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Walking and Talking: Late-Romantic Voices

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Abstract

Thus Hazlitt asserts at the beginning of one of the greatest short pieces of walking literature, his essay ‘On Going a Journey’, from Table Talk (1821). Barring some inimitable digressions, the opposition of solitary and accompanied walking is the running theme of the whole essay. To begin with, the choice of whether ‘to talk or be silent, to walk or sit still, to be sociable or solitary’ 1 is emphatically one-sided: for Hazlitt, ‘The soul of a [pedestrian] journey is liberty, perfect liberty’ — not just the bodily, navigational freedom celebrated by many early pedestrian tourists, but the corollary liberty ‘to think, feel, do just as one pleases’ (p. 136); and this can be embraced only, it seems, when one is alone. Because it is so subjectively and privatively conceived, such liberty distrusts the interpersonal character of language praxis, disdains the ‘awkward silence, broken by attempts at wit or dull commonplaces’ (p. 137) that marks language reduced to the merely phatic. Indeed, that realm of automated verbal behaviour, which threatens to ‘speak’ the subject, is precisely what one is escaping from: in motion, ‘We are no more those hackneyed common-places that we appear in the world’ (p. 142), but instead, presumably, to extend the metaphor, nonce-words, or figurative deviations from our literal selves.

Keywords

Romantic Period Foreign Travel Walking Tour Tour Literature Mental Privacy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Stuart Sperry, Keats the Poet (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973) pp. 138, 153.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Robert Gittings, John Keats (1968; rpt Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979) pp. 651–2.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Jeffrey N. Cox, ‘Keats in the Cockney School’, Romanticism, II (1996) 28.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Mikhail Bakhtin, ‘From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse’, in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981)p. 55.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973)p. 233.Google Scholar
  6. 34.
    Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London: New Left Books, 1973)p. 55.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robin Jarvis 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Head of Literary StudiesUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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