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Shelley’s Religion

Shelley’s Religion

ELLSWORTH BARNARD
Copyright Date: 1937
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts7hj
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  • Book Info
    Shelley’s Religion
    Book Description:

    Shelley’s Religion was first published in 1936. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions. That we have power over ourselves to do_x000B_And suffer – what, we know not till we try;_x000B_But something nobler than to live and die. “The beginning of a new school of Shelleyan criticism” is to be found in this daringly original and impassioned discussion of the poet’s attitude toward God, Christianity, immortality, and related subjects. This is the most thorough treatment Shelley’s religious ideas have ever received. The author, an iconoclastic young critic of remarkable insight and intensity, attacks with spirit a number of Shelley “myths” and their proponents, living and dead. He draws extensively from Shelley’s own writings to prove that the poet was anything but an undiscriminating materialist, or a shallow and uncomprehending opponent of true religion. This is a book which Shelleyans will read with delight – some perhaps with dismay.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3748-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  3. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-16)

    IN A NOTE to his first long poem,Queen Mab, Shelley defines religion as “the perception of the relation in which we stand to the principle of the universe.”¹ InA Defence of Poetry, written in 1821, a year before his death, he speaks of “that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion.”² InJulian and Maddalo, written in 1818, there is an implicit definition in the statement that

    those who suffer with their suffering kind

    Yet feel their faith, religion.³

    According to these utterances, religion is thought of as concerned with man’s relation...

  4. CHAPTER II SHELLEY’S GOD
    (pp. 17-42)

    LORD BYRON once objected to having his daughter Allegra brought up by the Shelleys, on the ground that he did not wishhischild to “be taught to believe that there is no Deity.”¹ It is not difficult to understand his speaking in such a manner, or to show that his words ought not to be taken too seriously; just as it is easy to explain theQuarterlyreviewer’s reference to Shelley as one of a “miserable crew of atheists and pantheists,”² and the horror of a writer in theLiterary Gazetteat the “hideous blasphemy,” “impious profanation,” and “pages...

  5. CHAPTER III SHELLEY’S GOD (Continued)
    (pp. 43-97)

    IT HAS BEEN seen that Shelley was at one time inclined to deny the existence of God, except as “another signification for the Universe.” This was not his final position. Nevertheless, a study of his ideas about the nature of the universe will help toward an understanding of the conception of God which he ultimately came to hold.

    It is difficult, however, to determine exactly what those ideas were. Not only did Shelley’s views change, but at no time did he give them complete or systematic expression. One statement, however, may be made at once: he was not a materialist....

  6. CHAPTER IV PROMETHEUS BOUND
    (pp. 98-163)

    YET HOWEVER strongly Shelley may have trusted in the ultimate triumph of good, he felt not less strongly that on earth evil prevails. The dominant force behind the life and writings of the poet is an intense perception of the overwhelming preponderance of evil in all that pertains to human life. The prevailing mood of his last years is exactly the same as that to which Newman has given unsurpassable expression at the beginning of the final chapter of hisApologia; to both the condition of the world is “a vision to dizzy and appall,” “a profound mystery,” a “heart-piercing,...

  7. CHAPTER V A BRIGHTER HELLAS
    (pp. 164-194)

    “THAT THERE is a true solution of the riddle” of the existence of evil Shelley does not doubt. But he is equally convinced “that in our present state that solution is unattainable by us.” If these statements express his real convictions — and they are in perfect harmony with the tenor of all his later writings — then clearly he believes that the true destiny of man can never find complete realization either in earthly life or in a personal immortality beyond the grave; for, I suppose, an immortality that can be properly called “personal” must be essentially a continuation...

  8. CHAPTER VI LIFE, DEATH, AND ETERNITY
    (pp. 195-240)

    YET, DESPITE the fact that his hopes of a happier life on earth never entirely vanished, it seems clear that Shelley could never have been satisfied with any “religion of humanity.” If inPeter Bell the Thirdhe classes himself among “some few” who are “damned”

    To believe their minds are given

    To make this ugly Hell a Heaven;

    In which faith they live and die. . . .¹

    yet in the Dedication of that poem he speaks with obvious bitterness of Wordsworth’s declaration that man must find happiness on earth or not at all. And in a letter to...

  9. CHAPTER VII HEAVEN’S LIGHT ON EARTH
    (pp. 241-296)

    BUT WHATEVER uncertainty Shelley may have felt concerning the ultimate destiny of human life, he was not doubtful as to the means by which that destiny may be attained; for, it will be remembered, Shelley holds that man must achieve his own salvation: the only “Necessity” which he recognizes is that which, leaving man free to determine for himself the direction of his efforts, assures him of reaping as he has sown.

    It will be remembered, too, that man’s progress toward good is not primarily a matter of altering the forms of society — laws, customs, institutions — but of...

  10. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 297-308)

    AT THE beginning of this study I asked the reader to grant, for the time being, the assumption that Shelley possessed a brilliant mind and a noble character. Concerning his mental ability, I have nothing more to say. If the preceding discussions have not demonstrated his capacity for subtle and profound, if not systematic, thinking, then any further statement is futile. But of his character something still needs to be said; and I now propose to show that the admiration, verging on idolatry, which I myself feel for Shelley, and which I have been at no pains to conceal, was...

  11. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 309-314)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 315-320)