Jeaffreson on Harriet Shelley

John Cordy Jeaffreson.
The Real Shelley: New Views of the Poet's Life.
London 1885.

This book greatly upset Jane, Lady Shelley and her leading accomplice, Richard Garnett. Jeaffreson had the impertinence to tell the truth, thus wrecking their fabrications. In this passage he demolishes the calumny that Shelley's marriage to Harriet Westbrook was a misalliance. In truth, Shelley was lucky to win her.
— John Lauritsen

    The notion that Shelley was ‘caught’ and ‘trapt’, inveigled and drawn against his will into his first marriage, becomes still more ludicrous, when regard is had to the personal charms of Harriett Westbrook, — charms that, had she been of far lowlier origin, would account for the young man's action in making her his wife. Shapely in figure and graceful in her movements, she possessed a face of singular loveliness, and the air of high breeding that is so often wanting in damsels of high birth. It is no exaggeration to say that she was a rare and faultless example of the girlish beauty, which was most delightful and charming to Shelley. Her features were delicate and regular her light-brown hair was of a colour peculiarly acceptable to her admirer; no girl ever had a more transparent complexion, or alluring lips; and in her sunnier moods, her countenance brightened with looks curiously expressive of intellectual alertness and childish naîveté. At the same time in a laugh, equally spontaneous and joyous, and a voice so musical, that people delighted in hearing her read unentertaining books for the hour together, she possessed two natural endowments that have been known to inspire passion, when they have been associated with features plain even to ugliness. The air and style of this lovely girl were such, that fifteen months after their wedding, Shelley wrote of her and them, ‘The ease and simplicity of her habits, the unassuming plainness of her address, the uncalculated connexion of her thought and speech, have ever formed, in my eyes, her greatest charms.’ Speaking of the pleasure he experienced in hearing her read aloud, Hogg says, ‘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 ; without a spot, without a wrinkle, not a hair out of its place.’ Peacock admired the taste and simplicity with which she arranged her light-brown tresses, and the simple elegance of her costume. Be it also remarked that for a girl of her period (more than seventy years since) Harriett was well educated, — writing excellent letters of gracefully fluent penmanship: so familiar with French, that during her six weeks' stay at Edinburgh, she found a congenial occupation in translating one of Madame Cottin's novels into English; fond of reading sound literature by herself, no less than to attentive auditors; and possessing so much taste and aptitude for study that Shelley delighted in teaching her Latin, and brought her so quickly forward in it, that before the end of 1812, she was reading the Horatian Odes with interest, if not without difficulty.
    Such was the Harriett Westbrook of 1811 and 1812. And yet Field Place [Sir Percy Florence and Lady Shelley] cannot account for Shelley's weakness in wedding so lovely and winsome a creature, without assuming that he was ‘caught’ and inveigled into the match by a designing third person, — the artful and scheming Elizabeth Westbrook.  (Vol. I, pp. 336-37)

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