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The Romantic age was one of anger and its consequences: revolution
and reaction, terror and war. Andrew M. Stauffer explores the
changing place of anger in the literature and culture of the period,
as Englishmen and women rethought their relationship to the
aggressive passions in the wake of the French Revolution. Drawing
on diverse ¬elds and discourses such as aesthetics, politics, medicine,
and the law, and tracing the classical legacy the Romantics inherited,
Stauffer charts the period™s struggle to de¬ne the relationship of
anger to justice and the creative self. In their poetry and prose,
Romantic authors including Blake, Coleridge, Godwin, Shelley,
and Byron negotiate the meanings of indignation and rage amidst
a clamorous debate over the place of anger in art and in civil society.
This innovative book has much to contribute to the understanding
of Romantic literature and the cultural history of the emotions.

a n d r e w m . s t a u f f e r is an Assistant Professor of English at
Boston University. He has published on nineteenth-century British
literature in Studies in Romanticism, Keats“Shelley Journal, Victorian
Literature and Culture and Victorian Poetry. He was awarded a
fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to
complete Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism.

General editors
Professor Marilyn Butler, University of Oxford
Professor James Chandler, University of Chicago

Editorial board
John Barrell, University of York
Paul Hamilton, University of London
Mary Jacobus, University of Cambridge
Kenneth Johnston, Indiana University
Alan Liu, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jerome McGann, University of Virginia
David Simpson, University of California, Davis

This series aims to foster the best new work in one of the most challenging ¬elds
within English literary studies. From the early 1780s to the early 1830s a formid-
able array of talented men and women took to literary composition, not just in
poetry, which some of them famously transformed, but in many modes of
writing. The expansion of publishing created new opportunities for writers,
and the political stakes of what they wrote were raised again by what Wordsworth
called those ˜great national events™ that were ˜almost daily taking place™: the
French Revolution, the Napoleonic and American wars, urbanization, industri-
alization, religious revival, an expanded empire abroad and the reform movement
at home. This was an enormous ambition, even when it pretended otherwise.
The relations between science, philosophy, religion, and literature were reworked
in texts such as Frankenstein and Biographia Literaria: gender relations in A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Don Juan: journalism by Cobbett and
Hazlitt: poetic form, content, and style by the Lake School and the Cockney
School. Outside Shakespeare studies, probably no body of writing has produced
such a wealth of response or done so much to shape the responses of modern
criticism. This indeed is the period that saw the emergence of those notions of
˜literature™ and of literary history, especially national literary history, on which
modern scholarship in English has been founded.
The categories produced by Romanticism have also been challenged by recent
historicist arguments. The task of the series is to engage both with a challenging
corpus of Romantic writings and with the changing ¬eld of criticism they have
helped to shape. As with other literary series published by Cambridge, this one
will represent the work of both younger and more established scholars, on either
side of the Atlantic and elsewhere.
For a complete list of titles published see end of book.

©¤§ µ®©© °
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge  µ, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521846752

© Andrew M. Stauffer 2005

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place
without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published in print format 2005

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Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of µ¬s
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
For Mom and Dad,
and for Zahr and Layth

Acknowledgments page viii
List of abbreviations x

Introduction: ¬ts of rage 1
Towards Romantic anger
1 16
Burke, Coleridge, and the rage for indignation
2 38
In¬‚ammatory reactions
3 64
Provocation and the plot of anger
4 87
Shelley and the masks of anger
5 110
Byron™s curse
6 133

