The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century

The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century

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The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century

The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century

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Excerpt

The following study, in substantially its present form, was prepared as a doctoral dissertation while I was holding a fellowship in English at Cornell University; it was undertaken in the belief that the relation between English literature and other literatures, especially those of classic Greece and Rome, though its existence is readily admitted by almost every one, has not been sufficiently investigated and ascertained in detail. Such general surveys as Tucker Foreign Debt of English Literature can in the nature of things but glide over the surface of the vast field before them; and the careful elaboration of particular instances such as Reinsch's study of Horace and Ben Jonson (see below, page 108) is rare. So far as I am aware, no one has hitherto attempted to do for any single Greek or Latin author, in relation to our literature, what Paget Toynbee has done for Dante (Dante in English Literature, London, 1909); yet in the case of several of the Roman writers, at any rate, far more material might be collected than for Dante. Indeed, it is perhaps the very wealth of material that holds many students aloof from the necessary investigations; too few are blest with the vision characteristic of Browning's grammarian. But, even so, we may realize that every rigorous comparison of an ancient with a modern author, or with a group of modern authors, will constitute a necessary addition, however small, to the lofty structure which we desire to see ideally complete.

My choice of Horace as the centre of my work was in part determined by my own predilection, but more by the feeling that, when all is said, he has been the most popular Latin poet with English writers. The claims of Virgil and Ovid, of course, are very strong; yet I think that Horace can more than hold his own with either of these. I selected the nineteenth century on the ground that there would be an especial interest in learning, through one set of particulars, what sort . . .

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