Posted on

Poetic Pain: The Life of William Cowper

Thomson, Cowper, Scott — she would buy them all over and over again: she would buy up every copy, I believe, to prevent their falling into unworthy hands; and she would have every book that tells her how to admire an old twisted tree.
Sense and Sensibility

William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) (November 20, 1731 – April 25, 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside.

He suffered from periods of severe depression, and although he found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity, the source of his much-loved hymns, he often experienced doubt and fears that he was doomed to eternal damnation. However, his religious motivations and association with John Newton (who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”) led to much of the poetry for which he is best remembered in the popular mind.

Cowper was, perhaps, Jane Austen’s favourite poetical moralist. From the frequent mention of his works in her letters and novels, it is certain that she was well familiar with all his writings and shared many of his beliefs.

William Cowper was born in Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, England. After education at Westminster School, he was articled to Mr. Chapman, solicitor, of Ely Place, Holborn, in order to be trained for a career in law. During this time, he spent his leisure at the home of his uncle Ashley Cowper, and there fell in love with his cousin Theodora, whom he wished to marry. But as James Croft, who in 1825 first published the poems Cowper addressed to Theodora, wrote, “her father, from an idea that the union of persons so nearly related was improper, refused to accede to the wishes of his daughter and nephew.” This refusal left Cowper distraught.

In 1763 he was offered a Clerkship of Journals in the House of Lords, but broke under the strain of the approaching examination and experienced a period of insanity. At this time he tried three times to commit suicide and was sent to Dr. Cotton’s asylum at St. Albans for recovery. His poem beginning “Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portions” (sometimes referred to as “Sapphics”) was written in the aftermath of his suicide attempt.

After recovering, he settled at Huntingdon with a retired clergyman named Morley Unwin and his wife Mary. Cowper grew to be on such good terms with the Unwin family that he went to live in their house, and moved with them to Olney, where John Newton, a former slave trader who had repented and devoted his life to the gospel, was curate. Not long afterwards, Morley Unwin was killed in a fall from his horse, but Cowper continued to live in the Unwin home and became extremely attached to Mary Unwin.

At Olney, Newton invited Cowper to contribute to a hymnbook that Newton was compiling. The resulting volume known as Olney Hymns was not published until 1779 but includes hymns such as “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (beginning “There is a fountain fill’d with blood”) and “Light Shining out of Darkness” (beginning “God moves in a mysterious way”) which remain some of Cowper’s most familiar verses.

In 1773, Cowper, now engaged to marry Mrs. Unwin, experienced a new attack of insanity, imagining not only that he was condemned to hell eternally, but that God was commanding him to make a sacrifice of his own life. This attack broke off the engagement, but Mary Unwin took care of him with great devotion, and after a year he began again to recover. In 1779, after Newton had left Olney to go to London, Cowper started to write further poetry. Mary Unwin, wanting to keep Cowper’s mind occupied, suggested that he write on the subject of The Progress of Error, and after writing his satire of this name he wrote seven others. All of them were published in 1782 under the title Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq.

The year before this publication, Cowper met a sophisticated and charming widow named Lady Austen who served as a new impetus to his poetry. Cowper himself tells of the genesis of what some have considered his most substantial work, The Task, in his “Advertisement” to the original edition of 1785:

“…A lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the author, and gave him the SOFA for a subject. He obeyed; and, having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and, pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair–a Volume!”

In the same volume Cowper also printed “The Diverting History of John Gilpin,” a notable piece of comic verse.

Cowper and Mary Unwin moved to Weston in 1786 and shortly before this became close with his cousin Harriet (Theodora’s sister), now Lady Hesketh. During this period he started his translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into blank verse, and his versions (published in 1791) were the most significant English renderings of these epic poems since those of Alexander Pope earlier in the century, although later critics have faulted Cowper’s Homer for being too much in the mold of John Milton.

Mary Unwin died in 1796, plunging Cowper into a gloom from which he never fully recovered. He did, however, continue revising his Homer for a second edition of his translation, and, aside from writing the powerful and bleak poem “The Castaway,” penned some English translations of Greek verse and turned some of the Fables of John Gay into Latin.

Cowper was seized with dropsy in the spring of 1800 and died in East Dereham, Norfolk.

Familiar Quotations from Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Olney Hymns (1779)–‘Light Shining out of Darkness’

There is a fountain fill’d with blood
Drawn from EMMANUEL’s veins;
And sinners, plung’d beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
Olney Hymns (1779)–‘Praise for the Fountain Opened’

Oh! for a closer walk with GOD,
A calm and heav’nly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Olney Hymns (1779)–‘Walking with God’

God made the country, and man made the town.
The Task (1785)–‘The Sofa’ (Book I, line 749)

There is a pleasure in poetic pains
Which only poets know.
The Task (1785)–‘The Timepiece’ (Book II, lines 285-6)

Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.
The Task (1785)–‘The Timepiece’ (Book II, lines 606-7)

I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea,
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
‘Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk’ (1782), lines 1-4

No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone;
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulphs than he.
“The Castaway” (1799), lines 61-66

Text taken from Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

Posted on

Maria Edgeworth: Jane Austen’s Gothic Inspiration

Maria Edgeworth

A Summary of Maria Edgeworth:

It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
Northanger Abbey

Maria Edgeworth (January 1, 1767-May 22, 1849) was an Irish novelist who’s early “Gothic” works had untold influence on Jane Austen’s life and writing. Austen admired her so much, that she sent her a complimentary copy of Emma when it was published in 1815. Edgeworth, the author of Belinda, and Castle Rackrent was known for the moral theme in her stories and was apparently not impressed with the novel. She never acknowledged Jane’s gift, and later wrote, “There is no story in it, except that Miss Emma found that the man whom she designed for Harriet’s lover was an admirer of her own–& he was affronted at being refused by Emma & Harriet wore the willow*–and smooth, thin water-gruel is according to Emma’s father’s opinion a very good thing & it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth, thin water-gruel.”

