"Breathing Human Passion": Keats, Cornwall, Shelley and popular romanticism

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-273
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Volume19
Issue number3
Early online date01 Jul 2008
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2008
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Abstract

Between 1819 and 1821, the now-neglected poet Barry Cornwall was feted in literary London, enjoying one of the highest profiles of any Romantic author. Several reviewers preferred his fashionable cadences to those of Keats or Shelley. Today, the negligible space accorded Cornwall in Romantic criticism is the legacy of his eclipse by writers whose reputations he helped promote through published reminiscences - including Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb and De Quincey. This essay seeks to rehabilitate Cornwall as an invaluable context for the receptions of Keats and Shelley, poets whose place within contemporary early nineteenth-century print culture was more fraught than his own. I examine Cornwall's remarkable dexterity in negotiating popular taste, and explore his complexly dynamic interaction with Keats. My discussion also focuses on Shelley's antipathy towards Cornwall and his commercial success, showing how this ill-disposition - given crucial shape by Thomas Love Peacock - played an important role in the genesis of one of Romanticism's most urgent manifestos, A Defence of Poetry. Finally, this essay investigates what it was about Cornwall's au courant style that guaranteed his popular appeal in Romantic reading culture, and also examines the conditions that led to the precipitous decline of his literary stock after 1823.