Moderation in the Lyrical Ballads: Wordsworth and the ballad debates of the 1790s.
Whether the term "lyrical ballad" was a contradiction, a tautology, or an unexceptional generic description is significant given the claims frequently made for the revolutionary nature of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's collection, and its monumental position in the canon of British poetry. The nature of the lyric has been a touchstone for Romanticist scholarship since well before M. H. Abrams first described the "Greater Romantic Lyric" in 1965. (4) The ballad, however, has received a similar kind of attention only more recently but, as I hope to demonstrate, it is worth our trouble to be precise about what was understood by the term "ballad" in the period leading up to the publication of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's collection. By mapping the landscape of popular balladry in the 1790s, taking into account both radical and conservative valuations, I will show how the ballad form had become suffused with anxieties about class, literacy, piety and the interaction of orality and print. Seen in the context of ongoing controversies about the ballad, it becomes clear how careful Wordsworth is in the Preface to present his collection neither as revolutionary, nor as a withdrawal from the political domain, but as cautiously, complexly moderate--a thorny middle ground between radical zeal and sanctimonious piety.
My main interest here is in Wordsworth's theory of balladry, and how the "Preface" participates in contemporary debates about the aesthetics and politics of the ballad and the stakes involved in engaging those debates. As critics from Wordsworth's contemporaries on have frequently pointed out, however, the Preface and the poems it precedes are not necessarily coextensive, and the theory is often unevenly deployed in practice. But seen in the light of the ballad debates of the 1790s, certain poems in the collection that have received scant critical attention, such as "The Two Thieves," appear newly significant for the way they engage with ballad debates. A detailed excavation of these controversies helps us understand that Stoddart's objection to the tautology of the collection's title was a calculated stance, itself an intervention into fiercely contested disputes over the meaning of the ballad form. As I will show, no one who had lived through the 1790s--not Stoddart, and certainly not Wordsworth--could have been insensible to the powerfully contested social, moral, and political valances that balladry carried during the revolutionary decade. Before exploring this terrain in more detail, however, it will be helpful to understand in broad terms what is meant by the term ballad.
1. Defining the Ballad
Commonly defined as "songs sung about the streets," Anglo-American ballad scholarship recognizes, broadly speaking, two different kinds of ballad that are distinct, but connected. (5) The first are the "traditional" ballads collected by antiquaries such as Thomas Percy, Joseph Ritson, Charlotte Brooke, and Sir Walter Scott, the appeal of which was that they were ancient, a kind of poetry that tied the present to the past in ways that writers then, as now, found fascinating. These songs, in the words of Steve Newman, "run like a radioactive dye through elite literature in the eighteenth century and beyond, illuminating the structures and workings of high culture." (6) Popular ballads such as "The Battle of Chevy Chase," "The Children in the Wood," and "Sir Patrick Spens," while simple in structure and form, were complex in history and suggested an ongoing vernacular tradition forming a thread from people of the present to their ancient ancestors. Percy, seeking to justify his interest in such "low" forms, provided scholarly extra-textual apparatuses--lengthy introductions, footnotes, and appendices--that linked balladry to minstrelsy. He also infused a Tory politics to ballads by connecting them to royal chronicling and the development of national myth. As Maureen McLane has observed, these practices "antiquated, nationalized and sanctified his ballads" (7) in ways to which critics such as Ritson vociferously objected. One contrary response to Percy's antiquarianism was to insist on the ongoing oral performance of traditional ballads. Thus Sir Walter Scott in his "Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry" depicts himself walking or riding through the Scottish countryside in search of ballad singers, who still perform within this tradition and link the "reliques" of ancient poetry to the still vital vernacular art of the common people. (8)
The second kind of ballad is often referred to as the "popular" ballad, most often distinguished from the "traditional" ballad by its reliance on print rather than orality. This is the "broadside ballad" tradition associated in particular with larger towns and cities, where urban populations sang, printed, sold, and purchased songs, and pasted them to walls. Popular ballads were sung on street corners by ballad sellers and sold as commodities that existed within an economy of popular poetry that straddles the worlds of print and orality, poetry and song. In both performance and print these were ephemeral songs that matched catchy tunes to sometimes humorous, sometimes sentimental lyrics across a dazzling variety of styles and subgenres. A partial list of the subjects of these broadside ballads might mention ballads about highwaymen, fornication, love, cross dressing warrior women, mad mothers, corrupt politicians, street traders, nationalism, radical politics, fox hunts, boxing matches, the inspiring effects of Bacchus's vine, and the comforts of cheap gin (to mention just a few of the subjects broached by recent scholarship).
The distinction between these two kinds of balladry, however, is not easy to maintain. There are, for example, innumerable printings of "traditional" ballads such as "Children in the Woods" and "The Ballad of Chevy Chase" within the popular urban broadside tradition, and indeed many of the tunes used for broadside balladry derive from the traditional repertoire. The class associations of each further complicate the distinction. Traditional ballads are frequently taken to be more polite, while the broadside tradition is popular and low, the province of plebeian, poor, semi-literate and illiterate people. The presence of innumerable poems by such "polite" writers as Robert Burns, Lord Byron, and Thomas Moore (a triumvirate that suggests the inadequacies of a term like "polite") in the existing archives of broadside ballads, as well as the fact that elite educated gentlemen such as Samuel Pepys, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott collected these supposedly low forms indicates just a few of the problems in drawing distinctions between these different ballad traditions based solely on socioeconomic or class criteria. (9)
For my purposes, the salient question is which of these two kinds of ballad did Wordsworth and Coleridge have in mind when they entitled their 1798 collection of poems Lyrical Ballads? And more particularly, how might we understand Wordsworth's "Preface" in the light of these observations about balladry? Here it is crucial to recognize that these classifications I have been loosely sketching were not fully constituted when Wordsworth was writing. It is true that in the famous dispute between Ritson and Percy, Ritson was accused of blurring distinctions between the antiquarian (traditional) ballad and the popular songs that could be found "dangling on the walls of poor ballad stationers," but the point of contention was as much about the use of sources as the kinds of ballads reproduced. The British Critic, for example, from which the foregoing phrase is taken, objected to Ritson's indiscriminate use of cheap ballads as copy texts for his collection, rather than tracing the ballads to a more reputable source, a point that draws distinctions based on the authority of the printed text, rather than on the content of the ballad being reproduced. (10) We can see in the Percy-Ritson debates the beginnings of the distinction-making process by which traditional and popular ballads would become separate categories, but in the eighteenth century it remained a nascent process: the criteria by which lines might be drawn were still being negotiated. As Diane Dugaw has observed, ballads are an important subject for study because they have "in constitutive ways shaped the nineteenth- and twentieth-century ethnopoetic construction of literary and cultural scholarship in terms of 'polite' and 'popular,' 'high-' brow and 'low-,'" but these terms were not yet fully operative in the eighteenth century. (11) The challenge, then, is to think around these later identifications and to be open to the more fluid and inclusive landscape of balladry, encompassing both traditions, as it existed in the years around 1800. By doing so we can make visible the contribution that Wordsworth made to the still unfolding debates about the distinction between "high" and "low," "oral" and "written," "elite" and "popular" cultural products.
