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Two Defence[s] of Poetry: Shelley and the Newgate Magazine

  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

Raymond Williams has noted that Percy Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, like other Romantic theories of poetry, is ‘evidently compensatory,’ for ‘the height of the artists’ claim is also the height of their despair.’1 Williams traces this compensatory claim to the belief on the part of Romantic poets that the values they heralded as central to art and, often, to a just society, were precisely the opposite of ‘the principles on which the new society was being organized.’2 Yet Shelley’s position within this cultural landscape was further fraught, because the most vocal advocates of the new society were not enemies but allies: philosophical radicals such as Jeremy Bentham, infidel republicans such as Richard Carlile, and liberal anti-monarchists such as Thomas Love Peacock and William Hazlitt. What’s more, all of these thinkers were—or, significantly, had become in the 1820s—contemptuous critics of poetry. Peacock’s attitude toward poetry is perhaps more wry than contemptuous: critics have long described his The Four Ages of Poetry (1820) as half-serious, and his correspondence with Shelley suggests that his animosity toward poetry was intensified by his annoyance with Barry Cornwall and other authors of ‘drivelling doggrel’ and ‘mawkish sentiment with an absolute negation of reason and knowledge.’3 Yet scholars such as Marilyn Butler have also argued that The Four Ages ‘puts the genuine utilitarian case—though it is in a deliberately provocative and extreme form.’4

Keywords

Figurative Language Republican Politics Late Lyric Poetic Language English Poetry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Williams, Culture and Society 1780–1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 40.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Peacock to Shelley, 4 Dec. 1820, in Percy Bysshe Shelley, Letters, 2 vols, ed. Frederick L. Jones (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964), II: 245–46Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Marilyn Butler, Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in His Context (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 290.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and Its Background 1760–1830 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 164–75Google Scholar
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  6. 7.
    Plato, The Republic, trans. G. M. A. Grube and C. D. C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992)Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Timothy Webb, The Violet in the Crucible: Shelley and Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976), p. 27.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    William Hazlitt, Review of Coriolanus production, Examiner (15 Dec. 1816): 792–94, 792–93; Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Preface’ to Laon and Cythna [/The Revolt of Islam] [1817], reprinted in Shelley’s Critical Prose, ed. Bruce R. McElderry, Jr (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967), p. 44.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Jeremy Bentham, The Rationale of Reward (London: John and H. L. Hunt, 1825), p. 205.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    ‘Note by R. Carlile’ in a letter from William Carver, ‘To Mr. R. Carlile, Bookseller, London,’ The Republican vol. 8, no. 4 (1 Aug. 1823): 125.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975)Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Richard Carlile, ‘To Mr. Allen Davenport,’ The Republican vol. 6, no. 21 (18 Oct. 1822): 662–70Google Scholar
  13. 21.
    William Hazlitt, Preface to Political Essays, with Sketches of Public Characters [1819], vol. 7 of The Complete works of William Hazlitt, ed. P. P. Howe (New York: AMS Press, 1967), p. 10.Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    Richard Carlile, ‘P.S’ to A—M B—T, ‘A New Creed,’ The Republican vol. 5, no. 20 (17 May 1822): 625–27Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    W[illiam] H[azlitt], ‘My First Acquaintance with Poets,’ The Liberal: Verse and Prose from the South [London: John Hunt, 1822–23]Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    Alan Sinfield, Alfred Tennyson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 11–56.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    Lord Byron, ‘Hints from Horace,’ The Complete Poetical Works, ed. Jerome J. McGann (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980)Google Scholar
  18. 32.
    [Elijah Ridings], ‘Fragment of “The Atheistiad”,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 2 (Dec. 1825): 170.Google Scholar
  19. 34.
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  20. 35.
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  21. 36.
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  22. 40.
    William Campion, ‘To The Public,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 1 (Sept. 1824): 1–5Google Scholar
  23. 42.
    Joss Marsh, Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 70Google Scholar
  24. 50.
    Junius, ‘The Character and Doctrines of St. Paul,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 1 (August 1825): 539–46Google Scholar
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  26. 55.
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  27. 56.
    Scrutator, ‘To the Editors of the Newgate Monthly Magazine,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 1 (Apr. 1825): 362–64Google Scholar
  28. 59.
    E[lijah] Ridings, ‘To the Editors of the Newgate Magazine,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 1 (June 1825): 475–78Google Scholar
  29. 63.
    Paul Foot, Red Shelley (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1980), pp. 234–35Google Scholar
  30. 65.
    C., ‘The Essayist. No. VIII,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 2 (Aug. 1826): 570–71Google Scholar
  31. 70.
    Such claims for the superior didactic power of poetry abound in the Newgate Magazine. See John Hooper, ‘Defence of Byron,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 2 (Sept. 1825): 30–34Google Scholar
  32. 74.
    T. R. P. [Thomas Ryley Perry], ‘Poetry and Music,’ Newgate Monthly Magazine vol. 2 (Apr. 1826): 371–75Google Scholar
  33. 79.
    Webb, Violetin the Crucible, p. 114. See also Earl R. Wasserman, Shelley: A Critical Reading (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  34. 80.
    Stuart Curran, Shelley’s Annus Mirabilis: The Maturing of an Epic Vision (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1975), p. xix.Google Scholar
  35. 84.
    William Keach, Shelley’s Style (New York: Methuen, 1984), p. 32.Google Scholar
  36. 86.
    This is not to criticize Shelley as an elitist. As Neil Fraistat has argued, ‘Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Edition as Cultural Performance,’ PMLA 109 (1994): 409–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 87.
    For Shelley’s search for readers, see Stephen C. Behrendt, Shelley and His Audiences (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989)Google Scholar
  38. Richard Holmes, Shelley, The Pursuit (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975)Google Scholar
  39. Steven Goldsmith, Unbuilding Jerusalem: Apocalypse and Romantic Representation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 209–58Google Scholar
  40. Susan J. Wolfson, Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 195–206Google Scholar
  41. Anne Janowitz, ‘“A Voice from across the Sea”: Communitarianism at the Limits of Romanticism,’ At the Limits of Romanticism: Essays in Cultural, Feminist, and Materialist Criticism, ed. Mary A. Favret and Nicola J. Watson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 83–100.Google Scholar
  42. 92.
    Ibid., p. 245; Ronald Tetreault, The Poetry of Life: Shelley and Literary Form (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), p. 236Google Scholar
  43. Jeffrey N. Cox, Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School: Keats, Shelley, Hunt and Their Circle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  44. Donald H. Reiman, ‘Shelley and the Human Condition,’ Shelley: Poet and Legislator of the World, ed. Betty T. Bennett and Stuart Quran (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 9Google Scholar

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© Stephanie Kuduk Weiner 2005

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  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner

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