Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley]

We are very glad to see this handsome copy of Shelley ready for those who have long been vainly inquiring at all the book-stores for such an one.

In Europe the fame of Shelley has risen superior to the clouds that darkened its earlier days, hiding this true image from his fellow men,—and from his own sad eyes oftentimes the common light of day. As a thinker, men have learnt to pardon what they consider errors in opinion for the sake of singular nobleness, purity and love in his main tendency or spirit. As a poet, the many faults of his works having been acknowledged, there is room and place to admire his far more numerous exquisite beauties.

The heart of the man few, who have hearts of their own, refuse to reverence, and many, even of devoutest Christians would not refuse the book which contains Queen Mab as a Christmas gift.—For it has been recognized that the founder of the Christian Church would have suffered one to come unto him, who was in faith and love so truly what he sought in a disciple, without regard to the form his doctrine assumed.

The qualities of his poetry have often been analyzed, and the severer critics, impatient of his exuberance, or unable to use their accustomed spectacles in the golden mist that broods over all he has done, deny him high honors, but the soul of aspiring youth, untrammeled by the canons of taste, and untamed by scholarly discipline, swells into rapture at his lyric sweetness, finds ambrosial refreshment from his plenteous fancies, catches fire at his daring thought, and melts into boundless weeping at his tender sadness,—the sadness of a soul betrothed to an Ideal unattainable in this present sphere.

For ourselves we dispute not with the doctrinaires or the critics. We cannot speak dispassionately of an influence that has been so dear to us. Nearer than the nearest companions of life actual has Shelley been to us. Many other great ones have shone upon us, and all who ever did so shine are still resplendent in our firmament, for our mental life has not been broken and contradictory, but thus far we “see what we foresaw.” But Shelley seemed to us an incarnation of

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