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This poet was born in Dublin, on the fourteenth of December, 1791. On the death of his father, the family removed to England, where they resided several years. In 1805 young Wolfe was placed at the Winchester School, where he remained until 1809, when he entered the university of his native city. Here he was distinguished as a classical scholar, and for his abilities as a poet. At a very early age, while at Winchester, he had written verses remarkable as the productions of one so young, and before completing his twentyfirst year, he gained the reputation of being the first genius in the university, by two poems of considerable merit, Jugurtha and Patriotism, for the last of which a prize was given by one of the college societies.
In the autumn of 1817, Mr. Wolfe entered into holy orders, and he soon after obtained a living in an obscure parish of Tyrone county, and subsequently the curacy of Castle Caulfield. He devoted himself with untiring assiduity to the duties of his profession until the spring of 1821, when symptoms of consumption made their appearance, and he was induced to visit Scotland, to consult a physician
distinguished for his skill in the treatment of pulmonary complaints. This visit was productive of no benefit. Wolfe returned to his cure, and soon after went to reside in Devonshire, and subsequently at Bordeaux in the south of France. The summer months of 1822 were passed with his friend Archdeacon Russell, in Dublin. In November of that year he removed to the Cove of Cork, where he died on the twenty-first of February, 1822, in the thirty-second year of his age. Wolfe is chiefly known as the writer of the lines on the Burial of Sir John Moore, which were originally printed anonymously, and attributed in turn to nearly every eminent poet of the day. Their authorship has been a subject of some controversy since the death of Wolfe, but the question has been put to rest by an article in the Dublin University Magazine for December, 1842, in which the proofs that it is by Wolfe are demonstrative. Several of his other pieces are distinguished for exquisite melody and tenderness, and show that he was capable of the highest lyrical efforts. Dr. Russel, has published the Remains of Wolfe, with an interesting memoir of his life.
THE life of SHELLEY is familiar to most readers of modern literature. It involves questions too grave and extensive to be even glanced at in these pages, and I shall attempt to give but little more than its chronology.
PERcy Bysshe Shelley, the eldest son of Sir TIMothy Shelley, was born at Field Place, in the county of Suffolk, on the fourth of August, 1792. When thirteen years of age, he was sent to Eton, whence at an earlier period than usual he was transferred to Oxford. While in the university he was reserved and melancholy, but studious. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable, and he directed his inquiries into every department of science and opinion. He became interested in the speculations of the French philosophers, and a convert to their fallacies. He avowed his new principles, and boldly challenged his teachers to the discussion of the truth of the Christian religion. His expulsion from the university followed, and the event exasperated and embittered his mind to the verge of madness. He was confirmed in his belief, and driven yet further from the truth, by what he deemed oppression and despotism. In the excitement of this period he wrote Queen Mab, the most wonderful work ever produced by one so young. It was unpublished several years, and it finally appeared without his consent. It is an earnest expression of the feelings born at Oxford; of unbelief, of protestation, and defiance.
His family were offended by his course at the university, and more so, soon after, by his marriage. The union was on every account unfortunate. Both were very young; and SHELLEY soon found that he could have little sympathy of taste or feeling with his wife. After the birth of two children they separated, by mutual consent, and she subsequently committed suicide, though not until he had united himself to a daughter of GodwiN and MARy WolstoNEcRAFt. This was the great error of his life; he should not have married again while Mrs. Shelley lived; but an intimate knowledge of the circumstances and of his principles would have made less
harsh the condemnation which the act occasioned. In 1814 Shelley went abroad, visited the more magnificent scenes of Switzerland, and returned to England by the Reuss and the Rhine. In the following summer he wrote Alastor or the Spirit of Solitude. Alastor is a young enthusiast who has vainly sought, in the works of the philosophers and in travel, the impersonation of a beau ideal which has no existence; and he dies in despair, on finding that he has spent his years in a dream. It is a noble poem, beautiful, tranquil, and solemn. The melodious versification is in keeping with the exalted melancholy of the thought. It was the ideal of SHELLEY’s emotions, in the hues inspired by his brilliant imagination, softened by the recent anticipation of death. The year 1816 was spent chiefly on the shores of the lake of Geneva. It was during a voyage round this lake with Lord By Rox, with whom he had recently become acquainted, that he wrote the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, and Mont Blanc was inspired soon after by a view of that mountain while on his way through the valley of Chamouni. In 1817. Shelley wrote The Revolt of Islam, and several shorter pieces and fragments. The beautiful dedication of the Revolt of Islam to his wife I have copied into this volume. Of the poem itself I shall attempt no minute description. It was his design, when commencing it, to entitle it Laon and Cythma or the Revolution of the Golden City, and to make it a story of passion; but as he advanced his plan was changed. At the end of six months, devoted to the task with unremitted ardour and enthusiasm, he finished the work, which, with all its beauty and magnificence, with all the truth that glows in the darkness of its error, it had been better for the world if he had left unwritten. An act more infamous than any of which SHELLEY was ever even accused, was that of the Court of Chancery, under the presidency of Lord ELDoN, by which he was deprived of the guardianship of his children, on the ground that his antisocial and irreligious principles unfitted him to be their educator. This atrocious violation of the law of nature drove him from England for ever. While crossing the sea, under the impression that expatriation was necessary to preserve his child, he gave | utterance to his uncontrollable emotions in some lines, addressed to his youngest son:—
The billows are leaping around it,
Rest, rest, shriek not, thou gentle child: The rocking of the boat thou fearest,
And the cold spray and the clamour wild?