Epilogue 164
Notes 175
Bibliography 200
Index 215


Many hands have helped guide mine as this book grew. Thanks ¬rst to
Chip Tucker, Jerry McGann, and Paul Cantor, whose very different kinds
of inspiration and advice made it possible, and then helped me make it
better. They are my teachers, and along with Mark Edmundson, Robert
Langbaum, Michael Levenson, Vicki Mahaffey, David McWhirter,
and Jim Nohrnberg, they opened my eyes. Thanks also to fellow Roman-
ticists at Boston University, Chuck Rzepka and David Wagenknecht,
who were very generous with their help, as indeed were a number of
Boston University faculty members, particularly Christopher Decker,
Christopher Ricks, John Paul Riquelme, and James Winn. My colleagues
at California State University, Los Angeles deserve gratitude, with special
recognition to Alfred Bendixen, Peter Brier, Michael Calabrese, John
Cleman, Michelle Hawley, and Steve Jones. In addition, I would like to
thank my students at Boston University and California State University,
Los Angeles, who have energized my thinking about the matters set forth
herein, and so much else. Other sources of happy in¬‚uence include Peter
Accardo, Neil Arditi, Bernard Beatty, Alison Booth, Charles Choi, Anne
Coldiron, Clark Davis, Jim Epstein, Alina Gharabegian, Kevin Gilmartin,
Marilyn Gaull, Andy Franta, Anup Ghosh, Dennis Kezar, Paul Kirkitelos,
Michael O™Neill, Cara Norris, Martha White Paas, Paul Perrone, Seamus
Perry, Don Reiman, Russ Schweller, Jim Soderholm, David Vander
Meulen, Swen Voekel, and Jim Wamsley. It troubles me to imagine what
the book would look like without the contributions of these friends and
colleagues, all giants in the earth.
This project was supported by a fellowship from the National Endow-
ment for the Humanities, and my thanks go to that organization and
the reviewers of my application. At an earlier stage, a generous grant from
the Bradley Foundation allowed me to pursue research in England. In
addition, welcome support came from DuPont fellowships administered
by the English Department at the University of Virginia, and from the
Acknowledgments ix
College of Arts and Sciences and the English Department at California
State University, Los Angeles. The writing of this book depended on the
following libraries and the people who work there: the Huntington
Library, the British Library, the New York Public Library, Butler Library
at Columbia University, the Widener and Houghton Libraries at Harvard
University, and (most of all) Alderman Library at the University of
Virginia. Thanks also to Boston University for consistently supporting
me and my work as the project was completed.
A special thank-you to Linda Bree at Cambridge University Press for
having faith in this book and for seeing it through, to Josie Dixon for ¬rst
showing an interest in it, and to series editors Jim Chandler and Marilyn
Butler for their continual support. I™m also immensely grateful to Joanna
Breeze and Maartje Scheltens, who faithfully saw this book through
production, and to Audrey Cotterell, who copy-edited the manuscript
with a keen and patient eye. I™m also very grateful for my two anonymous
readers, whose excellent advice helped me shape the argument and its
I have presented sections of this book at various conferences, including
the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, the American
Conference on Romanticism, the Wordsworth Summer Conference, and
the International Byron Society Conference; my thanks to all who offered
questions and contributions on these collegial occasions. A shorter version
of chapter 4 appeared in Studies in Romanticism 39 (Winter 2000) and is
reprinted by permission of the Trustees of Boston University. Chapter 5
appeared in an altered form in Keats“Shelley Journal 49 (2000) and is
reprinted by permission of the editor. Sections of the introduction and
chapter 6 were included in Romantic Passions, edited by Elizabeth Fay
(1998), part of the Romantic Praxis series on the Romantic Circles
website (www.rc.umd.edu/praxis); that material is reprinted here by
A closing word of thanks to the people to whom this book is dedicated:
my parents George and Libby, whose love and support never falters; my
wife Zahr, my greatest friend and teacher, who helped me and this project
in countless happy ways; and our dear son Layth, forthcoming as this
book was being born.

BLJ Lord Byron, Byron™s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand.
13 vols. London: John Murray, 1973“94.
CPW Lord Byron, The Complete Poetical Works, ed. Jerome
J. McGann. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980“93.
William Blake, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William
Blake, ed. David Erdman. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1982.

Introduction: ¬ts of rage

The men who grow angry with corruption, and impatient at
injustice, and through those sentiments favour the abettor of
revolution, have an obvious apology to palliate their error; theirs is
the excess of a virtuous feeling. At the same time, however amiable
may be the source of their error, the error itself is probably fraught
with consequences pernicious to mankind.
“ Godwin, “On Revolutions,”
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, 1793
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.
“ Blake, “The Argument,” The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1789

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, two closely related develop-
ments in Europe changed utterly the functions and forms of anger in
public discourse. First, the French Revolution inspired intense debate over
anger™s role in, and in creating, new forms of civil society. From its
beginnings, the Revolution was centered in an assertion that the anger
of the people deserved respect, and had a legitimacy of its own. Yet as they
democratized anger, the Revolution and the Terror demonstrated the
dangers of unbounded public rage, leaving con¬‚ict an ambiguous inherit-
ance for English writers.1 Second, the periodical press began a phase of
rapid expansion that transformed the substance, style, and reach of the
public voice. Printing technologies allowed for the dissemination of angry
rhetoric across lines of class and nation, and helped establish the right of
an outraged people to redress. The democratization of anger meant that
learning to marshal the emotions of the populace took on new urgency,
and the press was there to step into the breach. By way of anger, the
newly emergent media discovered its demagogic powers; and the ¬ght in
England over the French Revolution became simultaneously a ¬ght over
the place of angry words and deeds in the modern liberal state.

Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
This book aims to elucidate connections between these phenomena
and the contours of Romantic literature in England. In that country
particularly, where large-scale revolutionary violence never took place,
the printing press became the ¬eld of contention upon which the political
struggles of the age played themselves out; the rhetoric of anger became
central. For Romantic-period writers, anger was a vexed locus of rational
justice and irrational savagery, and determining its place in society and in
their own work as a tool or weapon confronted them as an urgent task:
how did rage ¬t, and what relation did ¬ts of rage have to “fyttes” of
poetry? The simultaneous importance and dif¬culty of writing anger
make that emotion a revealing pressure point of literary history, particu-
larly in this period when the issue of anger was so plainly and troublingly
visible in Paris, Lyons, and the Vendee.
Bringing various modes of inquiry to bear on the study of anger, this
book attends to the epistemology of a speci¬c emotion in the Romantic
period. We now have a growing body of interdisciplinary work on the
history and theory of emotions in general (including important studies by
Martha Nussbaum, Philip Fisher, William Reddy, and David Punter,
among others), much of which has made the case for the value of
emotions to moral and ethical judgments, particularly by examining them
in relation to historical and literary contexts.2 And while scholarly studies
have appeared on the representation of anger and hatred in England in the
Middle Ages,3 the Early Modern period,4 and the Victorian era,5 little
attention has been given to Romantic anger. Indeed, critical studies of the
emotions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and culture
have thus far tended to emphasize grief, melancholy, and (in relation to
both the gothic and the sublime) fear.6 Closer to my interests is John
Mee™s recent work on Romantic “enthusiasm,” which shares some of the
emotional and cultural dynamics of anger, particularly in relation to
questions of revolution and irrationality; he writes, for example, that
“enthusiasm . . . remained haunted by the fear of combustible matter
within both the individual and the body politic.”7 In a similar fashion, I
begin by assuming the value of reading the angry passions in their
Romantic and revolutionary contexts.
My interpretive work on the literature of this period thus follows and
extends paths laid down by historicist-minded critics who have read the
imaginative products of the period as ¬guring particular social and
cultural pressures (e.g., the work of Marilyn Butler, Marjorie Levinson,
Jerome McGann, Alan Liu, and James Chandler).8 In addition, this book
makes an alliance with two strands of scholarship: ¬rstly, with the
powerful current of English radical culture studies that itself has been
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 3
energized by its increased attention to discourse as a political act (e.g., the
work of Olivia Smith, David Worrall, James Epstein, Marcus Wood, and
Kevin Gilmartin);9 and secondly, with French Revolution studies in the
wake of Francois Furet, who executed a Toquevillian turn away from
Marxist historiography towards the political analysis of the Revolution-
aries™ contingent self-representations and semiotic practices (e.g., the work
of Mona Ozouf, Lynn Hunt, and Keith Michael Baker).10 Recent work
that pursues a similar agenda includes Simon Bainbridge™s British Poetry
and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Philip Shaw™s Waterloo and
the Romantic Imagination, and Gillian Russell™s The Theatres of War, all of
which trace the nervous involvement of Romantic discourse and art with
an historical context in which con¬‚ict was both a dominant fact and an
imaginative preoccupation.11 Focusing on a speci¬c emotion within this
context, I pursue a cultural history of concern over anger, and chart the
literary repercussions of that concern.
I direct my attention to three intertwined categories of in¬‚uence with
regard to Romantic anger: political history, literary history, and an aggre-
gate of discipline-speci¬c conceptions and rhetorics under the heading of
the history of ideas. First, the French Revolution and its English reception
produced a politically supercharged conception of the angry passions.
Second, as Romanticism developed in the wake of Augustan satire, the
sensibility tradition, and the cult of the sublime, it mandated certain
formal and imaginative transvaluations of anger in literature “ and thus
of literature itself. Finally, changing attitudes in legal, medical, and moral-
philosophical contexts not only registered political pressures, but also
contributed to the culture of wrath that was the Romantics™ inheritance.
Viewing these many in¬‚uences, we may fairly say that the Romantic
articulation of anger was an overdetermined affair, one that reveals much
about the wrenching transition of these years that witnessed the birth of
modernity. The literary work of the period becomes the conduit leading
from the eighteenth-century imagination of anger to our own.
In political terms, the Romantic movement in England has been
perpetually associated with the French Revolution and its Napoleonic
aftermath. In addition to citing such topical works as Wordsworth™s
Prelude and Blake™s The French Revolution, readers have often felt a larger
“spirit of the age” animating Romantic literature, and visible as a dialogue
between forces of rebellion and reaction: Orc and Urizen, Prometheus
and Jupiter, Cain and Jehovah. In recent decades, historically minded
critics have elucidated the ways that this dialogue was variously in¬‚ected
by its speci¬c cultural and discursive contexts, particularly in regard to
English radicalism and the periodical press. Indeed, the last two decades
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
of Romanticist scholarship have witnessed a remarkable outpouring of
commentary and information regarding the 1790s, particularly in regard
to English political culture and the public sphere.12 In part, this book
continues this line of investigation, examining certain structures of lan-
guage visible in the Revolution debates and beyond. As we will see, these
structures had far-reaching implications for the Romantic articulation of
anger. Not only was the Revolution itself all but constituted, and certainly
punctuated, by spectacular displays of rage, but the argument in England
was also conducted in tones of increasing acrimony as the decade wore on.
What™s more, anger itself was pointedly at issue in a debate that began
with Edmund Burke™s outraged Re¬‚ections on the Revolution in France
(1790), and halted only with the passage of laws forbidding further public
dissent.13 The conceptual and political positions emergent from this
cacophonous argument became the most in¬‚uential legacies of the French
Revolution to writers of the Romantic era.
Put another way, the 1790s in England witnessed a large-scale rede¬ni-
tion of anger in public consciousness, due primarily to the in¬‚uence of the
Revolution and the ways it was discussed. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 of this
book illustrate various aspects of this process, by which anger was gener-
ally demonized as irrational, destructive rage “ as an all-but-uncontrol-
lable passion visited upon its victims. In the political, medical, and legal
discourse of the period, we ¬nd a remarkable alignment of changing
attitudes towards rage in the wake of the Revolution, as if the fear of
popular anger washed over the entire culture and altered the landscape of
the mind. It begins in the Revolution debates, in a rhetorical struggle over
indignation: both sides want to claim this position by ascribing ferocious
rage to their opponents. As a result, indignation becomes a moral stance
detached from the emotion of anger as such, which is ¬rmly identi¬ed as a
dangerous loss of self-control. This outcome is mirrored, at the level of
metaphor, in a change in post-Revolutionary medical theory and practice:
raging in¬‚ammations (or “angry” swellings) are reconceived as destructive
diseases rather than purgative symptoms. Bleeding thus comes brie¬‚y
back into fashion as a treatment for fevers, given the newly perceived
need to suppress displays of rage. Analogies between the physical body
