The Background of Gray's Elegy: A Study in the Taste for Melancholoy Poetry, 1700-1751

The Background of Gray's Elegy: A Study in the Taste for Melancholoy Poetry, 1700-1751

The Background of Gray's Elegy: A Study in the Taste for Melancholoy Poetry, 1700-1751

The Background of Gray's Elegy: A Study in the Taste for Melancholoy Poetry, 1700-1751

Excerpt

This book is the belated consequence of a slight study of eighteenth century melancholy undertaken some years ago at Yale in a class of Professor Tinker's, but I owe to Professor E. H. Wright of Columbia the suggestion that the subject would prove fruitful for further investigation. In fact, the poetry of melancholy in English is so abundant, the varieties of it which I have been obliged to neglect are so many and so fascinating, I am now aware that it offers material not for one volume but for several. The news is, therefore, welcome that at least one such is now under way, a study of romantic melancholy.

In my own work, I was at first simply looking for the earliest manifestations of romantic melancholy. I found to my surprise that the more closely I inspected "romantic beginnings," such as, for instance, Parnell Night Piece on Death, the more readily they resolved themselves into elements thoroughly familiar to readers of the preceding century, or even earlier, and the less they seemed to presage a new literary era. I came at last to the conclusion that up to the middle of the eighteenth century, the literature of melancholy included nothing which could be accurately described as romantic in the modern sense of that adjective, however influential such poems as Young Night Thoughts, Blair Grave and Gray Elegy were later to become in the romantic movement.

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