Guide to the year's work.
When Hardy's estranged wife Emma died suddenly at Max Gate in late November 1912 the shock propelled him into an intense period of artistic creativity. "Yes: what you say is true," he told his friend, Edward Clodd, "One forgets all the recent years & differences, & the mind goes back to the early times when each was much to the other" (Letters, 4:239). His loneliness and alienation in marriage complicated by the emotional pressures of bereavement moved him to sublimate in verse the pain and misery of recent years in a reification of the woman he had once longed to love.
Aside from his life-long work on The Dynasts, Hardy's "Emma" poems, which extend beyond the "Poems of 1912-13," constitute the supreme entity of his career as a poet. Sublimation--internalizing fusions of unresolved anxiety, frustrated desire (surging back from "the early times"), fantasy, self-recrimination, despair, loss, and resentment--enacts a measure of purification. Thus Hardy was to revitalize Emma in a mode of visionary mythologizing. This not only yielded, in strong, tightly organized poetic forms, some of his most lyrical and memorable poetry but also a means to emotional management.
Mark Cazelet is completely in tune with all of this. His beautifully illustrated limited edition (200 signed and numbered copies) of Green Blades:
Poems by Thomas Hardy (Llandogo, Monmouthshire: Old Stile Press, 2007) presents an exquisite tribute to Hardy's "Emma" poems, encapsulating in his images no conventional reading but, more aptly, the oblique, the irrational, the "essence of things" (Hardy's phrase) and the indeterminate.
As has been crudely publicized, Hardy read his wife's diaries after her death and found himself a brutally insensitive husband. Guilty--cruelly so. The bereaved husband reading the secret dairies of his estranged spouse might encounter nothing less; indeed, it may be that a suicide could not have injured him more. These brutalities, the promulgations of a sensationalist media are, naturally, nowhere to be seen in Green Blades. Wholly in sympathy with Claire Tomalin's gentle understanding of Hardy's "rediscovery of repressed sorrow and forgotten love" (The Time-Torn Man), Mark Cazelet's images reflect deeply on the scrupulous honesty of the poet, creating an effect of spare, candid, minimalist yet intriguingly ambiguous lines and shapes reflecting Hardy's own lines and shapes in their experimental and psychologically complex forms. According to the publisher, each of Cazelet's images (twenty-two, total) is formed from one woodcut and one linocut and printed directly from the original blocks. "Five colours are involved for which the inks were specially mixed by Cranfield Colours." Primary colors plus two, the hues of a rainbow. Moreover, the sequence of the images is carefully arranged to mirror the growth of self-awareness as it is expressed in Hardy's poems: the self-doubt, the illusive aspects of memory; the startle of short, sharp insights. In his poem, "The Walk," the speaker experiences the strange un-ghosting of a room where once a woman had waited for him.
The musing voice recalls that "You did not walk with me / of late" because "you" were too "weak and lame" (Emma, too, was lame). Then, the focus shifts from the "you" to the "hill-top tree" and the "gated ways"--that is, to the horizon and the end in sight via the pathways to be taken. "Not thinking of you as left behind," he says. But now she's no longer there to be "left behind" things are strangely different. Why should returning to an empty room matter now if earlier he hadn't ever thought of her as "left behind"? Perhaps because she has now left him behind? Perhaps because in her absence on the walks she was always--in a taken-for-granted way--present? He can't exactly pinpoint "What difference, then?": "Only that underlying sense / Of the look of a room on returning thence."
That small exclusivity in "Only" chills a little because it exposes the fragility, the mereness of the contingency--the indeterminacy of the "look" of things. "Lonely" echoes in "Only" but it remains unspoken, for that isn't quite it. He was alone before but there's a difference now: the "room" looks back at him just as surely as he looks at the "room" where once there was a woman looking.
Cazelet turns instead to the "gated ways" which I think Hardy would have applauded. They let you in and let you out. There is promise in that. The absence of the absent one is the difference and Cazelet evokes this beautifully by taking his reader to the ancient field gate where the woman "left behind" could not go but the poem's speaker can, and does. The "gated ways" are his threshold, his way to the "hill-top" and unlike the strangeness of the "room" this is still "familiar ground" to him. The warmth returns and the chill is left behind. It is a moving image, and haunting.
In his study of the topography of Hardy's Wessex landscape, Scott Rode notices the "dialectic between repose and motion" in Hardy, a "tension symbolized ... by the spatial markers of vertical repose and horizontal travel" (Reading and Mapping Hardy's Roads [Routledge 2006], p. 62). Cazelet is sensitive to this tension and is one of the first artists in Hardy scholarship to mark points of horizontal travel in their relationship to repose of the spirit. In "The Walk" the speaker knows of no loss when he departs; the loss is felt only when he recalls that he never experienced it.
The focus, in the world of Hardy publications this past twelvemonth has been predominantly on Wessex Poems culminating in Tom Paulin's edition, Thomas Hardy's Wessex Poems (London: Hesperus Press, 2007). First published in 1898 but featuring poems composed over thirty years, the first edition not only contains some of Hardy's most memorable verses, "Neutral Tones," "I Look Into My Glass," "Hap," and the "She, to Him" series, but also copies of his own "rough sketches" and miniature water-colors. Hesperus Press's delightful new edition restores, for the first time since 1898, Hardy's art-work which publishers, for over a century, had decided to omit. Providing a brief glossary and supplementary notes, Paulin introduces the collection with insights into Hardy's idiosyncratic mode of regard, as, for example, where his love of architecture and poetry fuse in a spontaneous expressiveness of form and meaning, both arts "carrying a rational content inside their artistic form." Hardy wrote in his 1898 Preface that "the dates attached to some of the poems do not apply to the rough sketches given in illustration, which have been recently made, and, as may be surmised, are inserted for personal and local reasons rather than for their intrinsic qualities." The compelling tension thus created between sketch and poem remains provocative and illuminating. There are, for instance, several different perspectives on the pathway that winds through "gated ways" to the summit of the ridgetop, suggesting that this is a much-loved, well-trodden way endowed with more meanings than one. Or is it a dream pathway to a longed-for beyond? Or perhaps, like a first love, it is imprinted deeply on the poet's mind so that color, that form, that sway, that aura, that look, is sought out forever after? In the case of the sketch accompanying the "Eweleaze" poem where the scene is overlaid with a lens-less pair of glasses the surrealism is reminiscent of Magritte in the juxtaposing of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meaning to familiar things (although Magritte held his first exhibition in Belgium in 1927 so I am not implying a direct influence here). Hardy's (literary) surrealism is nothing new, of course, but for the mind of a trained architect the imaginative leap must be almost acrobatic, although of all forms of architecture Gothic provides the highest springboard.
With regard to Hardy's "rough sketches" and miniature watercolors in Wessex Poems, I should add that one such piece features, seriatim, on the cover of every bi-annual number of The Hardy Review (Maney Publishing). Keeping to Hardy's chosen sequence, Volume IX features his frontispiece sketch of Stinsford Church which he also assigns to "Friends Beyond"; Volume X.i shows the sketch accompanying the opening verse, "The Temporary the All," and the second number to Volume X will feature the famous hourglass sketch to "Amabel." Eventually subscribers will be able to collect the entire series which can be copied in monochrome (none of the printed originals are in color).
After turning a very attractive book (2008), sent to me from Japan by Professor Michiko Seimiya, front to back, back to front and upside down several times over I settled upon the more familiar left-to-right setting (in English) of the Hardy poems but was then confounded not only by the horizontal typescript but also by the Japanese language. As a result I have to admit, rather humbly, to admiring the book wholeheartedly for its beautiful marbling on the covers, elegant endpapers, and thick vellum but to understanding none of it--not even the title. Luckily, in the next post, I received Seimiya's illustrated Darwinism in the Art of Thomas Hardy (Yushodo, 2005) translated in full. I managed to pair up the illustrations in the two books in order to verify that they were, in fact, treating with the same thesis. By way of literary context Seimiya takes account of contemporary evolutionary intellectuals who were also influenced by Darwin (Spencer, Huxley, Zola, James, for example), while also keeping Hardy's classical background in focus. The chapters devoted to poetry are given simple, straightforward titles: "Heredity," "Time and Chance," "Time and Loving-Kindness in The Dynasts," "Memory and Loving-Kindness," "Common Descent," and "Charity." In discussing her theory that "Hardy expanded and deepened his classically conceived art and revitalized the traditional ethical concept of loving-kindness, which is supported by Darwinian theory of common descent," Seimiya examines an impressive fifty-odd poems and makes those kind of insightful observations which, possibly, come to mind more readily to a scholar coming from a different culture. For instance, in her reading of "The Darkling Thrush," which some western scholars have argued offers a muted pessimism or, at best, a doubtful optimism, Seimiya notices that "Christian words such as 'evensong,' 'soul,' 'caroling' ... suggest a spiritual realm where the thrush may live. 'Hope' in the last stanza is of course one of the three important virtues in 1 Corinthians, 13:13: faith, hope and love" (p. 133). There are some minor errors in translation such as "a fatal concept in Christianity" (p. 3) which I think should be "fatalistic" or "concept of fatalism" but these should not detract from the importance of Darwinism in the Art of Thomas Hardy which is very fresh in outlook and remarkably deep and broad in scope.
Hardy, as a poet and graphic artist, supplied drawings and sketches to many of his publications including Wessex Poems. Not surprisingly, then, more illustrators are being tempted to work with his poetry, not only by his example, but also by reasons of pure aesthetics. The affinity between the poetic line and the graphic line, the poetic shape and the graphic shape, the poetic motion and the graphic motion (and so on) inclines to such pure symmetry and aesthetic fusion that it is as hard to deny the company of the one to the other.
I therefore recommend to Hardy lovers The Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Primrose Hill Press, 1998) with its accompanying wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker, arranged by Ian Rogerson. The "matter and mood" of Hardy's poems is what inspires Rogerson to match Miller Parker's images to poems they were never originally intended to illustrate. The result is as imaginative and as apt as Hardy might ever have hoped to see. Rogerson explains:
The re-use of illustration for an entirely different purpose than that originally intended is by no means new. It was common to early printing, not only for the same blocks to be used for different editions of a book, but also for the same blocks to be used for different titles. The Paris publisher Antoine Verard used one woodcut to illustrate no less than twelve different titles. The earliest English example is that of a woodcut which appeared in the Mirror of the World printed by Caxton in 1481, and again in Caxton's third edition of Cato Pareus et Magnus which appeared in 1483. (p. ix)
It is a shame that Pamela Gossin's Thomas Hardy's Novel Universe: Astronomy, Cosmology, and Gender in the Post-Darwinian World (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2007) does not touch at all on Hardy's poetry. Gossin's is a fine original work but surely needs to give space to Hardy's verse. His poetry is so rich in cosmic vision. What of "Hap," "In Vision I Roamed," "To Outer Nature," "A Sign-Seeker," "The Impercipient," "Nature's Questioning," "A Reverie," "The Sick Battle-God," "At a Lunar Eclipse"?--to number but a small proportion of his astronomical, metaphysical, or cosmological poems, most of them considerably more thought-provoking than his themes, references, and allusions in the novels. That said, Gossin's is an important work and should spearhead much work to come on Hardy's cosmology. Hardy will eventually take his well-earned place among the philosophers on this particular topic.
