"Modern-antiques," ballad imitation, and the aesthetics of anachronism.
--Arthur Hugh Clough, Amours de Voyage
Writing to the Irish poet and ballad anthologist William Allingham in the summer of 1855, Dante Gabriel Rossetti explained that he was underwhelmed by the former's poem, "The Music Master," as it lacked the enticements he expected of ballads:
[O]ne can only speak of one's own needs & cravings: & I must confess a need, in narrative dramatic poetry ... of something rather "exciting," indeed I believe something of the "romantic" element, to rouse my mind to anything like the moods produced by personal emotion in my own life. That sentence is shockingly ill-worded, but Keats's narratives would be the kind I mean. (1)
One is struck both by the aesthetic feeling that Rossetti attempts to discriminate-the connection he draws between romance narrative and personal emotion-and by the hesitation with which he does so: before he wrote "romantic," Rossetti wrote "schoolgirl," then crossed it out. The strikethrough has the force of an embarrassed admission about the appeal of ballads to an otherwise high-minded literary reader, particularly when the ballad in question is neither antiquarian artifact nor popular street song but artfully contrived pastiche. This self-conscious mode of genre performance had its roots in such eighteenth-century ballad "scandals" as Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw's "Hardyknute." (2) Ballad forgeries turned eventually to avowed imitations, and, after picking up sentimental, romance, and gothic elements from Thomas Chatterton, Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and many others, the literary ballad had thoroughly saturated the literary field by the early decades of the Victorian period.
This essay explores the ballad aesthetics inherited by Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites and, more particularly, those of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a less-remarked influence on Pre-Raphaelite medievalism. The ballad in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was less a stable form than an evolving discourse-an overlapping assembly of ballad collections and antiquarian scholarship that gathered together metrical romances, broadside ballads, ballad romances, hymns, lays, ballad parodies, and lyrical ballads that variously expanded and chastened the idea of the ballad. The ballad's prominence as cultural form has been given considerable attention, though recent work has focused primarily on antiquarianism, popular balladry, or the ballad's significance within print culture and romantic nationalism. (3) Turning to the relatively neglected form of the literary ballad, I am interested less in specifying what this genre was than in exploring what we might call the historical aesthetics of genre-the kinds of feelings and judgments that get attached to a given genre and their role in its style, rhetoric, and form. (4) What language did nineteenth-century readers use to distinguish their impressions of poetic genres, and what relationship can we see in this language between aesthetic judgment and poetic form? How do aesthetic categories shore up, innovate, or otherwise inflect categories of genre?
In particular, my discussion aims to uncover the aesthetic and affective dimensions of the stylistic anachronism-Rossetti called his poems, after Walter Scott, "modern-antiques"-that characterizes the literary ballad in its tendency to evoke without fully inhabiting the conventions of traditional songs and ballads (Correspondence, 1: 389). (5) The subgenre of the literary ballad represents an important aspect and outgrowth of what Albert Friedman has termed the ballad's "museum-life," its abstraction within the discourses of antiquarian revival, "sophisticated" poetry, and historical scholarship (p. 9). Increasingly separated from the nationalism of the border ballad and its romance of origins and from the broadside ballad, the nineteenth-century literary ballad relishes instead its own "stylistic connotation," the generic texture that gives a sense of pastness embodied in and felt as style. (6) I'll turn first to anachronism and its relation to genre more generally, then to nineteenth-century ballad aesthetics in particular and the feelings that writers and readers attached to the ballad's ornamental archaism. The essay concludes with a reading of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's early ballad romance, "The Romaunt of the Page" (1838/1844), in order to trace the affective force of balladry's anachronism. I intend to argue not only for the importance of anachronism as the source of certain kinds of pleasure in nineteenth-century poetry, but also for anachronism's role in attaching those pleasures not to specific works of literature but to poetic genres as such.
Anachronism and the Figure of Genre
Rather than participating directly in the ongoing antiquarian revival that we associate with ballad collection from Bishop Percy through Francis Child, where anachronism is either rooted out in a search for historical authenticity or spackled away under the plaster of editorial restoration, Victorian literary ballads foreground and delight in the anachronism written on their own imitative surfaces. (7) They frustrate thereby the critical tendency to presume of these poems a straightforward nostalgia for what Susan Stewart, writing on the imitation of folk genres, has termed "authenticity of context." (8) Nor, strictly speaking, do they simply modernize the genre by borrowing the forms of the ballad for contemporary purposes. Indeed, such poems seem better characterized by a quality that Simone de Beauvoir once described in her visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing: "The Imperial Palace does not have a restored look, nor has it an ancient one: this hesitation makes it appear not eternal but precarious and like an imitation of itself." (9) This hesitation is, I suggest, the primary mark of an aesthetic of anachronism that operates on the level of style, form, and genre in nineteenth-century poetry and prose and that offers a key to understanding the way eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historical self-consciousness fed into the trajectory of literary aestheticism over the course of the Victorian period. (10)
We tend to think of anachronism primarily as a category of error-"the retrospective misplacing of time." (11) (It was not until the nineteenth century that this term for an error one may commit also became a quality that a person or object may possess. The OED gives Coleridge the first use in this sense.) "Don Quixote on Wall Street" is the denigrating juxtaposition that Jorge Luis Borges gives as an example of "the plebeian pleasure of anachronism." Treating the theme more positively, Vernon Lee describes the aesthete's delight, against the grain of a stuffy and condescending Victorian historicism, in seeing Apollo with a fiddle in Raphael's "El Parnaso" (1511). (12) The pleasures in question are those of sheer license, a striking juxtaposition produced of ignorance or imagination. Anachronism is created by historical incongruity within the field of representation.
