Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Defence of Poesy

I have already written, several times, about my readers’ very evident dislike of poetry. This dislike has a long history among respectable people: I am currently reading, among other things, ‘The Ordeal of Richard Feverel’, George Meredith’s novel of 1859 about a father’s Rousseau-like imposition of his educational ‘ideas’ on his son. Here is a brief extract:


Sir Austin, despite his rigid watch and ward, knew less of his son than the servant of his household. And he was deaf, as well as blind. Adrian thought it his duty to tell him that the youth was consuming paper. Lady Blandish likewise hinted at his mooning propensities. Sir Austin from his lofty watch-tower of the System had foreseen it, he said. But when he came to hear that the youth was writing poetry, his wounded heart had its reasons for being much disturbed. 

"Surely," said Lady Blandish, "you knew he scribbled?"  

"A very different thing from writing poetry," said the baronet. "No Feverel has ever written poetry."  

"I don't think it's a sign of degeneracy," the lady remarked. "He rhymes very prettily to me."  

A London phrenologist, and a friendly Oxford Professor of poetry, quieted Sir Austin's fears.  The phrenologist said he was totally deficient in the imitative faculty; and the Professor, that he was equally so in the rhythmic, and instanced several consoling false quantities in a few effusions submitted to him.  

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