BECK index

Romantic Era of English Literature 1789-1830

by Sanderson Beck

Burns’ Poetry of Scotland
Blake’s Visionary Poetry
Coleridge’s Spiritual Writing
Byron the Romantic Poet to 1816
Byron in Exile and His Manfred
Byron’s Cain and Don Juan
Shelley the Radical
Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and Later Work
Austen’s Realistic Novels
Scott’s Historical Novels

Burns’ Poetry of Scotland

      Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 near Ayr in Alloway and is celebrated as the national poet of Scotland. His father William Burnes was a tenant farmer and taught him English and French. Robert read English literature but had only a few years of schooling. He learned old songs from a woman. The Burnes family lived on the 70-acre Mount Oiphant farm from 1766 until 1777 when they moved to Lochlea. His father wrote A Manual of Christian Belief for his children to study. Robert began writing poetry by 1774. At 17 he went to a dancing school which made him unpopular with Orthodox Calvinists. Robert was among the moderate New Lights of Calvinism. On 4 July 1781 he was initiated into a Masonic lodge, and he started a debating club. In December he became a flax-dresser at Irvine. In a letter to his school friend Thomas Orr he wrote,

I love to see a man who has a mind superior to the world
& the world’s men—a man who, conscious of his own integrity,
& at peace with himself, despises the censures & opinions
of the unthinking rabble of mankind.
 
Burns wrote this epitaph for his friend William Muir:

If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

      His father died on 13 February 1784. The next month Robert and his brother Gilbert moved to a farm they rented at Mossgiel which they tried to work for four years. Robert’s first child was borne by his mother’s servant in May 1785. He fell in love with Jean Armour who gave birth to twins in March 1786. Robert’s love for many lassies included “Highland Mary” Campbell that year, but she died of typhus in October.
      Burns testified to the Kirk-session that he had married Jean Armour, but he was rebuked on three Sundays. His first work of poetry was published at Kilmarnock in July 1786 and included his “To a Mouse.” He moved to Edinburgh in December, and his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect was published in April 1787. The new edition earned him £400, and he began working for the Excise. He was accepted as an equal by the literary figures William Robertson, John Blair, and the moral philosopher Dugald Steward who liked the poems so much that he read them aloud to the blind Dr. Blacklock. Burns met young Walter Scott who said, “His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence without the slightest presumption,” and that his eye “glowed when he spoke with feeling or interest.”1 Burns was married by April 1788. He left his farm in November 1790 and moved to Dumfries where he obtained a position in the Excise and spent the rest of his life writing poems and revising songs. He caught rheumatic fever in January 1796 and died on 21 July.
      Burns wrote “Paraphrase of the First Psalm” in 1781.

The man, in life wherever plac’d,
Hath happiness in store,
Who walks not in the wicked’s way,
Nor learns their guilty lore!

Nor from the seat of scornful pride
Casts forth his eyes abroad,
But with humility and awe
Still walks before his God.

That man shall flourish like the trees,
Which by the streamlets grow;
The fruitful top is spread on high,
And firm the root below.

But he whose blossom buds in guilt
Shall to the ground be cast,
And, like the rootless stubble, tost
Before the sweeping blast.

For why? that God the good adore,
Hath giv’n them peace and rest,
But hath decreed that wicked men
Shall ne’er be truly blest.

That year his “Prayer in the Prospect of Death” included:

Thou know’st that Thou hast formed me          
  With passions wild and strong;
And list’ning to their witching voice
  Has often led me wrong.
 
Where human weakness has come short,
  Or frailty stept aside,
Do Thou, All-Good—for such Thou art—
  In shades of darkness hide.
 
Where with intention I have err’d,
  No other plea I have,
But, Thou art good; and Goodness still
  Delighteth to forgive.

In 1790 he wrote in a song,

I murder hate by flood or field,
Tho’ glory’s name may screen us;
In wars at home I’ll spend my blood—
Life-giving wars of Venus.
The deities that I adore
Are social Peace and Plenty;
I’m better pleas’d to make one more,
Than be the death of twenty.

Burns is most famous for the song “Auld Lang Syne” that is traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve. On new year’s day 1790 he wrote,

First, what did yesternight deliver?
“Another year has gone for ever.”
And what is this day’s strong suggestion?
“The passing moment’s all we rest on!”
Rest on—for what? what do we here?
Or why regard the passing year?
Will Time, amus’d with proverb’d lore,
Add to our date one minute more?
A few days may—a few years must—
Repose us in the silent dust.
Then, is it wise to damp our bliss?
Yes: all such reasonings are amiss!
The voice of Nature loudly cries,
And many a message from the skies,
That something in us never dies:
That on his frail, uncertain state,
Hang matters of eternal weight:
That future life in worlds unknown
Must take its hue from this alone;
Whether as heavenly glory bright,
Or dark as Misery’s woeful night.

Since then, my honour’d first of friends,
On this poor being all depends,
Let us th’ important now employ,
And live as those who never die.
Tho’ you, with days and honours crown’d,
Witness that filial circle round,
(A sight life’s sorrows to repulse,
A sight pale Envy to convulse),
Others now claim your chief regard;
Yourself, you wait your bright reward.

Burns favored the French Revolution and wrote “The Rights of Woman: An Occasional Address Spoken by Miss Fontenelle on her Benefit Night, November 26, 1792.”

While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things,
The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

First, in the Sexes’ intermix’d connection,
One sacred Right of Woman is, protection:
The tender flower that lifts its head, elate,
Helpless, must fall before the blasts of Fate,
Sunk on the earth, defac’d its lovely form,
Unless your shelter ward th’ impending storm.

Our second Right—but needless here is caution,
To keep that right inviolate’s the fashion;
Each man of sense has it so full before him,
He’d die before he’d wrong it—’tis decorum!
There was, indeed, in far less polish’d days,
A time, when rough rude man had naughty ways,
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot,
Nay even thus invade a Lady’s quiet.

Now, thank our stars! those Gothic times are fled;
Now, well-bred men—and you are all well-bred—
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers)
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.

For Right the third, our last, our best, our dearest,
That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest;
Which even the Rights of Kings, in low prostration,
Most humbly own—’tis dear, dear admiration!
In that blest sphere alone we live and move;
There taste that life of life—immortal love.
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs;
’Gainst such an host what flinty savage dares,
When awful Beauty joins with all her charms,
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms?

But truce with kings, and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions;
Let Majesty your first attention summon,
Ah! ça ira! The Majesty Of Woman!

In 1795 Burns wrote “A Man’s a Man for a’ that” which includes the lines:

The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

Blake’s Visionary Poetry

      William Blake was born on 28 November 1757 in London. His father was a hosier and a nonconformist Protestant dissenter. William was glad he did not go to school very long, writing later,

Thank God, I never was sent to school
To be Flog’d into following the Style of a Fool.

At the age of four he thought he saw God’s head at a window and screamed. When he was about ten, he saw angels in a tree on Peckham Rye. His mother prevented his father from thrashing him, though she had beat him for saying he saw the prophet Ezekiel under a tree in a field. As soon as he could hold a pencil, he began sketching; he had a life-long passion for drawing. His father bought plaster casts for him and gave him money to purchase prints. When he was ten, he went to a drawing school. At 14 he was apprenticed for seven years to James Basire, who was the engraver for the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society. He sent Blake to Westminster Abbey and old churches to make drawings of kings and other famous figures.
      Blake wrote in the margins of books he read, and he scorned Bacon, Locke, Reynolds, and Burke for mocking inspiration and vision. During these teenage years he wrote Poetical Sketches. In 1779 he became a student in the Royal Academy. His political views were radical. He was present in the Gordon Riots when a mob burned the Newgate Prison on 6 June 1780. His first exhibit was at the Royal Academy in 1780, but his work was not successful nor famous until decades after his death. While sketching the Medway River he was suspected of being a French spy. He was horrified by violence and opposed the British war against America. Blake worked as an engraver and printing his own books, but he lived and died in poverty. He married in August 1782, but they had no children. He had taught a younger brother to read and write, and he did the same for his wife. They read Milton’s Paradise Lost together sitting naked in the garden. He published his Poetical Sketches in 1783.
      In 1788 in “All Religions Are One” Blake wrote, “The Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nation’s different reception of the Poetic Genius, which is every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy.” He began “There is No Natural Religion” with the argument, “Man has no notion of moral fitness but from Education. Naturally he is only a natural organ subject to Sense.” He also wrote, “Reason or the ratio of all we have already known is not the same that it shall be when we know more.” His application was, “He who sees the infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.”
      In 1789 Blake’s Songs of Innocence were published and then again with his Songs of Experience in 1794. The former includes “The Divine Image.”

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

He began “On Another’s Sorrow” with this stanza:

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

      After his father’s death in 1784 he and a partner opened a print shop, and he began cooperating with the radical publisher Joseph Johnson at whose house he could have met Joseph Priestley, Richard Price, artist John Henry Fuseli, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Tom Paine. Blake with two other Williams, Wordsworth and Godwin, supported the French Revolution.
      In response to Swedenborg’s writing Blake wrote Marriage of Heaven and Hell in 1790. In the argument he wrote, “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.” Here are some gems of wisdom from Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell.”

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy….
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom….
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow….
A dead body, revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Prisons are built with stones of Law,
brothels with bricks of Religion….
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps….
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth….
What is now proved was once only imagin’d….
Always be ready to speak your mind,
and a base man will avoid you….
You never know what is enough
unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fool’s reproach! it is a kingly title!...
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.

      In 1791 he illustrated Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life. His “French Revolution” poem was typeset but not printed by Johnson who also declined to print Paine’s Rights of Man. In 1796 the Blakes moved south of the Thames to more affordable housing. In 1800 they moved to Felpham on the Sussex coast patronized by the poet William Hayley, but they stayed there only three years before returning to London. On 12 August 1803 a soldier came into his garden and was so offensive that Blake threw him out. Blake was charged with sedition for his comments and for assault, but a jury found him not guilty in January 1804. In Blake’s Notebook was found the poem “How to know Love from Deceit.”

Love to faults is always blind
Always is to joy inclind
Lawless wingd & unconfind
And breaks all chains from every mind

Deceit to secresy confind
Lawful cautious & refind
To everything but interest blind
And forges fetters for the mind

      Blake began working on his longest work on Milton that was completed about 1808 and Jerusalem which was printed in 1820. His public exhibition of 16 paintings in 1809 had not many visitors. In his last years he illustrated the Book of Job and made 100 drawings for Dante’s Divine Comedy. While singing about what he saw in heaven he died on 12 August 1827. His body was buried in an unmarked grave. Alexander Gilchrist wrote the first biography of Blake in 1863, and Swinburne published William Blake: A Critical Essay in 1868. William Butler Yeats helped produce a major edition of Blake’s works in 1893, and on the centenary of his death in 1927 knowledge of his work spread.

Coleridge’s Spiritual Writing

      Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon on 22 October 1772, the youngest of ten children. His father was a vicar and a school teacher; but he died when Samuel was nine. The next year he went to a charity school in London where he excelled in the classics. After bathing in his clothes in the New River he suffered from jaundice and rheumatic fever. In October 1791 he enrolled in Jesus College at Cambridge. He went into debt and left to join the Light Dragoons on 4 December 1793. He had trouble riding a horse, and his brother paid for his release in April 1794. On a walking tour to Oxford he met poets Robert Southey and Robert Lovell. They planned to start a “pantisocracy” community in America with the Fricker sisters but gave up the project, though all three men married Frickers. Coleridge and Southey collaborated on the drama, The Fall of Robespierre, which was published in October. Coleridge became engaged to Sara Fricker and married her in October 1795.
      In “A Moral and Political Lecture” at Bristol in 1795 Coleridge reflected on the French Revolution and noted,

Revolutions are sudden to the unthinking only.
Political disturbances happen
not without their warning harbingers.
Strange rumblings and confused noises still precede
these earthquakes and hurricanes of the moral world.