There sit between us two, thou dearest;
Me and thy mother—well we know
The storm at which thou tremblest so,
With all its dark and hungry graves,
Less cruel than the savage slaves
Who hunt us o'er these sheltering waves.
This hour will sometime in thy memory
We soon shall dwell by the azure sea
- And I will teach thine infant tongue - To call upon those heroes old o In their own language, and will mould Thy growing spirit in the flame Of Grecian lore; that by such name A patriot's birthright thou mayst claim. When afterwards this child died at Rome, he wrote of the English burying-ground in that | city, “This spot is the repository of a sacred loss, of which the yearnings of a parent's heart are now prophetic; he is rendered immortal by love, as his memory is by death. My beloved child is buried here. I envy death the body far less than the oppressors the minds of those whom they have torn from me. The one can only kill the body, the other crushes the affections.” Rosalind and Helen, which had been begun in England, was finished at the baths of Lucca, in the summer of 1818. From Lucca - SHELLEY went to Venice, near which city he commenced his greatest work, Prometheus Unbound. In the winter he removed to Naples. He suffered much from ill health; and in the spring of 1819 went to Villa Valsovana, in the vicinity of Leghorn, where he wrote the Masque of Anarchy, from which Liberty, in this volume, is extracted, and the Tragedy of the Cenci. The close of the year 1919 was spent in Florence, and the ensuing summer at the baths of San Giuliano, near
Pisa. In 1820 he wrote The Sensitive Plant, Julian and Maddalo, The Witch of Atlas, and many smaller pieces. In 1821 he was still at Pisa. His principal writings this year were Epipsychidion and Adonais. In the spring of 1822 he hired a villa near Lerici, on the bay of Spezia. On the first of July he left home, in a small vessel which had been built for him, to meet his friend Leigh HUNT, who had just arrived at Pisa. Two weeks after, he was lost in a storm at sea. In Adonais he had almost anticipated his destiny. When the mind figures his boat veiled from sight by the clouds, as it was last seen upon the ocean, and then the waves, when the storm had passed, without a sign of where it had been, it may well regard as prophecy the last stanza of the hymn to the memory of his brother bard:— The breath, whose might I have invoked in song, Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven, Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng, Whose sails were never to the tempest given; The massy earth and sphered skies are riven; I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar; Whilst burning through the in most veil of heaven, The soul of Adonais, like a star, Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are. Shelley's predominant faculty was his imagination. Fantasy prevails to such an extent in his long poems, that they are too abstract for the “daily food” of any but ideal minds. No modern poet has created such an amount of mere imagery. There is a want of simplicity and human interest about his productions which render them “caviare to the general.” He has been well designated as the poet for poets. Two or three of his short pieces are models of lyric beauty. His classic dramas abound in rich metaphors. The Cenci is unquestionably the most remarkable of modern plays. Greek literature modified his taste, and a life of singular vicissitude disturbed the healthful current of a soul cast in a gentle but heroic mould. His aspirations were exalted, and his genius of the first order. Notwithstanding all the injustice done him by men prejudiced by his irreligious opinions, it is my belief, from a careful study of his life, that the world has scarcely furnished a more noble nature. He might have been a Christian had he suffered less from man's inhumanity. The weakness and wickedness which made him an exile from his home and country, hardened his heart and petrified his feelings against an influence