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In Defence of Harriet Shelley by Mark Twain
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by Mark Twain


I have committed sins, of course; but I have not committed enough of them
to entitle me to the punishment of reduction to the bread and water of
ordinary literature during six years when I might have been living on the
fat diet spread for the righteous in Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley,
if I had been justly dealt with.

During these six years I have been living a life of peaceful ignorance.
I was not aware that Shelley's first wife was unfaithful to him, and that
that was why he deserted her and wiped the stain from his sensitive honor
by entering into soiled relations with Godwin's young daughter. This was
all new to me when I heard it lately, and was told that the proofs of it
were in this book, and that this book's verdict is accepted in the girls'
colleges of America and its view taught in their literary classes.

In each of these six years multitudes of young people in our country have
arrived at the Shelley-reading age. Are these six multitudes
unacquainted with this life of Shelley? Perhaps they are; indeed, one
may feel pretty sure that the great bulk of them are. To these, then, I
address myself, in the hope that some account of this romantic historical
fable and the fabulist's manner of constructing and adorning it may
interest them.