English Romanticism and the Celtic World

By Chantler, Ashley | The Byron Journal, June 2004 | Go to article overview

English Romanticism and the Celtic World


Chantler, Ashley, The Byron Journal


ENGLISH ROMANTICISM AND THE CELTIC WORLD. Edited by Gerard Carruthers and Alan Rawes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. v + 265. ISBN 0-521- 81085-X. £40.00.

This is an excellent collection of learned essays that I am sure every scholar with an interest in British Romanticism will find illuminating and provocative.

Carruthers and Rawes's lucid introduction, 'Romancing the Celt', outlines the central concerns of, and need for, the volume, covering, among other points, the 'danger of losing sight of the extent to which Celticism was used as a tool in the construction and expansion of the post- 1745 British state', how English 'Romantic constructions of the Celtic' connect to the 'expanding Empire and its attendant "Orientalism", and European war', the 'part played by Celtic culture in the genesis of Romanticism as a literary phenomenon', and the reciprocity between Welsh culture and English Romanticism. The essays that engage with Wales and Anglo-Welsh relations-Michael J. Franklin's 'Sir William Jones, the Celtic Revival and the Oriental Renaissance', Caroline Franklin's 'The Welsh American Dream: Iolo Morganwg, Robert Southey and the Madoc Legend', J. R. Watson's 'Wordsworth, North Wales and the Celtic Landscape', and William D. Brewer's 'Felicia Hemans, Byronic Cosmopolitanism and the Ancient Welsh Bards'-contribute to the volume's distinctiveness.

Michael J. Franklin furthers necessary engagement with Sir William Jones, the 'Welsh Orientalist'. There are occasional references to Jones 'anticipating' and 'prefiguring' later works and various aspects of Romanticism, but Franklin wisely demonstrates the (not solely literary) influence Jones had during his life and gives his writing due space to reveal its originality, wit and complexity. Franklin does, however, introduce Lewis Morris and Evan Evans, who were part of a group of 'Pioneering prime movers of a Welsh renaissance', and shows important connections and differences between their and Jones's work and opinions.

Dafydd R. Moore's essay outlines the marginalization of Macpherson and it will encourage engagement with his now published book, Enlightenment and Romance in James Macpherson's 'The Poems of Ossian': Myth, Genre and Cultural Change (Ashgate, 2003).

David Punter's 'Blake and Gwendolen: Territory, Periphery and the Proper Name' was slightly frustrating: it traverses from brilliant close attention to a 'set of Celtic allusions in Blake's work-almost entirely in Jerusalem-to see whether we can thereby conjure a further glimpse of the extraordinary topography of the Prophetic Books and their complex revisualisation of the historical and geographical problematic that is "Britain"' to, for me, diverting points influenced by Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

Bernard Beatty begins by asking whether 'there is any useful sense in which [Byron] might be thought to be' a 'Celtic poet'.

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