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lation, or prevented men from uttering with their tongues what their hearts conceived, both Christianity and Protestantism would have been stified in their birth. Martyrdom, as Dr. Johnson somewhere observes, has ever been considered the test of truth; and history shows that the adherents of all opinions, good or bad, erroneous or otherwise, have always hailed it with exultation. Persecution gives to the bold infidel and reckless fomenter of sedition the notoriety which he desiderates; and to the meek, long-suffering apostle of truth an opportunity for displaying the fortitude in which he glories. Thus principles which, if left alone, would soon die of their own rottenness, are noised abroad and vivified by the very means taken to destroy them; while compassion is awakened on behalf of men whose names and characters, in the natural course of things, would have quickly sunk into oblivion.
The law against religious libels, if wisely and abstinently applied, might perhaps have a good effect in checking penny blasphemy and cheap irreligion; but the prosecution of such a man as Mr. Moxon for the publication of the works of Shelley cannot be tolerated or justified. Shelley will never be read by any but those who understand him. Of the others, some will hate him as a religious incendiary, and avoid him as a contamination,—some will laugh at him as a visionary, and contemn his poems as ethereal vagaries,—and the rest, from a total want of taste for such subjects, will neither look into his works nor“ think a thought" concerning him No person was ever made an infidel by reading Shelley; for, as we have elsewhere stated, the god and the religion against which he fights are phantoms conjured up by his own imagination. We can admire the dauntless heroism with which he throws down the gauntlet of defiance against the monster, “vengeful as almighty,” whom he himself has created; but, practically, we can regard it in no other light than as the magnificent madness—the fine frenzy of a poet's brain.
"The wild and whirling words” have seldom more than a glimmering of meaning; and a fit inmate of Bedlam would he indeed be, who should think of basing his faith upon rhapsodies, which their author himself subsequently eschewed.
Few persons could have been found better qualified than Mr. Serjeant Talfourd to defend Shelley's poetry, and its amiable publisher. The delicacy of his own mind endows him with peculiar advantages in investigating the character of a poet, ethereal even to a fault; and accordingly we find in his more than eloquent speech, such just discrimination and correct analysis, as will render it a valuable acquisition to the admirer of Shelley.
The defence which Serjeant Talfourd sets up for Mr. Moxon is triumphant, and should have ensured the acquittal of his client. Admitting that there are passages in the indicted volume, which, separately considered, are very offensive to piety and good taste, the learned Serjeant proceeds to argue that “the scope, the object, the tendency of the entire publication must be determined before we can decide on the guilt or innocence of the party who has published the passages charged as blasphemous. These passages," he proceeds, “like details and pictures in works of anatomy and surgery, are either innocent or criminal according to the accompaniments which surround them, and the class to which they are addressed. If really intended for the eye of the scientific student, they are most innocent; but if so published as to manifest another intention, they will not be protected from legal censure by the flimsy guise of science. By a similar test let this publication be judged ! If its whole tenor lead you to believe that the dissemination of irreligious feelings was its object—nay, that such will be its natural consequence, ---Jet Mr. Hetherington have his triumph; but if you believe that these words, however offensive when abstractedly taken, form part of a great intellectual and moral phenomenon, which may be disclosed to the class of readers who alone will purchase the volume, not only without injury, but to their instruction, you will joytully find Mr. Moxon as free from blasphemy in contemplation of the strictest law, as I know'he is in purpose and in spirit. “ The
passages selected as specimens of the indicted libel are found in a complete edition of the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley-a work comprising more than twenty thousand lines of verse,-and occupy something less than the three-hundredth part of the volume which contains them. The book presents the entire intellectual historytrue and faithful, because traced in the series of those works which were its events—of one of the most extraordinary persons ever gifted and doomed to illustrate the nobleness, the grandeur, the imperfections, and the progress of human genius-whom it pleased God to take from this world while the process harmonizing his stupendous powers was yet incomplete, but not before it had indicated its beneficent workings. It is edited by his widow, a lady endowed with great and original talent, who, as she states in her preface, hastens 'to fulfil an important duty, that of giving the productions of a sublime genius to the world, with all the correctness possible, and of, at the same time, detailing the history of these productions as they sprang, warm and living from his heart and brain. And, accordingly, the poems are all connected together by statements as to the circumstances under which they were written, and the feelings which inspired them. The alterations (says Mrs. Shelley) his opinions underwent ought to be recorded, for they form his history.'
