The man Shelley, in very truth, is not entirely sane, and Shelley's poetry is not entirely sane either. The Shelley of actual life is a vision of beauty and radiance, indeed, but availing nothing, effecting nothing. And in poetry, no less than in life, he is "a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain."
Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), British poet, critic. Review first published (1886). Essays in Criticism, "Shelley," Second Series (1888).
Closing words of review. The quotation referred to is to be found in another essay by Arnold, "Byron"Malso collected in this volume. Arnold was appalled at what he considered the depravity of Shelley's personal life: "What a set! what a world!... One feels sickened for ever of the subject of irregular relations."