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University of Maryland, College Park

Certainly someof the most widely anthologized Victorian poems articulate a defiant self-determination, one that upholds imperial and patriotic ideals. In thisrespect, W. But by themid-twentieth century Jerome H.

Victorian Review

This Companion follows Buckley's lead in showing how and why itremains difficult to summarize what it might mean to be characteristicallyVictorian - either in relation to poetry in particular or to the culture ingeneral. Indeed, the danger in using any broad term like Victorian lies inhow it may appear an all-encompassing concept, as if the adjective couldreasonably draw together the multiple elements of an amorphous societyinto a coherent and stable order. None of the chapters in this volumeassumes that a unitary set of values accords with the term Victorian.

Nordo these studies propose that there is a specific type of poetry that standsfor the age. Instead, the word has a different usage. It defines an epoch - anexpanse of time so the long that it often remains hard to see clear cultural,political, and indeed poetic continuities from beginning to end. | A Companion to Victorian Poetry | | Ciaran Cronin | Boeken

If, then, weadmit that scholars employ the term Victorian to designate a period ofliterary history that has no unchanging core, we may as well ask why wekeep using the word at all. This question is an important one. But it has, of course, an obviousanswer. The main reason for currently holding on to the term Victorianrelates to matters of scholarly convention and syllabus design. It goeswithout saying that readers will consult this volume because they wish toknow more about a field of study designated as Victorian poetry.

Yet, aswith all periods of literary history, this field does not have entirely fixedboundaries, especially with regard to the specific poets whom critics havecome to value most highly. The value attributed to the many differentpoetical works that fall within this field has transformed considerably overtime. Correspondingly, the kinds of poetry that have been deemed worthyof analysis have changed as well. There were good reasons why researchers and teachers concentratedmuch of their attention on such a small - if undeniably eminent - group ofpoets.

Much has been written on how the imperative to discrimi-nate between greater and lesser authors fuelled a powerful current inliterary studies as a whole. Two imposing studies from Cambridge University Press show thisprocess at work. In The Cambridge History of English Literature - acompendiousfifteen-volumeseries published between and - thechapters give pride of place to the exalted Victorian triumvirate, somewhatmore selective treatment of their less noted contemporaries, and accountsof numerous other writers who receive the briefest mention.

The editorsassign one chapter each to the Tennyson brothers much to Alfred, far lessto Charles and another to Robert Browning and Elizabeth BarrettBrowning. In its comprehensive listings, this bibliography separates majorfrom minor writers. But it would be mistaken to see the persistence ofcanon-formation in these two books, published some seventy years apart,as a wholly exclusive enterprise. In fact, both of these excellent works ofreference offer reliable access to an astonishing range of so-called lesserwritings whose value can be understood in terms markedly different fromthose that elevate Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Arnold into thePantheon.

At times, Saintsbury - an immensely knowledgeable critic -views the question of a poet's value as a matter of critical consensus,though it remains obvious from his metaphors that it has not always beeneasy to agree on who should rise above the others. And for those writers who have noteven managed to jump into the ring and fight to the last, Saintsbury findsother measures to disclose their weakness.

Although there is one lesser late-Victorian figure, M.

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Coleridge, who impresses Saintsbury, he remarksthat the huge popularity of L. Saintsbury's commentary too readily lends itself to mockery, and itremains easy for modern critics to poke fun at the seemingly outdatedcondition of his scholarship.

To be sure, in his inexhaustible enumerationof various lesser poets, it is amusing to find Saintsbury wondering why hemight be discussing them at all. Indeed, heproduces another - more compelling - reason for reviewing all of theexpressly lesser materials drawn from his wide reading. PREFACE There is, beyond all question, in this long period and among the crowd of lesser singers, an amount of diffused poetry which cannot be paralleled in any other age or country except perhaps, perhaps, in our own land and language between and At no period, not even then, has the standard of technical craftsmanship been so high; at none has there been anything like such variety of subject and, to a rather lesser extent, of tone.

XIII, For all their minority status, therefore, those poets congregating in thelower ranks of literature have nonetheless produced work that in itsattention to form and its diversity of subject matter stands as a tribute tothe nation. On these terms, the lesser writers appear sufficiently great thatone could like Saintsbury almost begin to question why they should havebeen devalued in the first place.

Based on different ideas of literary value, The Cambridge Companion toVictorian Poetry does not subscribe to the canon-bolstering assumptionsthat underpin albeit uncomfortably Saintsbury's influential essays in TheCambridge History of English Literature. Rather than spend time discrimi-nating between major and minor authors, all but one of the chapters in thepresent volume look instead at a large topic that preoccupied a range ofwriters. Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Arnold assuredly maintain a prominentposition in these pages, not least because their works absorbed an immenseamount of critical attention during their lifetimes.

