The reading nation and the writerly nation in 1820

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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 of appearing "metromaniacal"; the list, gesturing towards the encyclopedic, is a feature of the pantheon.

We have identified Romanticism's innovations with the lyric, but in 1820, narrative verse appeared the stronger genre, with Keats, for example, naming his new volume Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes and Other Poems, George Croly issuing The Angel of the World; an Arabian Tale: Sebastian; a Spanish Tale: With Other Poems, and "Barry Cornwall" (the pseudonym of Hunt and Keats's friend Bryan Waller Procter) offering Marcian Colonna, An Italian Tale with Three Dramatic Scenes and Other Poems. Even Wordsworth, whose Lyrical Ballads of 1798 proclaimed the desire to use the lyric to contest the popularity of narrative and the novelization of verse, published his Peter Bell (1819), originally written in 1798, not as a lyrical ballad but as a "tale." There were still works labeled as ballads, such as Robert Roscoe's Chevy Chase: A Poem Founded on the Ancient Ballad, but the term is also attached to pieces taken from plays, such as Pity's Tear, excerpted from Thomas Morton's Henri Quatre; or, Paris in the Olden Times, as well as to satires such as William Hone and George Cruikshank's The Green Bag: "A dainty dish to set before a king;" A Ballad of the Nineteenth Century, with such titles again suggesting the range of non-lyric verse. About 10 percent of new poetry volumes in 1820 were verse dramas, as devotees of the armchair theater could enjoy T. F. Barham's Abdallah; or, the Arabian Martyr or Henry Hart Milman's The Fall of Jerusalem in addition to Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.7 With at least fifty-seven volumes of satiric verse issued in 1820 (including Wooler's The Kettle Abusing the Pot, Benbow's Kouli Khan, and an adaptation of Juvenal's seventh satire called Patronage), political satire, a genre only recently reclaimed for Romanticism, comprised the largest body of new verse published during a year marked by George IV's struggle with his wife that came to be known as the Queen Caroline Affair, a dispute to which Shelley added his Oedipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant. While Shelley's text would be withdrawn, the most popular volume of poetry in 1820, going through at least twenty-five editions, was certainly The Man in the Moon by the period's great satirist, William Hone.8

There was, as throughout the period, a fair sampling of religious poetry (e.g., Paul Thackwell's Collection of Miscellaneous and Religious Poems or R. Willoughby's The Plaintive Muse, or Poems Sacred to Religion), an important context for even the secularizing projects of a Hunt or a Shelley, and a sizeable gathering of juvenile verse, including Poems for Youth, a collaborative volume created by William Roscoe's family circle. Translation comprises another important block of verse in 1820, with Hunt's adaptation of Tasso's Amyntas reflecting an engagement with foreign literatures also seen in Bowring's Specimens of the Russian Poets, and translations of Goethe's Faust, Foscolo's Sepulchres, and Grillparzer's Sappho. Readers could experience a wide range of poetic forms: odes ranging from the celebratory (e.g., A Pindaric Ode to the Genius of Britain by Charles Ethelston) to the satiric (e.g. Odes to the Pillory); elegiac verses such as Margaret Sarah Croker's Monody on His Late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent and elegies on the death of George III by Hemans and Mary Cockle (Shelley would publish his elegy on Keats, Adonais, in 1821); epistolary poems (e.g., Joseph Cottle's An Expostulary Epistle to Lord Byron or John Wing's Waterloo: A Poetical Epistle to Mr. Sergeant Frere); and didactic works such as Elizabeth Hitch-ener's Enigmas, Historical and Geographical and the Abridged History of the Bible, in Verse by Sarah Richardson; as well as such volumes as Comic Tales in Verse (by "The Two Franks"), Cottage Poems (William Wight), Hebrew Harmonies and Analogies (William Coldwell), Lines Written at Jer-point Abbey (Samuel Carter Hall), Sacred Lyrics (James Edmeston), and Types of the Times (Old Tom of Oxford), not to mention Sultan Sham, and His Seven Wives: An Historical, Romantic, Heroic Poem in Three Cantos by Hudibras the Younger.

Where do writers such as Wordsworth and Keats figure in this outpouring of verse? In defining what he calls the "reading nation,"9 William

St. Clair has argued that during, say, Wordsworth's lifetime there was as yet no canon of Romantic poetry, as copyright law meant that access to works by living poets, initially printed in small numbers, was quite restricted. He does note that there was a canon of contemporary writers recognized for their literary merit - Byron, Campbell, Coleridge, Moore, Rogers, Scott, Southey, and Wordsworth - but he goes on to argue that only a few of these (most importantly, Scott and Byron) had a broad readership, and that this canon of prestige does not include such successful contemporary writers as the "peasant poet" Robert Bloomfield (two of his volumes were reprinted in 1820) and James Montgomery, a popular writer of hymns and author of such works as The Wanderer of Switzerland and other Poems (1806) and Greenland (1819), who had a three-volume edition of his works printed in 1820. While recognizing that there was a contemporary category of "living poets," St. Clair points to the centrality of an "old canon" of major poets from Chaucer to Cowper that, he argues, continued to dominate the reading of most of the populace; and 1820, for example, does see editions of Cowper, Gray, Goldsmith, and Gay from St. Clair's "old canon." Continued interest in that even older canon, the Greek and Latin classics, is seen in 1820 editions of Homer, Virgil, Horace, Aristophanes, and Anacreon.

