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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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Southey's Literary History: Poetry in Retrospect

Southey's Literary History: Poetry in Retrospect

(p.118) 5 Southey's Literary History: Poetry in Retrospect
Organising Poetry

David Fairer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Southey's early verse using the organic connectedness of the native poetic tradition provides the starting-point. Five times between 1807 and 1837 he wrote, for various publications, a concise narrative of English literary history with its story of loss and recovery, disruption and continuity — thinking perhaps of the history of English poetry he projected but never wrote. It becomes clear that this retrospect helped Southey to reconnect himself to the sources of his own early poetry, allowing him to reconfirm his personal principles, and associate them with what he valued in the national character. Southey's organic literary history is a function of his need to connect up his own life with that of his country. The chapter suggests that alongside the familiar view of Southey's lack of principle (Hazlitt saw him as ‘pragmatical, restless, unfixed’) stands a picture of tenacious consistency and a continued commitment to the track of his youth.

Keywords:   Southey, Hazlitt, literary history, poetry, continuity, Milton, Pope, organic, retrospect

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