A number of scholars have recently seen in anachronism an opportunity to break open historicism's emphasis on the contemporaneity of text and context. In Victorian studies, queer theory, and postcolonial studies, critics have argued for untimeliness and temporal heterogeneity as important both to literary form and to the criticism that comprehends it. Most studies focus on anachronism's role in narrative: breaks with historical time open up spaces for excluded or untimely voices and figures." Jeremy Tambling, for instance, revives the figure of metalepsis in describing anachronism as "the disparity between events and their narration." (14) His volume on the subject finds in the heterogeneous temporalities of William Shakespeare and Marcel Proust a disruption of historical frameworks and a reflection on otherness. Likewise, Mary Mullen has called in these pages for an "untimely" historicism, and her reading of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh shows how the anachronistic form of the epic poem leads the protagonists away from timeless universals and into the multiple and asynchronous world of the present. (15) Anachronism is produced ill representational art and narrative through the overlap of multiple temporal frames-as when a face is at once historical and iconic, when the narrative of a solitary life presses against the longue Juree of a political institution, or when incommensurate historical moments run alongside one another in the same textual space.
The political and cultural upheavals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries gave rise to a newly sharpened sense of anachronism in the work of writers such as Johann Goethe, G. W. F. Hegel, S. T. Coleridge, Walter Scott, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, among many others. (16) Hegel's exploration of anachronism in the Aesthetics (1817), in particular, offers a theory of historical difference germane to questions of genre. Discussing the tendency of poets to select their themes from historical subjects, he advances the "necessary anachronism" as the means by which a historical scene may be internally coherent and true to the spirit of its time yet also in dialogue with and intelligible to the present moment: "The inner substance of what is represented remains the same, but the development of culture makes necessary a metamorphosis in its expression and form" (Hegel, p. 278). (17) To render a scene as historical requires that one give it aesthetic form. The anachronism then lies in the gap between the object of representation, history as such, and the aesthetic form of that representation, as, for instance, when Walter Scott explores twelfth-century life in the form of the modern novel. (Scott himself excuses his anachronisms as by products of historical difference in the opening pages of Ivanhoe . After describing the costumes of Gurth and Wamba in laborious detail-the fit of sleeves and cloaks, kinds and textures of leather, all the stuff of realist scene-setting, Scott comes to their bantering discourse only to explain that he must give the dialogue of swineherd and fool in modern, albeit lightly antiqued, English rather than Anglo-Saxon for the sake of the uncomprehending modern reader.) (18) Anachronism in Hegel's terms is a kind of remainder. In the then/now of historical distance, anachronism describes the way in which literary form must fail to be absorbed entirely into the scene it represents, so as to maintain the possibility of communication. (19) Though addressing primarily the legibility of the historical scene, Hegel's necessary anachronism treats form and genre as mediation made visible, precipitated out of this act of representation by the intractability of historical difference. For Hegel, the content is historical, while form and genre are modern. The anachronism, in other words, is baked into the structure of our depictions of the past, drawing attention to literary form as the medium of representation. (20)
Representation alone thus proves an insufficient category for thinking about anachronism as an aspect of genre-particularly in the case of nineteenth-century literary ballads. These poems make no claims to depict historical events, and they wear their anachronism on their proverbial sleeves: the literary ballad takes the antiquity from which traditional ballads ostensibly emerged as a rhetorical figure, the past as trope. Though Hegel is concerned first and foremost with history's coherence and intelligibility within the diegetic frame of the artistic work, his discussion of necessary anachronism can help us to see how nineteenth-century poets explored anachronism as an aspect of genre itself. Nineteenth-century balladeers produced poems in which historical distance is not bridged but exposed as part of the ballad's aesthetic and affective force. The pretense of authenticity drops away in favor of an aesthetic untimeliness. Unlike those traditional ballads that appeal to readers as artifacts tossed up by antiquarians' philological dig sites, literary ballads like Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798/1817), John Keats's "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (1819), or Letitia Landon's "The Proud Ladye" (1827) work out their relationship to the past on the level of style, borrowing phrases, prosody, tropes, and devices, or, as Rossetti put it, "an unimportant phrase here and there from the old things" (Correspondence, 1: 389).
In the ballads of writers from Keats, Landon, and Barrett Browning to D. G. Rossetti, William Morris, and A. C. Swinburne, in other words, an aestheticized feeling of historical distance gets played as genre. (21) Walter Pater's remarks in his essay on William Morris, later titled "Aesthetic Poetry" (1868/1889), offer the essential formulation for this species of anachronism in the modern verse written by the Pre-Raphaelites. The nineteenth century's foremost theorist of the poetics of revival, Pater argues that the historical distance between modern, "aesthetic" poetry and the poetry it ostensibly revives produces a self-reflexive poetics of "the secondary, the intensified, and the refined." (22) The inevitable failure to inhabit these poetic pasts, the necessary anachronism involved in the effort, grounds the whole project of aesthetic poetry:
In handling a subject of Greek legend, anything in the way of an actual revival must always be impossible. Such vain antiquarianism is a waste of the poet's power.... We cannot truly conceive the age: we can conceive the element it has contributed to our culture: we can treat the subjects of the age bringing that into relief. Such an attitude towards Greece, aspiring to but never actually reaching its way of conceiving life, is what is possible for art. (23)
"Aspiring to but never actually reaching": these works offer neither antiquarian faithfulness nor do they simply modernize and repurpose older forms. Rather, they propose themselves as imitations and insist on their recognition as such; they present their own anachronism as the core of their aesthetic appeal. The mode of the modern "aesthetic poet," in other words, is pastiche, "imitation as a generic practice," in Gerard Genette's words. (24) Pastiche not only performs genre but also presents genre as a figure itself, conceptualized in the very act of being produced.