and the body politic mark this conceptual shift. Finally, we see a similar
alteration in legal discourse during the period, whereby provocation law
de¬nes angry outbursts as transports of rage during which the rational
self is abandoned. This meant defendants bore less responsibility for
crimes of passion, since (it was assumed) anger no longer involved rational
judgment or implied forethought. Thus in a number of discursive
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 5
communities during this period, anger was thought of as, or as verging
closely upon, uncontrollable rage.
My primary aim, while delineating the history of this rede¬nition of
anger, is to show its impact on the work of Romantic-period authors. In
the wake of Augustan satire, the Romantic poets developed their ambiva-
lent attitudes towards angry art in concert with or in the immediate wake
of the multitude of outraged voices in the periodical press.14 Romanticism
in England can thus be seen as a chorus of responses to the crisis that was
brought about by anger™s prominence in public discourse. Godwin,
Coleridge, Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, and others provide important
evidence of the various political and aesthetic pressures on anger for the
post-Revolutionary author in England. However, it is Blake, Shelley, and
Byron who stand closest to the heart of this book, because the imaginative
and poetic programs of each are founded, however uneasily, on a particular
species of anger. These three writers attempt to work beyond the limiting
sense of anger they inherit from the English reception of the French
Revolution. That is, they reject anger as something experienced passively
as a visitation upon the self, and articulate angry emotions as positive and
decisive enactments of the self upon the world. In so doing, they provide
new ways of imagining the value of anger to a culture that has lost faith in
that emotion. The literary work produced out of this commitment is
characterized by generic experimentation as well, as these poets develop
methods of presenting this essentially spectacular emotion in written form.
The question of anger™s genre provokes ¬rst an attention to the history
of satiric writing. Between the Augustans and the Romantics, Thomas
Lockwood ¬nds a widening split between satire and poetry: it is not that
satire was not being written, but that critical canons were changing,
dismissing wit, reason, and politics as components alien to “pure” poetry.
Primarily under Rousseau™s in¬‚uence, English poetry came to be governed
by an aesthetic ideology of (authorial) sincerity and (readerly) sympathy
that prohibited the essential theatricality and confrontational implications
of angry satire. As the voice of poetry became more disembodied and
more isolated in order to avoid imputations of theatricality, anger “ a
violent passion that relies on tone, gesture, and facial expression for its
communication to others “ necessarily grew problematic for Romantic
lyric poets, whose work assumes soliloquy and apostrophe as its ground.
How does one perform anger without a body, a voice, or an established
dramatic context? One answer is to write very strongly worded impreca-
tions and curses; yet such an unlyrical strategy invites charges of overreac-
tion and overacting, or madness and insincerity. The Romantic aesthetic
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
ideology made the composition of angry poetry a dif¬cult and risky
Yet, like irony, anger often acts as an instrument of truth, pointing out
injustices, betrayals, and false states of affairs, and seeking to even scores.
So for the Romantic poets, angry satire was a highly rhetorical art and
also a test of sincerity, a theatrical performance aimed at stripping away
masks, an antithetical charade in the service of truth. It was by way of such
contradictions that some Romantics found a place for anger in their
imaginations of the literary. Scholarly activity of the past several decades
has asserted the importance of satire to the Romantic period.15 Steven
Jones has declared that “satire can no longer be excluded from our
representations of the period,” and that “satire offers an important antith-
esis operating within Romanticism . . . it does not simply go away.”16 For
one thing, amidst the political upheaval of the period, the popular press
teemed with satiric poetry in the form of propaganda. In addition, we
have always known that Byron and Shelley both wrote satires, and that
Blake was driven by a satiric urge. Yet less clear have been the relations
between anger and satire in the Romantic imagination.
One might begin to understand the Romantics™ con¬‚icted inheritance
by looking to Juvenal, who in his First Satire implies that angry verse
depends upon a split between the poet and the natural order of the
quem patitur dormire nurus corruptor avarae,
quem sponsae turpes et praetextatus adulter?
si natura negat, facit indignatio versum,
qualemcunque potest . . .
[Who can sleep when a daughter-in-law is seduced for money, / When brides-to-
be are corrupt, and schoolboys practise adultery? / If nature fails, then
indignation generates verse, / Doing the best it can . . . ]17
The conditional “si natura negat” prefaces anger™s creation of verse,
“qualemcunque potest,” as best it can. That is, anger serves as an inspiring
force for the satirist despite, or rather because of, a perversion of natural
creative principles exempli¬ed by the “sponsae turpes, et praetextatus
adulter” of the previous line. In other words, unnatural times call for
unnatural measures, of which angry poetry is one. Because Juvenal™s
declaration here is recognizable as a rhetorician™s claim to unskilled sincer-
ity, some translators render “natura” as “talent” or “wit,” emphasizing the
close ties between nature and reason in classical thought. Anger makes verse
when nature, or the reasonable order of operations, fails in both the poet
and society. Thus, even as it asserts its emotional sincerity, Juvenalian satire
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 7
repudiates organicism, and becomes the cursed spite that proves the world
is out of joint.
However, for the Romantic poets, the denial of nature that Juvenalian
verse requires took on a new and unsettling dimension. Surveying Juve-
nal™s reputation, Wiesen writes, “From late antiquity, when the satires
¬rst became popular reading matter, until the early nineteenth century,
general opinion agreed that Juvenal™s attack on the faults of contemporary
society was prompted by a ¬ercely sincere hatred of . . . moral laxity.”18
This view came under attack as the Romantic cult of sincerity grew; also
writing on Juvenal™s reputation, E. J. Kenney observes, “With the Ro-
mantic movement came a concomitant distrust of rhetoric” and a perva-
sive “assumption that rhetoric connotes insincerity.”19 Thus Wiesen ¬nds
that “the reaction against Juvenal . . . was a perverse outgrowth of the
nineteenth-century Romantic search for striking originality” (“Juvenal™s
Moral Character,” 451) and William Kupersmith concurs: “Juvenal the
insincere, hyperbolic rhetorician . . . is an invention of nineteenth-century
criticism.”20 Juvenal™s satiric anger came to be seen as anti-natural because
conventionally rhetorical; and indeed, the satiric tradition generally fell
under similar critique. Kenney maintains, “It is no doubt not accidental
that the decline of Juvenal™s fortunes in England was roughly synchronous
with the virtual disappearance of formal verse satire” (“Juvenal: Satirist or
Rhetorician?,” 705). For the Romantics, the angry satirist was primarily a
conventional and theatrical ¬gure incapable of lyric sincerity.
Alvin Kernan demonstrates that the satiric tradition is one “not of
Romantic self-expression but of self-conscious art, of traditions, conven-
tions.”21 He cites John Marston as a satiric poet who “speci¬cally disavows
the lyric tradition” in a passage from The Scourge of Villanie (1599) clearly
indebted to Juvenal:
I invocate no Delian Deitie,
Nor sacred of-spring of Mnemosyne:
I pray in ayde of no Castalian Muse,
No Nimph, no femall Angell to infuse
A sprightly wit to raise my ¬‚agging wings,
And teach me tune these harsh discordant strings;
I crave no Syrens of our Halcion times,
To grace the accents of my rough-hew™d rimes;
But grim Reproofe, a stearne Hate of villany,
Inspire and guide a Satyres poesie.22

