Shelley, a poem, with other writings relating to Shelley, to which is added an essay on the poems of William Blake/An Inspired Critic on Shelley

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AN INSPIRED CRITIC ON SHELLEY.


SHELLEY and Mr. Wyke Bayliss are truly strange names to couple together, but thus it comes about. The latter gentleman has written a book entitled The Witness of Art, in noticing which the Daily News mentioned that it eulogises Shelley. This Mr. Wyke Bayliss indignantly denied. The reviewer in answer quoted a passage wherein Shelley is classed with Chaucer, Spenser, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare, as having that insight into "the Invisible" which Mr. Wyke Bayliss observes, "is to the poet what light is to the painter; what ideal beauty is to the sculptor." As if this were not enough, another passage is given, wherein, after a quotation from Adonais, Mr. Wyke Bayliss observes: "Who shall say that Shelley wrote this in mockery, or not rather that it is the language of one who had seen—dimly it may be—but had seen the Invisible?" Whence it would appear the poet has not only insight into, but sight of the Invisible with a capital I; and indeed this is a distinction, for we have all insight into the common air, whereas poets (and it is said pigs) see it. Mr. Wyke Bayliss furiously returned to the charge or countercharge: "I refer to Shelley only three times—First, as one who had written a blasphemous libel upon Christ. Second, I name him simply as an Idealist. Third, I say that he is an instance of the power of the verities of our Faith, in that they overmastered even his atrocious sentiments." That blasphemous libel is terribly strong, and at first sight rather incongruous; but Mr. Wyke Bayliss may refer the libel to the man Jesus, and the blasphemy to the God Christ. Next, we learn that to say one has insight into, and sight of, the Invisible with a capital I, is simply to say that he is an Idealist, so that our pig who sees the wind is simply an Idealist. We knew before how atrocious were the sentiments of Shelley, but knew not that they had been overmastered by the verities of "our Faith," with a capital F. Yet doubtless Mr. Wyke Bayliss is right, for lo! he is divinely inspired. He answereth us: "It is enough for me to deliver the one message with which I am charged—the message of Art—believing it to be from the King to His children, and about the beautiful." Now this King with a capital K, whose very pronoun itself has a capital H, can be none other than the Most High God; and we may be sure that Mr. Wyke Bayliss is indeed His special messenger as he affirmeth, for otherwise would the said Wyke Bayliss be guilty of something quite as bad as the blasphemous libel written by Shelley of the atrocious sentiments. By-the-by we strongly suspect that "the beautiful,"—which really ought to have a capital B, "the Beautiful," of Mr. Wyke Bayliss—is the same as the Invisible whereof he hath told us. Were any further proof needed that he is really divinely inspired, it would be found in his astonishing and quite supernatural revelation that the message of art is about the beautiful! Poor Shelley! thou art damned beyond hope for ever, being condemned of such a prophet.

1876.