, and that he " suffered much of many physicians.” Hogg, who was only in the way of seeing Shelley in his very early manhood, may not unnaturally have thought his complaints of illhealth belied by the buoyant energies and activities of youth ; but we shall surely have a very false conception of Shelley's life, in its course from week to week and from year to year, if we believe that Hogg came to a right conclusion, and that the poet, spite of his own repeated assertions, and those of persons who were constantly about him, lived in a condition of moderate physical comfort, instead of ever-recurring and often poignant suffering. The shadow of death was upon him oftener than once or twice, and the blight of pain, even when it dispersed, was ever in prospect. Mr. Trelawny, however, informs me that Shelley's health had, within the last few months of his life, during which he was less solitary than for some years preceding, improved so conspicuously that there was a good prospect of his living to an advanced age. The physician, Vaccà, whom Trelawny consulted on the subject after the poet's death, did not confirm the notion that the malady was of a nephritic character.
* Hogg gives this detail in one passage (vol. ii. p 332). Miss Shelley says that her brother used to speak of the arsenic-swallo.ving as an accident, and Hogg himself says
the sanie elsewhere.
• Atlantic Monthly, p. 185.
When he first went to Oxford, Shelley's tastes were chiefly for metaphysics, poetry, and chemistry; the last he gradually slackened in, and at last dropped, and for mathematics he never showed any aptitude, though we find that he and his second wife were proposing to engage in this study together in 1820, and perhaps did so. As regards chemistry also, his taste still so far lingered that, at the end of 1811, in Keswick, he excited remark by experiments with hydrogen in his garden. A vivid flame was seen which alarmed the villagers; and his landlord gave Shelley notice to quit. “As his love of intellectual pursuits was vehement, and the vigour of his genius almost celestial, so were the purity and sanctity of his life most conspicuous." This is the testimony of Mr. Hogg; and, as he and Shelley became at once, and continued during their joint residence at Oxford, inseparable companions, no better evidence on the point can be attained or desired. It is true that Mr. Hogg, reporting a conversation with Mr. Shelley senior which took place very soon after the young men had left Oxford,' sets forth that he acquiesced in the paternal suspicion that Percy must be "rather wild,” and the context is such as would naturally suggest that “wild ” here signifies “rakish”; but, looking to Mr. Hogg's other statements on that subject, we must conclude that he only meant “harebrained ” or “unmanageable." Mrs. Shelley speaks of Percy in the same strain, but with much less authority, as being “of the purest habits in morals” when he left Oxford ; and so say other biographers,
"Life of Shelley, vol i. p. 306
expressly or tacitly. But here again Mr. Thornton Hunt: is an exception. “Accident has made me aware of facts which give me to understand that, in passing through the usual curriculum of a college-life in all its paths, Shelley did not go scatheless; but that, in tampering with venal pleasures, his health was seriously and not transiently injured. The effect was far greater on his mind than on his body.”
Shelley's next printed book, St. Irvyne, or the Rosicrucian, by a Gentleman of the University of Oxford, was published towards the middle of December 1810, on the author's own account. It is stated to have shared the fate of Zastrozzi in being a good deal noticed by the press, and not to the advantage of its moral tone. This novel is even greater nonsense than Zastrozzi, and the truncated confusion and unmeaning of its close exceed anything that the sane reader could anticipate : to talk of its being either moral or immoral is proportionately out of place, although a certain inflammability of temperament may be traced in it. Though only published at the end of 1810, St. Irvyne appears to have been written in 1809; for a letter from Shelley to Godwin, dated 10th January 1812, says that he had been acquainted with the Political Fustice of that author more than two years, and that St. Irvyne was composed before that period. The heroine's name, Megalena di Metastasio, is the most rememberable thing in this romance: her “symmetrical form," and the “sofa” on which she or somebody is sinking ever and anon, may also linger awhile on the memory, when “the gigantic Ginotti” with his elixir of life, "the guilty Wolfstein," and other fantoccini, have gone the way of all dolls. Godwin's St. Leon is reported to be mainly chargeable with the sin of procreating St. Irvyne. The atmosphere of absurdity which envelopes one while the book itself is in question clears aside when we learn that, to the credit of the reading public, St. Irvyne was quite a failure. The author had to confess, in August 1811, that he could not pay the bill of the
This gentleman, being then a mere child, was known to Shelley in England ; and, when a boy, saw him for two or three days in Italy. His reminiscences are interesting, and should be read by all Shelleyites ; but of course, on such a question as Shelley's morals at Oxford, he has no personal testimony to give. The phrase which he uses, Accident has made me aware of facts." &c., seems to point to some real discovery: if such there be it needed not to be bolstered up by giving to the passage in Epipsychidion (vol. ii. p. 357) which begins
“There, one whose voice was venomed melody," an interpretation in accordance with this supposed discovery. The interpretation appears to me both servilely literal and forced ; and, though I have felt bound not to suppress Me Hunt's statement, 1 cannot profess to attach, as the case stands, much weight to it.
publisher Stockdale ;' and, with the daring unteachableness of youth, he suggested whether the copyright of a series of Mora! and Metaphysical Essays might not do in lieu of pounds sterlirg. The bill, however, remained unpaid, and also the Essays unpublished. But I am anticipating.
Much about the same time that St. Irvyne appealed from London to an irresponsive public (indeed I think it must have been rather before than after?), the author was making a less unsuccessful literary venture in Oxford. One day he showed Hogg some poems he was about to publish anonymously : Hogg read them, and expressed, with true friendliness and obviously correct judgment, the opinion that they were not good enough. Shelley returning to the charge, his Mentor observed that the verses ought only to be issued as burlesques, if at all; and made a few alterations in them the more clearly to bring out their extravagances. The idea pleased Shelleya strong evidence of his substantial good sense and freedom from pettish vanity; the two friends set to work together, introducing a greater and greater amount of absurdity into the verses; and Hogg started the notion of attributing them on the title-page to one Margaret Nicholson, a washerwoman who, having in a mad fit attempted the life of George the Third, was then passing the remainder of her days in a lunatic asylum. The Oxonians, however, chose to number her among the defunct, and to invent a nephew of hers, John Fitzvictor, as editor of her "Posthumous Fragments." The printer, Mr. Munday, who was to have issued the serious poems at Shelley's cost, finding them withdrawn and the burlesques substituted, was so taken with the idea that he volunteered for the risk of publication himself; and the book appeared forthwith,-a very thin volume, but luxurious in paper and type. The general tone of it is a glorifying of revolutionary personages and sentiments---carried out in a spirit which the least acute reader perceives to be excessive, but which one might hardly, were it not for the explanations offered by Mr. Hogg, recognize as wilfully burlesqued. The poems, indeed, had a considerable success among Oxford men, with whom tall talk about liberty was a fashion; they were accepted as the genuine and slightly exalté but not precisely incongruous outpouring of an untutored
"A MS. journal of Dr. Polidori, penes me, says that the amount of the debt was about
Mr. Stockdale rated it at £300,“ principal and interest." St. Iruyne was published on or just before 20th December 1810; and the title-page of
sret Nicholson bears the date 1810. A facsimile reprint of the latter volume was Lately, an edition of but few copies.