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).

LETTER TO THOMAS JEFFERSON HOGG
(Edited by Rossetti)


P. B. Shelley
FIELD PLACE, 
HORSHAM, SUSSEX. 

December 2Oth, 1810 
[Thursday] 

MY DEAR FRIEND, 

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- 
man. 

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. 
Adieu. 

To T. /. Hogs, 

Lincoln s Inn Fields. 

* An allusion probably to the brand of Cain. 
D 
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