The Accommodating Self: Cowper to Keats

  • Mark Storey


Carlyle had, in dismissing Voltaire for his ‘entire want of Earnestness’, pointed to the dangers of ridicule (and therefore of wit), which was ‘by nature selfish and morally trivial; it cherishes nothing but our own vanity’.1 This of course is an echo of the Hobbesian view of laughter. (But the argument could be put the other way round — in other words, egotism was the prime target of ridicule.) Certainly Hazlitt’s obsession with egotism is of importance to the general drift of the argument, as it reflects some of the rampant confusions of the time. The relationship between humour and the idea of the self is not examined in the nineteenth century in any systematic way, but it is clearly lurking behind much of the debate.


Eighteenth Century Opening Line Possessive Pronoun Romantic Poet Epic Mode 
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  1. Thomson, The Seasons and The Castle of Indolence ed. James Sambrook (Oxford, 1972).Google Scholar
  2. Gray, The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith ed. Roger Lonsdale (1969).Google Scholar
  3. Cowper, Poetical Works ed. H. S. Milford, 4th ed. revised (1967).Google Scholar
  4. Southey, Poems, ed. Maurice H. Fitzgerald (1909).Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Carlyle, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, II (1899), p. 133.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Hazlitt, Complete Works, ed. P. P. Howe, VIII ( 1930, p. 209.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Coleridge, Preface to Poems tat Various Subjects (1796). See Kathleen Coburn, The Self-Conscious Imagination (1974).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    See especially George Kitchin, A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English (Edinburgh and London, 1931).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    See David Farley-Hills, The Benevolence of Laughter (1974).Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    See Max F. Schulz, The Poetic Voices of Coleridge (Detroit, 1963 ).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    See Ford J. Swetnam, Jr., ‘The Satiric Voices of The Prelude’, in Jonathan Wordsworth (ed.), Bicentary Wordsworth Studies (Ithaca and London, 1970 ), pp. 92–110.Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    See John Gittings, John Keats (Harmondsworth, 1971), pp. 534–41.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Storey 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Storey
    • 1
  1. 1.BirminghamUK

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