John Guillory proposes that the "enabling condition of mediation is the interposition of distance (spatial, temporal, or even notional) between the terminal poles of the communication process." (25) To put this another way, distance makes mediation visible. Literary ballads explore the dynamics of distanciation through the deployment of genre conventions in the mode of pastiche. This kind of imitation, as Carolyn Williams writes, projects "the difference between a 'before' and an 'after' as part of its structure." (26) In Guillory's terms, the historicist pastiche of Barrett Browning or Rossetti thickens the medium: it draws mediation forward, picking out genre as genre. The present's failure to be the past in this poetry, its way of aspiring to and falling away from its models as a deliberate strategy, foregrounds differences in form and language, style and perspective and makes those differences the essence of the poetry's aestheticism. Pater understood "the aesthetic and temporal forms of figurative 'distance' as correlatives." (27) The gap between present and past embodied in ballad pastiche likewise creates a self-reflexive space for aesthetic engagement: "Distanciation creates the possibility of media, which become both means and ends in themselves-not the default substitute for an absent object. If this were not the case, we would be unable to explain the pleasure of talking on the telephone, reading novels, or even accumulating money as the medium of exchange" (Guillory, p. 357). (28) The aesthetic distances of anachronistic genre performance function in just this way, allowing poetic forms and styles to become ends in themselves.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the ballad was a genre made to bear the weight of national, ethnic, and cultural histories, yet by the beginning of the Victorian period, the unlikeliness of the ballad as historical document, the uncertainty of provenance even for ostensibly traditional ballads, also became part of the genre's meaning. (29) In 1843, Robert Chambers worried ruefully that none of "'the high-class romantic ballads of Scotland are ... ancient compositions,' that they might all have been written by a woman, and that the lineage of heroic ballads like 'Sir Patrick Spens' was irremediably tainted as a result" (Russett, p. 9). The antiquarian project was hardly played out, but its susceptibility to commodification and kitsch was increasingly apparent and even embraced. (30) Even Rossetti's correspondent William Allingham, though committed to the authenticity of the old ballads, understood the relationship to the past they conjured as distant, occluded, and, most importantly, aesthetic. When Allingham assembled his own collection of ballads in The Ballad Book: A Selection of the (Choicest British Ballads in 1865, he warned readers against assuming they would through these poems reach back in time in any meaningful way: "They have no historical value, except in so far as they convey a general impression of a state of society very different from ours in externals, being hot, rude, violent, and picturesque." (31)
The traditional ballad thus arrives in the Victorian period less sure of its historical footing. Along with that uncertainty, however, it possesses an evocative power in which genre and the feelings that genre solicits are essentially conflated. Unlike minstrel and border ballads ginned up for antiquarian collections, the literary ballad capitalizes on and aims to produce such feelings through its own attractive unreality and without any obligation to an originating context. Like the historical "nostalgia films" of the twentieth century that Fredric Jameson dissects in Postmodernism, the ballad's pastiche "was never a matter of some old-fashioned 'representation' of historical content, but instead approached the 'past' through stylistic connotation" (p. 19). The aesthetic feelings that Rossetti and other readers and writers of literary ballads attached to the form are not a trivial part of the metadiscourse around balladry but indeed come to define the literary ballad itself. (32) "Aesthetic categories are not," as Sianne Ngai writes, "exotic philosophical abstractions but rather part of the texture of everyday social life, central ... to our vocabulary for sharing and confirming our aesthetic experience with others" (p. 29). What, then, are these poets picking out and sharing by their aesthetic judgments of the literary ballad? What feelings do their ballads aim to provoke?
Rossetti's strikethrough locates his "schoolgirl" feelings in the cultural history of romance and the familiar association of romance genres with feminine readers. His impression of the "exciting," "schoolgirl," and "romantic" feelings of the literary ballad was shared by his contemporaries, though not always with the same degree of approval. In "The Four Ages of Poetry" (1821), Thomas Love Peacock's satirical eye lights on the period's tendency toward this variety of pastiche in language that anticipates Rossetti's anxious explanation to Allingham: "While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in, and accelerating, the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws and rattles for the grown babies of the age." (33) Peacock's complaint was part of a long Romantic debate about "archaism and innovation." (34) The historicization of literary genres in the eighteenth century made certain genres, such as the ballad and the epic, available for revival (whether or not they had actually gone away) while also provoking concerns about the wisdom or viability thereof. Such genres could thus feel acutely anachronistic in and of themselves and irrespective of their subject matter. (35) Francis Jeffrey objected thus to Scott's revivalism in a review of Marmion in 1808: "To write a modern romance of chivalry seems to be as much such a fantasy as to build a modern abbey, or an English pagoda" (quoted in Duff, p. 148). A decade earlier, Charles Burney, too, had complained of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's penchant in Lyrical Ballads for "giv[ing] artificial rust to modern poetry." (36)
The anachronistic imitation of genres and modes is connected by these critics with childishness, naivete, an unseemly pleasure in the surfaces of poems without regard for their reflective content. As romance genres, these ballad imitations are the expression "not of pre-modern historical communities but of the nursery." (37) Robert Browning put an even sharper point on these critiques of anachronism. Forgetting, perhaps, his early affection for a poem like Barrett Browning's "The Romaunt of the Page," which he praised in the letters of their courtship, he groused about Rossetti and Swinburne in a phobic letter to Isa Blagden:
Yes,--I have read Rossetti's poems--and poetical they are,--scented with poetry, as it were-like trifles of various sorts you take out of a cedar or sandal-wood box: you know I hate the effeminacy of his school,--the men that dress up like women,--that use obsolete forms, too, and archaic accentuations to seem soft-fancy a man calling it a lily,--lilies & so on: Swinburne started this, with other like Belialisms,--witness his harp player &c. It is quite different when the object is to imitate old Ballad-writing. (38)
Browning's response to Rossetti suggests the larger matrix of aesthetic and social concerns such flagrant anachronism could provoke: debates about the gendering of poetry, about meter and pronunciation, style and modernity. If one were faithfully imitating old ballads, that would be fine, Browning suggests, but if the pleasure of the ballad is primarily in its pastiche, its "scent" of poetry, well, that's unacceptable. Browning's complaint echoes Fredric Jameson's dismissal of pastiche as "blank parody": "Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody's ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter" (p. 17). For Browning, too, pastiche fails the test of modernity. Its rhetoric of temporality flattens poetry's cutting edge into a mere decorative surface.
Gerard Genette offers a more neutral definition, treating parody as the imitation of a single work (such as A. C. Swinburne's "The Higher Pantheism in a Nutshell," a biting joke about Alfred Tennyson's self-beguiled mysticism in "The Higher Pantheism") and pastiche as the imitation of a genre or kind of writing: "One can parody only particular texts; one can imitate only genre (a corpus, no matter how narrow, that is treated as a genre)-for the simple reason ... that to imitate is to generalize" (p. 85). As a species of pastiche, the literary ballad, too, generalizes. That is, its effects depend as much as on the idea of the ballads it indexes as they do on the local excellences of meter, image, or theme. Pastiche is most effective, in Genette's terms, the less it borrows directly from its source materials and the more it evokes those materials from a distance.
