By Kim Wheatley
In Shelley and His Readers, the 1st full-length serious research of the discussion among Shelley's poetry and its modern reviewers, Kim Wheatley argues that Shelley's idealism might be recovered throughout the research of his poetry's reception. Incorporating large study in significant early-nineteenth-century British periodicals, Wheatley integrates a reception-based method with cautious textual research to illustrate that the early reception of Shelley's paintings registers the speedy effect of the poet's more and more idealistic ardour for reforming the area.
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Extra resources for Shelley and His Readers: Beyond Paranoid Politics
73 One might expect this intense vehemence to become counterproductive and for the reviewers’ insults to become exhausted. References to the state of crisis tend to sound at times impassioned, at times routine. Southey refers casually to “that principle of evil which is at work night and day for the destruction of laws, monarchy, religion, and social order” (QR 19:114). 74 Elsewhere, the reviewers resort to such uncompromising terms that they almost demand to be refuted. But their air of conviction is intensiﬁed rather than diminished by the instability of their rhetoric.
We think that the Whigs acted unwisely in not taking more decisive steps to defend their characters, thus wantonly and unremittingly invaded;—we think that their supporters in the . . daily press, showed a most culpable slowness to expose the vile falsehoods propagated concerning them, probably from an unworthy dread of being personally attacked by those who spared neither high nor low. (ER 30:198–99) Insisting on the inﬂuence of reformist journalism over party politics (the “mob and their leaders” are the “best allies” of the Crown [ER 30:192]), Brougham does not explain why the “contemptible” reformers were so successful at discrediting the Whigs, although he suggests that personal attacks are particularly persuasive because they can only be counteracted at the risk of inviting further personal attacks.
These totalizing statements imply that revolution would constitute not just a localized disturbance but the most fundamental change of all—apocalypse. Southey’s vehemence rises to a climax: How often have we heard that the voice of the people is the voice of God, from demagogues who were labouring to deceive the people, and who despised the wretched instruments of whom they made use! But it is the Devil whose name is Legion. Vox Populi, vox Dei! When or where has it been so? Was it in England during the riots in 1780?
Shelley and His Readers: Beyond Paranoid Politics by Kim Wheatley