Tải bản đầy đủ - 0trang
Review signed 'F.,' The Theological Inquirer, March July 1815
work, in which the delightful creations of fancy and the realities of
truth unite to produce an indelible impression on the mind.
The fairy descends in her chariot, and hovering over this earth,
confers on the soul of a beautiful female (Ianthe) the glorious boon of
a complete knowledge of the past, the present, and the future; the
body is lulled to sleep, the soul ascends the fairy car, and they take
their flight through the immeasurable expanse of the universe. Arrived
at the palace of the ‘Queen of Spells,’ the spirit is led by her to the
‘overhanging battlement,’ and thence beholds the inexpressible
grandeur of that multitude of worlds among which this earth (to
which her attention is especially directed) is but an insignificant speck.
The fairy then proceeds to point out the ruined cities of ancient time,
and her sublime descriptions, with the reflections naturally suggested
by the pomp and decay of grandeur, and the rise and fall of empires,
will form some of the most interesting of those extracts which I design
Having reviewed the deeds of ages past, the fairy then expatiates
on the systems of present existence; and here the author’s opinions,
conveyed through the lips of his visionary instrument, are bold to the
highest pitch of daring; this, however, is not the theatre for their
discussion; to state and to applaud would be dangerous, and to condemn
would be ungenerous while a restricted press allows not of open defense.
The doctrine of Necessity, abstruse and dark as the subject is generally
believed, forms a leading consideration in this poem, and is treated
with a precision of demonstration, and illumined with a radiance of
genius, far beyond expectation itself:
The Present and the Past thou hast beheld;
It was a desolate sight.
And the fairy then lifts the veil of an imaginary futurity, and presents
to the delighted spirit the prospect of a state of human perfection,
which affords illimitable range for the erratic wanderings of poetic
ardour: here the fairy and the spirit revel in all the luxury of hope and
joy; and having contemplated awhile with virtuous satisfaction the
happy scene thus opened to mortal conception, the former declares
her task completed, and conveys the latter to her earthly tenement,
which her anxious lover is watching with impatient ardor for its
The reflections in the commencement of the poem over the inanimate
body of Ianthe, are remarkably impressive….
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
[quotes Canto I, lines 19–36]
The approach of Queen Mab is thus powerfully described:
[quotes Canto I, lines 45–58]
The description of the fairy’s appearance, as
—Leaning gracefully from th’ etherial car,
Long did she gaze, and silently,
Upon the slumbering maid.
is introduced in the following sublime strain of exclamation:
Oh! not the visioned poet in his dreams,
When silvery clouds float through the wildered brain,
When every sight of lovely, wild and grand
Astonishes, enraptures, elevates,
When fancy at a glance combines
The wondrous and the beautiful,—
So bright, so fair, so wild a shape
Hath ever yet beheld,
As that which reined the coursers of the air,
And poured the magic of her gaze
Upon the maiden’s sleep.
Her address to the soul of Ianthe, and its effects, are marked with the
most vivid beauties of poetry….
[quotes Canto I, lines 114–56]
In answer to the spirit’s natural inquiry of astonishment at the new
feeling which pervades her, the fairy proceeds to explain her own
state of being….
[quotes Canto I, lines 167–87]
The magic power of this command operates instantaneously:
The strains of earth’s immurement
Fell from Ianthe’s spirit;
They shrank and brake like bandages of straw
Beneath a wakened giant’s strength.
Satan’s passage through chaos, in Milton, sublime as it is, sinks into
comparative insignificance, when considered with the description of
the fairy and the spirit’s course through the immensity of the universe;
it is lengthy, but a short extract or two will justify my opinion….
[quotes Canto I, lines 222–48]
The reflections on this imposing scene, with which the first part of
the poem (which is in nine divisions) concludes, must not be omitted….
[quotes Canto I, lines 264–77]
If, Mr. Editor, you make your approbation of this correspondence
by inserting it, I shall continue my selections from a work, the whole
of which there is but small probability of the present generation
becoming acquainted with. I am, Sir,
Your well-wisher, F.
As you have gratified me, and (I trust) the public, by inserting my fine
selection of specimens from Queen Mab, I shall continue to point out
what appear to me its principal excellencies; proud of the opportunity
of homaging the shrine of genius, and delighted to cull flowers from
the luxuriant garden of a rich poetic imagination.
The description of the Fairy Queen’s palace is introduced in a
manner peculiarly calculated to arrest the attention….
