The Romantic Survival: A Study in Poetic Evolution

By John Bayley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Romance or Reality?

HALFWAY THROUGH the eighteenth century the novel had already begun to explore the World of Romance. Following The Castle of Otranto, published by Horace Walpole in 1764, and Leland Longsword in 1762, came a stream of fiction, dealing with every aspect of the Gothic and the marvellous in a medieval or Oriental context. Poetry at this time was already exploring the world of external nature, and--particularly in the case of Crabbe and Cowper--with ever-increasing delicacy and detail. Indeed, as fiction became more fantastic, poetry tended to become more exact, and to fix its eye more and more closely on the object. This fondness for vivid, all but gratuitous detail, is notable in Coleridge.

. . . by yonder throstle wooed
That pipes within the larch tree, not unseen,
(The larch which pushes out in tassels green
Its bundled leafits)--

The sacrifice of conventional euphony to accuracy of description--especially description of mass and texture--is common in Coleridge and Keats, both of whom have a passion for the feel of detail that often over-rode decorum and would never have been ventured on by their precursors. The Romantic 'language of seeing' had to be learnt by their

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