‘Ah! let me not be fool’d’: Delusion and Inspiration in the Poems of Browning and Tennyson, 1832–1840

  • Joseph Crawford
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter explores the early poetry of Tennyson and Browning in relation to the debates over genius and madness discussed in the previous chapter. It traces their shifting attitudes towards the figure of the heroic poetic genius, and their growing scepticism regarding the Shelleyan ideal of the visionary poet-prophet. In particular, I argue that Tennyson’s poems of 1832–1834 mark a crucial turning away from the visionary enthusiasms of his earlier works, while Paracelsus and Sordello dramatise Browning’s movement from a ‘Romantic’ poetry of inspired subjectivity to a ‘dramatic’ poetry of objective psychological observation: a movement motivated, at least in part, by his awareness of how easily a belief in one’s own inspired status could slide into a condition of solipsistic self-delusion effectively indistinguishable from madness.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Crawford
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

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