2. Seditious Ballads
One kind of balladry that would have been particularly influential for Wordsworth and Coleridge as they worked on the Lyrical Ballads is the political ballad. As E. P. Thompson, Nicholas Roe, and others have pointed out, as they collaborated on the collection at Nether Stowey, the Wordsworths and Coleridges were visited by the "acquitted felon" and radical ballad writer John Thelwall. (12) The relationship between Thelwall, Wordsworth, and Coleridge has been the subject of recent critical attention, much of it concerning the mutual influence of each other's lyric poetry. (13) But Thelwall was certainly better known for the political ballads that he had written for the London Corresponding Society (LCS), and in particular for the three songs he wrote for a meeting of the LCS at the Globe Tavern in January 1794, and which had provided key evidence during the much publicized treason trials later that year. Thelwall insisted that his songs, "News from Toulon; or The Men of Gotham's Expedition," "A Sheepsheering Song," and "Britain's Glory, or The Blessings of a Good Constitution, A Song," were in no way seditious, going so far as to print them himself in his journal The Tribune so that his readers could make up their own minds. (14) At stake in the treason trials, however, was not merely whether the words to these songs were seditious, but the status of the ballad form, and what it meant for a society of undereducated artisans and shopkeepers to be producing and consuming political texts that circulated both in print and in performance. What is most striking about the discussions over balladry at the treason trials, and of Thelwall's ballads in particular, is that it was entirely unclear whether printed ballads or performed songs were the most dangerous to the stability of the nation.
One of the witnesses called by the defense during Thomas Hardy's trial was Florimand Goddard, an artist and friend of Hardy's whose agenda throughout his questioning was to insist on the legality and constitutionality of LCS. Goddard was at pains to insist on the lawfulness and propriety of the LCS meetings he attended, claiming that Hardy was a "remarkably peaceable" man, and a "great friend to peace and order." When questioned about the alleged arming of the LCS in order to form a revolutionary army, Goddard claimed he knew nothing about it, and that everything that was transacted by the LCS at their meetings was "peaceable" and lawfully conducted. (15) When he was cross-examined by the prosecution about the ballads that were sung at LCS meetings, however, Goddard found it much harder to paint a consistently innocent picture of the society.
Goddard began by denying that political ballads were ever sung at the LCS meetings, something the prosecution found hard to believe. "I hope you don't mean to say that there were no songs sung at your dinner?" John Scott, the Attorney General, asked incredulously (310), referring to the dinner held at the Globe tavern in January, and suggesting that tavern dinners without singing would have been in themselves suspicious. Goddard had to concede that songs were indeed sung at the January dinner--as in fact they were at most tavern dinners, whether or not the dinner was political in nature. Here it is important to understand that while most meetings of the LCS divisions were held in small, local alehouses, the January dinner was a "General Meeting" held at a large, more respectable tavern, and was open to all members of the society, regardless of the division to which they belonged. (16) Goddard is suggesting that while ballads were not sung at the suspiciously seditious alehouse meetings of individual divisions, they were sung at the larger, higher profile tavern meetings, as was common practice, and where their more public nature was a guarantee of their respectability. Still, Goddard maintained that ballad singing formed only a small part of LCS culture. When he was asked if he knew Robert Thomson's song "God Save the Rights of Man," which urged Britons to take up the fight begun in the French Republic, he replied that he had heard of it, but had never sung it himself, and could not, when requested, repeat "a verse, a line, or a syllable" (310).
Throughout his cross-examination Goddard assumed the prosecution was most concerned about the performance of ballads at LCS meetings. To admit that he knew of the songs but had not heard them suggests that Goddard thought that political ballads were more dangerous when performed, but that as printed texts they carried less threat. Both the attorney for the defense, Thomas Erskine, and the presiding judge, Lord Chief Justice James Eyre, appeared to share Goddard's assumption. (17) The ideas contained in a performed ballad might be much more dangerous than a series of marks on a page because they could be more widely understood even by the illiterate and because the powerful feelings generated by performance might translate into action more readily than the inert ink of black type.
Anxieties over the danger of oral communication were particularly a concern when discussing the plebeian membership of the LCS. Literacy among members was high, but not universal. Indeed, Francis Place would later argue that one of the "moral effects" of the society was that it "induced men to read books instead of wasting their time in public houses," suggesting that one of the effects of the society was to promote literacy. (18) The society relied heavily on oral transmission not only to avoid leaving a written trace of their potentially seditious proceedings, but also to accommodate those who could not read and write. The relative status of print and oral forms was something to which LCS leaders were consequently well attuned.
In September 1792, the LCS general committee had severely reprimanded the members of divisions 1, 2, and 9 for ordering the printing of Thomson's "God Save The Rights of Man," which would later play a key role in the treason trials. (19) Thomson had been an influential member of the LCS in its formative period, and was later praised for bringing a necessary "vigor to the infancy of the Society." (20) Precisely how much "vigor"--an important term in discussions of ballads in the 1790s, and one to which
I will return--it was advisable to exhibit publically, however, was at issue in the General Committee's rebuke. It was one thing to sing Thomson's song in relatively private society meetings but it was an entirely different matter to have the words printed in the society's name, contributing to the public image of the LCS--a telling inversion of Goddard's logic at the treason trials.
At Hardy's trial, the prosecution led by John Scott was similarly concerned with the printing of songs and their existence as written documents. In the cross-examination, the line of questioning became more explicitly concerned with the importance of the ballad's oral and print forms. Scott asked Goddard if he had "ever seen, or had in your possession" any of John Thelwall's songs (311). Goddard confessed that he owned all of Thelwall's songs in print but thought there was no harm in them, whereupon Scott began to inquire into the details of the print and distribution of the songs:
Q: They were printed all upon one sheet of paper, I believe?
A: They were sold publickly.
Q: And dispersed all over the country, were they not?
A: I cannot tell; upon my oath I do not know that they were dispersed any where. (311-312)
Scott was trying to make the case that the LCS had embarked on a coordinated campaign to spread discontent around the nation and that songs could effectively distribute dangerous political messages. Printed ballads, Scott assumed, would transmit their messages more quickly over greater distances than orally transmitted communications. That all three of Thelwall's songs were printed together on a single sheet of paper implied the extent of the ballad problem--numerous songs were being distributed simultaneously, flooding the nation with cheap, seditious print.
