Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840


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Encouraged by Cambridge graduates F. Maurice and John Sterling writing in the Athenaeum , the Apostles' idealism had sought to root itself in a "conflation" of Shelleyan liberalism and Wordsworthian humanity, resulting in such poems as Arthur Hallam's Timbuctoo That enterprise culminated in Boyd's execution by a firing squad and the Apostles' guilt-ridden reaction.

Cronin studies Tennyson's "Oenone" in light of this alteration in the Apostles' opinions "from an enthusiastic but moderate liberalism towards a conservative distrust of any but the most gradual change" As Barrett Browning "more vigorously" appealed "to the reader's sense of civic responsibility" than any of the "major Victorian poets," chapter 5 closes with a fine study of the "process" of citizenship in Casa Guidi Windows , The only problem is the poem's publication date, , and the date of its subject matter, the Italian revolution against the Austrians.

Cronin even points out that "the Great Exhibition. If Barrett Browning had not been discouraged by her father and male advisors, she would have written political poetry much earlier, we are led to suppose, at least by In chapter 7, Keats's and Shelley's pantheism and the prayerful isolation of Wordsworth and Coleridge are rejected, as again by means of the work of Maurice and Sterling, as Cronin leads up to his reading of Tennyson's poetry.

Cronin sees Supposed Confessions as a testimony to Tennyson's inability to escape from a self-conscious spiritual pride. Christmas-Eve gives witness to Browning's own success at having made such an escape as he learns that congregating with the faithful, however ignorant or smelly they may be, is as important as belief itself. Again, Cronin maps a trajectory to high Victorianism. Christmas-Eve was not published until , and its spiritual attitudes differ sharply from those of Pauline For the most part, Cronin touches lightly on the Romantic ideas and reputations that provide the contrast for all the works he is interested in here.

But chapters 1 and 8 are an exception. Chapter 1 takes up questions of how the lives of Byron and Shelley were remembered, or misremembered. Commenting on biographies by Hunt, Moore, Medwin, Blessington, Trelawney, and Hogg in particular--though Trelawney's and Hogg's were published in Cronin concludes that the biographers tended to feminize Byron and Shelley when they said the poets lived most fully and truthfully in their imaginations, in their poetry.

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Hence, the biographers claimed they had to speak for the poets, like husbands speaking for too unworldly wives. Cronin does not look at the reception of these works, namely, how the superior positions their authors took in relation to their subjects could harm their own reputations, as in the case of Hunt, or, as in the case of Blessington, jump-start their careers. In the novels Glenarvon , The Last Man , and Venetia , Shelley and Byron are taken out of their age and made highly political, only to have their political importance reduced by events and amours.

Cronin states, " Venetia is, to use Nemoianu's term, a perfect example of the Biedermeier" as Romantic energy is "'captured and tamed'"; however, Cronin in effect deflates the importance of this assessment by adding that Disraeli's novel, "when it was published in , did not make much of a stir" If only Cronin had devoted the whole of his attention to the literary works that were making a stir in the s and s London newspapers and magazines, he would have been far more reluctant to agree that, for the most part, during those sixteen years the rebellious spirit of Romanticism was being tamed or, as Herbert Tucker has said of the s, quietly domesticated.

Cronin recounts the quaint anecdote of how Tennyson's fellow Apostle, Henry Alford, presented his wife and cousin a copy of The Revolt of Islam in as a wedding gift, in the pious hope "that somehow, as she [read], his wife [would] transform Shelley's subversive visionary epic into a paean to quiet, domestic joy" Cronin delves a little into Shelley's philosophy of love and language, finding incest central to Shelley's notion of the "origin" and "goal" of his creativity A reworking of the incest theme, Tennyson's A Lover's Tale presents a male poet who is shown to be unfit for the object of his passion, his female cousin.

For Cronin, the poem illustrates well how Victorian poets acted out Romantic doctrines only to discover their limitations, and he mentions as a corollary the actions of Tennyson and the Apostles in the Spanish enterprise. One example at the end of chapter 8 reveals the trouble with Cronin's limited focus in parts on how a few major, but not popular, writers treated a particular strand of Romantic thought.

Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840

To support the idea that Tennyson's reworking of the incest theme points to a wider trend, Cronin names a few other works including Landon's popular Improvisatrice , in which Lorenzo declares that his passion for the performing songstress far outweighs his feelings for one whom he loves as a sister. Landon is then made to come across as another writer dampening down Romantic passion in favor of "married love" Cronin seems unaware of the fact that Landon wrote dozens of works approving the strength of illicit sexual passions, that she preferred to malign marriage than otherwise, and that she had three illegitimate children by the Literary Gazette editor who published many of her improper poems.

Indeed, much of the literature produced after Don Juan did anything but dry up or discipline itself to observe solely chaste affections; for example, witness Bulwer's Godolphin , Julia Pardoe's Traits and Traditions of Portugal , Allan Cunningham's Songs of Scotland , to name but a few. Two chapters concentrate mostly on works by a few of the period's popular writers. Set in racy London, Don Juan 's last cantos establish the tone for chapter 4, as Cronin maintains that the silver-fork novelists took their lead from Byron.

He is right to relate their novels to the newspapers and their "Fashionable Intelligence" columns.


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Like the novels, the papers embraced people fashionable for a day as well as "commodities [that have] so quickly become obsolete" Such novels were also not written to last, Cronin deduces with reason but probably not with complete accuracy. Certainly, the public interest sparked by Bulwer's Pelham and Disraeli's Vivian Grey promoted their authors onto a public stage on which they remained for decades.

