Hogg on Harriet Shelley

Thomas Jefferson Hogg.
The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
George Routledge & Sons, London
E.P. Dutton, New York.

Below are descriptions of Harriet Shelley from Hogg's brilliant, witty, sometimes quirky reminiscences of his beloved friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley:

p. 235  Letter of PBS to Hogg [no date, but presumably in 1811] “I am now called to Miss Westbrook; I was too hasty in telling my first unfavourable impression: she is a very clever girl, though rather affected.”

p. 244  Letter of PBS to Hogg, London, 15 August 1811. Shelley has decided to marry Harriet, rather than attempt to practise Free Love:

        I am now returned to London; direct to me as usual, at Graham's. My father is here, wondering, possibly, at my London business. He will be more surprised soon, possibly!
        My unfortunate friend, Harriet, is yet undecided; not with respect to me, but herself. How much, my dear friend, have I to tell you!  In my leisure moments for thought, which since I wrote have been few, I have considered the important point on which you reprobated my hasty decision. The ties of love and honour are doubtless of sufficient strength to bind congenial souls — they are doubtless indissoluble, but by the brutish force of power; they are delicate and satisfactory. Yet the arguments of impracticability, and what is even worse, the disproportionate sacrifice which the female is called upon to make — these arguments, which you have urged in a manner immediately irresistible, I cannot withstand. Not that I suppose it to be likely that I shall directly be called upon to evince my attachment to either theory. I am become a perfect convert to matrimony, not from temporizing, but from your arguments; nor, much as I wish to emulate your virtues and liken myself to you, do I regret the prejudices of anti-matrimonialism from your example or assertion. No. The one argument, which you have urged so often with so much energy: the sacrifice made by the woman, so disproportioned to any which the man can give, — this alone may exculpate me, were it a fault, from uninquiring submission to your superior intellect.

p. 247  Hogg:

        Shelley's epistles show the progress of his courtship, and that his marriage was not quite so hasty an affair as it is commonly represented to have been. The wooing continued for half a year at least, and this is a long time in the life, in the life of love, of such young persons. [Shelley was 19, Harriet was 16.]  Harriet Westbrook appears to have been dissatisfied with her school, but without any adequate cause, for she was kindly treated and well educated there. It is not impossible that this discontent was prompted and suggested to her, and that she was put up to it, and to much besides, by somebody [presumably Harriet's sister, Eliza], who conducted the whole affair — who had assumed, and steadily persisted in keeping the complete direction of her.

p. 255  Hogg's first sight of Harriet, as he meets the newly wed Shelleys in Edinburgh:

        I knocked at the door of a handsome house; it was all right; and in a handsome front-parlour I was presently received rapturously by my friend. He looked just as he used to look at Oxford, and as he looked when I saw him last in April, in our trellised apartment; but now joyous at meeting again, not as then sad at parting. I also saw — and for the first time — his lovely young bride, bright as the morning — as the morning of that bright day on which we first met; bright, blooming, radiant with youth, health, and beauty. I was hailed triumphantly by the new-married pair; my arrival was more than welcome; they had got my letter and expected to rejoice at my coming every moment. “We have met at last once more!” Shelley exclaimed, “and we will never part again!”

p. 267  Hogg:

        She was fond of reading aloud; and she read remarkably well, very correctly, and with a clear, distinct, agreeable voice, and often emphatically. She was never weary of this exercise, never fatigued; she never ceased of her own accord, and left off reading only on some interruption. She has read to me for hours and hours; whenever we were alone together, she took up a book and began to read, or more commonly read aloud from the work, whatever it might be, which she was reading to herself. If anybody entered the room she ceased to read aloud, but recommenced the moment he retired. I was grateful for her kindness; she has read to me grave and excellent books innumerable. If some few of these were a little wearisome, on the whole I profited greatly by her lectures. I have sometimes certainly wished for rather less of the trite moral discourses of Idomeneus and Justinian, which are so abundant in her two favourite authors, and a little more of something less in the nature of truisms; but I never showed any signs of impatience. In truth, the good girl liked a piece of resistance, a solid tome, where a hungry reader might read and come again. I have sometimes presumed to ask her to read some particular work, but never to object to anything which she herself proposed. If it was agreeable to listen to her, it was not less agreeable to look at her; she was always pretty, always bright, always blooming; smart, usually plain in her neatness; without a spot, without a wrinkle, not a hair out of its place.... Hers was the most distinct utterance I ever heard; I do not believe that I lost a single word of the thousands of pages which she read to me.

pp. 280-82  Harriet discusses suicide. Perhaps, in light of her suicide five years later, Hogg was attempting to downplay PBS's blame for it by suggesting that Harriet had always had suicidal tendencies. This is unconvincing, as Harriet was very happy then.

p. 420  Harriet is pregnant with her first child, Ianthe:

        Harriet gave visible promise of being about to provide an heir for an ancient and illustrious house; and, like all little women, she looked very large upon the occasion. She was in excellent voice, and fonder than ever of reading aloud; she promptly seized every opportunity of indulging her taste....
p. 574  Letter from Shelley's cousin, C.H.G. (Charles Grove), to Hogg, reminiscing about Shelley. Torquay, 16 February 1857. This excerpt shows that Harriet Shelley was accepted as an equal by the upper classes, in this case Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Grove:

        The following spring I saw Bysshe and Mrs. Shelley in London. They spent the summer of that year, 1812, with my brother and sister at Cwm Elan. Mrs G. was very much pleased with Mrs. Shelley, and sorry when they left them.

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