Next Scott produced a copy of Thomson's "God Save The Rights of Man," which he presented to Goddard and told him to "Look at this paper, read a part of that song, and tell me whether that is one [of Thewall's songs]" (312). As Thelwall himself pointed out in The Tribune, the prosecution's strategy was to imply that Thelwall (who was himself awaiting trial) wrote ballads that were more violent than they in fact were by associating them indiscriminately with songs that promoted a much more aggressive resistance to tyranny, such as "God Save the Rights of Man." (21) But Scott also focused intently on the dangers of printed text among LCS members, implying that literacy in such ill-educated hands was itself frightening.
Scott's final question to Goddard makes his concern with printed material clear: "Look at that (shewing a paper to the witness) and tell me if that was printed by the order of the London Corresponding Society, or not" (my emphasis). Unsurprisingly, Goddard denied all knowledge of the printing of "God Save The Rights of Man." He had never been a member of the LCS general committee, he claimed, and was not privy to such information. This was entirely beside the point. The importance of the question for Scott lay in the theatrical gesture of producing the paper in court, and thereby linking the LCS to the production of cheap, widely distributed seditious text in the minds of the jury. Scott hoped to secure Hardy's conviction by demonstrating that the LCS was a consortium of low, violent types, who were quite capable of harboring seditious and treasonable intentions and spreading their views around the kingdom. It didn't much matter if the songs were sung before, during, or after the official LCS business, or at all. What mattered was that songs of a violent nature had circulated in the milieu in which Hardy participated--a point that Goddard had unwittingly helped Scott to establish.
Elsewhere in the 1790s the hierarchies of text and spoken words operate differently. In the sedition trial of the educated lawyer John Frost, for example, written words, especially political opinions, were understood to be more serious because they were by their very nature premeditated, whereas spoken words could be spoken in states of heightened emotion (or in Frost's case, while drunk) and may not have carried the same intent ascribed to writing. (22) But this logic was precisely the reason why in the case of the LCS the interaction between oral and print forms, as exemplified by the ballad, was of greater concern. When solely written down, thoughts were calmer, more orderly--their emotions were mediated by the passage of time, and could be recollected in tranquility. By contrast, one never knew what spontaneous actions might erupt from a semi-literate mob.
The treason trials concluded with the acquittal of all the accused, including Thelwall. But the victory was shortlived. In 1795 the government passed the notorious Gagging Acts, which targeted reform societies such as the LCS, with Thelwall's popular lectures at the Beaufort Building on the Strand a particular target. Thelwall was forced out of London and undertook a lecture tour in the provinces before joining Coleridge and Wordsworth in Somerset in July 1797 as they worked on Lyrical Ballads. (23) Of course, Thelwall was notorious for a great deal besides his political ballads, but this kind of balladry, which flourished in the years after the French Revolution and provoked the ire of many loyalists, was an indisputable part of Thelwall's public image, one of which Wordsworth and Coleridge must have been highly cognizant as they invoked the category of ballad in the title of their collection.
3. Purifying the Ballad
The fear of the Jacobin threat and the views held by meagerly educated alehouse politicians unquestionably influenced the way that ballad singing was regarded in the 1790s, but not in any straightforward manner. It would be wrong to assume that objections to the culture of balladry were simply a conservative response to the use of political ballads in radical culture. Rather, they were part of a much more complex conversation about the role song might play in British culture.
John Reeves's Association for Preserving Liberty and Property Against Republicans and Levellers, for example, attempted to silence seditious balladry partly by threatening to revoke the licenses of landlords who permitted radical meetings in their alehouses, but this did not mean they were against all ballad singing. Indeed, letters sent to Reeves's Association suggest that ballads played a crucial role in an aggressive policy of loyalist indoctrination:
It occurred to me that any thing written in voice [verse?] & especially to an Old English tune ... made a more fixed Impression on the Minds of the Younger and Lower Class of People, than any written in Prose, which was often forgotten as soon as Read.... By printing copies of the inclosed, as Common Ballads, and putting them in the hands of individuals; or by twenties into the hands of Ballad Singers who might sing them for the sakes of selling them. I own I shall not be displeased to hear Re-echoed by Every Little Boy in the Street during the Christ.mas Holidays.-- Long may Old England, Possess Good Cheer and Jollity Liberty, and Property, and No Equality. (24)
Balladry had long been used as a means of distributing news of national importance, and even in an age of increased literacy with a burgeoning newspaper market, song remained among the quickest and most effective ways of broadcasting messages. Accessing not only an adult audience, but children too, ballads were coming to be valued for their pedagogical merit, increasingly seen as an apparatus for instilling the population with sound moral principles.
The problem, however, was that most ballads--certainly most popular ballads--seemed to encourage lewd behavior. Commentators from such widely divergent political standpoints as Francis Place and Hannah More agreed that the songs heard in the streets, in alehouses, and that circulated in print encouraged not only sedition, but also drinking, fornication, and loose interpretations of property rights. Following the lead of John Reeves's Association, the Cheap Repository Tracts (CRT) to which More was a major contributor, began a campaign to expose persons of the lower class to religious and moral subjects. "The object of this institution," wrote Henry Thornton, the Cheap Repository's treasurer, in 1795, "is the circulation of Religion and Useful knowledge as an antidote to the poison continually flowing through the channel of vulgar and licentious publications. " From the perspective of the founders of the CRT, poisonous ideas "flowed" through the nation with frictionless ease, pouring ceaselessly from an unending fount of depravity, unchecked by the moral qualms a more educated audience could be expected to possess. The key to addressing the problem of "flow," the CRT founders understood, was to flood these same channels with decent materials instead of vulgarity, a task that involved the distribution of wholesome cheap publications. "It is not the impure novel or romance which attracts the common labourer's ear, or defiles his cottage: but his gross and polluted phrases may be often traced to those profane and indecent songs, and penny papers, which are vended about our cities, towns, and villages, by hawkers." (25) The publishers of the CRT understood that the literature that circulated among the poorer parts of the population were not the novels, poetry, and plays that might corrupt the middle classes, but other, idiosyncratically cheap productions, penny papers and song slips that were much more insidious.
