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Shelley meets Lord Byron — Sketch of Byron — Shel-
ley and Byrou contrasted — Their intimacy — Their
mode of life at Geneva — Thunder- storms over the
lake — Byron"s description of one in Childe Harold
— Boating on the lake — Opposite characteristics
of Byron and Shelley


Influence of Shelley on the mind of Byron' — Dr.
Polidori — His jealousy of Shelley — His vanity —
His caprices — His dramatic talents — Challenges
Shelley to a duel — Plan of a voyage round the
lake — Mortification of Polidori — His quarrel with
Byron — Timely reconciliation .. .. .. 17




Voyage of Byron and Shelley round the Lake-
Arrival at Hermance — At Nerni — At Evian — At
Meillerie — The Nouvelie Heloise — Departure from
Meillerie — A Squall on the Lake — Conduct ol
Lord Byron — Shelley's resignation — Safe arrival
at St. Gingoux — Visit to the Castle of Chillon —
Arrival at Clarens — The Bosquet de Julie — Ar-
rival at Lausanne — The prisoners of Chillon — Re-
turn to Mont Alegre . . . . . . . . 23


The " Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" — Shelley pro-
poses returning to England — His schemes of
travel — His visit to Chamouni — Description of
Mont Blanc — The Mer de Glace — The Glacier
de Boisson — The sources of the Arveiron . . 36


Return to Mont Alegre — Monk Lewis and ghost
stories — Strange effect on Shelley's imagination —
" Frankenstein" — The " Vampire" — Shelley's re-
turn to England .. .. .. .. 51


Shelley arrives in London — His intimacy with Leigh
Hunt — Their meetings at Hampstead — Paper-boat
building again — Shelley's domesticity — His love
of humour — His desponding moods — Anecdote of
his benevolence . . . . . . . . . . 55




Shelley meets John Keats — Sensitiveness of Keats —
Shelley meets James and Horace Smith — Charac-
ter of Horace Smith — Chancery suit against Shel-
ley — He is deprived of his children . . . . 68


Shelley marries Mary Godwin — His residence at
Great Marlow — Nature of his studies— His phi-
lanthropy — Mode of Life at Marlow . . . . 87


The " Revolt of Islam" — Mode of its composition —
Its character—" Prince Athanase" — Rosalind and
Helen — Pamphlet on Reform — Bad state of the
Poet's health — He proposes to visit Italy — The
feeling against him in England — Marlow Reminis-
cences . . . . , . . . . . . . 103


Shelley's departure from England — His arrival at
Milan — His literary efforts — " The Prometheus
Unbound" — Visits the Lake of Corad — Arrival at
Pisa — Proceeds to Leghorn — Visits the Baths of
Lucca— Translates the Symposium of Plato— His
journey to Florence — Arrival at Venice — Meeting
again with Lord Byron — Byron's life at Venice —
Julian and Maddalo .. .. .. .. 125




Shelley's residence at I Capuccini — Finishes the first
act of Prometheus Unbound — The hues written
among the Euganean Hills — Shelley proceeds to
Ferrara — To Bologna — Arrival at Rome — Arrival
at Naples — A romantic incident . . . . 136


Shelley's residence at Naples— Dejected state of his
mind — Poetry of this period — His correspondence
— His return to Rome — The Baths of Caracalla —
Shelley's description of Rome — He continues
" Prometheus Unbound" — Commences " The
Cenci" — The poet's mode of life at Rome . . 148


Shelley's arrival at Leghorn — He renews the ac-
quaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Gisborne — " The
Masque of Anarchy" — Shelley's steam-boat specu-
lation — Departure for Florence — " Peter Bell the
Third" — Shelley concludes the '' Prometheus Un-
bound" and the " Cenci" — Character of these
productions . . . . . . . . .... 1 GO


Shelley's life at Florence— The Quarterly Review —
Cowardly attack on Shelley — His removal to Pisa
—Description of Pisa— The " Ode to a Sky lark"
— Epistle to Mrs. Gisborne— The " Boat on the
Serchio" 191



The " Witch of Atlas"'— " Ode to Liberty"—" Ode

to Naples" — " CEdipus Tyrannus" — ''The Sen-
sitive Plant" — " The Cloud" — "Lines to a Critic"
— Shelley's letter to Southey — Its result — Effect
upon Shelley's mind .... .... .... 204