Philosophers examine the motives and manners of those destined to be the revolutionaries. Thus it is important to understand those who are in opposition so that the misguided may be enlightened and follow those with good principles. In that address he also said,

The man who would find the truth
must likewise seek it with a humble and simple heart, otherwise he will be precipitate and overlook it;
or he will be prejudiced and refuse to see it.
To emancipate itself from the tyranny of association
is the most arduous effort of the mind,
particularly in religious and political disquisitions.

      Coleridge sold verse and preached as a Unitarian but gave that up to write and publish The Watchman. He became friends with the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy who described him as one who “speaks every emotion of his animated mind.” Coleridge’s study of philosophy influenced Wordsworth’s poetry.
      In 1797 Coleridge wrote the dreamy “Kublai Khan” and began “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In the latter the Mariner stops the Wedding Guest from attending his relative’s ceremony and tells him the extraordinary tale of his voyage. He describes how they sail from icy seas to the calm Pacific. An albatross comes aboard, but he kills it. Ironically the 200 other sailors, who blame him for cursing them, all fall down dead; but the Mariner remains alive and is somehow saved. In penitence he realizes the wrong he did and says,

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

      In January 1798 the Wedgwood brothers provided Coleridge with an annuity of £150. He spent nearly a year in Germany and was influenced by the philosophy of Kant and the criticism of Lessing. Coleridge returned to the Lake District in October 1799, and he translated Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy. He often suffered from poor health, and in the winter of 1800-01 he became addicted to opium. His philosophy was also influenced by Plato, Plotinus, Locke, and Berkeley.
      In April 1804 Coleridge moved to Malta and worked as a secretary for officials. After some months in Rome and Naples he returned to England in August 1808 and lived again with the Wordsworths. He worked on the 27 publications of The Friend writing about politics, morality, and taste before it folded from lack of subscriptions. He gave lectures on Shakespeare and Milton and became a celebrity. His play Remorse opened at Drury Lane in January 1813, and its 20 performances provided him with income. He also wrote On the Principles of Genial Criticism Concerning the Fine Arts. In April 1816 he came under the care of the physician James Gillman for the rest of his life. That year The Statesman’s Manual was published, and in his lay sermon he wrote,

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
For what is enthusiasm but the oblivion and swallowing-up
of self in an object dearer than self, or in an idea more vivid?...
In the genuine enthusiasm of morals, religion, and patriotism
this enlargement and elevation of the soul above its mere self
attest the presence and accompany the intuition
of ultimate principles alone.
These alone can interest the undegraded human spirit deeply
and enduringly because these alone belong to its essence
and will remain with it permanently.

He also asserted that the power, wisdom, and love of God fill and shine through Nature. Coleridge’s verse drama, Zapolya: A Christmas Tale was performed in 1816, but a critic considered it “too poetical.”
       Coleridge began a short article on education this way:

In the education of children, love is first to be instilled,
and out of love obedience is to be educed.
Then impulse and power should be given to the intellect,
and the ends of a moral being be exhibited.
For this object thus much is effected by works of imagination;
that they carry the mind out of self, and show the possible
of the good and the great in the human character.

      In 1817 Coleridge published his autobiographical Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. He often expressed his philosophical and ethical ideas and wrote, “We begin with the I KNOW MYSELF, in order to lose and find all self in GOD.”2 In discussing Shakespeare in chapter XV he suggested that beautiful images, though taken from nature and accurately represented in words, are original genius only when they are modified by a “predominant passion” from the poet’s spirit. He began his concluding chapter XXIV as follows:

It sometimes happens that we are punished for our faults
by incidents, in the causation of which these faults had
no share: and this I have always felt the severest punishment. The wound indeed is of the same dimensions;
but the edges are jagged, and there is a dull underpain
that survives the smart which it had aggravated.
For there is always a consolatory feeling that accompanies the
sense of a proportion between antecedents and consequents.
The sense of Before and After becomes both intelligible
and intellectual when, and only when, we contemplate
the succession in the relations of Cause and Effect, which,
like the two poles of the magnet manifest the being and unity
of the one power by relative opposites, and give, as it were,
a substratum of permanence, of identity,
and therefore of reality, to the shadowy flux of Time.
It is Eternity revealing itself in the phaenomena of Time:
and the perception and acknowledgment of the proportionality
and appropriateness of the Present to the Past,
prove to the afflicted Soul, that it has not yet been deprived of
the sight of God, that it can still recognise the effective
presence of a Father, though through a darkened glass and
a turbid atmosphere, though of a Father that is chastising it.
And for this cause, doubtless, are we so framed in mind,
and even so organized in brain and nerve,
that all confusion is painful.
It is within the experience of many medical practitioners,
that a patient, with strange and unusual symptoms of disease,
has been more distressed in mind, more wretched,
from the fact of being unintelligible to himself and others,
than from the pain or danger of the disease:
nay, that the patient has received the most solid comfort,
and resumed a genial and enduring cheerfulness,
from some new symptom or product, that had at once
determined the name and nature of his complaint,
and rendered it an intelligible effect of an intelligible cause:
even though the discovery did at the same moment
preclude all hope of restoration….
Let us turn to an instance more on a level
with the ordinary sympathies of mankind.
Here then, and in this same healing influence of Light
and distinct Beholding, we may detect the final cause
of that instinct which, in the great majority of instances, leads,
and almost compels the Afflicted
to communicate their sorrows.
Hence too flows the alleviation that results from
“opening out our griefs:” which are thus presented
in distinguishable forms instead of the mist,
through which whatever is shapeless
becomes magnified and (literally) enormous.

He also concluded,

We must not only love our neighbours as ourselves,
but ourselves likewise as our neighbours;
and that we can do neither unless we love God above both.

He believed that God will never reject because of one’s speculative opinions a soul who sincerely loves. His final paragraph refers to the stars that are “suns of other worlds” and ends with “glory to God alone.”
      Coleridge gave more lectures in 1818-19, and in 1824 he published his Aids to Reflection. He urged everyone to master the art of reflection. The one knowledge that is in the interest of all is self-knowledge. In the preface he advised,

Reflect on your own thoughts, actions, circumstances, and—
which will be of especial aid to you in forming a habit
of reflection,—accustom yourself to reflect on the words
you use, hear, or read, their birth, derivation, and history.
For if words are not things, they are living powers,
by which the things of most importance to mankind
are actuated, combined, and humanized.
Finally, by reflection you may draw from the fleeting facts
of your worldly trade, art, or profession,
a science permanent as your immortal soul;
and make even these subsidiary and preparative
to the reception of spiritual truth.

In that work in the “Aphorisms on Spiritual Religion” he wrote that all philosophy begins in wonder and ends in wonder, and in between it is filled with admiration. In the conclusion to Aids to Reflection he wrote,

The dogmatism of the corpuscular school, though it still exerts
an influence on men’s notions and phrases,
has received a mortal blow from the increasingly dynamic spirit
of the physical sciences now highest in public estimation.
And it may safely be predicted that
the results will extend beyond the intention of those
who are gradually effecting this revolution.

      In a notebook on 26 August 1826 Coleridge wrote about the spiritual intuition of BEAUTY that mediates between truth and feeling, the head and the heart that is “a silent communion of the Spirit with the Spirit in Nature”—the Beauty of holiness, innocence, love, and piety. In a marginal comment on Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici he wrote, “Friendship satisfies the highest parts of our nature; but a wife, who is capable of friendship, satisfies all.” Coleridge died in 1834.

Byron the Romantic Poet to 1816

      George Gordon Byron was born with a club foot on 22 January 1788 in London. In 1790 his mother took him to Aberdeen, Scotland. His father Captain Byron squandered her fortune and died in France in 1791. George attended Aberdeen Grammar School in 1794-95., and he became the heir of Baron Byron of Rochdale. In May 1798 he inherited the Byron estate at Newstead Abbey. A Calvinist nurse stimulated his precocious sexuality and was dismissed. While attending the prestigious Harrow School 1801-05 he courted his Newstead neighbor Mary Chaworth, but she rejected the lame boy. In October 1805 he went to Trinity College at Cambridge. He enjoyed amateur theatre, gambled, and went into debt. In November 1806 he privately published his poetry as Fugitive Pieces but withdrew them because of Rev. Becher’s objections. The expurgated poems were published as Hours of Idleness in June 1807. His friend John Cam Hobhouse introduced him to the liberal Cambridge Whig Club. In January 1808 the liberal Edinburgh Review attacked Byron and criticized his poems. His rashness with girls began to cause scandals, and lack of money kept him out of college. By fasting and exercise he removed excess weight from his body. In July 1808 Byron received an A.M. degree from Cambridge, and he settled at Newstead in September. On 13 March 1809 he took his seat in the House of Lords.
      Three days later he published anonymously his satirical English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. This enabled him to borrow money, and he sailed with Hobhouse on 2 July 1809. They visited Portugal and Spain during the Peninsula War before going to Malta for three weeks in September and then on to Albania and reaching Athens on Christmas Day. Byron wrote the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in five months, completing his first draft in March 1810, but their publication came two years later. Here are some verses from the first canto that reflect how he felt about the Iberian War:

   What goodly prospects o’er the hills expand!
   But man would mar them with an impious hand:
   And when the Almighty lifts his fiercest scourge
   ’Gainst those who most transgress his high command,
   With treble vengeance will his hot shafts urge
Gaul’s locust host, and earth from fellest foemen purge. (15)

   Woe to the conquering, not the conquered host,
Since baffled Triumph droops on Lusitania’s coast. (25)

   What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
   And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
   All join the chase, but few the triumph share:
   The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array. (40)

Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
   Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
   Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies.
   The shouts are France, Spain, Albion, Victory!
   The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
   That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
   Are met—as if at home they could not die—
   To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain,
And fertilise the field that each pretends to gain. (41)

There shall they rot—Ambition’s honoured fools!
   Yes, Honour decks the turf that wraps their clay!
   Vain Sophistry! in these behold the tools,
   The broken tools, that tyrants cast away
   By myriads, when they dare to pave their way
   With human hearts—to what?—a dream alone.
   Can despots compass aught that hails their sway?
   Or call with truth one span of earth their own,
Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone? (42)

No more beneath soft Eve’s consenting star
   Fandango twirls his jocund castanet:
   Ah, monarchs! could ye taste the mirth ye mar,
   Not in the toils of Glory would ye fret;
The hoarse dull drum would sleep, and Man be happy yet. (47)

Soon will his legions sweep through these the way;
   The West must own the Scourger of the world.
   Ah, Spain! how sad will be thy reckoning day,
   When soars Gaul’s Vulture, with his wings unfurled,
And thou shalt view thy sons in crowds to Hades hurled. (52)

And must they fall—the young, the proud, the brave—
   To swell one bloated chief’s unwholesome reign?
   No step between submission and a grave?
   The rise of rapine and the fall of Spain?
   And doth the Power that man adores ordain
   Their doom, nor heed the suppliant’s appeal?
   Is all that desperate Valour acts in vain?
   And Counsel sage, and patriotic Zeal,
The veteran’s skill, youth’s fire, and manhood’s heart of steel? (53)

      Byron traveled in Greece and Turkey, swimming on 3 May the one-mile-wide Hellespont in 70 minutes. In September he caught a severe fever, probably malaria, that may have affected the rest of his life. In January 1811 he settled at the Capuchin Convent in Athens, and on 17 March he wrote The Curse of Minerva which severely criticized Lord Elgin for having disturbed the remains of Athena by taking marble sculptures from the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens to England in the past ten years. Byron also opposed Britain’s aggressive foreign policy against Denmark in the Baltic as well as against the French in Spain and Portugal.
      Byron returned to England on 14 July 1811, but his mother died on 1 August before he reached Newstead. On 27 February 1812 he made his first speech in the House of Lords on the Frame Breaking Bill which proposed the death penalty. He pleaded for the Nottingham weavers and asked,

How can you carry the Bill into effect?
Can you commit a whole country to their own prisons?
Will you erect a gibbet in every field,
and hang up men like scarecrows?