[quotes Canto II, lines 1–21]
The light step of beauty has been frequently the subject of fanciful
description. Scott, in his Lady of the Lake, has it:
Ev’n the light hare-bell raised its head
Elastic from her airy tread.
But the following is a more sublime picture:
The Fairy and the Spirit
Entered the Hall of Spells:
Those golden clouds
That rolled in glittering billows
Beneath the azure canopy
With the ethereal footsteps trembled not.
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
In the view of the ‘countless and unending orbs’ of the universe, this
earth is described as:
—a little light
That twinkled in the misty distance;
None but a spirit’s eye
Might ken that rolling orb.
The tombs of the lovely, the good, and the great, have always afforded
a fruitful source of reflection to the sensitive mind; even the gibbet of
the criminal excites a sigh for the perversion of human ability.
But over the records of mighty nations, fallen beneath the mad
blow of the conqueror’s ambition; or decayed by the consumptive
influence of moral corruption; the sensibilities take a wider and more
dignified scope for meditation; and although the disordered relations
of man are thus martialled in dreadful array before the shrinking
perception, so as to produce a transient emotion of despair in the
bosom of the philanthropist, yet is the glow of patriotism ultimately
benefited, and every virtue strengthened and improved….
[quotes Canto II, lines 109–81]
The author’s favourite doctrine of the eternity of matter is thus
forcibly illustrated and insisted upon….
[quotes Canto II, lines 211–43]
Adverting to the rottenness of certain established systems of
government, and the patient and wonderful endurance of man, the
Fairy indignantly proceeds….
[quotes Canto III, lines 106–17]
How nobly contemptuous is the tone of the inquiry which follows
a deprecation of the evils of tyranny, and a fond prophecy of a period
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now.
[The quotation continues through lines 138–49 of Canto III]
That the author is a powerful advocate of Necessity is evinced by
the following extract….
[quotes Canto III, lines 214–40]
Alas! how little is there in the present aspect of the world and its
institutions, to warrant a hope of the speedy consummation of this
anticipated state of perfection! yet does the eye of innocence receive
with grateful delight the feeble ray thus stealing through the crevice
of its persecuted being’s dungeon. F.
The following description of a fine night in winter will strike the
reader with a forcible sense of admiration.
[quotes Canto IV, lines 1–19]
Further on, the author imagines the quiet of this scene destroyed
by the tumult and horror of war.
[quotes Canto IV, lines 33–69]
The Fairy, in a strain of indignant inquiry into the moral causes
which produce the scenes of horror and devastation depicted above,
[quotes Canto IV, lines 89–104]
The demon of trade, that enemy of virtue, that monster whose
breath chills the ardor of sensibility, and drives the shivering soul to
the inmost corner of distrustful reserve, is an object of our author’s
most powerful indignation.
[quotes Canto V, lines 44–63]
How lamentably true the following picture of the evils resulting
from the love of gain.
[quotes Canto V, lines 166–96]
An episode, founded on the celebrated legend of the wandering
Jew, forms a prominent feature in the admirable poem under analysis.
The fairy thus expresses herself.
[quotes Canto VII, lines 59–82]
This is that suppositious character, who, for insulting Christ on his
way to the place of execution, is said to be condemned to a restless
existence on earth till the day of judgment: the vengeful acrimony of
his disposition, naturally produced by this severe decree, pervades the
whole of his long harrangue to the fairy and the spirit, so as to render
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
it imprudent to submit it here; but the reader must be gratified by the
sublime and impressive manner of its conclusion.
[quotes Canto VII, lines 254–75]
If, in this division of the poem, which describes the systems of the
present, I have confined myself to extracts characteristic, by their
power of fancy and beauty of description, of the author’s ability as a
poet; and have not produced those indications that he is a philosopher
of the first rank, with which the volume abounds, it must be attributed
to the boldness of his sentiments, which, in this country, where the
freedom of the press is little more than an empty name, it would be
hazardous to disseminate.
Now it is that the visionary golden age bursts in full splendour on the
luxurious imagination of our poet: and this favorite theme of all bards
is treated in a manner which covers former descriptions with
insignificance, its effects on the Spirit are rapturous.
