Saturday, 2 June 2012
Bells and Whistles
While in New York in April, I went to the city's beautiful library:
Downstairs, there was an exhibition about Percy Bysshe Shelley. It included fragments of Mary Shelley's manuscript of Frankenstein, with his editorial annotations, plus diaries from his schooldays, memoirs of schoolfriends, (apparently "The expression of his countenance was one of exceeding sweetness and innocence"), and this book, which, although printed during his lifetime, seems to have been included more to amuse than inform:
The impression it was hard not to form by the end of the exhibition was that Shelley, despite having written one of the few poems in the English language that practically commits itself to memory without effort, (I'm thinking of the beautiful Ozymandias; the only other I've come across that comes close in terms of ease of learning is Yeats's Second Coming), was a spoilt bombast who went through life strewing emotional chaos and misery around him. However, if you had already looked at the first item on display in the exhibition, this could hardly have come as a great surprise:
If you're given pure gold and coral to cut your teeth on, your sense of entitlement will surely be so ingrained by the time you reach adulthood that you cannot avoid being insufferable.