O that the free would stamp the impious name, Of ----- into the dust! Or write it there So that this blot upon the page of fame, Were as a serpent’s path, which the light air Erases, etc., etc.
but the next speaks still more plainly:
O that the WISE from their bright minds
Such lamps within the dome of this wide world,
That the pale name of PRIEST might shrink and dwindle
Into the HELL from which it first was hurled!
This is exactly a versification of the foulest sentence that ever issued from the lips of Voltaire. Let us hope that Percy Bysshe Shelley is not destined to leave behind him, like that great genius, a name for ever detestable to the truly FREE and the truly WISE. He talks in his preface about MILTON, as a “Republican,” and a “bold inquirer into Morals and religion.” Could any thing make us despise Mr. Shelley’s understanding, it would be such an instance of voluntary blindness as this! Let us hope, that ere long a lamp of genuine truth may be kindled within his “bright mind”; and that he may walk in its light the path of the true demigods of English genius, having, like them, learned to “fear God and Honour the king.”
Started in 1824 to represent Radical opinions, the Westminster was associated, in its palmy days, with such “persons of importance” as George Eliot, George Henry Lewes, and J.S. Mill, retaining to the present moment an isolated preference for the expression of unconventional, and often outre opinions. It has always been somewhat fanatical and, now that really distinguished writers seldom enter its pages, has become associated, in the general view, with the promotion of fads.
Though Mill’s principle work was of a highly expert and technical nature, he had the rare power of conveying accurate expressions of sound thoughts in popular language; and he was conspicuous for the moral fervour of his opinions in practical politics. His fascinating autobiography is absolutely sincere, and very copious, in its revelations. It has been said, moreover, that he was “more at pains to conceal his originality” than “most writers are to set forth” this quality: and it was this characteristic which inspired his broad-minded conduct of the London Review, soon incorporated with the Westminster, which, after ten years as a contributor, he edited from 1834, and owned from 1837 until 1840. Here he made “a noble experiment to endeavour to combine opposites, and to maintain a perpetual attitude of sympathy with hostile opinions.” It was officially, the organ of Utilitarianism; but articles were frequently inserted requiring the editorial caveat. It was the friend of liberty in every shape and form.
In a philosophic writer whose style was admittedly always literary, it is of special interest to notice that he so frequently chose a volume of poetry to review himself: and no better example of this work can be found than the following critique of Tennyson, which, again, may be most profitably compared with Gladstone’s. It proves that he loved poetry for its own sake.