[quotes Canto VIII, lines 11–40]
The concluding simile is inexpressibly beautiful; nor does an
extensive poetical reading furnish me with any reason to doubt its
originality. It is not to the blooming vales of Tempé, to the golden
groves of Arcadia; or to any other favorite spot that our poet confines
the happiness of his mental vision; the whole earth is the work of
renovation, and the desert and the deep alike are resigned to the
[quotes Canto VIII, lines 70–87]
The sublime and faultless fabric of his conception being perfected,
the poet exclaims with rapturous gratulation,
[quotes Canto IX, lines 1–55]
The following are striking, but, alas! unhoped-for changes:
[quotes Canto IX, lines 93–129]
Thus, Mr. Editor, have I endeavoured, like Mahomet and St. John,
to give your readers a faint idea of the paradise to which I have been
admitted; surely my selections must interest the soul of fancy, the
heart of feeling, to such a degree, that the energies of resolution will
be impelled with increased force to the accomplishment of that great
object the complete freedom of the press in matters of public opinion.
For the reflection must occur that this is only one of the numerous
productions of genius which have perished in the bud, which have
been destroyed in the womb by its oppressive restrictions.
The copious and elegant notes to the poem, it is not within my
design to call your attention to.
A Paine, a Voltaire, and a Volney, have written to teach man his
dignity; they have conveyed the voice of Reason to the unprejudiced
ear, and have seemed monuments of fame in the gratitude of future
ages, but it was reserved for the author of Queen Mab to show, that
‘The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,’
might soar to other and to nobler objects than the domes of superstition,
and the heaven of priestly invention, and to prove the justice of Milton’s
How charming is divine philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo’s lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets
Where no crude surfeit reigns.
12. Unsigned review, John Bull’s British
March 11, 1821, no. 3, 22
As the name of this poet is now become familiar to the literary world
in consequence of the animadversions his Revolt of Islam, The Cenci,
a tragedy, and Prometheus, a lyrical drama, have given rise to in the
magazines and Reviews, they may perhaps feel interested in an account
of a poem, written and printed (for private circulation only), but
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
never published, some years since. It contains thoughts and sentiments
so bold, no bookseller has hitherto ventured to publish it; but that is
no reason why some of its beauties should not be made known to our
readers. The author has made fiction and suitable poetical imagery
the vehicles of his moral and philosophic opinions. The attributes of
Queen Mab form the machinery of a work in which the delightful
creations of fancy, and the realities of truth, unite to produce an
indelible impression on the mind.
[The remainder of this review closely follows the text of ‘F.’s’ review in The
Theological Inquirer (see No. 11).]
13. Unsigned review, The London Magazine
and Theatrical Inquisitor
March 1821, iii, 278–81
Queen Mab is a poem, written (as we understand) by Mr. Shelley when
at Oxford, and is one of the earliest of his productions. The sentiments
contained in it gave considerable offence to the learned heads of the
University, and entailed on the author some unpleasant consequences.
With these, however, we have nothing to do at present. Our business is
with the poetical merits of the work. With the speculative tenets of the
writer we shall not intermeddle. If his opinions are palpably absurd
and false, they must fall by their own absurdity and falsehood; and
discussion could serve no other purpose than to invest them with an
importance they do not intrinsically possess. As to the private scandal
from which some critics have borrowed pungency and attraction for
their disquisitions, we utterly disclaim it; we can neither conceive its
connection with criticism, not its propriety from the pen of a reviewer.
The prominent features of Mr. Shelley’s poetical character are
energy and depth. He has not the tenderness and delicacy of some
living poets, nor the fertile and soaring imagination of others. In the
former he is surpassed very far indeed by Barry Cornwall, nor does he
approach in the latter to Coleridge, or even to Keats. But he has an
intense and overwhelming energy of manner, and if he does not present
us with many original conceptions, his turn of thought, as well as
expression, is strongly indicative of original genius. We apprehend,
indeed, that the peculiar charm of Shelley’s writing is derived from
that complete conviction which he evidently entertains of the justness
and importance of all he asserts. This feeling, whether a man’s opinions
be right or wrong, communicates a force and pointedness to diction,
and an interest to composition, which mere labour can never bestow.
All Mr. Shelley’s thoughts are feelings. He constantly communicates
to his reader the impression made upon his own mind, and gives it,
even in our apprehension, all the vividness and strength with which it
struck his own fancy. His figures, it is true, are often disproportioned,
often terrific; but they burst upon us from the canvas in all the energy
of life and motion. This gives interest to his sketches, even where the
colouring is coarse, and the drawing deficient in exactitude.