Maria Edgeworth was born in Oxfordshire, at the home of her grandparents, but spent most of her life in Ireland, on her father’s estate. She grew up in the landed gentry of Ireland, with the families of Kitty Pakenham (later the wife of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington), Lady Moira, and her aunt Margaret Ruston at Black Castle for company. She acted as manager of her father’s estate, later drawing on this experience for her novels about the Irish. However, her early efforts at fiction were melodramatic rather than realistic. One of her schoolgirl novels features a villain who wore a mask made from the skin of a dead man’s face.

In 1802 the Edgeworth family went abroad, first to Brussels and then to France (during the Peace of Amiens, that brief lull in the Napoleonic Wars). They met all the notables, and Maria received a marriage proposal from a Swedish count. They returned to Ireland and Maria returned to writing.

Mr. Edgeworth, a well-known author and inventor, encouraged his daughter’s career, and has been criticized for his insistence on approving and editing her work. The tales in The Parent’s Assistant were approved by her father before he would allow them to be read to her younger siblings (he had four wives and 22 children). Castle Rackrent was written and submitted for anonymous publication without his knowledge.

After her father’s death in 1817 she edited his memoirs, and extended them with her biographical comments. Maria was also a close friend of Sir Walter Scott who visited her in Edgeworthstown and toured the countryside with her. Maria returned Scott’s visit in 1823 and stayed at his home, Abbotsford, in Scotland. There is a stone at Tyhmer’s Waterfall inscribed Edgeworth Stone in honour of Maria who is said to have rested there. Scott’s move from poetry to novels was in part influenced by Edgeworth’s work. In the preface to Waverley, he wrote: the extended and well-merited fame of Miss Edgeworth, whose Irish characters have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours of Ireland, that she may be truly said to have done more toward completing the Union than perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it has been followed up, and felt he could do for Scotland what Edgeworth had done for Ireland.

Maria Edgeworth was explicit about the fact that all her stories had a moral purpose behind them, usually pointing out the duty of members of the upper class toward their tenants. However, her style did not pass muster with one of the religious leaders of the day: the preacher Robert Hall said, “I should class her books as among the most irreligious I have ever read … she does not attack religion, nor inveigh against it, but makes it appear unnecessary by exhibiting perfect virtue without it … No works ever produced so bad an effect on my mind as hers.” Other period authors continued the criticism. After meeting the Edgeworths, Lord Byron commented, “One would never have guessed she could write her name; whereas her father talked, not as if he could write nothing else, but as if nothing else was worth writing.”

Maria was an active writer to the last, and worked strenuously for the relief of the famine-stricken Irish peasants during 1845. She died in 1849. Her broad education, the extent of her social contacts and knowledge of English and Irish society gave her writings a depth of understanding of manners, class, gender and race.

*Wore the Willow= grieved for the loss of a loved one.

Biographical information provided by Wikipedia and other sources. To read Emily Lawless’ 1905 biography, visit The Digital Library. Edgeworth’s Collected works can be found at Project Gutenburg while much more information about the entire Edgeworth family can be found at The Edgeworth Website.

Posted on

Sir Walter Scott: Author & Critic

Who was Sir Walter Scott?

Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!
Sir Walter Scott
Journal entry, March 14th 1826

Portrait of Sir Walter Scott, by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (August 14, 1771 – September 21, 1832) was a prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe. In some ways he was the first author to have a truly international career in his lifetime, with many contemporary readers all over Great Britain, Ireland, Europe, Australia, and North America. He is sometimes known as the “Great Magician.”

His novels and poetry are still read, but with nothing like the popularity he once enjoyed. But many of his works remain in current lists of classical works in English literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Lady of the Lake and Talisman.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1771, the son of a Scottish solicitor of limited means, the young Walter Scott survived a childhood bout of polio that would leave him lame in his right leg for the rest of his life. To restore his health he was sent to live for some years in the rural Scottish Borders district with his grandparents. Here he learned the speech patterns and many of the tales and legends which characterized much of his work. Also, for his health, he spent a year in Bath, England.

He also learned by heart James Macpherson’s Ossian poems, which it was claimed at the time were translations dating back to the Dark Ages, but later discredited when this was found to be untrue.

After studying law at Edinburgh University, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer in his native Scotland. In 1799 he was appointed sheriff depute of the county of Selkirk. After an unsuccessful love affair with Williamina Belsches of Fettercairn – she married Sir William Forbes – Scott married in 1797 Margaret Charlotte Charpentier (or Charpenter), daughter of Jean Charpentier of Lyon in France. They had five children.

In his earlier married days, Scott had a decent living from the monies he earned at the law, his salary as deputy sheriff, his wife’s income, some revenue from his writing, and his share of his father’s rather meagre estate.

Beginning at age 25 he started dabbling in writing, first translating works from German then moving on to poetry. In between these two phases of his literary career, he published a three-volume set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. This was the first sign of his interest in Scotland and history from a literary standpoint.

After Scott had founded a printing press, his poetry, beginning with The Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805, brought him fame. He published a number of other poems over the next ten years, including in 1810 the popular Lady of the Lake set in the Trossachs, portions of which (translated into German) were set to music by Franz Schubert. One of these songs, Ellens dritter Gesang, is popularly called “Schubert’s Ave Maria”.

Another work from this time period, Marmion, produced some of his most quoted (and most often mis-attributed) lines. Canto VI. Stanza 17 reads:

Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun, Must separate Constance from the nun Oh! what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive! A Palmer too! No wonder why I felt rebuked beneath his eye;
When the press became embroiled in pecuniary difficulties, Scott set out, in 1814, to write a cash-cow. The result was Waverley, a novel which did not name its author. It was a tale of the last Jacobite rebellion in the United Kingdom, the “Forty-Five”, and the novel met with considerable success. There followed a large set of novels in next five years, each the same general vein. Mindful of his reputation as a poet, he maintained the anonymous habit he had begun with Waverley, always publishing the novels under the name “Author of Waverley” or attributed as “Tales of…” with no author. Even when it was clear that there would be no harm in coming out into the open he maintained the façade, apparently out of a sense of fun. During this time the nickname “The Wizard of the North” was popularly applied to the mysterious best-selling writer. His identity as the author of the novels was widely rumoured, and in 1815 Scott was given the honour of dining with George, Prince Regent, who wanted to meet “the author of Waverley”.

