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THEORY OF POETRY
An examination in the light of
A. E. POWELL DA
(MRS. E. R. DODDS)
SOMETIME WILLIAM NOBLE FELLOW
EDWARD ARNOLD & CO.
[All rights reserved]
Romanticism in literature is a quality of frequent recurBut towards the end of the eighteenth century circumstances shaped a particular form of romanticism from which there developed an explicit conception of poetry. In the present book this conception will be considered chiefly as it was formulated by six English romantics-Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, De Quincey, Shelley, and Keats. From the work of these writers there emerges, in spite of individual differences, a coherent theory of the poet's function, more definite and more comprehensive than any which has since been formulated in this country. Throughout the nineteenth century this doctrine was the chief influence on English poetic creation and criticism. But for the last two generations there have been signs, finding perhaps their best expression in Pater's essay on Style, and continued in the protests of more recent writers,1 that these romantics have not said the last word, and that poetry has done and will do things which do not belong to their philosophy. The tone of criticism, in all its branches, has undergone a change. And after a period of hesitation and conflicting tendencies we have been confronted with a new comprehensive theory of art in the aesthetic of Benedetto Croce.
In the classroom, in the newspapers and in the minds of the ordinary educated public, philosophical opinions, especially those which flatter our nature and have the authority of great names, commonly retain their ascendancy long after it has begun to be questioned by the leaders of thought. In this fact lies my original motive for undertaking the present work, as well as my chief justification for publishing it. In my own mind the romantic theory-or rather,
1 Cf. for example Flecker's apology for the French Parnassians (Preface to The Golden Journey to Samarkand).
One may note also the predominance of conscious self-expression over narrative and observation in modern painting and fiction. This is good evidence that Croce fulfils what he himself believes to be the philosopher's task-namely, to define the new matter of a new age.