Romanticism and Historicism
THE CONCERN OF THIS CHAPTER IS TO EXPLAIN THE RELATIONSHIP between Edmond Malone’s editorial principles as applied in his 1790 Shakespeare edition and the Romantic criticism of Shakespeare. As Howard Felperin observes, the debate over literary forgeries drew on the same “antiquarian impulses and archeological skills as the production of them, both of these distinctly romantic developments having been underwritten by that idealist logic through which the historical text had become transhistorically present.”1 Malone’s documentary empiricism originated in “a pre-romantic nostalgia for remote cultural origins and authentic native traditions” and was “instinct with the cultural dialectic that culminated in the romantic transcendentalization.”2 The apparently incompatible movements towards historicism and idealism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries emerged and generated one another at almost the same time. These contradictory approaches to Shakespeare study ran side by side throughout the nineteenth century.3 Therefore my discussion of Malone is designed to show what formed the background to the Romantic study of Shakespeare: the growth of Shakespeare idolatry, the emergence of Malonean antiquarian scholarship, and the development of Romanticism were parallel phenomena. This study is based on the assumption that Malone’s editorial and scholarly aims, such as the identification of the factual documents of Shakespeare’s biography, the attempt to establish the authenticity of Shakespeare’s texts, and the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s personal experiences through in-depth readings of his works, paved the way for Romantic critical practices.
The publication of Malone’s An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments on 31 March 1796 was intended to disprove William Henry Ireland’s claim to the