In his study of the ballad revival, Albert Friedman writes suggestively on the difficulty of reading a poem as thoroughly generic as the ballad: "This is perhaps the one characteristic of traditional poetry that persons trained in book poetry find hardest to grasp; a sophisticated poem of any worth, however conventional, cannot owe too great an indebtedness to its type" (p. 19). Our preferred objects of literary analysis tend to innovate or subvert genre conventions if they do not exceed them altogether. As either exceptions to or examples of their type, literary works are granted value by their relative uniqueness with respect to the rules of genre. Yet Friedman's comment implies, and the conventions and reception of the ballad in the nineteenth century bear out, that readers do not always, or not only, value poems and novels for their distinctiveness. Contemporary critics may not be willing to follow Friedman in the hard divisions he establishes between popular and sophisticated, oral and written, traditional and book poetry, but we ought to return to the complexity of response to which he gestures in this passage. The value of many kinds of writing resides in their indebtedness to their genre rather than in their freedom from it. It is arguable that many readers, particularly of conspicuously "genred" works, attach their sentiments less to the particular text in question than to the fulfillment of the generic contract. Readers of Harlequin romances, space operas, and literary ballads may be at least as invested in the genre itself as they are in the specific instance before them. (39)
In such cases, the affective and aesthetic categories brought to bear on a given work tell us as much about the idea of genre in play as they do the individual text. Terms like "romantic" or "schoolgirl" neither signal Rossetti's uncritical impressionism nor do they pick out merely local features of a particular ballad. Rather, they attempt to trace the responsive understanding that properly belongs to an entire category of texts. The issue for literary criticism, then, is not only one of reconstructing the interaction between aesthetic judgment and genre in an historical period, but also of understanding how generic designations and aesthetic judgments reflexively depend on one another. Both aesthetic and generic categories offer key sites of inter-subjectivity, of negotiation between writers and their reading publics. With the sort of genre writing in which the literary ballad participates, pastiche is not simply ready-to-hand by way of an extreme conventionality of form. Rather, imitation and the feelings such imitation services prove constitutive of the genre as such. When the antiquarians' traditional ballad disappears into the baroque imitation of the literary ballad, history disappears into a romance of literary form.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Romance of Genre
Much of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry in the 1830s and 1840s consisted of ballads in various styles that draw on the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hemans, and Landon. They were among her most popular poems through the end of the century, until her reputation suffered a decline during the aesthetic regime change of modernism. EBB felt much as Rossetti did about the ballad's sentimental appeal and its potential hazards. An avid reader of such material from childhood and interested in the ballad's role in European literary history, she was at once anxious about the serious accord granted her ballads by readers and pleased by the affective thrills they could provide. (40) The recovery of these poems for critical approbation, however, has often meant ignoring such thrills, with preference for her ballads' subversive take on nineteenth-century gender roles and other departures from the conventions of sentimental verse. Indeed the poet's embarrassment is often shared by her modern critics. Dorothy Mermin writes: "She even liked Mary Howitt's ballads, which have nothing to recommend them except a kind of watery pathos. Her [EBB's] ballads gave what early Victorian critics of poetry wanted: an apparently simple appeal to common human emotions. That they also undercut the kind of feelings they provoke and ostensibly celebrate, went unnoticed-even, one occasionally suspects, at times by the poet herself." EBB composed ballads "partly because occasions required them, partly because they came easy to her, and partly because she was looking for suitable subjects and genres." (41) Her sentimental ballads, in other words, were apprentice pieces for the magazines and gift books, a kind of writing that EBB would eventually outgrow. Nonetheless, even as a number of her ballads began as make-work for the literary annuals, they also formed the core of her 1844 Poems, her most developed artistic statement to date. As Marjorie Stone notes, it is unlikely that the ballads were "mere diversionary exercises," and I think Mermin might have added, "and partly because she liked them." (42)
EBB recounts her affection for ballads and romance narratives in an early autobiographical essay, "Glimpses into My Own Life and Literary Character" (1820). Written when she was fourteen years old, the memoir offers a precocious history of her temperament and literary accomplishments up through her recent epic poem, The Battle of Marathon (1820). The prodigious young epoist's career narrative pushes her love of ballads and romances back into the early spaces of childhood as she sets the stage for her imminent poetic majority:
At four and a half my great delight was poring over fairy phenomenons and the actions of necromancers-the seven champions of Christendom in "Popular tales" has beguiled many a weary hour. At five I supposed myself a heroine and in my day dreams of bliss I constantly imaged to myself a forlorn damsel in distress rescued by some noble knight and often have I laid awake hours in darkness, "THINKING," as I expressed myself, but which was no more than musing on these fairy castles in the air! (43)
It is the sheer pleasure of the fairy castles that ultimately consumes her thoughts. THINKING finds no object here but the re-creative imagination itself. Though she writes at the age of fourteen as though to set these pleasures aside, she returned throughout her life to "the old burning ballads, with a wild heart beating in each!" (44) Years later, in a letter to Richard Hengist Home, literary critic and the author of Orion (1843), she expressed her ongoing investment in ballads thus: "You know how I care for ballads-they carry so much ... slight vehicle as they seem to be. All the passion of the heart ... will go into a ballad, & feel at home." (45) Ballads here are a kind of medium for the emotions. They are valued for the way ornate surface and pathetic tale can he loaded with communicable affect-excitement, romance, schoolgirl feelings.
