Date 1872-12-01
Publication Academy
Topic WMR review of D.F. MacCarthy's Shelley bio
AP display
RA display
Subject literature
Keywords completeness
  ↳ accuracy
  ↳ fairness
Standards facts analyzed
  ↳ validated/debunked

Annotation details

72 December Academy


Mac Carthy's Shelley.


Rossetti, William M. "General Literature." Academy 3 (December 24, 1872): 441. Web. 21 Sept. 2011.


This essay once again places Rossetti in the position of clarifying Shelley's political history as well as evaluating the accuracy of yet another biography (Shelley's Early Life, from Original Sources, With Curious Incidents, Letters and Writings, now first-published or collected, by Denis Florence Mac Carthy) of the poet (see also: Rossetti, W M, "Shelley in 1812-1813,Fortnightly; January 1871).

Rossetti points out the value of this book to Dante Rossetti in November 1872, saying that the book contains many new and interesting details regarding Shelley's life (305).

Rossetti divides his analysis of Denis Florence Mac Carthy's volume into two main areas: first, Mac Carthy's personal interpretations and biases, then the various sources Mac Carthy cites for his conclusions. The pattern is similar to Rossetti's bifurcated approach to the subject of Shelley in general and Mac Carthy's volume in particular. That is, Rossetti has as his reference source various documents that he has discovered, others recently published, as well as his own conjecture regarding the "Curious Incidents" in Shelley's life analyzed by Mac Carthy.

Rossetti buttresses his own conclusions-which often differ from Mac Carthy's-with reports and facts from other sources. The reader's sense throughout is that Rossetti perceives himself to be closer to the facts and events of Shelley's life and work than Mac Carthy, and while Rossetti confirms some of Mac Carthy's observations and theories, he takes issue with many more, including one of Mac Carthy's criticisms of Rossetti's volume on Shelley. Further, he faults Mac Carthy for having a personal bias against Thomas Jefferson Hogg, one of the key figures in one of the many controversies surrounding Shelley. However, Rossetti explains to his brother that Mac carthy is correct in overtly stating that Hogg had an affair with Harriet, a fact which William Rossetti only alluded to in his Shelley edition, but which might imply some reason to suspect Hogg's veracity (305).

Rossetti's highlighting of Mac Carthy's sourcing errors plus his questioning of Mac Carthy's biases casts doubt over the volume Rossetti reviews for Academy, if not the author himself, to whom Rossetti recommends "a little more caution in pronouncing other people to be in the wrong." Although Rossetti finally proclaims the volume despite the flaws he's identified in it to be "an indispensible aid" to all students of Shelley, the overall effect of the review is largely unfavorable to the author and his book.


critical, historical


completeness, accuracy, fairness

Standards of Judgment:

warrants examined, evidence analyzed, logic tested


"Address to the People of Ireland, Proposal for an Association of Philanthropists", "Declaration of Rights, Proposal for putting Reform to the Vote throughout the Country", "Address to the People on the Death of Princess Charlotte"



Writing technique/tone:

somewhat contentious, educational


". . . tedious and inflated . . ." "devoid of sound advice;" "gross inaccuracy in detail . . ." "parrot-like iteration . . ."

Works Cited

Rossetti, William Michael. Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. Ed. Roger Peattie. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990. Print.