Reading Victorian Poetry

Reading Victorian Poetry

Reading Victorian Poetry

Reading Victorian Poetry

Synopsis

Reading Victorian Poetry offers close readings of poems from the Victorian era by a renowned scholar. The selection includes a range of canonical and lesser known writers
  • Skilfully conveys the breadth and diversity of nineteenth-century poetry
  • Offers an ideal balance of canonical and less well-known writers
  • Allows readers to explore the poetry of the Victorian era, through the eyes of one of the most renowned scholars in the field
  • Poets covered include Matthew Arnold, Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, A. H. Clough, G. M. Hopkins, Edward Lear, Christina Rossetti, D. G. Rossetti, A. C. Swinburne, Arthur Symons, Alfred Tennyson, Oscar Wilde

Excerpt

There is no style that Victorian poets share, one reason for which is that they had too many to choose from. They had available to them, as their predecessors did not, the full history of English poetry. They were the heirs, as George Saintsbury puts it, of materials that had been ‘furnished by the thought and work of a score of generations of English poets, by the growth and development of seven centuries of English language and English literature’. Saintsbury’s claim might be extended. The first scholarly edition of Beowulf which probably dates from the ninth century was published by Tennyson’s friend, J.M. Kemble, in 1833, and Victorian poets were not familiar only with English literature. Shelley had to teach himself Greek after some lessons from his friend, Thomas Love Peacock, but his successors were, many of them, classically educated at their public schools to a level that neither earlier nor later poets could reach, and some of their female contemporaries such as Elizabeth Barrett and Augusta Webster matched their achievements. Many were also widely read in the poetry of continental Europe and beyond. D.G. Rossetti translated the early Italian poets, Swinburne translated from the medieval French of François Villon, and introduced his countrymen to the contemporary French of Charles Baudelaire. Edward FitzGerald’s translation from the eleventh-century Persian of Omar Khayyam became, after initial neglect, one of the century’s more unlikely best-sellers. Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ (1842) with its vision of ‘the great world’ spinning ‘for ever down the ringing grooves of change’ (The short-sighted Tennyson explained, ‘When I went by the first train from Liverpool to Manchester I thought that the wheels ran in a groove’) is properly recognized as a quintessentially . . .

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