Thornton's attempts to secure subscriptions for the Cheap Repository preyed upon a familiar fear of the multitude that must have been more keenly felt in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The pressing need to spread morally improving literature, however, was not only due to a dangerous political situation, but also to a wider set of social developments. Sunday Schools had taught large numbers of a previously illiterate population to read; improvements in media technologies had made print ever cheaper. And these developments conspired with the existing tradition of street literature to produce a rising tide of what many regarded as depravity flowing unchecked through the nation:
When we consider the multitudes whose reading is limited to these corrupt performances; when we reflect that the temptation is obtruded on them in the streets as they pass about their business, or invitingly hung out upon the wall, or from the window; and that the gratification is obtained at so cheap a rate; the evils we desire to counteract will appear to be so exceedingly diffused, as to justify our earnestness to redress them. (26)
In the early years of the nineteenth century, some years after Wordsworth had written his "Preface," debates about the "corrupt performances" of indecent songs instigated in the years following the French Revolution continued to rage. In the introduction to his 3-volume A Collection of Songs, Moral, Sentimental and Amusing (1806), the playwright and clergyman James Plumptre described a Road to Damascus moment while reading one of the Cheap Repository Tracts. An encounter with "Mrs. H. More's Dialogue on 'The Duty of carrying Religion into our Amusement,'" helped him to understand the corrupting nature of popular ballads, he claimed. (27) As Anna Blanch has recently discovered, the author of the tract in question was not, in fact, Hannah More, but William Gilpin, the well-known theorist of the picturesque who published a number of sermons castigating popular balladry. (28) The dialogue, which became the sixth part of The Two Shoemakers, consists of a conversation between Will Simpson and his master, Mr. Stock. Stock arrives at work to find Will singing a well-known ballad:
Since life is no more than a passage at best, Let us strew the way over with flowers. (29)
Will congratulates himself for absorbing the lessons of the previous parts of The Two Shoemakers, singing what he regards to be an innocent song with no profanities or wicked words. Stock, however, points out that it is not only words that we should be wary of but also thoughts. The ballad, Stock says, advocates the wicked sentiment that we should make merry because life is short, a philosophy that runs against the teachings of St. Peter the Apostle, who preached, "because the end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." Stock goes on to examine numerous popular ballads, including one he claims he overheard at an alehouse the previous night, pointing out that they all advocate greater licentiousness on the grounds that time is short, a notion that is directly at odds with Christian doctrine:
Such sentiment as these songs contain, set off by the prettiest music heightened by liquor, and all the noise and spirit of what is called jovial company, all this, I say, not only put everything that is right out of the mind, but puts every thing that is wrong into it. Such songs, therefore, as tend to promote levity, thoughtlessness, loose imaginations, false views of life, forgetfulness of death, contempt of whatever is serious, and neglect of whatever is sober, whether they be love-songs or drinking-songs, will not, cannot be sung by any man or woman who makes a serious profession of Christianity. (30)
As presented in the Two Shoemakers, the problem with popular ballads lies partly in their content, but partly in the conditions of their performance. By themselves the words of the songs are bad enough, but their tendency to promote unchristian behavior is as much a product of the pretty music, and "all the noise and spirit of ... jovial company." In the presence of such boisterous debauchery, Stock points out, it is impossible to think of the stoical sobriety and watchful restraint encouraged by protestant teaching.
Central to the problem of balladry, then, lay the alehouse--an ancient institution of convivial gathering for the relatively poor (not to be confused with taverns), where ballads were sung and ale drunk. In the aftermath of the 1794 treason trials, which had focused on the alehouse politicians of the LCS, alehouses had become a focus of renewed social concern. Hannah More's tracts are littered with alehouses, which are consistently depicted as sites of temptation that will lead More's characters into godless activities, seditious behavior, and invariably debauched singing. The Black Bear and Red Lion in The History of Tom White, the Rose and Crown in Village Politics, the Greyhound in The Two Shoemakers, and the nameless alehouse from which the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain refuses to allow his son to fetch beer on a Sunday are just a few of the public houses in the better known Tracts. (31)
The CRT articulated a familiar story that was frequently rehearsed in the early years of the nineteenth century. The laboring people were drunk and they sang too much, a dual problem that contained its own solution. Drinking and singing were so inextricably intertwined that it was clear that reform of one would necessarily reform the other. The wicked carpe diem sentiments expressed in ballads encouraged drinking, and so by exchanging the corrupt ballads for Christian and loyalist songs the problems associated with drinking could also be addressed. Mr. Stock's diatribe against the levity promoted by popular balladry affected Plumptre so profoundly that he undertook to provide the population with a collection of songs that they might sing with impunity, and that would carry serious Christian morality into the everyday lives of the people by replacing impious songs with more wholesome fare. The magistrate Patrick Colquhoun similarly acknowledged that "even the common Ballad-singers in the streets might be rendered instruments useful under the controul of a well-Regulated Police, in giving a better turn to the minds of the lowest classes of the People." (32)
The distinctive feature of conservative schemes to transform balladry, such as those devised by Colquhoun, Gilpin, More, Plumptre, and Reeves was that rather than trying to abolish the culture of singing they attempted to bring about a transformation of already existing forms. The effort to reform working-class sociability took the shape of an aesthetic and ideological revolution, not a restriction of singing or drinking. As G. H. Spinney notes, the purpose of the CRT was to "meet the enemy on his own ground by the production of tracts and broadsides, in outward appearance as nearly as possible resembling the chapman's wares, at a competitive price," thereby attempting to outsell the street ballad. (33) The widespread appeal of this venture might be judged by the fact that the CRT sold over two million tracts during their first twelve months of production in a variety of formats. (34) Some were sold (or donated by wealthy patrons) as individual tracts to ballad-hawkers, others were printed on more expensive paper and neatly bound for the edification of well-intentioned middle-class subscribers.
Not all loyalist writers agreed about the best way to achieve this revolution in manners, however. For Reeves, Thornton, and More it was a matter of replacing impious ballads with Christian songs, hymns, and psalms, but Plumptre advocated a more measured approach. Citing the second part of More's story Tom White, in which Tom, now a successful farmer, holds a traditional sheep-shearing feast for his neighbors, workpeople, and the old and infirm poor of the community, Plumptre complains that it is unrealistic to expect that such a feast might be celebrated by singing psalms:
Desireable as I should think it to have our Sheep-shearings and Harvest-homes conducted in such a way as that a Psalm might be sung at them without profanation, yet from what I have myself seen of such meetings, I should scarcely think it desireable or practicable. The introducing cheerful proper songs seems to be a middle step, and might be the means of purifying singing, and in time lead to so desireable an end. (xlii-xliii)
Plumptre worries that the introduction of psalms at festivals where drinking inevitably occurs might lead to the abuse of such holy sentiments, and recommends that gentlemen farmers should promote the singing of "the harmless jest and the cheerful song" among laborers, by which means the "mirth of the evening might be prolonged, and the circulation of liquor impeded" (xlii). In an attempt to moderate the severities of More's project, and to retain a sense of "mirth" even among responsible, loyal subjects, Plumptre composed new morally improving songs and edited versions of existing ballads with the impiety removed. Among his collection is a series of songs that celebrate drinking, but only up to a certain point:
I love my friend, I love my lass, I like to toast them in my glass; But 'tis not this alone: For temperance surpasses wealth, And while I drink another's health, I'll not destroy my own. (257)
Indeed, the extraordinary thing about Plumptre's songs is the way that they attempt to rechannel the energies of conviviality to serve Christian morality through proper regulation. "Is it that the use of liquor and singing is incompatible with innocence, that men cannot be "merry and wise?" Plumptre asks. "Or is it that the use is grown into abuse and that we do not take care to regulate these things?" (vi-vii). Plumptre's intervention into the ballad debates was to uphold conservative and religious values, while retaining convivial mirth.