A romantic picture — Removal to Pisa — Nature of
the Poet's studies at this period — His continued
ill-health — Captain Medwin at Pisa — Animal mag-
netism — Its effect on Shelley — The Poet's youth-
ful appearance — His intimacy with Vacca .... 215


The Itahan revolution — Its failure — Shelley's inti-
macy with Greek patriots — Prince Mavrocordato
— The Greek revolution — Shelley writes "Hellas"
— John Keats — His poetry — Shelley writes to
the Quarterly on Kelts' behalf — Arrival of Keats
in Italy — Effects of the journey on his health —
Severn's devotion to Keats — Death of Keats —
Reflections on his genius and character .... 224


*' Adonais" — Its character and beauty — Its recep-
tion — A crilici>m upon it — Improvement in Shel-
ley's health — Sgricci the improvisatore — Shelley's



intimacy with Mr. and Mrs. Williams — Character
of Williams — His tastes similar to Shelley's —
Their joint love of boating — Their boat on the
Amo — Dangerous voyage to Leghorn — Accom-
_' plishments of Mrs. Williams .... .... 239


II Signore Professore — His singular character — His
abilities — His extravagance and dissipation — Con-
sequences upon himself — His resources for pro-
curing money — The original of the Epipsychidion
— Her extreme beauty — Her character — Her his-
tory — Shelley's introduction to her — Her mar-
riage — Her death .... .... .... 252


The Epipsychidion — Its spiritualisms — Invitation
from Lord Byron — Shelley departs for Ravenna
— Meeting with Byron — La Guiccioli — Byron
domesticated — His generosity — His interest in
Italian politics — Suspected by the Government —
Flight of La Guiccioli from Ravenna — Shelley
again scandalised .... .... .... 266


Project for starting the " Liberal " — Instructions to
Leigh Hunt — Shelley returns to Pi?a — His pre-
parations for the arrival of Lord Byron — Arrival
at Pisa of La Guiccioli — Arrival of Lord Byron



— Intercourse of the poets — The " Deformed
Transformed" — Shelley's criticism on it — De-
ference of Lord Byrou — Pastime of the two poets

— Shelley's modesty — Insincerity of Moore —
Byron's tribute to Shelley's merits .... .... 279


Want of proper understanding between Byron and
Shelley — 'Apparent insincerity of Byron — An
affray in the streets of Pisa — Insolence of the sol-
diery, encouraged by the Government — Banish-
ment of Count Gamba — Lord Byron quits Pisa —
Instance of Shelley's impetuosity .... .... 290


Shelley's continued residence at Pisa — An excursion
to Spezia — Shelley proposes building a yacht —
Lord Byron's dinner parties — Shelley's neglect of
his art — Proposes writing " Charles the First" —
Its slow progress — Character of this uncompleted
work . . . . . , . . . . . . :^99


Shelley's longings for the sea shore— He decides on
removing to Spezia — An excursion in search of a
house — The Poet's impatience — Accidents by the
way — His residence at Casa Magni — Description of
Spezia — Isolated position of the Casa Magni —
Arrival of Shelley's yacht — Voyage down to Via
Reggio — An adventure .... .... .... 307




The '' Bolivar" — Improved state of Shelley's health
—The Triumph of Life— The " Liberal" again—
Shelley's translations — His comparisons of Goethe
and Calderon — Shelley a Somnambulist again — A
strange vision .... .... .... .... 316


Leigh Hunt sets sail for Italy — Is driven back by a
storm — Critical position of Leigh Hunt — Shelley's
appeal ■ to Byron for assistance — Leigh Hunt's
arrival at Genoa — Leigh Hunt's prospects — Shel-
ley's impatience to meet him — Departure for
Leghorn .... .... .... .... 324


Shelley's arrival at Leghorn — Critical state of Leigh
Hunt's aflFairs — Exile of the Gambas — Proposed
departure of Lord Byron — Settlement of Leigh
Hunt at Pisa — Shelley at Pisa — His letter to his
wife — To Mrs. Williams — Return to Leghorn —
Sets sail from Leghorn — Darkness — Terrible sus-
pense — Death of the Poet — Burning of his body 332




