127. (George Eliot)

This post will open with George Eliot and then drift, possibly to return. For a starting point, consider one of the most beguiling and frustrating of passages in nineteenth-century British literature: Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great … Continue reading 127. (George Eliot)

111. (John Keats)

On either side of John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” sit Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” and Tennyson’s “Vision of Sin.” All three are poems about encounters with pictures of strikingly alien people: Wordsworth’s, characteristically, about the imagination’s projection interfering with what is before him; Tennyson’s, characteristically, framed by an account of the vision’s arrival and dissipation. Wordsworth’s poem, then, founded on the conflict between … Continue reading 111. (John Keats)

108. (William Wordsworth)

  Wordsworth is one of the revolutionaries of English literary history, and not just because, as critics since Coleridge have observed, his poetry bristles with the unresolved metaphysical tensions between the accidental and the necessary, the unity of being and the fragmentations of memory and feeling, or the fissures between the history of the imagination and the imagination of history; he is a revolutionary because … Continue reading 108. (William Wordsworth)

89. (Andrew Marvell)

When T.S. Eliot, in his essay on Andrew Marvell, offered his incomparably confusing characterization of “wit,” what was he onto? That he was onto something is clear less from his strained reach of eloquence than from his sequence of instances; Eliot’s eye for exemplary passages and for juxtaposition of passages was among his gifts as a critic and they delineate more clearly than the words … Continue reading 89. (Andrew Marvell)

19. (John Milton)

The wryly and slyly passionate William Empson in Some Versions of Pastoral, at the end of the chapter on Milton and his eighteenth-century editor, the classicist Richard Bentley: Like so many characters in history our first parents may be viewed with admiration so long as they do not impose on us their system of values; it has become safe to admit that in spite of what … Continue reading 19. (John Milton)