January 1812, xli, 69-72
Had not the title-page informed us that this curious ‘Romance’ was the production of ‘a gentleman, ’ a freshman of course, we should certainly have ascribed it to some ‘Miss’ in her teens; who, having read the beautiful and truly poetic descriptions, in the unrivalled romances of Mrs. Ratcliffe [sic], imagined that to admire the writings of that lady, and to imitate her style were one and the same thing. Here we have description run mad; every uncouth epithet, every wild expression, which either the lexicographer could supply, or the disordered imagination of the romance-writer suggest, has been pressed into the service of ‘the Rosicmeian’ [sic]. Woe and terror are heightened by the expressions used to describe them. Heroes and heroines are not merely distressed and terrified, they are ‘enanguished’ and ‘enhorrored. ’
Nor are the ordinary sensations of joy or even delight, sufficient to gratify such exalted beings. No, when the hero was pleased, not only did he experience ‘a transport of delight’; burning ecstasy revelled through his veins; pleasurable coruscations were emitted from his eyes. Even hideous sights acquire an additional deformity under the magic of this ‘gentleman’s’ pen. We read of ‘a form more hideous than the imagination is capable of portraying, whose proportions, gigantic and deformed, were seemingly blackened by the inerasible traces of the thunderbolts of God. ’
From one who, disdaining the common forms and modes of language, aims at sublimity both of thought and expression, a slavish subjection to the vulgar restrictions of grammar, a tame submission to the Jus et Norms loquendi1 cannot reasonably be extracted. Exalted genius ever spurns restraint; and the mind accustomed to indulge in ‘a train of labyrinthic meditations’ cannot very well bear up under the trammels of common sense.
Were he, however, only enthusiastic and nonsensical, we should
1 ‘Rule and standard of speaking’.
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Publication information: Book title: Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Critical Heritage. Contributors: James E. Barcus - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 51.
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