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The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Switzerland: 1814
Family History
Shelley at Eton
Taste for the Gothic
Shelley’s Juvenilia
Queen Mab
Shelley at Oxford
First Marriage
Death of Harriet
Chancery Suit
‣ Switzerland: 1814
Alastor; Geneva: 1816
Byron and Claire
At Marlow: 1817
Italy: 1818
Naples, Rome: 1819
The Cenci
Florence: 1819
Vol I Appendix
Vol II Front Matter
Pisa: 1820
Poets and Poetry
Pisa: 1821
Shelley and Keats
Williams, Hunt, Byron
Shelley and Byron
Poetry and Politics
Byron and his Friends
The Pisan Circle
Casa Magni
Death of Shelley
Lerici: 1822
Burial in Rome
Character of Shelley
Vol II Appendix
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Let us turn to more cheering contemplations:

With a view of in some degree renovating his health, which had suffered from intense study, his strict Pythagorean system of diet, that by no means agreed with his constitution, and the immoderate use of laudanum, in which he sought for an opiate to his harassed feelings, and in the hope, by the distraction of new scenes, to dull their irritability, on the 28th of July 1814, Shelley, as appears by the second volume of the Posthumous Works, left London, accompanied by the present Mrs. Shelley, the daughter of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and another lady. With that contempt of danger from an element ever his delight, which characterised him, he embarked with them in an open boat from Dover, and not without exposure to a gale of wind on the passage, succeeded in reaching Calais, and thence proceeded to Paris, There, after remaining a week, they resolved to walk through France. He went to the Marché des Herbes, purchased an ass, and thus pilgrimaging, the gipsy
party started for Charenton. There finding the quadruped useless, they sold it, purchased a mule, and continued their peregrinations.

The destitution and ruin which the Cossacks had, locust like, left everywhere behind them in their pestilential march,—the distress of the plundered inhabitants,—their roofless cottages, the rafters black, and the walls dilapidated, made a deep impression on Shelley’s mind, and gave a sting to his detestation of war and despotism.

Further pedestrianism being rendered impossible by a sprained ancle, he now bought an open voiture, on four wheels, for five napoleons, and hired a man with a mule, with eight more, to convey them to Neufchatel, which, after many inconveniences en route, they reached. A magical effect was produced on the travellers by the first sight of the Alps. They were, says the tourist, “a hundred miles distant, but reach so high in the heavens, that they look like those accumulated clouds of dazzling white, that ar-
range themselves on the horizon during summer,—their immensity staggers the imagination, and so far surpasses all conception, that it requires an effort of the understanding to believe that they indeed form a part of the earth.”

With the improvidence peculiar to Shelley in pecuniary matters, he found that on his arrival at Neufchatel, his money was exhausted, and after obtaining thirty-eight pounds on the discount of a bill for forty pounds, at three months, (pretty good interest,) they journeyed on to Lucerne. On reaching the lake of Uri, they hired a boat. This romantic lake, remarkable for its deep seclusion and sacred solitude, is thus described: “The lake of Lucerne is encompassed on all sides by high mountains, that rise abruptly from the water. Sometimes their base points downwards perpendicularly, and casts a black shadow on the waves,—sometimes they are covered with thick wood, whose dark foliage is interspersed by the brown, bare crags, on which the trees have taken root. In every part where
a glade shows itself in the forest, it appears cultivated, and cottages peep from among the woods. The most luxuriant islands, rocky and covered with moss, and bending trees, are sprinkled over the lake. Most of these are decorated by the figure of a saint, in wretched waxwork.”

After much search after a habitation, they at length domiciled themselves in two unfurnished rooms, in an ugly big house at Brunen, called the Chateau. These they hired at a guinea a month, had beds moved into them, and the next day took possession. It was a wretched place, with no comfort or convenience. It was with some difficulty that they could get any food prepared. As it was cold and rainy, they ordered a fire. They lighted an immense stove, which occupied a corner of the room, and when heated, they were obliged to throw open the windows, to prevent a kind of suffocation; added to this, there was but one person in Brunen who could speak French, a barbarous sort of German being the language of this part of Switzerland. It was
with some difficulty, therefore, that they could get their ordinary wants supplied.
Shelley’s amusement, meanwhile, was writing.

