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Organising PoetryThe Coleridge Circle, 1790-1798$
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David Fairer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199296163

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296163.001.0001

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A Matter of Emphasis: Coleridge and Thelwall, 1796–7

A Matter of Emphasis: Coleridge and Thelwall, 1796–7

(p.236) 10 A Matter of Emphasis: Coleridge and Thelwall, 1796–7
Organising Poetry

David Fairer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

John Thelwall, the radical activist, posed a double challenge to Coleridge — as a materialist atheist and as a man with decided views on poetic form. This chapter argues that these two elements were intimately connected. Their disagreement became centred on Coleridge's idolised Bowles, whose verse Thelwall considered debilitatingly sentimental both in its emotive metrical emphasis and in its melancholy retrospection, which contrasted with Thelwall's own ‘vivifying principle’ of ‘animal vitality’, a material electric stimulus to thought and action. He continued his ‘sparring’ by annotating his wife's copy of Bowles's Poems, which Coleridge had given her, and gave vent to his mockery of Bowles's elegiac sympathies. But in the late summer of 1797, after visiting Nether Stowey, Thelwall's own poetry began to express his deep need for a common life of ‘kindred sympathies’ and ‘sweet converse’ with his friend. Within Thelwall too there were evident tensions and contradictions.

Keywords:   Coleridge, Thelwall, Bowles, metrics, stress, elocution, emphasis, animal vitality, Della Crusca

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