But so too do ElizabethBarrett Browning, Morris, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, andSwinburne - writers who made a profound impression on their age butwho were often pushed to the sidelines when the modern discipline ofEnglish literature became somewhat selective in the objects that it felt weresuitable for study. Women poets in particular occupy a more noticeable place in thisCompanion than they do in the anthologies and works of criticism thatcirculated in colleges and universities during the mid-twentieth century.

Consider, for example, Poetry of the Victorian Period, first published in, and subsequently revised and expanded in various editions until Similar limitations appear in The Oxford Book ofNineteenth-Century English Verse , which - in the course of somenine-hundred pages - features no more than eleven women poets. It wouldtake until when The Women's Press issued Cora Kaplan's impressiveedition of Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh - a poem of epicproportions that dramatizes one woman's poetic career - before scholarsbegan to reassess how and why the reputation of a writer whom a mid-Victorian readership often held in very high regard should have gone intoserious decline toward the close of the nineteenth century.

Not long afterBarrett Browning's magnum opus drew the praise of a new generation ofreaders, R. Crump's magnificent variorum edition of Christina Rossetti'spoetry was published, helping to establish this poet's imposing oeuvre onsyllabi. Ever since the late s many Victorianists have devoted energiesto unearthing, reevaluating, and then reprinting selections from theinspiring works of writers as different as Michael Field Katherine Bradleyand Edith Cooper , Amy Levy, and Augusta Webster: all of whom speakpowerfully to a new generation of readers who want to know more aboutwomen's distinctive contributions to nineteenth-century culture.

Appearing almost a century after the Victorian period officially came toan end, this Companion shows that this era comes very much to life whenwe embrace an inclusive range of poetry by many different poets whosework need no longer be categorized in terms of major or minor talents. Inthe coming decades, it is more than likely that research into varieties ofworking-class poetry, poetry for children, dialect poetry, and poems thatappeared in a very broad range of print media such as regional news-papers will further broaden our knowledge of different aspects of Britishculture as it unfolded from the s to the s.

It seems more thanprobable that as the twenty-first century runs its course, scholars willreconfigure how we think about the many works brought together underthe heading Victorian poetry. In all probability they will suggest alternativeframeworks for comprehending the poems that passed into print while theQueen presided over the nation. Such critics will no doubt rise to thechallenge of redefining the label Victorian - perhaps to the point of devisingterms that will eventually displace it.

My thanks go to the Director of Center, Keith MichaelBaker, and his friendly staff for their hospitality. Two fellow Victorianists,Regenia Gagnier and Yopie Prins, offered helpful advice during the earlystages of editing. At the other end of the UCLAcampus, the surgical skills of Donald Becker and the medical support ofJerome Greenberg enabled me to continue with my life. Likewise, Linda Bree's painstaking editorial feedbackstrengthened the volume as a whole.

Finally, I must express my gratitude toall of the contributors - without whom, of course, this Companion wouldnot have been possible. Norman H. MacKenzie Oxford: Clarendon Press, Christopher Ricks, 3 vols. Crump, 3 vols. William M. Charlotte Porter and Helen A. Clarke, 6 vols. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, ; line references appear in parentheses.

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Collins, 2 vols. Richard D. Samuel Hynes, 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, ; line references appear in parentheses WB. Yeats, The Poems, revised edition, ed. May Morris, 24 vols. To help minimize the number of endnotes,abbreviations are used sparingly in the main text to indicate the editionsfrom which quotations have been taken. These editions have been selectedon the basis of their reliability.

In several cases, however, these texts remainunfortunately out of print. Readers will note that it is still the case thatscholars must use authoritative editions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's,Dante Gabriel Rossetti's, and Algernon Charles Swinburne's poetical worksthat were originally published in , , and respectively. Giventhe considerable revival of scholarly interest in each of these poets, one canonly hope that publishers will seize on the opportunity to issue new much-needed annotated editions of these authors' works.

Since some readers may be unfamiliar with a number of critical termsrelating to such issues as prosody, I have provided a succinct glossary at theend of the volume.

source site For more detailed accounts of each of the terms listed, seeM. Brogan et al. References to many influential earlier criticalworks in thefieldcan be located both in the endnotes to each chapter and inFrederick F. In Victorian studies it is the convention to identify wherever possible thenames of writers who contributed unsigned articles to the periodicals of theday. These names appear in square parentheses in the endnotes.