1 He himself notes the circumstances of composition. " Mem.-' Ode to Setting Sun ' begun in the field of the Cross, and under shadow of the Cross, at sunset; finished ascending and descending Jacob's Ladder (mid or late noon ?) " " The Song of the Hours" also was written at Storrington.
After requests for boots and writing-pads-walking and writing made up his days-he gives notice that with many misgivings he has fixed on Shelley for the theme of a first Dublin Review article :-
" I have done so principally because I remember more of him than any other poet (though that is saying little). Coleridge was always my favourite poet; but I early recognised that to make him a model was like trying to run up a window-pane, or to make clotted cream out of moonlight, or to pack jelly-fish in hampers. So that until I was twenty-two Shelley was more studied by me than anyone else. At the same time I am exposed to the danger of talking platitudes, because so much has been written about Shelley of late years which I have never read. I may have one or two questions to ask you in relation to the subject as I go on. Thank you for the American paper. Only the poet feels complimented. Your criticisms on the Merry England article were (for once in a way) entirely anticipated by my own impressions. Happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending. With regard to what you say about the advantage of my being in a more booky place than Storrington1 I entirely agree. Nor need you fear the opium. I have learned the advantage of being without it for mental exercise; and (still more important) I have learned to bear my fits of depression without it. Personally I no longer fear it."
In a later letter:-" Shelley was sent off yesterday. Herewith the few fugitive verses I spoke of. With regard to the article, please take no notice of any writing
1 The Shelley Essay bears signs of the booklessness of Storrington. All the quotations were made from memory, and nearly all were inaccurate, on the backs of the sheets, and disregard all pencilled writing, either front or back. The opening is carefully constructed so that, if you think advisable, you can detach it, and leave the article to commence on page 10."
His next runs :-
"Surprised about Shelley. Seemed to me dreadful trash when I read it over before sending it. Shut my eyes and ran to the post, or some demon might have set me to work on picking it again. Don't see but what we can easily draw the knife out of your heart by knocking out the praise of Swinburne. Won't grieve you if we leave in the disparaging part of the comparison, I hope ? And I daresay you are perfectly right about it."
Of this Shelley article nearly the whole history is told in a long letter to his own and his family's friend, Dr. Carroll :-
"The article on Shelley which you asked about I finished at last, with quite agonising pain and elaboration. It might have been written in tears, and is proportionately dear to me. I fear, however, that it will not be accepted, or accepted only with such modifications as will go to my heart. It has not been inserted in the current issue of the Dublin-a fact which looks ominous. First, you see, I prefaced it by a fiery attack on Catholic Philistinism (exemplified in Canon
T-, though I was not aware about him at the time I wrote the article), driven home with all the rhetoric which I could muster. That is pretty sure to be a stumbling-block. I consulted Mr. Meynell as to its suppression, but he said 'Leave it in.' I suspect that he thoroughly agrees with it. Secondly, it is written at an almost incessant level of poetic prose, and seethes with imagery like my poetry itself. Now the sober, ponderous, ecclesiastical Dublin confronted with poetic prose must be considerably scared. The editor probably cannot make up his mind whether it is heavenly rhetoric or infernal nonsense. And in the midst of my vexation at feeling what a thankless waste of labour it is, I cannot help a sardonic grin at his conjectured perplexity. Mr. Meynell's opinion was '" Shelley " is splendid.' . . .
" There can now be no doubt that the Dublin Review has rejected my article. Nothing has been heard of it since it was sent. I only hope that they have not lost the MS. That would be to lose the picked fruit of three painful months-a quite irreparable loss. I am not surprised, myself. What is an unlucky ecclesiastical editor to do when confronted with something so sui generis as this-my friend's favourite passage, and the only one which I can remember. I had been talking of the 'Cloud,' and remarking that it displayed ' the childish faculty of make-believe, raised to the nth power.' In fact, I said, Shelley was the child, still at play, though his play-things were larger. Then I burst into prose poetry. ' The universe is his box of toys. He dabbles his hands in the sunset. He is gold-dusty with tumbling amid the stars. He makes bright mischief with the moon. He teases into growling the kennelled thunder, and laughs at the shaking of its fiery chain. He dances in and out of the gates of heaven. He runs wild over the fields of ether. He chases the rolling world. He gets between the feet of the horses of the sun. He stands in the lap of patient Nature, and twines her loosened tresses after a hundred wilful fashions, to see how she will look nicest in his poetry,' The editor sees at once that here is something such as he has never encountered before. Personally, I recollect nothing like it in English prose. In French prose I could point to something not so dissimilar-in Victor Hugo. But not in English. De Quincey is as boldly poetical, and his strain far higher; but he is poetical after quite another style. The editor feels himself out of his latitude. He is probably a person of only average literary taste-that is, he can tell the literary
" Shelley " is Rejected hawk from the literary handsaw when the wind is southerly. He feels that discretion is the better part of valour. The thing may be very good, may be very bad. But it is beyond or below comprehension. So he rejects it. Twelve years hence (if he live so long) he will feel uncomfortable should anyone allude to that rejection. Unless he has lost the MS. In that case the thing is gone for ever.