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[Leigh Hunt]
The Quarterly Review and Revolt of Islam.
The Examiner  No. 613  (26 September 1819)  620-21.
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No. 613. SUNDAY, SEPT. 26, 1819.


Since our last paper, we have met with the Quarterly Review; and we shall beg our reader’s disgust at that publication to be patient a little, while we say something upon it’s present number.—The Quarterly Review itself (for there are one or two deeper articles in it, this time, than usual*) ought to be ashamed of the one it has written upon Mr. Shelley. Heavy, and swelling, and soft with venom, it creeps through the middle of it like a skulking toad. The Editor, and the other more malignant writers in this Review, (for we know too much of such publications to confound all the writers together) have grown a little more cunning in their mode of attack. They only missed their aim, and pitched themselves headlong, with their blind fury, in such articles as that on the Story of Rimini. They have since undertaken to be more candid and acknowledging; and accordingly, by a ludicrous effort of virtue, they now make a point of praising some one thing, or rather giving some one extract, which they find rather praiseworthy than otherwise; and then they set to, sharper than ever, and reward their new morals with a double draft of malignity.

They are always too impatient however, not to betray themselves at the outset. They begin their article on Mr. Shelley’s Revolt of Islam† by referring to the same book under another title, which that gentleman suppressed. He suppressed it by the advice of his friends, because in the ardour of his sincerity he had carried one of his theories to an excess which they thought would injure the perusal of it. Perhaps but two or three copies of that first impres-
* See particularly the article on the Italian Poets, which is the best piece of English criticism we have yet seen upon that subject, as well as a singularly liberal one, in it’s general remarks, for the Review in question. There is also some deeper writing than ordinary in the article on the Greek comedy and philosophy; though it is edifying enough to see such an elaborate case made out in the Quarterly Review for Aristophanes versus Socrates. This article seems touched or noted by different hands, as is often the case. If not, we are much mistaken; or some others more strangely improved in writing.
† Reviewed in our last year’s volume.
sion were sold. The public at larger certainly knew nothing of it. And yet the Quarterly Reviewers, who think these theories so pernicious, drag forth the impression, in order to abuse what he has not used. If on the other hand, he had not suppressed it, then the cry would have been—Surely he ought at least to have suppressed this;—and he would have been reproached for what he did use.

We are not going to nauseate the reader with all the half-sighted and whole-clawed meanness of the article in question. It is, in truth, a dull as well as a malicious endeavour; and to any body acquainted with the speculations which it undertakes to handle, talks quite as much against itself as for. We well content ourselves with a short specimen or two. Mr. Shelley, in endeavouring to shew the precariousness of superstition in general, from which the precariousness of  it’s family members is to be deduced, lays the scene of his philosophical poem among the Mahometans:—upon which the Reviewer after blessing himself upon our present happy government, and expressing his own infinite content with it (which we have no doubt is great) calls upon the author to witness his triumph in the following manner:—

“The laws and government on which Mr. Shelley’s reasoning proceeds, are the Turkish, administered by a lawless despot; his religion is the Mohammedan, maintained by servile hypocrites; and his scene for their joint operation Greece, the land full beyond all others of recollections of former glory and independence, now covered with shame and sunk in slavery. We are Englishmen, Christians, free, and independent: we ask Mr. Shelley how his case applies to us? Or what we learn from it to the prejudice of our own constitution?”—The Reviewer might as well ask what we learnt from any other fiction, which was to apply without being literal. Mr. Shelley is not bound to answer for his critic’s stupidity. The reader of Gulliver’s Travels might as well ask how the big or little men applied to him, he being neither as tall as a church nor as short as a mole-hill. The Editor of the Review himself, for instance, might as well ask how Mr. Hazlitt’s appellation of Grildrig applied to him,—his name being not Grildrig, but Giffard; and he never having stood in the hand of an enormous prince, though he has licked the feet of petty ones, and thrown stones at their discarded mistress’s crutches.

Another,—and we have done with specimens. Mr. Shelley, says the Reviewer, “speaks of his school as “a world of woes,” as “tyrants,” of his schoolfellows as “enemies:”—Alas! what is this but to hear evidence against himself? Every one who knows what a public school ordinarily must be, can only trace in these lines the language of an insubordinate, a vain, a mortified spirit.”*

Now, Reader, take the following lines:—

——Public schools ’tis public folly feeds,
The slaves of custom and establish’d mode,
With pack-horse constancy we keep the road,
Crooked or strait, through quags or thorny dells,
True to the jingling of our leader’s bells.
To follow foolish precedents, and wink
With both our eyes, is easier than to think.
* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of the worldly views with which even future priests are sent to these schools, the Poet says,

Egregious purpose worthily begun,
In barb’rous prostitution of your son;
Press’d on his part by means, that would disgrace
A scriv’ner’s clerk, or footman out of place;
And ending, if at last it’s end be gain’d,
In sacrilege, in God’s own house profan’d.
* * * * * * * *
The royal letters are a thing of course;
A King, that would, might recommend his horse;
And Deans,† no doubt, and Chapters, with one voice,
As bound in duty, would confirm the choice.

And lastly:—

Would you your son should be a sot, or dunce,
Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once;
That in good time the stripling’s finished taste
For loose expense, and fashionable waste,
Should prove your ruin, and his own at last,
Train him in public with a mob of boys.

Reader, these are not the profane Mr. Shelley’s verses, but the pious Cowper’s;—Cowper, the all-applauded as well as the deserving, who in these lines, according to the Quarterly Reviewer, “bears evidence against himself,” and proves that there is nothing to be traced in them but the “language of an insubordinate, a vain, a mortified spirit;”—Cowper in short, the independent, the good, and the sensitive,—who, because he had not callousness enough to reconcile his faith in the dreadful dogmas of the Church to his notions of the Supreme Goodness, like these reviewing worshippers of power,—nor courage enough to wage war with them, like Mr. Shelley,—finally lost his senses; and withered away in the very imagination of “blasts from hell,” like a child on the altar of Moloch.

We reserve some remarks on the rest of the article for next week.

* We are much mistaken if anti-despotic opinions have not since taken more root in the school Mr. Shelley was brought up in than these writers are aware. The boys, are quite sure, will be happier, wiser, gentler, and at the same time more truly courageous, in proportion as they do; though some of their old tyrants may see with alarm and rage their new tyrannies threatened by them.
† We recommend this to the criticism of that illustrious obscure, Dean Ireland, whom Mr. Giffard, in the very midst of his rage against “pretensions” of all sorts, is continually thrusting before the public, and nobody will attend to.