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he would bring us, as he drew them in the boldness of his first
Before, however, we do this, we will discharge our duty to Mr.
“ An orphan with my parents lived, whose eyes
What wert thou then? a child most infantine,
She moved upon this earth, a shape of brightness,
As mine own shadow was this child to me,
Though by a bitter wound my trusting heart was cleft."-p. 42. These, with all their imperfections, are beautiful stanzas; they are, however, of rare occurrence :-had the poem many more such, it could never, we are persuaded, become popular. Its merits and its faults equally conspire against it; it has not much ribaldry or voluptuousness for prurient imaginations, and no personal scandal for the malicious; and even those on whom it might be expected to act most dangerously by its semblance of enthusiasm, will have stout hearis to proceed beyond the first canto. As a whole, it is insupportably dull, and laboriously obscure; its absurdities are not of the kind which provoke laughter; the story is almost wholly devoid of interest, and very meagre; nor can we admire Mr. Shelley's mode of making up for this defect;-as he has but one incident where he should have ten, he tells that one so intricately, that it takes the time of ten to comprehend it.
Mr. Shelley is a philosopher by the courtesy of the age, and has a theory of course respecting the government of the world. .... The existence of evil, physical and moral, is the grand problem of all philosophy; the bumble find it a trial, the proud make it a stumbling-block; Mr. Shelley refers it to the faults of those civil institutions and religious creeds which are designed to regulate the conduct of man here, and his hopes in a hereafter. In these he seems to make no distinction, but considers them all as bottomed upon principles pernicious to man and unworthy of God, carried into details the most cruel, and upheld only by the stupidity of the many on the one hand, and the selfish conspiracy of the few on the other.
In many places he manifests a dislike to Christianity which is frantic, and would be, if in such a case any thing could be, ridiculous. When the votaries of all religions are assembled with one accord (this unanimity by the by is in a vision of the nineteenth century) to stifle the first breathings of liberty, and execute the revenge of a ruthless tyrant, he selects a Christian priest to be the organ of sentiments outrageously and pre-eminently cruel. The two characteristic principles upon which Christianity may be said to be built are repentance and faith. He speaks of Repentance as selfishness in an extreme which amounts to idolatry! but what is Faith? our readers can hardly be prepared for the odious accumulation of sin and sorrow which Mr. Shelley conceives under this
word. "Faith is the Python, the Ogress, the Evil Genius, the Wicked Fairy, the Giantess of our children's tales ;' whenever any thing bad is to be accounted for, any hard name to be used, this convenient monosyllable fills up the blank.
Let us suppose a man entertaining Mr. Shelley's opinions as to the causes of existing evil, and convinced of the necessity of a change in all the institutions of society, of his own ability to produce and conduct it, and of the excellence of that system which he would substitute in their place. These indeed are bold convictions for a young and inexperienced man, imperfectly educated, irregular in his application, and shamefully dissolute in his conduct; but let us suppose them to be sincere ;-the change, if brought about at all, must be effected by a concurrent will, and that, Mr. Shelley will of course tell us, must be produced by an enlightened conviction. How then would a skilful reasoner, assured of the strength of his own ground, have proceeded in composing a tale of fiction for this purpose ! Undoubtedly he would have taken the best laws, the best constitution, and the best religion in the known world; such at least as they most loved and venerated whom he was addressing; when he had put all these together, and developed their principles candidly, he would have shown that under all favourable circumstances, and with all the best propensities of our nature to boot, still the natural effect of this combination would be to corrupt and degrade the human race. He would then have drawn a probable inference, that if the most approved systeins and creeds, under circumstances more advantageous than could ever be expected to concur in reality, still produced only vice and misery, the fault lay in them, or at least mankind could lose nothing by adventuring on a change. We say with confidence that a skilful combatant would and must have acted thus; not merely to make victory final, but to gain it in any shape
. For if he reasons froin what we acknowledge to be bad against what we believe to be good; if he puts a government confessedly despotic, a religion monstrous and false, if he places on the throne a cruel tyrant, and at the altar a bigoted and corrupt priesthood, how can his argument have any weight with those who think they live under a paternal government and a pure faith.
His residence at Oxford was a short one, and, if we mistake not, rather abruptly terminated; yet we should have thought that even in a freshman's term he might have learned from Aldrick not to reason from a particular to a universal ; and any one of our fair readers we imagine who never heard of Aldrick, would see the absurdity of inferring that all of her own sex were the victims of the lust and tyranny of the other, from the fact, if it be a fact, that young women of Greece were carried off by force to the seraglio of Constantinople. This, however, is the sum and substance of the
argument, as far as it attempts to prove the causes of existing evil. Mr. Shelley is neither a dull, nor, considering all his disadvantages, a very ignorant man; we will frankly confess, that with every disposition to judge him charitably, we find it hard to convince our. selves of his belief in his own conclusions.
