Apropos of the odd controversy about Shelley’s nose

Sir Percy and Lady Shelley, RLS’s neighbours at Bournemouth, had attached themselves warmly to RLS, and saw in his ways and character a living image of those of the poet, Sir Percy’s father, as they imagined him.

Low had asked on behalf of Scribner’s for a photograph of RLS for publication in The Bookbuyer (see Letter 1503, Posted on this blog January 11, 2017).

[As ususal, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1515.]

To Will H. Low [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 317-318]

Skerryvore, Bournemouth, Jan. Somethingorotherth, 1886

My dear Low,

[…]

I send you two photographs: they are both done by Sir Percy Shelley, the poet’s son, which may interest.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, 3rd Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), the son and only surviving child of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley[http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, 3rd Baronet of Castle Goring (1819-1889), the son and only surviving child of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley[http://shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk]

The sitting down one is, I think, the best;

The Bookman Extra Number, 1913, p. 57.

 

but if they choose that, see that the little reflected light on the nose does not give me a turn-up; that would be tragic. Don’t forget ‘Baronet’ to Sir Percy’s name.

We all think a heap of your book; and I am well pleased with my dedication.

Low’s edition of Keats’s ‘Lamia’.

Low’s edition of Keats’s ‘Lamia’.

Low’s dedication to RLS: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from Faery-Land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book.’ The Latin legend inscribed above the design runs: ‘Neque est ullum certius amicitiae vinculum quam consensus et societas consiliorum et voluntatum’ (‘There is no more certain bond of friendship than agreement and unity in intentions and wishes’).

Low’s dedication to RLS: ‘In testimony of loyal friendship and of a common faith in doubtful tales from Faery-Land, I dedicate to Robert Louis Stevenson my work in this book.’ The Latin legend inscribed above the design runs: ‘Neque est ullum certius amicitiae vinculum quam consensus et societas consiliorum et voluntatum’ (‘There is no more certain bond of friendship than agreement and unity in intentions and wishes’).

 

Yours ever,

R.L. Stevenson

P.S. – Apropos of the odd controversy about Shelley’s nose: I have before me four photographs of myself, done by Shelley’s son:

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

immagine

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

my nose is hooked, not like the eagle, indeed, but like the accipitrine family in man; well, out of these four, only one marks the bend,

immagine

one makes it straight,

RLS, Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

and one suggests a turn-up.

RLS in Bournemouth, December 1885.

 

This throws a flood of light on calumnious man – and the scandalmongering sun. For personally I cling to my curve. To continue the Shelley controversy: I have a look of him, all his sisters had noses like mine:

Posthumous portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley by George Clint [https://i0.wp.com/biografieonline.it/img/bio/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_1.jpg]

Posthumous portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) by George Clint [http://biografieonline.it/img/bio/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_1.jpg]

Miniature portrait of the poet [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

Miniature portrait of the poet [http://3.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley, one of the poet’s four sisters [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Miniature portrait of Hellen Shelley (1799-1885), one of the poet’s four sisters [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley with her sister Margaret (1801/1887) [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

Hellen Shelley with her sister Margaret (1801/1887) [http://4.bp.blogspot.com]

 

Sir Percy has a marked hook;’

“The Poet’s Son”, a caricature by Ape published in Vanity Fair in 1879 [https://upload.wikimedia.org]

all the family had high cheek-bones like mine; what doubt, then, but that this turn-up (of which Jeaffreson accuses the poet, along with much other fatras [= rubbish]) is the result of some accident similar to what has happened in my photographs by his son? 

R.L.S.

 

In the opening chapter of The Real Shelley 1885, John Cordy Jeaffreson contrasting the ‘real Shelley’ with the Shelley of romantic biography alleged that the posthumous portrait by George Clint gave him a face of ‘gentle delicacy and symmetrical loveliness’ with ‘a large straight delcately-modeled, finly pointed nose’ whereas ‘the original had a notably unsymmetrical face, and a little turn-up nose.’ Syvia Norman pointed out in The Flight of the Skylark, 1954, 21, that RLS overlooked Shelley’s own comment in a letter to Hogg: ‘I, you know, have a litle turn-up nose’.

In ‘The Real Shelley‘, Jeaffreson contrasted the ‘real Shelley’ with the Shelley of romantic biography, and alleged that the posthumous portrait by Clint gave him a face of ‘gentle delicacy and symmetrical loveliness’ with ‘a large straight delcately-modeled, finly pointed nose’ whereas ‘the original had a notably unsymmetrical face, and a little turn-up nose.

 

 

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

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One Response to Apropos of the odd controversy about Shelley’s nose

  1. rdury says:

    Thank you for this: the collection of photographs makes this letter immediately understandable.

    Liked by 1 person

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