Shelley Sunday: ‘Letter to Hogg’ (December 20, 1810)

This is a letter written by Shelley to Thomas J. Hogg during the Christmas break from Oxford. This is, of course, written only a few months before Shelley and Hogg were both to be expelled from Oxford University for refusing to deny authorship of A Necessity of Atheism. This letter also references Shelley’s extensive search for William Godwin; it would be another year before he found his address (January 3, 1812, Skinner Street).

(Edited by Rossetti)

P. B. Shelley

December 2Oth, 1810 


The moment which announces your 
residence, I write. 

There is now need of all my art ; I 
must resort to deception. 

My father called on Stockdale in 
London, who has converted him to 
sanctity. He mentioned my name, as 
a supporter of sceptical principles. My 
father wrote to me, and I am now 
surrounded, environed, by dangers, to 
which compared the devils who be- 
sieged St. Anthony were all inefficient. 
? They attack me for my detestable 
principles ; I am reckoned an outcast ; 
yet I defy them, and laugh at their in- 
effectual efforts. 

Stockdale will no longer do for me. 
Stockdale's skull is very thick, but I 
am afraid that he will not believe my 
assertion ; indeed, should it gain credit 
with him,) should he accept the offer of 
publication, there exist numbers who 
will find out, or imagine, a real 
tendency ; and booksellers possess 
more power than we are aware of in 
impeding the sale of any book containing 
opinions displeasing to them. I am dis- 
posed to offer it to Wilkie and Robinson, 
Paternoster Row, and to take it there 
myself; they published Godwin's works, 
and it is scarcely possible to suppose 
that any one, layman or clergyman, 
will assert that these support Gospel 
doctrines. If that will not do, I must 
print it myself. Oxford, of course, would 
be most convenient for the correction 
of the press. 

Mr. L.'s* principles are not very 
severe ; he is more a votary to Mammon 
than God. 

O ! I burn with impatience for the 
moment of the dissolution of intoler- 
ance ; it has injured me ! I swear on the 
altar of perjured Love to revenge myself 
on the hated cause of the effect which 
even now I can scarcely help deploring. 
Indeed, I think it is to the benefit of 
society to destroy the opinions which 
can annihilate the dearest of its ties. 

Inconveniences would now result 
from my owning the novel which I have 

* "L." is probably the initial of some Oxford printer 
or publisher. 

in preparation for the press. I give 
out, therefore, that I will publish no 
more ; every one here, but the select 
few who enter into my schemes, believe 
my assertion. I will stab the wretch 
in secret. Let us hope that the wound 
which I inflict, though the dagger be 
concealed, will rankle in the heart of 
the adversary. 

My father wished to withdraw me 
from college : I would not consent to it. 
There lowers a terrific tempest; but I 
stand as it were, on a pharos, and smile 
exultingly at the vain beating of the 
billows below. 

So much for egotism ! 

Your poetry pleases me very much ; 
the idea is beautiful, but I hope the 
contrast is not from nature. The verses 
on the Dying Gladiator are good, but 
they seem composed in a hurry. I am 
composing a satirical poem : I shall 
print it at Oxford, unless I find, on 
visiting him, that R[obinson] is ripe for 
printing whatever will sell. In case of 
that, he is my man. 

It is not William Godwin who lives 
in Holborn : it is John, no relation to 
the other. 

As to W.,* I wrote to him when in 
London, by way of a gentle alterative. 
He promised to write to me when he had 
time, seemed surprised at what I had said, 
yet directed to me as " The Reverend " : 
his amazement must be extreme. 

I shall not read Bishop Prettyman, 
or any more of them, unless I have 
some particular reason. Bigots will not 
argue ; it destroys the very nature of the 
the thing to argue ; it is contrary to faith. 
How, therefore, could you suppose that 
one of these liberal gentlemen would 
listen to scepticism, on the subject even 
of St. Athanasius's sweeping anathema? 

* "W." seems to have been some person of public 
note to whom Shelley had written on religious topics 
(especially the Athanasian creed) in a tone which, 
though sceptical, was also grave, and which misled 
" W." into supposing his correspondent to be a clergy- 

I have something else to tell you, and 
I will in another letter. 

Love ! dearest, sweetest power ! how 
much are we indebted to thee ! How 
much superior are even thy miseries to 
the pleasures which arise from other 
sources ! How much superior to "fat, 
contented ignorance " is even the agony 
which thy votaries experience ! Yes, 
my friend, I am now convinced that a 
monarchy is the only form of govern- 
ment (in a certain degree) which a 
lover ought to live under. Yet in this 
alone is subordination necessary. Man 
is equal, and I am convinced that 
equality will be the attendant on a 
more advanced and ameliorated state 
of society. But this is assertion, not 
proof, indeed, there can be none. 
Then you will say, " Excuse my be- 
lieving it." Willingly. 

St. Irvyne is come out ; it is sent to 
you at Mr. DayrelFs ; you can get one 
in London by mentioning my name to 
Stockdale. You need not state your 
own ; and, as names are not now in 
scribed on the front of every existing 
creature,* you run no risk of discovery 
in person, if it be a crime or a sin to 
procure my Novel. 

How can you fancy that I shall ever 
think you mad? Am not /the wildest, 
the most delirious, of Enthusiasm's off- 
spring? On one subject I am cool, 
toleration ; yet that coolness alone 
possesses me that I may with more 
certainty guide the spear to the breast 
of my adversary, with more certainty 
ensanguine it with the heart's blood of 
Intolerance hated name ! 

Adieu. Down with Bigotry ! Down 
with Intolerance ! In this endeavour 
your most sincere friend will join his 
every power, his every feeble resource. 

To T. /. Hogs, 

Lincoln s Inn Fields. 

* An allusion probably to the brand of Cain. 

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