Attitudes to poetry

To-day poetry is a minority interest. A hundred years ago, poetry was part popular culture in a way that it isn't today. It was widely read by the middle and upper classes especially, though there are also many accounts of literate working class people reading both older and contemporary poets.

Poet Laureate

Lord TennysonAlfred Tennyson became Poet Laureate in 1850 after the death of William Wordsworth. Both Laureates were household names, and their poems were quoted frequently. Tennyson's opinions on the affairs of the day were influential even at a political level, and in 1883 he was made Lord Tennyson by Queen Victoria, who certainly knew much of his poetry.

Private poets

If someone had been asked in 1910 whether they had heard of Gerard Manley Hopkins, they would certainly have said, ‘Gerard who?' He had not yet been published, even though he had been dead some twenty years.

In this, he was rather like Emily Brontë or the American nineteenth century poet Emily Dickinson, whose poetry was not known during their lifetime, though it has become well-known since.

Even the famous Romantic poet John Keats was nearly as unfortunate. Although a small number of his poems had been printed, he was very little known till a few young men at Cambridge, including the future Poet Laureate, Tennyson, rediscovered him some twenty years after his death and made him famous.

Nineteenth century style

What sort of poetry was being written in the nineteenth century? The predominant influence was the poetry of the Romantics. Still popular in the middle of the century were Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron and Keats.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.