He served on the committee that reduced the capital crime to a fine or prison.
      Byron published the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage on 29 February, and on 10 March he said, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.” He was welcomed by Whigs. On 25 March he attended a waltz party at the Melbourne House given by Lady Caroline Lamb. She wrote him a love letter two days later, and he had brief affairs with her and the 40-year-old Lady Oxford who encouraged his radical politics. On 9 November he wrote his last letter to Caroline which she published in her 1816 novel Glenarvon. He criticized Europe’s betrayal of liberal ideals in his allegorical The Giaour that he published in June 1813 and expanded later. The title is the Arabic word that means “infidel” and is related to the Hebrew “goi.” The “Advertisement” preceding the poem includes the following context of the story:

The story, when entire, contained the adventures
of a female slave, who was thrown, in the Mussulman manner,
into the sea for infidelity, and avenged by a young Venetian,
her lover, at the time the Seven Islands were possessed
by the Republic of Venice, and soon after the Arnauts
were beaten back from the Morea, which they had ravaged
for some time subsequent to the Russian invasion.
The desertion of the Mainotes, on being refused the plunder
of Misitra, led to the abandonment of that enterprise,
and to the desolation of the Morea;
during which the cruelty exercised on all sides
was unparalleled even in the annals of the faithful.

      In the summer of 1813 Byron fell in love with his half-sister Augusta, who later bore his child in April 1814. Another eastern tale, The Corsair, was published on 1 February 1814 and sold 10,000 copies on that day. On 10 April he wrote his Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte in which he called him “ill-minded” and a “Dark Spirit.” Also that year he published the Larica tale about Count Lara who fought against his enemies especially Count Otho. Byron expressed his frustration with British politics in a letter to Lady Melbourne which included this epitaph:

’Tis said Indifference marks the present time,
Then hear the reason—though ’tis told in rhyme—
A King who can’t—a Prince of Wales who don’t
Patriots who shan’t, and Ministers who won’t
What matters who are in or out of place
The Mad—the Bad—the Useless—or the Base?

      Byron married Annabella Milbanke on 2 January 1815, and their daughter Ada was born in December. In July he had made his half-sister Augusta his heir. He met Walter Scott and joined the management of the Drury Lane Theater. Lady Byron left with the baby in January 1816 to return to her parents. She asked for a separation in February. Byron agreed in March and signed the separation papers on 21 April. He departed four days later and never returned to England.

Byron in Exile and His Manfred

      Byron went to Geneva where he joined Percy Shelley and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and he began a relationship with Mary’s step-sister Claire Clairmont. He and Shelley visited the Castle of Chillon on 27 June, and Byron wrote his popular The Prisoner of Chillon in 392 lines. The rhyming poem describes the imprisonment from 1530 to 1536 of the Genevan François Bonivard and his two brothers who were punished for their democratic convictions by Duke Charles III of Savoy. Byron added the following sonnet at the beginning:

Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art:
For there thy habitation is the heart—
The heart which love of thee alone can bind;
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned—
To fetters, and the damp vault’s dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And Freedom’s fame finds wings on every wind.
Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar—for ’twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard!—May none those marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.

The narrator’s brothers died, and the last stanza describes the Byronic attitude of François.

It might be months, or years, or days—
I kept no count, I took no note—
I had no hope my eyes to raise,
And clear them of their dreary mote;
At last men came to set me free;
I asked not why, and recked not where;
It was at length the same to me,
Fettered or fetterless to be,
I learned to love despair.
And thus when they appeared at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:
With spiders I had friendship made,
And watched them in their sullen trade
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?
We were all inmates of one place,
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learned to dwell;
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are:—even I
Regained my freedom with a sigh.

      Byron knew Madame de Staël and attended her circle at Coppet. She tried but failed to reconcile him with his wife. He resumed his affair with Claire who bore his daughter Allegra in January 1817. He and Hobhouse had moved to Venice in the summer of 1816, and Claire and the Shelleys had returned to England in September.
      Byron extended Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and published his play Manfred in June 1817. After many conversations with Shelley and his wife Mary about supernatural stories, Byron wrote what is considered his best play about the magician Manfred who communicates with many kinds of spirits, but unlike Faust he maintains his independence from them. Manfred relates to spirits of nature such as the air, fire, the ocean, the earth, mountains, and night as well as Greek and Persian deities. A star takes the shape of a beautiful woman but then vanishes. On a mountain cliff a passing hunter prevents Manfred from jumping off. The hunter takes him to his cottage in the Alps. In a valley Manfred meets a witch. She offers to help him, but he declines to swear obedience to her. In Manfred’s castle the Abbot of St. Maurice suggests religious consolations, but Manfred replies that whatever he has been rests between heaven and himself. He will not choose a mortal to mediate for him. He asks if he has sinned against his ordinances. He says, “There is no future pang can deal that justice on the self-condemned he deals on his own soul.” In the final scene the abbot sees a spirit approach and asks what it is. The spirit replies that it is the genius of the mortal Manfred, but he calls it a “false fiend.” The spirit tries to speak of the magician’s crimes, but Manfred interrupts to say,

What are they to such as thee?
Must crimes be punish’d but by other crimes,
And greater criminals? Back to thy hell!
Thou hast no power upon me, that I feel;
Thou never shalt possess me, that I know:
What I have done is done; I bear within
A torture which could nothing gain from thine.
The mind which is immortal makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts,
Is its own origin of ill and end,
And its own place and time; its innate sense,
When stripp’d of this mortality, derives
No colour from the fleeting things without,
But is absorb’d in sufferance or in joy,
Born from the knowledge of its own desert.
Thou didst not tempt me, and thou couldst not tempt me;
I have not been thy dupe nor am thy prey,
But was my own destroyer, and will be
My own hereafter.—Back, ye baffled fiends!
The hand of death is on me—but not yours!

Finally Manfred says to the abbot, “Old man! ’tis not so difficult to die.” Then he expires.
      Byron had more affairs and began writing Don Juan in July 1818. He sold Newstead Abbey for £94,500 to pay his debts of £34,000. This left him with an income of £3,000, plus he had been averaging £2,000 a year from his writing. His friends warned him not to publish Don Juan; but in 1819 he published the first 2 cantos, and it provoked scorn. That year his poem Mazeppa recounted the legend of the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Mazepa who suffered for having a love affair with the married Countess Theresa. Byron shared his memoirs with Thomas Moore who sold them to publisher John Murray. At Ravenna in March 1820 Byron wrote his poem, The Prophecy of Dante. He stayed with Countess Teresa Guiccioli, and in April her father and brother initiated him into the secret society of the Carbonari revolutionaries who opposed Papal and Austrian domination. A Carbonari plan failed on 24 February 1821. The Austrian police forced them to leave, and they moved to Pisa.
      Byron wrote his plays to be read. His verse tragedy, Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, was given an unauthorized performance of part of it at Drury Lane that was coolly received in April 1821. That year he also published cantos 3-5 of Don Juan, The Prophecy of Dante, and his plays Sardanapalus, The Two Foscari, Cain, and Heaven and Earth.
      In January 1822 Byron inherited £3,000 a year from his mother-in-law. On 24 March he was involved in a scuffle, and his servant seriously wounded a cavalry sergeant, making Byron mistrusted by the Tuscan government. A year ago he had sent Allegra to a convent to be educated, but she died there in April. His grief was compounded by the drowning of Shelley on a boat trip in July. Byron helped Leigh Hunt edit The Liberal, and the first issue printed his controversial Vision of Judgment that satirized the Poet Laureate Southey.
      Byron moved to Genoa in September to be with Teresa and her family, and in April 1823 Hobhouse persuaded him to be an agent for the London Greek Committee to support their fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire. He raised money and in July sailed with medical supplies to the Ionian island of Cephalonia. On an excursion to Ithaca in August he went into a rage and had perhaps his first epileptic seizure. He decided to support the provisional government of the western Greece leader, Prince Alexander Mavrocordatos, and in November he sent £4,000 to the Greek fleet. He joined Mavrocordatos at Missolonghi by the end of the year. He loaned the Greeks money and commanded a corps of 500 Suliote soldiers who were planning to attack the Turkish fortress at Lepanto. He spent 30,000 Spanish dollars of his own money, but he was unable to reconcile the western and eastern Greek factions.
      Byron at Missolonghi wrote the poem “On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year” with the following last two stanzas:

If thou regret’st thy youth, why live?   
  The land of honourable death          
Is here:—up to the field, and give
      Away thy breath! 
 
Seek out—less often sought than found—        
  A soldier’s grave, for thee the best;   
Then look around, and choose thy ground,     
      And take thy rest.

He had a serious seizure on 15 February 1824, and a doctor bled him with leeches until he fainted. Byron was expected to control a fund of £800,000 that was raised in England. He was invited to a Greek congress, but he did not trust the chieftain Odysseus who was suspected of plotting against Mavrocordatos. Byron caught a fever riding in heavy rain on 9 April. Nine days later on Easter Sunday he said, “I want to sleep now.” For 24 hours he did not move. Then he opened his eyes for a moment and died. News of his death reached London on 14 May, and three days later Hobhouse and Murray had Byron’s Memoirs burned. Byron’s funeral in London was on 12 July; but the Government refused to inter his body at Westminster Abbey, and it was buried near Newstead. Byron’s efforts and death inspired European support for the Greek cause.

Byron’s Cain and Don Juan

      Byron called his play Cain a moral mystery and dedicated it to Walter Scott in 1821. He used the names of Adah and Zillah, who were wives of Lamech, for the unnamed wives of Cain and Abel, taking them from the earliest female names (after Eve) used in Genesis. Byron, who had a child by his half-sister, makes clear that Cain and Abel married their sisters. The first scene is on land near Paradise at sunrise. Adam, Eve, Abel, Adah, and Zillah each say a prayer to God, but the first-born Cain says it is better to be silent. He asks what he has to be thankful for since he has to die. Adam asks God why he had to plant the tree of knowledge, and Cain asks Adam why he did not pick from the tree of life. Cain says that knowledge and life are good, and he asks how both can be evil. Cain is left alone and wonders why he should work because his “father could not keep his place in Eden.” He says they answer all questions by saying that it was his will and that he is good. He questions whether the all-powerful must be all-good and says he will judge by the fruits.
      Lucifer introduces himself to Cain as a “master of spirits” and says he knows Cain’s thoughts that come from his “immortal part.” Lucifer tells him that he will live forever after the earth no longer exists. He suggests that immortal souls can tell the omnipotent tyrant that his evil is not good, and he predicts that God’s “Son will be a Sacrifice.” Cain asks him why he tempted his mother, but Lucifer says he tempts with nothing but the truth. He says he would have made them gods; but God expelled them lest they eat the fruits of life. Lucifer asks if he has seen Death who will absorb all things that are earth-born. His Maker “makes but to destroy.” Cain asks if the stars will die. Lucifer says they may, but they will outlive Cain. Lucifer offers to teach him if he will worship him. Cain says he has not bowed to his father’s God, and Lucifer accepts that as worshipping him. Cain wants to know the mystery of his being, and he says he must till the earth. Adah enters and wants to go with them, but Lucifer says no. Cain says that Lucifer is a god. Lucifer says the serpent betrayed them with the truth. He says there are spirits above the archangels who are not slaves. Cain tells Adah he does not want a happiness that humbles them. Adah says that God brings joy to angels and mortals. Adah speaks of her tears, and Lucifer replies that millions or people on earth and in hell will shed tears.
      In the second act Lucifer takes Cain into space. Cain asks for his mortal part to perish so that he may rest like angels. Then Lucifer takes Cain to Hades. Cain curses the one who invented death before he was born. Lucifer shows him superior beings, or he can go back to till the earth. Lucifer explains that war, death, disease, pain, and bitterness are the fruits of the forbidden tree. Yet “death leads to the highest knowledge.” He says, “Matter cannot comprehend spirit wholly,” but he wanted him to see the spiritual realms. They seem “dim and shadowy” to Cain. Lucifer says men and women may tempt each other. Lucifer warns him that ignorance of evil does not save one from evil. Cain desires good, and Lucifer asks, “Who covets evil for its own bitter sake?” Cain speaks of loving himself in a way that is more than himself. Cain has been shown angels and wonders that include millions of starry worlds, the infinity of life, and the shadows death brings. Lucifer says he reigns with Jehovah but in a separate dwelling. Cain knows they both are eternal. Lucifer explains that Jehovah, not he, made Cain. Lucifer asks if he has taught him to know himself, though the human sum of knowledge is to know one’s mortal nature. Lucifer says that he did not make evil, and they disappear.
      In act three on earth Cain tells Adah that their parents sinned, and he asks why they should die. She shows him two altars that Abel made, but Cain asks if burnt offerings fear or worship the Creator. She says fruits of the earth are good offerings. Cain asks why he should be contrite for his father’s sin. Cain blesses his son Enoch. Abel arrives and asks Cain why he was communing with “a foe of the Most High.” Cain says he is a “friend to man.” Cain says he has seen “the dead, the immortal, the unbounded, the omnipotent,” and he tells Abel to leave him. He tells Abel to sacrifice alone because Jehovah loves him more. Abel asks his older brother to precede him in their priesthood.
      Abel offers the fat of his flock, and Cain gathers fruit. Abel kneels and prays, but Cain prays standing up to the Omnipotent Spirit and asks if he loves the blood of the shepherd’s smoking shrine or the sweet fruit of the earth. The fire of Abel’s altar rises to heaven, but a whirlwind throws down Cain’s altar. Cain says the scattered fruit has seeds that will bear fruit in the summer, but heaven prefers burnt flesh. Cain goes to tear down Abel’s altar, and Abel opposes him. Abel says he loves God more than life and defends his altar. Cain strikes him with a brand, and Abel falls. Cain wonders if Abel is asleep, and he sees he is breathing. Abel asks God to forgive Cain and Cain to comfort Zillah, and then he dies.
      Cain realizes that Abel is no longer breathing, and his heart does not beat. Zillah arrives, sees Abel, and says, “Death is in the world!” She goes and brings back Adam, Eve, and Adah. Adam asks Cain who did this. Eve says that Cain looks guilty and asks the eternal serpent to curse him. Adam expels Cain from their dwelling. Cain tells Adah to leave him, but she stays with him. An angel appears and asks Cain where his brother is. Cain asks if he is his brother’s keeper. The angel says that God commanded him to put a seal on Cain warning that anyone slaying him would suffer sevenfold vengeance. Cain tells Adah that they will go east of Eden.
      Byron has portrayed the first offspring of Adam and Eve as a free spirit like himself who asks difficult questions and seeks knowledge and the good. He portrays Lucifer as a Light-bearer who is equal or perhaps better than the Jehovah of the Bible. He implies that the vegetarian life-style is superior to the killing of animals. People were offended by Cain and would be again by Don Juan.