We have seen how Mr. Shelley argues for the necessity of a change; we must bestow a word or two upon the manner in which he brings the change about, before we come to the consequences which he derives from it. Laon and Cythna, his hero and heroine, are the principal, indeed, almost the sole agents. The latter by her eloquence arouses all of her own sex to assert their liberty and independence; this perhaps is no difficult task; a female tongue in such a cause may be supposed to have spoken fluently at least, and to have found a willing audience ; by the same instrument, however, she disarms the soldiers who are sent to seize and destroy her.
These peaceable and tender advocates for Universal Suffrage and no representation' assemble in battle-array under the walls of the Golden City, keeping night and day strict blockade (which Mr. Shelley calls a watch of love,') around the desperate bands who still adhere to the maintenance of the iron-hearted monarch on the throne. In this pause of affairs Laon makes his appearance to complete the revolution ; Cythna's voice had done wonders, but Laon's was still more powerful; the sanguine slaves' of page 96, who stabbed ten thousand in their sleep, are turned in
99 to fraternal bands; the power of the throne crumbles into dust, and the united hosts enter the city in triumph. A good deal of mummery follows, of national fêtes, reasonable rites, altars of federation, &c. borrowed from that store-house of cast-off mummeries and abominations, the French revolution. In the mean time all the kings of the earth, pagan and christian, send more sanguine slaves, who slaughter the sons of freedom in the midst of their merrymaking ; Plague and Famine come to slaughter them in return; and Laon and Cythna, who had chosen this
auspicious moment in a ruined tower for the commencement of their • reign of love,' surrender themselves to the monarch and are burnt alive.
Such is Mr. Shelley's victory, such its security, and such the means of obtaining it!
If we mistake not, Laon and Cythna, aud even the sage, (for there is a sort of good stupid Archimago in the poem,) are already provided, and intent to begin their mission is we will but give them hearing. In short, Mr. Shelley is his own Laon: this is clear from many passages of the preface and dedication, The lady to whom the poem is addressed is certainly the original of Cythna : we have more consideration for her than she has had for herself , and will either mortify her vanity, or spare her feelings
, by not producing her before the public; it is enough for the phi
lanthropist to know that when the season arrives, she will be forthcoming. -- Neither will the reader be much at a loss to discover what sapient personage is dimly shadowed out in Archimago; but a clue is afforded even to the uninitiate by a note in the preface, in which we are told that Mr. Malthus by his last edition has reduced the Essay on Population to a commentary illustrative of the unanswerableness of Political Justice.
With such instruments doubtless the glorious task will be speedily accomplished-and what will be the issue ? this indeed is a serious question; but as in most schemes of reform, it is easier to say what is to be removed, and destroyed, than what is to be put in its place...... It is time to draw to an end.-We have examined Mr. Shelley's system slightly, but, we hope, dispassionately; there will be those, who will say that we have done so coldly. He has indeed, to the best of his ability, wounded us in the tenderest part.-As far as in him lay, he has loosened the hold of our protecting laws, and sapped the principles of our venerable polity; he has invaded the purity and chilled the unsuspecting ardour of our fireside intimacies; he has slandered, ridiculed and blasphemed our holy religion; yet these are all too sa cred objects to be defended bitterly or unfairly. We have learned too, though not in Mr. Shelley's school, to discriminate between a man and his opinions, and while we show no mercy to the sin, we can regard the sinner with allowance and pity. It is in this spirit, that we conclude with a few lines, which may serve for a warning to others, and for reproof, admonition, and even if he so pleases, of encouragement to himself. We have already said what We think of his powers as a poet, and doubtless, with those powers, he might have risen to respectability in any honourable path, which he had chosen to pursue, if to his talents he had added industry, subordination, and good principles. But of Mr. Shelley much may be said with truth, which we not long since said of his friend and leader Mr. Hunt :a he has not, indeed, all that is odious and contemptible in the character of that person; so far as we have seen he has never exhibited the bustling vulgarity, the ludicrous affectation, the factious flippancy, or the selfish heartlessness, which it is hard for our feelings to treat with the mere contempt they merit. Like him, however, Mr. Shelley is a very vain man; and like most very vain men, he is but ball instructed in knowledge, and less than half disciplined in his reasoning powers ; his vanity, wanting the control of the faith which he derides, has been his ruin; it has made him too impatient of applause and distinction to earn them in the fair course of labour ; like a speculator in trade, he would be rich without capital and
a (We would not copy what follows upon Mr. Hunt, but as a curiosity to our readers of abuse and malignity, beyond what they perhaps have ever seen before, in any one sentence.]