Despite being a success himself, Scott also read extensively and published reviews of current literature. In 1816, he commended Emma in the the March issue of the Quarterly Review as being one of

“a class of fictions which has arisen almost in our own times, and which draws the characters and incidents introduced more immediately from the current of ordinary life than was permitted by the former rules of the novel”, and “copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him”.

High praise, indeed.

In 1820 he broke away from writing about Scotland with Ivanhoe, a historical romance set in 12th-century England. It too was a runaway success and, as he did with his first novel, he unleashed a slew of books along the same lines. As his fame grew during this phase of his career, he was granted the title of baronet, becoming Sir Walter Scott. At this time he organised the visit of King George IV to Scotland, and when the King visited Edinburgh in 1822 the spectacular pageantry Scott had concocted to portray George as a rather tubby reincarnation of Bonnie Prince Charlie made tartans and kilts fashionable and turned them into symbols of national identity.

Beginning in 1825 he went into dire financial straits again, as his company nearly collapsed. That he was the author of his novels became general knowledge at this time as well. Rather than declare bankruptcy he placed his home, Abbotsford House, and income into a trust belonging to his creditors, and proceeded to write his way out of debt. He kept up his prodigious output of fiction (as well as producing a non-fiction biography of Napoleon Bonaparte) until 1831. By then his health was failing, and he died at Abbotsford in 1832. Though not in the clear by then, his novels continued to sell, and he made good his debts from beyond the grave. He was buried in Dryburgh Abbey where nearby, fittingly, a large statue can be found of William Wallace—one of Scotland’s most romantic historical figures.
The Sir Walter Scott memorial in Edinburgh Scott was responsible for two major trends that carry on to this day. First, he popularized the historical novel; an enormous number of imitators (and imitators of imitators) would appear in the 19th century. It is a measure of Scott’s influence that Edinburgh’s central railway station, opened in 1854, is called Waverley Station. Second, his Scottish novels rehabilitated Highland culture after years in the shadows following the Jacobite rebellions. It is worth noting, however, that Scott was a Lowland Scot, and that his re-creations of the Highlands were more than a little fanciful. It is known that he invented many clan tartans out of whole cloth, so to speak, for the visit by George IV to Scotland in 1822. Nevertheless, even though he is less popular in these days, the echoes of Waverley and its sequels reverberate still.

Scott was also responsible, through a series of pseudonymous letters published in the Edinburgh Weekly News in 1826, for retaining the right of Scottish banks to issue their own banknotes, which is reflected to this day by his continued appearance on the front of all notes issued by the Bank of Scotland.

Many of his works were illustrated by his friend, William Allan.

Posted on

Mary Wollstonecraft: The first of the modern feminists

Mary Wollstonecraft: The first of the modern feminists

Who was this woman who could outrage learned men and women, causing her to be named “A Hyena in Petticoats”?

Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759 – September 10, 1797) was the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Her husband William Godwin was one of the most prominent atheists of his day and a forefather of the anarchist movement.

Her father—a quick-tempered and unsettled man, capable of beating wife, or child, or dog—was the son of a manufacturer who made money in Spitalfields, when Spitalfields was prosperous. Her mother was a rigorous Irishwoman.

In 1778, when she was nineteen, Mary Wollstonecraft left home to take a situation as companion with a rich tradesman’s widow at Bath. After two years she returned home to nurse her sick mother, who died after long suffering, wholly dependent on her daughter Mary’s constant care. The mother’s last words were often quoted by Mary Wollstonecraft in her own last years of distress—”A little patience, and all will be over.”

After the mother’s death, Mary Wollstonecraft left home again, to live with her friend, Fanny Blood, an artist, who was at Walham Green. In 1782 she went to nurse a married sister through a dangerous illness. The father’s need of support next pressed upon her. He had spent not only his own money, but also the little that had been specially reserved for his children.

In 1783 Mary Wollstonecraft—aged twenty-four—with two of her sisters, joined Fanny Blood in setting up a day school at Islington, which was removed in a few months to Newington Green. Early in 1785 Fanny Blood, far gone in consumption, sailed for Lisbon to marry an Irish surgeon who was settled there. After her marriage it was evident that she had but a few months to live; Mary Wollstonecraft, deaf to all opposing counsel, then left her school, and, with help of money from a friendly woman, she went out to nurse her, and was by her when she died. Mary Wollstonecraft remembered her loss ten years afterwards in these Letters from Sweden and Norway, when she wrote: “The grave has closed over a dear friend, the friend of my youth; still she is present with me, and I hear her soft voice warbling as I stray over the heath.”

Mary Wollstonecraft left Lisbon for England late in December, 1785. When she came back she found Fanny’s poor parents anxious to go back to Ireland; and as she had been often told that she could earn by writing, she wrote a pamphlet of 162 pages, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, and was paid ten pounds for it. This she gave to her friend’s parents to enable them to go back to their kindred. In all she did there is clear evidence of an ardent, generous, impulsive nature.

The little payment for her pamphlet on the Education of Daughters caused Mary Wollstonecraft to think more seriously of earning by her pen. The pamphlet seems also to have advanced her credit as a teacher. After giving up her day school, she spent some weeks at Eton College with the Rev. Mr. Prior, one of the masters there, who recommended her as governess to the daughters of Lord Kingsborough, an Irish viscount, eldest son of the Earl of Kingston. In the summer of 1787, Lord Kingsborough’s family, including Mary Wollstonecraft, was at Bristol Hot-wells, before going to the continent (the mainland of Europe). While there, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her little tale published as Mary, a Fiction, wherein there was much based on the memory of her own friendship for Fanny Blood.