Tim Kendall's Modern English War Poetry (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005) treats with Hardy's Boer War poems in the context of other poets such as Wilfred Owen and Charlotte Mew and Lois Clark. Hardy was a great admirer of Mew and would be pleased to share space with her. However, where Kendall is rather simplistically critical of violence in art media of all kinds De Sales Harrison makes the excellent point that
it is Hardy, after all, who expands the harmonic capacities of English poetry to include the voices of dissonance, difficulty, and strain to which so much of English Modernism owes an unpayable debt. Kendall employs Hardy as a negative example to establish the positive criteria that he applies to later poets, ignoring the fact that it is Hardy who first complicates and unsettles the very criteria that Kendall applies with such confidence. Not only in his war poems, but in his love poems, poems of mourning, and his narrative ballads Hardy depicts a world so infused with irony that the boundary between virtue and vice (whether moral or aesthetic) is always perilously thin and porous. (The Hardy Review, 10 : i)
Alison Cooper-Davies claims a special interest in Hardy's Tryphena poem--"Thoughts of Phena: At News of her Death" (HSJ 4, no. 1): Cooper-Davies recognizes that Hardy's entries in the Life are "not entirely reliable" (p. 31)--the entries, after all, were edited excized, altered, and modified by Florence and Hardy's executors and, of course, Hardy decided upon a pseudonymous biography in the first place because he wished to protect his privacy. He had had a very complicated, "wild-oats" past and for a Victorian youth this was nobody's business but his own. Equally difficult, later in his career as a famous man of letters he had several contemporary biographers on his back gathering all manner of tittle-tattle from neighbors and villagers. There is probably a very good reason, for example, that his youthful love, Eliza Nicholls, is not mentioned in the Life at all: Hardy wrote poems for her just as he spent many intimate hours in her company (not just in Sussex and Dorset but in London also), and for some researchers there was also a son born of their union. Indeed, reading the Life becomes an exercise in reading the silences, elisions, gaps, and the unsaid words.
Cooper-Davies is, however, pursuing a slightly different tack. Grief, mourning, bereavement is not about the dear departed at all but about those who remain. I am not sure that this is either profound or new--grief is surely only ever about "us." For Cooper-Davies, the poet "writes more to display his own creative power than out of true desire or mourning" (p. 36). "True desire or mourning" risks killing the spirit, destroying the will to live. And in many cases it succeeds. A long-term marriage will often see the death of one spouse rapidly followed by the other. A poet may not seek so much to "dissolve" (p. 37) the beloved in verse as to recover his or her power not to dissolve the self. One soul bound up in another for many years (even in hostile, alienating years) is at risk of absolute dissolution in bereavement.
Alisa Clapp-Itnyre on the other hand, in "The Contentious 'Figure' of Music in the Poetry of Thomas Hardy" (HSJ 2, no. 2 ) introduces her article with the claim that "One moment a symbol of unearthly beauty and purity, as with church music and spiritual oratorios, [music] could also be perceived as the devil's own instrument in leading souls astray" (p. 26) and thereafter speaks of "the joy of the sinful dance," "sinful physicality," and (a very odd, inapt phrase) "his ideal-less times" (pp. 32-34). There is so much to say on Hardy and Dance, Hardy and Music, and even Hardy and Sin that the purpose and motivation for this brief "generalist" essay is not quite clear. It is particularly confounding to encounter Clapp-Itnyre's footnote 4 which states, digressively, that "Hardy was obviously concerned about women's roles in society," and then cites one of the weakest studies ever published on Hardy and women, a field now strongly covered since the 1980s by at least a dozen writers.
Later this year Hardyans can look forward to the publication of Hardy's Poetical Notebooks, edited by Michael Millgate and Pamela Dalziel. Other current items of interest are, most importantly, Herbert F. Tucker's Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse: 1700-1910 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008) which has a magnificent section on The Dynasts--its place among epic dramas and, more specifically, its "undergirding cosmology" and cognitive ironies (p. 593). Shorter works of merit are: A.L. Francois, "'Not Thinking of You as Left Behind': Virgil and the Missing of Love in Hardy's Poems of 1912-13," ELH 75, no. 1 (2008): 63-88; Kevin A. Morrison, "The Periodical Context of Thomas Hardy's "In Time of the Breaking of Nations," N&Q 253, no. 1 (March 2008): 58-60; Michael Schmidt, "The Great Poets: Thomas Hardy, Houseman, Kipling, Mew." The Independent (March 21, 2008): 3-18 (a supplement to the paper in the Great Poets series); Daniel Tyler, "Hearing Things: The Voices in Thomas Hardy's Poetry," The English Review (April 2008): 17-20 (Daniel Tyler listens carefully to the subtexts in Hardy's poetry to his dead wife); and Martin Ray, editor, The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: Contemporary Reviews (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Finally, the Thomas Hardy Association's Poem of the Month Series continues to thrive--latterly directed online by Bill Morgan, now by Betty Cortus at http://www.yale.edu/hardysoc/Poetry/POTM.htm--the more vigorous debates being collated and edited for publication in the Hardy Review, ed. Rosemarie Morgan (London: Maney Publishers). Taking a quick glance at recent editions, "One we Knew" draws appreciative comments on the oral-history influence of Hardy's grandmother; "A Church Romance" echoes a similar motif with a generational difference, Mary Rimmer's observation being that a "woman's perspective dominates this poem"; "On One Lived and Died Where He Was Born" turns upon the vexed question of autobiographical readings; "To My Father's Violin" veers in a different direction toward the issue of apostrophizing the instrument (violin) "to weigh in," as Philip Allingham puts it, the "father's achievements"; "The Roman Road" continues this thread but in the context of Hardy's mother; and "After the Last Breath" investigates what Bill Needham calls "a nexus of signs." Volume X concludes this poetry section with "In the Garden," and "Logs on the Hearth"--verses dedicated by Hardy to his adored sister, Mary--which Carolyn McGrath perceives to be the courageous poems of "an agnostic who does not fear death and who can ... view past, present and future in a moment" (IX: 25-64). Volume X.i (2008), by contrast, follows the thread of a single poem, "Proud Songsters." Discussions of this poem were launched with great gusto--continuing on well into the following month. Even with rigorous editing the conversation runs to 25 pages in The Hardy Review. Arguments range from the aptness, implications and connotations of "Songsters" and "Proud" in the title--several readers being reminded of other poems such as Donne's "Nocturnal Upon St. Lucie's Day" and Sassoon's "Everyone Sang"--to debates on evolution.
Citing two lines from "Proud Songsters," Eric Christen goes straight to the heart of the matter:
... But only particles of grain ... And earth, and air, and rain. Hardy was familiar with the atheist, Lucretius for whom the elements of nature are composed of atoms, the smallest particles of matter. These atoms are indestructible and their number infinite. They continually move at random in an infinite void and when they clash they combine to form molecules, which make everything.... It seems to me that Hardy marvels at the transformations caused by connections between purely material elements which appear to have nothing in common: from particles of matter springs music--the beautiful spiritual music of birds. (pp. 17-18)
One of the more remarkable aspects of the Hardy Association's Poem of the Month series is that students and professors come together in a single arena from across the globe to conjoin in debates freely expressing their views, whether in agreement or disagreement--an undertaking so spontaneous and candid that it would surprise the ivory tower's lecture halls. Or, as Hardy says in a different context, "What was as remarkable as the undertaking itself was the fact that nobody seemed at all surprised" (Jude the Obscure, I, ix).
2007 was a remarkable year for Hopkins scholarship. That would be true even if the claim was limited to the publication of the first of a projected eight volumes of the new Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins being undertaken by the Oxford University Press. But the claim most certainly does not have to be circumscribed in that way.
The first volume of the Works to appear is Vol. 4, Oxford Essays and Notes, 1863-1868, edited by Lesley Higgins. Higgins' eighty-seven-page Introduction explains that the volume encompasses "the essays, lecture notes, and reader's observations" which are found in twelve notebooks housed at Campion Hall, Oxford, and which form part of "the prose texts which survive from [Hopkins'] university career" (p. 1). His student years were key to the poet's later development, and it is in these notes and observations that one can observe the seeds of his later, more fully developed and idiosyncratic aesthetics. To cite but one example, the notes which Hopkins took based on his reading of the Greek philosopher Parmenides contain the earliest adumbrations of Hopkins' later theories of instress and inscape (p. 311). Included here are lecture and reading notes, but also the undergraduate essays written for Hopkins' tutors, including Walter Pater and the Idealist philosopher T. H. Green.
Some of the material in this volume has appeared before, especially in Humphry House's edition of The Note-Books and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford Univ. Press, 1937) and House and Graham Storey's The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford Univ. Press, 1959). The notes on Parmenides, for example, appear in both of those earlier volumes. But a simple comparison of Parmenides now and Parmenides then illustrates the immense advantages of this new edition. The 1937 House version lists the item as part of "Early Note-Books," along with diary entries and the lengthy "On the Origin of Beauty: A Platonic Dialogue." The 1959 House and Storey includes the item with "Undergraduate Essays Etc.," which is manifestly untrue unless one construes "Etc." very loosely. The current volume by contrast accurately groups the item with other "Notes on Greek Philosophy." Only now do we have the item in its proper context and adequately distinguished from the essays written as assignments and from the diary entries (these last will form part of volume 3). Moreover, thanks to Higgins' copious and learned editorial notes and her lengthy Introduction, which covers such topics as "The Oxford System" of education in the 1860s, the reader has a wealth of relevant information at his or her beck and call.
Besides more logical groupings, this new volume possesses three other immense advantages over any previous edition. First, it is far more complete. Many of these essays and notes have not been published before--in fact, thirty-eight of the forty-five undergraduate essays appear here for the first time. A treasure-trove of new material is therefore available to scholars and will stimulate new research. Second, this edition is more faithful to the appearance of the written texts. A student of Hopkins can see, for example, all the underlinings, interlineations, and crossed-out passages, so that the evolutions and suppressions of thought are evident. Finally, this edition is carefully informed by the voluminous scholarship on Hopkins that has been undertaken in the last five decades. The apparatus reflects not only what has been discovered before but also the editor's own meticulous research.
