Hypercanonical Keats and the pantheon of living poets

All these long lists and old controversies might seem mere antiquarianism, an attempt to recover a body of work that serves no contemporary interest, aesthetic or otherwise. However, an awareness of the range of poetry available in 1820 can alter our understanding of even the most canonical of Romantic works, for example Keats's 1820 volume, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. Placed back in its moment of production, Keats's book announces its connections to a broad range of...

Accentual inventions

Despite the epic poet's dictation from an invisible muse, Blake expresses both a novelistic sense of poetic form and a claim to a total art. Here one of the most important influences on the major Romantic poets is Thomas Chatterton (1752-70). Born five years before Blake and seven before Burns, he was the author of a number of works he acknowledged, as well as of his fake-medieval Rowley poems. The latter, composed between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, when he died a suicide, were...

Native sources

Poets in the second half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth tended to turn to such British roots for their practice, rather than, like Bysshe and others, looking to European, and particularly French, models. John Armstrong went so far as to imply, in his 1758 Sketches, that writers of excessively regular dramatic verse in the French style lacked patriotism.22 The stately enjambed blank verse of William Cowper's Yardley Oak of 1791 links druid rituals to the oracle at...

Ancient sources

The influences of Milton and Spenser, along with British song traditions, transformed a syllabic and heroic predilection to an accentual and lyric one, but Romanticism was itself another version of neoclassicism - and poets of the later eighteenth century simply began to draw on other resources of classical culture than those that occupied their immediate predecessors. Just as early eighteenth-century artists and architects mistakenly thought ancient buildings were unpainted, so did early...

Forging Romanticism in 1820

The preface to Barrett's epic The Battle of Marathon returns us to the problem of the explosion of verse, as Barrett writes of how As the press pours forth profusion, the literary multitude eagerly receive its lavish offerings.16 Out of this undifferentiated pantheon, what she calls an inferior multitude of the common herd, Barrett identifies three real Poets among her contemporaries Byron, Moore, and Scott. This little, unremembered act of canon formation and of love comes amid other efforts...

Eighteenthcentury numbers

English Renaissance theorists focused upon the opportunities and difficulties that arose as poets tried to adapt the quantitative verse of Greek and Roman poetry, which, unlike English, has the resources of long and short syllables. The application of quantitative meters could not be successful, but it survived in the notion of the measured line, the poet's numbers and in the early eighteenth century a certain idea about the regularity of classical forms led neoclassical poets to write with...

Romantic poetry and antiquity

In The Four Ages of Poetry (1820), Thomas Love Peacock archly complained that contemporary poetry was absurdly derivative of ancient models of inspiration and composition While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in, and accelerating, the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws toys and rattles for the grown babies of the age.1 He castigates Scott, Byron, Southey, Wordsworth,...

Transformations of feeling

Among the most important prosodic ideas that gradually took hold by the mid-eighteenth century was the contention that the content of the work should determine the shape of the form, and it is significant that such an early critique of heroic couplets had come from Isaac Watts, a prominent writer of hymns. There was a precedent for this, well known by Milton, in the classical idea that musical modalities had attached emotions the Dorian scale vigorously masculine the Lydian relaxed the Phrygian...

Chronology

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful Thomas Gray, The Bard 1759 Robert Burns born Mary Wollstonecraft born Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, James Macpherson's Ossianic Fragments published Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Emile 1763 Treaty of Paris ends Seven Years War Hugh Blair, A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal...

Info

Greece in particular proved to be particularly apt for writers and artists of the period. As with the Gothic myth, past epochs may have been savage and barbaric, but they also constituted a golden age of pure thought and expression unsullied by the corruption of society, and ancient Greece (democratic, artistic, philosophic, and athletic) seemed to be exemplary in this respect. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Greece was as much an idea - or rather a set of ideas - as it...

The reading nation and the writerly nation in 1820

During the period between 1770 and 1835, there were more than 4,000 writers producing poetry, of whom about 900 were women, as J. R. de Jackson's bibliographies have suggested.6 1820 saw the publication of around 200 new volumes or editions of poetry 57 by women , hardly any of which would be familiar to scholars today. Since the canon of Romantic verse has been smaller than that in other periods, there is something illustrative in simply listing the diversity of verse in 1820, even at the risk...