The publisher of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Thoughts on the Education of Daughters was the same Joseph Johnson who in 1785 was the publisher of Cowper’s Task. With her little story written and a little money saved, the resolve to live by her pen could now be carried out. Mary Wollstonecraft, therefore, parted from her friends at Bristol, went to London, saw her publisher, and frankly told him her determination. He met her with fatherly kindness, and received her as a guest in his house while she was making her arrangements. At Michaelmas, 1787, she settled in a house in George Street, on the Surrey side of Blackfriars Bridge. There she produced a little book for children, Original Stories from Real Life, and earned by drudgery for Joseph Johnson. She translated, she abridged, she made a volume of Selections, and she wrote for an Analytical Review, which Mr. Johnson founded in the middle of the year 1788.

With all this hard work she lived as sparely as she could, that she might help her family. She supported her father. That she might enable her sisters to earn their living as teachers, she sent one of them to Paris, and maintained her there for two years; the other she placed in a school near London as parlour-boarder until she was admitted into it as a paid teacher. She placed one brother at Woolwich to qualify for the Royal Navy, and he obtained a lieutenant’s commission. For another brother, articled to an attorney whom he did not like, she obtained a transfer of indentures; and when it became clear that his quarrel was more with law than with the lawyers, she placed him with a farmer before fitting him out for emigration to America. She then sent him, so well prepared for his work there that he prospered well. She tried even to disentangle her father’s affairs; but the confusion in them was beyond her powers of arrangement. Added to all this faithful work, she took upon herself the charge of an orphan child, seven years old, whose mother had been in the number of her friends. That was the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, thirty years old, in 1789, the year of the Fall of the Bastille; the noble life now to be touched in its enthusiasms by the spirit of the Revolution, to be caught in the great storm, shattered, and lost among its wrecks. To Burke’s attack on the French Revolution Mary Wollstonecraft wrote an Answer—one of many answers provoked by it—that attracted much attention. This was followed by her Vindication of the Rights of Woman while the air was full of declamation on the Rights of Man. The claims made in this little book were in advance of the opinion of that day (the essayist Horace Walpole called her a “hyena in petticoats”), but they are claims that have in our day been conceded. They are certainly not revolutionary in the opinion of the world that has become a hundred years older since the book was written, except for her opinion of abortion.

The pro-life feminist view has been largely forgotten in modern political debates, but Wollstonecraft was an avid opponent of abortion. Parts of Vindication of the Rights of Woman were damning of the sexual exploitation of women and the practice of abortion. Wollstonecraft reasoned that:

Women becoming, consequently, weaker…than they ought to be…have not sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection…either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast if off when born. Nature in every thing demands respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.

At this the Mary Wollstonecraft had moved to rooms in Store Street, Bedford Square. She was fascinated by John Henry Fuseli the romantic painter, and he was a married man. She felt herself to be too strongly drawn towards him, and she went to Paris at the close of the year 1792, to break the spell. She felt lonely and sad, and was not the happier for being in a mansion lent to her, from which the owner was away, and in which she lived surrounded by his servants.

Four months after she had gone to Paris, Mary Wollstonecraft met at the house of a merchant, with whose wife she had become intimate, an American named Gilbert Imlay. He won her affections. That was in April, 1793. He had no means, and she had home embarrassments, for which she was unwilling that he should become in any way responsible. When Gilbert Imlay would have married Mary Wollstonecraft, she herself refused to bind him; she would keep him legally exempt from her responsibilities towards the father, sisters, brothers, whom she was supporting. She took his name and called herself his wife, but she did not marry. By so doing, she protected herself (as an Englishwoman, i.e. from a monarchist state) from bloodthirsty French Revolutionaries, who may have suspected her as a Fifth Columnist. A child was born to her—a girl whom she named after the dead friend of her own girlhood. And then she found that she had leant upon a reed. She was neglected; and was at last forsaken. Having sent her to London, Imlay there visited her, to explain himself away. She resolved on suicide, and in dissuading her from that he gave her hope again. He needed somebody who had good judgment, and who cared for his interests, to represent him in some business affairs in Norway. She undertook to act for him, and set out on the voyage only a week after she had determined to destroy herself.

Gilbert Imlay had promised to meet her upon her return, and go with her to Switzerland. But the letters she had from him in Sweden and Norway were cold, and she came back to find that she was wholly forsaken for an actress from a strolling company of players. Then she went up the river to drown herself. She paced the road at Putney on an October night, in 1795, in heavy rain, until her clothes were drenched, that she might sink more surely, and then threw herself from the top of Putney Bridge, leaving a note for Imlay; “Let my wrongs sleep with me”.

She was rescued, and lived on with deadened spirit. She had lost eveything except her child; her faith in revolution, in the virtue of the people and in the possibilities of an independent woman’s life. In 1796 the Letters from Sweden and Norway were published. Early in 1797 she was married to William Godwin, a philosopher who was notorious for his rejection of romance and marriage. Though they had sworn not to get married, the feminist and the enemy of matrimony were wedded at Saint Pancras’ Church and settled into conjugal happiness. At least in private, Godwin was prepared to admit the force of emotion as well as of thought. Both Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin seemed – at last – to have found the emotional happiness and intellectual kinship they both sought, which made what was to come seem unbearably cruel.

On September 10, 1797, at the age of thirty-eight, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin succumbed to puerperal fever after the birth of her daughter. Having survived so many difficult situations, she died when she had so much to live for.

After her death, Godwin wrote to a friend, “I firmly believe there does not exist her equal in the world. I know from experience we were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.”

She is rightly remembered as one of the founders of modern feminism.