EBB's ballad writing was consistently lauded for its ability to capture pathos, sympathy, and excitement. First published in the literary annual Finden's Tableaux of the Affections: A Series of Picturesque Illustrations of the Womanly Virtues. From Paintings by W. Perring (1838), "The Romaunt of the Page" was both praised and criticized for its romance aesthetics. One reviewer at the Examiner found in the poem "the spirit of the elder and better days of poetry," while another, writing for the United Service Gazette, thought that this '"very old'" story (it was, in fact, a confection out of Scott, Byron, Hemans, and Beaumont and Fletcher with touches from "Child Waters," a Percy ballad) suggested that the author had '"muddled her brains at the hippocrene [fountain] of the poet Coleridge.'" Interest in the poem's ballad sentiments persisted through republication of "The Romaunt" in her Poems (1844). Reviewers admired the blend of its "antique spirit" with EBB's more personal and "subjective" touches. Writing in the New Quarterly Review, Henry Chorley hailed the poem's emotional force: "one of the most pathetic, yet nervous, romances in rhyme of loyal love and constancy which has yet been sung." (46)
The "Romaunt" tells the story of a knight and his cross-dressing page on their way back from Palestine to Yorkshire. Unbeknownst to the knight, the page is the knight's own wife, whom he was forced to marry before leaving on his crusade-without cither consummating the marriage or seeing her face. Their union was born of tragedy. Earl Walter, the wife's father, had defended the good name of his friend, the knight's father, and was slain in the quarrel by a "slanderer" and "wretch" (1. 127). In return, the knight promised Earl Walter's wife, herself on death's door, not to leave their daughter an orphan. He married the daughter that night in darkness, then left to fulfill his "warrior's vow" in Palestine (1. 167). When the knight mentions the lady whom he believes waits for him at home, the lady-page coaxes details from her imperceptive husband about the affection he bears for this wife: is she "dark or bright," "little loved or loved aright" (ll. 99-100)? The knight's tale brings tears to her eyes. Pressed for their cause, the disguised wife then proceeds to tell her own tale, couched as a story about a "sister" who, in circumstances suspiciously similar to the knight and his wife, had followed her husband on crusade and won from him a deeper affection. Wouldn't the knight have been pleased had his own wife followed him so loyally? Wouldn't he have forgiven her deception? The knight answers thoughtlessly in the negative, and when a group of Saracens comes upon them, the lady lets him escape to find another, more suitable love and dies in his place.
The poem is a loose medievalist ballad pastiche. It affects some of the metrical irregularities that Robert Browning derided in Rossetti ('"Alas, alas! mine own sister / Was in thy lady's case!'"), and the tidy six-line stanzas of the opening pages swell to as many as ten lines as the knight's and lady's speeches likewise swell with emotion and intent (ll. 184-185). Revisions were substantial across the poem's three printings in 1838, 1844, and 1856. The 1838 Finderis version sprinkles a few more typographical and lexical archaisms over the lines than the later versions. The lady is frequently a "ladye" in 1838, the wretch that kills Earl Walter is a "caitiff," and so on. Sentimental, even melodramatic, the "Romaunt" is the characteristically sharp-eyed critique of Victorian gender roles that critics have described. The lady-page is more true and more brave than her husband, and she at once overcomes and fulfills expectations about feminine virtue by dying for the knight, who rides away without catching on to his page's true identity. (47)
The poem also exemplifies EBB's assertion that ballads are ideal vehicles for feeling. As knight and page tell their respective stories, they drastically inflate the usual call and response of ballad dialogues; each reply is itself a ballad narrative in miniature. First the knight explains the story of how he came to be in this particular situation, on his way back from Palestine to reunite with a wife he will not recognize. Then the lady-page responds with her own story, presented as her sister's. Both are concerned with calibrating the sympathies of the other to their particular struggles. They debate, in a sense, the meaning of the single tale they compose together, and they are presented by turns as calm, gloomy, weeping, laughing, passionate, woeful, wild, serene, and other emotions that they read or misread on one another's faces:
'My page, my page, what grieves thee so, That the tears run down thy face?'-- 'Alas, alas! mine own sister Was in thy lady's case! But she laid down the silks she wore And followed him she wed before. Disguised as his true servitor, To the very battle-place.' And wept the page, but laughed the knight,-- A careless laugh laughed he: 'Well done it were for thy sister, But not for my ladye! My love, so please you, shall requite, No woman, whether dark or bright, Unwomaned if she be.' The page stopped weeping and smiled cold-- 'Your wisdom may declare That womanhood is proved the best By golden brooch and glossy vest The mincing ladies wear; Yet is it proved, and was of old, Anear as well, I dare to hold, By truth, or by despair.' (ll. 182-204)
The page contends that the sister's deeds enhance her virtue as wife and woman. The knight replies that this is all well and good for the page's sister, but if his own wife conducted herself in this way, he would love her as his "servitor" and nothing more (ll. 228-229). Perhaps this exchange was one source of the poem's appeal to Robert Browning, despite his allergy to ersatz antiquity. The poet whose dramatic monologues taught nineteenth-century readers that character and tone were found as much between the lines as in them might well have been drawn to dramatic speeches that tell everything and yet remain, to their intended auditor, almost as if unuttered. The lady-page's speech is never misunderstood by the knight as far as its content. He misses instead the lady's tone and the speech's relation to her own person: "Had the knight looked up to the page's face, / No smile the word had won" (ll. 264-265). Their drama of misrecognition plays out at once on the ballad's anachronistic surface and in the modulation of emotions that structures the narrative.
EBB's ballads are always in some measure sophisticated, highly self-conscious pastiche, and in this particular modal space she writes poems that are, in Simone de Beauvoir's phrase, imitations of themselves. Indeed "The Romaunt of the Page" is not one ballad but three: the tale of a knight, the tale of a lady, and EBB's collocation of them both. The ballad composes its two narratives into a larger scene of failed affective exchange in which the knight "look[s] up" to the page's "lifted eye" yet never seems to read it right (1. 42). The conversation that makes up the bulk of the ballad rehearses the faltering union that took place on their wedding night, of which the knight admits, '"In the dark chambere, if the bride was fair, / Ye wis, I could not see" (ll. 173-174). Feeling circulates in the poem but never finds a properly responsive eye or ear.