      In 1823-24 Byron had published cantos 6-16 of his Don Juan, and he left behind 14 stanzas of canto 17. He first tried the Italian ottava rima in his poem Beppo about Italian manners in 1817, and he used this iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme abababcc in his lengthy Don Juan. He wrote 1,991 stanzas in Don Juan offering his opinions on whatever took his fancy. The rhymed couplets often accented the humor. In canto 12:86 he wrote, “My object is Morality (Whatever people say).” Don Juan is more often seduced than the seducer of women. He told his publisher Murray, “Almost all of Don Juan is real life, either my own, or from people I knew.”
      In the long first canto his mother Inez tells Don Juan,

“Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,
’T is woman’s whole existence; man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart;
Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
And few there are whom these cannot estrange;
Men have all these resources, we but one,
To love again, and be again undone.” (94)

At the age of 16 Juan has an affair in Seville with married Julia and is sent away by her husband. Canto 2 is also long, and Juan survives a gruesome sea voyage by swimming ashore where he is found on an Aegean island by the virginal Haidée; they fall in love. Her father finds Juan and puts him on a Turkish ship, and his baby dies with Haidée in child-birth; but Juan never learns of this. A black eunuch buys Juan in Constantinople’s slave market and has him dress as a woman to avoid castration. The Sultana Gulbeyaz wants him to love her, but he replies,

“Thou ask’st if I can love? be this the proof
How much I have loved — that I love not thee!
In this vile garb, the distaff, web, and woof,
Were fitter for me: Love is for the free!
I am not dazzled by this splendid roof,
Whate’er thy power, and great it seems to be;
Heads bow, knees bend, eyes watch around a throne,
And hands obey — our hearts are still our own.” (5:127)

While in the seraglio Juan reflects on philosophy.

I’m a philosopher; confound them all!
Bills, beasts, and men, and — no! not womankind!
With one good hearty curse I vent my gall,
And then my stoicism leaves nought behind
Which it can either pain or evil call,
And I can give my whole soul up to mind;
Though what is soul or mind, their birth or growth,
Is more than I know — the deuce take them both! (6:22)

Socrates said, our only knowledge was
“To know that nothing could be known;” a pleasant
Science enough, which levels to an ass
Each man of wisdom, future, past, or present.
Newton (that proverb of the mind), alas!
Declared, with all his grand discoveries recent,
That he himself felt only “like a youth
Picking up shells by the great ocean — Truth.” (7:5)

Juan, his friend John, and two women escape from the seraglio, and a Russian army fighting the Turks at the mouth of the Danube takes them in. Juan reflects on the war.

“Let there be light! said God, and there was light!”
“Let there be blood!” says man, and there’s a seal
The fiat of this spoil’d child of the Night
(For Day ne’er saw his merits) could decree
More evil in an hour, than thirty bright
Summers could renovate, though they should be
Lovely as those which ripen’d Eden’s fruit;
For war cuts up not only branch, but root. (7:41)

The two men fight in the battle at Ismail, and Juan keeps two Cossacks from killing a Muslim girl Leila. Juan is honored in the victory and is sent with the girl to St. Petersburg where the Empress Catherine II is attracted to him. He comments,

So much for Nature: — by way of variety,
Now back to thy great joys, Civilisation!
And the sweet consequence of large society,
War, pestilence, the despot’s desolation,
The kingly scourge, the lust of notoriety,
The millions slain by soldiers for their ration,
The scenes like Catherine’s boudoir at threescore,
With Ismail’s storm to soften it the more. (8:68)

Byron praises selfless patriotism and satirizes Pitt’s effort and contrasts it to Napoleon.

Great men have always scorn’d great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men’s is)
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul’d minister of state is
Renown’d for ruining Great Britain gratis. (9:8)

Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now — what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now — that the rabble’s first vain shouts are o’er?
Go! hear it in your famish’d country’s cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories! (9:9)

Catherine loves him and promotes him, and he comments.

And that’s enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where ’t is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty’s frail inanity,
On which the passion’s self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe. (9:73)

The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen’d love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call’d marriage in disguise. (9:76)

Juan becomes ill in cold Russia and is sent to England as an envoy. His view of Newton’s work is witty.

When Newton saw an apple fall, he found
In that slight startle from his contemplation —
’T is said (for I’ll not answer above ground
For any sage’s creed or calculation) —
A mode of proving that the earth turn’d round
In a most natural whirl, called “gravitation;”
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple. (10:1)

Juan finds a guardian for Leila in Lady Pinchbeck. He finds that political economy has become popular, and he suggests,

Meantime, read all the national debt-sinkers,
And tell me what you think of your great thinkers. (12:89)

He got to know the charming Lady Adeline Amundeville and her husband Henry. Juan gives his view of publishing one’s writing.

But “why then publish?” — There are no rewards
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn — Why do you play at cards?
Why drink? Why read — To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
On what I’ve seen or ponder’d, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink — I have had at least my dream. (14:11)

Adeline urges Juan to marry, but he says those he likes are married. Yet he falls in love with the Catholic girl Aurora. Juan thinks he saw a ghost, and the next morning he tells him of the local Black Friar ghost. That night Juan discovers that the Black Friar ghost is actually the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke who is pursuing him. The last stanza that Byron wrote for Don Juan is this:

Which best it is to encounter — Ghost, or none,
’T were difficult to say; but Juan look’d
As if he had combated with more than one,
Being wan and worn, with eyes that hardly brook’d
The light that through the Gothic window shone:
Her Grace, too, had a sort of air rebuked —
Seem’d pale and shiver’d, as if she had kept
A vigil, or dreamt rather more than slept. (17:14)

Shelley the Radical

      Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on 4 August 1792 in Sussex. He went to Eton College in 1804 and then to University College at Oxford in 1810, the year he wrote two romantic Gothic novels, Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne. He became friends with Thomas Jefferson Hogg who may have helped him print his short pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism which challenged religion but was more agnostic than atheistic. Shelley sent copies to professors at Oxford and Cambridge, and complaints led to his being expelled with Hogg on 25 March 1811 for refusing to disavow publication. Shelley fell in love with Harriet Westbrook, and they eloped and married on 29 August. They moved to Keswick in Cumberland where he met the poet Southey. Shelley began corresponding with William Godwin and became a political radical. He wrote his Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things protesting despotism, famine, and war to raise money for the imprisoned journalist Peter Finnerty.
      Shelley went to Dublin in February 1812. He printed 1,500 copies of his Address to the Irish People and spoke and was well received at an Irish nationalist rally on the 28th. While in Dublin he also printed his Declaration of Rights in 31 articles which begins thus and includes the following:

GOVERNMENT has no rights; it is a delegation
from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own.
It is therefore just, only so far as it exists by their consent,
useful only so far as it operates to their well-being.
2. IF these individuals think that the form of government
which they, or their forefathers constituted
is ill adapted to produce their happiness,
they have a right to change it.
3. Government is devised for the security of rights.
The rights of man are liberty,
and an equal participation of the commonage of nature.
4. As the benefit of the governed, is, or ought to be
the origin of government, no men can have any authority
that does not expressly emanate from their will.
6. All have a right to an equal share in the benefits,
and burdens of Government.
Any disabilities for opinion, imply by their existence,
barefaced tyranny on the side of government,
ignorant slavishness on the side of the governed.
12. A man has a right to unrestricted liberty of discussion,
falsehood is a scorpion that will sting itself to death.
17. No man has a right to do an evil thing
that good may come.
19. Man has no right to kill his brother,
it is no excuse that he does so in uniform.
He only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.
20. Man, whatever be his country, has the same rights
in one place as another, the rights of universal citizenship.

      On 2 March 1812 Shelley wrote his Proposals for an Association of Philanthropists with the immediate objects being Catholic Emancipation and the Repeal of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. He warned, “Power and wealth do not benefit, but injure the cause of virtue and freedom.” He also wrote,

Reason points to the open gates
of the Temple of Religious Freedom,
Philanthropy kneels at the altar of the common God!
There, wealth and poverty, rank and abjectness
are names known but as memorials of past time—
meteors which play over the loathsome pool of vice and misery
to warn the wanderer where dangers lie.
Does a God rule this illimitable universe;
are you thankful for his beneficence—
do you adore his wisdom—
do you hang upon his altar the garland of your devotion?
Curse not your brother, though he hath enwreathed
with his flowers of a different hue;
the purest religion is that of Charity;
its loveliness begins to proselyte the hearts of men.
The tree is to be judged by its fruit.
I regard the admission of the Catholic claims
and the Repeal of the Union Act as blossoms of that fruit
which the Summer Sun of improved intellect
and progressive virtue is destined to mature.

      Influenced by Joseph Ritson’s Essay on the Abstinence from Animal Food (1802), Shelley adopted a vegetarian diet in March. He was satisfied with it, and in November he wrote “A Vindication of Natural Diet.” He observed that man is not like carnivorous animals, and he noted that orangutans, which are most like humans, are “strictly frugivorous.” He explained that for humans, “The intestines are also identical with those of herbivorous animals, which present a larger surface for absorption and have ample and cellulated colons.” In other words, the human body is designed for vegetarian food, not like carnivores that consume meat.
      Also in 1812 in a note from Queen Mab he wrote “Even Love is Sold” in which he advocated free love and marriage based on love, arguing,

Love withers under constraint; its very essence is liberty;
it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy, nor fear;
it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited,
where its votaries live in confidence, equality, and unreserve….
A husband and wife ought to continue so long united
as they love each other;
any law which should bind them to cohabitation
for one moment after the decay of their affection
would be a most intolerable tyranny,
and the most unworthy of toleration.
How odious an usurpation of the right of private judgment
should that law be considered which should make
the ties of friendship indissoluble, in spite of
the caprices, the inconstancy, the fallibility,
and capacity for improvement of the human mind.