Shelley meets Lord Byron — Sketch of Byron — Shelley
and Byron contrasted — Their intimacy — Their mode
of life at Geneva — Thunder-storms over the lake —
Byron's description of one in Childe Harold — Boating
on the lake — Opposite characteristics of Byron ar.d

Besides the contemplation of the sublime
scenery of Lake Leman, Shelley enjoyed the
additional advantage of making the acquaintance
of Lord Byron, at the Hotel de Secheron.
The two poets arrived at Geneva almost on
the same day, and that being the only rendez-
vous in those days for travellers, they were not
long in becoming intimate.

VOL. 11. B


Lord Byron, as every one is aware, had
quitted England, never again to return, under
very painful circumstances. He, too, had been
tossed about on the rude waves of fortune, and
subject to the many strange caprices which seem
so especially to beset the family of genius.

Born into the world of very discordant
parents, a spendthrift father, and a very violent-
tempered mother, but nevertheless, bringing
with him considerably more than his just pro-
portion of the " Eternal Harmonies," na-
ture appears to have commenced the work of
contrariety, by endowing him at once with a
fine face and a lame foot ; a species of con-
tradiction which attended him through life,
whether to mark his chequered fortunes or the
singular inconsistencies of his complicated and
inexplicable character.

Subjected in childhood exclusively, through
domestic discord, to the care of his mother, who
alternately fondled and reviled him ; now over-
whelming him with caresses, now reproaching
him with his lameness, he was not likely to
repress any of those ungovernable passions
which he had alreadvtoo much inherited from her.


But with all the impress of genius upon it,
with all the peculiar characteristics which a
celebrated writer has traced out as belonging to
its growth and development, he likewise ex-
hibited a heart capable, by proper culture and
proper usage, of being moulded to purposes
of true nobility and greatness. Quick of
susceptibilities, generous in its impulses, and
dominant in courage, capable of warm affections
and strong emotions, while it was far from being
intractable, and so highly sensitive and so pas-
sionate in its outbursts as often to excite alarm.

Passing rapidly from the penniless orphan to
the proud dignity of a noble, and the possessor
of wealth, he became too early the uncontrolled
arbiter of such fortunes as could not have fallen
upon one of his temperament without producing
great mental intoxication,

While yet a boy he enjoyed all the privileges,
and was admitted to all the rights of manhood ;
the intemperance of youth, with its many in-
discretions, was without check or curb, and there
were not wanting associates to pander to the
wishes, to lead to excesses, or to flatter the vanity
of a stripling lord.

B 2


In the very freshness of his boyish fancy he
became enamoured of a young maiden, then in
the first flush of womanhood. An intimacy of
a few weeks was sufficient to make an impression
on his susceptible heart for hfe ; his young
imagination surrounded her with all the per-
fections of maidenhood ; but the fair object of his
passionate love, already betrothed to another,
looked with indifference upon her youthful ad-
mirer, and was soon afterwards wedded, and lost
to him for ever !

This circumstance, more than any other,
served to direct his future career. Had his suit
been successful, had the lady been willing to
await his majority, he might have been married,
and have sunk down, as he tells us, into domestic
quiet ; his brilliant talents have wasted in inaction,
or might have faintly displayed themselves in
some vapid effusions, such as would have handed
down his name to a hmited posterity in the list
of noble authors.

As it was, he awoke from this short dream of
happiness, with the wounded feelings of an over-
sensitive nature, to the busy realities of life ;
which had, to him, become shaded by the twilight
hues of poetry.


Excessive indulgence, however, gave a morbid
character to his feelings, and something too
much of an overweening vanity aggravated their

While the lady was in no way to be blamed,
the course adopted by Lord Byron to efface her
image from his mind, if, indeed, we may so
regard the wilful excesses into which he seemed
so naturally to fall, was that of an ill-regulated
and very ordinary mind. However, that rest-
lessness of character was established, and the
unfitness for the calm tranquillity of domestic
life, which afterwards distinguished him.

His genius soon declared itself; and the
manner in which his first publication was received
was an additional incentive for bringing forth
his dormant energies. Enriching his mind with
images from the vast storehouse of nature, in
the course of travel, he arose rapidly to fame ;
and, while yet a very young man, found himself
foremost in the ranks of literature ; sought and
admired by all, courted and caressed in every
circle of society.

