A poem for its time?
An introductory essay by Barbara Taylor.
This essay demonstrates that The Sceptic was written in 1819
and that the poem is a response to the Peterloo Massacre. It therefore
argues that, despite its apparently conservative message, The Sceptic
is in fact a subtle critique of contemporary sexual politics.
Hemans, Hume, and Philosophical
An extract from an as yet unpublished PhD thesis by Anne Hartman.
This extract focuses on the philosophical context of The Sceptic,
exploring the connections implicit in the poem between Hemans and David
Hume and the Common Sense philosophers.
Hartman writes of her extract: "While readers of The Sceptic
have tended to identify Byron as the primary focus, we can now see that
the poem's frame of reference is considerably wider. Philosophically speaking,
the poem must also reference that most infamous of sceptics, David Hume,
and his essay which shares the same title as Hemans's poem. The poem is
an early indicator of Hemans's fascination with scepticism, while also
reflecting her emerging interest in the Common Sense School. The evidence
suggests that she was particularly aware of the ideas of the common sense
philosophers Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown, whose theories constituted
an elaboration of Humean thought with the important provision that scepticism
be exchanged for common sense and intuition, most importantly an intuition
"The extract that follows precedes a discussion of Hemans's later
poem The Forest Sanctuary. Most significant is that in the later
work Hemans cites Samuel Hibbert, author of The Philosophy of Apparitions,
a text directly influenced by Thomas Brown but also committed to providing
a materialist account of how the mind experiences ghosts, miracles and
the like. Although she indicated disapproval of Hibbert in her letters,
it is no small matter that Hemans would in her poem approvingly reference
a text with a thesis similar to Hume's infamous Essay on Miracles,
which was widely reviled as heretical. In the later poem, Hemans dramatises
a philosophical account of the mind that draws upon and revises contemporary
debates in the emergent science of the mind. While the register of the
questions raised in The Sceptic may be largely theological, subsequent
evidence suggests that she considered seriously the intellectual challenges
presented by scientific accounts of the mind as matter."
Shelley's Sonnet, "England
Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Edinburgh Monthly Review
The favorable but double edged review of The Sceptic discussed
in both Taylor and Hartman's work.
Letters from Hemans to her publisher
The small collection of the letters concerning the publication of The
Sceptic; with transcriptions provided by Barbara Taylor. Presented
with the permission of the John Murray Archives.
Byron's letter to John Murray
Byron's letter of June 1820 where The Sceptic is mentioned, again
with a transcription by Barbara Taylor. Presented with the permission
of the John Murray Archives.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Stanzas from Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage with links to
The Sceptic. Canto II photographed from the 1817 edition.