1800: The New Lyrical Ballads
Nicola Trott, Seamus Perry
Palgrave Macmillan, Jan 30, 2001 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 245 pages
Published to commemorate the bicentenary of the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), this collection gathers essays from ten leading British and American scholars to explore the distinctive originality of these famous volumes, and to analyze their lasting influence. With essays in cultural history and biographical reconstruction, as well as close readings of the poems and their leading critics, 1800: The New Lyrical Ballads offers a uniquely comprehensive account of one of the crucial episodes in British Romanticism.
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This book contains one of the only passages I have found anywhere to acknowledge Byron's having chided Wordsworth on the issue of a kind of prudish "naturalism" that exalted the intellectual and sensual passions over the baser sexual. However, by citing "Nutting," I believe that the authors grab precisely the wrong example as a potential counter to Lord Byron's objections.
Rather than vindicting Wordsworth of sexual indifference, as Ms. Trott and Mr. Perry suggest, it was the very poem, "Nutting," itself, which Byron was lampooning in Canto I: look at the vulgar phrase, "He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers," after having "thought of Donna Julia's eyes" ... with the assistance of puberty.
Past critics of the work may have been too polite to say it, but I believe that Juan POURED upon those leaves and flowers -- in the opinion of Byron, who saw, in the privacy of Wordsworth's woodland clearing, a set of nuts with which the average teenage boy might prefer to play.
That's my take anyway. I'm guessing that Byron was a nasty fellow, though funny. I still like Pope. Everyone at my school loved the passion but didn't enjoy the techne. I believe there's a great deal of the romantic in Pope; apparently, so did wicked Byron. Check it out!
(Dedicated to the brilliance of Profs. Nicholas Warner and Langdon Elsbree, still strong in my memory after 25 years)