Victorian Poetry and the Romantic Religion

By Derek Colville

Paperback : 9780873950749, 262 pages, June 1970

Table of contents


I. Approach to Victorian Poetry: A Romantic Reformulation


1. Foreword: Victorian and Romantic
2. The Center of Vision: Coleridge and Wordsworth
3. Blake
4. The Second Generation: Byron
5. Shelley
6. Keats
7. Carlyle
8. Summary: Assertion and Decline


II. Arnold


1. Background
2. Central Poems of Arnold
3. Arnold and the Romantics
4. The Solid Footing: A Qualification
5. Arnold: A Summary


III. Browning


1. Foreword
2. Browning's Religious Poems
3. Poems of Fame and Love
4. Sisyphus Lost: A Summary


IV. Tennyson


1. Tennyson and Reputation
2. Quintessential Poems
3. Tennyson the Romantic
4. Conflict in Metaphor
5. Style as Outlook
6. In Memoriam
7. Tennyson: A Summary


V. Afterword


1. The Romantic Approach: Some Possibilities
2. After the Victorians


Textual Notes



This book is a critical introduction to major English poetry of the nineteenth century with an analysis of the changes in subject matter, form, tone, and technique resulting from Romantic influences. A reexamination of Victorian poems, placed against a background of Romantic thought, structure, and method, includes most of the major works of Arnold and Tennyson, as well as selected poems of Browning. Professor Colville reveals particular adaptations of the Romantic heritage in the shaping of mental attitudes in these poets. He finds that Arnold used his romantic inheritance in a series of delicately balanced oppositions, or tensions, which eloquently express the agonizing stasis of his outlook; that Browning used the Romantic style crudely and badly in his subjective transcendental poetry, and could usually only be successful as a poet by turning to objective, external concerns—by taking his manifest self out of the poems. Only in Tennyson, after an early stage of intense and undigested Romantic imitation, is there a sustained and successful attempt to refine and discipline Romantic style and method to serve his own outlook and utterance.

This volume should be useful to students of nineteenth century English literature through the way in which it relates the major poets of the century to each other and the Romantics. The brief introductory reformulation for those approaching romantic poetry for the first time, with the focus on selected Romantic poems, indicates that the book is based on many years of thinking and reflection, together with a natural sympathy and understanding of the topic it treats. The book combines a humane and enthusiastic restatement of familiar ideas with some new (or hitherto underemphasized) suggestions about major Victorian poetry.

Derek Colville is Professor of English at State University of New York at Binghamton. He is a graduate of the University of Durham, England, where he won the Jubilee Essay Prize for 1949, and he received his graduate degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Colville has taught at the University of California, Riverside, Yale University, and the University of Toronto. He was co-editor with James D. Koerner of The Craft of Writing, and articles authored by him have appeared in Yale Review, Bucknell Review, New England Quarterly, and Harper's.