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SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, 49 Lincolns Inn Fields, and Field Place, Horsham, 7 December 1810 - 25 February 1811, together 26½ pages, 4to, one letter on carbon paper, with integral and separate address leaves, each endorsed by Wedgwood, including one separate address leaf dated 2 December 1810 (letter not present), including watermark 'Charles Wilmott 1809', tied at upper left corner with blue thread; [And]: Thomas Jefferson HOGG (1792-1862). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, and Will's Coffee House, London, 8 December 1810 - 11 January 1811, together 40½ pages, 4to, with integral and separate address leaves, endorsed by Wedgwood, watermarks '1808', tied upper left with blue thread (minor dampstaining to opening leaves of two letters, small loss at edge of final leaf of Hogg's latest letter affecting text, the same leaf with underscorin
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SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, 49 Lincolns Inn Fields, and Field Place, Horsham, 7 December 1810 - 25 February 1811, together 26½ pages, 4to, one letter on carbon paper, with integral and separate address leaves, each endorsed by Wedgwood, including one separate address leaf dated 2 December 1810 (letter not present), including watermark 'Charles Wilmott 1809', tied at upper left corner with blue thread; [And]: Thomas Jefferson HOGG (1792-1862). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, and Will's Coffee House, London, 8 December 1810 - 11 January 1811, together 40½ pages, 4to, with integral and separate address leaves, endorsed by Wedgwood, watermarks '1808', tied upper left with blue thread (minor dampstaining to opening leaves of two letters, small loss at edge of final leaf of Hogg's latest letter affecting text, the same leaf with underscoring in pencil).

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SHELLEY, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, 49 Lincolns Inn Fields, and Field Place, Horsham, 7 December 1810 - 25 February 1811, together 26½ pages, 4to, one letter on carbon paper, with integral and separate address leaves, each endorsed by Wedgwood, including one separate address leaf dated 2 December 1810 (letter not present), including watermark 'Charles Wilmott 1809', tied at upper left corner with blue thread; [And]: Thomas Jefferson HOGG (1792-1862). Four autograph letters signed to [Ralph] Wedgwood, University College, Oxford, and Will's Coffee House, London, 8 December 1810 - 11 January 1811, together 40½ pages, 4to, with integral and separate address leaves, endorsed by Wedgwood, watermarks '1808', tied upper left with blue thread (minor dampstaining to opening leaves of two letters, small loss at edge of final leaf of Hogg's latest letter affecting text, the same leaf with underscoring in pencil).

'CHRIST NEVER EXISTED': THE FORMULATION OF SHELLEY'S ATHEISM. An early and apparently unpublished series of letters, showing the elaboration of the ideas behind The Necessity of Atheism. The correspondence, comprising letters from Shelley and his close friend and fellow student at University College, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, to Ralph Wedgwood, a member of the Wedgwood pottery family, shows Shelley and Hogg developing their views on Christianity and atheism whilst at Oxford.

Shelley and Hogg appear to have begun a correspondence with Wedgwood out of 'an irresistible impulse of curiosity' (Hogg's words), in response to his 'grand scheme' to form a universal language. Hogg refers to Wedgwood's imminent publication of a treatise on the subject, and to his invention, the 'othiothograph', presumably the device for producing a 'new character for language, numbers and music', patented in July 1810 (patent GB3362). There arises a three-way correspondence, with Shelley and Hogg exchanging Wedgwood's letters and discussing his ideas for a pure language.

Shelley both praises and questions Wedgwood's scheme; he passionately puts forth his own theories on Creation and the nature of a Deity, related to those of Spinoza and Locke, 'the definition of Chaos... that matter before it c[ould] be organised so as to contribute the beautiful arrangement of its particles as we now behold them, must notwithstanding have existed from all eternity with the co-extent mind which we call Deity, the Deity therefore is the mind of the universe'. His questioning letters condemn religion and attack the very basis of Christianity, 'Christ never existed ... the fall of man, the whole fabric indeed of superstition which it supports can no longer obtain the credit of Philosophers'. These letters show the formulation of Shelley's ideas, as they later appear in The Necessity of Atheism -- the notion of a 'Cause' behind the creation of the universe, of common sense and reason contradicting belief and faith; the existence of a God cannot be accepted without proof.