St. Clair usefully reminds us of the larger world of poetry in 1820, comprising earlier writers, new "Romantic" writers, and other established, rising, or unsuccessful writers who stood opposed to Romanticism or simply apart from it. When readers took up a new volume by Wordsworth or Keats, they read it both alongside earlier writers, so that they might contrast Wordsworth with Pope or compare Keats to Spenser, and against contemporary rivals, so that they might ask whether Wordsworth offered the same pleasures as Bloomfield, the "Farmer Boy," or whether Keats's "The Eve of St. Agnes" could compete with Montgomery's "The Vigil of St. Mark" (1806). Even when we focus on innovative poetry, we need to recall that, of the "Big Six," only Byron was a bestselling author and that Scott, Campbell, Hemans, Rogers, and Moore would have had a stronger influence on what most readers considered to be "new" poetry than did Shelley or Coleridge. While our sense of Romanticism may follow a line of experimentation in the lyric that leads centrally from Wordsworth through Keats, at the time readers might have focused more on the development of narrative poetry from the widely read Scott, whose massive importance has come to be recognized in recent years,10 to the popular Byron.

Still, there was a different kind of canon formed by what we might call the "writerly nation," composed not only of writers themselves but also of reviewers and others actively engaged in commenting on the writing of the day in, for example, letters, journals, and home-made miscellanies such as the Reynolds-Hood commonplace book.11 Poets themselves indicated their engagement with contemporary poetry through direct or indirect imitation, opposition, and celebration. Byron had made a number of conspicuous dedications of his work to other contemporary poets - The Giaour to Rogers, and The Corsair to Moore - and in 1820 we find Shelley dedicating The Cenci to Hunt, and Hunt dedicating his Amyntas to Keats. Byron used a quotation from Moore for his epigraph to The Giaour, and, looking to 1820, we find others following suit. "Barry Cornwall" provided epigraphs for the three parts of his Marcian Colonna, Byron (Lament of Tasso, 1817) supplying the epigraph to the first part, Coleridge (Sibylline Leaves of 1817) and John Wilson (Isle of Palms, a Lake-Poet-influenced volume of 1812) supplying that to the second, and Wordsworth ("Vaudracour and Julia" just published in 1820 with The River Duddon Sonnets) supplying that to the third. Again, Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen included in his Julia Alpinula; with The Captive of Stamboul and Other Poems not only references again to Byron and Wordsworth but also a quotation from Cornwall's own Marcian Colonna published just a few months earlier. Shelley provided "Ode to Liberty," published with Prometheus Unbound, with an epigraph from Byron's Childe Harold IV; and John Abraham Heraud issued his Legend of St. Loy With Other Poems which included a sonnet praising Southey and which opened with "On First Reading the Remains of Henry Kirke White, 9th April 1819," celebrating Southey's edition of White, who had died in 1806. Even satires on contemporary poems are signs of their significance, as in Reynolds's and Shelley's parodies of Wordsworth's Peter Bell, where Wordsworth's delayed publication of what had originally been a lyrical ballad is now read as a betrayal of the poet's earlier experimental promise and as an embrace of the powers of political and religious reaction; and we might also note responses to Moore such as The Fudger Fudged; or the Devil and T***Y M***E (1819) and such take-offs of Byron as Lady Caroline Lamb's A New Canto (1819) or Despair, A Vision. Derry Down and John Bull, A Simile. Being Two Political Parodies on "Darkness," and a Scene from "The Giaour," by Lord Byron (1820). Celebrations and attacks begin to define what poets found innovative and disturbing in the work of their contemporaries.

We should also note the attention paid by reviewers to volumes of new verse. Shelley and Keats may not have sold many copies, but their poetry was reviewed - and thus excerpted - rather widely: one could, for example, read the entirety of "Ode to a Nightingale" in Hunt's Indicator. Keats's three volumes received at least eight, fifteen, and fourteen reviews respectively, and those reviews, positive and negative, appeared in key journals such as The Monthly Magazine, the Quarterly Review, The Edinburgh Review, the Eclectic Review, the Examiner, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, and The