Her daughter inherited her name and later become Mary Shelley, author of the classic novel: Frankenstein.

*****

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Posted on

Only a Novel: The Life of Fanny Burney

the life of fanny burney

The Life of Fanny Burney

“And what are you reading, Miss — ?”
“Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame.
“It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
Northanger Abbey

Fanny Burney Fanny Burney later Madame D’Arblay (June 13, 1752-January 6, 1840) was an English novelist and diarist. She published her first novel Evelina anonymously in 1778. The revelation of its authorship brought her immediate fame. She published Cecilia in 1782 and Camilla in 1796. Her three major novels, much admired by Jane Austen, are about the entry into the world of a young, beautiful, intelligent but inexperienced girl.

The life of Fanny Burney began when she was born as Frances Burney, daughter of Dr Charles Burney, at King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Her mother, Esther (nee Sleepe) was granddaughter of a French refugee named Dubois. Fanny was the fourth child in a family of six. Of her brothers, James (1750-1821) became an admiral and sailed with Captain James Cook on his second and third voyages, and Charles Burney was a well-known classical scholar. In 1760 the family moved to London, and Dr Burney, a fashionable music master, took a house in Poland Street. Mrs Burney died in 1761, when Fanny was only nine years old. Her sisters Esther (Hetty), afterwards Mrs Charles Rousseau, and Susanna, afterwards Mrs Phillips, were sent to school in Paris, but Fanny was largely self-educated.

Early in 1766 she paid her first visit to Dr Burney’s friend Samuel Crisp at Chessington Hall in Surrey. Dr Burney had first made Crisp’s acquaintance in about 1745 at the house of Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, and they had studied music together. Crisp’s play, Virginia, staged by David Garrick in 1754 at the request of the beautiful countess of Coventry (née Maria Gunning), had been unsuccessful, and Crisp had retired to Chessington Hall, where he frequently entertained Dr Burney and his family, to whom he was familiarly known as “daddy” Crisp. It was to her “daddy” Crisp and her sister Susan that Fanny Burney addressed large portions of her diary and many of her letters. In 1767, Dr Burney married Elizabeth Allen, widow of a King’s Lynn wine-merchant. Fanny lived in the midst of an exceptionally brilliant social circle, gathered round her father in Poland Street, and later at his new home in St Martin’s Street, Leicester Fields. Garrick was a constant visitor. Of the various “lyons” they entertained she leaves a graphic account, notably of Omai, the Otaheitan native, and of Alexis Orlov, the favourite of Catherine II of Russia. She first met Samuel Johnson at her father’s home in March 1777.

Her father’s drawing-room, where she met many of the chief musicians, actors and authors of the day, was Fanny’s only school, but he had a huge library; Macaulay stated that in the whole of Dr Burney’s library there was only one novel; Fielding’s Amelia. Fanny was acquainted with the Abbé Prévost’s Doyen de Killérine, and with Marivaux’s Vie de Marianne, besides Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa the books of Mrs Elizabeth Griffith and Mrs Frances Brooke. Her diary contains the record of her reading. Her stepmother discouraged of scribbling, so Fanny made a bonfire of her manuscripts, among them a History of Caroline Evelyn, a story containing an account of Evelina’s mother. Luckily her journal survived. The first entry in it was made on May 30, 1768, and it extended over seventy-two years. The earlier parts were savagely edited in later days, and much was obliterated. Evelina, or A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World was planned out long before it was written down. It was published by Thomas Lowndes in January 1778, but it was not until June that Dr Burney learned its authorship, when the book had been reviewed and praised everywhere. Fanny proudly told Hester Thrale the secret. Hester Thrale wrote to Dr Burney on July 22: “Mr Johnson returned home full of the Prayes of the Book I had lent him, and protesting that there were passages in it which might do honour to Richardson: we talk of it for ever, and he feels ardent after the denouement; he could not get rid of the Rogue, he said.” Miss Burney soon visited the Thrales at Streatham Place, “the most consequential day I have spent since my birth” she calls the occasion. It was the prelude to much longer visits there. Dr Johnson’s best compliments were eagerly transcribed in her diary. His affectionate friendship for “little Burney” only ceased with his death.

Evelina was a continued success. Sir Joshua Reynolds sat up all night to read it, as did Edmund Burke, who came next to Johnson in Miss Burney’s esteem. She was introduced to Elizabeth Montagu and the other bluestocking ladies, to Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and to the gay Mrs Mary Cholmondeley, the sister of Peg Woffington, whose manners, as described in the diary, explain much of Evelina. At the suggestion of Hester Thrale, and with offers of help from Arthur Murphy and encouragement from Sheridan, Fanny began to write a comedy. Crisp, realizing the limitations of her powers, tried to dissuade her, and the piece, The Witlings, was suppressed in deference to the views of “her two ‘daddies.'” Only one of her eight plays would ever be produced.

Meanwhile her friendship with Hester Thrale left her little time for writing. She went with her to Bath in 1780, and was at Streatham Place again in 1781. Her next book was written partly at Chessington and after much discussion with Mr Crisp. Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress, by the author of Evelina, was published in 5 vols. in 1782 by Messrs Payne & Cadell (who paid the author £250). Cecilia is more skilfully constructed than Evelina, it is more carefully constructed, and contains many examples of what Johnson called Miss Burney’s gift’ of “character-mongering.” Burke sent her a letter full of high praise. Some of her friends found the writing too closely modelled on Samuel Johnson’s, and Horace Walpole thought the personages spoke too uniformly in character.

On April 24, 1783, Fanny Burney’s “most judicious adviser and stimulating critic,” “daddy” Crisp, died. He was her devoted friend, as she was to him, “the dearest thing on earth.” The next year she was to lose two more friends. Hester Thrale re-married, and Samuel Johnson died. Fanny had met the celebrated Mrs Delany in 1783, and she now attached herself to her. Mrs Delany, who was living (1785) in a house near Windsor Castle presented to her by George III, was on the friendliest terms with both the King and Queen, and Fanny was honoured with more than one royal interview.

