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This Essay interested me so much when I first read it, that I have got leave from its Writer, and the representatives of its Publis!.er, whom I thank heartily for their kindness, to reprint it as the first publication of the Browning Society.

The interest lay in the fact, that Browning's “ utterances ” here are his, and not those of any one of the “so many imaginary persons l” behind whom he insists on so often hiding himself, and whose necks I, for olje, should continually like to wring, whose bodies I would fain kick out of the way, in order to get face to face with the poet himself, and hear his own voice speaking his own thoughts, man to man, soul to soul. Straight speaking, straight hitting, suit me best?.

The main subject of the Essay is SHELLEY, his life, his nature, work and art. And to any reader of Pauline and Memorabilia?, it will be no surprise to find (p. 19) that it was the dream of Browning's boyhood to render some signal service to Shelley's fame and memory ; while to the student and lover of Shelley, what can be more worthful than the criticism and loving tribute of a mind and spirit like Browning's ? But it was not the praise or estimate of Shelley that drew me to this Essay ; it was Browning's statement of his own aim in his own work, both as objective and subjective poet, that so interested me, and that makes the Essay a necessity to every student of Browning who would understand him. We now know in what spirit, with what aim our poet, so far as he is subjective, has undertaken his work :

“He ... is impelled to embody the thing he perceives, not so much with reference to the one below, as to the One above him, the supreme Intelligence which apprehends all things in their absolute truth. Not what man sees, but what God sees—the Ideas of Plato, seeds of creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand- it is toward these that he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but with the primal elements of humanity, he has to do ; and he digs where he stands,—preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intuitions of which he desires to perceive and speak. Such a poet does not deal habitually with the picturesque groupings and tempestuous tossings of the forest-trees, but with their roots and fibres naked to the chalk and stone.” (p. 7, below. See too p. 10, at foot.)

See note to “ Lyrics” in Bells and Pomegranates II, Poems, 1849, Poet. Works, 1863, i. 1, &c.

? The end of The Ring and the Book gives the defence of maskt advances and flank movements :

Art may tell a truth Obliquely, so the thing shall breed the thought,

Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.” But if the reader is thick-headed, or can't spare time to study and think a poem out, should not a poet give him a helping hand by a “mediate word”?

3 See too Sordello, Works, 1863, iii. 254-5. My father knew Shelley, attended his wife in 1816, and often told us about him.


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Combining these words.with those in the Foretalk to the revisd text of Sordello in 1863,-"my.stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul : little else is wörtli study. I, at least, always thought so, sees why Browning has, in alınost all his works, cald souls up before lim for judgment?, askt ten : " Why did you do that deed ? What are you in your inmost thought.? By what process did you reach your present state of sin, or doubt; or bliss ?”—and has, in such words as he could, given their answers to his demands.

One. understands too why men repulsive to us,—Ned Bratts, Flalbert, Hob, and the like,-attract him. Nothing human is alien to him. Pompilia's mean losband may rightly have twice the space in the Ring and Book that thie pure wife and mother has herself: his nature is more complex.

. And if critics bring against Browning the charge that others have "brought against Beethoven and Wagner, that he has stretcht his art to '.express subjects beyond its range, and in such stretching has made his art cease to be arta, we can only answer that we don't think so, and that their sons or grandsons had better wait for the judgment of posterity on the point. Let it be enough for us to follow Browning in getting to the heart and root of every man and thing with whom and which we deal.

F. J. FURNIVALL. Castell Farm, Beddgelert, North Wales, Aug. 2, 1881.

P.S. The cause of Browning's writing this Essay was (I believe) as follows. In or before 1851, a forger clever enough to take in two publishers, wrote some Letters of Shelley and Byron. Moxon bought the forgd Shelley Letters, and John Murray the Byron ones. Before they were provd spurious, Moxon printed the Shelley Letters, and got Browning to write an Introductory Essay to them. Murray was slower, and by the discovery of the forgery was saved the expense and annoyance that Moxon incurrd in publishing, and then having to suppress, his book.

The spurious Shelley Letters were, as might have been expected, nugatory, barren of any new revelations of Shelley's character. Browning could naturally make nothing out of them, and therefore wrote his Essay, not on the Letters, but on the two classes of Poets, objective and subjective, and on Shelley. He wanted a chance of writing on the Poet he admired ; the Letters gave hiin the chance ; and being told that they were genuine, he accepted them as such without enquiry. Moreover, being in Paris at the time, he had no opportunity of consulting English experts, had even any suspicion of forgery crost his mind. The worth of his Essay is in no way weakend by its having been set before spurious letters.

The headlines to this Reprint are mine.
Perhaps 'investigation' is the better word:

“ Take the least man of all mankind, as I;
Look at his head and heart, find how and why

He differs from his fellows utterly :
Third Speaker in the Epilogue to Dramatis Persona (1864), 2nd triplet.
In some of his auswers, does not Browning play the part of Sophist, or at least
of Advocate ? Dramatically he makes the defence a culprit would make himself,

? I heard Chopin say this of Beethoven, comparing his art with Mozart's perfection. Compare p. 11, 1. 12-13, below




[DEC. 1851.]

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An opportunity having presented itself for the acquisition of a series of unedited letters by Shelley, all more or less directly supplementary to and illustrative of the collection already published by Mr. Moxon, that gentleman has decided on securing them. They will provo an acceptable addition to a body of correspondence, the value of which towards a right understanding of its author's purpose and work, may be said to exceed that of any similar contribution exhibiting the worldly relations of a poet whose genius has operated by a different law.

