Where "Byron Used to Ride": Locating the Victorian Travel Poet in Clough's Amours De Voyage and Dipsychus

By Kierstead, Christopher M. | Philological Quarterly, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Where "Byron Used to Ride": Locating the Victorian Travel Poet in Clough's Amours De Voyage and Dipsychus


Kierstead, Christopher M., Philological Quarterly


In the Spring of 1849, Giuseppe Mazzini, leader of the newly-declared Roman Republic, fought off attacks from French troops seeking to restore papal sovereignty over the city. At the same time, he withstood a siege of another sort: an obscure English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough, needed his permission to visit the guarded Vatican art gallery. A letter of introduction from Thomas Carlyle won Clough his pass, but the relative absurdity of the affair was not lost on the poet. To his mother, Clough confessed embarrassment at having to bother the hero of the Risorgimento with "trivial English tourist importunities" (1:257).(1) Clough furthermore must have wondered whether looking at statues was the best occupation for a poet at such a crucial moment in European history. Was this what Byron would do?

The importunate encounter with Mazzini grew out of two conflicting impulses in Clough. The first was the need to complete an obligatory step in the ritual of the Grand Tour, which also demanded visits to the coast and ancient ruins. The second impulse was more urgent. Clough was eager to turn his firsthand observation of events in Rome into poetry. Within the past year, he had achieved some success with a travel poem set in Scotland. The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich (1848), a "long-vacation pastoral," concludes with the elopement of an Oxford undergraduate and a Scottish peasant girl, thus seeming to confirm the Republican sympathies of "Citizen Clough," as his fellow Oxonians sardonically called him.(2) The poem won positive reviews for its experimentation with meter and its perceptive, witty treatment of the social and intellectual controversies then consuming Oxford. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for example, praised the poem's "vigour and freshness," while doubting, somewhat prophetically, whether Clough would rank among the great poets of the age--whether he was an "artist."(3) For a poet seeking to reach that next echelon, however, the continent must have seemed an inviting subject. As in Byron's day, Europe was in the midst of profound political upheaval. Clough in fact had recently witnessed the restoration of Republican government in Paris, although, like most reform-minded Victorians, he soon became disillusioned with Louis Napoleon. The fate of Italy, however, was not settled. Recent uprisings in Lombardy, Tuscany, and Rome still promised the resurgence of a new nation from the grip of old-regime politics--and new life for poetry that engaged contemporary political issues.

Indeed, Clough was not the only poet who had focused his attention on Italy. In Florence, Barrett Browning was working on Casa Guidi Windows (1851), a poem that would blend eye-witness description of events in Florence with analysis of the political factors that eventually forestalled any hope of unification in 1849. And before disappearing from the literary map with the demise of the "Spasmodic School," Sydney Dobell gained brief fame with The Roman (1850). The poem vigorously champions the cause of Italian independence, closing with a popular uprising and the chant of "Down with the Austrians! Arms! Blood! Charge! Death--death to tyrants. Victory! Freedom!"(4) Mazzini himself later congratulated Dobell: "You have written about Rome as I would, had I been a poet. And what you did write flows from the soul, the all-loving, the all-embracing, the prophet-soul."(5)

Clough, in contrast, was finding it difficult to adopt the role of Hero as Poet--to become Carlyle's assertive voice of the age. While intensely drawn to Rome's plight, he seemed unable to cultivate a public, overtly political persona--to progress beyond the roles of spectator, correspondent, and tourist. This struggle to find a voice, however, would fuel the two long works Clough did write in Italy: the epistolary travelogue Amours de Voyage (1849; publ. 1858) and the verse-drama Dipsychus (1850; publ. 1865), which Clough set in Venice. Both poems are semiautobiographical records of the poet's response to the spectacle of modern Italy and to the ever-present "Byron" rain his varying guises as celebrated traveler, champion of nationalistic movements, and overall role model for poets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Where "Byron Used to Ride": Locating the Victorian Travel Poet in Clough's Amours De Voyage and Dipsychus
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.