      Shelley with Harriet and her sister Eliza moved to north Wales in April 1812. After the Lord Chief Justice sentenced a printer to 18 months in prison for reprinting Paine’s Age of Reason Part 3, Shelley wrote his “Letter to Lord Ellenborough” pleading for press freedom. Shelley’s servant Daniel Hill was arrested for distributing the Declaration of Rights. Shelley went to London in September and got to know Godwin. After another trip to Dublin the Shelleys returned to London in April 1813. He paid for the printing of his poem Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem in May, but to prevent persecution it was not publicized. Here are some highlights:

Learn to make others happy. Spirit, come!
This is thine high reward:—the past shall rise;
Thou shalt behold the present; I will teach
The secrets of the future. (2:64-7)

There needeth not the hell that bigots frame
To punish those who err: earth in itself
Contains at once the evil and the cure;
And all-sufficing nature can chastise
Those who transgress her law,—she only knows
How justly to proportion to the fault
The punishment it merits. (3:79-84)

Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose?
Whence that unnatural line of drones, who heap
Toil and unvanquishable penury
On those who build their palaces, and bring
Their daily bread?—From vice, black loathsome vice;
From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;
From all that genders misery, and makes
Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
Revenge, and murder……And when reason’s voice,
Loud as the voice of nature, shall have waked
The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
Is discord, war, and misery; that virtue
Is peace, and happiness, and harmony;
When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
The playthings of its childhood;—kingly glare
Will lose its power to dazzle; its authority
Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now. (3:118-38)

Nature rejects the monarch, not the man;
The subject not the citizen: for kings
And subjects, mutual foes, for ever play
A losing game into each other’s hands,
Whose stakes are vice and misery. The man
Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys.
Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and, of the human frame,
A mechanized automaton. (3:170-80)

War is the statesman’s game, the priest’s delight,
The lawyer’s jest, the hired assassin’s trade,
And, to those royal murderers, whose mean thrones
Are bought by crimes of treachery and gore,
The bread they eat, the staff on which they lean.
Guards, garbed in blood-red livery, surround
Their palaces, participate the crimes
That force defends, and from a nation’s rage
Secures the crown, which all the curses reach
That famine, frenzy, woe, and penury breathe. (4:168-77)

Hence commerce springs, the venal interchange
Of all that human art or nature yield;
Which wealth should purchase not, but want demand,
And natural kindness hasten to supply
From the full fountain of its boundless love,
For ever stifled, drained, and tainted now….
Gold is a living god, and rules in scorn
All earthly things but virtue. (5:38-43, 62-3)

—The consciousness of good, which neither gold,
Nor sordid fame, nor hope of heavenly bliss,
Can purchase; but a life of resolute good,
Unalterable will, quenchless desire
Of universal happiness, the heart
That beats with it in unison, the brain,
Whose ever wakeful wisdom toils to change
Reason’s rich stores for its eternal weal.
This commerce of sincerest virtue needs
No mediative signs of selfishness,
No jealous intercourse of wretched gain,
No balancings of prudence, cold and long;
In just and equal measure all is weighed,
One scale contains the sum of human weal,
And one, the good man’s heart…. (5:223-37)
War with its million horrors, and fierce hell
Shall live but in the memory of time,
Who, like a penitent libertine, shall start,
Look back, and shudder at his younger years. (5:256-9)

      In March 1814 Shelley read Beccaria’s On Crimes and Punishments, and this strengthened his belief that the death penalty should be abolished. He became alienated from his wife Harriet. On 26 June he and Mary Godwin declared their love for each other, and one month later they eloped to France. They were accompanied by Mary’s step-sister Jane “Claire” Clairmont. When they returned to London in September, their former society ostracized them. After his grandfather’s death in January 1815, Shelley’s father gave him an annuity of £1,000 from which £200 went directly to Harriet. She left a note and apparently committed suicide by drowning on 9 November 1816; her body was found one month later. Shelley hoped to get custody of their two children, and he married Mary on 30 December, pleasing her father. In March 1817 he was denied custody because his writings and actions were considered immoral.
      Shelley believed and wrote in his moral speculations,

The inhabitant of a highly civilized community will more acutely
sympathize with the sufferings and enjoyments of others
than the inhabitant of a society of a less degree of civilization.3

Using the pseudonym “The Hermit of Marlow” Shelley published “A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote Throughout the Kingdom” in early 1817 in which he wrote,

The only theoretical question that remains is
whether the people ought to legislate for themselves,
or be governed by laws and impoverished by taxes
originating in the edicts of an assembly
which represents somewhat less than
a thousandth part of the entire community.

On 11 November he wrote “An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte” in which he contrasted this event with the hanging of the workers Brandreth, Ludlam, and Turner on frame-up charges. He noted that because of war against republican France

the mere interest of the public debt amounts to more than
twice as much as the lavish expenditure of the public treasure
for maintaining the standing army, and the royal family,
and the pensioners, and the place-men.
The effect of this debt is to produce
such an unequal distribution of the means of living
as saps the foundation of social union and civilized life.

      Shelley’s longest poem was at first called Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century, but he changed it to The Revolt of Islam in January 1818. His Preface begins,

The Poem which I now present to the world is an attempt
from which I scarcely dare to expect success, and in which
a writer of established fame might fail without disgrace.
It is an experiment on the temper of the public mind,
as to how far a thirst for a happier condition
of moral and political society survives,
among the enlightened and refined,
the tempests which have shaken the age in which we live.

He also noted,

The French Revolution may be considered as one of those manifestations of a general state of feeling among civilised
mankind produced by a defect of correspondence between
the knowledge existing in society and the improvement
or gradual abolition of political institutions.

The Revolt of Islam was dedicated to Mary and has 12 cantos with 4,818 lines in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ababbcbcc. Shelley in a fiction presents his ideal of a nonviolent revolution to remove a tyrannical king. Laon and Cythna exemplify love and mercy. In canto 5 Laon persuades an angry crowd to forgo revenge and throw down their weapons and act with benevolence. The citizens then celebrate their brotherhood. In the next canto Cythna rescues Laon, and she has also inspired a peaceful revolution. In canto 9 she explains how she did this, and here are stanzas 28 and 30:

The good and mighty of departed ages
Are in their graves, the innocent and free,
Heroes, and Poets, and prevailing Sages,
Who leave the vesture of their majesty
To adorn and clothe this naked world;—and we
Are like to them—such perish, but they leave
All hope, or love, or truth, or liberty,
Whose forms their mighty spirits could conceive,
To be a rule and law to ages that survive.

Our many thoughts and deeds, our life and love,
Our happiness, and all that we have been,
Immortally must live, and burn and move,
When we shall be no more; —the world has seen
A type of peace; and—as some most serene
And lovely spot to a poor maniac’s eye,
After long years, some sweet and moving scene
Of youthful hope, returning suddenly,
Quells his long madness—thus man shall remember thee.

      Shelley probably wrote his short essay “On Love” in July 1818 after translating Plato’s Symposium. It begins, “What is Love?—Ask him who lives, what is life; ask him who adores, what is God?” He describes it as a “powerful attraction towards all that we conceive.” It seeks to awaken all things in a community within ourselves. It connects not only humans but everything which exists. His essay “On Life” was written in 1819 and begins,

Life and the world, or whatever we call
that which we are and feel, is an astonishing thing.
The mist of familiarity obscures from us
the wonder of our being.
We are struck with admiration
at some of its transient modifications,
but it is itself the great miracle.
What are changes of empires, the wreck of dynasties,
with the opinions which supported them;
what is the birth and the extinction of religious
and of political systems, to life?
What are the revolutions of the globe which we inhabit,
and the operations of the elements of which it is composed,
compared with life?
What is the universe of stars, and suns,
of which this inhabited earth is one,
and their motions, and their destiny, compared with life?
Life, the great miracle, we admire not,
because it is so miraculous.

He observed that our thoughts and feelings arise with or without our will, and we can express them in words. Yet we do not penetrate the mystery of our being. He agreed with Berkeley that nothing exists without its being perceived. He concluded that it is “infinitely probable that the cause of mind, that is, of existence, is similar to mind.”

Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and Later Work

      In March 1818 Shelley left England for the continent and reached Venice in August to see Byron. After visiting Rome in November the Shelleys settled at Naples in December. There and at Rome in the spring of 1819 he completed his poetic play Prometheus Unbound which he based on Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus and fragments from his lost Prometheus Unbound. In the preface Shelley wrote that Prometheus represents “the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and truest motives to the best and noblest ends.” He also wrote,

My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize
the highly refined imagination of the more select classes
of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence;
aware that, until the mind can love, and admire, and trust,
and hope, and endure, reasoned principles of moral conduct
are seeds cast upon the highway of life
which the unconscious passenger tramples into dust,
although they would bear the harvest of his happiness.

Prometheus has been bound to a rocky cliff for three thousand years. He recalls how Jupiter began torturing him, and he cursed Jupiter. Prometheus retracts the curse and tells Earth that he wishes no living thing to suffer pain. Mercury and the Furies arrive and tell Prometheus that he must reveal Jupiter’s fate or suffer more. Prometheus is willing to suffer until Jupiter’s reign ends. Furies show him how the Christ was crucified and how tyrants have ruled with fear and hypocrisy.
      Some spirits appear and say that Love will cure mankind and that Prometheus will bring this love to Earth. Prometheus loves his wife Asia and agrees that Love is powerful. Asia has been mourning her husband in a valley, and Panthea tells her about two dreams describing the freeing of Prometheus and her following him. Asia and Panthea follow the spirits to the realm of the ruling god Demogorgon. He answers Asia’s question by saying that God made the living world with all its thought, passion, reason, will, and imagination. Asia says that Prometheus gave strong wisdom to Jupiter with the law to let man be free; but under Jove’s reign humans have suffered famine, toil, disease, strife, and death. Demogorgon says that evil can not be master because eternal Love rules all. He shows them the future with the fall of Jupiter and then the release of Prometheus.
      Jupiter marries Thetis, but he cannot rule the human soul. Demogorgon appears and judges Jupiter who realizes his power is gone. Hercules arrives and frees Prometheus who tells Asia they will live in love. He sends the Spirit of the Hour to announce the liberation of mankind, and he kisses the Earth to bless all animals, vegetables, and minerals. Thrones are no more, and every person rules oneself, though chance, change, and death still exist on Earth. Finally Demogorgon says that man is no longer a despot and a slave, a dupe and a deceiver, and he explains what happened:

This is the day, which down the void abysm
At the Earth-born’s spell yawns for Heaven’s despotism,
   And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep:
Love, from its awful throne of patient power
In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour
   Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,
And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs
And folds over the world its healing wings.

Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance,
These are the seals of that most firm assurance
   Which bars the pit over Destruction’s strength;
And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,
Mother of many acts and hours, should free
   The serpent that would clasp her with his length;
These are the spells by which to reassume
An empire o’er the disentangled doom.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
   To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
   Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.

      After the “Peterloo Massacre” of peaceful protestors near Manchester on 16 August 1819 Shelley wrote The Mask of Anarchy which describes the brutal violence inflicted on those asking for reforms and concludes,

Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.

And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.

And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

And these words shall then become
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again—again—again—

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number--
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many—they are few.

      Shelley’s tragedy The Cenci is based on horrific events involving that Roman family in 1599, and he published it in the spring of 1820. Count Francesco Cenci has sent his two sons to Salamanca, hoping they will starve. His daughter Beatrice was in love with Count Orsino, but he became a priest. At a banquet Count Cenci celebrates that his disobedient sons died by accident. At his palace in the Apennines he rapes Beatrice. Orsino plots the assassination of Cenci by the killers Olimpio and Marzio, and he restrains Cenci’s son Giacomo from killing his father. Cenci’s second wife Lucretia gives him a sleeping potion, and Beatrice persuades the assassins to kill Cenci while he sleeps. Guards arrive to arrest Cenci but find evidence on Marzio and seize him and Beatrice and Lucretia as accomplices, and they are convicted and executed. In this tragedy Shelley hoped to convey the evils of retribution.
      Shelley tried to find a publisher for A Philosophical View of Reform in May 1820 but could not do so, and it would not be published until 1920. In this work he wrote, “Poets and philosophers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”4 He summarized chief goals as the following:

We would abolish the national debt.
We would disband the standing army.
We would, with every possible regard
to the existing rights of the holders, abolish sinecures.
We would, with every possible regard
to the existing interests of the holders, abolish tithes,
and make all religions, all forms of opinion respecting
the origin and government of the Universe,
equal in the eye of the law.
We would make justice cheap, certain and speedy,
and extend the institution of juries
to every possible occasion of jurisprudence.