Queen Mab opens with some fine reflections upon sleep and death,
and allusions to a maid termed Ianthe, apparently dead. Her the poet
describes as all that was pure and lovely. He proceeds to tell us that a
rushing noise is heard where the body lay, and soon the fairy queen
makes her appearance in a radiant car, arrayed in all the lightness and
splendour of poetical decoration. She addresses the spirit of Ianthe—
she declares herself to be acquainted both with the past and the future,
and that it is permitted her ‘to rend the veil of mortal fraility,’ and to
inform the human spirit how it may best accomplish those purposes
for which it received its being. That this is a privilege granted only to
pure sinless spirits like Ianthe’s. She accordingly invites her to avail
herself of it immediately, and ascend the car with her. The spirit complies,
and they proceed upon their journey to the palace of the fairy. They
pass by innumerable suns and worlds, and at length terminate their
etherial voyage upon the very boundaries of this universe. The
description of this voyage, and of the palace of her fairy majesty, is
highly splendid and poetical. When arrived there, Queen Mab declares
the purpose of their journey, presents the spirit with a view from the
eternal battlements of her palace, of the immense universe stretched
below. She takes a review of the past; dwells upon the glories and
disgraces of mankind as exhibited in history: upon their crimes, their
infatuations, their prejudices, and the absurdity of all received opinions
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
and institutions. She then opens a vista of the future, clad in all the
splendid anticipations of perfectibility. She tells how crime, tyranny,
and war shall cease: how swords shall be turned into plough-shares,
and spears into pruning-hooks; and how, in spite of the doleful
predictions of Mr. Malthus, the increase of population, consequent
on such state, will only tend to the increase of happiness and virtue.
Thus the fairy’s task is ended: she restores the spirit to its fleshy
tabernacle; and we discover, at the conclusion that Ianthe was not
dead, but had slept, and that all was a dream!—The poetical excellence
of this work may be judged from the following extracts….
[quotes I, 144–56; I, 264–77; II, 225–43; III, 138–69]
Our readers, we think, will agree with us in pronouncing, that none
but a man of genius could write this. At the same time it must be
confessed, that the poem possesses many of the faults of a young writer,
and a few of the affectations of that school with which the author has
been classed, but from whose restrictions we trust he will soon completely
emancipate himself. We cannot conclude this article without earnestly
exhorting Mr. Shelley to undertake something truly worthy of his great
powers—something that can be read by the generality of mankind—
something divested of those peculiar associations which render him at
present so unpopular. Let him remember, that the most effectual mode
of combating prejudice is not by direct and violent opposition, but by
gentleness and inteneration. We would also tell him, that a genius like
his was formed for mankind—that his home is the universe, and that he
will not fulfil his high destiny by contracting himself within the narrow
limits of a circle of friends, whose standard of literary excellence is
regulated by certain conventional ideas peculiar to themselves. It is not
thus that his writings will acquire that extension and permanence that
alone can render them truly beneficial to mankind, and productive of
immortality to their author.
14. Unsigned review, The Literary Gazette
and Journal of Belles Lettres
May 19, 1821, no. 226, 305–8
The mixture of sorrow, indignation, and loathing, with which this
volume has overwhelmed us, will, we fear, deprive us of the power of
expressing our sentiments upon it, in the manner best suited to the
subject itself, and to the effect which we wish our criticism to have
upon society. Our desire is to do justice to the writer’s genius, and
upon his principles: not to deny his powers, while we deplore their
perversion; and above all, when we lay before our readers the examples
of his poetry, to warn them against the abominable and infamous
contagion with which in the sequel he poisons these splendid effusions.
We have doubted whether we ought to notice this book at all; and if
our silence could have prevented its being disseminated, no allusion
to it should ever have stained The Literary Gazette. But the activity
of the vile portion of the press is too great to permit this hope,1 and on
weighing every consideration presented to our minds, we have come
to the conclusion to lay, as far as we are able, the bane and antidote
before the public. Queen Mab has long been in limited and private
circulation, as a duodecimo; and the first two or three cantos, under
the title of The Demon of the World, were reprinted at the end of a
poem called Alastor; as was also the principal note against Christianity
in a detached pamphlet. Though the hellish ingredients, therefore,
are now for the first time brought together into one cauldron, they
have, like those of the evil beings in Macbeth, previously disgusted
the world in forms of separate obsceneness.
We have spoken of Shelley’s genius, and it is doubtless of a high
order; but when we look at the purposes to which it is directed, and
contemplate the infernal character of all its efforts, our souls revolt
As this is a book of so blasphemous a nature, as to have no claim to the protection
of copy-right it may be published by Scoundrels at all prices, to destroy the moral
feeling of every class of the community. In the present instance the author has not, we
imagine, been consulted. (Reviewer’s footnote)