Two years after the publication of Plumptre's collection, an article on "National Odes" in The Satirist similarly questioned the effectiveness of replacing existing ballads with Christian piety. The article, which argues for the "magic power of song" to inspire loyalty and patriotism among the people, concludes with an anecdote intended to question More's methods and confirms Plumptre's sense that a middle way might, in fact, be best. The anecdote relates how a clergyman overhears a cobbler reciting a song that mocks men of the cloth. The clergyman rebukes the cobbler, and after a lengthy harangue and the gift of a crown-piece, the cobbler promises to sing psalms after the model of More's Tom White. A few days later the priest returns to the cobbler's stall only to hear the cobbler singing the notoriously bawdy ballad "The Black Joke." (35) When the priest challenges the cobbler about his broken promise the cobbler returns the crown-piece he was given, crying out:
There your Honour; take the money, your Worship; bless your Reverence! 'twould have ruined me shortly. Would your honour believe it, though I got up an hour sooner, I was three whole days mending two pair of shoes to "All--peo-ple--that-a-at--on--yearth do-oo dwell" whereas, with Morgan Rattler, or the Black Joke, or any of them there quick sort of tunes, do you see, I knocks them off cleverly in a couple of hours. (36)
The anecdote suggests that the "magic power of song" lies not so much in its ability to convey ideology, but in its ability to motivate vigor. The author of the Satirist article attempts to recuperate vigor from its association with violence suggesting that singing vigorous songs can provide a helpful soundtrack to labor, which, rather than distracting workers, spurs them on to greater industriousness.
The author of the Satirist article insists on his own loyalty ("I am not the vile democrat," he says, "that rudely and swinishly grunt my discontent at seeing merit of any kind honored with reward"), and on the intrinsic value of ballads to national identity:
Perhaps there never was (assuredly there does not now exist) a nation more zealously attached to its Odes, of all sorts, than Britain: and, for my part, Mr. Satirist, I shall not hesitate to express my full and firm conviction, that to these animating effusions is, in a very great degree indeed, to be attributed that inflexible spirit of loyalty, of valour, of clemency, and of patriotism, that blazes so intensely in the bosoms even of our most illiterate and thoughtless vulgar." (37)
Like Colquhoun, More, and Plumptre, the author of the article understands that singing can be utilized as a tool for encouraging patriotism among the vulgar, but here it is a task that is presented as a fait accompli. Those sentiments which Colquhoun, Gilpin, More, and Plumptre had wanted to inculcate through the distribution of loyalist song were, according to The Satirist, assisted by the patriotism that war with France had inspired. The energy and vigor of ballads, which in the middle of the 1790s had become associated with revolutionary violence, had by the end of the century been at least partially reclaimed for loyalist ends.
The article in The Satirist was by no means typical, just one voice in a clamorous crowd of opinion. It nevertheless offers a convenient reminder of the complex interaction between politics and form, which rarely map onto one another in predictable ways. And it is with this interaction in mind that I will now return to Lyrical Ballads, which provides one of the period's most significant interventions into the politics of the ballad form, and which is positioned intriguingly within the debates about balladry that I have been outlining.
4. Wordsworth's Silent Balladry
In his classic survey of contemporary magazine poetry of the 1790s, Robert Mayo concluded that Wordsworth's claims for the novelty of Lyrical Ballads were highly exaggerated, and that an examination of the broader poetic field reveals a host of "bereaved mothers and deserted females, mad women and distracted creatures, beggars, convicts and prisoners, and old people of the depressed classes, particularly peasants." (38) More recently, Scott McEathron has developed Mayo's argument, setting Lyrical Ballads in the context of a long established tradition of "peasant poetry," a highly popular genre written by autodidact laboring-class poets who were celebrated as "natural geniuses." Dating back at least to Queen Caroline's patronage of Stephen Duck, and including poets such as Robert Bloomfield, Robert Burns, James Hogg, and Ann Yearsley, this genre, which frequently depicted such rural characters as appear in Wordsworth's and Coleridge's collection and was written in the language of common men, had become stale to the point of ridicule by the time Lyrical Ballads was published, McEathron argues. Wordsworth's contribution to this tired authenticity topos was to present rusticity from the perspective of a series of gentlemen narrators, which, far from "breeching the fortress of elite literature" from below, assaulted class boundaries in the other direction, "invading the demographic domain of peasant writers." (39)
The so-called "peasant poets" who had been adopted by middle-class audiences, however, were not the only ones to write ballads. Indeed, there was a tradition of balladry that was alive and well and formed a central component of laboring class convivial culture. This tradition was certainly not tired. It remained suspiciously vigorous, and it was becoming increasingly the subject of middle-class attention as loyalist writers undertook the project of cleaning up the manners and morals of the people.
Given the contexts of balladry that I have provided here, what is most remarkable about Lyrical Ballads--and Wordsworth's "Preface" in particular is how moderate the collection appears, and how careful Wordsworth is to negotiate a place for ballads (the language of the common man) between the discourses of revolutionary energy on the one hand, and the language of counter-revolutionary conservatism on the other.
In the "Preface," Wordsworth positions Lyrical Ballads in relation to one of the critical commonplaces of the day:
I cannot be insensible of the present outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect where it exists, is more dishonourable to the Writer's own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation. (40)
The present outcry" that Wordsworth identifies complains against the triviality of both "thought" and "language," precisely the concerns of Gilpin's contribution to the Two Shoemakers. (Recall that Mr. Stock points out to Will Simpson that it is not enough merely to avoid "wicked words" but "wicked thoughts," too.) He agrees with the line of reasoning that suggests that the introduction of wicked thoughts and sentiments into metrical composition reflects badly on the character of the Writer, precisely the line of argument made by Gilpin when he complained of the "loose profane and corrupt songs" of a fashionable author and singer of songs in the sixth part of the Two Shoemakers. (41) Accusations of "triviality and meanness" were leveled against many kinds of poetry in the 1790s, so it is unlikely that Wordsworth had Gilpin's tract specifically in mind when he wrote the "Preface," but the widely circulating complaints against the "low" and "mean" thoughts articulated in popular ballads, and which had seen John Thelwall put on trial for treason, are surely a relevant context for understanding how Wordsworth constructs the poetic field into which he saw Lyrical Ballads intervening.
Wordsworth acknowledges that while Lyrical Ballads could on face-value be confused for the ballads that loyalist writers had begun to attack, they are, in fact, quite different. The poems of Lyrical Ballads are distinguished from trivial and mean verse because they possess a "worthy purpose" (175, original emphasis), suggesting that his poems are intended to do something worthwhile. Rather than replacing the songs with hymns and psalms that might circulate with less morally devastating effects among the country's lower classes, however, Wordsworth offers poems that participate in the traditions of balladry, but which increase their sophistication by encouraging their readers to think:
For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also thought long and deeply. (175)
Valuable poetry is the product of long and deep thought, of emotion that has been through a process of mediation and distilled into a poetic form. Such an assessment, of course, does not discount the validity of political verse in general, but it does deny the validity of any kind of occasional verse, written for the moment in response to immediate political circumstances. Moreover, it discounts the value of any ballad that makes a virtue of its direct unmediated effusiveness, the kind of metrical composition that was once celebrated for its vigor. Though Wordsworth writes with a purpose, and is affected by powerful feelings, his purpose is not the vigor of political ballads, and his powerful feelings are not the excitements generated by convivial songs.
