Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones

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ByAurora Leigh —among much else the first extended poetical portrait of the professional woman writer in English literature—had appeared in more than twenty editions in England and as many in America. This essay surveys seldom-cited notices in the transatlantic daily and weekly press, analyzes critical debates on Aurora Leigh in the major British periodicals, and charts differing patterns in its American and European as compared to its British reception in the years immediately following its publication.

It also indicates at points how debates over Aurora Leigh were intertwined with debates in the visual arts associated with the paintings of J. Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. For a capsule introduction to the principal characters, themes, and narrative developments in Aurora Leighsee section iii. Winfield: Wedgestone P, —. Scott Lewis. Waco: Wedgestone P, Sandra Donaldson. London: Pickering and Chatto, Simultaneously, it appeared from C. Francis across the Atlantic in New York. LTA 2: n5, n4. Of one thing they may all be sure — they were right in the impression that they never had read, and never would read anything in any way comparable with that unique work of audaciously feminine and ambitiously impulsive genius.

It is one of the longest poems in the world and there is not a dead line in it. In the first seventy years of the twentieth century, Aurora Leigh —along with most of the other works that made EBB the most internationally recognized English woman poet of the nineteenth century—was largely erased from literary history, and she was chiefly identified as the author of Sonnets from the Portuguese. But Kaplan gave little attention to the composition of Aurora Leighand even less to establishing a definitive text: work first done by Margaret Reynolds in her award-winning Ohio University Press scholarly edition of the verse-novel, containing much information on its manuscripts see Fig.

While I offer a detailed analysis of the reviews in influential British periodicals in section five, I approach them contextually, in relation to each other and to overlooked assessments in seldom-cited quarterlies, monthlies and literary magazines, as well as in light of notices in the transatlantic daily and weekly press.

Francis were proliferating in America. Dickinson had access to a C. Francis pirated edition published inacquired by her future sister-in-law Susan Gilbert in January, In AmericaC. Browning was eventually successful in negotiating an agreement with Francis for this amount to bring out Aurora Leigh simultaneously with its English publication, and a parallel agreement with James T.

The vivid scene-painting of settings in London where Aurora as artist-in-formation ventures into slums she luridly represents without really seeing themin the Paris of Louis Napoleon, and finally in Florence make Aurora Leigh both an urban and a transnational work. Byhowever, mid-nineteenth-century socialist enterprises underway in England, France and America influencing the representation of Romney see section vi, below had collapsed or subsided.

ReynoldsSeeking a Aurora ongst the stones as a pivotal issue in both the verse-novel itself and in the reviews. It is absolute pain to read it. Kaplan Some reviewers of Aurora Leigh also noted Turneresque and Pre-Raphaelite qualities in its vivid scene-painting see e. In Februarythe year Swinburne became associated with the second, Oxford wave of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, his letters express the ardent appreciation of Aurora Leigh he recalled in In Americathe feminist activist and suffragist Susan B. Reynolds x. Often, however, the hybrid genre and mixed style of the verse-novel are an even greater focus of attention, especially in British and French periodicals.

Reynolds The breaching of other boundaries than gender, especially class distinctions, is another more obliquely registered concern, especially in more conservative British reviews, but again responses are mixed. Moreover, reviewers link their interpretations of Aurora Leigh to an array of other topics, from trends in contemporary visual arts responses to J. The vibrant diversity that makes the immediate reception of Aurora Leighlike the work itself, an index of its age has been obscured by critical legends first promulgated in the period when Aurora Leigh languished in the critical wilderness, and Victorian women poets collectively were almost completely expunged from canonical anthologies.

Taplin cited G. Venables in the Saturday Review as representative of this consensus. Notably, both of these resources include shorter notices and reviews in the daily and weekly press that often preceded discussions of Aurora Leigh in the monthlies and quarterlies. Moreover, then as now, reviewers avidly consulted, echoed, and argued with earlier reviews.

The focus on asserting literary conventions and standards in the traditionally influential monthlies and quarterlies was furthermore compounded by their economic competition with the daily and weekly press in the rapidly expanding print culture of the period. First to the mark in reviewing Aurora Leigh was the London Globe and Travelleron 20 Novemberfive days after it appeared. Browning has thrown the whole strength of her most noble nature. All the powers which were indicated in her former works seem to us to be displayed in the present poem in perfection. She wields the lightning of her genius with Jove-like freedom.

Other reviews in the daily and weekly press similarly greeted Aurora Leigh in terms that conveyed its power and originality, even when more mixed in their opinions. At the same time, the Leader critic divorces the forms Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones Aurora Leigh unites by considering it as a novel one Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones, in the first half of the review, and as a poem in the next weekly installment.

Like the Globe and Traveller and Literary Gazette reviewers, the Spectator critic did not object to the mixed genre and style of Aurora Leigh. Other English and American newspapers were positively glowing, in relation to both the form and subject matter of Aurora Leigh. The Examiner critic uses more moderate terms than the Daily News critic.

LTA 2: n12 —contrary to the much more cited denunciations of it by Chorley and Aytoun analysed below. Donaldson 61, Kenyon 2: Donaldson Similarly, despite commonalities in the reaction to Aurora Leigh in different countries, nationality at times clearly contributed to varying patterns of response in Britain, Americaand European countries such as Franceas Section VII demonstrates.

The polarized, but often admiring responses to Aurora Leigh in the transatlantic daily press are played out in a magnified form in the more extended periodical reviews—especially in Britain, but also to a degree in America. More importantly, there were also predominantly or enthusiastically positive assessments in the British Quarterly Reviewthe Monthly Reviewthe New Quarterly Reviewand the Edinburgh Weekly Review. In another case—the Dublin University Magazine —passionate praise followed by contradictory caustic critique raises the possibility of two voices in internal conflict within the same mind, or two hands at work in one review, as I indicate below.