Queen Charlotte, soon afterwards, offered Miss Burney the post of second keeper of the robes, with a salary of £200 a year, which after some hesitation was accepted. Dr Burney was criticised for allowing the authoress of Evelina and Cecilia to undertake an office which meant separation from all her friends and a wearisome round of court ceremonial, but it has been argued that Fanny’s literary gifts were limited. She had written nothing for four years, and felt she had used her best material. “What my daddy Crisp says,” she wrote as early as 1779, “that it would be the best policy, but for pecuniary advantages, for me to write no more, is exactly what I have always thought since Evelina was published”. Her misgivings as to her unfitness for court life were quite justified. From Queen Charlotte she received nothing but kindness, despite her inadequacy as a waiting-maid. She had to attend the queen’s toilet, to take care of her lap-dog and her snuff-box, and to help her senior, Mrs Schwellenberg, in entertaining the king’s equerries and visitors at tea. Mrs Schwellenberg has been described as “a peevish old person of uncertain temper and impaired health, swaddled in the buckram of backstairs etiquette”, and this was the worst part of Fanny’s duties. Her diary is full of amusing court gossip, and sometimes deals with graver matters, notably in the account of Warren Hastings’ trial, and in the story of the beginning of George III’s madness, as seen by a member of his household. On one famous occasion, she was chased by him at Kew Palace, an incident that at first frightened her.

The strain told on her health, and Dr Burney prepared with her a joint memorial asking the queen’s leave to resign. She left the royal service in July 1791 with a retiring pension of £100 a year, granted from the queen’s private purse, and returned to her father’s house at Chelsea. (Dr Burney had been appointed organist at Chelsea Hospital in 1783.) In 1792 Fanny became acquainted with a group of French exiles, who had taken a house, Juniper Hall, near Mickleham, where Fanny’s sister, Mrs Phillips, lived. On July 31, 1793 she married one of the exiles, Alexandre D’Arblay, an artillery officer, who had been adjutant-general to La Fayette. They took a cottage at Bookham on the strength of Fanny’s pension. In 1793 she produced her Brief Reflections relative to the Emigrant French Clergy. Her son Alexandre was born on December 18, 1794. In 1795, her play, Edwy and Elgiva, was produced. In 1802 the family returned to France, where they remained for ten years. Fanny returned to England and published another novel, The Wanderer (1814). She remained in Britain for the rest of her life, her last work being an edition of her father’s memoirs (1832).

***

This article about the life of Fanny Burney incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Enjoyed learning more about the life of Fanny Burney? Have a look at the books in our online gift shop for more literary marvels.

 

Posted on

The Indomitable Mrs. Siddons

Mrs Siddons

Mrs. Siddons – The Life of One of Britain’s Greatest Actresses

“Well, mother, I have done something for you that you will like. I have been to the theatre, and secured a box for to-morrow night. A’n’t I a good boy? I know you love a play; and there is room for us all. It holds nine.”
Charles Musgrove, Persuasion

The theatre in Regency Bath was a part of everyday life. Society went for entertainment. Entertainers came to take the waters and perform. Of all the thespians ever to play there, however, the most beloved was Sarah Siddons. Sarah Siddons was the daughter of noted actor Richard Kimble, and was perhaps the most acclaimed tragic actress of her day. Born July 5, 1755, she performed on stage with her father’s troupe at an early age. As the oldest of 12 children, she was well educated and reportedly quite beautiful. After falling in love with one of her father’s cast members, a William Siddons, she was sent away from home to work as a Lady’s Maid. There she performed for her fellow servants and, occasionally, guests. In November, 1773, the 18 year old Sarah finally gained her parent’s blessing and married William.

Now Mrs. Siddons, was free, once again, to pursue the acting she loved. Though traveling with a small troupe, it was not long before recognition was afforded her talent. Her success was enough to catch the attention of David Garrick, then nearing the end of his career. He brought her to London in 1775. Unfortunately, when she made her first appearance at Drury Lane, as Portia in the Merchant of Venice, Sarah Siddons was a flop; one critic wrote ‘She is certainly very pretty – but then, how awkward, and what a shocking dresser…’ She departed to once again take up the life she was born into- that of a traveling thespian. It was while on the road that she gained her reputation for being the Queen of Tragedy.

Three years later, she appeared for the first time at Bath’s Theatre Royal in The School for Scandal, where she was receivedby a rapturous public. She played in the city for four seasons (1778/9-1781/2), findinging her greatest success as Lady Macbeth. A role she is reported to have played to perfection. As late as 1799 crowds lined the streets for a mere glimpse of her, and audiences honoured Siddons’ intensely emotional acting with ‘rivetted attention whilst on the stage, and the loudest plaudits at every exit’.

When she returned to London in 1782, the Drury Lane Theatre was under the management of playwright Richard Sheridan,and Siddons was all the rage in fashionable Bath. In her “first” London season she played eighty times in seven different parts. One contemporary wrote, ‘men wept, and women fainted, or were carried out in fits of hysterics’. She was hailed by the Morning Post as ‘the first tragic actress now on the English stage’

In 1783 she was appointed to the position of elocution teacher to the Royal children. This, along, with her acting kept her busily engaged for years. In 1803, she and her brother John Philip Kemble moved to the Covent Garden Theatre. She retired from the stage on June 29, 1812, with a finall performance as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Audience members insisted that the play end at the end of her last scene and she is said to have been led weeping from the stage.

scholars have suggested that her “success was due to her complete concentration upon the character whom she played: she identified herself with a role and seemed possessed by it, oblivious of all else around her. Portraits of her were painted by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and Sir Joshua Reynolds; Reynolds entitled his painting ‘Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse.'” One writer declaimed “passion emanated from her breast as from a shrine. She was tragedy personified.” Another great actor of the day, described her as ‘an actress who never has had an equal, nor could ever have a superior’. Described as “beautiful, sensitive and intelligent, her stage presence was striking; but her temperament could be variable, and there were many of her contemporaries who maintained that she inspired more admiration than affection.”

