Percy Bysshe Shelley

In person, Mr. Shelley was tall and slight, of a consumptive constitution, and subject to spasmodic pains, the violence of which would sometimes force him to lie on the ground till they were over. The marks of premature thought and trouble were more visible in his frame than his countenance, which, says the writer from whom we have before quoted, had a certain seraphical character, that would have suited a portrait of John the Baptist, or the angel whom Milton describes as " holding a reed tipped with fire." ' He had a small, but well-shaped face, with a fair and delicate complexion, cheeks not devoid of color, and large animated eyes, that had almost an appearance of wildness. His voice was weak and shrill, and had a peculiar effect on those who heard it for the first time. He passed a solitary and temperate life; rising early in the morning, and retiring to bed at ten o'clock, having, in the meantime written, studied, and read to his wife, and taken sparingly of his meals, which consisted, at dinner, of vegetables, as he partook neither of meat nor wine. His purse, though he possessed but a very limited income, was at the service of all who needed it; it was not uncommon with him, says our previous authority, to give away all his ready money, and be compelled to take a journey on foot, or on the top of a stage, no matter during what weather. He allowed to a literary acquaintance a pension of L100 per annum; but says Mr. Leigh Hunt, the princeliness of his disposition was seen most in his behavior to myself, who am proud to relate, that Mr. Shelley once made me a present of L1,400 to extricate me from debt, and his last sixpence was ever at my service, had I chosen to share it.' The following anecdote is told of lord Byron, and some of his contemporaries; Shelley, at the time, being on a visit to his house at Hampstead As I approached my door,' said Mr. Hunt, I heard strange and alarming shrieks, mixed with the voice of a man. The next day it was reported, by the gossips, that Mr. Shelley, no Christ ian (for it was he who was there), had brought some very strange female into the house, no better of course than she ought to be. The real Christ ian had puzzled them: Mr. Shelley, in coming to our house that night, had found a woman, lying near the top of the hill, in fits. It was a fierce winter night, with snow upon the ground, and winter loses nothing of its fierceness at Hampstead. My friend, always the promptest, as well as most pitying, on these occasions, knocked at the first houses he could reach, in order to have her taken in, but the invariable answer was that they could not do it. At last, my friend sees a carriage driving up to a house at a little distance. The knock is given; the warm door opens; servants and lights pour forth. Now, thought he, is the time. He puts on his best ad dress ' which anybody might recognize for that of the highest gentleman, as well as an interesting individual, and plants himself in the way of an elderly person, who is stepping out of the carriage with his family. He tells his story; and asks him if he will go and see the poor woman. No, sir; there's no necessity for that sort of thing, depend on it; imposters swarm everywhere, the thing cannot be done. Sir, your conduct is extra ordinary." Sir,' cried Mr. Shelley, at last, forcing the flourishing householder to stop, out of astonishment, I am sorry to say that your conduct is not extraordinary; and, if my own seems to amaze you, I will tell you something that may amaze you a little more, and, I hope, will frighten. It is such men as madden the spirits and patience of the poor and wretched; and, if ever a convulsion comes in this country, which is very probable, recollect what I tell you; you will have your house, that you refuse to put this miserable woman into, burnt over your head.' God bless me, sir! dear me, sir!' exclaimed the frightened wretch, and fluttered into his mansion. The woman was then brought to our house, which was at some distance, and down a bleak path; the next day my friend sent her comfortably home;' and, adds Mr. Hunt, this was one of the most ordinary of Shelley's actions.

As a poet, we think Shelley has never been surpassed; and we could point out many of his passages which are without their equal, even if we look for their parallel in the works of Shakespeare, Byron, and Milton. But the wild speculative sublimity of his thoughts, the refined intellectuality of his ideas, and the mysterious intertexture of sentiment with feeling, which are the characteristics of his poetry, will always hinder him from becoming popular. Yet, with all this, there is a simplicity about his writings, as remarkable, it has been observed, as its views and speculations are remote and peculiar. A very just notion of his style has been taken by the biographer to whom we have before alluded, who observes, that in all Shelley's works there is a wonderfully sustained sensibility, and a language lofty and fit for it. He has the art,' continues the same authority, of using the stateliest words and the most learned idioms without incurring the charge of pedantry, so that passages of more splendid and sonorous writing are not to be selected from any writer since the days of Milton; and yet, when he descends from his ideal world, and comes home to us in our humble bowers, and is yearning after love and affection, he attunes the most natural feelings to a style so proportionate, and withal to a modulation so truly musical, that there is nothing to surpass it in the lyrics of Beaumont and Fletcher.' In addition to the works before mentioned, Shelley is the author of Queen Mab, Alastor, Prometheus Unbound, the tragedy of The Cenci, and a volume of posthumous poems.