He commenced a romance on the subject of the Assassins. The fragment will be found in his Prose Works, and evinces much power, being a wonderful improvement on his former attempts of the kind. He drew his inspiration from the scenes that were before his eyes. “Nature undisturbed,” he says, “had become an enchantress in these solitudes. She had collected here all that was divine and wonderful from the armoury of her own omnipotence. The very winds breathed health and renovation, and the joyousness of youthful courage. Fountains of chrystalline water played perpetually among the aromatic flowers, and mingled a freshness with their odour. The pine boughs became instruments of exquisite contrivance, among which the ever varying breeze waked music of new and more delightful melody. Such scenes of chaotic confusion and harrowing sublimity, surrounding and shutting
in the vale, added to the delights of its secure and voluptuous tranquillity. No spectator could have refused to believe that some spirit of great intelligence and power had hallowed these wilds to a deep and solemn mystery.” He adds, that “the immediate effect of such a scene suddenly presented to the contemplation of mortal eyes, is seldom the subject of authentic record.”

I have thought that the following passage bears some allusion to himself. “An Assassin, accidentally the inhabitant of a civilized country, would wage unremitting war from principle against the predilections and distastes of the many. He would find himself compelled to adopt means which they would abhor, for the sake of an object which they could not conceive that he should propose to himself. Secure and self-enshrined in the magnificence and preeminence of his conceptions, spotless as the light of heaven, he would be the victim among men, of calumny and persecution. Incapable of distinguishing his motives, they would rank him among the vilest and most atro-
cious criminals. Great beyond all comparison with them, they would despise him in the presumption of their ignorance. Because his spirit burned with an unquenchable passion for their welfare, they would lead him, like his illustrious master, amidst scoffs and mockings and insults, to the remuneration of an ignominious death.”

Such were some of his contemplations,—the prognostics, though not of his future destiny—to that extent—of a moral crucifixion. Speaking of the Fragment, Mrs. Shelley says, “There is great beauty in the sketch as it stands,—it breathes that spirit of domestic peace and general brotherhood, founded on love, which he afterwards developed in the Prometheus Unbound;” and she might have added, in other of his works.

It had been the intention of the party to cross the St. Gothard, at the foot of which they were, and make an excursion into the north of Italy, but the idea was soon abandoned. They resolved to return to England, from which they were distant eight hundred miles. Was it possible,
with twenty-eight pounds? enquires the tourist;—but there was no alternative—the attempt must be made. They departed from Lucerne in the coche d’eau for Loffenburg, a town on the Rhine, where the falls of that river prevented the same vessel from proceeding any further. There they engaged a small canoe to convey them to Mumph. “It was long, narrow, and flat-bottomed, consisting mostly of deal boards, unpainted, and nailed together with so little care, that the water constantly poured in at the crevices, and the boat perpetually required emptying. The river was rapid and sped swiftly, breaking as it passed on innumerable rocks just covered with water. It was a sight of some dread to see the frail boat winding among the eddies of the rocks, which it was death to touch, and where the slightest inclination on one side would inevitably have upset it.”

After a land-adventure, the breaking down of a caleche at Mumph, they with some difficulty reached Basle, and where, taking their passage
in another boat, laden with merchandise, they bade adieu to Switzerland.

“We were carried down,” says the tourist, “by a dangerously rapid current, and saw on each side, hills covered with vines and trees, craggy cliffs, crowned by desolate towers and wooded islands, whose picturesque ruins peeped from between the foliage, and cast the shadows of their forms on the troubled waters without defacing them.”

Having reached Rotterdam, they embarked for England, and encountering another storm on the bar, where they were for some time aground, landed in London, on the 13th August.

I have heard Shelley frequently dilate with rapture on the descent of the Rheuss and the Rhine. The remembrance of both, never faded from his memory, and furnished additional stores to his poetic mind, to be treasured up for after days, and reproduced in forms of surpassing sublimity and loveliness.