While living in Bath at the beginning of her career, Sarah Siddons stayed at 2 Abbey Green. The family later moved to 33 the Paragon where they lived for several years in between acting engagements. Sarah Siddons died in 1831 and was buried in St. Mary’s, Paddington. It is said that 5,000 mourners turned out to pay tribute to one of England’s greatest Actresses.

A statue of Mrs. Siddons was created by Francis Legatt Chantrey and stands in Westminster Abbey.

*****
Written by Laura Boyle. Laura creates custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and other Regency Accessories for Austentation a Regency Fashion History site and Boutique.

* Biographical information quoted from They Came to Bath. Other sources include the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Posted on

The Delectable Dora Jordan

I think you judge very wisely in putting off your London visit, and I am mistaken if it be not put off for some time. You speak with such noble resignation of Mrs. Jordan and the Opera House, that it would be an insult to suppose consolation required…
Jane Austen to Cassandra
January 8, 1801

She was born Dorothea Bland (though she sometimes went by Dora or Dorothy) on November 21, 1761, near Waterford, Ireland. She was the daughter of a stagehand, Francis Bland, and his mistress, actress Grace Phillips. With this background it’s no surprise that when Francis abandoned the family in 1774 (to marry yet another actress) Dora was forced to go to work to help support her mother and four siblings.

Her mother found her, then 13 year old, daughter a position with the Theatre Royal in Cork. The manager of the company, Richard Daly, also saw potential. He cast Dora in any number of second rate productions, all the time acting his own love scenes on the side. Dora wanted nothing to do with her married manager—despite his “kindness” to her family. His true colors were revealed when, in a last ditch effort to gain his way with her, he threatened her with jail if she could not repay the funds he had leant her. Still Dorothy would not budge and Daly was forced to abduct her. A child resulted, you Frances, born in Dublin in 1782.

Finally Dora could take no more. She and her mother escaped to England, where Dora took on the name “Mrs. Jordan”. There was no Mr. Jordan, of course, but it was more respectable to be considered a widow with a child than the alternative. Some say she chose the name Jordan as a reference to her escape across the Irish Sea, likened to the River Jordan. Regardless, England was soon to prove to be her promised land.

Here, her mother found her work with Tate Wilkinson, manager of a theater company in Leeds. Dorothy was adrift. She began several affairs. One, with army Lieutenant, Charles Doyne, who proposed marriage, later with Tate Wilkinson, himself, and even the George Inchbald, the male lead in the company. According to Claire Tomalin, Dorothea’s biographer, Dorothea would have married Inchbald, so greatly was she in love with him, but he never asked. Broken-hearted, she left him in 1786 to begin an affair with Sir Richard Ford, a police magistrate and a lawyer.

She moved in with Ford when he promised to marry her. They had three children, a short lived son and two daughters.

In 1785 she made her first London appearance at Drury Lane as Peggy in A Country Girl. Before the end of her first season she had become an established public favourite, her acting in comedy being declared second only to that of Kitty Clive. Comedy was her forte and her appearances as Lady Teazle, Rosalind and Imogen being specially liked, and such “breeches” parts as William in Rosina. Her engagement at Drury Lane lasted till the theater burned down in 1809, after which, she appeared at Haymarket and the new Covent Garden theater.

A Relationship with Royalty

Pretty, witty and intelligent (and said to have the most beautiful legs ever seen on the stage), Jordan soon came to the attention of wealthy men. She became the mistress of William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, in 1791, living with him at Bushy House, and seemed to have not bothered herself with politics or the political intrigues that often went on behind the scenes in royal courts.

While William had an eye for the ladies as a young man, he appeared to enjoy the domesticity of his life with Mrs. Jordan. The Duke remarked to a friend,

“Mrs. Jordan is a very good creature, very domestic and careful of her children. To be sure she is absurd sometimes and has her humours. But there are such things more or less in all families.”

The couple, while living quietly, enjoyed entertaining, with Mrs. Jordan writing in late 1809:

“We shall have a full and merry house this Christmas, ’tis what the dear Duke delights in.”

The King, George III, generally somewhat of a prude, was accepting of his son’s relationship with the actress (though recommending that he halve her allowance) and in 1797, created William Ranger

of Bushy Park, which included a large residence, Bushy House, for William’s growing family. Dorthea continued her acting career, and made public appearances with the Duke when necessary. Together they had at least ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence:

  • George Augustus (1794-1842), created Earl of Munster in 1831.
  • Henry Edward (27 March 1795 – September 1817)
  • Sophia (August 1796 – 10 April 1837) married Philip Sidney, 1st Baron De L’Isleand Dudley.
  • Mary (19 December 1798 – 13 July 1864), married General Charles Richard Fox
  • Frederick (9 December 1799 – 30 October 1854) – British Army Lieutenant Generaland made Lord Frederick FitzClarence
  • Elizabeth (17 January 1801 – January 16, 1856) married William Hay, 18th Earl ofErroll
  • Adolphus (Rear-Admiral) (18 February 1802 – 17 May 1856) – Lord AdolphusFitzClarence
  • Augusta (17 November 1803 – 8 December 1865) married, firstly, Hon. John Kennedy-Erskine, 5 July 1827, married secondly, Admiral Lord John Hallyburton
  • Reverend Lord Augustus (1 March 1805 – 14 June 1854); rector at Mapledurham inOxfordshire. Married Sarah Gordon
  • Amelia (21 March 1807 – 2 July 1858) married Lucius Bentinck Cary, 10th ViscountFalkland

The affair would last for twenty years before ending in 1811. Mrs. Jordan at least had no doubt as to the reason for the breakup,
“Money, money, my good friend, has, I am convinced made HIM at this moment the most wretched of men,” adding, “With all his excellent qualities, his domestic virtues, his love for his lovely children, what must he not at this moment suffer?”

