Keats, Endymion, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton, 1822..
Portrait of John Keats
by William Hilton, 1822..

Nearly 195 years after John Keats’ death, even the most non-poetic amongst us can still quote the first line of Endymion: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever…”  Yet, upon its release in 1818, Endymion was so harshly reviewed by Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that Lord Byron was prompted to write that the sensitive Keats had been “snuffed out by an article.”

And what an article!  Between referencing the “imperturbable driveling idiocy of Endymion” and snidely referring to Keats as “Johnny” and “Mr. John,” John Gibson Lockhart (writing for Blackwood’s) took jabs at Keats’ education, his middle-class upbringing, and even his former career as a licensed apothecary.  […]Continue Reading

Literary Fathers: As Depicted in the Works of Austen, Dickens, and Heyer

The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805. (© Tate Museum, London, 2015)
The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805.
(© Tate Museum, London, 2015)

It’s Father’s Day and, in celebration, I thought it would be a perfect time to take a brief look at a few of the many and varied fathers depicted in some of our favorite literary classics from the 19th century and beyond.[…]Continue Reading

Chaucer, Robert Burns, and Lassie: The Collie in Literature and History

No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).
No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).

The Rough Collie is one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world.  This is largely due to English author Eric Knight who, in a 1938 short story, created what is arguably the greatest literary heroine of all time – Lassie.[…]Continue Reading

The Literary Governess: Depictions in Austen, Brontë, Thackeray, and Heyer

The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.
The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.

During the 19th century, a gently bred young lady with no fortune, no family, and no prospects had few options for making her way in the world.  She might hire herself out as a companion, of course.  Or if she was particularly adept with a needle, she might take in a bit of sewing.  Both were respectable, genteel occupations for a lady down on her luck and, as such, both are well-represented in historical novels.  However, despite the undoubted romantic appeal of the penniless companion and the impoverished seamstress, neither position provides the wealth of literary possibilities inherent in the role of governess.[…]Continue Reading

Miniature Portraits in the Works of Radcliffe, Austen, Brontë, and Dickens

Princess Helena by Anton Hähnisch, 1861. (Royal Trust Collection.)
Princess Helena by Anton Hähnisch, 1861.
(Royal Trust Collection.)

Miniature portraits first appeared in England during the 16th century.  Small, portable, and easily displayed or concealed on one’s person, their popularity flourished – both in life and in literature.  By the 19th century, their presence in romance novels and Gothics was practically de-rigueur.

Ann Radcliffe uses miniatures to great effect in several of her novels, including The Mysteries of Udolfo (1794) and The Italian (1797).  In the following passage from The Italian, we get a glimpse of the enormous dramatic impact a miniature can have if produced at the right moment in the story.[…]Continue Reading

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