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MAYNARD'S ENGLISH CLASSIC SERIES.-No. 85.
THE SKYLARK AND ADONAIS.
WITH OTHER POEMS.
ODE TO THE WEST WIND.
OF JOHN KEATS.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.
With Entroduction and Erplanatory Notes
BY J. W. ABERNETHY, PH.D.,
29, 31, AND 33 East NINETEENTH STREET.
New Series, No. 86. December 1, 1898. Published Monthly. Subscription Price, $1.00,
Entered at Post Otfice, New York, as Secoud-class Matter,
(From Matthew Arnold's “Essays in Criticism."]
And so we have come back at last to our original Shelley—to the Shelley of the lovely and well-known picture, to the Shelley with flushed, feminine, artless face, the Shelley “ blushing like a girl” of Trelawny. Professor Dowden gives us some further attempts at portraiture. One by a Miss Rose, of Shelley at Mar- · low. “He was the most interesting figure I ever saw; his eyes like a deer's, bright and rather wild; his white throat unfettered; his slender but, to me, almost faultless shape; his brown long coat with curling lambs' wool collar and cuffs—in fact, his whole appearance-are as fresh in ny recollection as an occurrence of yesterday.”
Feminine enthusiasm may be deemed suspicious, but a Captain Kennedy must surely be able to keep his head. Capiain Kennedy was quartered at Horsham in 1813, and saw Shelley when he was on a stolen visit, in his father's absence, at Field Place: “He received me with frankness and kindliness, as if he had known me from childhood and at once won my heart. I fancy I see him now as he sat by the window, and hear his voice, the tones of wbich impressed me with his sincerity and simplicity. His resemblance to his sister Elizabeth was as striking as if they had been twips. His eyes were most pressive, his comp kion beautifully fair, his features exquisitely fine; his hair was dark, and no peculiar attention to its arrangement was manifest. In person he was slender and gentlemanlike, but inclined to stoop; his gait was decidedly not military. The general appearance indicated great delicacy of constitution. One would at once pronounce of him that he was different from other men. There was an earnestness in his manner and such perfect gentleness of breeding and freedom from everything artificial, as charmed every one. I never met a man who so immediately won upon me.” Mrs. Gisborne's son, who knew Shelley well at Leghorn, declared Captain Kennedy's description of him to be “the best and most truthful I have ever seen.".
To all these we have to add the charm of the man's writingsof Shelley's poetry. It is bis poetry, above everything else, which for many people establish that he is an angel, Of bis poetry I have not space now to speak, but let no one suppose that a want of humor and a self-delusion such as Shelley's have no effect upon a man's poetry. The man Shelley, in very truth, is not entirely sane, and Shelley's poetry is not entirely sane either. The Shelley of actual life is a vision of beauty and radiance, indeed, but availing nothing, effecting nothing-and in poetry, no less than in life, he is a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating, in the void, his luminous wings in vain.
To sum up all in a word, he was a creature of the most singular benevolence. This appeared in the minutest as well as the greatest actions of his life. It was the grace of his manner no less than the virtue of bis heart. Lord Byron once said that Shelley was the completest gentleman he ever knew. He was regardful of the happiness of others, not always showing it in the vulgar way, by relieving their distresses, but by consulting all their shades of feeling. At the same time, he was not unmindful of the larger and broader manifestations of good-will. A never-ceasing course of active effort showed that his kindness for his fellows was not a sentiment but a principle. It was both good-wishing and good-doing. It was beneficence as well as benevolence. He who could walk the wards of a hospital filled with dangerous diseases, that he might qualify himself to minister to the diseases of the poor, must have possessed, not the sickly sentimentalism of Rousseau, but the philanthropy of a Howard. He who could give the half of his whole income to a single work of charity (the building a dike to prevent inundations upon the huts of a poor settlement) must have possessed a genuine sympathy. He who, when his funds were exhausted, could pawn his books, or favorite instruments of science, to help a needy scholar, to cover a paked child, or give warmth and plenty to the hearth of a destitute widow, and be more careful to couceal his deeds from the world than others are to publish them, was actuated by no theatrical love of display, but by a sincere and heart-felt fellow-feeling with his race.—THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY was born at Field Place, near Horsham in Sussex, August 4, 1792. He was the eldest of six children and the heir to a baronetcy. His father, Sir Timothy Shelley, was a wealthy country gentleman, proud of his lineage, and unfortunately possessed of a moral austerity that early brought him into disastrous conflict with his wildly-inspired son. The poet's early years were spent at Field Place with his four sisters; when ten years old, he was sent to a private academy, and two years later to Eton. He learned the classic languages “almost by in. tuition," and astonished his friends with the fluency of his Latin versification; his chief delight, however, was physical science, a taste for which he long retained. He devoured the extravagant romances of the period, and recorded indefinitely the flights of his own imagination in juvenile verses and tales. His desire for knowledge was insatiable; he possessed a remarkable power of memory, and read with astonishing rapidity. • No student ever read more assiduously. He was to be found, book in hand, at all hours; reading in season and out of season; at table, in bed, and especially during a walk; not only in the quiet country, and in retired paths; not only at Oxford, in the public walks, and High Street, but in the most crowded thoroughfares of London."
At Eton Shelley was unpopular. The qualities that separated him from the world in after life were early manifested-extreme sensitiveness, delicacy of tastes, impulsive and tender feelings, hatred of shams and conventions, intolerance of authority, and uncompromising hostility to tyranny and injustice in every form. “He was all passion,” says Mrs. Shelley, “passionate in his resistance to an injury, passionate in his love." He organized a rebellion against the odious fagging system, and the brutal sports of his foot-ball loving companions, so generally deemed essential to manliness, aroused in him only the enthusiasm of disgust. Naturally enough, he was called “ Mad Shelley." At Oxford he was equally singular in his conduct and studies.