This is not to say that Lyrical Ballads is not designed to produce enjoyment. Indeed, at the very opening of the "Preface" Wordsworth foregrounds pleasure as one of the principal aims of the collection, which was published, he says, as an experiment "to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavor to impart" (171). Read alongside the obscene and seditious pleasure ascribed to other ballads of the period, the "Preface" probes rather delicately the quality and quantity of readerly enjoyment elicited by these poems. Wordsworth and Coleridge's experiment (at least as it is presented in the "Preface") cautiously maps out a new kind of response that is at a clear remove from the excesses of lewd and political ballads. The lowly subjects are occasions for elevated "rational" reflection, the pleasure of the verse is cerebral, thus the poems avoid both the direct vigor of convivial meetings and the piety of conservative attempts to suppress pleasure entirely.
As Michael Gamer and Dahlia Porter have noted, the collection is preoccupied with thought, with the words "think," "thinking," and "thought" occurring 73 times in the 1798 edition and 140 times in the 1800 edition. (42) In the longer narrative poems thought is frequently channeled through the landscape, such as in Tintern Abbey's description of the landscape as "A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things / All objects of all thought." In shorter poems such as "Anecdote for Fathers," "The Foster-Mother's Tale," "Lucy Gray, "Simon Lee," and "We Are Seven," the reader is encouraged to reflect upon the events related in the poems. In the case of "Simon Lee," the narrator breaks off from its narration in order to address the reader directly:
What more I have to say is short, I hope you'll kindly take it; It is no tale; but should you think, Perhaps a tale you'll make it. (97)
By handing over narrative authority to the reader, who is encouraged to form the raw materials of the poem into "a tale," the narrator attempts to train the reader to engage actively with the descriptions of the poem, rather than relying on the speaker for narrative gratification.
In doing so, however, Wordsworth silences a character whose tears and reported thanks are intended to be more eloquent, ambiguous, and complex than any direct speech could be. Given Wordsworth's claim that Lyrical Ballads was intended to be written in the language of the common man, the frequency with which the common man is denied a voice is remarkable. (43) Indeed, many of the rural characters Wordsworth depicts in Lyrical Ballads are mute. Their actions and speech are reported rather than rendered in their own words or else they utter simple repeated phrases, as in "The Thom." Wordsworth's desire to speak in the simple language of the "common man" battles with his desire to represent the impenetrable complexity of rural characters. Or to put that another way, despite his democratic political convictions, Wordsworth suspects that the words of rural characters might be incommensurate with the rich inner lives he wants to portray them as possessing.
Given the "natural" association of the language of the common man with alehouses elsewhere in the ballad debates of the period (either in discussions of the political ballads of the LCS alehouse politician, or of the immoral ballads objected to by the CRT), the lack of alehouses in Lyrical Ballads is also remarkable. Indeed there is not a single mention of alehouses, ale, beer, inns, or taverns in the whole of the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Wordsworth, for all his emphasis on the language of the common man, is keen to dissociate poetry from the locations in which stimulating conversation that might provoke vigorous action takes place.
The subject of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth explains, is important because "the human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants" (176). This is almost the language of the Cheap Repository Tracts, which repeatedly insist on the consequences of the stimulating effects of alehouse conviviality on the moral wellbeing of the individual and the nation. But rather than avoiding stimulation at any cost, Wordsworth wants to retain excitement and rechannel it into the project of deep thinking. Wordsworth's "Preface," that is, reclaims the excitement that had previously been associated with the stimulating effects of conviviality to serve a new poetics of interiority. The casualties of Wordsworth's insistence on the need for "deep thought" in poetry, however, are the locations at which communities gathered together.
When an alehouse is introduced in the 1800 edition, it is presented in a telling manner. In "The Two Thieves, Or the Stage of Avarice," which depicts an elderly thief and his grandson in broadly sympathetic terms, an alehouse is mentioned in the poem's opening framing device:
Oh now that the genius of Bewick were mine And the skill which He learn'd on the Banks of the Tyne; When the Muses might deal with me just as they chose For I'd take my last leave of both verse and of prose. What feats would I work with my magical hand! Book-learning and books should be banished the land And for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls. The Traveller would hand his wet clothes on a chair Let them smoke, let them burn, but not a straw would he care, For the Prodigal Son, Joseph's Dream and his Sheaves, Oh what would they be to my tale of two Thieves! (335-36)
The alehouse is portrayed not as a site of ballad singing, oral culture, or even rustic community, but as a rest stop for solitary travelers who stop by to dry out their clothes. The rest stop is not decorated with the ballads that typically adorned alehouse walls but rather woodcuts, which, like a rustic equivalent of Hogarth's moral journeys, depict the progress of an elderly thief in images, not words.
The opening to "The Two Thieves" claims--somewhat disingenuously, perhaps--that the visual arts are superior to text. If the poet had the skill of Thomas Bewick his woodcuts would be able to speak more directly to the viewer who might, it is implied, be illiterate and to whom a well-executed series of images can have as much moral force as bible stories (the Prodigal Son, Joseph's Dream), or any amount of book-learning. This might be read as a typical example of the democratizing tendency present in many of the Lyrical Ballads, which seek to render common men and women as complicated human subjects, worthy of the middle-class reader looking for the hidden ambiguities and depths in the ostensibly simple routines of everyday rural existence. This democratic appeal, however, is made possible by the erasure of the broadside ballad, a form that traditionally combined woodcut images with poetry intended to be sung aloud.
The reader of Lyrical Ballads is constantly being exhorted to think beyond the passive pleasures of wonder and sentimentality that might provoke an immediate, physical response, and is encouraged instead to reflect on the meanings that might be drawn from the poems. The appropriate response to these ballads is not a collective response (say, the seizing of power from a tyrannical state), but a meditative reflection on the emotions provoked by the poems, pondered in serene, individual tranquility. The thoughts that the poems provoke might be political in nature--thoughts perhaps of the hidden complexities of rustic folk, and of social injustices--but the poems' provocations are undisputedly incitements to thought, not action. Their political spirit is importantly indirect and properly regulated to avoid the boisterous confrontations of alehouse balladry. The development of Romantic subjectivity, the turn to deep thought, might then be understood as produced by the necessity of navigating a path between revolutionary vigor and pleasureless loyalism.
