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35. Parody and Imitation

Graeme Stones

Subject Literature » Romanticism

Key-Topics fiction, gothic literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198529.1999.00037.x


‘Once’, said the Mock Turtle at last, with a deep sigh, ‘I was a real Turtle’. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ‘The exact imitation of a good thing’, wrote Francis Jeffrey in 1812, ‘it must be admitted, promises fair to be a pretty good thing in itself’. This conventional, eighteenth-century view is what one would expect from the editor of the Edinburgh Review , notorious for his attacks on the Lake School radicalism of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey. ‘This will never do’, he thundered famously of the Excursion —not the most subversive of poems, but Jeffrey had long since convinced himself that the first generation of Romantic poets was a nest of vipers, whose every utterance must be stamped on. Emulation, not innovation, was the proper task of poets, who should comply with decorums founded in the Classics. He was always curmudgeonly. But Jeffrey was often a better critic than he is given credit for. In 1812 he reviewed the Rejected Addresses of Horace and James Smith. Their collection encouraged him into a lengthy discussion of imitation, and then parody. It was an influential and startling article. Jeffrey begins commonly enough, probing the way ahead from ground he was certain of. Self-appointed arbiter of public taste, Jeffrey had brooded for years over the early nineteenth-century literary renaissance. However, like it or not, he was a man of his own time. Imitative ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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