“The first of these works is a poem, written at the age of eighteen, entitled · Queen Mab;' a composition marked with nothing to attract the casual reader-irregular in versification, wild, disjointed, visionary: often difficult to be understood even by a painful student of poetry, and sometimes wholly unintelligible even to him ; but containing as much to wonder at, to ponder on, to weep over, as any half-formed work of genius which ever emanated from the vigour and the rashness of youth. This poem, which I shall bring before you presently, is fol, lowed by the marvellous series of works of which · Alastor,' “The Revolt of Islam,' the Prometheus Unbound,' and "The Cenci' form the principal, exhibiting a continuous triumph of mellowing and consecrating influences, down to the moment when sudden death shrouded the poet's career from the observation of mortals. Now the question is, whether it is blasphemy to present to the world—say rather to the calm, the laborious, the patient searcher after wisdom and beauty, who alone will peruse this volume—the awful mistakes, the mighty struggles, the strange depressions, and the imperfect victories of such a spirit, because the picture has some passages of frightful gloom. I am far
from contending that everything which genius has in rashness or in wantonness produced, becomes, when once committed to the press,
the inalienable property of mankind. Such a principle, indeed, seems to be involved in an argument which was recently sanctioned by the authority of a Cabinet Minister, more distinguished even as a profound thinker and an eloquent and accomplished critic, than by political station. When I last urged the claim of the descendants of men of genius to be the guardians of their fame, as well as the recipients of its attendant rewards, I was met with denial, on the plea that, from some fastidiousness of taste, or some over-niceness of moral apprehension, the hereditary representatives of a great writer may cover his works with artificial oblivion. I have asked, whether, if a poet has written some line which, dying, he may wish to blot,' he shall not be allowed by the insatiate public to blot it dying; and I have asked in vain!
vain ! Fielding and Richardson have been quoted, as writers whose works, multiplying as they will through all time the sources of innocent enjoyment, might have been suppressed by some too dainty moralist. Now, admitting that the tendency of Fielding's works, taken as a whole, is as invigorating as it is delightful, I fear there are chapters which, if taken from their connexion-apart from the healthful atmosphere in which their impurities evaporate and die—and printed at some penny cost for dissemination among the young, would justly incur the censure of that law which has too long withheld its visitations from those who have sought a detestable profit by spreading cheap corruption through the land. It may be true, as Dr. Johnson ruled, that Richardson ‘had taught the passions to move at the command of virtue ;' and, as was recently asserted, that Mrs. Hannah More first learned from his writings those principles of piety by which her life was guided; ' but (to leare out of consideration the Adventures of Pamela, which must sometimes have put Mrs. Hannah More to the blush) I fear that selections might be made, even from the greatest of all prose romances, Clarissa Harlowe, which the Society for the Suppression of Vice would scarcely endure. Do I wish them therefore suppressed ? No! Because in these massive volumes the antidote is found with the bane; because the effect of Lovelace's daring pleas for vice, and of pictures yet more vicious, is neutralized by the scenes of passion and suffering which surround them; because the unsullied image of heroic purity and beautiful endurance rises fairer from amidst the encircling pollutions, and conquers every feeling but those of admiration and pity. Yet if detached scenes were, like these passages of Shelley, selected for the prosecution, how could they be defended—but, like them, by reference to the spirit, and intent, and tendency of the entire work from which they were torn ? And yet the defence would be less conclusive than that which I now offer; as descriptions which appeal to passion are far less capable of correction by accompanying moralities, than the cold speculations of a wild infidelity by the considerations which the history of their author's mind supplies. In the wise and just dispensations of Providence great powers are often found associated with weakness or with sorrow; but when these are not blended with the intellectual greatness they countervail, but merely affect the personal fortunes of their possessors—as when a sanguine temperament leads into vicious excesses - there is no more propriety in unveiling the truth, because it is truth, than in exhibiting the details of some physical disease. But when the greatness of the poet's intellect contains within itself the elements of tumult and disorder—when the appreciation of the genius, in all its divine relations and all its human lapses, depends on a view of the entire picture—must it be withheld ? It is not a sinful Elysium, full of lascivious blandishments, but a heaving chaos of mighty elements, that the publisher of the early productions of Shelley unveils. In such a case, the more awful the alienation, the more pregnant with good will be the lesson. Shall this life, fevered with beauty, restless with inspiration, be hidden ? or, wanting its first blind but gigantic efforts, be falsely, because partially, revealed? If to trace back the stream of genius, from its greatest and most lucid earthly breadth to its remotest fountain, is one of the most interesting and instructive objects of philosophic research, shall we—when we have followed that of Shelley through its majestic windings, beneath the solemn glooms of The Cenci,' through the glory-tinged expanses of “The Revolt of Islam,' amidst the dream-like haziness of the · Prometheus'-be forbidden to ascend with painful steps its narrowing course to its furthest spring, because black rocks may encircle the spot whence it rushes into day, and demon shapes—frightful, but powerless for harm-may gleam and frown on us beside it?"
