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[Leigh Hunt]
The Quarterly Review and Revolt of Islam (Continued).
The Examiner  No. 614  (3 October 1819)  635-36.
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No. 614. SUNDAY, OCT. 3, 1819.


[Continued from last week.]

Our reviewing Scribes and Pharisees beg the question against Mr. Shelley’s theories because he does not believe in their own creed. As if they had any creed but that which is established; and the better spirit of which they, and men like them, have ever prevented from appearing! They cannot affect meekness itself, but out of hostility. In
 the course of an
article, full of anger, scandal, and bigotry, they put on little pale-lipped airs of serenity like a vixenish woman; and during one of these they say they would recommend Mr. Shelley to read the Bible, only it is “a sealed book to a proud spirit.” We will undertake to say that, Mr. Shelley knows more of the Bible, than all the priests who have any thing to do with the Review or its writers. He does not abjure “the pomps and vanities of this wicked world” only to put them on with the greater relish. To them, undoubtedly, the Bible is not a sealed book, in one sense. They open it to good profit enough. But in the sense which the Reviewer means, they contrive to have it sealed wherever the doctrines are inconvenient. What do they say to the injunctions against “judging others that ye be not judged,”—against revenge,—against tale-bearing,—against lying, hypocrisy, “partiality,” riches, pomps and vanities, swearing, perjury (videlicit, Nolo-Episcopation) Pharisaical scorn, and every species of worldliness and malignity! Was Mr. Canning (the parodist) a worthy follower of him that condoled with the lame and blind, when he joked upon a man’s diseases? Was Mr. Croker, (emphatically called “the Admiralty Scribe,”) a worthy follower of him who denounced Scribes, Pharisees, and “devourers of widows’ houses,” when he swallowed up all those widows’ pensions? Was Mr. Giffard a worthy follower of him who was the forgiver and friend of Mary Magdalen, when he ridiculed the very lameness and crutches of a Prince’s discarded mistress! If Christianity is compatible with all that they do and write, it is a precious thing. But if it means something much better,—what we really believe it does mean, in spite of both such men and of much more reverenced and ancient authorities, then is the spirit of it to be found in the aspiration of the very philosophies which they are most likely to ill treat. The Reviewer for instance quotes, with horrified Italics, such lines as these—
Nor hate another’s crime, nor loathe thine own.
And love of joy can make the foulest breast
A paradise of flowers, where peace might build her nest.

What is this first passage but the story of the woman taken in adultery? And what the second, but the story of Mary Magdalen, “out of whom went seven devils,” and who was who was forgiven because “such loved much?” Mr. Shelley may think that the sexual intercourse might be altered much for the better, so as to diminish the dreadful evils to which it is now subject. His opinions on that matter, however denounced or misrepresented, he shares in common with some of the best and wisest names in philosophy, from Plato down to Condorcet. It has been doubted by Doctors of the Church, whether Christ himself thought on these matters as the Jews did. But be this as it may, it does not hurt the parallel spirit of the passages. The Jews were told “not to hate another’s crime.” The woman was not told to loathe her sin, but simply not to repeat it; and was dismissed gently with these remarkable words,—“Has any man condemned thee? No, Lord. Neither do I condemn thee.” Meaning, on the most impartial construction, that if no man had brought her before a judge to be condemned, neither would he be the judge to condemn her. She sinned, because she violated the conventional ideas of virtue, and thus hazarded unhappiness to others, who had not been educated in a different opinion: but the goodness of the opinion is left doubtful. It is to the spirit of Christ’s actions and theories that we look, and not to the comments or contradictions even of apostles. It was a very general spirit, if it was any thing, going upon the sympathetic excess, instead of the anti-pathetic—notoriously opposed to existing establishments, and reviled with every term of opprobrium by the Scribes and Pharisees then flourishing. If Mr. Shelley’s theological notions run coun-ter to those which have been built upon the supposed actions of Christ, we have no hesitation in saying that the moral spirit of his philosophy approaches infinitely nearer to that Christian benevolence, so much preached and so little practised, than any the most orthodox dogmas ever published. The Reviewers and their usual anti-christian falsehood say that he recommends people to “hate no crime” and “abstain from no gratification.” In the Christian sense he does tell them to “hate no crime;” and in a sense as benevolent, he does tell them to “abstain from no gratification.” But a world of gratification is shut out from his code, which the Reviewer would hate to be debarred from; and which he instinctively hates him for denouncing already. Hear the end of the Preface to the Revolt of Islam. “I have avoided all flattery to those violent and malignant passions of our nature, which are ever on the watch to mingle with and to alloy the most beneficial innovations. There is no quarter given to Revenge, Envy, or Prejudice. Love is celebrated every where as the sole law which should govern the moral world.” Now, if Envy is rather tormenting to ye, Messieurs Reviewers, there is some little gratification, is there not, in Revenge? and some little gratifying profit or so in Prejudice? “Speak, Grildrig.”

[To be concluded next week.]