London Magazine. Other contemporary writers, in particular Byron, received broader exposure. While the Quarterly Review opposed the work of Shelley and Keats and while Blackwood's in part established itself through its Cockney School attacks, other journals clearly sided with innovative poetry, with Hunt's Examiner and Indicator both publishing and reviewing members of the Lake and Cockney schools, and John Scott's London Magazine in its first few issues setting forth its support of Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Clare. While the circulation figures for Hunt's weekly Examiner (3,000-7,000) and The London Magazine (2,000) were not as high as the reactionary Quarterly Review (12,000-14,000) or The Edinburgh Review (12,000-13,000), with its mixed response to experimental poetry, they had considerable influence among the Reform-minded intelligentsia, and they were important enough to provoke vitriolic responses from conservative periodicals. The intensity of these reviews, pro and con, suggests how much was at stake for the "writerly nation" in these volumes of experimental verse. The new poetry was thus known, if only through the vicious attacks that were directed at it. It is this canon of what we call Romanticism which in the long run comes to dominate our sense of the period, for the institution-alization of the period through such mechanisms as school curricula and anthologies is finally structured by members of this "writerly nation."12

Certainly the most famous volumes of 1820 today are Keats's Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, and Shelley's Prometheus Unbound: A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, with Other Poems. In retrospect, it was a significant year for the poets who have come to define Romanticism for us. Following the scandal and success of Peter Bell in 1819, Wordsworth not only issued a well-received new volume in 1820 (The River Duddon, A Series of Sonnets: Vaudracour and Julia and Other Poems. To Which is Annexed, A Topographical Description of the Country of the Lakes, In the North of England), but also prepared various volumes that presented his corpus anew to the public: a repackaging of the River Duddon volume to create volume 111 of Wordsworth's Poems, a second edition of The Excursion set uniformly with these three volumes, and a separate four-volume Miscellaneous Poems of William Wordsworth, not to mention an unauthorized reprinting of Lyrical Ballads, made up of sheets from the second volume of the 1800 and 1805 editions. Wordsworth was clearly reaching a larger audience. Peter Bell marked a turning point, with 1,000 copies (rather than the usual 500 for Wordsworth) being issued and with 700 being sold within about a month. The River Duddon sold 340 of its 500 copies in a month, and the four-volume Miscellaneous Poems was sold out by 1826. Where about half the run of 500 copies for the 1814 Excursion had sold within a year, with some copies still being remaindered in 1834, the 1820 edition sold out by 1824.13 Stephen

Gill sees this work as marking an end to one phase in Wordsworth's life as a poet, with the Ecclesiastical Sketches begun shortly thereafter marking a new beginning;14 in any event, it was a new opportunity for Wordsworth to construct himself as a poet, and, since there was a thirteen-year silence after 1822, this burst of activity in essence defined Wordsworth as he came to be widely recognized as the future Poet Laureate.15

While other poets may not have had the year Wordsworth did (though Crabbe, whose most popular volume, Tales of the Hall, was printed in 1819, saw new editions of The Borough [1810] and Poems, as well as a seven-volume edition of his poetical works), 1820 did see significant activity by writers who remain familiar. The year that saw Keats's last volume saw John Clare's first, as he issued Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. Shelley produced three volumes, all reflecting his varied engagement with the drama. Hunt's translation of Tasso's Amyntas was one of several works sent forth by the Cockney School, with "Barry Cornwall" publishing two volumes, Marcian Colonna and A Sicilian Story, with Diego de Montilla, and Other Poems, John Hamilton Reynolds following up the success of his parody of Peter Bell with The Fancy: A Selection of the Poetical Remains of the Late Peter Corcoran, Of Grey's Inn, Student At Law. With a Brief Memoir of His Life, and Cornelius Webb, a minor but infamous member of the circle cited in Blackwood's attacks upon the group, issuing Sonnets, Amatory, Incidental, & Descriptive; with Other Poems. More established poets were well represented: there were three editions of the opening cantos of Byron's Don Juan, a twelve-volume edition of Sir Walter Scott's poetical works, an edition of the works of Burns along with new editions of four other pieces, and two pirated editions of Southey's Wat Tyler. Hemans's Stanzas to the Memory of the Late King was one example of elegiac pieces on the death of George III that would lead to Southey's adulatory Vision of Judgment the next year, and to Byron's riposte, which would satirize both the dead king and his Poet Laureate. Different views were also on offer. The "Quaker poet," Bernard Barton, issued Poems with lines critical of Shelley, and Walter Savage Landor produced a volume of Latin verse, Idyllia Heroica Decem, to which he attached an essay, "De cultu atque usu Latini sermonis," which took up modern poetry and contained criticisms of Byron. We can also see the arrival of writers who would help define future literary developments, with 1820 seeing the first volumes of poetry by Bulwer Lytton (Ismael; An Oriental Tale. With Other Poems) and Elizabeth Barrett (The Battle of Marathon. A Poem, with an epigraph from Byron) and with Laetitia Landon first achieving fame with the publication of her poem "Rome" in William Jerdan's The Literary Gazette of March 11, 1820. It was then a good year for experimental verse, though, of course, at the time, no one used "Romanticism" to identify the poetry of the day, and no one would have selected any of our Romantic canons as a guide through the complex landscape of contemporary literature.

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