Vaughan, a founder of and regular contributor to the British Quarterlyobjects to neither Aurora nor the portrayal of Romney. The of abstract thinking are here, and yet there is no heavy philosophizing of set purpose. A warm human life meets us everywhere.

LTA 2: n Other reviewers especially noted the virtues of the first-person perspective and scene-painting in Aurora Leigh in terms that freely mixed literary genres, as well as poetry and painting.

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Comments like these form a striking contrast to the often cited condemnations of the mixed genre and style of Aurora Leigh in reviews by Chorley, Coventry Patmore, and Aytoun. Reynolds, In his subsequent North British assessment of Aurora LeighPatmore is subtler in expressing his doctrines on women and their place.

This generic distinction, framed in a larger context emphasizing gender distinctions, is further intertwined with rules about representing the present as opposed to the past and rules for the proper separation of the social classes. Browning follows the march of modern improvement. EBB herself read at least extracts from Spasmodic poets such as Smith and Dobell with some interest, but a mixed response. The review first mounts a vigorous defense of Mrs. Did a senior editor intervene at this point to check and suppress a too enthusiastic and positive review?

Or was the reviewer first glowingly speaking to the power of Aurora Leigh only to turn the tables and castigate it with more force?

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The latter possibility seems unlikely, given the passion, eloquence, and detail of the praise. The former hypothesis might also help to explain other contradictions. While the contradictions of the Dublin University Magazine review present a conundrum, the reviews by Aytoun, Patmore, Chorley, and Venables all suggest that conservative stances on class and gender segregation tend to align with resistance to the mixing of genres and styles.

Notably, the review appeared as she was embarked on her own first attempt at writing fiction in Scenes of Clerical Life. Browning has shown herself all the greater poet because she is intensely a poetess. In contrast, James Challen, an American reviewer, would later interpret the layered metaphors in this passage as a complex psychological evocation of Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones contradictory mythologies of motherhood and womanhood mingling in the consciousness of the orphaned Aurora in childhood, much as modern critics now read the maternal death-portrait passage.

Romney is treated no less unfairly than the cause he represents. There are absurd philanthropies in abundance, pretentious schemes with no heart in them, false and idle. Had the hero of this poem advocated the most impracticable of these, his punishment had been too severe. Romney Leigh for being a philanthrophist,—to be rejected and lectured by his mistress—to have his intended wife stolen from him — to try everything, to succeed in nothing—to be laughed at by everybody—to lose his money—to have his house burned about his ears — to get both his eyes knocked out — to beg pardon of his old mistress at last, and confess that she was all right and he was all wrong — to have her to take charge of him afterwards in his mutilated state!!!

While Nichol is among numerous reviewers Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones criticizes the portrayal of Romney in Aurora Leighit is important to note that such criticism comes from differing political directions. Maurice and Charles Kingsley, various aristocratic philanthropists, and French socialists.

Among twenty-first-century critics, Romney is similarly subject to diverse interpretations. Nineteenth-century reviewers and critics also disagreed on the larger question of whether Aurora Leigh is for or against socialism or social reform itself. He does not consider the French socialist theorists EBB most explicitly critiques, some of them with quite anti-democratic schemes for social renovation, especially Charles Fourier. Stiles However, other critics found Aurora Leigh vaguely or excessively pro-socialist.

Just as interpretations of Romney and socialism or social reform vary both in the reviews of Aurora Leigh and in later nineteenth-century criticism, responses to Marian are diverse, although they are more consistently positive than reactions to the assertive Aurora. Critics especially focused on the extent to which the working-class Marian was realistically drawn and the propriety of portraying her sexual degradation so frankly. Roscoe in the National Reviewsimilarly argues that Mrs. The constraints imposed by taboos governing the representation of female sexual experience are also evident in the Spectator review.

Notwithstanding his otherwise harsh critique of Aurora LeighAytoun exclaims as Nichols does that Mrs. The piercing and terrible pathos of the story is as incomparable and as irresistible as the divine expression of womanly and motherly rapture which seems to suffuse and imbue the verythe very print, with the radiance and the fragrance of babyhood.

There never was, and there never will be, such another baby in type as that. No words can ever be adequate to give thanks for such a gift as this xiv-xv. As numerous studies document, [26] this is the most striking instance of how reviews of her work were swept up in the politics of nations.

Yet even among British critics inPoems before Congress had more defenders than modern criticism suggests, as is more dramatically the case with Aurora Leigh itself. And again, this is especially evident if one considers articles in the daily and weekly press and in America.

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Browning has the courage and faith in eternal principles of justice to hail. Even before the coup and plebiscite that transformed Louis Napoleon into the Emperor Napoleon III, British conservative periodicals like the Edinburgh and Quarterly defined what they saw as British superiority against French inferiority and instability, especially during the turbulence of the socialist upheavals in France Lewis, M In contrast to most English reviewers, critics elsewhere were sometimes more approving than critical of the representation of Napoleon III and the French in both Aurora Leigh and Poems before Congress.

She also, however, at times dismissed the deaths of some of these very people on the barricades in Paris with a troubling casualness. Yet like Aytoun, Chorley, and Nichol, he insists on the distinction between the idealism he associates with poetry and the more prosaic content of the novel.

In contrast, L.

Seeking a Aurora ongst the stones

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Seeking a aurora ongst the stones