The response must be provided by its readers. Feeling's shorted circuit, the met yet unmatched emotions in the glance of the lady-page toward her knight, must be resumed by the nineteenth-century readers who read ballads feelingly. It "The Romaunt" critiques the conventions of gender that have created this gulf, the lady's devotion and love are not less real or sympathetic. Angela Leighton argues that here "the language of the heart proves wholly mediated by other, socio-political structures of desire." (48) To these structures we might add the material page itself and the conventions of the ballad and of gift-book verse. As a poem about the legibility and transmission of emotion, "The Romaunt" explores the mediations-generic and material as well as sociopolitical-that do not merely express but in fact give rise to feeling. Through its self-reflexive title, the poem marks EBB's cognizance of her poem's transmission in the commodity form of the literary annual. (49) Her ballad explores in its framing and self-reflexive pastiche the dynamics of affective exchange that the ballad promised generically in the early nineteenth century. It is a serious parody of a knight and damsel tale.
Admirers of EBB's ballads included the greatest artists in genre pastiche of the nineteenth century. In poems like "Sister Helen," "The Raven," and "The King's Daughter," D. G. Rossetti, Edgar Allen Poe, and A. C. Swinburne, respectively, all press the ballad's emotional extravagance to further extremes, and they do so as much through the continued aestheticization of the ballad itself, working and overworking its forms and figures, as by any superaddition of narrative melodrama. Friedman observes that "[i]t was the sorry fate of the ballad-romances to be from the beginning the butt of parodies. Being imitations, however distant, they were obviously artificial, and their medieval properties related them to the sham antiquarianism then rife in art and architecture" (p. 324). Yet the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her Pre-Raphaelite successors suggest that for these poets and many of their readers the literary ballad's aesthetic of anachronism represented not the failure of feeling, but its source, and perhaps not the decadence or attenuation of a genre, but its emergence as an idea. "Is he in love, or has he read Rossetti?" asks Edwin Arlington Robinson's eponymous Captain Craig of a would-be balladeer (quoted in Friedman, p. 326). In a letter from the summer of 1852, EBB sent Anna Jameson an imitation of an old ballad, translated and adapted by Barrett Browning from some earlier source, which she found in her papers. It had been drawn "from one of the Percy or other antiquarian Society books," and she explains in her letter that the "original poem impressed [her] deeply with its pathos." She continues: "I wish I could send you the antique literal poem, but I haven't it, nor know where to find it." (50) We might take this exchange, hinging as it does on an unrecoverable source, as a figure for the aesthetic force of the literary ballad's anachronism: a genuine feeling that depends upon visible artifice, an idea of the ballad that is coextensive with its decorative surface.
I am grateful to audiences at the Northeast Victorian Studies Association and the North American Victorian Studies Association conferences for their thoughtful response to versions of this argument.
(1) Letter to William Allingham, 25 June 1855, in Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Correspondence, ed. William E. Fredeman, completed by Robert C. Lewis, Jane Cowan, and Anthony H. Harrison, 9 vols. (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002-2010), 2: 46. All future quotations from Rossetti's letters refer to this edition. Rossetti's first published illustration would appear that year, attached to another poem in Allingham's volume, "The Maids of Elfin-mere," a more "exciting" supernatural ballad. Elizabeth Helsinger's discussion of Rossetti's illustration is suggestive on poetry as a medium, a topic discussed further below. See Elizabeth K. Heisinger, Poetry and the Pre-Raphaelite Arts: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 2008), pp. 180-184.
(2) "Hardyknute" was believed by eighteenth-century antiquarian scholars to be an "authentic" Scottish border ballad, and the unmasking of its very modern author created a crisis for many ballad collectors. For an overview of the "Hardyknute" scandal, see Margaret Russett, Fictions and Fakes: Forging Romantic Authenticity, 1760-1845 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006), p. 9; and Susan Stewart, Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 116-117.
(3) The criticism on balladry in general and the ballad revival in particular is extensive, though there has been no fulsome study of the nineteenth-century literary ballad since G. Malcolm Laws Jr., The British Literary Ballad: A Study m Poetic Imitation (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1972); and Albert B. Friedman, The Ballad Revival: Studies in the Influence of Popular on Sophisticated Poetry (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961). In spite of Friedman's assumption of an easy distinction between oral and written genres, his book remains one of the best overviews of balladry's long history. More recent studies consulted here include Paula McDowell, "The Manufacture and Lingua-facture of Ballad-Making': Broadside Ballads in Long Eighteenth-Century Ballad Discourse," Eighteenth Century 47, no. 2/3 (2006): 151-178; Steve Newman, Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Maureen N. McLane, Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008); Michael C. Cohen, The Social Lives of Poems in Nineteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); and Meredith Martin, "'Imperfectly Civilized': Ballads, Nations, and Histories of Form," ELH 82, no. 2 (2015): 345-363. See Martin, in particular, for the story of the ballad's stabilization over the course of the nineteenth century.
(4) The question of "historical aesthetics" has been proposed succinctly by J. Paul Hunter, who asks, "Can we, should we, try to understand the assumptions of value and form in ages not our own? And, if we try, are they in fact recoverable, and should they impact the way we read now?" "Sleeping Beauties: Are Historical Aesthetics Worth Recovering?" Eighteenth-Century Studies 34, no. 1 (2000): 2. Recent work in historical poetics has answered with an unqualified yes, and this essay echoes that conclusion, though with a shift in emphasis from the metadiscourses of genre and meter to aesthetic categories in order to consider how genre itself might be constituted through and as aesthetic judgment. In the field of aesthetic theory proper, a similar provocation to historical particularity emerges in Sianne Ngai's work: "It is ... aesthetic theory that needs resuscitation in our contemporary moment, not the aesthetic as such." She calls for "an effort tea respond to the way in which contemporary aesthetic theory's reduction of its purview to the polarity of beauty and sublimity continues to impair its ability to recognize the theoretical significance of 'aesthetic categories' as a finite and intensively variegated class." Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Tress, 2012), p. 242.
(5) A few lines further on, in a sentence that this paper implicitly aims to illuminate, Rossetti confesses that his anachronisms are deliberately superficial: "I have purposely taken an unimportant phrase here and there from the old things [traditional ballads]."
