Tuesday, October 28, 2014

P.B. Shelley Understands

Fame-addled rogue and liar Edward John Trelawny was by no means a reliable source of information on the Romantic poets on whom he inflicted himself, but there is at least one scene in his Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron that I will myself to believe is true, because I wish so very much to think of Shelley as, in at least one respect, a kindred spirit.  Here is Trelawny's sketch of Shelley in Italy where he and Mary were visiting an English couple by the name of Williams:
… Shelley stood before us with a most woeful expression. Mrs. Williams started up, exclaiming, “What 's the matter, Percy ?”
“Mary has threatened me.”
“Threatened you with what?”
He looked mysterious and too agitated to reply. Mrs. Williams repeated, “With what? To box your ears?”
“Oh, much worse than that; Mary says she will have a party; there are English singers here, the Sinclairs, and she will ask them, and everyone she or you know — oh, the horror!”
We all burst into a laugh except his friend Ned.
“It will kill me.”
“Music, kill you!” said Mrs. Williams. “Why, you have told me, you flatterer, that you loved music.”
“So I do. It's the company terrifies me. For pity go to Mary and intercede for me; I will submit to any other species of torture than that of being bored to death by idle ladies and gentlemen.”
Like all good Romantics, he had no desire to live in a Jane Austen novel.