Such advantages, which will characterize the seven later volumes also, insure that research on Hopkins will be reinvigorated. Oxford Essays and Notes is a signal achievement, and students of Hopkins will look forward to its successors.
Another major publication is Catherine Phillips' Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Visual World, also from Oxford. All his life Hopkins had an intense interest in the visual world: he sketched, went to galleries, attended exhibitions, followed art criticism in the journals, exchanged notes and commentary with friends. Moreover, the intensely visual dimension of Hopkins' poetry continues to demand attention from his readers. Phillips explores three social contexts within which Hopkins learned to "see," namely his family, his university circle, and his adult religious milieu. Often there was tension, as when the "photoeroticism" (John Rosenberg's term) which Hopkins absorbed from Ruskin during his student years came into conflict with the visual asceticism recommended by his Jesuit superiors.
Phillips' book moves from the poet's early familial influences (chap. 1), through his experiments with drawing (2) and with architectural sketching (3), and on to his familiarity with contemporary art criticism (4), the burgeoning illustrated press (5), the latest trends in sculpture (6), and classical and contemporary optical theories (7). She provides a wealth of relevant information which, when complemented by earlier works such as R.K.R. Thornton's All My Eyes See, gives us a wholly new understanding of the importance of the visual world to Hopkins and the possible ways it impacted both his aesthetics and his practice as a poet. Always Phillips brings this new information back to the poetry, so that in the end we can read it, see it, better. To cite but one example, the connection she draws (chap. 5) between the typological symbolism which informs Hopkins' criticism of a portrait by his brother Arthur and the culminating passage of "The Wreck of the Deutschland" helps to illumine that notoriously difficult poem.
Implicit in Phillips' enterprise is an attempt to distinguish Hopkins' visual world from the one which we take for granted. Our resources, arguably broader and richer than his, may in their very multifariousness dilute their impact. Phillips studies an aspect of material culture that had a deep, focused, and lasting impact on how the poet looked at the world, how he was taught by his culture to see and then to create. The value of this book lies in the many ways it reminds us of how deeply visual a poet--a person--Hopkins was, and how visually creative we have to be in order to read his poems well.
An important collection of critical essays also appeared during the year. Soundings: Hopkins Studies in Transition, edited by Cary H. Plotkin (St. Joseph's Univ. Press), contains a dozen essays in memory of the late Norman H. Mackenzie, who at the time of his death, as the editor rightly observes, was "the dean of Hopkins studies" (p. xi). The topics are diverse, ranging from biographical studies (Joseph Feeney's examination of Hopkins' relationship to Wales during the years 1874-1877) to eco-criticism (Michael Moore's effort to "historicize and re-materialize the impetus and continuing importance of Hopkins's literary response to nature" [p. 143]) to linguistic analysis (Kunio Shimane's study of phonaesthesia in "The May Magnificat"). The poet would be pleased by the frequent attention to language in these essays, such as Phillips' analysis of Hopkins' command of style and tone in his letters and Higgins' study of the poet's frequent and carefully calculated use of interrogatives. The editor, Plotkin, contributes an essay on "ametaphoricity" in the poetry, James Finn Cotter explains its Augustinian echoes, and Bernard Bergonzi traces the poet's "creative rewriting and re-enactment[s]" (p. 8) of Keats and Herbert.
Several of these essays are noteworthy for their effort to destabilize our customary ways of reading and interpreting the poet. Rachel Salmon, for example, argues that the sense of estrangement she feels as a Jewish reader of "The Wreck of the Deutschland" can paradoxically make the reading more intense, more surprising and rewarding: "To read the poetry of a different community of belief is to gain, through one's distance from the givens of the poem, a certain distance from one's own givens" (p. 12). Similarly, R. K. R. Thornton proposes that we put aside Hopkins' reputation for obscurity ("I wish to emphasize again what I have often argued, that Hopkins is fundamentally a simple poet" [p. 31]), while Rend Gallet opposes the efforts of J. Hillis Miller and others to see in the poet only crisis, fragmentation, and rupture. Paradox manifests itself again when Daniel Brown finds, in the poet's fervent devotion to singularity, a "univocity of Being" (p. 96).
Four other books have substantial chapters on Hopkins. The final chapter of Maureen Moran's Catholic Sensationalism and Victorian Literature (Liverpool Univ. Press) focuses on "Art Catholicism and the New Catholic Baroque: The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Francis Thompson." The argument of the book as a whole is that sensationalist representations of Roman Catholicism in Victorian literature not only demonstrated typical anti-Catholic bias, they also--perhaps unintentionally--revealed the tensions rife in that society between the ideals and conventions to which it aspired and the everyday realities which it knew. The chapter on Hopkins and Thompson has a twofold purpose: to show first how the literature of the day critiques Catholic sensationalism, but then also to show how "elaborate devotional practices heralded a countercultural act of aesthetic resistance for the Victorian Catholic community" (p. 233). In the case of Hopkins, Moran contends that previous scholars who have commented on the Baroque dimensions of his poetry have missed his indebtedness to contemporary Catholic devotional traditions which had become second nature to him. These discourses and practices mark his letters, sermons, and journals as well as the poems: in all of them he manifests a deeply personal response to the "thrill of the unfathomable." In "The Wreck of the Deutschland," for example, Hopkins is seen by Moran to be functioning as a Counter-Reformation poet whose understanding of God, mediated by his Catholic culture, is of an ultimate mystery transcending both sense and intellect, someone who "heeds [us] but hides [himself]."
Mary Ellen Bellanca's Daybooks of Discovery: Nature Diaries in Britain, 1770-1870 (Univ. of Virginia Press) likewise devotes the last chapter ("Catching the White Tiger's Skin: Gerard Manley Hopkins's Journal and the Poetics of Natural History") to Hopkins. Rather than seeing the poet's journal entries on nature as simply source material for the imagery of the poems, Bellanca prefers to read them as "prose text[s] in the tradition of British nature diaries" (p. 200), a tradition which in earlier chapters she has been at some pains to elaborate. Hopkins' knowledge of natural history, typical of his period, also allowed him access to a rich vein of commentary of the visual world, and in that way Bellanca's analysis complements the one by Catherine Phillips noted earlier. The poet's approach, however, distinguished itself from that of his contemporaries by its singular anxiety about the adequacy of language, about the limitations of the power of human beings to name and to understand.
Chapter Three ("Utter Limits: Hopkins and Kierkegaard") of David Miller's With Poetry and Philosophy: Four Dialogic Studies--Wordsworth, Browning, Hopkins and Hardy (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) proposes to show how key philosophical texts both clarify and mystify the poetic texts. Both philosopher and poet delight in "rhetorical displays, poetic figures, and literary devices" (p. 66), both press beyond language toward the sublime, toward a sense of something/Someone more, and both instantiate the minute, the particular, and the unstable rather than any Hegelian all-embracing whole. Miller shows the biographical similarities between the two, parallel to their stylistic and aesthetic similarities.
The prize for the most unusual--bizarre?--commentary on Hopkins for 2007 belongs to Chapter 9 ("Gerard Manley Hopkins") of Michael Fitzgerald and Brendan O'Brien's Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World (Autism Asperger Publishing). The book has as its laudable purpose recognition of "the achievements and failures" of "prominent, creative individuals, including recognized geniuses, who may have had Asperger Syndrome" (p. vii). The authors define Asperger Syndrome, a variant of autism, in so general a way--discontentedness, high ambition, solitariness, etc.--that almost anyone creative would qualify. Even so, the application of the criteria to Hopkins betrays an almost total lack of familiarity with what is known about the poet's life and personality: for example, Hopkins (it is said) "did not really do well at school" (p. 115), was incurably naive, lacked empathy, had almost no sense of humor--all generalizations very few would accept.
As for journal articles, three substantial contributions to Hopkins scholarship appeared during 2007 in the pages of Victorian Poetry. Marie Banfield's "Darwinism, Doxology, and Energy Physics: The New Sciences, the Poetry and the Poetics of Gerard Manley Hopkins" (45, no. 2: 175-194) argues that Hopkins' response to the new sciences, especially physics and evolutionary biology, evidenced both attraction and repulsion, and that he developed in his poetry and poetics a complex counter-challenge to scientific materialism. Specifically, "Hopkins' poetry responds to the fundamental unity in nature inherent in the conservation of energy, and to its dissipation in entropy, but finds the explanation to lie beyond mechanics" (p. 176). The article proceeds carefully and chronologically through the poet's (deep) knowledge of and complex response to each of the scientific theories, working from the diaries and journals through the early poems and up to the late poems "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves" and "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire," showing in each case how what the poet knew impacted his language theory and language practice. His many disruptions of poetic orthodoxy reflect his absorption with modern scientific theories of fragmentation and evidence a man acutely aware of contemporary thought and daring in his response to it. At the same time, partly because of his religious training and partly because of an innate conservatism, Hopkins' writing displays also a hesitancy, a drawing-back because of "his desire for order, design, and unity, positing a power beyond the purely mechanical" (p. 191).
In the same issue Aakansha J. Virkar, in "Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Song of Songs" (45, no. 2: 195-207), develops a new interpretation of Hopkins' response to the Song of Songs in "The Wreck of the Deutschland." Building on James Finn Cotter's catalog of linguistic and thematic parallels, the author reads these parallels as primarily ecclesiological, in other words as growing out of the supposition that these words can be said to refer to the union-the marriage-of Christ and his church. Connecting these worlds is the language, the image and symbol, of the heart. The article draws out the linguistic parallels at great length, and for some readers it will be seen as straining evidence or depending too heavily on conditionals.
Next came Joshua King's densely argued "Hopkins' Affective Rhythm: Grace and Intention in Tension" (45, no. 3: 209-237). King, avoiding what he calls "eye-glazing debate over sprung rhythm's technical integrity," focuses instead on sprung rhythm as "a means of apprehending and recommending to the reader kinds of affective and cognitive experience," especially "an experience of grace" (p. 175). The author takes Hopkins seriously as a thinker. He too moves chronologically, beginning (like Banfield) with the poet's scientific education at Oxford and his readings in Greek philosophy, such as the Parmenides notes included in Higgins' edition. Sprung rhythm becomes far more than a technique: it is part of a coherent and intelligible Weltanschauung, one which the poet develops slowly and carefully over time, in poetry and prose, and uses to explain both how we think and how we feel. Rather than an unintelligible or unrewarding subject of study, sprung rhythm becomes the explanatory principle for all of Hopkins' writings and for the "intentional tension" which gives his work its energy. Drawing on philosophical, historical, scientific, religious, and literary sources, the author demonstrates successfully that sprung rhythm became for Hopkins "a unique stimulation to thought, a measure for anticipating a reader's affective experience, and a form for aspiration and self-confrontation" (p. 233).