He showed the connection between war and tyranny, and he warned against retribution.

If there had never been war,
there could never have been tyranny in the world;
tyrants take advantage of the mechanical organization
of armies to establish and defend their encroachments.
It is thus that the mighty advantages of the French Revolution
have been almost compensated by a succession of tyrants
(for demagogues, oligarchies, usurpers and legitimate kings
are merely varieties of the same class)
from Robespierre to Louis XVIII.
War, waged from whatever motive,
extinguishes the sentiment of reason and justice in the mind.
The motive is forgotten,
or only adverted to in a mechanical and habitual manner.
A sentiment of confidence in brute force
and in a contempt of death and danger
is considered the highest virtue,
when in truth, and however indispensable,
they are merely the means and the instrument,
highly capable of being perverted to destroy the cause
they were assumed to promote.
It is a foppery the most intolerable
to an amiable and philosophical mind.
It is like what some reasoners have observed of religious faith;
no fallacious and indirect motive to action
can subsist in the mind without weakening
the effect of those which are genuine and true.
The person who thinks it virtuous to believe,
will think a less degree of virtue attaches to good actions
than if he had considered it as indifferent.
The person who has been accustomed to subdue men by force
will be less inclined to the trouble
of convincing or persuading them….

There is one thing which certain vulgar agitators endeavour
to flatter the most uneducated part of the people
by assiduously proposing,
which they ought not to do nor to require;
and that is Retribution.
Men having been injured, desire to injure in return.
This is falsely called an universal law of human nature;
it is a law from which many are exempt,
and all in proportion to their virtue and cultivation.
The savage is more revengeful than the civilized man,
the ignorant and uneducated
than the person of a refined and cultivated intellect.5

      Shelley wrote “A Defence of Poetry” in February and March 1821 in response to “The Four Ages of Poetry” by his friend Thomas Love Peacock who described a primitive and medieval age of iron, an age of gold that included 5th century Athens and the Renaissance, a silver age of Rome and post-Renaissance, and an age of bronze of the current poets. Shelley considered poetry the expression of the imagination in metrical language, and he added the great epics of Homer, Dante, and Milton as influential. He wrote,

The great secret of morals is love;
or a going out of our nature,
and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful
which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own.
A man, to be greatly good,
must imagine intensely and comprehensively;
he must put himself in the place of another
and of many others;
the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own.
The great instrument of moral good is the imagination;
and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause.
Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination
by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight,
which have the power of attracting and assimilating
to their own nature all other thoughts,
and which form new intervals and interstices
whose void forever craves fresh food.
Poetry strengthens the faculty
which is the organ of the moral nature of man,
in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.

In his poem Epipsychidion he suggested that the best philosophy finds meaning in human suffering, not meaninglessness.
      After Shelley learned that John Keats was suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), he invited him in July 1820 to visit him in Italy. Keats did come to Italy in September and stayed in Rome where he died in February 1821. Shelley learned of his death in April and completed his poem Adonaïs by June, inventing a word that combined the meaning of the Greek lover Adonis and the Hebrew Adonai which means Lord. His tribute to Keats includes the following lines:

Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow  
  Back to the burning fountain whence it came,           
  A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
  Through time and change, unquenchably the same, 
Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.        
 
  Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep—      
  He hath awakened from the dream of life—

      In December 1820 Shelley was introduced to Alexandros Mavrokoulos and other exiled Greek aristocrats living in Pisa. News of the Greek revolt against Turkish domination reached Pisa in April 1821. Shelley wrote his lyrical drama Hellas in October to show his sympathy for Greek freedom, and he used as a model The Persians by Aeschylus. The play concludes with this stanza:

O cease! must hate and death return?
   Cease! must men kill and die?
Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn
   Of bitter prophecy.
The world is weary of the past,
O might it die or rest at last!

      Shelley with a naval officer and a boat-boy were drowned after his boat was rammed or damaged in a sudden storm on 8 July 1822. His widow Mary edited and publishing his writing. She also became famous for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus that was published in 1818. In this story the scientist Victor Frankenstein’s creates an 8-foot monster out of human body parts; but the creature terrifies people and is unable to find companionship that leads to tragedy.

Austen’s Realistic Novels

      Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire where her father was an Anglican rector. She was the seventh of eight children, and her closest companion was her only sister Cassandra. In 1783 the sisters went to Oxford where they were tutored by Mrs. Ann Cawley. Both girls caught typhus and were sent home in the fall. Jane nearly died, and in 1785 they were sent to a boarding school in Reading; but they came home in December 1786 because the school’s fees were too high for the Austen family. At home they put on theatrical productions. Jane spent the rest of her life living with her family. Their father encouraged learning, and their mother wrote verses and stories. Cassandra was older and became engaged to a young clergyman who died. Neither sister married.
      Jane Austen began writing in 1787 and by 1795 had filled three volumes with stories, plays, verses, and a short and satirical history of England that her sister illustrated. Jane wrote her epistolary novella Lady Susan in 1794 about a woman who manipulates people so much that she destroys her social relationships. Lady Susan written as letters was not published until 1871, but a brilliant version was made as the movie Love & Friendship in 2016. The widow Lady Susan Vernon is known as a notorious and clever manipulator who displays her deceitful and selfish talent for all to see. She lacks funds and a home but visits her brother-in-law’s family and seduces younger Reginald deCourcy while she tries but cannot persuade her daughter Frederica to marry the wealthy but foolish Sir James Martin whom she ends up marrying herself, persuading him to let married Lord Manwaring stay with them whom Susan really loves.
      About 1795 Jane had begun writing a novel in letters about “Elinor and Marianne” that eventually became Sense and Sensibility. She began writing First Impressions in 1796, and her father offered it for publication in 1797; but it was rejected without being read. Jane’s father read widely including the popular Gothic novels that she would satirize in her novel first called “Susan” when it was written in 1798-99. It was sold as Susan in 1803 to be printed in 1804; but it was not published until after her death as Northanger Abbey.
      Jane was courted by men and had turned down at least one or two marriage proposals by 1802. In 1801 her father retired as rector and became a banker and army agent in London, and they moved to Bath. In 1804 she started another novel called The Watsons but never finished it. Her father died in January 1805, and the family moved around until they settled in Southampton in the fall of 1806. In 1809 they moved to Chawton in Hampshire where she spent the rest of her life with her mother and sister.

      In October 1811 Jane’s Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously (as were all her works during her lifetime). She had to guarantee payment if the publisher lost money, but she was paid £140 for a second edition in 1813. She also received £110 for Pride and Prejudice that year, £100 for Mansfield Park in 1814, and £150 for Emma in 1816.
      When Austen revised “Elinor and Marianne” into Sense and Sensibility, she transformed it from letters to narration. The French translation Raison et sensibilité ou les deux manières d’aimer in 1815 shows that the meaning of “Sense” at that time meant “common sense” and was contrasted to “sensibility” which implied emotions and sentimentality. Older Elinor exemplifies sense while her sister Marianne suffers from the wild feelings of sensibility which go to extremes. Their 13-year-old sister Margaret takes after Marianne’s romanticism.
      After the death of the sisters’ father his entailed Norland estate goes to his son John whose selfish wife Fanny persuades him not to help his half-sisters with money but in other ways. When Fanny’s brother Edward Ferrars gets interested in Elinor, Fanny makes it difficult for Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters at Norland. Their cousin John Middleton offers to rent to Mrs. Dashwood the inexpensive Barton Cottage on his estate and welcomes them. There they meet John’s friend, Col. Brandon, 35, who is attracted to the pretty 17-year-old Marianne; but she sprains her ankle, is rescued by the handsome John Willoughby, and quickly falls in love with him. This adds jealousy to a mysterious hostility between Brandon and Willoughby. Both men soon leave the area as does Edward. Elinor likes Edward but doubts his interest in her. Lucy Steele informs Elinor that she has been secretly engaged to Edward for four years and makes her promise not to tell anyone. Edward has no money nor a profession, but he would like to be a clergyman.
      Elinor and Marianne are invited to stay with friends in London. Marianne writes to Willoughby, but at a dance he coolly informs her that he is otherwise engaged. She becomes emotionally overwrought. Brandon informs Elinor that Willoughby made Brandon’s ward pregnant and abandoned her, and Elinor tells her sister. Mrs. Ferrars learns that her son Edward is engaged to Lucy and transfers his inheritance to his brother Robert. Brandon through Elinor offers Edward a parish on his estate so that he could wed Lucy.
      After walking in the rain toward where married Willoughby is living, Marianne becomes quite ill. Brandon kindly fetches her mother. Drunk Willoughby tells Elinor that his disgrace lost him his income, and so he married for money. Both sisters feel unrequited love, but Elinor governs her emotions. Brandon visits Marianne, and she vows to read and practice her music. The Dashwoods hear that Lucy is now Mrs. Ferrars. When Edward arrives, they learn that his loss of money had led Lucy to wed his brother instead. Edward is now free to marry Elinor who happily accepts. From her suffering Marianne gains sense and agrees to marry Brandon.

      Jane Austen revised First Impressions, perhaps from an epistolary novel, making it shorter, and published it as Pride and Prejudice in January 1813. Her most popular novel takes place between October 1811 and ends with a double wedding before Christmas 1812. The novel begins,

It is a truth universally acknowledged,
that a single man in possession of a good fortune,
must be in want of a wife.

Mrs. Bennett is desperate to have any of her five daughters married well because without a male heir her husband’s entailed property will go to his cousin Collins, who is a sycophantic clergyman hopelessly devoted to his arrogant patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Bennett greatly admires his two oldest daughters but considers the youngest three “silly.” The oldest Jane is the most beautiful and emotionally mature. She always sees the best in people and falls in love with their new neighbor Bingley and endures his neglect.
      The great heroine Elizabeth often called “Lizzy” is the most intelligent and independent. She is put off by the proud and reserved Darcy, who is very wealthy and self-confident but lacks social skills. She refuses to marry the foolish Collins and also rejects Darcy’s condescending proposal. Mary is plain looking but is studious and has developed musical skill but sings off-key. The youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, are enamored with nearby soldiers, and Lydia eventually runs off with the amiable rake Wickham. Elizabeth was at first charmed by Wickham who tells her that Darcy cheated him. Thus she has to overcome this prejudice and her feeling about the arrogant action that Darcy took to discourage Bingley from marrying Jane. Eventually his pride and her prejudice are transformed through their experiences, and they marry.

      Austen’s Mansfield Park was published in May 1814 with a second edition in 1816. Fanny Price is from a poor family, but at the age of ten she is adopted by her wealthy uncle Thomas Bertram to live in the mansion at Mansfield Park. Eight years later she is intelligent and is making herself helpful. Lady Bertram is addicted to opium, and her sister Mrs. Norris thinks Fanny is socially inferior to her Bertram cousins. The oldest Tom is wild and insists on putting on a home theatrical of Lovers’ Vows which his brother Edmund believes their father would never approve. Sir Thomas is away in Antigua managing his sugar plantation. Fanny learns that the family gets its wealth from slave labor, and she informs Thomas that a slave brought to England could be considered freed as she has read in Thomas Clarkson.
      When Thomas Bertram returns suddenly, he puts a stop to the theatrical that also involved the visiting Henry Crawford and his sister Mary; they are attractive but rather selfish. Henry aims to seduce Fanny but falls in love with her and asks her to marry him. She rejects him despite the efforts of Thomas and others to persuade her. Maria Bertram had been courted by Henry, but she marries the foolish Rushworth. Fanny and Edmund are good friends, and he aims to be a clergyman. He courts Mary but learns she is not for him after she defends her brother Henry for having an affair with married Maria. Julia Bertram is courted by Tom’s friend John Yates, and they run off to Scotland to marry but are reconciled to the family. Eventually Edmund realizes that he loves Fanny in every way, and they get married. Fanny is another of Austen’s great heroines who is intelligent and independent as well as loving.

