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Letitia Elizabeth Landon and Metrical Romance

The Adventures of a ‘Literary Genius’

Serena Baiesi

Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838) was one of the leading women poets of the second generation of English Romantic writers. Following her predecessor Walter Scott and her contemporary Lord Byron, she was a fluent practitioner and essential innovator of the metrical romance and exerted a strong influence on the work of Victorian poets (especially Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning and Christina Rossetti). This book analyses Landon’s poetics, with particular reference to the close relationship between the narrative poem as literary genre and its gender implications.
Landon was both an eclectic writer and a literary businesswoman: she was an extremely effective promoter of her literary work in order to support her independent life in London. Furthermore she was the editor of several annuals and gift-books, wrote for magazines, and published numerous poems, novels, and editorials. Her active life and mysterious and premature death in Africa attracted the curiosity of many biographers during the twentieth century, but only in recent times has critical attention been paid to her rich literary output. This volume aims to discuss and analyse the work of a talented artist whose metrical romance strongly influenced the poetics of late Romanticism, and prefigured a highly successful genre widely adopted during the Victorian age: the dramatic monologue.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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Acknowledgments ................................................................................ 9 List of Illustrations .............................................................................. 11 Introduction ........................................................................................ 13 CHAPTER ONE The progress of a literary career and the development of a genre 1.1 Letitia Elizabeth Landon as ‘poet of genius’ ............................... 19 1.2 From narrative poem to dramatic monologue: Scott to Browning ........................................................................ 40 CHAPTER TWO L. E. L.’s poems of the 1820s: the beginning of a literary profession 2.1 The art of improvvisazione: English revisions of Italian oral versification ......................................................... 63 2.2 Genre permutations and gender interrelation in The Improvisatrice ...................................................................... 82 CHAPTER THREE Fashionable poetry in annuals and gift-books 3.1 Poet and editor: a businesswoman in the gift-book market ......... 97 3.2 Female picturesque and colonial settings in the gift-books ....... 119 CHAPTER FOUR Shifting voices: from narrative to dramatic 4.1 The inter-generic play of style and character: The Venetian Bracelet and Castruccio Castrucani ......................................... 137 4.2 Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s last works: premature end of a literary career ............................................. 148 8 APPENDIX ONE: Reviews and Magazines: L.E.L.’s critical reception in the nineteenth century ................................................................... 161 APPENDIX TWO: Chronology of Letitia Elizabeth Landon .......................................... 173 Bibliography ..................................................................................... 177 Index ................................................................................................. 197

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