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and is said to have borrowed from them. Their fine thoughts he certainly associated with his own, but with such skill that he could not be accused of plagiarism. Lord Byron possessed, indeed, a genius absolutely boundless, and could create with such facility that it would have been irksome to him to have become a servile imitator. He was original in all things, but especially as a poet."
Recollections of the Last Days of Byron and Shelley. ĪRELAWNEY.
Byron and Byronism in America. LEONARD.
Lord Byron and the Greek Patriots. HAYMAN. Harper, vol. 88, p. 365.
Shelley HELLEY is one of the most interesting and fascinating char
acters in the history of English literature. His story reads. like a romance; his early death and the tragic manner of it add pathos to a life which with all its simplicity presents a puzzling confusion of good and evil.
Boyhood. — Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, Sussex, a quiet country place, on August 4, 1792. Percy was a family name, and he was called Bysshe in honor of his grandfather. The family was in prosperous circumstances, living the comfortable life of the English aristocracy. The father was a plain, beef-loving, sturdy Englishman, who at first took pride in the achievements of his bright son, but who soon was deeply offended by Percy's deviations from the standards of society. The mother was a woman in no ways remarkable. Shelley is another illustration that genius is a miracle beyond explanation by heredity. He spent his childhood in the companionship of four sisters, who doubtless greatly admired the brother, who was sympathetic and entertaining. His brother, John, born in 1806, was too young to afford much companionship. Shelley, like Ruskin, missed the training that comes from the rough-andtumble games of boys.
Education. - At six years of age Shelley studied under a Welsh parson; at ten he entered Sion House Academy, where about fifty boys studied Latin, Greek, French, writing, arithmetic, geography, and the elements of astronomy. At this time Shelley was “slight of figure, with a well-set head, on which abundant locks, now of a rich brown hue, curled naturally; his complexion was fair and ruddy, like a girl's. The luminous, large blue eyes had at one time a dreamy softness, at another a fixed wild beauty ... the expression of his countenance was one of exceeding sweetness and innocence.”
The young boy was not particularly studious, but he was a great reader, especially fond of tales of the marvelous. He preferred the unreal romances of Anne Radcliffe to the sturdier fiction of Fielding or Smollett.
We next find him in the famous school, Eton, one of the so-called public schools of England; called public because, by a lucus a non lucendo, it is very exclusive. Eton is just across from the famous and beautiful castle of Windsor. Shelley entered this school in 1804. His life here was not a happy one. At Sion House he was known as a strange, unsocial fellow;" at Eton his reputation remained unchanged. The young schoolboy is not far removed from savagery; the gentle emotions of sympathy and pity have not yet developed through suffering; in his play he is a young barbarian, taking delight in bullying the sensitive. Shelley was an interesting victim. Writes a schoolfellow:
“I have seen him surrounded, hooted, baited like a maddened bull, and at this distance of time I seem to hear ringing my ears the cry which Shelley was wont to utter in his paroxysm of revengeful anger. In dark and miry winter evenings it was the practice to assemble under the cloisters previous to mounting to the Upper School. To surround 'Mad Shelley' and 'nail' him with a ball slimy with mud was a favorite pastime; or his name would suddenly be sounded through the cloisters, in an instant to be taken up by another and another voice, until hundreds joined the clamor, and the roof would echo and re-echo with 'Shelley! Shelley! Shelley !' than a space would be opened, in which, as in a ring or alley, the victim must stand and exhibit his torture; or some urchin would dart in behind and by one dexterous push scatter at Shelley's feet the books which he had held under his arm; or mischievous hands would pluck at his garments; or a hundred fingers would point at him from every side, while still the outcry, 'Shelley! Shelley!'rang against the walls. An access of passion — the desired result – would follow, which, declares a witness of these persecutions, 'made his eyes flash like a tiger's, his cheeks grow pale as death, his limbs quiver.'
Scenes such as this picture an unusual, sensitive, almost abnormal child. If the child is father to the man, we may expect to find the grown-up Shelley in a world of trouble. However, we must not conclude that all the days of Shelley at Eton were
days of misery. We may also think of him as wandering among the old trees of the forest at Windsor, of spending an occasional hour at Stoke Pogis, a place associated with Gray's Elegy, of performing new experiments in the sciences, and of forming few friendships with boys of kindred interests. There were those who liked the shy boy. “I always liked him," says Mr. Packe," he was such a good, generous, open-hearted fellow.” And Mr. Halliday, another companion of his schooldays, writes,
“I was myself far too young to form an estimate of character, but I loved Shelley for his kindliness and affectionate ways; he was not made to endure the rough and boisterous pastimes at Eton, and his shy and gentle nature was glad to escape far away to muse over strange fancies.
. . He had great moral courage, and feared nothing but what was base and false and low."
Years afterwards, when in Italy, recalling his early youth with that charm that memory casts over distant days, Shelley wrote of the Eton days:
Those bottles of warm tea -
As a student Shelley was not especially distinguished during his schooldays, although one of his friends, Halliday, declares his lessons “were child's play to him." Like many men of genius, he gained more from his miscellaneous readings than from the prescribed course. He read much in Pliny and Lucretius, and already was influenced by the sophistries of Godwin's Political Justice, a work that had decided influence in leading Shelley into wrong thinking. He was also deeply interested in making experiments in science, a subject of which much was expected, but not so much as really has been since accomplished. Among other apparatus, he possessed a galvanic battery.
“One day Mr. Bethell (one of Shelley's uninspired tutors), suspecting from strange noises overhead that his pupil was engaging in nefarious scientific pursuits, suddenly appeared in Shelley's room; to his consternation he found the culprit apparently enveloped in a blue flame. “What on earth are you doing, Shelley?' 'Please, sir,' came the answer in the quietest tone, 'I am raising the devil.' 'And what in the world is this?' resumed the pedagogue, seizing hold of some mysterious-looking apparatus on the table. In an instant the intruder was thrown back - Bethell the magnificent - against the wall, having undesignedly exhibited a very pretty electrical experiment, and received an unstinted discharge. It is said the experiment did not advance Shelley in his tutor's good graces.”
These anecdotes of his boyhood days reveal but little of the real Shelley. No full records of those days were kept, for no one expected the slender, shy boy to become a leader in song and thought. That the schoolboy brooded much on the meaning of things, that he lived a life hidden from his companions, that he had moments of exaltation, can be traced in the autobiographical fragments of his poetry. In his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty we find this record of an inspiring moment:
“While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave, and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
I was not heard - I saw them not
When musing deeply on the lot
All vital things that wake to bring
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
“I vowed that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine — have I not kept the vow?”
At Oxford. - In 1810 Shelley went from Eton, the famous public school, to Oxford, the still more famous university. He matriculated in University College on April 10, and then returned to Eton. The summer he spent at home, taking pleasure in hunting. In the fall he returned to Oxford to enter upon university