At this brilliant epoch of his life, he imposed
upon himself a marriage, which, from the un-


congenial characters of the contracting parties,
as well as from the different sentiments with
which it was undertaken, held out but little
promise of success.

The rapidity of his rise to the highest
popularity and public estimation was now only
surpassed by the rapidity with which he fell,
step by step, till every indignity, which could be,
was heaped upon his head. His circumstances
had, for some time previous to his marriage,
been at a very low ebb, which, it had been hoped,
that event might rectify ; but the desultory
habits he had contracted were unconquerable,
and ruin began to threaten him on every side.

When his affairs were at the worst, his wife
parted from him in seeming love, but concealing
in her heart the cold determination of never
meeting him again.

On this event followed the estrangement of all
his friends, and, in some instances, those who were
indebted to him by obligations conferred in more
prosperous times ; then, the various circles in
which he had moved the glass of fashion and
the mould of form, the admired and observed of
all observers, among whom he had been looked


up to as a hero, almost worshipped as a god,
turned from him as if there had been contami-
nation in his presence, till, at last, he was shut
out from the very pale of society, with every
opprobrious epithet conferred upon him that
malice could suggest or vulgarity devise.

" In one short year," says Moore, " he passed
through every variety of domestic misery ; — he
had seen his hearth eight or nine times profaned
by the visitations of the law, and was saved
only from a prison by the privileges of his rank-

" He had alienated, as far as they had ever
been his, the affections of his wife ; and now,
rejected by her, and condemned by the world,
was betaking himself to an exile which had not
even the appearance of being voluntary, as the
excommunicating voice of society seemed to
leave him no other resource."

Such were the circumstances under which
Lord Byron quitted England, and under which
Shelley and he first met at Geneva.

They were neither ignorant of the other on
their first meeting, for on the publication of
Queen Mab, Shelley had forwarded a copy to
Byron ; and of this poem his lordship had ex-


pressed great admiration. The letter which
accompanied this volume, strange to say, had
miscarried ; in it Shelley had expressed a desire
to become acquainted with Byron, therefore,
as Moore observes, on their present meeting at
Geneva, there was no want of disposition to-
wards acquaintance on either side, and an inti-
macy almost immediately sprang up between them.

This was attended with many mutual ad-
vantages, for never were two poetic tempera-
ments more calculated to improve each other by
intercourse, than those of Byron and Shelley.

There was a similarity in their destinies,
though proceeding from different causes ; and
what, perhaps, might not inaptly be termed a
strong family likeness between them ; the face
of Byron being the more sensual, and that of
Shelley, the more purely spiritual.

Both gifted by nature with " the vision and
the faculty divine," they were constituted never-
theless, to receive very different impressions, from
similar circumstances.

Thrown upon their own resources at an age
when they were too young for such responsi-
bility, they had each followed their own peculiar


bias alike unassisted, and without check, the
mind of the one soaring for ever heavenward,
with only the dream-like consciousness of its
associations with this lower sphere ; the other,
inclining for ever earthward, with but the oc-
casional vivid and briUiant conception of its
higher origin.

Both possessed the powerful elements of be-
coming great, and had their talents been pro-
perly directed, they might have become bene-
factors to their race, though it may be fairly
doubted whether Byron's mind was not the
more practical of the two.

But extremes are useful to no one, and
while Shelley was becoming more and more
oblivious of earth in his dream-like philosophy,
swathing himself in splendid and gorgeous
visions that had their root and stem in the
divine idea of love, Byron was fast narrowing
his soul to the compass of a gourd, till he was
beginning to centralize the universe in himself ;
viewing all things from that point of view, and
raihng against humanity because of his own in-
dividual suftering, which, after all, was not u
tithe of that of his companion.

B 2


The first fortnight of their residence at
Geneva, the two poets lived in the closest
intimacy under the same roof, at the Secheron,
spending their mornings in their own intellectual
circle, and their evenings on the lake, mostly ac-
companied by the ladies and Dr. Polidori,
Lord Byron's travelling physician.

