Charlotte Smith and the persistence of the past
If seeing the term ‘didactic’ in the title of a collection of essays on the Romantic period strikes us as in any way incongruous, it is perhaps a testimony to the enduring legacy of what Jerome McGann labelled ‘the Romantic ideology’.1 Certainly, many of the ‘big six’ Romantic poets denounce didacticism in poetry and imaginative literature more broadly. Percy Shelley proclaims in A Defense of Poetry (1821) that ‘poetry cannot be made subservient’ to instruction, while John Keats argues in an 1818 letter that ‘We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us – and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket’.2 Much of the writing of the Romantic era, however, especially in roughly the rst half of the period we associate with ‘Romanticism’ (1790-1805), is infused with didactic intent and provides the backdrop against which Shelley’s and Keats’s objections are voiced.
Rooney, M. (2016). Charlotte Smith and the persistence of the past. In Didactic Novels and British Women's Writing, 1790-1820 (pp. 21–37). doi:10.4324/9781315629001