An interesting companion piece to King's article is Michael D. Hurley's "What Sprung Rhythm Really is NOT" in HQ (33, nos. 3-4: 71-94). (The four numbers of HQ volume 33 for 2006 were received during the calendar year 2007.) While both take sprung rhythm seriously, Hurley delights in the prosodic analysis which King eschews and, as his title indicates, does so by taking issue with various previous contributors to the "eye-glazing debate." While conceding that for many critics metrics remains "either forbiddingly recondite or effectively irrelevant," Hurley contends, and attempts to demonstrate, that "coming to terms with sprung rhythm must be of the first importance for any reader of [Hopkins'] poems" (pp. 71-72).
Another important article is Dennis Sobolev's "Semantic Counterpoint and the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins" (VLC 35: 103-119). The author intends his essay, rather ambitiously, as "a theoretical formalization of points made in my previous essays on Hopkins" (p. 115). His argument, analogously to King's, is that counterpointing, the ground for sprung rhythm, lies at the heart of both Hopkins' epistemology and practice and provides a way to transcend what Sobolev sees (perhaps reductively) as "the dichotomy of 'unity' and 'dissemination'" (p. 103) in contemporary criticism and arrive at a hidden unity which brings together both the intellectual and the existential dimensions of Hopkins' thinking and poetic practice. After laying out what he believes to be a "more complex and precise [model] of the organization of meaning," namely semantic counterpointing (an outgrowth of Hopkins' knowledge of and interest in counterpointing in music), Sobolev provides exempla for his argument both in the late sonnet "Thou art indeed just, Lord" and in climactic portions of "The Wreck of the Deutschland."
Volume 33 of Hopkins Quarterly also offers two contributions to biographical scholarship on the poet (in addition to the Schlatter article noticed in last year's essay). Tom Zaniello's "'flush with a new stroke of enthusiasm': Hopkins and the Isle of Man" (pp. 95-108) details the poet's two visits to that island and explains the consequences for Hopkins' perceptions of nature and local culture and the effect on his language resources. Noel Barber S.J., in "Hopkins and the Irish Jesuits" (pp. 34-54), explores an important aspect of the often-vexed relationship between Hopkins and the country where he spent his last four often difficult years: Ireland. The conventional view, building on the "To seem a stranger lies my lot" sonnet ("I am in Ireland now; now I am at a third/Remove"), holds that Hopkins hated Ireland and the Irish. Quite the contrary, argues Barber: Hopkins knew and befriended many Irish Jesuits during his years in England and Wales, and after his transfer to Dublin he developed many good friendships and close associations, both with local people and with his fellow Jesuits. He did lack sympathy with Irish nationalism, but "Hopkins' demons were interior ones.... Ireland and the Irish were never central issues" (p. 50). The conventional view had its origin, Barber shows, in a single very unreliable source, Joseph Darlington S.J., who also migrated from England to Ireland but who adopted Irish nationalism wholesale and apparently resented Hopkins for not doing likewise.
Finally one can take note of three articles from this volume of Hopkins Quarterly that trace Hopkins filiations in modern poetry. Ben Howard in "Action and Repose: Gerard Manley Hopkins' Influence in the Poems of Elizabeth Bishop" (pp. 109-118) demonstrates the many ways in which "dear Hopkins," discovered by Bishop at age thirteen, remained both a spiritual companion and a model for rhythm, style, and theme. Arnd Bohm's "Richard Eberhart's Take on Hopkins" (pp. 28-33) focuses on Eberhart's poem "White Pines, Felled 1984" as a pastiche of "Binsey Poplars," one in which the modern poet argues for the necessity of the tree-cutting while at the same time paying subtle tribute to his Victorian elder by creating a "site of recollection." Peter Whiteford's "Gerard Manley Hopkins and Ursula Bethell: An Antipodean Influence" (pp. 119-134) shows, through a careful analysis of prosodic and stylistic parallels in several poems, that despite her persistent denials the New Zealand poet owed much to Hopkins' theory and practice.
A remarkable year indeed, rich in promise.
The Poets of the Nineties
BENJAMIN F. FISHER
This year's coverage is, with one exception, devoted mainly to brief items. The exception is Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters, ed. Merlin Holland (Carroll and Graf, 2007). Holland has selected and edited letters from that larger volume of Wilde's correspondence, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis (1962; 1985; and the Complete Letters, 2000, with Holland), to create a readable, but documentary account of Wilde's life for non-specialist audiences. Since Wilde's writings have always held out wide appeal to varied readerships, such an undertaking has been worthwhile. The book is divided into eleven sections, each focused on an individual era in Wilde's life and career. Holland's introductions, first to the volume itself, then to each of the eleven sections are brief but nevertheless sound, illuminating overviews to the topic that follows while the equally brief interspersed narrative comments will help the non-specialist reader.
Minus some of the rather perfunctory business correspondence that is included in the earlier edition, we get a more immediate sense of Wilde's own lively, witty personality, which is most emphatic in the first four sections; the sections that follow indicate a far more grave outlook on life. That is not to suggest that business aspects of Wilde's literary career are omitted; see, for example, Wilde to Wemyss Reid and to Nellie Sickert, (respectively pp. 100-102, 104-104); or that to Leonard Smithers (p. 326), or that to Ernest Dowson (pp. 272-273). Given the long history of legend about Dowson and Wilde, we find a refreshing change in reading Wilde's counsel to his friend about practicalities concerning publishing and royalties. On the other hand, when Wilde writes to Laurence Housman (pp. 273-274) about A. E. Housman's poems (August 22, 1897), his deprecation of the Ricketts-Shannon antipathies to AEH's techniques centers on one great characteristic of the 1890s, the mingling of the arts.
Other useful features in this book are the chronology of Wilde's life and the index to recipients and the general index. Holland's book should offer an accessible, because condensed, account of Wilde's personal and professional life, which, in many respects, are interlinked. One is reminded of other lives in which home or family and professional lives intersect, for example, those of George Meredith, Dickens, or Poe (though perhaps too much has been made of Poe the man's interlocking with situations and characters in his creative works), or, nearer Wilde's own era, that of A. E. Housman. One is also reminded of occurrences in Wilde's personal life, for example, the evident disturbing emotion registered when he had to separate from Florence Balcombe after Bram Stoker proposed marriage to her (pp. 32-33). Wilde was quick to assure Florence that he was not requesting a clandestine meeting. Here we encounter a tenderness that is often forgotten when the more sordid chapters in Wilde's life or the themes and techniques in many of his writings are considered. Wilde on love (to Robert Ross, September 21, 1897, pp. 279-280), displays a combination of pleasure-pain, along with other feelings, that is strikingly modernist or contemporary. Finally, given the legendary attachments to Wilde's life and literary career, one might be surprised to find him writing letters to earlier, to some more respectable, Victorian authors such as Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold (p. 45), or Ruskin (p. 108), though indeed he had been acquainted with and assisted Ruskin at Oxford. Holland's book should enjoy a long popularity in the twenty-first century.
Far more terse, but nonetheless, significant, is Stanley Stepping Edgecombe's "Tennyson, Wilde, and the Anti-Aubade in Dombey and Son" (N&Q 253, no. 1 : 38-39). The blank, foreboding dawn on which Mr. Dombey's marriage to Edith Granger takes place in part inspired the similar symbolically grim backgrounds in the seventh lyric in "In Memoriam" and in Wilde's "The Harlot's House." Evidently Wilde thought more highly of Dickens that his frequently cited derision concerning the mawkish sentimentality in the death of Little Nell might suggest. Tennyson's and Wilde's adaptations (as well as the original) manifest interrelationships between visual and literary arts that gained importance among the arts in the later nineteenth century, especially during the 1890s. Edgecombe's article should remind us that connections between visual and literary art descended from more origins than those of Pre-Raphaelite works--which are more typically cited as having impacts upon Nineties culture and the experiments during the era that negated long held distinctions between one art form and another.
Colette Colligan's The Traffic in Obscenity from Byron to Beardsley: Sexuality and Exoticism in Nineteenth-Century Print Culture (Palgrave 2006) is relevant to 1890s culture, rather as the culmination of many varieties of sexual activities that began to emerge with Byron's poems and that came to the fore among writers and graphic artists late in the century. The sections on flogging and other violent sexual practices recall some of Swinburne's work, many others on the Orientalism that had gained forcibleness in British arts from the eighteenth century, on through Byron's narrative verse, Burton's various writings, and Beardsley's pictorial work. Many of the issues touched on in Colligan's book move beyond strictly artistic territories into farther-reaching aspects of nineteenth-century British life, for example, marriage, prostitution (of adults and children), the white slave traffic, and other actual life circumstances connected with increasing urbanization. Like Merlin Holland's book, but for different reasons, Colligan's should enjoy a long shelf life among aficionados of the 1890s. Kindred subject matter informs Deborah Lutz's The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villians, Byronism, and the Nineteenth.Century Seduction Narrative (Ohio State Univ. Press, 2006), which treats sexuality from the eighteenth century to the Victorians, to recent romance novels.
Other items that may be read in conjunction with these books are Jad Adams's "Gabriela Cunninghame Graham: Deception and Achievement in the 1890s" (ELT 50: 251-268) and Mark Llewellyn and Ann Heilmann's "George Moore and Literary Censorship: The Textual and Sexual History of 'John Norton' and 'Hugh Montfert'" (ELT 50: 371-392). In the first we learn that not only was Mrs. Cunninghame Graham's presumed Spanish origin a hoax (she was English), but that she may have been a prostitute. Neither element in her life would have troubled her husband, witness his sympathetic treatment of prostitutes in several of his works and his own apparently pleasant experiences with them in actual life. Moore's revisions in his fictions may relate to censorship and to his own ambivalent attitudes toward homosexuality. Both these articles call attention to the concept of double lives and masking that so intrigued writers and other artists of the era.
Themes of concealed lives also occupied Clemence, less-known sister of A. E. and Laurence Housman. Drawing on Arthurian legendry, Clemence treated the theme of truth versus honor in The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis (1905), a novel about one of the less familiar knights of the Round Table. In 1952 Laurence gave a talk on the BBC about the book, in hopes of having it republished--and, in fact, it was issued by his own publisher, Jonathan Cape, in 1954. Douglas Anderson prints the text of Laurence's talk, with commentary (HSJ 33: 39-45). Laurence remarked that Tennyson was afraid of his subject matter in Idylls of the King, but that Clemence looked with less anxiety at the same subject matter. Thus (although neither Laurence nor Anderson comment on this circumstance) Clemence aligned herself with Swinburne, Arnold, and Newbolt in her recasting of such legendry. We come away from Anderson's article with a sense of lesser lives, that of Sir Aglovale and of Clemence Housman herself, though, as has been the case with many other lesser lives from or connected with the Victorian era, for example, Mary Meredith or Lizzie Rossetti, the "lesser" does not absolutely mean inferior. Clemence Housman's other two, short novels, The Were-Wolf (1893, 1896) and The Unknown Sea (1898) likewise center on double and lesser lives among the characters, all expressed in richly textured prose poetry.