It is said of a certain celebrated author, that when somebody objected to the graphic delineations of vice which he was wont rather unsparingly to introduce into his works, be thus replied: “My office is to depict manners as they are. I made them not, nor am I responsible for what is wrong in them. I find vice and virtue indiscriminately mixed together in the world; and, therefore, I must paint both if Í would produce a faithful likeness.” This reply has often been eulogized; and we find Addison in the Spectator declaring, in the same spirit, that one of the chief uses of his paper is, " that without representing vice under any alluring notions, it gives the reader an insight into the ways of men, and represents human nature in all its changeable colours ; so that the virtuous and innocent may know in speculation what they could never arrive at by practice, and by this means avoid the snares of the crafty, the corruptions of the vicious, and the reasonings of the prejudiced.”* In fact, if this plea is not to be admitted in justification of detached passages of authors which may appear to sin against conventional propriety and morality, literature is at once degraded from the noblest of its offices. The physician must know the disease before he can prescribe the cure; and one of the most fatal stabs that could be given to real virtue would be to veil vice wholly from sight, for fear of giving offence to strait-laced formalists. An author's intention must not be disregarded; nor a detached chapter, paragraph, or expression be allowed to convict him of licentiousness. It may, perhaps, be doubted whether our greater refinement in this particular, at the present time, has contributed to make us a whit more virtuous than we were in the days of Richardson and Fielding
# No. 245.
Having thus presented the foundation of his defence, the learned Serjeant proceeds in a masterly strain to consider the passages set out in the indictment, and the poem in which they appear, with a view to inquire whether they are of a nature capable of being fairly regarded as innoxious in connexion with Shelley's life:
“Admitting, as I do," he continues, "that, if published with an aim to commend them to the reader as the breathings or suggestions of truthnay, that, if recklessly published in such a manner as to present them to the reader for approval,—they deserve all the indignation which can be lavished on them ; I cannot think, even then, they would have power to injure. They appeal to no passion-they pervert no affectionthey find nothing in human nature, frail as it always is, guilty as it sometimes becomes, to work on. Contemplated apart from the intellectual history of the extraordinary being who produced them, and from which they can never be severed by any reader of this book, they would excite no feelings but those of wonder at their audacity, and pity for their weakness. Not only are they incapable of awakening any chords of evil in the soul, but they are ineffectual even to present to it an intelligible heresy. • We understand a fury in the words but not the words.' What do they import? Is it atheism ?-or is it a mad defiance of a God by one who believes and hates, yet does not tremble? To the first passage, commencing, “ They have three words, - God, Hell, and Heaven !'—the prosecutor does not venture to affix any meaning at all, but tears them from their context, and alleges that they are part of a libel on the Holy Scriptures, though there is no reference in them to the Bible, or to any Scripture doctrine; nor does the indictment supply any definite meaning or reference to explain or to answer. To the second paragraph,
Is there a God !-ay, an Almighty God,
Girt as it was with power—' the indictment does present a most extended innuendo;— Thereby meaning and referring to the Scripture history of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and meaning that the said Korah, Dathan, and Abirum, were dauntless and good, and were so dauntless and good for daring to hurl defiance at the throne of Almighty God.' This is, indeed, a flight of the poetry of pleading,-a construction which you must find as the undoubted sense of the passage-before you can sustain this part of the accusation. But again, I ask, is there any determinate meaning in these wild and whirling words ? Are they more than atoms of chaotic thought not yet subsided into harmony, over which the Spirit of Love has not yet brooded, so as to make them pregnant with life, and beauty, and joy? But suppose, for a moment, they nakedly assert atheism-never was there an error which, thus