1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, to Charlotte Bury, 15 March 1811; Letters from and to C. K. Sharp (1888) 1:442-43 [reprinted from Lady Charlotte Bury, Diary of the Times of George IV (1838)].



Christ Church, Oxford, 15th March 1811.

DEAR LORD —

... Talking of books, we have lately had a literary Sun shine forth upon us here [Oxford], before whom our former luminaries must hide their diminished heads — a Mr. Shelley, of University College, who lives upon arsenic, aquafortis, half-an-hour's sleep in the night, and is desperately in love with the memory of Margaret Nicholson. He hath published what he terms the Posthumous Poems, printed for the benefit of Mr. Peter Finnerty, which, I am grieved to say, though stuffed full of treason, is extremely dull; but the author is a great genius, and if he be not clapped up in Bedlam or hanged, will certainly prove one of the sweetest swans on the tuneful margin of the Charwell. Our College of Christ Church is so full of noblemen at present, that one's eyes require green spectacles to preserve them from the glare of the golden tufts among the peers. The Dukes of Leinster and Dorset are pre-eminent, and both very good men, though the one will never head an Irish rebellion, nor the other write a poem quite so pretty as "To all you ladies now on land." The Irish Duke is much cried up for his beauty, but he does not strike me as being remarkably handsome, because his nose is fashioned like a monkey, and he hath got what in Ireland is called "clober heels." As to Dorset, he is exactly like a sick canary bird in a hard frost; all the milliners in the place admire Lord Herbert, while the wives of the Dean and Canons affect to admire Lord Apsley, he is so monstrous genteel and sickly. Shelley's style is much like that of Moore burlesqued; for Frank is a very foul-mouthed fellow, and Charlotte, one of the most impudent brides that I ever met with in a book. Our Apollo next came out with a prose pamphlet in praise of atheism, which I have not as yet seen, and there appeared a monstrous romance in one volume, called St. Ircoyne, or the Rosicrucian. Here is another pearl of price! all the heroes are confirmed robbers and causeless murderers, while the heroines glide "en chemise" through the streets of Geneva, tap at the palazzo doors of their sweethearts, and on being denied admittance leave no cards, but run home to their warm beds, and kill themselves. If your lordship would like to see this treasure I will send it. Shelley's last exhibition is a poem on the State of Public Affairs. I fear, my dear lord, you will be quite disgusted with all this stuff, so I shall discretely make an end, requesting you to believe me your lordship's faithful servant,

C. R.