1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton, August 1824; Letters, ed. Thomas Noon Talfourd (1837) 2:159.



I can no more understand Shelley than you can. His poetry is "thin-sown with profit or delight." Yet I must point to your notice, a poem conceived and expressed with a witty delicacy. It is that addressed to one who hated him, but who could not persuade him to hate him again. His coyness to the other's passion — (for hatred demands a return as much as love, and starves without it) — is most arch and pleasant. Pray like it very much. For his theories and nostrums they are oracular enough, but I either comprehend 'em not, or there is "miching malice" and mischief in 'em, but, for the most part, ringing with their own emptiness. Hazlitt said well of 'em — "Many are the wiser or better for reading Shakespeare, but nobody was ever wiser or better for reading Shelley."