The Accommodating Self: Cowper to Keats
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.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Opening Line Possessive Pronoun Romantic Poet Epic Mode
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