Percy Bysse Shelley – “The Angel of Revolt”

From the conclusion of “The Angel of Revolt” – Chapter 58 in Mammonart by Upton Sinclair:

Shelley died at the age of thirty, drowned in a storm while sailing a boat; and with him perished the finest mind the English race had produced. I make this statement deliberately, knowing the ridicule it will excite; but I ask you, before you decide: take the men of genius of England one by one, wipe out their lives after the age of thirty, and see what you have left. Will you take Shakespeare? You will know him as the author of “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” and “Love’s Labor Lost” and “The Comedy of Errors,” and possibly “Richard III” and some sonnets. Will you take Milton, with “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” and “Comus” and “Lycidas,” and nothing else? Will you go to the Continent, and take Goethe, who outlived Shelley? What would you think of Goethe if you had only “Goetz” and “Werther” and a few lyric poems?

Shelley was one among the sons of Rousseau who did not falter and turn back to feudalism, Catholicism, or mysticism of any sort. He fixed his eyes upon the future, and never wavered for a moment. He attacked class privilege, not merely political, but industrial; and so he is the coming poet of labor. Some day, and that not so far off, the strongholds of class greed in Britain will be stormed, and when the liberated workers take up the task of making a new culture, they will learn that there was one inspired saint in their history who visioned that glad day, and gave up everything in life to bring it nearer. They will honor Shelley by making him their poet-laureate, and hailing him as the supreme glory of English letters.

[Upton Sinclair’s complete Chapter 58 on Shelley.]

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