« AnteriorContinuar »
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY JOHN ASCHAM, 71, CHANCERY
AND SOLD BY JAMES PATTIE, 16, HIGH STREET, BLOOMSBURY,
AND ALL BOOKSELLERS IN TOWN AND COUNTRY.
Ir had been my wish, on presenting the public with the Posthumous Poems of Mr. SHELLEY, to have accompanied them by a biographical notice: as it ap peared to me, that at this moment a narration of the events of my husband's life would come more gracefully from other hands than mine, I applied to Mr. LEIGH HUNT. The distinguished friendship that Mr. SHELLEY felt for him, and the enthusiastic affection with which Mr. LEIGH HUNT clings to his friend's memory, seemed to point him out as the person best calculated for such an undertaking. His absence from this country, which prevented our mutual explanation, has unfortunately rendered my scheme abortive. I do not doubt but that on some other occasion he will pay this tribute to his lost friend, and sincerely regret that the volume which I edit has not been honoured by its insertion.
The comparative solitude in which Mr. SHELLEY lived, was the occasion that he was personally known to few; and his fearless enthusiasm in the cause which he considered the most sacred upon earth, the improvement of the moral and physical state of mankind, was the chief reason why he, like other illustrious reformers, was pursued by hatred and calumny. No man
was ever more devoted than he, to the endeavour of making those around him happy; no man ever posessed friends more unfeignedly attached to him. The ungrateful world did not feel his loss, and the gap it made seemed to close as quickly over his memory as the murderous sea above his living frame. Hereafter men will lament that his transcendent powers of intellect were extinguished before they had bestowed on them their choicest treasures. To his friends his loss is irremediable: the wise, the brave, the gentle, is gone for ever! He is to them as a bright vision, whose radiant track, left behind in the memory, is worth all the realities that society can afford. Before the critics contradict me, let them appeal to any one who had ever known him: to see him was to love him; and his presence, like Ithuriel's spear, was alone sufficient to disclose the falsehood of the tale which his enemies whispered in the ear of the ignorant world.
His life was spent in the contemplation of nature, in arduous study, or in acts of kindness and affection. He was an elegant scholar and a profound metaphysician: without possessing much scientific knowledge, he was unrivalled in the justness and extent of his observations on natural objects; he knew every plant by its name, and was familiar with the history and habits of every production of the earth; he could interpret without a fault each appearance in the sky, and the varied phenomena of heaven and earth filled him with deep emotion. He made his study and reading-room
of the shadowed copse, the stream, the lake, and the waterfall. Ill health and continual pain preyed upon his powers, and the solitude in which we lived, particularly on our first arrival in Italy, although congenial to his feelings, must frequently have weighed upon his spirits: those beautiful and affecting "Lines, written in dejection at Naples," were composed at such an interval; but, when in health, his spirits were buoyant and youthful to an extraordinary degree.
Such was his love for nature, that every page of his poetry is associated in the minds of his friends with the loveliest scenes of the countries which he inhabited. In. early life he visited the most beautiful parts of this country and Ireland. Afterwards the Alps of Swizerland became his inspirers. "Prometheus Unbound" was written among the deserted and flower-grown ruins of Rome, and when he made his home under the Pisan bills, their roofless recesses harboured him as he com"The Witch of Atlas,' ""Adonais" and "Hellas." In the wild but beautiful Bay of Spezia, the winds and waves which he loved became his playmates. His days were chiefly spent on the water; the management of his boat, its alterations and improvements, were his principal occupation. At night, when the unclouded moon shone on the calm sea, he often went alone in his little shallop to the rocky caves that bordered it, and sitting beneath their shelter wrote "The Triumph of Life," the last of his productions. The beauty but strangeness of this lonely place, the refined pleasure