Embracing his own anger, Marston rejects the natural and the super-
natural as sources of poetry, a comprehensively anti-Romantic gesture
duplicated by John Cleveland (1613“58) in his “On the Pouder Plot”:
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
I neede not call thee from thy miterd hill
Apollo, anger will inspire my quill.
If nature should deny, rage would infuse
Virtue as mutch as could supply a muse.23
Amplifying Juvenal, Marston and Cleveland both make an exaggerated
turn to their own anger as inspiration. These Renaissance satirists engage
in rhetorical posturing, energetically unconcerned with questions of sin-
cerity. Jonas Barish claims that Renaissance culture evinces a “frank
delight” in “outward splendor” and spectacle, a “pervasive pleasure in
the twin roles of actor and spectator.”24 Indeed, Cleveland emphasizes the
link between rollicking exertion and rage, and presents himself as an
angry, clownish performer. In “The Rebell Scot,” he exclaims,
Ring the bells backward; I am all on ¬re.
Not all the buckets in a Countrey quire
Shall quench my rage. A poet should be fear™d
When angry, like a Comet™s ¬‚aming beard. (Poems, p. 72, lines 5“8)
He further claims that, “Before a Scot can properly be curst, / I must
(like Hocus) swallow daggers ¬rst” (lines 25“6). In these examples,
Cleveland exaggerates his own theatricality, going so far as to relate
himself to “Hocus,” a conjurer or juggler, whose chosen mode of enter-
tainment is his own anger. To be sure, Cleveland™s poems express political
convictions in no uncertain terms, but they reveal nothing so much as an
obvious relish of performing his invective.
The anger in Cleveland, Marston, and other Renaissance satirists
demonstrates the slippage towards theater common in poetic representa-
tions of anger. Having reached over the Augustans to claim their precur-
sors in the Renaissance, the Romantics found they still had to respond to
satire™s challenges. The Romantics shouldered a burden of self-expression
that included abiding anxiety over the sincerity of emotional communi-
cation in poetry. For them, angry satire embodied an anti-lyrical impulse
grounded in mock sincerity, and thus had to be abandoned or trans-
formed. Blake, Shelley, and Byron discovered ways to reshape their satiric
inheritance as they struggled to incarnate the disembodied voice, and
to convey the alienated perspective, of anger. However uneasily, they
held onto their rage because they were convinced of the dialogic re-
lation between anger and truth. Certainly satire had long been imagined
as a weapon against deception and corruption. Furthermore, in the
apocalyptic dawn of the French Revolution, anger promised to under-
mine false structures of power and reveal the true nature of humanity. In
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 9
the chapters that follow, I show that similar promises lie close to the heart
of these poets™ work.
Wordsworth, on the other hand, constitutes the absent center of this
book. It may well be that the almost-complete lack of anger in his poetry,
combined with his emergence as the representative Romantic poet, con-
stitutes the strongest evidence of the anxieties surrounding that emotion
in the Romantic period, as well as the cultural legacies of those concerns.
In his recent study, The Vehement Passions, Philip Fisher sees Wordsworth
as embodying the emotional tenor and allegiances of Romanticism: “In
Wordsworth we can readily see the division of art between a poetry of
elegiac loss, only in part recovered in memory, and a poetry of the
sublime, with its center in experiences of fear. Wordsworth would, I
think, stand here for romanticism as a whole. Its elegiac and sublime
aspects locked in place a con¬guration of the passions around fear and
mourning” (The Vehement Passions, 150). According to Fisher, a concep-
tion of the passions with fear as its representative case has held sway in
Western thought ever since Wordsworthian Romanticism, displacing a
former model in which anger was the template. Moreoever, he asserts that
“Fear and anger sponsor opposite accounts” of the passions as a whole:
anger “makes clear the relation of the passions to spiritedness . . . to
motion, to con¬dence, and to self-expression in the world”; but
when fear, rather than anger, is taken to be the template for inner life . . .
Accounts of the passions . . . are preliminary to the therapeutic description of how
the passions might be minimized or eliminated from experience . . . When fear is
used as the template, as it was in Stoicism, the passions are taken as disturbances
of the self . . . passive and opposed to action. (The Vehement Passions 14“15)
In Romantic-period culture, the aesthetic priorities of Wordsworthian
Romanticism dovetailed with the demonization of anger in the political
sphere to con¬rm this transition to fear as the representative passion. And,
as Fisher demonstrates, we have only begun to consider the implications
of this historical narrative for our understanding of the modern subject
and the place of anger in post-Romantic culture.
In the 1805 Prelude, Wordsworth describes France in July of 1793 in
language that reveals an essentially negative, though ultimately ambivalent,
attitude towards anger:
The goaded land waxed mad; the crimes of few
Spread into madness of the many; blasts
From hell came sancti¬ed like airs from heaven.
The sternness of the Just, the faith of those
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
Who doubted not that Providence had times
Of anger and of vengeance, theirs who throned
The human understanding paramount
And made of that their god, the hopes of those
Who were content to barter short-lived pangs
For a paradise of angels, the blind rage
Of insolent tempers . . .
And all the accidents of life, were pressed
Into one service, busy with one work.25