(6) Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1991), p. 19.
(7) For the examples of the range of Victorian literary adaptations of balladry, see Linda K. Hughes, The Cambridge Introduction to Victorian Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Tress, 2010), pp. 64-73.
(8) Stewart, Crimes of Writing, p. 68. Stewart juxtaposes the nostalgia of the distressed genre with a broadly modern attempt to break generic constraints: "[T]he distressed genre is characterized by a struggle against history as it impinges upon the thematics of meaning. Distressed genres characterize periods of nostalgia juxtaposed by upheaval, revolution, and cultural distress" (p. 92). According to this logic, literary ballads, as a distressed genre, would refuse the meanings imposed upon, say, labor or war by the industrial and imperial contexts of the Victorian period. This "nostalgia for context," Stewart suggests, elicits a "counterfeit materiality" that attempts to evoke that context indexically. Yet nineteenth-century literary ballads are rarely characterized by a rubricated authenticity of material form, existing somewhere, as it were, between modernization and antiquarianism.
(9) Simone de Beauvoir, The Long March (1957), quoted in Alexander Nagel and Christopher S. Wood, Anachronic Renaissance (New York: Zone Books, 2010), p. 7.
(10) For the centrality of anachronism within Victorian studies as a discipline, see Matthew Rowlinson, "Theory of Victorian Studies: Anachronism and Self-Reflexivity," Victorian Studies 47, no. 2 (2005): 241-252. Rowlinson argues that our field is defined by anachronism: the field of Victorian studies itself (by identifying the Victorian with the disciplines that join to study it; by insisting that studying the Victorians helps us understand ourselves) yet remains attached to the forms of the past as past. I suspect that one aspect of the continuing appeal of nineteenth-century medievalism in both popular and academic contexts lies in the very aesthetics of anachronism that caught the eyes and ears of the period's practitioners, the pleasing play of surface and costume in so many ballad romances, historical fictions, and genre paintings. For a taxonomy of anachronism as exhibited by literary forms, see Thomas M. Greene, "History and Anachronism," in The Vulnerable Text: Essays on Renaissance Literature (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1986), pp. 218-235.
(11) Gillian Rose, Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 125-126.
(12) Jorge Luis Borges, "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," in Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, ed. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby (New York: New Directions, 2007), p. 39; and Vernon Lee, "Apollo the Fiddler. A Chapter on Artistic Anachronism," in Fraser's Magazine 631 (July 1882): 52-67. Lee was very likely thinking of G. W. F. Hegel, who discusses kinds and degrees of anachronism in his Aesthetics: "It is worse when Orpheus stands there with a violin in his hand because the contradiction appears all too sharply between mythical days and such a modern instrument, which everyone knows had not been invented at so early a period." Hegel's Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox, vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 277.
(13) In addition to Jeremy Tambling and Mary Mullen, cited below, see Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2000); and Srinivas Aravamudan, "The Return of Anachronism," MLQ 62, no. 4 (2001): 331-354.
(14) Jeremy Tambling, On Anachronism (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 2010), p. 5.
(15) Mary Mullen, "Two Clocks: Aurora Leigh, Poetic Form, and the Politics of Timeliness," VP 51, no. 1 (2013): 63-80; "Anachronistic Aesthetics: Maria Edgeworth and the 'Uses' of History," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 26, no. 2 (2013-14): 233-259; and "Anachronisms against Antiquarianism," V21: Victorian Studies for the Twenty-First Century (blog), April 6, 2015.
(16) James Chandler, England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 108.
(17) For the importance of this concept to problems of representation in the historical novel, see Georg Lukacs, The Historical Novel (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1983), pp. 58-62.
(18) Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch (New York: Penguin, 2000), p. 16.
(19) For Hegel's "necessary anachronism" as a matter of "dialogic exchange" between the actors within an historical scene and the modern audience, see Chandler, England in 1819, pp. 501-502.
(20) Describing ballad imitation as form of kitsch, Daniel Tiffany writes: "The echoing diction of poetic kitsch ... acts primarily not as mode of representation but as an insular and ambient medium of expression." My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2014), p. 13. For a related discussion of how nineteenth-century poets conceptualized and represented the medium of their poetry, see Herbert F. Tucker, "Of Monuments and Moments: Spacetime in Nineteenth-Century Poetry," MLQ 58, no. 3 (1997): 269-298.
(21) On genre and historical distance, see Mark Salber Phillips, "Histories, Micro- and Literary: Problems of Genre and Distance," New Literary History 34, no. 2 (2003): 211-229; and On Historical Distance (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 2013). Phillips presses historians to consider the role of genre in establishing the perspectival distance of historiography: "The construction of distance ... is a central function of all forms of historical representation, and its treatment in different genres and periods provides a signature of sorts for historiographical practice" ("Histories," pp. 213-214). Like all genres with an interest in history, nineteenth-century ballads work out their formal, affective, ideological, and cognitive characteristics in order to produce a specific kind of distance and to be the forms that mediate that distance. Yet literary ballads do not typically narrate or represent history (though they may in specific, cases). Rather, their mediation of history lies in the aesthetic force of their own ornamental antiquity.
(22) Carolyn Williams, Transfigured World: Walter Pater's Aesthetic Historicism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), p. 59.
(23) Walter Pater, "Aesthetic Poetry," in Selected Writings of Walter Pater, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1974), p. 196.
(24) Gerard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree, trans. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1997), p. 80. See also Ingeborg Hoesterey, Pastiche: Cultural Memory in Art, Film, and Literature (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 1-15, for a useful history of the term. Originating in Italian culinary discourse, pastiche migrates first to painting (referring to work that amalgamated diverse styles) and then other arts (acquiring an essential note of inauthenticity connected with forgeries and fakes) and finally to the self-conscious intertextuality of twentieth-century work like Proust's Pastiches et melanges-"pastiche as the ideal form of creative critical activity" (p. 9).
(25) John Guillory, "Genesis of the Media Concept," Critical Inquiry 36, no. 2 (2010): ,357.
(26) Carolyn Williams, Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2012), p. 9.