Shelley then removed to a little cottage on
the opposite side of the Lake, called the Cam-
pagne Chapuis, exchanging, as he tells us, the
view of Mont Blanc and her snowy aiguiUes for
the dark frowning Jura.

The lake was still at their feet, and a little
harbour contained their boat, in which the party
still enjoyed their evening excursions on the
water ; but the brilliant skies that had first
welcomed them, now changed for an almost per-
petual rain, confining them much to their

The thunder-storms that here visited them
were grand and terrifiic in the extreme.

" We watch them," says a letter, " as they
approach from the opposite side of the lake, ob-
serving the lightning play among the clouds in
various parts of the heavens, and dart in jagged


figures upon the piny heights of Jura, dark with
the shadow of the overhanging cloud, while per-
haps the sun is shining cheerily upon us.

" One night, we enjoyed a finer storm than I
had ever hefore beheld. The lake was lit up —
the pines on Jura made visible, and all the scene
illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy black-
ness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful
bursts over our heads, amid the darkness."

Speaking of this thunder-storm, another
letter, written by one of the party, says : —

" Apropos of thunder storms, we have had
some very fine ones, one night in particular, when
the lightnings were sent in quick succession from
three different quarters of the sky — but by and
by, you will see a very fine description of this
same storm in the third canto of Childe Harold.
I will not, therefore, mar your pleasure before-
hand." A description which must live in the
memory of every reader.

Lord Byron had taken a cottage called the
Belle Rive, which, standing on the high banks,
rose immediately behind the Campagne Chapuis,
but outstaying his new companion a fortnight
at the Secheron, he, despite the stormy weather


which had set in, crossed the Lake every
evening to visit him, accompanied by Polidori,
returning in the stillness of night, breaking the
silence which surrounded him, by singing the
Tyrolese song of Liberty, which told his ap-
proach long before he was seen gliding over
its darkened waters.

The passion for boating w^as remarkably
strong in the two poets ; and in this beautiful
region, says Moore, they had more than ordinary
temptations to indulge in it.

Not unfrequently their excursions were pro-
longed into the hours of moonlight ; and Shelley
was in the habit of lying down at the bottom of
the boat gazing at the starry heavens, and sur-
rendering himself to the sublime aspirations that
arose out of the contemplation of all things that
surrounded him, while Byron, as Moore tells
us, would lean, abstractedly, over the side, lost
in the all-absorbing task of moulding his throng-
ing thoughts into shape.

Here everything was calculated to strike upon
the finest chords of their natures, whether to lift
up the soaring imagination of the one to the
illimitable regions of the spiritual, or to awaken


the faculties of the other to the grandeur and
glory of the universe, as it appeared before him,
a palpable reality.

Their opposite pecularities of thought were
brought at once into bold contrast, arising, as
they did, out of the contemplation of the same
objects, nor did they fail to exhibit themselves
on various occasions.

Byron, naturally gloomy and melancholy, was
more prone to look upon the dark than the bright
side of existence ; and the wrongs he had suf-
fered did much, at this period of his life, to super-
induce that tendency.

The tinge of morbid misanthropy which
overhung his fine intellect, led him too much to
separate himself from the rest of the world, and
to judge of things as they affected him indi-
vidually, thereby inducing a certain self-com-
placency, which could but narrow the circle of
his ideas.

He was of the earth, earthy ; and as the earth
was the theatre of his actions, so was it the
boundary of his thoughts. He could compass
the mystery and the majesty thereof, and could
people it at will with bright creations of his own


poetic fancy. In the worship of nature, in the
contemplation of her glory and magnificence,
he could understand his own httleness in com-
parison ; which produced in him alternately a
feeling of impatience and something akin to
despair, with the aspiration to be something
greater than he was ; an aspiration which, with
him, partook more of the character of one re-
belling against, than of one desiring to fulfil his

Here his power ended, his philosophy was far
from being elevated, and a not over - refined
theory of materiahsm bounded the horizon of his

With an intellect far less grasping than his
companion, he had never risen, either by accident
or his own inherent energies, into the more un-
trodden ways of thought which become the prin-
cipal charm in the study of " Divine philosophy."

With Shelley it was far otherwise, he hved

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Online LibraryCharles S MiddletonShelley and his writings (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 17)