Gebir and Jacobin Poetry
1798 was the year of the Anti-Jacobin. In its first incarnation, as a weekly review, it survived for only 37 issues, but by 9 July 1798, when the last of these appeared its work was done. It was a journal that could reasonably be categorized by the Courier, the Post and the Chronicle, its principal targets, as a ministerial mouthpiece.1 The Anti-Jacobin supported Pitt and assailed his enemies. It defended, that is, a Prime Minister who seemed, for all practical purposes, to have little need for defenders. At the end of the Parliamentary session in 1797 Fox recognized his impotence by announcing his secession from the Commons, an absence that served only to underwrite Pitt’s Parliamentary supremacy. Pitt was able to pass his Gagging Acts, after the failure of Lord Malmesbury’s peace negotiations, to pursue his war policy, to finance it by an unprecedented increase in taxation and to crush vigorously a rebellion in Ireland, without effective Parliamentary opposition. It was the achievement of The Anti-Jacobin to harness in the defence of established power the kind of fierce rhetorical energy that in normal circumstances is a resource available only to those in opposition. In this achievement the most significant precursors of Gifford, the journal’s editor, and Canning, George Ellis and John Hookham Frere, his chief assistants, were, paradoxically, the Jacobins themselves.
KeywordsSignificant Precursor Weekly Review Established Power Epic Poetry Chief Assistant
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- 5.T. J. Mathias, The Pursuits of Literature: A Satirical Poem in Four Dialogues (London: T. Becket, 1798), p. 238.Google Scholar
- 7.Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 2 vols (London: T. Cadell, 1798), 1, p. 4.Google Scholar
- 9.Quotations are taken from The Poetical Works of Robert Southey, 10 vols (London: Longman, 1837–8).Google Scholar
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- 12.A point eloquently made by Stuart Curran, who argues that both Joan of Arc and Gebir reject the model of the Virgilian epic, and with it ‘the value of an imperial mission and the warfare that sustains it’. In Gebir, Landor values ‘the pastoral romance to which Gebir’s brother Tamar gives his allegiance over the public imperialist duties of his epic hero’. See Stuart Curran, Poetic Form and British Romanticism (New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986), p. 168.Google Scholar
- 13.Stuart Curran writes: ‘No reader of 1798 could miss the implications of a colonial power in Egypt, when Napoleon had just landed his armies and usurped the Marmaluke government’ (Poetic Form and British Romantic, p. 168)Google Scholar
- Simon Bainbridge, Napoleon and English Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985), p. 32.Google Scholar