On a different topic in Housman studies, in "The Name and Nature of Poetry," the annual Housman Lecture (HSJ 33: 8-24), Archie Burnett commences with allusions to and quotations from The Name and Nature of Poetry, hopefully to show rather than tell, just what makes poetry. He goes to critique poems by Hardy, cummings, and Eliot, concluding that in "each case, the poet has deployed a whole range of linguistic and technical resources to maximize the emphasis on what is being said," thus bearing out AEHs own words that poetry "is not the thing said but the way of saying it" (p. 23). This illuminating discourse on poetry and poetics should not be missed by readers and writers of poetry alike. Moreover, Housman's words lead into Burnett's own closing statement, which is well worth emphasis in our era of (all-too-often) slipshod engagements with literary texts: "What is required of us is that we never fail to pay particular attention."
FLORENCE S. BOOS
Many thoughtful articles, handbooks, editions and critical monographs devoted to one or another aspect of Pre-Raphaelitism have appeared in the last year.
In her learned and beautifully written overview of Poetry and the Pre-Raphaelite Arts (Chicago), Elizabeth Helsinger asks whether the literary and artistic ideals of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris really gave rise to significantly different aesthetic insights or innovative forms of social critique, and formulates her answer as follows:
I single out three of the most influential Pre-Raphaelite strategies for renewing poetry: acts of attention, explored as a mode of perception demanded by poetry and the arts, but potentially crucial to social and cultural health ...; an emphasis on textual and historical patterns created through repetition; and translation, not only across languages and cultures but also across media. (p. 2)
In response to critics who argue that Pre-Raphaelite art and poetry was "escapist," Helsinger suggests that Rossetti and Morris enjoyed heightened powers of eidetic "attention," a more clearly focused sense of liminal "possibility," and a shared talent for creation and circulation of works of art through networks of friendships and social relations, qualities she also finds in twentieth-century poets such as Ezra Pound, Charles Bernstein, and John Hollander.
In her second chapter, entitled "Acts of Attention," Helsinger applies her conjectural template to Morris' early poetry and Rossetti's well-known uses of liminal figures and marginal "standing points," and in "Lyric Color and The Defence of Guenevere," she explores Morris' uses of hue and color to represent his characters' agitated mental states. In "Chromatic States," she argues that Morris modulated this palette in his later poetry and decorative work "to suggest more ordered and gradual change" (p. 112), and finds these subtler shades and gradations in the Firm's wallpapers and tapestries as well as his design of the Green Dining Room for the South Kensington Museum. In "Repetition and Resemblance," Helsinger interprets Rossetti's early poem "The Portrait" and gothic tale "St. Agnes of Intercession" as painterly evocations of pain and surprise, and in "Portraits and Poesie," she argues that he sought to interpret the many images of "Pre-Raphaelite" women he sold in the 1860s and 70s as visual embodiments of his poetry.
In "Designing The Earthly Paradise," Helsinger recalls the failure of Morris' early hope to design a fully illustrated The Earthly Paradise in collaboration with Edward Burne-Jones--a failure made good in part by the Kelmscott Press edition in 1896-and argues that Morris saw narrative poetry as a way to repair "the sensory damage inflicted by modern conditions of life and labor" (p. xiii), and prove that "an ornamental art can effect what too close an engagement with modern life cannot accomplish-it can restore hope for the world's future" (p. 217). In her final chapter, "Towards a Poem To Be Called 'The House of Life,'" Helsinger interprets Rossetti's many revisions and alterations as attempts to uphold Pre-Raphaelite ideals of attention, repetition and translation, to do justice to the "shock of otherness at the center of the dream of reciprocity and communion," and to enable "embodied experience ... to touch the other side of beyond" (p. 230).
Poets who are also artists and/or designers may 'attend' to their subjects in acutely eidetic and synaesthetic ways, but some of Helsinger's visual and verbal patterns may be found in the work of other Pre-Raphaelites--Christina Rossetti, for example. Was she really less inclined to frame acts of "attention," and seek modes of "translation" across arts, cultures, and time periods? The most arresting arguments in Helsinger's volume may be found in her interpretations of Morris' and Rossetti's efforts to find a kind of contrapuntal harmony in visual and poetic experience, and her analyses of these attempts will influence students of Pre-Raphaelitism in years to come.
The penultimate volume of William Fredeman's Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, edited by Roger C. Lewis, Jane Cowan, Anthony Harrison, and Christopher Newall, gathers together in its 448 pages five newly discovered letters from earlier periods, as well as 184 letters Rossetti wrote from the beginning of 1875 through the end of 1877. During this three-year period, he corresponded with patrons such Frederick Leyland and George Rae, spent time with friends such as Thomas Gordon Hake, Frederick Shields, and Theodore Watts Dunton, hosted Frances and Christina Rossetti as well as Jane, May and Jenny Morris, and worked steadily at La Bella Mano, The Sea-Spell, and Astarte Syriaca, along with other copies and original works.
Many of the volume's letters are mundanely commercial, and others made unsolicited demands and reproaches which strained the resources of his family and friends. At one point, for example, he urged his brother William to rename one of the latter's daughters Olive rather than Olivia ("I should have named her so ...--it is much prettier" [December 15, 1875]), and at another he decried the "real taint" of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in one of his sister Christina's poems ("what might be called a falsetto muscularity ... [which is] ... utterly foreign to your primary impulses" [December 3, 1875]).
In more moving passages, he recorded his emotional fragility ("I have been too long alone," to Thomas Watts Dunton in June, 1876), and recurrent fear of imminent death (he made careful preparations for posthumous disposition of papers and artworks in 1876). The generous and affectionate sensibility which had drawn his friends and relatives in youth and helped them bear with him in middle age also appeared in a letter to Richard Watson Dixon (a member of the original Brotherhood):
By what inexcusable accident I never read [your poems] before, I cannot now tell, but here is only one impression possible now on doing so: viz: that you are one of the most subtle as well as varied of our poets, and that the neglect of such works as yours on all hands is an incomprehensible accident. (May 26, 1875)
In another letter to his mother Frances after the death of his sister, Maria Rossetti, he writes movingly:
It is terrible indeed to think of that bright mind and those ardently acquired stores of knowledge now prisoned in so frail and perishing a frame. How sweet and true a life, & how pure a death, hopeful and confiding in every last instant!" (November 21, 1876).
In response to Frederick Shields, who had expressed concern that chloral had dimmed his friend's powers, Rossetti also replied proudly in 1877 that "within the last 5 years ... [I have] produced ... at least a dozen works ... which are unquestionably the best I ever did" (October 21, 1877)--an assertion which suggests that his final confrontation with the "shaken shadow intolerable" might have been deferred, if W. J. Stillman had not introduced him to chloral as a "cure for insomnia" some years earlier.
In his scholarly edition of The House of Life: A Sonnet Sequence by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Variorum Edition with an Introduction and Notes (Boydell and Brewer), Roger C. Lewis corrects errors in dating made by his distinguished predecessors (William Michael Rossetti, Paul Baum, and W. E. Fredeman), and offers a definitive account of the manuscript's physical provenance and complex palimpsest of revisions. Variants for each sonnet appear below the text, along with notes on its composition and references to relevant correspondence. Editorial remarks are spare but insightful, and the extensive apparatus invites students and teachers alike to puzzle out possible rationales for Rossetti's many modifications.
Eight impressively intricate appendices also sort out some of the sequence's many complexities--from "Dating and Ordonnance," through "Poems: Proof States," to "Unpublished and Excluded Sonnets." The latter, for example, contains seven sonnets in manuscript which may have been intended for inclusion in The House of Life, as well as two "untitled love sonnets, written in Italian and sent to J[ane] M[orris] during the period of the 'Kelmscott love sonnets,'" which might have been "too 'fleshly' for the sequence even if they had been translated" (p. 288).
Lewis tells his readers that his edition came into the world as a proposal for a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Toronto in the late 1960s, and the fine structure of his "traditional" apparatus suggests comparisons with more recent electronic efforts to present the visual and material qualities of nineteenth-century texts. It is striking to "see" annotations, corrections, and reinsertions in images of annotated proofsheets in their original profusion, but it can be equally informative to have the images' superpositions "clarified" in an erudite meta-narrative crammed with elegantly organized detail. Anyone who studies or teaches The House of Life will want to have this volume ready for quick reference and further inquiry.
In A Rossetti Family Chronology (Palgrave), Alison Chapman and Joanna Meacock have drawn on diaries, letters, and contemporary sources to examine the Rossetti family's network of social and intellectual interrelations, and clarify correlations which may be slighted in longer narratives, or obscured in "strong" biographical interpretations. In the introduction to their handbook, Chapman and Meacock are also careful to tell readers what we do not know, listing disappearances of documents and other lacunae in their sources (D. G. Rossetti, for example, seems to have ripped out or mutilated sections of his brother's "Pre-Raphaelite Diary," presumably accounts of his life with Elizabeth Siddal).
The volume begins with Gabriele Rossetti's birth on February 28, 1783 and concludes with William Michael Rossetti's death on February 5, 1919, and endeavors to provide a summary of every month of every year of each family member's life, with sources given for each dated entry. This chronological roster of the activities of Frances, William, Maria, Christina, and Dante broadens the usual critical/scholarly focus on the family's two most prominent members, and Chapman and Meacock make it clear in their editorial preface that one of the aims of their work was to give William Michael Rossetti, Maria Rossetti, and other family members "their full place alongside their more canonical siblings" (p. xii).
They also acknowledge a certain variation in the principles of selection they apply to each of their subjects. Entries for Dante Rossetti, for example, give weight to "his creativity, critical reception, key friendships and relationships, travel, negotiations with publishers and patrons, and involvement with committees, companies and societies," and those for Christina "her sense of her vocation, her literary activities, important friendships and influences, her relationship with her mother and sister, and the influence and interference of her brothers in her career [as well as] her extensive contacts with and opinions about other women writers and artists, her finances, and as complete a range as possible of periodical publications and reviews of her work" (p. xi-xii).
The cumulative effect of this work is more moving and powerful than one might expect, for the very starkness and concision of its month-by-month chronicle heightens the drama of its protagonists' many efforts, ambitions, achievements, and disappointments. Scholars of Pre-Raphaelitism will want to have this volume at hand, for itself, and for ready access to the sources it cites.