That “work” is the work of the guillotine: here Wordsworth presents
Robespierre™s Paris as a city of madness, infected by “blasts from hell.”
“Sternness,” “anger,” “vengeance,” and “blind rage” are prime movers of
the guillotine™s blade, like the “blast” of wind that makes the child™s
pinwheel “whirl the faster” as he runs (Prelude, 10:344“5). The allusion
to Hamlet™s words to the ghost “ “Bring with thee airs from heaven or
blasts from hell” (1.4.21) “ evokes the spirit of vengeance abroad in France
and Wordsworth™s own ambivalence regarding it, even as it associates
winds with both pestilence and song (“airs” and “blasts”). These “blasts
from hell” produce the feverish rage of the Terror and also recall the “loud
prophetic blast of harmony / An ode in passion uttered, which foretold /
Destruction to the children of the earth / By deluge yet at hand” in
Wordsworth™s dream of the Arab (5.96“99). In other words, the passage
presents a complex amalgam of human and divine wrathfulness, trans-
posed rhetorically onto nature: the winds and the “goaded land.” Alan Liu
has made the case that Wordsworth turned to nature as “a blind or screen”
after confronting acts of Revolutionary rage, in order to return “the facts
of historical violence to the status of the ghostly” (Wordsworth: The Sense
of History, 166). This insight has wider application to Wordsworth™s
processing of anger, an emotion that haunts his poetry by its absence.
In later, more directly political poetry, Wordsworth has little use for
anger, particularly that of “the people.” For example, in a poem called
“The Warning,” written in 1833, he laments over those agitating for the
passage of the Reform Bill:
Lost people, trained to theoretic feud!
Lost above all, ye labouring multitude!
Bewildered whether ye, by slanderous tongues
Deceived, mistake calamities for wrongs;
And over fancied usurpations brood,
Oft snapping at revenge in sullen mood;
Or, from long stress of real injuries ¬‚y
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 11
To desperation for a remedy;
In burst of outrage spread your judgements wide,
And to your wrath cry out, “Be thou our guide.”26

