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is difficult at first to see why it should be so difficult as apparently it is for most judges to consider a figure of this kind with any degree of equanimity. But it is evident that if on the one hand certain recent writers have been whirled by the enthusiasm of righteous reverence into the extravagance of apostolic adoration which bids them preach him to all men as a sort of poetic Messiah, wounded in the house of his friends, despised and rejected of men in his own generation in all things like as the greatest other poets are, but without sin (to speak of) in person or in verse-on the other hand there are not yet wanting judges who dený even such claims on his behalf as would afford him any place at all in the front rank of poets and of men. Those who, like the present writer, desire above all things to preserve in all things the golden mean of scrupulous moderation, will content themselves with taking account of a few indisputable facts rather than of many disputable opinions.

Mr. Arnold has spoken with exemplary contempt of Lord Jeffrey's style and principles of criticism : but whenever he speaks of Shelley he borrows from the old Edinburgh fencing-school the rusty foil of that once eminent reviewer, to show off against his object of attack the very same tricks of fence which Jeffrey made use of, with a skill and strength of hand at least equal to his pupil's, against the struggling reputation of Wordsworth. This can do no manner of harm to Shelley, but it must of necessity affect our estimate of the value of his assailant's opinion on the subject of other men's poetry. Wordsworth, to Lord Jeffrey, was merely the poet of idiot boys, preaching pedlars, bibulous waggoners, and the mendicant class in general: his poetry was typified in Alice Fell's torn cloak—a wretched, wretched rag indeed.' But Lord Jeffrey did not add that those who extol him as the poet of rags, the poet of clothes-tubs, are only saying that he did not, in fact, lay hold upon the poet's right subject-matter.' He would have known that outside the all-miscreative brain' of a critical jester these erroneous persons had and could have no existence: that those who extolled Wordsworth, though the scope of their admiration might or might not include the poems which dealt with such matters, extolled him as the poet of things very different from these. And Jeffrey's imitator in this trick of criticism cannot surely affect to imagine that those who extol him as the poet of clouds, the poet of sunsets,'-if any there be whose estimate of his poetry is based exclusively or inainly on their value for such attributes of his genius

are in any truer or fitter sense to be accepted as representatives of Shelley's real admirers, than are those sickly drivellers over the name of another great poet, the fulsome worshippers of weakness whose nauseous adoration Mr. Arnold has so justly rebuked, to be fairly accepted as representatives of those who share his admiration for the genius of Keats. These, I must be allowed to say, are the sort of critical tricks which recoil upon the critic who makes use of them for a showy and bazardous instant. Those to whom, as to the humble writer at present engaged in rash controversy with the most distinguished Englishman of his time,' the name of Shelley seems to be indisputably the third—if not the second-on the list of our greatest poets, no more extol him as exclusively or principally the poet of clouds and sunsets than Mr. Arnold extols Wordsworth as the poet of rags and tatters or Keats as the poet of underbred and weakly sensuousness. Not that we do not prefer the nebulosity of Shelley at his cloudiest to the raggedness of Wordsworth at his raggedest or the sickliness of Keats at his sickliest : but this is a point quite beside the main question. Averting our faces from the clouds and sunsets whose admirers give so much offence to Mr. Arnold, what we see in his own judgment on Shelley and Byron might be symbolically described as a sunset of critical judgment in a cloud of hazy paradox. It is a singular certainty that on the subject of Shelley this noble poet and brilliant critic has never got beyond what may be called the Johnny Keats' stage of criticism. The Shelley of his imagination has exactly as much in common with the author of the Ode to Liberty as the Keats of Gifford's or Wilson's had in common with the author of the Ode to a Nightingale. The main features of the phantom's character are apparently these : enthusiastic puerility of mind, incurable unsoundness of judgment, resistless excitability of emotion and helpless irability of intelligence, consumptive wakefulness of fancy and feverish impotence of reason, a dreamily amiable uselessness and a sweetly fantastic imbecility: in a word, the qualities of a silly angel. I venture, in the face of a very general opinion, to doubt whether such a poet as this ever existed: but I do not doubt at all that none was ever further from any resemblance to such a type than Percy Bysshe Shelley. He wrote very silly stories at school, and villainously bad verses at college : but it is not on this undeniable rather than exceptional fact that the theory of his inspired idiocy--for that is really what it comes to-bas ever, to my knowledge, been grounded. Only the hysterical school of critics would deny or dream of denying that until the beneficent influence of Coleridge and Wordsworth had wrought its full effect upon the two greatest among the younger men of their time, Shelley, in the first stage of his apprenticeship to verse, might bave been accurately described or defined as Hayley in the spangles of a harlequin, and Keats as Rosa Matilda in a shopboy's jacket. This is even more certain, if possible, than that Keats afterwards showed himself equal--if not, at his very best, superior to Wordsworth, in poetry pure and simple ; or that Shelley, if neither be nor any man that ever lived could outsoar the highest flights of Coleridge's transcendent song, did far more work of the highest kind in eight or nine years than Coleridge in upwards of forty; and that in point of manly conscience and moral emotion, elevation of nature and forti