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Both novels mock their authors' own puppydom as well as the ennui-making-yet-fascinating fashionable world. As Cronin says, the puppydom and the mockery were alike provoking to "unsympathetic readers" , though from what I know of the hostility to Bulwer, his unsympathetic readers were largely confined to a few periodical writers of a different political stripe who could not have won entry to many of the London circles open to him and Disraeli.

Cronin is simply wrong when he states that Bulwer and Disraeli "could no longer dream of prowling, like Byron, the drawing rooms of London as a literary lion. Cronin's assertion that, compared to Byron's day, the writer's status was much diminished "in the fashionable world that they both [Bulwer and Disraeli] aspired to enter" is contradicted by a host of reports in newspapers, letters, memoirs, and biographies describing how many popular writers were courted by their betters in unprecedented ways during this very period.

Sartor Resartus 's reaction to the dandies is also covered in chapter 4.

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Cronin points out that Carlyle saw the extreme division between rich and poor as having helped to produce the silver-fork novels. This extreme division gave the novel its "potential to produce its own antithesis" in the historical novels of highwaymen and murderers that came into vogue in the s, such as Ainsworth's Rookwood and Jack Sheppard In his comments on the characterization and style of Mary Shelley's Lodore , Cronin emphasizes her indebtedness to Bulwer.

He uses the word "styptic" to define the silver-fork style in which sentences that tended "both towards the antithetical and the oxymoronic" were placed immediately after sentimental ones to expose their sham; however, in some passages of Lodore , the cynicism of the styptic "co-exists with the sentimental, it does not expose it as a sham" Such a combination well fits a novel about unhappy marriage as opposed to one about courtship, the subject of most novels of the period, including Plumer Ward's Tremaine and Gore's Women as They Are , briefly noticed in chapter 4.

In this respect Mary Shelley's work marks for Cronin an advance over Bulwer's and, it seems, all other silver-fork novelists. Cronin opines that the fashionable novel "is the genre that best defines the period"; how much he will let himself admire "fashionable novels of the s. Cronin cannot have much admiration for a genre that he thinks of as being "invented and developed not by a writer but by a publisher, Henry Colburn, who, as it were, merely sub-contracted the task of supplying the words for the novels to his authors" That silver-fork novels were written fairly quickly and were meant to sell right away does not detract from the fact that many were composed with seriousness and attention to detail.

Some authors no doubt merely supplied Colburn with words, but I think a number of them viewed their novels as creative works of art, signs of the times that could perhaps one day serve as historical records of those times. Likewise, a number of reviewers took care to distinguish the frothy Colburn novel from the more substantial ones out of the same publishing house.

The better written novels usually sold better, so their authors were paid more for the next novel. Colburn himself could not afford to ignore the art of these novels, as opposed to their manufacture. In chapter 3, Cronin seeks to uncomplicate Felicia Hemans by turning her back into the poetess her first readers revered, one who would never have sought to undercut the domestic and heroic values they saw her as upholding.

That Hemans's poetic voice is almost always calm and cool, no matter what horrors her poem might be describing, is "her most powerful achievement" In her work, femininity is best defined and appreciated when serving masculine ideals which the woman, in turn, must be the one to express. Cronin makes the interesting, though not corroborated, point that Hemans and Landon actually caused Scott's masculine poetry to seem old-fashioned by appropriating and feminizing his poetic style.

But he seems less than enchanted with Hemans's popular narrative poetry, preferring to discuss at length just The Siege of Valencia , which he finds "uncharacteristic" of her work in general He gives the game away at the book's end, when all he can say about "the feminizing of poetry that I explore in Chapter 3" is that it "is susceptible of a more cynical explanation.

The feminine voice came to dominate poetry at precisely the period in which it became scarcely possible for poets to earn a living from the practice of their profession. So much for Hemans's "achievement," and Landon's for that matter. Cronin states strangely that "since there were only two niches available [for women poets], the choice one [Hemans] made in large part determined the choice of the other [Landon]" Enthusiastic rediscoveries of ancient Greece , Elizabethan England, and, especially, the Middle Ages by writers, artists, architects, and designers made this age of change simultaneously an age of active and determined historicism.

John Stuart Mill caught this contradictory quality, with characteristic acuteness, in his essays on Jeremy Bentham and Samuel Taylor Coleridge A similar sense of sharp controversy is given by Carlyle in Sartor Resartus — An eccentric philosophical fiction in the tradition of Swift and Sterne, the book argues for a new mode of spirituality in an age that Carlyle himself suggests to be one of mechanism.

Several major figures of English Romanticism lived on into this period.

Coleridge died in , De Quincey in Wordsworth succeeded Southey as poet laureate in and held the post until his own death seven years later. Posthumous publication caused some striking chronological anomalies.

Record. “Isn’t She Painted Con Amore?” Fraser’s Magazin – Romanticism on the Net – Érudit

Despite this persistence, critics of the s felt that there had been a break in the English literary tradition, which they identified with the death of Byron in The deaths of Austen in and Scott in should perhaps have been seen as even more significant, for the new literary era has, with justification, been seen as the age of the novel. More than 60, works of prose fiction were published in Victorian Britain by as many as 7, novelists. It was challenged in the s by the advent of serialization in magazines and by the publication of novels in page monthly parts.

But only in the s did the three-decker finally yield to the modern single-volume format. English literature.

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Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840
Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840 Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840

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