Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century

By Marjory A. Bald | Go to book overview

II
SOURCES

THE chief source of all poems is the poet's life. This is the firmest basis for the study of literary biography -- not as an end in itself, but as the means which produced an end. The cause is the poet's experience; the effect is his art. The experience is a transitory thing, for the poet dies like all other men; but the art remains as survival of his fittest achievement. Literary biography should always be regarded in this light -- as the record of passing hours and months which brought forth an imperishable beauty.

This is particularly true of Christina Rossetti. She was one of the most secluded and detached of English writers. It is almost impossible to take up any of her poems, and say -- "Because such-and-such an English poet lived before her, she wrote in this style." Echoes we may catch, lines and phrases from other writers; but they are so faint and rare as to be lost in her own music. In the same way historical movements and great intellectual impulses swept by without ruffling the waters of her pool. Perhaps the Oxford Movement, with its bearing upon Anglicanism, should have come nearer to her than any other influence of her age; yet, all she had to say about it in definite language was contained in one grave, calm sonnet to the memory of Cardinal Newman. Christina Rossetti was not a product of her age. We can imagine her living through successive periods of the Christian era, and achieving the same result in each case. She could project her mind back through the ages and feel quite at ease -- more at home with Augustine, Dante, or Thomas à Kempis than with Tennyson, Browning or Carlyle. Mediaevalism was for her the atmosphere of least resistance. Still, it is impossible to determine whether she would have been different if born into the middle ages, and not in the nineteenth century. A sympathetic environment could not have developed more intensity than that which she acquired in solitude. The most

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Women-Writers of the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Jane Austen 1775-1817 1
  • I - The Utilisation of Small Resources 1
  • II - Elements of Her Appeal -- Cheerfulness And Moderation 9
  • III - The Study of Human Temperament 17
  • The Brontes 28
  • I - General Introduction. Family Characteristics 28
  • II - Anne Bronte, 1820-1849 35
  • III - Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855 38
  • IV - Emily Bronte, 1818-1848 77
  • Mrs E. C. Gaskell 1810-1865 100
  • I - Introductory 100
  • II - Atmosphere and Setting 103
  • III - Humour 107
  • IV - Pathos 122
  • V - The Woman's Point of View 136
  • VI - The Social Problem 145
  • VII - Moral Theory or Moral Effect 151
  • George Eliot 1819-1880 162
  • I - Introductory 162
  • II - The Expression of Temperament 166
  • III - The Impersonal Artist 184
  • Mrs Browning 209
  • I - The Negative Approach 209
  • II - The Positive Approach 221
  • Christina Rossetti 1830-1894 233
  • I - Personal Experience Reflected On Her Poetry 233
  • II - Sources 239
  • III - Symbol, Allegory, and Dream 254
  • IV - Emotional Quality 260
  • V - General Considerations 267
  • Conclusion 275
  • Index 285
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