In Christina Rossetti's Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose (Palgrave), Dinah Roe offers a complement to prior studies of Christina Rossetti's religious commitment by Diane D'Amico, Mary Arseneau, Lynda Palazzo, and others. Roe focuses on Rossetti's use of biblical texts, which she considers "a curiously neglected source in the criticism of her work" (p. 1) and on Rossetti's practice of "the reading of religious texts, and the religious reading of texts" (p. 2). In these new angles of incidence, Roe finds sources of clarification of the literary qualities of Rossetti's devotional writings, her receptivity to dominant themes of Tractarianism, and the formal and thematic attributes of her poetry and prose.
Against the grain of much recent criticism, Roe also focuses on the extent to which Rossetti "work[ed] within," rather than subverted or undermined, "the boundaries of middle-class Victorian society" (p. 6). And so she did. Most critics twenty or thirty years ago took the historical rigidity of these boundaries for granted and sought evidence of the poet's distinctive voice, a distinctiveness now assumed in part on the basis of their work.
Roe studies aspects of Tractarian analogies and Biblical typology in Rossetti's prose and devotional poetry and identifies traces of these views in her redemptive view of death and Christian interpretation of Romantic medievalism and romantic love. A chapter on "Monna Innominata" notes the sequence's intricate responses to Dante and Petrarch's love poetry, and argues that it was "so successful because its network of allusions allows it to act simultaneously as tribute and critique of both the motivations of its speaker and the poets of the past" (p. 95).
In "'A Courteous Tilt in the Strong-Minded Woman Lists': Rossetti, St. Paul, and Women," Roe argues that Rossetti's rejection of women's suffrage derived from her belief that faith and acceptance of Paulinian roles offered women a form of access to "traditionally male traits and tasks" (p. 100); and in "Spiritual Autobiography in Time Flies: A Reading Diary," that Rossetti's preoccupation with "the use and abuse of time" (p. 131) led her to interpret autobiography as a "strategy to teach Christian lessons" (p. 143).
In "Imagining Faith: Earth and Heaven in The Face of the Deep," her last chapter, Roe construes Rossetti's dense eschatological work as a meditation on the nature of time and eternity, and her expressions of self-doubt and uncertainty as paradoxical assertions of authority, designed to persuade the reader to "engage with the world in order to transcend it" (p. 196). Roe's conclusion may best be elicited from her assertion in the volume's introduction that "[Rossetti's] claims for herself as an artist are by far the most radical, yet undervalued, aspect of her writing. That such claims are largely to be found in works of religious devotion makes their existence all the more intriguing" (p. 7).
In his carefully researched and elegantly written volume William Morris in Oxford: The Campaigning Years, 1879-1895 (illuminati books, Grosmont), Tony Pinkney refutes conventional views that Morris' relations with his university were marked by youthful receptivity and pious memory. True, Morris' beloved Kelmscott Manor was just upriver and he venerated the architectural palimpsest of Oxford's historical past, but he also confronted the Oxonian establishment more than once, as an opponent of architectural "restoration," and as an avowed socialist and defender of the Socialist Democratic Federation.
Pinkney's research into the nine lectures Morris offered at the university from 1879 to his death in 1896 corrects a number of misconceptions. It was not Ruskin, for example, but the little-remembered A. H. Hawkins who chaired the meeting at which Morris read "Art under Plutocracy" and invited his audience to join the Social Democratic Federation (p. 57), and several younger Oxonians--Frederick York Powell, Michael Sadler, and G. D. Cole, for example--did work in later life which reflected the influence of Morris' aesthetic and socialist ideals.
Andrea Elizabeth Donovan's William Morris and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (Routledge), the first extended study of Morris' preservationist activities since Thackeray Turner's history of the SPAB in 1899, surveys Morris' founding role in "Anti-Scrape"'s opposition to nineteenth-century European historic "restoration," and his early involvement in the Society's extension of its activities to France, Italy, Germany, Egypt, and India as well as the U.K.
As Morris' successors strove to adapt the SPAB's methods to other cultures and contexts, they changed Europeans' and others' views of the "protection" of "ancient monuments," trained successive generations of architects in preservationist principles, and influenced the evolution of such British organizations as SAVE, the Landmark Trust, the Bath Preservation Trust, the Ancient Monuments Society, the National Trust and English Heritage, the Churches Conservation Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
In "How We Write and How We Might Write," his opening essay for Writing on the Image: Reading William Morris (Toronto), the volume's editor David Latham comments on the complex cross-disciplinary nature of Morris scholarship, and construes Morris' "self-referential [Earthly Paradise] tale" "The Writing on the Image" as a parable of "the disintegration of image and text, of structural design and the written word, ... the consequences when we forsake the effort to ascend to our potential as creative artists" (p. 12). Interpreting the tale as an ascent "from the personal realm of the individual narrator to the communal realm of the community of readers" (p. 13), he also argues that this realm anticipated "the socialist principles Morris would preach fifteen years later from Hyde Park corner to the assembly halls of the Socialist League and the Women's Union" (p. 13).
In "(Dis)continuities: Arthur's Tomb, Modern Painters, and Morris' Early Wallpaper Designs," D.M.R. Bentley comments on a "serpentine line of force" between the lovers in D. G. Rossetti's drawing of "Arthur's Tomb" and Morris' companion poem "King Arthur's Tomb," argues that Morris' early wallpaper designs paralleled the Defence in their suggestion that "no easy distinctions can be made among wild, domesticated, and human nature, house, garden, and beyond" (p. 24), and concludes that Morris' works of the 1850s and 60s were "'strangely double' ... immensely appealing and semiabstract artefacts of a 'proper nineteenth-century character,' and repositories of a 'long-past age' of turbulent feelings and high hopes" (p. 27).
In "William Morris, Shaper of Tales: Creating a Hero's Story in 'Sir Peter Harpdon's End,'" Janet Wright Friesen interprets Morris' poem about a solitary victim of the Hundred Year's War as a dramatic tribute, in which his lover Lady Alice likens his stoic heroism to that of Hector in The Iliad-a commemoration which "needs no defence[, for] it is a 'cunning' tale that ... perpetuates Sir Peter's heroic reputation among future generations" (p. 40).
In "Medea and Circe as 'Wise' Women in the Poetry of William Morris and Augusta Webster," I observed that Morris modifed The Life and Death of Jason's sources to make the sorceress Circe a sad-eyed prophet of Medea's fate, and Medea a woman "thwarted in the exercise of substantial powers and abilities, and driven to madness by the injustices she suffer[s] at Jason's hand" (p. 43), and suggested that Morris' unusual sympathy with a pair of flawed but prescient female sages "prefigured a subgenre of feminist revisionist poetic portraiture that lived on ... after his death" in Augusta Webster's dramatic poems "Circe" and "Medea in Athens."
Jane Thomas, in "Morris and the Muse: Gender and Aestheticism in William Morris's 'Pygmalion and the Image,'" notes parallels between the condescending aspects of the Pygmalion myth and Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic theory, argues that in Morris' tale "Venus ... displaced the image's semiotic stammering with the language of duty and self resignation" (p. 69), and concludes that "Pygmalion and the Image," like News from Nowhere, combined "aesthetics, feminism, socialism, and masculine idealism ... [in] texts suffused with insecurity, uncertainty, and nostalgia" (p. 71).
In "The Reception of William Morris's Beowulf," Chris Jones argues that Morris' uses of archaic roots blended the resonances and associations of earlier and later forms, and that his renderings reflected a keen interest in linguistic traces of past thoughts and manners. His translation's accentual verse was more often than not "stately, dignified, and entirely appropriate to the original poem" (p. 205), and therefore his "use of the etymological roots of old words to coin new words [was] desirable poetic practice" (p. 202). Jones admits the current preference for simplicity and semantic accuracy fulfilled in Seamus Heaney's acclaimed translation, but argues that "for all its failings, Morris's Beowulf is truer to the original than Heaney's Beowulf," and asks, "how will the reception of Heaney's Beowulf compare with that of Morris' a century from now?" (p. 208).
Charles LaPorte, in "Morris' Compromises: On Victorian Editorial Theory and the Kelmscott Chaucer," notes that Morris reproduced the text of W. W. Skeat's compilation without his notes on the uncertainties of his manuscript sources, and framed Chaucer's "Retraccioun"--an apparently sincere statement of repentance for his secular works--with an image which represented Morris' view that divine love was quite compatible with "poesis." Noting also that Morris anticipated modern editorial practice in reproducing original spellings and "accidentals" but "normalized" other attributes of his medieval original, LaPorte wryly observes that "had Morris and Burne-Jones in the 1890s conspired to produce an enormous shelf-full of interchangeable Chaucer fragments ... our notions of Chaucer's canonicity and authorship would [not] have descended to us from the Victorian era in quite the fashion that they did" (p. 218).
In "The River at the Heart of Morris's Ecological Thought," David Faldet argues, in effect, that a river runs through Morris' work. In support of this assertion, Faldet adduces Morris' fierce opposition to nineteenth-century pollution of the Thames, remarks on Morris' uses of the "meander" and names such as "Wandle" and "Cray" (tributaries of the Thames) in his designs, recalls the centrality of News from Nowhere's journey "upriver" (p. 79), and argues that "the meandering upper river ... provides an image of what Morris hoped from communism," in which people may find a generative source of new life (p. 84).
Karen Herbert, in "News from Nowhere as Autoethnography: A Future History of 'Home Colonization,'" invokes Said's "cultural cartography" (p. 86) and E. H. Gombrich's notion of "framed enclosures" to construe Guest as a repatriated (post)colonial traveler, interpret Morris' utopia as a "history of the internal colonisation of England, followed by the struggles which bring ... communism" (p. 87), and concludes that Nowhere "answers Said's appeal to political and cultural critics: ... One must not only hope but also do" (p. 104).
In "Socialist Fellowship and the Woman Question," Ruth Kinna offers a carefully "qualified defence" of Morris' essentialist assumptions about women's roles, assimilates Nowhere's de facto divisions of labor to an incomplete ideal of "fellowship," and asks whether Morris' relatively gentle stereotypes were "any worse than ... [twenty-first-century] models that have left 'working' women largely responsible for the care of children, while emphasizing the importance of sex as the primary means of empowerment?" (p. 196).
Todd O. Williams, in "Teaching Morris's Dream Poems Through Three Registers" (JWMS, Summer 2007), describes his attempts to enlist his students' imaginative impulses as they read "The Blue Closet," "The Wind," "Golden Wings," and other dreamlike poems from "The Defence of Guenevere," and concludes that "Morris's dream poems allow for a classroom approach that focuses less on settled meanings, and more on forms of emotion and imagination" which enlarge the scope and range of each poem's interpretations.