For Wordsworth, the tygers of wrath are clearly not wiser than the
horses of instruction; and when the people allow themselves to be guided
by anger, they become bewildered, deceived, mistaken, desperate, and
lost. Such an attitude towards public wrath owes a great deal to his
experience of the French Revolution and the Terror, and also to his
disapproval of the angry rhetoric of the popular press, that “theoretic
feud” of “scandalous tongues” leading the citizens astray. As Wordsworth
wrote in response to what he saw as Carlyle™s overly enthusiastic account
of the French Revolution, “Hath it not long been said the wrath of Man /
Works not the righteousness of God?”27 The agitation surrounding the
Reform Bill was England™s version of the Revolutionary con¬‚icts in
France, and Wordsworth saw in both only a blind outrage dangerous to
the people and the nation. For many writers of the Romantic period, his
attitudes towards anger became the nation™s common stock.
The basic (and indeed, perennial) question that haunts these decades is
this: what is the relationship of anger to authenticity and justice? For the
eighteenth-century moral philosophers of sensibility (i.e., Locke, Hume,
Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Ferguson, and Kames), human
emotions were the very groundwork of the moral sentiments; and the
Romantics grew out of this tradition of thinking. William Reddy has
argued in The Navigation of Feeling that the late-eighteenth century
sentimentalist answer was grounded in a ¬rm belief in the rightness of
one™s personal feelings. One can see this operating, for example, in Emile
(1762), wherein Rousseau presents a revealing tableau of a child being
beaten, and gives a sentimental reading of the scene:
I shall never forget seeing one of these troublesome crying children thus beaten
by his nurse. He was silent at once. I thought he was frightened, and said to
myself, “This will be a servile being from whom nothing can be got but by
harshness.” I was wrong, the poor wretch was choking with rage, he could not
breathe, he was black in the face. A moment later there were bitter cries, every
sign of the anger, rage, and despair of this age was in his tones. I thought he
would die. Had I doubted the innate sense of justice and injustice in man™s heart,
this one instance would have convinced me.28
For Rousseau, the child™s rage signi¬es an “innate sense of justice,” a
reading that equates natural emotions with virtue in a way Reddy sees as
typical in eighteenth-century France until the fall of Robespierre. The
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
onset of the Terror, to the accompaniment of sentimentalist rhetoric
of the natural moral sense and the passionate human heart, caused
this discourse of emotion to collapse, making way for a Romantic-era
world in which “virtue was regarded as an outgrowth of the exercise of the
will, guided by reason, aimed at disciplining passions” rather than en-
couraging them (The Navigation of Feeling, 216). Reddy writes of this
sudden alteration, “For a few decades, emotions were deemed to be as
important as reason in the foundation of states and the conduct of
politics. After 1794, not only was this idea rejected, even its memory
was extinguished” (143).29
I mean to offer a number of windows on the English history of this
transition, focusing on the ways anger was expressed and discussed in the
Romantic period and presenting a composite picture of angry discourse
as a contextual ¬eld for Romantic poetry. By way of background, the
book™s ¬rst chapter conducts a survey of the literary-historical ¬eld of
anger as it tends towards the work of the Romantic poets. I take Seneca
and Juvenal as representative of two opposing traditions of anger (brie¬‚y,
madness versus justice), and examine the issue of angry rhetoric with
regard to the aesthetics of the sublime, beginning with Seneca, whose
denunciations of anger in De Ira are matched in vehemence only by the
angry soliloquies of his tragic characters such as Medea. Reading Seneca
by way of Longinus (which is what English writers on anger began to do
in the eighteenth-century), we can see the beginnings of angry speech
as sublime performance and empowering transgression, an aesthetic that
Juvenal comes to embody. Here also we ¬nd questions of sincerity and
calculation that surround the classical idea of anger inherited by the
Augustans, and ultimately confronted by the Romantics. However, when
Burke and Kant replace Longinus as theorists of the sublime in the
mid-eighteenth century, the role of anger in poetry begins to change.
Instead of Pope™s acerbic and enlarging outrage, sincere terror, experi-
enced in response to some external angry ¬gure, becomes the favored
emotional pathway to sublimity. The wrathful Jehovah of the Old
Testament focuses the displacement of anger, as seen in the writings of
Dennis, Warton, and others. Furthermore, the poetry of sensibility “
Collins, Gray, Cowper “ also enacts this transition from anger to fear.
The Romantics thus inherited an aesthetic that demanded distance from
one™s anger, even as it seemed to require sensibility, true feeling. This
paradox determined their engagements with anger as a poetic mode, and
set the stage for the in¬‚uence of the French Revolution and the Terror on
their work.
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 13
Chapter 2 begins by examining the ways in which the ¬ght in England
over the meanings of the French Revolution was simultaneously a ¬ght
over the place of public anger in the modern liberal state. Ultimately, in a
period intensely interested in the causes and consequences of anger, just
indignation is ¬rmly separated from anger per se, which is made equiva-
lent with irrational rage. This choice resonates with the Juvenalian“
Senecan distinction of the ¬rst chapter, and points to similar divisions
determining anger in the Romantic imagination. After showing how this
process of reconceptualization resonates strongly through the writings of
Burke and his respondents in the Revolution debates, I turn to the work
of Coleridge, whose conception of anger is intimately related to his
culture™s experience of revolution and war. On the one hand, he writes
of anger as an invasive force that thwarts the will, a mad passion that
operates like a violent storm or an attack of indigestion. In this sense,
Coleridgean anger resembles the fearful, neo-Stoic attitude that grew out
of the Revolution debates: anger as irrational rage, something like a
disease. And like his fellow contributors to the debates, Coleridge envi-
sions an aggressive engagement with error that would be productive and
healthy for the political body, and avoid the dangers associated with the
enrages. On the other hand, as a poet, Coleridge ¬nds himself in states of
inspired rage, or poetic frenzy, and thus has reason to court the energies, if
not the polarities, of anger in his creative work. The “crash of onset” that
the poet dreads in “Fears in Solitude” (Poetical Works, 471, line 38)30 in
fact dovetails with the “Rushing of an Host in rout” from “Dejection: An
Ode,” the former a ¬gure for a sudden attack of violence, the latter an
image created by a “mighty Poet, e™en to Frenzy bold!” (Poetical Works,
701, lines 109“11). Coleridge™s writing is marked by this paradox of the
Romantic era, when rage comes to be thought of simultaneously as
invading enemy (a real concern during the Napoleonic years) and invited
guest, whose welcome visitations are near the source of poetry.