Doubtless we accept gladly the biography of an objective poet, as the phrase now goes; one whose endeavour has been to reproduce things external (whether the phenomena of the scenic universe, or the manifested action of the human heart and brain) with an immediate reference, in every case, to the common eye and apprehension of his fellow men, assumed capable of receiving and profiting by this reproduction. It has been obtained through the poet's double faculty of seeing external objects more clearly, widely, and deeply, than is possible to the average mind, at the same time that he is so acquainted and in sympathy with its narrow comprehension as to be careful to supply it with no other materials than it can combine into an intelligible whole. The auditory of such a poet will include, not only the intelligences which, save for such assistance, would have missed the deeper meaning and enjoyment of the original objects, but also the spirits of a like endowment with his own, who, by means of his abstract, can forthwith pass to the reality it was made from, and either corroborate their impressions of things known already, or supply themselves with new, from whatever shows in the inexhaustible variety of existence may have hitherto escaped their knowledge. Such a poet is properly the motns, the fashioner; and the thing fashioned, his poetry, will of necessity be substantive, projected from himself and distinct. We are ignorant what the inventor of “Othello” conceived of that fact as he beheld it in completeness, how he accounted for it, under what known law he registered its nature, or to what unknown law he traced its coincidence. We learn only what



he intended we should learn by that particular exercise of his power, the fact itself,—which, with its infinite significances, each of us receives for the first time as a creation, and is hereafter left to deal with, as, in proportion to his own intelligence, he best may. We are ignorant, and would fain be otherwise.

Doubtless, with respect to such a poet, we covet his biography. We desire to look back upon the process of gathering together in a lifetime, the materials of the work we behold entire; of elaborating, perhaps under difficulty and with hindrance, all that is familiar to our admiration in the apparent facility of success. And the inner impulse of this effort and operation, what induced it ? Did a soul's delight in its own extended sphere of vision set it, for the gratification of an insuppressible power, on labour, as other men are set on rest? Or did a sense of duty or of love lead it to communicate its own sensations to mankind ? Did an irresistible sympathy with men compel it to bring down and suit its own provision of knowledge and beauty to their narrow scope ? Did the personality of such an one stand like an open watch-tower in the midst of the territory it is erected to gaze on, and were the storms and calms, the stars and meteors, its watchman was wont to report of, the habitual variegation of his every-day life, as they glanced across its open roof or lay reflected on its four-square parapet? Or did some sunken and darkened chamber of imagery witness, in the artificial illumination of every storied compartment we are permitted to contemplate, how rare and precious were the outlooks through here and there an embrasure upon a world beyond, and how blankly would have pressed on the artificer the boundary of his daily life, except for the amorous diligence with which he had rendered permanent by art whatever came to diversify the gloom ? Still, fraught with instruction and interest as such details undoubtedly are, we can, if needs be, dispense with them. The man passes, the work remains. The work speaks for itself, as we say : and the biography of the worker is no more necessary to an understanding or enjoyment of it, than is a model or anatomy of some tropical tree, to the right tasting of the fruit we are familiar with on the marketstall,—or a geologist's map and stratification, to the prompt recognition of the hill-top, our land-mark of every day

We turn with stronger needs to the genius of an opposite tendencythe subjective poet of modern classification. He, gifted like the objective poet with the fuller perception of nature and man, is impelled to embody the thing he perceives, not so much with reference to the many below, as to the One above him, the supreme Intelligence which apprehends all things in their absolute truth, an ultimate view ever aspired to, if but partially attained, by the poet's own soul. Not what


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man sees, but what God sees—the Ideas of Plato, seeds of creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand—it is toward these that he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but with the primal elements of humanity he has to do; and he digs where he stands,-preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intuitions of which he desires to perceive and speak. Such a poet does not deal habitually with the picturesque groupings and tempestuous tossings of the forest-trees, but with their roots and fibres naked to the chalk and stone. He does not paint pictures and hang them on the walls, but rather carries them on the retina of his own eyes : we must look deep into his human eyes, to see those pictures on them. He is rather a seer, accordingly, than a fashioner, and what he produces will be less a work than an effluence. That effluence cannot be easily considered in abstraction from his personality,-being indeed the very radiance and aroma of his personality, projected from it but not separated. Therefore, in our approach to the poetry, we necessarily approach the personality of the poet; in apprehending it we apprehend him, and certainly we cannot love it without loving him. Both for love's and for understanding's sake we desire to know him, and as readers of his poetry must be readers of his biography also.

I shall observe, in passing, that it seems not so much from any essential distinction in the faculty of the two poets or in the nature of the objects contemplated by either, as in the more immediate adaptability of these objects to the distinct purpose of each, that the objective poet, in his appeal to the aggregate human mind, chooses to deal with the doings of men, (the result of which dealing, in its pure form, when even description, as suggesting a describer, is dispensed with, is what we call dramatic poetry), while the subjective poet, whose study has been himself, appealing through himself to the absolute Divine mind, prefers to dwell upon those external scenic appearances which strike out most abundantly and uninterruptedly his inner light and power, selects that silence of the earth and sea in which he can best hear the beating of his individual heart, and leaves the noisy, complex, yet imperfect exhibitions of nature in the manifold experience of man around him, which serve only to distract and suppress the working of his brain. These opposite tendencies of genius will be more readily descried in their artistic effect than in their moral spring and cause. Pushed to an extreme and manifested as a deformity, they will be seen plainest of all in the fault of either artist, when subsidiarily to the human interest of his work his occasional illustrations from scenic nature are introduced as in the earlier works of the originative painters— men and women filling

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