Advertisement

‘Ah! let me not be fool’d’: Delusion and Inspiration in the Poems of Browning and Tennyson, 1832–1840

  • Joseph Crawford
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

This chapter explores the early poetry of Tennyson and Browning in relation to the debates over genius and madness discussed in the previous chapter. It traces their shifting attitudes towards the figure of the heroic poetic genius, and their growing scepticism regarding the Shelleyan ideal of the visionary poet-prophet. In particular, I argue that Tennyson’s poems of 1832–1834 mark a crucial turning away from the visionary enthusiasms of his earlier works, while Paracelsus and Sordello dramatise Browning’s movement from a ‘Romantic’ poetry of inspired subjectivity to a ‘dramatic’ poetry of objective psychological observation: a movement motivated, at least in part, by his awareness of how easily a belief in one’s own inspired status could slide into a condition of solipsistic self-delusion effectively indistinguishable from madness.

References

Primary Sources

  1. Ainsworth, William Harrison. 1837. Rookwood: A Romance. London: Richard Bentley.Google Scholar
  2. Browning, Robert. 1983–2009. Poetical Works, ed. Ian Jack, Rowena Fowler, Margaret Smith, Robert Inglesfield, et al., 15 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  3. Bulwer-Lytton, Edward. 1841. Critical and Miscellaneous Writings. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.Google Scholar
  4. Coleridge, S.T. 1999. Poems, ed. John Beer. London: David Campbell.Google Scholar
  5. Conolly, John. 1830. An Inquiry Concerning the Indications of Insanity. London: John Taylor.Google Scholar
  6. Cornwall, Barry [Bryan Procter]. 1820. Marcian Colonna, an Italian Tale, With Three Dramatic Scenes, and Other Poems. London: John Warren and C & J Ollier.Google Scholar
  7. Dickens, Charles. 1971. In The Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater, vol. 1. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  8. Mill, John Stuart. 1981. In Collected Works, ed. John Robson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  9. Milton, John. 1998. In The Riverside Milton, ed. Roy Flannagan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  10. Morison, Alexander. 1828. Cases of Mental Disease. Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart.Google Scholar
  11. Prichard, James Cowles. 1835. A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Shelley, Percy Bysshe. 1977. In Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald Reiman and Sharon Powers. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  13. Taylor, Henry. 1834. Philip Van Artevelde. 2nd ed., 2 vols. London: Edward Moxon.Google Scholar
  14. Tennyson, Alfred. 1982. Letters, ed. Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon, Jr., 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 1987. The Poems of Tennyson, ed. Christopher Ricks, 2nd ed., 3 vols. Harlow: Longman.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Baker, John. 2004. Browning and Wordsworth. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Batchelor, John. 2014. Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  3. Colley, Ann. 1983. Tennyson and Madness. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  4. Colville, Derek. 1970. Victorian Poetry and the Romantic Religion. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cronin, Richard. 2012. Reading Victorian Poetry. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Faas, Ekbert. 1988. Retreat into the Mind: Victorian Poetry and the Rise of Psychiatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Felluga, Dino. 2005. The Perversity of Poetry: Romantic Ideology and the Popular Male Poet of Genius. New York: New York State University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Jacobs, Francis. 1971. Criminal Responsibility. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.Google Scholar
  9. Jump, John, ed. 1967. Tennyson: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  10. Keenan, Richard. 1973. Browning and Shelley. Browning Institute Studies 1: 119–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kennedy, Richard, and Donald Hair. 2007. The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lourie, Margaret. 1979. Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep: Tennyson as Romantic Revisionist. Studies in Romanticism 18 (1): 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Martens, Britta. 2011. Browning, Victorian Poetics, and the Romantic Legacy: Challenging the Personal Voice. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  14. Matthew, H.C.G., and Brian Harrison, eds. 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 60 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Pedlar, Valerie. 2006. The Most Dreadful Visitation: Male Madness in Victorian Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Platizky, Roger. 1989. A Blueprint of His Dissent: Madness and Method in Tennyson’s Poetry. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2002. “Like Dull Narcotics, Numbing Pain”: Speculations on Tennyson and Opium. Victorian Poetry 40 (2): 209–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Richardson, Alan. 2001. British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ricks, Christopher. 1989. Tennyson. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rivers, Charles. 1976. Robert Browning’s Theory of the Poet, 1833–1841. Salzburg: Universität Salzburg.Google Scholar
  21. Sage, Victor. 1988. Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition. New York: St Martin’s Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shannon, Edgar. 1981. Poetry as Vision: Sight and Insight in “The Lady of Shalott”. Victorian Poetry 19 (3): 207–223.Google Scholar
  23. Showalter, Elaine. 1987. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830–1980. London: Virago.Google Scholar
  24. Stevenson, Catherine Barnes. 1982. The Shade of Homer Exorcises the Ghost of De Quincey: Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters”. Browning Institute Studies 10: 117–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Suzuki, Akhito. 2006. Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient, and the Family in England, 1820–1860. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  26. Tate, Gregory. 2012. The Poet’s Mind: The Psychology of Victorian Poetry 1830–1870. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tennyson, Charles, and Hope Dyson. 1974. The Tennysons: Background to Genius. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  28. Tucker, Herbert. 1984. From Monomania to Monologue: “St. Simeon Stylites” and the Rise of the Victorian Dramatic Monologue. Victorian Poetry 22 (2): 121–137.Google Scholar
  29. ———. 1988. Tennyson and the Doom of Romanticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Whitehead, James. 2017. Madness and the Romantic Poet: A Critical History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wood, Jane. 2001. Passion and Pathology in Victorian Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Yetman, Michael. 1975. Exorcising Shelley Out of Browning: “Sordello” and the Problem of Poetic Identity. Victorian Poetry 13 (2): 79–98.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Crawford
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

Personalised recommendations