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Title: Pope's poetic legacy, 1744-1830
Author: Cox, Octavia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 6756
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Jerome McGann observes that 'Deceptive apparitions haunt romantic writing'. This thesis investigates one such haunting apparition; it analyses the ways in which selected eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century poets engage with the poetry of Alexander Pope. The received view of "Romantic" anti-Popeanism is expressed in comments such as that of William Hazlitt's 'I do not think there is any point of sympathy between Pope and the Lake School: on the contrary, I know there is an antipathy between them'. There is plenty of evidence to suggest some Romantic writers had an aversion to the previous literary age. In a letter to his brother and sister-in-law in March 1819, for example, Keats reviews a play by mocking that it 'was bad even in comparison with ... the Augustan age'. Pope had been the pre-eminent figure of Augustan poetry. Hence, the argument runs, Pope was rejected wholesale by Romantic poets. Such an understanding of literary history is, however, too dogmatic. Rather than accepting the view that the progression from Pope's era to the Romantic period involved a sudden pivot in taste, I explore how Popean poetic principles filtered into the development of his successors' literary aesthetics and ideas about poetry. The central questions I ask are how, and in what ways, Pope's successors used Pope's poetry to formulate their own poetic visions. I address these questions in four main chapters. In the first, I analyse Joseph Warton's An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope. I show that Warton's Essay on Pope should not be taken as a denigration of Pope's poetic achievement, and suggest ways in which Pope's work permeates his, and his brother Thomas', poetry. In the second, I examine the response to Pope's Iliad, a text which prompted conflicting reactions among his successors. In particular, I appraise William Cowper's response to Pope's translation, not only as contained in his prose discussion of it, but also as revealed by his own translation. My third chapter considers ways in which Wordsworth plays with Pope's poetic legacy, and acknowledges Pope's contribution to the formulation of his own ideas of what constitutes good poetry. In the final chapter, I illustrate that even in the poetry of Keats - who, at times, vociferously rejects Pope as a mere handicraftsman - there is a sympathy in song between brother-poets. Literary criticism has often stressed the prominence of authors such as Lord Byron, Erasmus Darwin and George Crabbe in Pope's poetic reception and legacy. Yet Pope haunts other writers in subtler, but no less compelling, ways. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge observes, in Biographia Literaria, 'many ... formed ... their notions of poetry, from the writings of Mr. Pope'. What I try to give colour to here are some of the ways in which subsequent 'notions of poetry' were 'formed' from 'the writings of Mr. Pope'.
Supervisor: Stafford, Fiona ; Johnston, Freya Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English poetry--18th century--History and criticism ; Romanticism