The moderation of Wordsworth's turn to interior thought helps to explain the seemingly contradictory nature of two famous dicta of the "Preface": that poetry is the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," while simultaneously having its origins in "emotion recollected in tranquility." The familiarity of these passages may have obscured their peculiarity, but they are indeed strange. In one formulation, poetry is conceived as an extemporized form of expression that is generated through a powerful reaction to immediate circumstance, while in the other, poetry is not spontaneous at all, but a product of the passage of time; the powerful feelings that once overflowed are recalled, mediated, and reconstructed at a safe temporal distance in the mind. Why bring up spontaneity and powerful feelings only to contradict them moments later by privileging tranquility and contemplation?
Writing at the height of the New Critical preoccupation with poetic form, William Wimsatt saw in Wordsworth's paradoxical spontaneity the tension between form and content: "'emotion' refers to a kind of poetic content, and tranquil 'recollection' to the control or shaping of this content--the formal poetic principle." (44) For Wimsatt, the "organization" provided by recollection, not the presumably chaotic powerful feelings in which it originates, is what constitutes poetry as poetry, and he remains highly' skeptical that without tranquil mediation emotion could ever be an organizing principle for poetic expression. Wimsatt's rather neat alignment of "emotion" with content, and "tranquility" with form, however, merely replicates Wordsworth's claim that properly regulated, formally sophisticated poetry is worth our attention, while the chaos of spontaneous emotional effusion is not. But throughout much of the eighteenth century spontaneity and wit were highly prized qualities in poetry as much as in conversation. Indeed, the opposition between formal sophistication and spontaneously overflowing powerful feelings may be clear within twentieth-century critical discourse but was certainly more tendentious in Wordsworth's day.
An alternative explanation for Wordsworth's curiously unspontaneous spontaneity has been provided by Jon Mee, who has discussed Wordsworth's "Preface" as participating in a complex conversation about "enthusiasm" as a source of poetic inspiration. Mee points out just how fractured and fragmentary Wordsworth's tranquility is, and contends that in the "Preface" the "origin of poetic composition is in the restorative bringing together of what passion has momentarily threatened to blow asunder." (45) Situating the "Preface" within a historically grounded discourse of enthusiasm, Mee locates the disjunction between poetry and passion primarily in the figure of the poet: the author must suppress his own enthusiasm in order to produce good poetry. But the dangers of enthusiasm extend beyond the poet to include the audience, too. The poet's calm mediation produces a corresponding response in the reader who registers the passage of time and receives the verse in a state of sympathetic calm: the Poet's "influxes of feeling are modified and directed by thoughts" in such a way that "we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature, and in such connexion with each other, that the understanding of the Reader must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections strengthened and purified" (175). The project of infusing thought into "trivial and mean" verse ensures that poetry is enlightening, rather than stimulating, and his affections (rather than mere "feelings") are strong and pure. For the poet and his audience alike, the transition from spontaneity to tranquility ensures the worth of the verse, and rescues poetry from the dangerously vigorous immediate response.
With the ballad debates I have been examining in view, we are now in a position to see that Wimsatt's formalist reading and Mee's culturally specific attention to the politics of the period are not mutually exclusive but both products of a collection which sought to make an intervention into a series of controversies about ballads. Wordsworth's desire to distance poetry of "true value" from spontaneous and extemporized verse served historically specific and important formal functions. Indeed Wordsworth's insistence on mediated emotion develops a particularly modern understanding of "poetry" as a primarily textual rather than oral form, shaped by the collection's complicated relationship to the politics of the ballad form. It is hard, then, to see Wordsworth's theory of balladry either as a radically democratic revolution in poetic form or as a retreat from the world of politics into aesthetics. Rather it appears as a careful, complex, at times almost tortured attempt to find a secure place for his collection in the midst of an often divisive debate about how ballads should be valued and understood.
University of Notre Dame
Abrams, M. H. "Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric." In From Sensibility to Romanticism: Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle, edited by Frederick W. Hilles and Harold Bloom, 527-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Addison, Joseph, Richard Steele, et al. The Spectator. Edited by Donald F. Bond. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.
Barrell, John. The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
--, and Jon Mee, eds. Trials for Treason and Sedition, 1792-1794. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006.
Blanch, Anna Maree. "A Reassessment of the Authorship of the Cheap Repository Tracts." Unpublished Master's Thesis. Baylor University, 2009.
Butler, Marilyn. "Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse." London Review of Books 14 (6 August 1992): 12-13.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor and William Wordsworth. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800. Edited by Michael Gamer and Dahlia Porter. Peterborough: Broadview, 2008.
Colquhoun, Patrick. A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis; Containing a Detail of the Crimes and Misdemeanours By Which Public and Private Property and Security are, at Present, Injured and Endangered: And Suggesting Remedies for their Prevention. 6th edition. London: J. Mawman, 1805.
Davis, Michael T., ed. London Corresponding Society, 1792-1799. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002.
Dibdin, Charles. The Professional life of Mr. Dibdin, Written by Himself 4 Vols. London: printed by the author, 1803.
Dugaw, Diane. "On the 'Darling Songs' of Poets, Scholars, and Singers: An Introduction." The Eighteenth Century 47, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 97-113.
Gilmartin, Kevin. Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Letter to John Reeves from "Friend to Church & State," 12 Dec. 1792. Correspondence of the Association for Preserving Liberty and Property. Vol. 3. British Library Add. MSS 16922 fo. 45.
Makdisi, Saree. Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race and Imperial Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Mayo, Robert. "The Contemporaneity of the Lyrical Ballads." PMLA 69, no. 3 (1954): 486-582.
McEathron, Scott. "Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, and the Problem of Peasant Poetry." Nineteenth-Century Literature 54, no. 1 (1999): 1-26.
McLane, Maureen. Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Mee, Jon. Print, Publicity, and Popular Radicalism in the 1790s: The Laurel of Liberty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
--. Romanticism, Enthusiasm and Regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
More, Hannah. The Works of Hannah More. London: Cadell and Davies, 1801.
"National Odes." The Satirist, or, Monthly Meteor. May 1, 1808: 239-45.
Newman, Ian. "Edmund Burke in the Tavern." European Romantic Review 24, no. 2 (April 2013): 125-48.
Newman, Steve. Ballad Collection Lyric and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
Place, Francis. The Autobiography of Francis Place. Edited by Mary Thale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Plumptre, James. A Collection of Songs, Moral, Sentimental, Instructive, and Amusing. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1806.
Roberts, Edgar V. "An Unrecorded meaning of 'Joke' or 'Joak' in England." American Speech 37, no. 2 (1962): 137-40.
Roe, Nicholas. Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
Scott, Walter. "On Popular Poetry." In The Poetical Words of Walter Scott, Bart. Together with the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, With the Author's Introductions and Notes [1830 edition]. New York: Leavitt and Allen, n.d.
Spinney, G. H. "Cheap Repository Tracts: Hazard and Marshall Edition." The Library 20 (1939-40): 295-340.
[Stoddart, John], The British Critic 17 (1801): 131.
Thelwall, John. The Tribune, A Periodical Publication Consisting Chiefly of the Political Lectures off. Thelwall. London: Printed for the author, 1795.