Hogg too seeks proof, 'it is impossible to believe without proof', but his discussions have a different emphasis; he examines in detail the etymology of sacred language, its origins and meaning, and questions the authenticity of the scriptures. He rejects language as sacred, as formed by a Deity, and sees language as a human invention, 'I can no more fancy Adam possessed a perfect Language than that he had a Steam Engine constructed of the best possible principles'.

Although Shelley and Hogg appear to be passionate for Wedgwood's plans for a universal language to succeed, there is a hint of mischeviousness in their detailed arguments (Hogg more than once says he fears Wedgwood must think him and Shelley 'pedantic oxonions'). In referring to Wedgwood's invention of a device to print a universal language, (see patent 3362: Wedgwood uses a square as a basic type, with different parts of the square signifying various letters of the alphabet) Hogg criticises in literal terms ('I cannot conceive how a character can be the metrical parallel of an idea: how 144 distinct characters can by conveyed by three types'), but is surely teasing Wedgwood when he asks why not use a circle ('an apt emblem of eternity'), triangle ('a type of the blessed Trinity') or spiral. Hogg's long letter of 11 January 1811, the existence of which is known from a preliminary draft in the Bodleian Library (see B.C. Barker-Benfield, 'Hogg-Shelley papers of 1810-12', The Bodleian Library Record, vol. XIV no. 1 (Oct 1991), pp.22), was written in response to Shelley's challenge to Hogg to reply to Wedgwood, 'If it amuses you, you can answer him, if not I will' (Jones, 36).

Ralph Wedgwood (1766-1837), son of Thomas, the Master Potter of Burslem and Etruria, and cousin of the great Josiah Wedgwood, was the inventor of carbon paper (1806, see patent GB2972 'apparatus for producing duplicates of writings' and GB3110, 1808, 'apparatus for producing several original writings... at one and the same time, "Manifold Writer"'; Shelley tests out the new process in one of the present letters, and asks Wedgwood to send him some more 'semi-carbonic paper'). For further material relating to Ralph Wedgwood see lot 90.

Shelley's friendship with Hogg began when they took up their residence at University College in October 1810. Their anonymous pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism was announced in the Oxford University and City Herald on Feburary 9 1811, and was subsequently distributed to bishops and the heads of colleges. On 25 March Shelley was summoned before the college authorities, refused to answer when questioned, and was expelled. Hogg protested and met with the same punishment.

Found amongst papers relating to the Staffordshire potteries and Wedgwood family (see lot 90), the present correspondence appears to be unpublished and unknown. The letters are not listed in the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library catalogue, or by F.L. Jones in The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. These letters are apparently referred to by Shelley in other correspondence of the same period (Jones 40, 14 January 1811, Shelley to Hogg, 'I enclosed 5 sheets of paper ... They attack Xtianity's very basis'). He also speaks of Wedgwood's amazement in receiving a letter from the Rev[eren]d. (Jones, 30). One address leaf here is endorsed by Wedgwood 'Rev.d Percy B. Shelley'.

Watermarks and measurements are identical to two Shelley/Hogg letters now in the Bodleian Library. The present letter, Hogg to Wedgwood, December 8 1810, is watermarked '1808' - identical to that in MS Shelley adds c.7, ff.11-12, Shelley to E. F. Graham. Shelley's letter here, to Wedgwood, 13 Jan 1811, Field Place, is watermarked 'Charles Wilmott 1809', identical to Abinger Dep.b.214/4, written by Shelley to Hogg, 20 Dec 1810 from Field Place, suggesting a stock of paper held in Shelley's family home in Horsham. (8)
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