(27) Carolyn Williams, "Walter Pater's Impressionism and the Form of Historical Revival," in Knowing the Past: Victorian Literature and Culture, ed. Suzy Anger (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 2001), p. 81.
(28) On media and the feeling of historical distance, see Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006). Though Gitelman is interested primarily in the sense of newness, she comments on media and pastness as well in ways that are suggestive for the aesthetics of anachronistic genres: "Like old art, old media remain meaningful. Think of medieval manuscripts, eight-track tapes, rotary phones, or semaphores, stereoscopes, and punch-card programming: only antiquarians use them, but they are all recognizable as media. Yet like old science, old media also seem unacceptably unreal" (p. 4). "[M]edia are ... functionally integral to a sense of pastness. Not only do people regularly learn about the past by means of media representations-books, films, and so on-using media also involves implicit encounters with the past that produced the representations in question" (p. 5).
(29) Not that antiquarian or anthropological interest by any means ceased. The most significant anthology after those of Percy and Scott was of course Francis J. Child's landmark edition, English and Scottish Ballads, 8 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1860).
(30) Susan Stewart argues that the "artifactualization of the ballad is coterminous with the commodification of literature" (p. 105). Following Stewart, Daniel Tiffany associates eighteenth-century ballad imitations with poetic gimmickry and "twice-made" language (pp. 62-72).
(31) William Allingham, preface to The Ballad Book: A Selection of the Choicest British Ballads, ed. Allingham (Cambridge: Sever and Francis, 1865), p. xxxvii.
(32) Deirdre Shauna Lynch is close to the position articulated in this essay in her discussion of "the pleasures of historical sensation" that attached to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poetry. Her concern, however, is with the way in which literary artifacts seem to speak across historical distances under the affective pressures of "loving literature": "Historical distance made the works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and, later, Chaucer that were the principal beneficiaries of this transvaluation of literary antiquity difficult and inaccessible; but that historical difference itself sponsored these same works' membership within the glamorous category of restricted culture, much as it made them deserving of learned treatment. Remoteness from contemporary manners and existing social standards became the hierarchizing principle of a newly autonomous cultural field." Loving Literature: A Cultural History (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015), pp. 242-243.
(33) Thomas Love Peacock, "The Four Ages of Poetry," in The Works of Thomas Love Peacock, ed. H. B. F. Brett-Smith and C. E. Jones, vol. 8 (London: Constable, 1924-1934), p. 334.
(34) This phrase was borrowed from an illuminating chapter on this debate in David Duff's Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 119-159, though the original pairing of archaism and innovation derives from the work of Yuri Tynianov, who insists on archaism as a "stylistic tact" inseparable from innovations in language and literature. The Problem of Verse Language, trans. Michael Sosa and Brent Harvey (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1981), p. 138.
(35) See Herbert F. Tucker, Epic: Britain's Heroic M use 1790-1910 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), p. 2. As Tucker explains, Tennyson's famous complaint about how ridiculous it would be to attempt an epic of King Arthur in the nineteenth century had little to do with Arthuriana and everything to do with the epic itself.
(36) [Charles Burney], anonymous review of Lyrical Ballads, in The Monthly Review xxix (June 1799): 202-210, excerpted in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Critical Heritage, ed. J. R. de J. Jackson, vol. 1 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1968), pp. 55-57.
(37) Ian Duncan, Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel: The Gothic, Scott, Dickens (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), p. 16. On the nineteenth-century connection between history and the play of children, see Richard Maxwell, The Historical Novel in Europe 1650-1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 233-273.
(38) "Letter 128," in Dearest Isa: Robert Browning's Letters to Isabella Blagden, ed. Edward C. McAleer (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1951), pp. 336-337. The figure of scent is intriguing here. Browning's comment suggests perfume, which could be a simple gendered put-down (and pointing toward Rossetti's embarrassed "schoolgirl"), though the complaint also has overtones of continental or even oriental exoticism.
(39) In her introduction to a journal issue on the relation between affect and genre, Kelly Hurley argues that the conventions of popular generic forms are particularly likely to be defined through the affective thrills they ostensibly provide. "Genre and Affect: Inhuman Forces," English Language Notes 48, no. 1 (2010): 1-8.
(40) On the influence of literary historiography on EBB's formal innovation, see Naomi Levine, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Historiographical Poetics," MLQ 77, no. 1 (2016): 81-104.
(41) Dorothy Mermin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Origins of a New Poetry (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 90-91.
(42) Marjorie Stone, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995), p. 103. Her comprehensive chapter on EBB's ballads, "A Cinderella Among the Muses: Barrett Browning and the Ballad Tradition," offers an intertextual reading of the ballads as "configurations of plot and character that foreground ideologically grounded gender differences in their intricate intersections with other hierarchies of power" (p. 108). She also argues for giving EBB a central place in the genesis of Pre-Raphaelite balladry. For an overview of the critical challenge of EBB's balladry as well as provocative thinking on the anachronism of the ballad as a genre, see Joseph Bristow, "Whether 'Victorian' Poetry: A Genre and Its Period," VP 42, no. 1 (2004): 81-109.
(43) Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Two Autobiographical Essays by Elizabeth Barrett Browning," Browning Institute Studies 2 (1974): 122-123.
(44) The Brownings' Correspondence, ed. Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson, vol. 6 (Winfield: Wedgestone Press, 1988), p. 268.
(45) EBB to R. H. Home, undated fragment, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. Quoted in Mermin, p. 90.
(46) Reviews quoted in "9. The Romaunt of the Page," in The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Marjorie Stone and Beverly Taylor, vol. 1 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010), pp. 290-291. Citations to the poem are from this edition.
(47) On gender roles in the poem, see Mermin and Stone.
(48) Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1992), p. 86.
(49) On "The Romaunt" as a part of a tradition of self-reflexive, "autoekphrastic" nineteenth-century poetry, see Tucker, "Of Moments and Monuments," p. 288. On the poem's resistance to the "archaic sensibility" of the annuals, see Leighton, pp. 82-85.
(50) "To Mrs. Jameson," in The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Frederic G. Kenyon, vol. 2 (London: Macmillan, 1897), p. 80.
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