1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Anonymous, Obituary New Monthly Magazine NS 6 (October 1822) 472-73.



In a storm off Reggia on the 8th of Aug, P. B. Shelley, Esq., eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, Bart. of Castle Goring. He was sailing in a pleasure boat with a friend, Captain Williams of the Fusileers, when the boat overset, and he was drowned. Mr. Shelley was in the 30th year of his age. His last work was "Hellas," a dramatic poem, called forth by the recent events in Greece, in which he took the warmest Interest, and dedicated it to Prince Alexander Maurocordato, whose friendship he enjoyed, and for whom he expressed the highest admiration Mr. Shelley was a man of talents of a very high order, but they have not been justly appreciated. His opinions were opposed to a strong party in politics, which had he ranked on its side would have made the freedom and openness of those opinions the proof of virtuous honesty, or, at most, the "venial error" of youth. The reverse being the case, however, the latitude of his ideas both prevented his receiving common justice from those who would be thought the impartial literary dictators of the day, and furnished them with a ground of attack which they systematically used; without regard to truth or honour, to defame and persecute him. Whatever maybe our ideas of Mr. Shelley's sentiments on points on which we cannot agree with him, his private character was most estimable; and he had the merit, and a merit of the very first order in these days it is, of being no hypocrite. Mr. Shelley was an optimist and enthusiast, who imagined in his youthful reveries that man was capable of greater happiness than be seems to enjoy, and a much more worthy being than be will ever be this side the millennium. His notions were often romantic, frequently absurd to the philosopher, but never directed to any object but what he imagined was for the benefit of his fellow men, to relieve whose distresses he often involved himself in difficulties, and, disregarding the sneer of worldly-minded prudence, looked solely to the good he could effect. Such a disposition would naturally be led into acts that were an aberration from the beaten track of the multitude which always thinks itself in the right. Those matters of opinion which rest between his Creator and him must be left to the beneficence that watches and orders all things and does unerringly what is right. Mr. Shelley has never been fairly treated as a poet; his works are full of wild beauties and original ideas, too much intermixed with fanciful theory, but they display a richness of language and imagination rarely surpassed. He published "Prometheus unbound," and "Cenci," a tragedy, with some minor poems. "Queen Mab," a poem written when very young and of which the tendency was most indefensible, was printed for a few friends only. Some years after a copy got into the hand of a sordid and piratical bookseller, who gave notice of publishing it:; and, on being remonstrated with and told that it was a youthful production that the author wished to be suppressed, said he did not care; Mr. Shelley could get no injunction from the Chancellor against him, and he should print it. Mr. Shelley had avowed his retraction of several of the theories promulgated in it, the offspring of youthful inexperience and enthusiasm. Mr. Shelley has left a widow and children behind him.