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SHELLEY, P. B.


of outer authority or the despotism of custom. These qualities were highly developed in his earliest manhood, were active in his boyhood, and no doubt made some show even on the borderland between childhood and infancy. At the age of six he was sent to a day school at Warnham, kept by the Rev. Mr Edwards; at ten to Sion House School, Brentford, of which the principal was Dr Greenlaw, while the pupils were mostly sons of local tradesmen; at twelve (or immediately before that age, on the 29th of July 1804) to Eton. The headmaster of Eton, up to nearly the close of Shelley's sojourn in the school, was Dr Goodall, a mild disciplinarian; it is therefore a mistake to suppose that Percy (unless during his very brief stay in the lower school) was frequently flagellated by the formidable Dr Keate, who only became headmaster after Goodall. Shelley was a shy, sensitive, mopish sort of boy from one point of viewfrom another a very unruly one, having his own notions of justice, independence and mental freedom; by nature gentle, kindly and retiring-under provocation ~ dangerously violent. He resisted the odious fagging system, exerted himself little in the routine of school-learning, and was known both as “ Mad Shelley ” and as “ Shelley the Atheist.” Some writers try to show that an Eton boy would be termed atheist without exhibiting any propensity to atheism, but solely on the ground of his being mutinous. However, as Shelley was a declared atheist a good while before attaining his majority, a shrewd suspicion arises that, if Etonians dubbed him atheist, they had some relevant reason for doing so.

Shelley entered University College, Oxford, in April 1810, returned thence to Eton, and finally quitted the school at midsummer, and commenced residence in Oxford in October. Here he met a young Durham man, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, who had preceded him in the university by a couple of months; the two youths at once struck up a warm and intimate friendship. Shelley had at this time a love for chemical experiment, as well as for poetry, philosophy, and classical study, and was in all his tastes and bearing an enthusiast. Hogg was not in the least an enthusiast, rather a cynic, but he also was a steady and well-read classical student. In religious matters both were sceptics, or indeed decided anti-Christians; whether Hogg, as the senior and more informed disputant, pioneered Shelley into strict atheism, or whether Shelley, as the more impassioned and unflinching speculator, outran the easy-going jeering Hogg, is a moot point; we incline to the latter opinion. Certain it is that each egged on the other by perpetual disquisition on abstruse subjects, conducted partly for the sake of truth and partly for that of mental exercitation, without on either side any disposition to bow to authority or stop short of extreme conclusions. The upshot of this habit was that Shelley and Hogg, at the close of some five months of happy and uneventful academic life, got expelled from the university. Shelley-for he alone figures as the writer of the “ little syllabus, ” although there can be no doubt that Hogg was his confidant and coadjutor throughout published anonymously a pamphlet or fiysheet entitled The N ecesrity of Atheism, which he sent round to bishops and all sorts of people as an invitation or challenge to discussion. It amounted to saying that neither reason nor testimony is adequate to establish the existence of a deity, and that nothing short of a personal individual self-revelation of the deity would be sufficient. The college authorities heard of the pamphlet, identified Shelley as its author, and summoned him before them-“ our master, and two or three of the fellows.” The pamphlet was produced, and Shelley was required to say whether he had written it or not. The youth declined to answer the question, and was expelled by a written sentence, ready drawn up. Hogg was next summoned, with a result practically the same. The precise details of this transaction have been much controverted; the best evidence is that which appears on the college records, showing that both Hogg and Shelley (Hogg is there named first) were expelled for “ contumaciously refusing to answer questions, ” and for “ repeatedly declining to disavow " the authorship. Thus they were dismissed as being mutineers against academic authority, in a case pregnant with the suspicion-not the proofof atheism; but how the authorities could know beforehand that the two undergraduates would be contumacious and stiff against disavowal, so as to give warrant for written sentences ready drawn up, is nowhere explained. Possibly the sentences were worded without ground assigned, and would only have been produced in terrorem had the young men proved more malleable. The date of this incident was the 2 5th of March 181 1. Shelley and Hogg came up to London, where Shelley was soon left alone, as his friend went to York to study conveyancing. Percy and his incensed father did 'not at once come to terms and for a while he had no resource beyond pocket-money saved up by his sisters (four in number altogether) and sent round to him, sometimes by the hand of a singularly pretty school-fellow, Miss Harriet Westbrook, daughter of a retired and moderately rich hotel-keeper. Shelley, in early youth, had a somewhat “ priggish ” turn for moralizing and argumentation, and a decided mania for proselytizing; his school-girl sisters, and their little Methodist friend Miss Westbrook, aged between fifteen and sixteen, must all be enlightened and converted to anti-Christianity. He therefore cultivated the society of Harriet, calling at the house of her father, and being encouraged in his assiduity by her much older sister Eliza. Harriet not unnaturally fell in love with him; and he, though not it would seem at any time ardently in love with her, dallied along the Bowery pathway which leads to sentiment and a definite courtship. This was not his first love-affair; for he had but a very few months before been courting his cousin Miss Harriet Grove, who, alarmed at his heterodoxies, finally broke off with him-to his no small grief and perturbation at the time. It is averred, and seemingly with truth, that Shelley never indulge din any sensual or dissipated amour; and, as he advances in life, it becomes apparent that, though capable of the passion of love, and unusually prone to regard with much effusion of sentiment women who interested his mind and heart, the mere attraction of a pretty face or an alluring figure left him unenthralled. After a while Percy was reconciled to his father, revisited his family in Sussex, and then stayed with a cousin in Wales. Hence he was recalled to London by Miss Harriet Westbrook, who wrote complaining of her father's resolve to send hertback to her school, in which she was now regarded with repulsion as having become too apt a pupil of the atheist Shelley. He replied counselling resistance. “ She wrote to say ” (these are the words of Shelley in a letter to Hogg, dating towards the end of July 1811) “ that resistance was useless, but that she would fly with me, and threw herself upon my protection.” Shelley, therefore, returned to London, where he found Harriet agitated and wavering; finally they agreed to elope, travelled in haste to Edinburgh, and there, on the 28th of August, were married with the rites of the Scottish Church. Shelley, it should be understood, had by this time openly broken, not only with the dogmas and conventions of Christian religion, but with many of the institutions of Christian polity, and in especial with such as enforce and regulate marriage; he held-with William Godwin and some other theorists-that marriage ought to be simply a voluntary relation between a man and a woman, to be a.ssumed at joint option and terminated at the after-option of either party. If, therefore, he had acted upon his personal conviction of the right, he would never have wedded Harriet, whether by, Scotch, English or any other law; but he waived his own theory in favour of thee consideration that in such an experiment the woman's stake, land the disadvantages accruing to her, are out of all comparison with the man's. His conduct, therefore, was so far entirely honourable; and, if it derogated from a principle of his own (a principle which, however contrary to the morality of other people, was and always remained matter of genuine conviction on his individual part), this was only in deference to a higher and more imperious standard of right.

Harriet Shelley was not only beautiful; she was amiable, accommodating, adequately well educated and well bred. She liked reading, and her reading was not strictly frivolous. But she could not (as Shelley said at a later date) “feel poetry and understand philosophy.” Her attractions were all on the surface;

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