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Nervous Reactions

Victorian Recollections of Romanticism

Joel Faflak, Julia M. Wright

Publication Year: 2004

Nervous Reactions considers Victorian responses to Romanticism, particularly the way in which the Romantic period was frequently constructed in Victorian-era texts as a time of nervous or excitable authors (and readers) at odds with Victorian values of self-restraint, moderation, and stolidity. Represented in various ways—as a threat to social order, as a desirable freedom of feeling, as a pathological weakness that must be cured—this nervousness, both about and of the Romantics, is an important though as yet unaddressed concern in Victorian responses to Romantic texts. By attending to this nervousness, the essays in this volume offer a new consideration not only of the relationship between the Victorian and Romantic periods, but also of the ways in which our own responses to Romanticism have been mediated by this Victorian attention to Romantic excitability. Considering editions and biographies as well as literary and critical responses to Romantic writers, the volume addresses a variety of discursive modes and genres, and brings to light a number of authors not normally included in the longstanding category of “Victorian Romanticism”: on the Romantic side, not just Wordsworth, Keats, and P. B. Shelley but also Byron, S. T. Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, Mary Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft; and on the Victorian side, not just Thomas Carlyle and the Brownings but also Sara Coleridge, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Archibald Lampman, and J. S. Mill.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century


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pp. v-vi


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p. vii

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pp. 1-20

The relationship between the Romantic period and the Victorian era has long been a subject of scholarly enquiry, from tracings of literary and ideological debts between specific writers to formulations of the transformation of English culture from the “Age of Revolution” to the age of “muscular Christianity.” Recent volumes such as Andrew Elfenbein’s...

Part I: Nervous Containments: Recollection and Influence

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1. De Quincey Collects Himself

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pp. 23-45

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey’s first important and still most notable work, was first published in two installments of London Magazine in 1821, the year Keats died. An immediate succès de scandale, the work was published in book form in 1822, the year Percy Shelley died. De Quincey continued to revise the text up to his own death...

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2. Mrs. Julian T. Marshall’s Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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pp. 47-64

Although this chapter concerns a specific late Victorian biographical project, it invites some more general consideration of the legacy of the romantic ideology of selfhood and how writing a woman’s biography necessarily involves a departure from this model. The male quest plot of the rise of the qualified individual associated with the romantic self does...

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3. Between Action and Inaction: The “Performance” of the Prima Donna in Eliot’s Closet Drama

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pp. 65-91

Published simultaneously in Macmillan’s and the Atlantic Monthly of 1871, Armgart comprises George Eliot’s single use of the fully dramatic form, though the cast, especially the title character, enacts one of the social and cultural issues that recurs in Eliot’s literature, that of possible and appropriate action for women. Typically, Eliot offers multiple critiques of...

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4. Nervous ReincarNations: Keats, Scenery, and Mind Cure in Canada during the Post-Confederation Period, with Particular Reference to Archibald Lampman and Related Cases

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pp. 93-119

“Keats has always been such a fascination for me and has so permeated my whole mental outfit that I have an idea that he has found a sort of faint reincarnation in me.” So wrote Canada’s finest nineteenth-century poet, Archibald Lampman (1861–1899) on 25 April 1894, when, as he informed his friend Edward William Thomson in Boston, he was “only just...

Part II: A Matter of Balance: Byronic Illness and Victorian Cure

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5. Early Romantic Theorists and The Fate of Transgressive Eloquence: John Stuart Mill’s Response to Byron

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pp. 123-140

This chapter examines the question of what became of Byronic poetics and the cultural anxieties that shape the negative reaction to his audiencedriven mode of poetry. In the passages quoted here, John Stuart Mill and Byron put forward contrasting models of poetic practice. Mill’s wellknown description of poetry as that which is “overheard” reflects these...

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6. Dyspeptic Reactions: Thomas Carlyle and the Byronic Temper

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pp. 141-161

In The Victorian Frame of Mind, Walter Houghton categorizes attitudes characteristic during the Victorian age, examining, in turn, the expressions of enthusiasm, commercialism, and earnestness that shaped the Victorians’ self-perceptions. At the same time, he also provides insight into the darker side of progress, exploring the effects of doubt, hypocrisy, and...

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7. “Growing Pains”: Representing the Romantic in Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters

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pp. 163-185

Elizabeth Gaskell’s last, and never-completed, novel, Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story (1866), belongs to a group of important novels in which the Victorians looked back to the previous age and considered cultural change not in the “sixty years since” of Sir Walter Scott’s historical novels, but in terms of the short space of a single generation.1 W. A. Craik...

Part III: Hesitation and Inheritance: The Case of Sara Coleridge

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8. Snuffing Out an Article: Sara Coleridge and the Early Victorian Reception of Keats

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pp. 189-206

Early in 1848, Sara Coleridge Coleridge wrote a review of Tennyson’s new poem The Princess for the Quarterly Review. Although she had already composed several unpublished essays, as well as essays and notes for the editions of her father’s works which she and her husband Henry brought out after S. T. Coleridge’s death, this was her first venture into...

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9. Her Father’s “Remains”: Sara Coleridge's Edition of Essays on His Own Times

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pp. 207-227

In her 1850 edition of her father’s journalism, Essays on His Own Times, Sara Coleridge Coleridge attempts to perform two somewhat contradictory tasks. As the subtitle of the three-volume work, Forming a Second Series of The Friend, indicates, she has hopes that the collection will be received as a part of her father’s literary remains, a work to be...

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10. Opium Addictions and Meta-Physicians: Sara Coleridge's Editing of Biographia Literaria

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pp. 229-251

When Sara Coleridge Coleridge received her copy of the 1847 Biographia Literaria coedited by her husband Henry Nelson Coleridge and herself, she painstakingly marked minor errors: an incorrect accent in a Greek quotation, a misspelling of Eschenmayer as Eschenmeyer, and an inaccuracy in an indirect quote in a footnote. She also crossed out the adjective...


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pp. 253-274

List of Contributors

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pp. 275-276


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pp. 277-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485590
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459713
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459713

Page Count: 287
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Series Editor Byline: Pamela K. Gilbert See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 57759001
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Nervous Reactions

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Subject Headings

  • Romanticism -- Great Britain.
  • Influence (Literary, artistic, etc.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
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