      Emma was the last novel that Jane Austen completed and published in her lifetime (in December 1815). She was aware that others might not like this heroine as much as she did. Emma Woodhouse is 21, beautiful, intelligent, and runs a wealthy household for her aging father, her mother having died when she was a child. Her older sister has married John Knightly and has five children living in London. Emma has just lost the close companionship of her former governess who has married Mr. Weston, father of Frank Churchill who lives with his dominating aunt. Now Emma’s best friend is her neighbor George Knightly who is 37 and also wealthy. He advises her on her faults, and they say whatever they wish to each other. Emma claims credit for getting her governess well married and believes she is a good matchmaker. She befriends the orphan Harriet Smith, who is 17 and gets a written marriage proposal from the farmer George Martin. She brings the letter to Emma and asks her advice. Harriet clearly loves him; but Emma persuades her that he is socially below her. Harriet is grateful for Emma’s friendship and follows her advice. Emma also does not want to lose this friend to a farmer. Emma suggests that the vicar, Mr. Elton, is a suitable match for Harriet. He likes Emma and watches them drawing. Emma is a more skilled artist and decides to draw Harriet who falls in love with Elton. On a snowy night in a carriage Elton suddenly proposes to Emma, who tells him she has no interest in him. Knightly has warned Emma about her matchmaking and believes Martin is a better match for Harriet. Emma realizes her error and has to tell Harriet about Elton.
      Handsome Frank Churchill finally comes to town, and he and Emma become good friends. Jane Fairfax is another orphan, but she is a skilled musician and very reserved, staying with her aunt, the town gossip Miss Bates and her mother. A fine piano is delivered to Jane, and the town wonders who gave it to her. Elton has found a vulgar wife, and at a dance he shows his contempt for Harriet by refusing to dance with her; but Knightly “rescues” her by asking her to dance even though he rarely dances. Harriet is also saved from thieving gypsies by Frank. When it is revealed that Frank has been secretly engaged to Jane, Emma realizes that she does not really love him but feels betrayed by his attention and his keeping his secret by having disparaged Jane. When Harriet says she aspires to a relationship with someone above her who helped her, Emma thinks she means Frank, but Harriet is thinking of Knightly, who is really far above her. When Emma discovers this misunderstanding, she realizes how much she loves Knightly. She gives up her previous position of not marrying and accepts his proposal, and he agrees to live with her father so that he will not be left alone.
      In this original story Austen portrays a woman who has many advantages, but she is young and has to learn from her mistakes.

      Austen’s health began to decline in the spring of 1816. She had been working on Persuasion since August 1815 and completed it exactly one year before her death which came on 18 July 1817 from Addison’s disease or perhaps Hodgkin’s lymphona. In her last months she worked on a novel which she did not complete entitled Sanditon that satirized health resorts and invalids.
      In March 1816 Walter Scott reviewed Emma by the anonymous author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and he praised her “knowledge of the human heart, with the power and resolution to bring that knowledge to the service of honour and virtue.” After Jane’s death her sister and brother Henry arranged for the publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion together in December 1817.
      Persuasion takes place during the last two years of the Napoleonic Wars. Baron Walter Elliot is having financial difficulties and is persuaded to “retrench” by renting out Kellynch Hall and moving to Bath. His wife had died, and his oldest daughter Elizabeth has been running the household extravagantly. Anne is wiser but not as beautiful at 27. Seven years earlier she was persuaded by Lady Russell and her father not to marry Navy Captain Frederik Wentworth because he lacked a good family and money. She also rejected Charles Musgrove who then married the youngest daughter Mary who now has children. Wentworth has not married either, but he has made money and is interested in the attractive Musgrove sisters Louisa and Henrietta. Anne plays piano well but does not dance.
      When the Elliots move to Bath, Anne is sent to take care of her sick sister Mary at Uppercross Hall. Kellynch is rented to Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia. Naval officers are becoming wealthy and respected because of their role in increasing Britain’s imperial power. Wentworth visits the Musgroves and sees Anne for the first time in seven years. Anne lifts the spirits of the depressed Captain Benwick by discussing literature with him. Wentworth likes Louisa’s decisiveness, but during a walk she acts too boldly jumping and is seriously injured. Wentworth is impressed by Anne’s presence of mind in handling the emergency. Without an Elliot son Kellynch may be inherited by their cousin William Elliot, who becomes concerned that Walter may remarry, and so he courts Anne; but she learns of his selfish motives and agrees to marry the successful Wentworth whom she still loves.

      Northanger Abbey was partly a burlesque of the popular gothic romances of Ann Radcliffe along with the usual romantic complications found in Austen’s novels that end in happy marriages.. The society found in Bath is also satirized, and a note by the author advises that customs may have changed since the book was written in 1798-99.
      Austen’s novels were favorably reviewed by the theologian Richard Whately in the January 1821 Quarterly. In France her novels had been translated in pirated editions. The Prince Regent George collected her novels, and she dedicated Emma to him. All of her novels have been made into popular movies or television mini-series.

Scott’s Historical Novels

      Walter Scott was born on 15 August 1771 in Edinburgh. His father was a lawyer, and his mother’s father was a physician. When Walter was two years old, his right leg was affected by infantile paralysis (polio); but he recovered and was a vigorous youth despite his limp. He went to school in Edinburgh. In 1786 he worked as an apprentice in his father’s law office. He returned to Edinburgh University in 1789 to study law, and he also took Moral Philosophy and History. He became a lawyer in 1792. He loved the outdoors but also read much, learning Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and German to read their literature. He collected and studied traditional Scottish ballads and stories. In 1794 his two younger brothers joined the Army Volunteers, but Walter was rejected because of his bad leg. In February 1797 he helped organize gentlemen into light cavalry, and King George III approved the Royal Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons with Scott as quartermaster, paymaster, and secretary. He also wrote poetry for them. He married the French woman Charlotte Carpenter in December 1797, and they lived happily together until her death in 1826.
      Scott wrote early in the morning and had his day free for business and friends. His openness enabled him to have good friendships with different men such as Wordsworth and Byron. Scott became the sheriff-depute of Selkirk County in 1799. That year he translated Goethe’s play Götz von Berlichingen. In 1805 he began investing in the publishing businesses of the Ballantyne brothers. In 1806 he became a clerk of the Court of Session, and he was paid £800 a year. He edited 18 volumes of Dryden’s poetry and plays and published them with his socially critical biography of Dryden in 1808. His first literary success came with his narrative poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrelsy in 1805. In 1808 Marmion in poetry described the battle that was disastrous for the Scots at Flodden in 1513. In 1810 The Lady of the Lake included the lines “Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive.”
      In March 1809 Scott was one of those who founded the Quarterly Review for Tories, but he also contributed to the Whigs’ Edinburgh Review. In 1813 he declined to be Poet Laureate so that he could be independent. Then his friend Robert Southey was appointed. Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage made Scott realize that his poems could not compete with him, and he turned to writing novels. His knowledge of Scottish culture inspired his best historical novels.
      In July 1814 Scott published anonymously his first novel, Waverley, Or ‘Tis Sixty Years Since, about the Jacobite uprising in 1745. The first edition of 1,000 copies sold out in two days. From Scott’s poetry discerning readers realized that this novel was by him. Edward Waverley is from a conservative English family that favors the Jacobite cause. He joins the English army as an officer and is sent to Scotland. He goes to the highlands and is welcomed by the clan leader Fergus Mac Ivor Vich Ian Vohr, and Edward falls in love with the chieftain’s sister Flora; but she is too devoted to the royal cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart to marry him. Edward leaves the highlands, and the King’s troops arrest him for treason. Highlanders rescue Edward and take him to the court of Prince Charles, and he joins the uprising. There he is attracted to Baron Bradwardine’s daughter Rose. Edward manages to survive the military defeat at Culloden. He goes back to Scotland to look for Rose, hoping to escape with her to France. After he learns he will be pardoned, they marry and return to the Baron’s estate.
      Scott edited the works of Jonathan Swift in 19 volumes and also published them with a biography of Swift in July 1814, but they did not sell well. His next novel, Guy Mannering or the Astrologer was published as “by the author of Waverly” (as were many others), and it sold out in one day. The story is set mostly in southwest Scotland in the 1760s and 1770s, an era of smuggling and other crimes. The conservative novel portrays Mannering as a true gentlemen, and interesting lower-class characters suffer from the fall of the Bertram house as predicted by the astrologer. Young Guy Mannering meets the gypsy Meg Merrilies at the Bertram home. When Harry Bertram is born, he casts his horoscope to compete with her fortune telling, predicting disaster on Harry’s fifth birthday. The Bertram justice of peace orders gypsies and poachers to leave the area, and Meg curses his family. Harry is kidnapped on that birthday. Col. Mannering returns from India 17 years later. Many complications ensue before Harry regains his estate.
      Scott published his favorite novel, The Antiquary, in May 1816, the third novel he wrote to describe the manners of Scotland in different eras. Taking place in the 1790s, Jonathan Oldbuck likes antiquities and becomes friends with Lovel who does not know who his parents are. The baronet Arthur Wardour will not let his daughter Isabella marry him. Oldbuck’s nephew, Captain Hector McIntyre, quarrels with Lovell and is severely wounded by him in a duel. Lovell is afraid that Hector will die and flees. The magician Dousterswivel gets money from Arthur by promising he will find treasure on his property. They find a treasure chest, and Arthur’s financial problems are solved. The powerful Earl of Glenallan asks Oldbuck to help find his long-lost child. They hear news that the French are about to attack. Lovel returns, and they learn that he and the beggar Edie Ogletree had planted the treasure chest to help Arthur. Lovell is now Major Neville and commands the garrison, and he informs them that the French rumor was a false alarm. The Earl discovers that Lovel is his son. Lovel inherited his uncle’s fortune and is able to wed Isabella.
      Scott’s Tales of My Landlord series begins with The Black Dwarf and Old Mortality published in December 1816. In The Black Dwarf the dwarf Edward Mauley is suspected of evil deeds including scheming for the Jacobites after the Union of England and Scotland in 1707. Old Mortality is three times as long and is considered much better. The historical Old Mortality begins in 1679 with the Scottish Covenanters who are Presbyterians rebelling against King Charles II’s attempt to impose the Anglican Church on Scotland which causes a class struggle. Scott describes atrocities of the conflict to express his disgust with warfare. The main character Henry Morton is a moderate man who gets caught up in the conflict and is captured after the battle at Bothwell Bridge. He is sentenced to death but is rescued and banished. He resides in Holland until William and Mary gain the throne of England in 1688. After more fighting Henry marries Edith, the heiress of Tillietudlem.
      Scott’s novel Rob Roy was published on the last day of 1817, and the 10,000 copies were sold out in two weeks. His printer Archibald Constable suggested the popular title, though the fictional story is mostly about the business problems of the Osbaldistone family of Northumberland. The historical romance is set during the 1715 Jacobite uprising in Scotland against Hanover’s George I. He had just become king over England and Scotland, and he discontinued the royal pensions to the clan chiefs. The famous outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell (called “Roy” because he had red hair) and his wife Helen are the only historical characters, and more anecdotes about Rob Roy can be found in Scott’s long introduction than in the novel itself. By 1715 honest Rob Roy had become legendary for helping the poor. He is captured but jumps into a river and swims away. Rob Roy and Diane Vernon help save the Osbaldistone business. At the end William Osbaldistone’s son Frank marries Diane. Isaac Pocock dramatized the story, and it was successfully performed in London and Edinburgh and was revived for George II’s visit to Scotland in 1822.
      Believed to be based on a true story, The Heart of Midlothian was published in July 1818 as the seventh Waverley novel and the second series of Tales of My Landlord by the schoolmaster “Jedediah Cleishbotham,” but people knew it was by Walter Scott. In 1736 a mob at Tolbooth Prison lynches Captain Porteous because his order to fire into the crowd at the hanging of a smuggler killed several people. Geordie Robertson (Staunton), the smuggler’s accomplice, disguised as a woman seized and hanged Porteous and then escaped. Dairy farmer David Deans has two daughters. Effie has been accused of having her new-born child killed, and her sister Jeanie refuses to lie to save Effie by saying she knew of the pregnancy. In prison Effie tells visiting Jeanie that Robertson is the father. Effie believes that the “witch” Meg Murdockson killed the baby in revenge against Robertson. Jeanie is betrothed to Reuben Butler and walks from Scotland to London to ask the Duke of Argyle to get a pardon for her sister from the King and Queen. Meg captures Jeanie; but she escapes, and at the home of Rev. Staunton she meets George (Robertson). He confesses that he is the father. He hanged Porteous so that Effie could escape from prison; but he could not persuade Meg to confess. In London the Queen believes Jeanie. The King pardons Effie, but she must leave Scotland for 14 years. Effie elopes with wealthy George Staunton, and after a few years they return to London. Meg was hanged as a witch, and Jeanie finds her confession that she gave the baby to an outlaw. Jeanie writes to Effie in Scotland. Argyle gives Jeanie an estate, and she marries Reuben. George meets Reuben in Edinburgh. They are attacked by outlaws, and George is killed by his son. The boy goes to America and may have been killed by Indians. Effie lives with Jeanie and Reuben and after ten years joins a convent. Scott ends his popular novel with this moral statement:

READER—This tale will not be told in vain,
if it shall be found to illustrate the great truth,
that guilt, though it may attain temporal splendour,
can never confer real happiness;
that the evil consequences of our crimes long survive
the commission, and, like the ghosts of the murdered,
for ever haunt the steps of the malefactor;
and that the paths of virtue,
though seldom those of worldly greatness,
are always those of pleasantness and peace.