Thompson, E. P. "Hunting the Jacobin Fox." Past and Present 142, no. 1 (1994): 94-140.
Thompson, Judith. John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Circle: The Silenced Partner. New York: Palgrave, 2012.
Thornton, Henry. A Plan for Establishing by Subscription A Repository of Cheap Publications, on Moral and Religious Subjects. Bath, .
Wimsatt, William K., and Cleanth Brooks. Literary Criticism: A Short History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.
(1.) [Stoddart], The British Critic 17 (1801): 131.
(2.) Butler, "Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse," London Review of Books 14 (6 August 1992): 12-13.
(3.) For a more recent take on what it means to make the ballad lyrical see Saree Makdisi, Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race and Imperial Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 87-132.
(4.) Abrams, "Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric," in From Sensibility to Romanticism: Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle, eds. Frederick W. Hilles and Harold Bloom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), 527-60.
(5.) This is Francis Place's phrase, itself derived from "a song commonly sung up and down the streets" which first appears in 1728. See Steve Newman, Ballad Collection Lyric and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 2.
(6.) Newman, Ballad Collection, 1.
(7.) McLane, Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 49.
(8.) Scott, "On Popular Poetry," in The Poetical Words of Walter Scott, Bart. Together with the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, With the Author's Introductions and Notes [1830 edition] (New York: Leavitt and Allen, n.d.), 9.
(9.) For a discussion of the problem of classification see Diane Dugaw, "On the 'Darling Songs of Poets, Scholars, and Singers: An Introduction," The Eighteenth Century 47, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 97-113.
(10.) The British Critic (1797): 19.
(11.) Dugaw, "Darling Songs," 98.
(12.) Thompson, "Hunting the Jacobin Fox," Past and Present 142, no. 1 (1994): 94-140; Roe, Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).
(13.) See in particular Judith Thompson, John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Circle: The Silenced Partner (New York; Palgrave, 2012).
(14.) Thelwall, The Tribune, A Periodical Publication Consisting Chiefly of the Political Lectures of J. Thelwall (London: Printed for the author, 1795), 1:166-68, 190-92, 338-340.
(15.) The Trial of Thomas Hardy for High Treason, Taken in Short-hand by Joseph Gurney (London, Martha Gurney, 1795) reprinted in Trials for Treason and Sedition, 1792-1794, eds. John Barrell and Jon Mee (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006), 4:300-312. Future references will be to the Pickering and Chatto edition with page numbers cited parenthetically in the text.
(16.) On the distinction between taverns and alehouses, see Ian Newman, "Edmund Burke in the Tavern," European Romantic Review 24, no. 2 (April 2013): 125-48, esp. 144n12.
(17.) See, for example, the exchange between Erskine and Eyre in which they discuss whether Goddard's opinion of "God Save the Rights Of Man" was relevant, when it had not been proven whether the song was sung at LCS meetings (312).
(18.) Place, The Autobiography of Francis Place, ed. Mary Thale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 198.
(19.) For a discussion of Thomson's ballad and his involvement with the LCS, see the just published Jon Mee, Print, Publicity, and Popular Radicalism in the 1790s: The Laurel of Liberty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 78-81. I am extremely grateful to Jon Mee for sharing his work with me before it was published.
(20.) Michael T. Davis, ed. London Corresponding Society, 1792-1799 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002), 3:221.
(21.) Thelwall, The Tribune, 1:165.
(22.) John Barrell, The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the lygos (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 83, 99.
(23.) Roe, Wordsworth and Coleridge, 248-62.
(24.) Letter to John Reeves from "Friend to Church & State," 12 Dec. 1792, Correspondence of the Association for Preserving Liberty and Property, Vol. 3., British Library Add. MSS 16922 fo. 43.
(25.) Thornton, A Plan for Establishing by Subscription A Repository of Cheap Publications, on Moral and Religious Subjects (Bath, )> n.p.
(26.) Thornton, Plan, n.p.
(27.) Plumptre, A Collection of Songs, Moral, Sentimental, Instructive, and Amusing (London: F.C. and J. Rivington, 1806), lxxvi. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text by page number.
(28.) Blanch, "A Reassessment of the Authorship of the Cheap Repository Tracts" (Master's Thesis, Baylor University, 2009).
(29.) Hannah More, The Works of Hannah More (London: Cadell and Davies, 1801), 5:205.
(30.) More, Works, 5:218.
(31.) For a suggestive comment about the role of public houses in the CRT, see Kevin Gilmartin, Writing Against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 56.
(32.) Colquhoun, A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis; Containing a Detail of the Crimes and Misdemeanours By Winch Public and Private Property and Security are, at Present, Injured and Endangered: And Suggesting Remedies for their Prevention, 6th ed. (London: J. Mawman, 1805), 348.
(33.) Spinney, "Cheap Repository Tracts: Hazard and Marshall Edition," The Library 20 (1939-40): 295-340, 299.
(34.) Spinney, "Cheap Repository Tracts," 296.
(35.) This was the well-known song that Hogarth depicts a ballad singer reciting in the orgy scene at the Rose Tavern in The Rake's Progress. "Joke" or "Joak" was an eighteenth-century word for vagina. See Edgar V. Roberts, "An Unrecorded meaning of 'Joke' or 'Joak' in England," American Speech 37, no. 2 (1962): 137-40.
(36.) The Satirist, vol. 3 (1808): 242, 244-45.
(37.) The Satirist, vol. 3 (1808): 244.
(38.) Mayo, "The Contemporaneity of the Lyrical Ballads," PMLA 69, no. 3 (1954): 486-582.
(39.) McEathron, "Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, and the Problem of Peasant Poetry," Nineteenth-Century Literature 54, no. 1 (1999): 1-26, 4.
(40.) Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800, eds. Michael Gamer and Dahlia Porter (Peterborough: Broadview, 2008), 175. Hereafter cited in the text by page.
(41.) This fashionable author and singer of songs is identified in later editions of More's Works as Charles Dibdin Sr, the actor, playwright, composer, and novelist who had worked at both Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters before going on to have a long career composing and performing thousands of songs in various musical entertainments. Dibdin's well-known theater the Sans Souci was first located at 411 Strand, directly opposite John Thelwall's Beaufort Buildings, where it was rumored Dibdin received four hundred pounds a year from Pitts government to "disseminate loyalty and cry down democracy," directly challenging Thelwall--something Dibdin himself strenuously denied. See The Professional life of Mr. Dibdin, Written by Himself 4 vols. (London: the author, 1803), 4:6.
(42.) Gamer and Porter, "Introduction," in Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800, 21,
(43.) For a similar point see John Bugg, Five Long Winters: The Trials of British Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014), 155.
(44.) Wimsatt and Cleanth Brooks, Literary Criticism: A Short History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), 408.
(45.) Jon Mee, Romanticism, Enthusiasm and Regulation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 219.
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|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2016|
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