In "Taking Our Eyes Out of Our Pockets: Teaching William Morris's Ideal Book," Susan Jaret McKinstry describes her efforts to acquaint students with Morris' "aesthetic, visionary, and material goals as a writer, designer, and producer" in his attempts to create "the ideal book." After introducing students to books from the Kelmscott Press, McKinstry asked those in one course to prepare a collaborative exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite books, and those in another to design a library exhibit of texts which illustrated Morris' concept of the ideal book (for example, one student explored ways to create an "ideal website" which would remain faithful to Morrisian ideals. In "taking their eyes out of their pockets," she concludes, her students were "able to create work that might make Morris himself proud" (p. 97).
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, in "Collections and Collectivity: William Morris in the Rare Book Room," construes tensions between Morris' beliefs in socialist equality and fascination with fine books as a "problem of reconciling the rare with the shared" (p. 74), and observes that Morris wanted the "luxuries" of rare and beautiful books to be shared cultural resources available to all. Like McKinstry, Miller believes Rare Book rooms should be communal teaching spaces, not scholarly retreats ("lest we conserve Morris's legacy for nobody but a scanner" [p. 84]), and argues that such teaching should "put ... into practice Morris's effort to redefine culture in terms of commonality and to show that 'the best' and 'the many' need not be mutually exclusive" (p. 77).
In "Dante Rossetti's 'The Burden of Nineveh': Further Excavations" (JPRS, Spring) Andrew Stauffer adduces newly available material in the Rossetti Archive--fragments from pre-1856 drafts of "The Burden of Nineveh," an 1858 version of the poem in The Crayon in 1858, and an 1869 fragment written as Rossetti prepared his Poems for the press-to argue that prior interpretations of Rossetti's intentions and revisions have often been based on incomplete or misleading manuscript evidence. Sorting out the chronological sequence of the poem's revisions, deletions, and reinsertions, Stauffer observes that Rossetti's "transformation of this poem about monuments and memory occurred just as he began to reimagine his entire career as a poet and to prepare ... the 1870 Poems--a monument [which] depend[ed] on a 'dead disbowelled mystery ...' (15-17): the notebook exhumed from Siddal's grave" (p. 55).
Simon Humphries, in "The Uncertainty of Goblin Market," (VP, Winter) adduces the ambiguous nature of Goblin Market's mysterious "fruits" and "fiery antidote" to suggest that Christina Rossetti's "religious ground is itself much less sure than is generally supposed" (p. 391), and argues that "the intellectual clarity of Rossetti's writing is seen precisely in its giving form to theological uncertainty" (p. 410).
In "Christina Rossetti: Illness and Ideology" (VP, Winter), Anthony Harrison, the editor of her Letters, adduces evidence that Rossetti suffered from lifelong depression as well as ill-health to argue that "Rossetti's unrelenting attacks upon the indulgence of sexual desire ... are directly related to ... her understanding of the experience of illness ... in her own life" (p. 417). In his view these experiences "served ... to reinforce religiously based doctrines of suppression, self-control, and confession" (p. 426), and helped her identify with "the rebellious and passionate impulses" of the inmates at Highgate Penitentiary whom she sought to aid.
Richard Frith, in "'Honorable and Noble Aventures': Courtly and Chivalric Idealism in Morris's Froissartian Poems" (JWMS, Winter), argues that Morris saw no contradiction between the chivalric and Arthurian heroic ideals of his other Defence of Guenevere poems, and the "eschewal of sentimental romance, and ... refusal to glorify the Middle Ages" (p. 13) for which its Froissartian poems have often been praised, and concludes that "to read these grittily realistic poems in this way is to understand them to be less different than they may initially appear from Morris's other work, or from that of his fellow Pre-Raphaelites during the late 1850s" (p. 27).
In "'That Venturesome Woman': The Italian Travels of Jane Morris" (JPRS, Fall), Wendy Parkins observes that Jane Morris led a vigorous and intellectually curious life during her stays in Italy between 1877 and 1890, and argues that "the absence of family stress and possible conflicts" was what "she found so appealing" there (p. 81). Jane learned Italian, for example, engaged in amateur theatricals, commented actively on the art she encountered, befriended the Cobdens, Marie Stillman and others, and "displayed a passion for nature and ... delight when she [was] able to escape outdoors" (p. 78).
I have been unable to review many worthwhile articles this year, in part because the year's editions and monographs have displaced the space allotted to them. Partial compensation for my deficiency may be found in the range, interdisciplinary aspirations, and historical context-sensitivity of the books and articles I have been able to review, which reach out toward horizons which lie--in David Latham's Writing on the Image (p. 10)--"beyond our own reach."
LINDA K. HUGHES
I will revisit Tennyson's Rapture: Transformation in the Victorian Dramatic Monologue by Cornelia Pearsall (Oxford Univ. Press, April 2008) next year in tandem with Tennyson's Name: Identity and Responsibility in the Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson, by Anna Barton (Ashgate, forthcoming November 2008). I offer a brief preview here. "Rapture," Pearsall explains, signifies at once a state of exaltation and transformation but also the possibility of seizure, violence, and rape. If, for example, Arthur Henry Hallam is the "rapt" orator of Section 87 who in turn enraptures his auditors, the past transports of Tithonus have been both erotic and spatial, the desiring goddess Aurora having removed him to heaven where he now languishes. Pearsall focuses on four dramatic monologues begun in 1833 and places them in dialogue with contemporary politics, oratory, religion, science, and sexology as well as Tennyson's other poems and his social networks. Drawing upon rhetorical and speech act theory, Pearsall argues that far from exhibiting the gratuitous utterance often linked to the dramatic monologue, Tennyson's speakers are intentional rhetors who seek to do things with words. Specifically, they seek to transform others even as they are transformed by the process of speaking-a means by which Tennyson can engage his own immediate audience and the radical social transfigurations to which Victorians were being subjected.
Aside from Kathryn Ledbetter's Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals: Commodities in Context (covered previously), the most important book for Tennyson studies in 2007 was Angela Leighton's On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word (Oxford Univ. Press). First published as a 2001 essay, her chapter "Touching Forms: Tennyson and Aestheticism" acquires new significance within Leighton's book-length study. Leighton, mindful of the famous charge by Theodor Adorno that writing poetry after the holocaust is an act of barbarism or the critique offered by Terry Eagleton in The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990), addresses the claims and stakes of considering literature in formal or ideological terms. She agrees that beauty as an end unto itself can enact potential violence, instancing the close alignment of aesthetic form with the female body in the opening line of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" ("Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness"), in which a poet's aesthetic meditation unfolds in the context of rape perhaps only momentarily delayed. But then for Leighton form--the nub of literature's literariness--is never pure, wholly self-contained, or indifferent to embodied human experience. Drawing upon Friedrich Schiller's concept of living form that can annihilate content, Pater's grounding of aestheticism in transient perception locked into a constantly changing mortal body, and Henri Focillon's The Life of Forms in Art (1834), which approaches form as a medium of interpretation for artist and audience alike, Leighton urges that form is most itself when it is akin to a verb, on the move rather than a reified object. That "form" is so notoriously difficult to pin down as a word (since like all language "it is, and is not, the object it represents" [p. 3]) consorts with her treatment of form as a continuous negotiation between abstraction and embodiment, intellection and sensuous apprehension. Because form both shuts in and shuts out content, moreover, it signifies a set of decisions always open to further question and interpretation in time. True to (this concept of) "form," Leighton does not pursue conventional academic exposition. Rather, she gives us what is probably the closest thing we are likely to get these days to Pater: a series of essays, in the sense both of personal exploration and contingent attempts, written in beautifully resonant prose. Thus in her study, as in Pater, intellection is inseparable from the sensuous immediacy of aesthetic experience for readers and author alike.
Within this framework Leighton's chapter on Tennyson more forcibly positions Tennyson as the father of Victorian aestheticism and precursor of Pater. Her crux is Tennyson's tendency to position spiritual or imaginative apprehension in the vicinity of a body that can be touched or that the speaker desires to touch, which Leighton traces to Lucretian materialism. Leighton likewise underscores Pater's debt to Lucretius, discernible variously in his emphasis on the body or his ever-modulating qualifications that "fine down" argument to "atomistic dust" (p. 92). She also notes the tendency of Tennyson's poetry, as in Pater's prose, to roll back upon itself through sonority and haunting rhythms and create islands of beauty detached from immediate moral purpose. If within Tennyson studies Leighton's work participates in the return to evocative, resonant close readings also seen in recent work by, for example, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (2002) or Seamus Perry (2005), Leighton also suggests that ideological criticism, too, both shuts in and shuts out; and she offers compelling evidence that attending to form may not diminish but deepen the importance and ethics of criticism.
Three strong essays on Tennyson appeared in VP in 2007. One complements Leighton's exploration of form and ideological analysis. Reflecting the growing interest in Victorian acoustic culture, "Dionysian Music, Patriotic Sentiment, and Tennyson's Idylls of the King" (VP 45, no. 3: 239-256) by Ayse Celikkol examines songs in the Idylls. Among Tennyson's contemporaries song was associated with high moral impulses, religiosity, and patriotism but also with passion, irrationality, and potential sensual excess. Song in the Idylls, accordingly, remains tied to passion and the gendered body. Men's songs that celebrate masculine vigor and aggression are harnessed to national identity and defense of the realm, which Celikkol shrewdly connects to Nietzsche's analysis of Dionysian music as communal and homoerotic (rather than overtly sensual) in The Birth of Tragedy. Lynette's songs also respond to martial victory but like other women's songs stay within the register of romantic feeling and underscore feminine corporeality. Yet Celikkol asserts that the arts cannot be wholly appropriated or seamlessly function as a state apparatus because the irrational passions unloosed by music cannot be fully controlled and because as music circulates individual performances fissure the nationalist, bourgeois functions of song. Vivien, for example, warps Lancelot's intention in repeating his song but exercises equally vigorous power. Celikkol also intriguingly suggests that as a musician Tristram is modeled on the stereotypic foreign musician given to avant-garde bohemianism and unEnglish sensuality. Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, incidentally, provides further support for her point since Malory underscores Tristram's Cornishness, the poor reputation of Cornish knights ensuring that Tristram always resides at the periphery of Arthur's court rather than at the center.