      Scott wrote what he called his “dismal” novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, while he was suffering from gallstones and taking opium for the pain. The tragic story was completed in March 1819 and was set in the late 17th century and the reign of Queen Anne. Powerful William Ashton has taken over Ravenswood from Edgar who retains only the dilapidated tower of Wolf’s Crag. William’s daughter Lucy falls in love with Edgar, but Lady Ashton fiercely opposes the match and makes her daughter miserable. The excuses that Ravenswood’s old servant Caleb Balderstone makes for Wolf’s Crag provides comic relief. Blind old Alice warns Edgar of trouble even after her death as a ghost. Frank Hayston of Bucklaw persuades the Ashtons to let him marry Lucy, but she has been driven crazy by her mother and refuses to give up Edgar. Donizettis’ Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) is the best opera made from Scott’s novels. Scott also published A Legend of Montrose with The Bride of Lammermoor, and it is another romance caught in a blood feud while the Earl of Montrose is fighting the Covenanters in 1644-45.

      Ivanhoe, a Romance, published in December 1819, is Scott’s most popular novel and the first that was not set in Scotland but takes place in England. Cedric of Rotherwood is one of the few remaining Saxon nobles suffering under the Norman overlords who had invaded and conquered England in 1066. Cedric’s ward Rowena comes from a line of Saxon princes, and he intends her to marry Athelstane who is descended from King Alfred. However, she and Cedric’s son Ivanhoe fell in love. Ivanhoe decided to go on the Crusade with King Richard, and Cedric has disinherited him.
      The story begins when Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades to England in 1194 disguised as a pilgrim. He guides to his father’s home the proud Templar knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Norman who was given bad directions by Saxon swineherds. Ivanhoe also meets the returning Jewish merchant Isaac of York and his daughter Rebecca and helps them escape from Bois-Guilbert. The grateful Jew learns that Ivanhoe is a knight and gives him a horse and armor so that he can compete in the great tournament at Ashby. As the “Disinherited” Ivanhoe defeats Bois-Guilbert and other Normans and is allowed to name Rowena as the Queen of Love and Beauty. The next day the tournament pits Normans against Saxons, and a Black Knight (Richard) joins the Saxons in the fight and departs. Several men are killed, and many are wounded. Once again, Ivanhoe is victorious but has to remove his helmet to receive the crown, revealing his identity; he is weak from loss of blood and faints. Isaac and Rebecca take care of him as she knows how to use herbs.
      On the road Bois-Guilbert and two other Normans capture them. At Front de Boeuf’s castle he demands money from Isaac. De Bracy lusts after Rebecca, and Bois-Guilbert falls in love with her; but she refuses to convert to Christianity to marry him. Cedric is also held for ransom. The Black Knight joins the company of Robin Hood of Locksley in the forest, and they rescue the prisoners except that Bois-Guilbert escapes with Rebecca. They release De Bracy to inform the Regent Prince John that he has seen King Richard. Isaac appeals to Lucas de Beaumanoir, Grand Master of the Templars; but he accuses Rebecca of using witchcraft to put a spell on Bois-Guilbert, and he sentences her to be burned (one of Scott’s historical errors since witches were not burned then). She demands the right of trial by combat, and the grand master selects Bois-Guilbert as the Temple’s champion. Isaac gets the recovering Ivanhoe to be her champion. He appears just before she is to be burned, and Bois-Guilbert shows his love for her by letting Ivanhoe kill him. She is declared innocent. Richard, his knights, and Robin Hood arrive and arrest the grand master for treason. Athelstane yields to Ivanhoe who is to wed Rowena. Isaac and Rebecca decide to leave England and seek refuge in Granada.
      In this medieval tale of romantic chivalry Scott portrays English social and political conflicts between the Normans and Saxons that created a class structure as well as the Christian persecution of Jews. These still existed in England as the resentment against Jews such as the Rothschilds financing Napoleon’s French war against Britain. In this story Isaac had enriched his family by financing the crusades. Goethe read Ivanhoe and wrote that Scott had created “a wholly new art which has its own laws.” Mark Twain in his Life on the Mississippi blamed Scott for his bad influence on southern culture.
      Scott had become conservative and criticized the radicals who were attacked in the Peterloo Massacre in August 1819. George IV had been initiated into the Masons in 1787, and he knighted the novelist in 1820. That year Scott’s daughter Sophia married John Gibson Lockhart who would write the seminal biography of Walter Scott in ten volumes by 1839. Also in 1820 Scott was elected president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
      Scott published his Tales from Benedictine Sources with The Monastery: a Romance and The Abbot in 1820. The first laments the decline of the monasteries in the reforms of the 16th century, and the sequel depicts the era when Scotland’s Queen Mary was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth.

      Scott’s influential Kenilworth was published in January 1821. That year it was translated into French and Italian, and it was adapted into the play Kenilworth Castle by J. R. Planché. The tragic story is Scott’s version of the mysterious death of Amy Robsart who in 1550 had secretly married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She actually died from falling down stairs on 6 September 1560, but Scott’s novel centers the drama around Queen Elizabeth’s pageant at Kenilworth Castle in July 1575.
      In the novel Leicester has his beautiful wife Amy living at Cumnor Place attended by Tony Foster. Previously Amy had been engaged to Edmund Tressilian, who supported the Earl of Sussex’s endeavor to wed Queen Elizabeth over Leicester’s effort. Tressilian does not know that Amy is married. He thinks that Leicester’s follower Richard Varney has seduced her and fights a sword duel with him. Tressilian persuades her to go home, and he appeals to the Queen. To prevent Leicester’s disgrace Varney claims that he is married to Amy, and Leicester supports the lie. Elizabeth orders them to be at Leicester’s Kenilworth Castle for her visit there. Amy refuses to be in that plot, and Varney tries to drug her. Tressilian helps Amy escape to Leicester’s castle, and she demands that her husband recognize her as his countess. The Queen does not believe her and gives her back to Varney. He persuades Leicester that Amy is having an affair with Tressilian. Leicester orders Varney to kill her, and he takes her back to Cumnor Place. Tressilian goes there and learns that she fell through a trap door and died. Leicester fights a duel with Tressilian; but then he learns that Amy was innocent, and he confesses to Tressilian, Walter Raleigh, and Queen Elizabeth who dismisses Leicester from her court.

      In 1822 Scott published the novels The Pirate, The Fortunes of Nigel, and Peveril of the Peak. On the morning it was published 7,000 copies of The Fortunes of Nigel were sold. King James I of England is portrayed in his later years during precarious royal finances, and he tries to find a way to pay the Scottish noble Nigel Olifaunt the 40,000 marks he borrowed from his late father. This sets in motion a series of troubles for Nigel with a variety of characters; but in the end his estates are made secure, and he is made a knight. Peveril of the Peak is Scott’s longest novel set during the suspected popish plot in 1678.
      Scott’s Quentin Durward was published in May 1823; set in France in the late 1460s, it became very popular in Paris. Quentin Durward leaves Scotland, and in France he meets King Louis XI disguised as the merchant Maitre Pierre and the beautiful Isabelle, Countess of Crove, pretending to be a peasant. Quentin’s uncle Le Balafré helps him join the Scottish archers. During a hunt Quentin saves the King from a wild boar, and he is appointed the bodyguard of the Burgundian Isabelle and her aunt going to Liège. Le Balafré and the Archers help Quentin protect the ladies from a raid sent by William de la Marck. Later William’s forces attack the bishop’s castle, and Quentin halts William’s brutality that threatens a boy. Quentin helps Isabelle escape. King Louis arrives at the castle of Duke Charles of Burgundy and is treacherously imprisoned. Charles offers Isabelle’s hand to whomever brings him the head of William de la Marck. Charles and Louis join forces to attack Liège. While Quentin is rescuing a woman, Le Balafré kills William; but he gives the credit to Quentin who is betrothed to Isabelle.
      Scott’s only contemporary novel, Saint Ronan's Well, set during the Napoleonic Wars at a watering place in Scotland was a satire of manners, but he later wrote that critics called it a “literary suicide.” His Redgauntlet published in June 1824 is a fictional story about another attempt to start a Jacobite rebellion in 1765 and is considered autobiographical.
      Scott’s Tales of the Crusades included The Betrothed and The Talisman in 1825. The Betrothed takes place in 1197 but in the Welsh Marches on the border of Wales and England. The Talisman describes the adventures of Richard the Lion-Hearted in Palestine and his meeting with Saladin in 1192.
      His novel Woodstock, or The Cavalier was published in 1826 and is set in 1651 when Oliver Cromwell sends forces to destroy the royal lodge of Woodstock in Oxfordshire which leads to conflicts between Royalists and jealousy over Alice Lee. Charles Stuart is hiding there, and Alice helps him.
      All Scott’s novels were published anonymously until his announcement in February 1827. He invested his ample earnings to create a bountiful estate; but he was ruined by the financial panic in the winter of 1825-26, and he spent the rest of his life trying to pay off his large debts. His historical works include Lives of the Novelists (1821-24), a 9-volume Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827), a two-volume History of Scotland (1829-30), and Essays on Ballad Poetry (1830). He died in September 1832 and was widely mourned in Scotland. His Waverley novels were published in 48 volumes by 1833, and by that year all of Scott’s debts were paid.

Notes

1. Scott’s Journal, i, 321 quoted in The Poems and songs of Robert Burns, Introduction by Andrew Lang, p. xxi.
2. Biographia Literaria by Coleridge, Chapter XII, Thesis ix.
3. “A Treatise on Morals” in Shelley’s Prose or The Trumpet of a Prophecy, p. 188.
4. A Philosophical View of Reform in Shelley’s Prose or The Trumpet of a Prophecy, p. 240.
5. Ibid., p. 260-261.

Copyright © 2018 by Sanderson Beck

EUROPE & REVOLUTION 1789-1830

France’s Revolution 1789-95
France & Napoleon’s Rise & Fall 1796-1815
France of Louis XVIII & Charles X 1814-30
Britain’s Reaction to France 1789-1799
Britain: War and Recovery 1800-30
Romantic Era of English Literature 1789-1830
Germans, Austria & Swiss 1789-1830
German Idealists and Romantics 1789-1830
Spain, Portugal and Italy 1789-1830
Netherlands and Scandinavia 1789-1830
Poland, Russia & Greek Revolution 1789-1830
Summary and Evaluating Europe 1789-1830
Bibliography

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