Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840

By Richard Cronin | Go to book overview

4
Fashioning Romanticism

I

Felicia Hemans and Letitia Landon wrote for money – both had families to support – and this may in itself be one reason for the fervour with which they repudiated the notion that poetry might be a commodity. Their poems are placed within a world in which the poet is properly rewarded only by a prize that, however rare and costly, has no exchange value, such an object as Landon's ‘golden violet’. Both grasped the paradox that in order to maintain the commercial value of their work, it was necessary to deny that the work, poetry, ought properly to be regarded as having any commercial value at all. 1 They maintained the conventional opposition between poets, and those that Keats calls ‘ledger-men’, those for whom ‘red-lin'd accounts / Were sweeter than the songs of Grecian years’. It had become the first article of the creed to which all poets must publicly subscribe that, as Shelley puts it, ‘Poetry, and the principle of Self, of which money is the visible incarnation, are the God and the Mammon of the world’. 2

It was a creed from which the novelists had been granted exemption, though less out of generosity than contempt. Novelists were allowed to write for money, and, by a natural extension, this freed them to write about money. In the decade in which Mrs. Hemans and L.E.L. secured their position as the most successful poets in Britain, a new school of novelists dominated the market for fiction. They wrote ‘fashionable novels’ or ‘silver fork fiction’, novels about the tiny group of people, ‘twice two thousand’ in Byron's estimation, who, from February until July, occupied their London houses in the city's West End, and retired for the rest of the year to their country estates. These novels, most of which were published by a single publisher, Henry Colburn, were more energetically

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Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Memorializing Romanticism 15
  • 2 - Historicizing Romanticism 45
  • 3 - Feminizing Romanticism 67
  • 4 - Fashioning Romanticism 109
  • 5 - Civilizing Romanticism 143
  • 6 - Realizing Romanticism 194
  • 7 - Christening Romanticism 214
  • 8 - Domesticating Romanticism 237
  • Conclusion 251
  • Notes 261
  • Index 289
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