The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's

By Josephine Miles | Go to book overview

IV. GROUNDS OF PROSE IN THE 1840's

A BOOK like R. H. Horne New Spirit of the Age, written in 1843 to clarify the characteristics of new writing as Hazlitt had in decades earlier, speaks most strongly of the mysteries in nature-a crushed human heart, a touch, an echo. And these are good. We find them in the new Charles Dickens: "Nor is the squalid place so bad as it was before he entered it, for some 'touch of nature' -- of unadulterated pathos -- of a crushed human heart uttering a sound from out the darkness and the slough, has left its echo in the air, and half purified it from its malaria of depravity" ( I, 13). This new sentiment allows a depth of feeling to the uncorrespondingly deep, to the minor, squalid, crushed, malarial. And "a touch" is all that is needed; it leaves its lingering "echo." The hint and the suggestion are taken as moving and refining.

Horne was no rebel or anticlassicist. He admired Landor especially for his clear nobility. "He is classical in the highest sense. His conceptions stand out, clearly cut and fine, in a magnitude and nobility as far as possible removed from the small and sickly vagueness common to this century of letters." Horne was not proud of the 1840's, completely. But he knew what he didn't like about the late neoclassical poets, and he knew that he did like the new "dawn" in Wordsworth, and in these feelings he was representative (I 308-310):

For several generations, had the cadences of our poets (so called) moved to them along the ends of their fingers. Their language had assumed a conventional elegance, spreading smoothly into pleonasms or clipped nicely into elisions. The point of an antithesis had kept perpetual sentry upon the "final pause"; and while a spurious imagination made a Name stand as a personification, Observation only looked out of window ("with extensive view" indeed . . . "from China to Peru!") and refused very positively to take a step out of doors. A long and dreary decline of poetry it was, from the high-rolling sea of Dryden, or before Dryden, when Waller first began to "improve"

-322-

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The Continuity of Poetic Language: Studies in English Poetry from the 1540's to the 1940's
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1640''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • I. the Poetry of the 1540''s and the 1640''s 1
  • II- Twenty Poets of the 1640''s 46
  • Iii. Materials and Attitudes in Prose 103
  • Iv. Critical Attitudes and Descriptive Conclusions 125
  • Bibliography 155
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1740''s AND 1840''s *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • I. Poetry of the 1740''s 161
  • Ii. Grounds of Prose in the 1740''s 223
  • Iii. Poetry of the 1840''s 258
  • Iv. Grounds of Prose in the 1840''s 322
  • V. Classic and Romantic 348
  • Bibliography 373
  • THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE OF POETRY IN THE 1940''s *
  • Title Page *
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENT *
  • Contents *
  • I. Poetry of the 1940''s 383
  • Ii. Backgrounds in Prose- Practice and Theory 459
  • Iii. Comparisons and Conclusions 497
  • THE CONTINUITY OF ENGLISH POETIC LANGUAGE 517
  • Bibliography 537
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