Friday, September 20, 2013

Poetry -- Everywhere, All the Time

The greatest poets of the modern age lived during the Regency era: Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Blake, Coleridge, etc. etc. And they lived in a era that believed in poetry, was absorbed by poetry, and encouraged everyone, it seems, to write poetry.

Virtually every magazine of the period had a poetry section. One would expect poetry from Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature etc., The Ladies' Monthly Museum and La Belle Assemblee. But The Gentleman's Magazine, as well as The Lady's Magazine, offered poetry. And more unexpectedly, The Annual Register, The European Magazine, and even The Theatrical Inquisitor printed poetry...a great deal of it.

Some offerings reflected the political world of the time, and some the trials of war:

From The Annual Register 1814

from Repository of Arts 1812
Many poems celebrated a fierce patriotism and a narrow view of nationalism we would not subscribe to today.
from The Lady's Magazine January 1804
There were sad love poems, and ubiquitous poems to roses:
from La Belle Assemblee January 1807

from The Ladies' Monthly Museum July 1816
The thing that all these poems have in common is that they are not very good. They rhyme, and they make liberal use of apostrophes and archaic word forms, but they are sentimental, emotive, and unoriginal.

One editor of The London Magazine (1820-1829 incarnation) was blunt with one writer:
And he was completely dismissive of several others:
Its dependence upon, and fascination with, poetry is an important feature to remember about the Regency era. Whether it was the death of a beagle
from The Gentleman's Magazine June 1803
the death of an actor
from The Theatrical Inquisitor 1821
or a move,
from The European Magazine January 1813
all was grist for the poetic mill. A hero or heroine who writes poetry is not unusual. It was simply something that educated people of the nineteenth century did. Whether they did it well or not, only history, and editors, decide.

'Til next time,


N.B. Due to writing deadlines and family commitments, I must limit my blogging from now on to two times a month. Watch for new posts on the first and third Fridays of each month! Thank you for joining me.

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