Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840

By Richard Cronin | Go to book overview

1
Memorializing Romanticism

I

They had problems with Romantic memorials. Keats instructed his own epitaph. He remembered, as he was dying, some lines from Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, ‘all your better deeds /Shall be in water writ, but this in marble’ (5.iii.81–2), and asked Severn to arrange that his grave be nameless, marked only by the words, ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’. Severn attended to Keats's wishes, and, when he was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, he arranged for the epitaph that Keats himself had chosen to be carved on the stone. But he added a broken lyre of his own devising, and, after consulting with another of Keats's friends, Charles Brown, added, too, an explanation of the epitaph, ‘This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English poet, who, on his deathbed, in the bitterness of his heart, at the malicious power of his enemies, desired these words to be engraved on his tombstone’. Brown later repented of his decision, but it was too late. The myth that Keats himself repudiated, of the poet killed by criticism, snuffed out by an article, had been stamped on Keats's grave. Shelley seized on the paradox – writing that leaves no trace made permanent in stone, a durable monument to the ephemeral – and produced an epigram:

‘Here lieth One whose name was writ on water.’ But, ere the breath that could erase it blew, Death in remorse for that fell slaughter, Death, the immortalizing winter, flew Athwart the stream, – and time's printless torrent grew A scroll of crystal, blazoning the name Of Adonais!

-15-

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Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Memorializing Romanticism 15
  • 2 - Historicizing Romanticism 45
  • 3 - Feminizing Romanticism 67
  • 4 - Fashioning Romanticism 109
  • 5 - Civilizing Romanticism 143
  • 6 - Realizing Romanticism 194
  • 7 - Christening Romanticism 214
  • 8 - Domesticating Romanticism 237
  • Conclusion 251
  • Notes 261
  • Index 289
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