Yet though his imagination had been en-
chanted by the aspect of Nature in all her wonders, his bodily health was rather deteriorated than improved by the fatigues of this painful journey; the first part of it performed on foot beneath the burning suns, and through the arid plains and dusty roads of France; and the latter under exposure to the chill blasts of the snowy Alps, and the cold air of open boats. Money difficulties, the worst of all the evils of this life, had also contributed to blunt in a great degree the charm; for the harass of ways and means lies like a weight of lead on the spirit, and palsies enjoyment. He had spent during the six weeks, sixty pounds, and was obliged even to go on credit at Rotterdam for his passage money, in order to be enabled to set foot on his native shores.

When arrived there, he had to look forward to four months before he could hope to receive a single pound note of his anticipated allowance. His father’s heart was steeled in obduracy, and with that hatred between fathers and sons which
seems hereditary in the family,
Sir Timothy shut his purse and his doors against him.

The estate, as it was supposed, was strictly entailed; consequently his coming into the property depended on his surviving his father. His own life was not insurable, and was in so precarious a state that he had no possibility of raising money on his contingency. He was now destined, therefore, to suffer all the horrors of destitution. He says in the Cenci,—
“The eldest son of a rich nobleman,
Is heir to all his incapacities,—
He has great wants, and scanty powers.”

How he contrived to live during almost a year in the metropolis, I know not; but he pathetically describes his situation in Rosalind and Helen:—
“Thou knowest what a thing is poverty,
Among the fallen on evil days;
’Tis crime, and fear, and infamy,
And houseless want, in frozen ways
Wandering, ungarmented, and pain;
And worse than all, that inward stain,
Foul self-contempt, which drowns in tears
Youth’s starlight smiles, and wakes its tears,
First like hot gall, then dry for ever.
And well thou knowest, a mother never
Would doom her children to this ill,—
And well he knew the same.”

Under the prospect of being forced to support himself by a profession, he applied his talents to medicine, which he often told me he should have preferred to all others, as affording greater opportunities of alleviating the sufferings of humanity. He walked a hospital, and became familiar with death in all its forms,—“a lazar house, it was,”—I have heard him quote the passage—
“wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseased—all maladies
Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture—qualms
Of heart-sick agony—all feverish kinds;”
and where
Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch.”
And here, he told me, he himself expected it would have been his fate to breathe his last. His wants were, indeed, few; he still continued,
contrary to the advice of his physician, his vegetable diet; for none but a Pythagorean can tell with what a repugnance he who has once tried the system, reverts to the use of animal food. But few as his wants were, his means were scarcely able to supply them, and he has been often known to give a beggar the bread required for his own support.

He was not at that time acquainted with one, of whom I have often heard him speak with a gratitude and respect so justly due, and who is as much distinguished for the qualities of his heart as his talents;—why should I not name him?—Horace Smith. To his generous sympathy Shelley was throughout the latter part of his life greatly indebted. His purse was ever open to him, and in those pecuniary embarrassments, which his extreme generosity to others often entailed on him, he never applied to his valued friend in vain.

But at the beginning of the year 1815, his worldly prospects brightened; the Shelley set-
tlement, which is well known by lawyers, and quoted as a masterpiece of that legal casuistry called an entail, was found to contain an ultimate limitation of the reversion of the estates to the grandfather. A celebrated conveyancer, I believe the friend whom I have already mentioned in a former part of these memoirs, has the credit of having made this important discovery; and the consequence was, the fee simple of the estate, after his father’s death, was vested in

He was thus enabled to dispose of it by will as he pleased; and not only this, he had the means of raising money to supply his necessities. Sir Timothy was well aware of his son’s position, but was not prepared for the discovery of it. The news fell upon him like a thunderbolt, he was furious; but being desirous of benefitting his family, by the advice of a solicitor, made some arrangement; but whether on a post obit, or what terms, I know not, with Shelley, for an annuity of eight hundred pounds
a-year. Doubtless he took care to have good security for the same.