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History of English Literature is a comprehensive, eight-volume survey of English literature from the Middle Ages to the early twenty-first century. This reference work provides insightful and often revisionary readings of core texts in the English literary canon. Richly informative analyses are framed by the biographical, historical and intellectual context for each author.
Volume 4 begins with a focus on the pivotal function of religion in the mid-nineteenth century and explores the resulting oscillation between Romantic escape, sceptical solipsism and social responsibility in the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Tennyson, Browning, Clough and Matthew Arnold. The aegis of religion was only broken by the advent of Pre-Raphaelitism. This trajectory is reflected in a series of well-known enigmatic masterworks by the Rossettis.
In addition to these key works, space is also devoted to often neglected poets and poetry such as Patmore and Adelaide Procter, nonsense verse and Lear’s limericks, the dialect poet William Barnes, and the Victorian ‘poetesses’. Finally, the author rescues from critical oblivion the Spasmodics, honours the minor prose masterpiece Dreamthorp by Alexander Smith, and registers the revival of drama with Taylor, Boucicault and Robertson.