Mrs. Jordan was given a financial settlement of £4400 per year and custody of the daughters, on condition she did not resume the stage. When she did take up her acting career againin 1814, to repay debts incurred in her name by her son-in-law (the husband of one of Mrs. Jordan’s daughters from a previous relationship), the Duke took custody of the daughters and stopped paying the £1500 designated for their maintenance. With her career failing, she fled to France to escape her creditors, and died, impoverished, near Paris in 1816.

Deep in debt, the Duke made multiple attempts towards marrying a wealthy heiress, but his suits were unsuccessful. However, when the Duke’s niece, Princess Charlotte, the second-in-  line to the throne, died in childbirth in 1817, the King, was left with twelve children, none of them with legitimate children. The race was on among the Royal Dukes to marry and produce an heir.

William had great advantages in this race—his two older brothers were both childless and estranged from their wives (who were both probably beyond childbearing age) and William was the healthiest of the three. If he lived long enough, he would almost certainly become King, and have the opportunity to sire the next monarch. However, William’s first choices to wed either met with the disapproval of the Prince Regent or turned him down. Eventually, a princess was found who was amicable, home-loving, and was willing to accept, even enthusiastically welcome, William’s nine surviving children, several of whom had not yet reached adulthood. At Kew on 11 July 1818, William married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. At 25, Adelaide was half William’s age.

The marriage, which lasted almost twenty years until William’s death, was a happy one. The new Duchess took both William and his finances in hand. For their first year of marriage, the couple lived in economical fashion in Germany, William’s debts were soon on the way to being paid, especially since Parliament had voted him an increased allowance, which he reluctantly accepted after his requests to increase it further were refused. William is not known to have had mistresses.The major sorrow of the marriage is that they did not have healthy children which would have secured the succession. The couple had two short-lived daughters, and Adelaide suffered three miscarriages.

When George IV died on June 26, 1830,, the Duke of Clarence ascended the Throne, aged 64, as William IV, the oldest person ever to assume the British throne. Unlike his extravagant brother, who epitomized the excesses of the Regency, William was unassuming, discouraging pomp and ceremony. In contrast to George IV, who tended to spend most of his time in Windsor Castle, William was known, especially early in his reign, to walk, unaccompanied, through London or Brighton. In 1831, William commissioned a statue of Dorothy, which eventually found a home at Buckingham Palace.

William died on June 20, 1837, and was succeeded by his neice, Victoria, who would make a name for herself among the most famous monarchs ever to reign.


Explore our bookshop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk.

Borrowed from Wikipedia

Additional resources:

Claire Tomalin, Mrs Jordan’s Profession, Viking, 1994

Otis Skinner, Mad Folk of the Theatre, Ayer Publishing, 1928

 

Posted on

John Keats


John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821) was the latest born of the great Romantic poets. Along with Byron and Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the movement, despite publishing his work over only a four-year period. During his short life, his work was not well received by critics, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson and Wilfred Owen was significant. The poetry of Keats was characterised by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes which remain among the most popular poems in English
literature. The letters of Keats are among the most celebrated by any English poet.

What is most interesting to Austen scholars is the apparent link between Jane Austen’s work and the influence it may have had on Keats’ poetry.
The lives of both these writers overlap almost perfectly and as Katie Mastrucci writes in An Imitation of Spenser—comes in 1814, when Keats was
nineteen. In 1815, Keats registered as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital (now part of King’s College London). Within a month of starting, he
was accepted for a “dressership” position within the hospital—a significant promotion with increased responsibility and workload, taking up
precious writing time and increasing his ambivalence to working in medicine. Strongly drawn by an ambition inspired by fellow poets such as Leigh Hunt and Byron, but beleaguered by family financial crises that continued to
the end of his life, he suffered periods of deep depression. His brother George wrote that John “feared that he should never be a poet, & if he
was not he would destroy himself”. In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence but before the end of the year he announced to his guardian
that he had resolved to be a poet, not a surgeon.

Though he continued his work and training at Guy’s, Keats was devoting increasing time to the study of literature. In May 1816, Leigh Hunt,
greatly admired by Keats, agreed to publish the sonnet O Solitude in his
magazine The Examiner, a leading liberal magazine of the day. It is the first appearance of Keats’s poems in print and Charles Cowden
Clarke refers to it as his friend’s “red letter day”, first proof that John’s ambitions were not ridiculous. In the summer of that year he went
down to the coastal town of Margate with Clarke to write. There he began Calidore
and initiated the era of his great letter writing.

In October, Clarke personally introduced Keats to the influential Hunt, a close friend of Byron and Shelley. Five months later Poems, the first volume of Keats
verse, was published. It was a critical failure but Hunt went on to publish the essay Three Young Poets (Shelley, Keats and Reynolds),
along with the sonnet on Chapman’s Homer, promising great things to come. He introduced Keats to many prominent men in his circle, including
editor of The Times Thomas Barnes, writer Charles Lamb, conductor Vincent Novello and poet John Hamilton Reynolds, who would become a
close friend. It was a decisive turning point for Keats. He was established in the public eye as a figure in, what Hunt termed, ‘a new school
of poetry’. At this time Keats writes to his friend Bailey “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of
the imagination — What imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth”. This would eventually transmute into the concluding lines of Ode on a Grecian Urn ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ – that is all / you know on
earth, and all ye need to know”.

Endymion, on its eventual publication, was also damned by the critics, giving
rise to Byron’s quip that Keats was ultimately “snuffed out by an article”. One particularly harsh review by John Wilson Croker appeared in the
April 1818 edition of The Quarterly Review:

…It is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius – he has all these; but he is
unhappily a disciple of the new school of wha

Did you enjoy this article? Explore our giftshop!