"Hell Is A City Much Like London"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Peter Bell the Third, as Mrs. Shelley explained, is a satire on "the idealism of a poet–a man of lofty and creative genius–quitting the glorious calling of discovering and announcing the beautiful and good, to support and propogate ignorant prejudices and pernicious errors. . . ." The title comes from Wordsworth's Peter Bell. The third Peter Bell dies and goes to Hell, where he becomes a poet. When he writes sensible and moral poetry, the reviewers (inspired by the Devil) "heap abuse" upon him, but they praise him when he "raves enormous folly." But Peter's "pernicious" poetry is extremely dull. In the third part, Shelley describes Hell as having all the attributes of London: the King, the Chancery Court, the "scheme of paper money," the "talk of revolution," the taxes, the "mincing women"–"All are damnable and damned. . . ." Shelley satirically excoriates English society:

Hell is a city much like London–
A populous and a smoky city;
There are all sorts of people undone,
And there is little or no fun done;
Small justice shown, and still less pity.
There is a Castles, and a Canning,
A Cobbett, and a Castlereagh;
All sorts of caitiff corpses planning
All sorts of cozening for trepanning
Corpses less corrupt than they.