Many of Robert Browning’s poems are concerned with different aspects of human identity. In the great dramatic monologues, such as Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto and My Last Duchess, the question of exactly who is speaking obviously concerns us, but to what extent do the speaker’s language and attitudes mirror those of the poet himself ? In the various poems on the theme of love and sexual relationships which Browning included in his published collections, we inevitably want to know which of these spring directly from his personal experience. Browning, however, never felt a duty to reveal himself to the reader within his poetry. Though he admired several of the Romantic writers among the poetic generation immediately preceding his own, especially Shelley and Wordsworth, he was unwilling to follow their example by relating his discourse to the concept of a dominant ego, an “I” whose personal drama of feeling and experience formed the substance of a sustained narrative. Several of his works deliberately criticise the tendency, made fashionable by the Romantics, to see a poem as offering clues to its writer’s identity and, by association, his private life. In 1874 Browning a poem, House, arguing that the reader has no right to share an author’s privacy: “For a ticket, apply to the Publisher.” No: thanking the public, I must decline. A peep through my window, if folk prefer; But, please you, no foot over threshold of mine!” In this guide, Jonathan Keates looks at the roots of Browning’s poetry, at at why he is so influential and at how, despite his determination to keep his private and poetic identities separate, some of his work is so shocking.
Critical assessments of Elizabeth Gaskell have tended to emphasise the regional and provincial aspects of her writing, but the scope of her influence extended across the globe. Building on theories of space and place, the contributors to this collection bring a variety of geographical, industrial, psychological, and spatial perspectives to bear on the vast range of Gaskell’s literary output and on her place within the narrative of British letters and national identity. The advent of the railway and the increasing predominance of manufactory machinery reoriented the nation’s physical and social countenance, but alongside the excitement of progress and industry was a sense of fear and loss manifested through an idealization of the country home, the pastoral retreat, and the agricultural south. In keeping with the theme of progress and change, the essays follow parallel narratives that acknowledge both the angst and nostalgia produced by industrial progress and the excitement and awe occasioned by the potential of the empire. Finally, the volume engages with adaptation and cultural performance, in keeping with the continuing importance of Gaskell in contemporary popular culture far beyond the historical and cultural environs of nineteenth-century Manchester.
Victorian Poets: A Critical Reader features a collection of critical essays focusing on various aspects of Victorian-era poetry from the 1830s to the 1890s. Presents key criticism on Victorian poetry Features contributions from a variety of scholars in the field Illustrates the full range of critical approaches to the Victorian poets, including attention to texts, words, forms, modes, and sub-genres Offers fresh reinterpretations, many driven by contemporary ideological interests, including gender questions, selfhood, and body issues