Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchhiker
Your letter of the 1st hath this moment reached me. I answer it according to our agreement, which shall be inviolable. Truly did you say that, at our arising in the morning, Nature assumes a different aspect.
Who could have conjectured the circumstances of my last letter? Friend of my soul, this is terrible, dismaying: it makes one's heart sink, it withers vital energy...
Dear being, I am thine again; the happiness shall again predominate over this fleeting tribute to self-interest. Yet who would not feel now? Oh'twere as reckless a task to endeavor to annihilate perception while sense existed, as to blunt the sixth sense to such impressions as these! ...
Forgive me, dearest friend? I pour out my whole soul to you. I write by fleeting intervals: my pen runs away with my senses. The impassionateness of my sensations grows upon me. Your letter, too, has much affected me.
Never, with my consent, shall that intercourse cease which has been the day-dawn of my existence, the sun which has shed warmth on the cold drear length of the anticipated prospect of life. Prejudice might demand the sacrifice, but she is an idol to whom we bow not.
The world might demand it; its opinion might require; but the cloud which flees over yon mountain were as important to our happiness, to our usefulness. This must never be, never whilst this existence continues; and when time has enrolled us in the list of the departed, surely this friendship will survive to bear our identity to heaven.
What is love, or friendship? Is it something material ... a ball, an apple, a plaything ... which must be taken from one to be given to another? Is it capable of no extension, no communication? Lord Kaimes defines love to be a particularization of the general passion.
But this is the love of sensation, of sentiment ... the absurdest of absurd vanities: it is the love of pleasure, not the love of happiness. The one is a love which is selfcentered, selfinterested: It desires its own interest; it is the parent of jealousy. Its object is the plaything which it desires to monopolize.
Selfishness, monopoly, is its very soul, and to communicate to others part of this love were to destroy its essence, to annihilate this chain of straw.
But love, the love which we worship , ... virtue, heaven, disinterestedness ... in a word, Friendship ... which has as much to do with the senses as with yonder mountains; that which seeks the good of all ... the good of its object first, not because that object is a minister to its Pleasures, not merely because it even contributes to its happiness, but because it is really worthy, because it has powers, sensibilities, is capable of abstracting itself, and loving virtue's own loveliness ...
Desiring the happiness of others not from the obligation of fearing the happiness of others not from the obligation of fearing hell or desiring heaven: but for pure, simple, unsophisticated virtue. You will soon hear again. Adieu, my dearest friend. Continue to believe that when I am insensible to your excellence, I shall cease to exist.