BY MRS. SHELLEY.
Shelley wrote little during this year. The poem entitled "The Sunset"
was written in the spring of the year, while still residing at
Bishopsgate. He spent the summer on the shores of the Lake of Geneva.
The "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" was conceived during his voyage round
the lake with Lord Byron. He occupied himself during this voyage by
reading the "Nouvelle Heloise" for the first time. The reading it on
the very spot where the scenes are laid added to the interest; and he
was at once surprised and charmed by the passionate eloquence and
earnest enthralling interest that pervade this work. There was
something in the character of Saint-Preux, in his abnegation of self,
and in the worship he paid to Love, that coincided with Shelley's own
disposition; and, though differing in many of the views and shocked by
others, yet the effect of the whole was fascinating and delightful.
"Mont Blanc" was inspired by a view of that mountain and its
surrounding peaks and valleys, as he lingered on the Bridge of Arve on
his way through the Valley of Chamouni. Shelley makes the following
mention of this poem in his publication of the "History of a Six Weeks'
Tour, and Letters from Switzerland": 'The poem entitled "Mont Blanc" is
written by the author of the two letters from Chamouni and Vevai. It
was composed under the immediate impression of the deep and powerful
feelings excited by the objects which it attempts to describe; and, as
an undisciplined overflowing of the soul, rests its claim to
approbation on an attempt to imitate the untamable wildness and
inaccessible solemnity from which those feelings sprang.'
This was an eventful year, and less time was given to study than usual.
In the list of his reading I find, in Greek, Theocritus, the
"Prometheus" of Aeschylus, several of Plutarch's "Lives", and the works
of Lucian. In Latin, Lucretius, Pliny's "Letters", the "Annals" and
"Germany" of Tacitus. In French, the "History of the French Revolution"
by Lacretelle. He read for the first time, this year, Montaigne's
"Essays", and regarded them ever after as one of the most delightful
and instructive books in the world. The list is scanty in English
works: Locke's "Essay", "Political Justice", and Coleridge's "Lay
Sermon", form nearly the whole. It was his frequent habit to read aloud
to me in the evening; in this way we read, this year, the New
Testament, "Paradise Lost", Spenser's "Faery Queen", and "Don Quixote".
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