Romanticism and Patriotism:
5. The conversation on Romantic ruins and fragments has had several notable episodes. Paul de Man's classic study of Shelley's Triumph of Life, “Shelley Disfigured” (1984), argues that we must resist the urge to seek semantic closure for the fragment poem through its “monumentalization” as historical or aesthetic object, a process that he claims arbitrarily settles meaning within a pre-determined historical or semantic order (121). In Thomas McFarland's Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin, the fragmentary is instead elevated to a cultural theme. In this expressivist-essentialist model, Romanticism is the emblematic expression of a phenomenological reality characterized by the “diasparactive” triad of incompleteness, fragmentation, and ruin (5-7). This reality, which is not necessarily mediated by social and political history, manifests in Romantic literature as the expression of longing and melancholy that terminate in a “sentiment des ruines” (15). Marjorie Levinson's The Romantic Fragment Poem: A Critique of a Form (1986) disputes this claim and argues instead for a historically nuanced reading of the fragment poem that disentangles the history of its composition, publication, and reception from the signification produced by the early nineteenth-century literary milieu and the legacy of Romantic ideology influencing modern critical discourse (8). Methodologically, this study most closely resembles Levinson's in its attention to historical facts and ideological determination. Yet it is not, per se, a study of the fragment as phenomenon or form.
6. See also Nairn's Break-Up of Britain (1977) and After Britain (2000), Samuel's three-volume collection Patriotism: The Making and Unmaking of British Identity (late 1980s), Hitchens's The Abolition of Britain (1999), and Marr's BBC documentary and book The Day Britain Died (2000). For an excellent review of this literature, see also Stuart Ward's “The End of Empire and the Fate of Britishness” (2004).
7. This, indeed, is the subject of Suvir Kual's Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire (2000): 'Rule, Britannia!' . . . is testimonial to the fact that poets in the long eighteenth century imagined poetry to be a unique and privileged literary form for the enunciation of a puissant (and plastic) vocabulary of nation, particularly one appropriate to a Britain proving itself . . . great at home and abroad” (5).
8. Shaftesbury's Characteristicks (1714) is very much a recapitulation of the classical argument for Christian morality espoused by landed Tory aristocrats over and against an emergent bourgeois culture that emphasized the ameliorating effects of personal industry and commerce, despite being driven by self-interest and monetary reward. In many respects, Mandeville, a Dutch native raised in a commercial society where the state facilitated commercial and colonial expansion, is the mouthpiece for bourgeois cultural transvaluation against an established hegemonic aristocratic culture whose values and sensibility are rooted in the classical doctrine of “virtu,” which is based on the ownership of land and feudal social relations. J.G.A. Pocock's “The Mobility of Property and the Rise of Eighteenth-Century Sociology” (1985) provides an excellent study of this tension.
11. “It was thus,” continues Hume in Of Simplicity and Refinement, “the ASIATIC eloquence degenerated so much from the ATTIC: It was thus the age of CLAUDIUS and NERO became so much inferior to that of AUGUSTUS in taste and genius: And perhaps there are, at present, some symptoms of a like degeneracy of taste, in FRANCE as well as in ENGLAND” (Essays Moral Political and Literary 196). Cultural refinement, swelled with age and imperial growth, leads to decadence and degeneracy, following the cyclical pattern of rise and decline.
12. In 1781, after completing the first part of his narrative on the fall of the Western Roman empire and before embarking on the second part concerning the fall of the Eastern Roman empire, Gibbon wrote his General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West, an essay which was appended to the end of Chapter 38 of The Decline. In it, he writes, “The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable result of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principles of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight” (IV.XXXVIII.119).
13. Contra Smith, Malthus argues that “the increasing wealth of the nation has had little or no tendency to better the condition of the labouring poor” (An Essay on the Principle of Population XVI.112). Indeed, he suggests that the opposite may more likely be true.
15. Kate Davies convincingly argues that female involvement in the early abolition movement strengthened it because of its presumed non-political character. Females were attracted to the movement because of the delicacy of “feminine sympathy” toward the suffering of slaves, which tinctured the abolitionist movement with a moral imperative ratified by the purported moral authority invested in females. See also “A Moral Purchase; Femininity, Commerce, and Abolition, 1788-1792” (2001).
17. In “Configurations of Feminine Reform: The Woman Writer and the Tradition of Dissent” (1994), Marlon Ross argues that for Romantic women writers the act of writing, and furthermore of writing on behalf of liberal reform initiatives, constituted a “double dissension” that could be mitigated by generic manipulation of two sorts: either disguise women's political speech in acceptably feminine modes like the conduct manual or feminize conventional political modes (94).
18. In “Consuming women: The Life of the ‘Literary Lady” as Popular Culture in Eighteenth-Century England” (1993), Paula McDowell elaborates the argument that iconic images of femininity circulated alongside female texts in eighteenth-century print culture and lent them a unique marketing edge that also placed heavy constraints upon the public image of female authors. This is because readers consumed female texts as much for the commodified images of femininity associated with the author as for content of the texts themselves.
19. See also Tricia Lootens's “Hemans and her American Heirs: Nineteenth-Century Women's Poetry and National Identity” (1999) for a discussion of Hemans's American reception as a trans-atlantic patriotic poet.
20. With the exception of Scott and Byron, Hemans generated more revenue by the sale of the multiple editions of her works than any other Romantic contemporary. Paula R. Feldman documents this phenomenon in “The Poet and the Profits: Felicia Hemans and the Literary Marketplace” (1999).
23. In Ambitious Heights (1990), Norma Clarke reveals that “the poet of domesticity, of hearth and home, had skeletons rattling by the fireside,” including a husband's desertion and the abandoning of her children's welfare to her mother, sister, and brother's good will (45-8).
