FROM BLAKE'S IMAGE OF A FIERY BEING WHO "STAMPS THE STONY LAW TO dust" to Shelley's vision of the "sceptreless
" man in Prometheus Unbound, romantic writing is replete with aesthetic, philosophical, and sociopolitical topoi that seem to anticipate what becomes known as "anarchism" in the second half of the nineteenth century.
'The painted veil,' Shelley declared in Prometheus Unbound (1820), 'by those who were, called life', Which mimicked, as with colours idly spread, All men believed or hoped, is torn aside; The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains Sceptreless
, free, uncircumscribed, [...] (29)
Those of us who have felt a certain utopian elation when reading certain lines in poems like Prometheus Unbound--"The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains / Sceptreless
, free, uncircumscribed, but man / Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, / Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king / Over himself" (III.193-197)--will be unable to read Lewes's essay without wincing: here is Shelley's own loathsome mask.