tude of mind, the gulf is not wider between Dryden and Milton, between Horace and Sophocles, than between Coleridge and Shelley. This, however, may be considered insufficient proof that he was other, after all, than a dreamer of dreams, a dweller among the intangible and visionary creations of a gentle, fitful, disorderly, moonstruck sort of mind. But it is evident that in Shelley the reasoning faculty was comparatively ripe before the imaginative or creative power had outgrown its greenest and sourest stage of crudity. I certainly do not propose to set up his early philosophical or political essays as models of original or profound reflection, of untimely maturity in reasoning or subtle conclusiveness of combination in the recast and rearrangement of other men's positions; nor probably did the boys themselves who compiled that luckless little pamphlet mistake their • Necessity of Atheism 'for a final and exhaustive piece of ratiocination : but as a neat and compact summary of a very simple argument it is surely far from discreditable to their intelligence: and as an answer to many far cruder and shallower forms of appeal or objection on behalf of more popular assumptions, it is in its way and in its degree neither ineffective nor insufficient. More juvenile echoes of more facile conclusions on the other side of the question might have earned for the young champions of orthodoxy the admiring patronage of applause for precocious rectitude of spiritual intuition and premature command of speculative thought. Shelley's subsequent Essay on Deism is surely a work of remarkable precocity and promise for a man too young to have taken his degree; remarkable alike for its grave and sedate command of irony sustained through the whole course of the oblique and double-edged argument, and for its steady grasp and manipulation of the subject from the serious and covert point of view which it was the young controversialist's design at once to indicate and to veil. In politics, Shelley looked steadfastly forward to the peaceful and irreversible advance of republican principle, the gradual and general prevalence of democratic spirit throughout Europe, till the then omnipotent and omnipresent forces of universal reaction should be gently but thoroughly superseded and absorbed. Wordsworth could apparently see nothing between existing Georgian or Bourbonian society and a recrudescence of revolutionary chaos but the maintenance of such divine institutions as rotten boroughs and capital punishment. I do not ask which poet beld the nobler and the more inspiriting views of the immediate future: I ask which of the two showed himself the befogged, befooled, self-deluded, unpractical dreamer among the clouds and sunsets of his chosen solitude and his chosen faith, and which approved bimself the man of insight and foresight, the more practical and the more rational student of contemporary history, alike in its actual pageant of passing phenomena and in its moral substance of enduring principles and lessons? I know nothing more amusing and amazing than the placid imperturbable persistency

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with which the conservative or reactionary class is prone to claim and assume-of all things in the world—the credit of being at any rate the practical party, as opposed to the dreamy and visionary herd of hot-brained young poets and crack-brained old enthusiasts. For example, it was, if I rightly remember, in the fifth or sixth year of the empire of cutpurses and cutthroats, that a young freshman of eighteen or nineteen was courteously invited to give his opinion on the French and Italian questions of that year in a gathering of distinguished as well as grave and reverend seniors, and on his modest avowal that he did venture to believe in the principles and teaching of men who ventured to believe in the realization of Italian unity, and to disbelieve in the durable solidity of the fortune which had seated Jonathan Wild the Less on the imperial throne of France, found without the slightest touch of surprise that such an ingenuous confession of wrongheaded boyish perversity was received with a general kindly smile of amusement, and a kindly particular exhortation to retain as long as he could find it possible to retain these enthusiastic illusions so natural to his age. And in effect, even in face of the crushing refutation which has since been supplied by the practical and unanswerable evidence of historic facts, be has not seen reason to forego them even at the present day. Mr. Arnold has chosen as a subject for special praise—indeed, as the crowning and redeeming point of interest in an otherwise commonplace if not unworthy character-Byron's aspirations after a republic, his expressed conviction that the kingtimes are fast finishing,' his full and whole-hearted acceptance of the assured prospect that there will be blood shed like water and tears like mist, but the peoples will conquer in the end.' Mr. Arnold can scarcely, I should imagine, be readier than I to give all due credit and all possible sympathy to the writer of these wise and noble words : but he seems to overlook the fact that if this feature in Byron's character is deserving of such credit and such sympathy, in Shelley's, whose whole nature was pervaded and harmonized by the inspiration of this faith, it is tenfold more worthy of reverence and regard. Mr. Arnold is fond of scriptural and especially of Pauline illustrations: it is probably the influence of his example which brings to my mind the difference between the chief captain of Jerusalem and the apostle his prisoner. With a great sum had Claudius Lysias obtained the freedom of a Roman citizen : but Paul was free born. Byron had attained to his faith in the future of republican Europe and the fall of existing institutions at a heavy cost of personal disappointment, dissatisfaction, and irritation with his own circumstances and experiences : but Shelley was born so high ': it was in the inevitable and unalterable essence of his nature to dally with the wind, and scorn the sun. For all that on Mr. Arnold's own showing deserves praise in Byron, Shelley deserves praise incomparably more exalted and unqualified. But Mr. Arnold, in a passage which if the argu

ment would allow me to pass it over I should really be reluctant to transcribe, affirms that Byron threw himself upon poetry as his organ; and in poetry his topics were not Queen Mab, and the Witch of Atlas, and the Sensitive Plant, they were the upholders of the old order, George the Third, and Lord Castlereagh, and the Duke of Wellington, and Southey, and they were the canters and tramplers of the great world, and they were his enemies and himself.' If I wanted an instance of provincial and barbarian criticism, of criticism inspired by a spirit of sour unreasonableness, a spirit of bitterness and darkness, I should certainly never dream of seeking further than this sentence for the illustration required. It is almost too contemptibly easy to retort in kind by observing that when Shelley threw himself upon poetry as his organ, his topics were not Hours of Idleness, and Hints from Horace, and the Waltz, they were the redemption of the world by the martyrdom of righteousness, and the regeneration of mankind through 'Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance'; and they were the heroism of Beatrice and the ascension of Adonais, and they were the resurrection of Italy and of Greece, and they were the divinest things of nature, made more divine through the interpretation of love infallible and the mastery of insuperable song. But so to retort, though the reply would be as perfectly legitimate as the parody is exactly accurate, were to answer a perverse man of genius according to his, perversity; and I will rather content myself with a serious indication of this astonishing criticism as matter for serious regret-not, assuredly, on Shelley's account; nor even, perhaps, on Byron's.


(To le conclude:1.)


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