24. Susan Wolfson, in “'Domestic Affections' and ‘the spear of Minerva': Felicia Hemans and the Dilemma of Gender” (1994), has argued that Hemans deeply deplored the prescriptions of femininity that consigned her to a life of shattered domesticity after her husband's departure, and constrained her to write behind a domestic mask out of the economic necessity of providing for her family. She manages this situation by casting an array of female characters in her poetry that reflect the suffering endured by women as a result of their sequestration and subjection to losses inflicted by the masculine world of politics and war. As compensation, many of her characters model an almost stoical degree of heroism in the face of insurmountable suffering. Hence, her patriotic stance may well be an adaptation to the deplorable fate of women in a male-dominated society where the tranquility of domestic space is constantly imperiled by political intrigue and warfare.
25. See the Letter to John Murray (26 February, 1817), cited in Wolfson 480-1. These marbles—scavenged from the ruins of the Parthenon and imported to London by Lord Elgin in 1804, and eventually sold to the British government in 1816—are featured in Keats's self-reflexive poem, On Seeing the Elgin Marbles (1817). But they were also the subject of a popular furor over their rightful ownership involving Byron when he, in Part II of Childe Harold (1812), explicitly deplores their theft. Interestingly, contemporary reviewers believed Modern Greece to have been written by Byron despite the fact that the poem clearly weighs-in in favor of this expropriation of Grecian art. See the review of Modern Greece in The New British Ladies Magazine n.s. 1 (1817): 70. See also Susan Wolfson's study of Heman's relationship with Byron and his poetry in “Hemans and the Romance of Byron” (2001).
26. We know from Chorley that Volney was also quite influential on the young poet Hemans. He cites a correspondence from Bishop Heber that reveals Hemans's abandoned plan for a syncretistic poem along the lines of Volney's Ruins, in which her design was “to trace out the symbolical meaning, by which the popular faiths of every land are linked together” (I.46-7). One can infer from Daniel White's “'Mysterious Sanctity': Sectarianism and Syncretism from Volney to Hemans” that Hemans most likely did eventually complete her syncretistic and pietistic poem under the title of Superstition and Revelation, a twenty-eight stanza poem that argues for the universality of Christianity as the root of all other creeds, which are revealed to be superstitious adulterations of Christian revelation.
28. The erudition of these notes led one early reviewer to believe that the anonymous poem could not have been the production of a “female pen” and must surely have been the work of a presumably male “academical pen.” See The British Review and London Critical Journal 15 (June 1820): 299-310, cited in Wolfson 532.
30. Hemans is here operating within the mode of modern orientalism. As Said has explicated, the modern orientalist performs a vital function for imperialism by discursively mastering and dominating those peoples and regions under its scrutiny. According to Said, the practice of “discovering” the East operates within a modern paradigm of orientalism that figures the East as backwards and essentially knowable because it occupies a past stage in Western development. Said explains that this paradigm is contrary to classical orientalism, which figures the East as exotic, essentially different from the West, and therefore inscrutable (Orientalism 120-3). Byron's treatment of Greece and the Levant in Childe Harold adheres closer to the latter mode.
31. In a letter to John Murray dated 4 September 1917, Byron, bristled by this wordplay, indignantly retorts, “Besides, why ‘modern?' You may say modern Greeks, but surely Greece itself is rather more ancient than ever it was” (cited in Wolfson 536; his emphasis).
32. Saree Makdisi makes a similar argument for Shelley's description of the East in Alastor, where he discursively depopulates and reduces to ruins the entirety of Eastern territories in order to enable a reframing of the East as pre-modern space situation within a historical continuum that leads teleologically to Western European civilization. See also his Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (1998) for a more advanced elaboration of this argument.
33. This difference can perhaps help to explain why Byron spoke so fervently in behalf of Greek nationalism while Hemans preferred to subject Greek society to the tutelage of a more “civilized” British empire.
34. See also Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. Pratt offers Mungo Park's Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa as a text that exemplifies the central traits of a “sentimental narrator.” The “sentimental narrator” is defined as experiential, innocent, passive, and imperiled by natives, thereby deflecting any claim to imperial ambitions, when, in fact, this narrator is performing the necessary task of collecting data on unexplored territories. The narrator also inverts imperial reality by presenting soon-to-be conquered natives as dangerous aggressors while depicting the imperialist West as fundamentally benign, inquisitive, and innocent.
35. Ward contends that sameness, not alterity, is the primary force that consolidated a cohesive British identity by psychologically binding Britain with its white settler communities across the globe (245). Accepting this, their globally scattered graves also work to engrave a British presence upon disparate and far-flung regions of the globe, symbolically annexing these territories to a British Commonwealth.
38. Sophia Psarra promulgates this argument in “The Parthenon and the Erechtheion: The Architectural Formation of Place, Politics, and Myth.” Her study focuses on two adjacent structures that stand upon the Acropolis: the Parthenon and the Erechtheion. The former roots present imperial exploits in the nation's past, thereby granting it legitimacy, while the latter anchors an ancient religion and mythology in the present, granting continuity to the nation's culture.
40. Here, Hemans takes up the cause of the native arts movement, following in the footsteps of Blake, Wordsworth, and numerous other British poets and painters. For more on this, see also Morris Eaves's The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake (1992).
41. In “Minerva's Veil: Hemans, Critics, and the Construction of Gender” (1997), Eubanks suggests that the figure of Minerva, the warrior goddess, which is central to Hemans's description of the Greek national mythology, is a symbolic affront to the doctrine of separate spheres (345).