Personification in Eighteenth-Century English Poetry

By Chester F. Chapin | Go to book overview

Introduction

THE PRESENT STUDY of eighteenth-century personification is concerned with the personified abstraction rather than with personifications of material objects. No distinction, however, is made between abstractions representing more or less palpable, external phenomena, such as Evening, Spring, Opera, Agriculture--and personifications of moral principles, faculties of mind, passions, or states of being, such as Honor, Fancy, Anger, Solitude, and the like. Pathetic fallacies, however--by which is meant the attribution of personal characteristics to material objects such as rivers, trees, or animals--have been excluded from consideration.

Recent criticism which has had to do, directly or indirectly, with eighteenth-century personification may be divided into two broad categories according to the extent of the critic's concern with practice as distinguished from theory, or with theory as opposed to practice. Those who have examined the figure as it actually appears in certain eighteenth-century poems have not attempted a systematic study of critical theory in relation to poetic practice, while those interested in critical theory have not attempted a systematic examination of the ways in which the figure is actually employed in the verse of different eighteenth-century poets. Little attention, accordingly, has been paid to the differences between one sort of personification and another, or to the relationship between different poetic traditions in eighteenth-century verse and the type of personification which appears in that verse. I have felt that an adequate understanding of the figure as

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