Leighton's attention to Lucretius is shared by Gowan Dawson in Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability (Cambridge Univ. Press). In contrast to Leighton's emphasis on dynamic form in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution or John Tyndall's wave theory of light--in both form is a potential manifestation at a given moment--Dawson explores the kindred controversies in which aestheticism and science writing were caught up due to their treatment of sexuality and sympathy with Lucretian materialsm. For example, in the Edinburgh Review William Boyd Dawkins compared Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871) to Lucretius, the "heathen poet" who believed "'that Venus is the creative power of the world, and that the mysterious law of reproduction, with the passions which belong to it, is the dominant force of life'" (Dawson, p. 45); "heathen poet" simultaneously glanced toward Swinburne, who was reviewed in the same volume. In contrast to poets identified with aestheticism, Tennyson connoted prestige and respectability, which explains why he was the only poet referred to in the Descent, when Darwin cites Guinevere's vow not to think of Lancelot "even in inmost thought" (Guinevere, 1. 372) as "'the highest stage in moral culture at which we can arrive'" (Dawson, p. 52). As this example might indicate, Dawson perceives a wholly conservative tenor in the laureate, in contrast to the follower of Lucretius who in Leighton's study unsettles more than he confirms religious or bourgeois orthodoxy. Dawson argues that in "Lucretius" Tennyson draws a causal link between materialistic atomism and "degrading erotic fantasies" (p. 103) that shatter Lucretius' hold on life. Dawson might have augmented his analysis by also commenting on the unleashed female desire that sets Tennyson's monologue in motion, especially since female desire was the problem Darwin confronted in articulating women's role in human and animal reproduction.
Linda Austin takes up the convergence of science, literature, and materialist models of memory, devoting one of her chapters in Nostalgia in Transition, 1780-1917 (Univ. of Virginia Press) to memory and elegy. Austin's project is both theoretical and historicist, for in recovering a nineteenth-century conception of memory that does not depend on Freudian repression, she can also illuminate why, and how, nostalgia first emerged as a maladaptive disease among soldiers whose longing for home induced physical symptoms yet later became a signifier of false memory and inauthenticity. In part her answer relies on a new theory of nonideational memory whereby sensate perceptions were stored in an individual's nervous system and musculature to create unconscious remembering. Her chapter on elegy then explores how Arnold, Tennyson, and Hardy exhibit this emergent model of memory in contrast to the active reshaping of memory associated with imagination (for example, by Wordsworth) and nostalgia. Her fine reading of "Frater Ave Atque Vale" takes as its point of departure the brief elegy's tissue of Catullan quotations in no particular order, occasioned by no evident associational logic. Set in Sirmio, Tennyson's lyric suggests that moving around in space closely associated with Catullus brings scraps of his verses to mind, an act as much physiological as cerebral. If the title, closing line, and fact of the recent death of Tennyson's brother Charles position Tennyson at the edge of mourning, the poem also evinces the sheer pleasure of recalling and reciting the words of Catullus, who is likewise dead yet available as a verbal presence that can be recovered and enjoyed. The long "o"s of the poem may slide easily into lamentation but also actively echo Catullus and denote pleasurable recitation. Austin then goes on to align such pleasure with nostalgia, a memory tied to no specific, authentic experience but a stimulus-based cognitive and corporeal pleasure nonetheless.
I conclude with essays variously devoted to gender, print culture, and biography. As John Hughes acknowledges, Carol T. Christ's "The Feminine Subject of Victorian Poetry" (ELH, 1987) and Richard Cronin's recent work on Tennyson's development of a feminine aesthetic are precedents for "'Hang there like fruit, my soul': Tennyson's Feminine Imaginings" (VP 45, no. 2: 95-115). Hughes goes further, however, arguing that from childhood to his death, Tennyson imaginatively yearned toward the feminine as an escape from an impoverished, constricting masculinity. This backdrop, Hughes suggests, accounts for Tennyson's imaginative acts of gender transposition in which the masculine poet projects himself into the subjectivity of a woman (for example, in "Mariana"), or his scenarios of undifferentiated union of masculine and feminine in lovers. In the latter, most characteristically, as in The Lover's Tale or Maud, the feminine departs, leaving a desiccated, isolated masculine self, a pyrrhic victory of masculine dominance and gender difference. Hughes suggests that this migration toward the feminine parallels other desired alternatives to the status quo in Tennyson's poetry: the past, the trance, the dream. Sometimes formal effects ensue. For example, in one of the monodrama's ecstatic lyrics, Maud or perhaps the planet of love (the reference remains unclear) begins "To faint in the light of the sun that she loves, / To faint in his light, and to die" (1.860-861). Here the desired commingling of genders shapes the blended interplay of anapests and iambs until the fuller-syllabled anapests absorb the latter.
Lorraine Janzen Kooistra is more skeptical about the role of Tennysonian femininity in "Poetry in the Victorian Marketplace: The Illustrated Princess as a Christmas Gift Book" (VP 45, no. 1: 49-76). The gift book's cover featured a gilt vignette in which a man embraces a woman occluded from view because she is turned away; Kooistra compares the cover to the similar silencing of Ida in marriage, the "happy ending" of the tale. The cover image was created from a vignette designed for "As through the land," a lyric involving discord and loss, and originally included a dead child's grave over which a man and woman reconcile. The cropped cover image, Kooistra suggests, also parallels the ideological orientation of the text, which appears to open up a genuine question about the status of women only to retreat to the status quo. More fundamentally the cover functioned as an advertisement by limning the probable response a middle-class man might elicit from presenting the gift book to a woman he courted or saw daily at home. While commodifying poetry and enforcing conservative gender codes, the edition also augmented national identity. Illustrator Daniel Maclise was a history painter who had completed a fresco entitled The Spirit of Chivalry for the House of Lords and was at work on new frescoes for Parliament. The Princess gift book thus featured the poet laureate and a visual artist likewise tied to British national prestige. Its very devising as a Christmas gift also shored up British identity, emphasizing reading-potentially useful and enlightening--rather than "feminine" fripperies like bonbons so popular in France. But for all its association with superior masculinity or Teutonic vigor, the gift book feminized Tennyson. As Kooistra's archival research establishes, the publication of the illustrated Princess was postponed soon after the 1857 Moxon illustrated edition of Tennyson's poems because of the earlier work's low profits, Edward Moxon's death in 1858, and the firm's attempt to recover some of its losses from Tennyson, to whom Moxon had paid a handsome advance royalty. Though satisfied neither with Maclise's illustrations nor the firm, Tennyson assented to the gift book because Moxon had paid large sums for illustrations in 1858. As a poet he was thus drawn into a partnership to which he did not fully consent, nor control.
Like Kooistra, Anna Jane Barton takes up gender and print culture in "Lyrical and Responsible Names in Tennyson's Maud" (TRB 9, no. 1: 42-59). Though Tennyson's decision to affix his new honors ("D.C.L." and "Poet Laureate") to his name in Maud and Other Poems, his first volume after the laureateship, could be viewed as self-advertisement, Tennyson also thereby took responsibility for his poetry, inviting readers to assess whether it lived up to his new distinctions. But only the name "Maud" appeared in his new title poem, for despite broadly casting blame the speaker irresponsibly refrains from naming himself or anyone else. Family names, of course, register familial legacies, the source of his troubles. As a name, however, "Maud" would have carried few literary associations for Tennyson's first readers, and it thus resembles performative sound, as in "Birds in the high Hall-garden," into which meanings can be projected. Though the speaker's susceptibility to fantasy has been noted often, Barton ties fantasy specifically to these lyric embroideries of "Maud." After the duel the fact of Maud's family name is inescapable, and killing one bearer of it, her brother, erases the other; after one mention in Part II "Maud" disappears. In Part III the narrator abandons lyric excess and adopts more subdued rhetoric, aware of possible illusion ("She seemed to divide in a dream from a band of the blest" [3.9]), and looks to war as a communal effort in which many will "shine in the sudden making of splendid names" (3.45-47). Barton's claim, however, that at the poem's end the hero is "No longer an anonymous critic" (p. 57) seems more questionable since he remains nameless as before.
Barton's "Nursery Poetics: An Examination of Lyric Representations of the Child in Tennyson's 'The Princess'" (VLC 35, no. 2: 489-500) draws upon recent work on the Victorian child and Matthew Rowlinson's theorization of lyric in an era of commodified print culture, when lyric utterance allegorizes its alienation from voice and immediacy. Barton aligns lyric and the Victorian child, who was sequestered in a nursery and appropriated to adult narratives. Barton brings this framework to bear upon Princess Ida's assertion that we must "lose the child" and Gama's reference to her "awful odes ... About this losing of the child" (1.136, 137-140)--poems the reader never encounters. Tennyson, according to Barton, sought to move beyond mere lyrics after the success of his 1842 volumes and achieve recognition as a social prophet, hence needed a narrative medium. The lyrics revolving around the child that Tennyson later embedded in his containing narrative recapitulate the larger cultural suppression, accordingly, of the child and lyric. But Barton leaves hanging the question of why Tennyson included two lyrics in the narrative proper from the beginning ("Tears, idle tears" and "O Swallow, Swallow") and why they help propel the narrative's plot and characterization.
Jonathan Padley's "No Idyl(l) Matter: The Orthographic and Titular History of Alfred Tennyson's 'English Idyls'" (TRB 9, no. 1: 97-110) raises doubts about whether Tennyson ever distinguished a set of English or domestic "idyls" or whether they are an artifact of yet another forgery by Thomas J. Wise. Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (Princeton Univ. Press), by Sharon Marcus, glimpses Emily Tennyson from a rare perspective that does not put her husband at the center. Marcus supplements extant documentation of Emily's friendship with Marian Bradley (wife to the headmaster of Marlborough and later Dean of Westminster) by quoting from Bradley's diary. Marcus argues for the crucial role of female friendship in middle-class marriage, the homoeroticism freely encouraged in middle-class women's social and leisure activities, and the acceptance of female marriage as a suitable Victorian living arrangement, intriguing contexts for Bradley's statements in her diary. According to Marcus, Bradley "felt love of Christ most strongly when spending her 'usual Sunday afternoons with [her] dearest' Emily Tennyson and when feeling inspired by her friend's 'devoted personal love to Xt'" and told Emily how "she could talk to her 'as I never can quite talk with anyone else--she said she felt it also--that we understand each other heart and soul'" (pp. 64-65). As in "Alfred Tennyson: Problems of Biography" noted last year (YES, 2006), John Batchelor underscores the importance of Tennyson's responses to Plato throughout his career in "'Keep Nothing Sacred': Tennyson and Biography" (TRB 9, no. 1: 60-76). Batchelor's main purpose, though, is to preview his strategies and judgments in the Tennyson biography under way. Like Leighton, Batchelor views Tennyson as a poet whose meditative, inward turning sensibility upon which recognitions flash caused visionary lyric to be his truest medium. He also strives to be fair to Emily Tennyson even though her destruction of materials has erased crucial evidence of Tennyson's intellectual, spiritual, and emotional experiences, which were inseparable and intense. His preview of forthcoming work reminds us that, with the bicentenary of Tennyson's birth in the offing, much is to come in Tennyson studies in 2008-09.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Thomas Hardy-Tennyson|
|Article Type:||Recommended readings|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2008|
|Previous Article:||Guide to the year's work.|
|Next Article:||Parody and poetic tradition: Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.|