‘The Madness’: Inspiration and Insanity in Spasmodic Poetry, 1851–1855

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


Drawing upon the works of Rudy, Blair, and Tucker, this chapter discusses the rise of ‘spasmodic’ poetry in the 1850s, and argues that the insistence of the spasmodic poets that poetic inspiration transcended all other forms of authority can be understood as a reaction to the medicalisation and pathologisation of poetic talent in British culture over the course of the previous two decades. It explores the depiction of poetic genius in the writings of ‘spasmodic’ writers such as Horne, Dobell, Bailey, and Bigg, and contrasts their views with those of the Blackwood’s Magazine writers who critiqued them: of these, special attention is given to the writings of D.M. Moir, an influential poet and critic who was also a practising doctor. Finally, it considers the works published by Browning and Tennyson during the 1850s as responses to the spasmodic movement.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

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