The Magic Plant

The Magic Plant

The Magic Plant

The Magic Plant

Excerpt

The history of Shelley's reputation as a poet should be made the theme of such a book as Professor Chew's Byron in England. Critically it would be even more important, for though Byron's reputation has fluctuated widely, there has never been much misunderstanding of his verse; his thought is too simple for that. Shelley, on the other hand, has never been wholly understood; has, indeed, for the most part been thoroughly misunderstood. The history of Shelleyan criticism has been of the tardy and reluctant perception in his work of qualities once denied him. When the first indifference or abuse with which his work was met during his lifetime had been succeeded by recognition of its originality, it was as a lyric poet that he was admired. His unfortunate radicalism was condoned or ignored and what had at first been condemned as the immoralities of his personal life were more or less excused on the score of youth or his addiction to perverse philosophies. In the course of years it came to be believed by charitable minds that his intentions were good but that he was singularly unfitted for the realities of this world, was a vague dreamer and idealist who had fallen into rather more errors than usually beset even visionaries. Hogg's Life sedulously cultivated the fiction that Shelley was an impractical fool who needed the support and guidance of stronger and more sensible natures. Mary Shelley, also, by too greatly stressing the emotional character of his poetry did much to minimize its intellectual qualities, despite her statement that Prometheus concealed philosophic ideas of the greatest originality. Inasmuch as she had but a hazy notion of these ideas and could not impart them to others, her words were passed over without remark and attributed to her wifely devotion.

Nevertheless, as the ideas of the French Revolutionary period came again, to some extent, into popular favor, reformers and radicals derived considerable sustenance from such poems as Queen Mab and The Revolt of Islam. Shelley as an Utopian dreamer had painted a picture of what human society might become which was alluring to many minds; and he had denounced in words of memorable eloquence social evils still unredressed. Chartists, and, later, Socialists . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.