In the book™s third chapter, I look at in¬‚ammation as a conceptual and
discursive category, and trace connections between political, medical,
and literary uses of the term. In Romantic-era political discussions (by
Coleridge, Thelwall, and many others), anger is almost invariably treated
as if it were a disease or disorder, and the recommended therapeutic
programs involve a conception of anger as in¬‚ammation or raging fever.
Moreover, a split in the handling of this metaphor develops along political
lines. Writers sympathetic to the Revolution interpret in¬‚ammation (i.e.,
popular rage) as a salutary symptom of a deeper imbalance, where-
as counterrevolutionaries see such in¬‚ammation as itself a debilitating
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
disease of the national body. This split mirrors a contemporary medical
debate over the pathology of in¬‚ammation: is it a healing effect (that
should be encouraged to take its course) or a dangerous cause (in which
case bloodletting becomes the order of the day)? The chapter then turns
to the work of William Blake in order to show the way his poetry is
in¬‚uenced by these conceptions of anger and in¬‚ammation. I read Blake™s
work (e.g., The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, America, and Jerusalem) in
the context of this discourse of in¬‚ammation, particularly as revealing
his attitude towards revolutionary anger. Reading his work via in¬‚amma-
tory pathology illuminates thus the ways that wrath and revolution are
enmeshed in the structure of the Romantic imagination.
Chapter 4 begins by reading Godwin™s Caleb Williams in the context of
the Revolution debates and legal history, showing how the novel bodies
forth current attitudes towards provocation and crimes of violence com-
mitted in a rage. With particular attention to the novel™s allusions to
Alexander the Great, I show how Godwin imagined a common plot of
anger determining the novel-as-narrative and the political scene of the
1790s. Caleb™s allusion to the story of Alexander and Clitus invokes a kind
of inexorable logic of provocation, eruption, and regret that Godwin
evokes in his political writings as well. Yet the gothic allegiances of Caleb
Williams betray the lingering fascination of Romantic-period authors with
the spectacle of anger in the wake of the French Revolution. The chapter
concludes with a reading of Mary Shelley™s Frankenstein as a postwar
sequel to these concerns. The discussion focuses on the issues of sympathy
and vengeance that structure the novel, with particular reference to The
Sufferings of Young Werther and the Romantic imagination of anger after
In chapter 5, I examine Percy Shelley™s ambivalent representations of
wrath as a satiric tool to unmask corruption, a tool which itself must be
rejected as incompatible with his utopian imaginings. I relate this dynamic
to a masque/anti-masque dialectic that determines the movements of works
such as Prometheus Unbound and The Mask of Anarchy. In the face of
injustice and falsehood, Shelley feels both anger and a revulsion at that
emotion; the resulting poetry “ and it comprises much of his work”
involves pageants of rage and its retraction. Haunted by the degeneration
of the French Revolution into a theater of cruelty, and yet prone to
aggression in response to tyrannies, he works to ¬nd a use for anger that
will not involve giving way to cyclical patterns of revenge. Shelleyean anger
draws on a satiric tradition of revelation and abuse, and ¬nds its strength in
the act of unmasking”since evil, for Shelley, is almost invariably founded
in deception, disguise, and hypocrisy. But Shelley forces his poetry to move
Introduction: ¬ts of rage 15
beyond the rough justice of satire towards a state of expectation and
amelioration. He negates his poetry™s angry outbursts, but only after they
have cleared the air. These rituals of revelation have a corollary in the
masques of Jonson and Milton, who use grotesque anti-masque material as
contrast for harmonious visions of reconciliation. Thus Shelley portrays
anger as both anti-masque and anti-mask: it is a violent stage that reveals
hidden corruption and is then dispersed to make way for a millennial
political vision wherein aggression has no place.
In the ¬nal chapter, I examine Byron™s poetry and letters to illustrate
the poet™s sense of angry writing as a theater of revenge, which replaces
readerly sympathy with a curious fascination. Unlike Godwin and the
Shelleys, who present the tragic consequences of revengefulness, Byron
turns to meditated hatred as a determining in¬‚uence on his poetry. For
the lyric speaker whose art depends upon a sincere and sympathetic voice,
anger invites the encroachment of the dramatic and the juridical, and thus
threatens to break down lines of imagined communion between poet and
reader; Byron™s poetry of anger performs a high-wire act on such lines. He
typically pronounces his anger as a curse, and thus simultaneously per-
forms and postpones vengeance in scenes of writing. As in the case of
Wordsworth, the memory of loss shapes Byron™s imagination, but rather
than ¬nding recompense within, Byron remains engaged with the past,
never forgiving or forgetting those he holds responsible for his suffering.
I argue that, paradoxically, the charges of theatricality that have clung to
Byron™s work arise from the sincerity of his rage, which disables both
irony and sympathetic connections (and thus the appearance of sincerity)
for his Romantic-era audiences.
In a very literal sense, Western culture begins with anger: the ¬rst word
of Homer™s Iliad names that emotion as primarily worthy of historical
memory and epic attention. This book addresses a crucial moment in the
history of anger, involving the advent of discursive practices and attitudes
towards the passions that have shaped the modern world. At this angry
nexus, the English Romantic poets labor to accommodate the aggressive
passions to the demands of the creative imagination. An explication of
this process necessarily raises larger questions: how are politics and the
media bound up with our emotional lives? In what ways does art bear the
scars of larger cultural struggles regarding its affective content? What place
does anger have in the civilized precincts of polis and poetry? Coleridge
once noted, “It is most true: we are all Children of Wrath.”31 Focused on
Coleridge™s era, the pages that follow explore the cultural inheritance
attendant upon that powerfully vexing genealogy.
chapter 1

Towards Romantic anger

The French Revolutionaries did not invent anger, nor did English writers
of the Romantic period develop their conceptions of that emotion in
isolation from its literary and philosophical past. When Blake writes of
“wrath” or Byron of “vengeance,” their language takes as a point of
departure its pretexts, from the classical and Biblical periods through to
their own. History may well have sculpted anger™s articulation for the
Romantics, but the clay itself was dug from the accumulated layers of
thinking and writing in the Western tradition since Homer“ with the
eighteenth century and its particular attitudes uppermost. Thus, in order
to understand the unique transformations that the events and exchanges
of the period enjoined upon anger, we must ¬rst glance backward to
gather the horizon of possibility within which these took place. Further-
more, if Romanticism is to be more than an historical descriptor roughly
equivalent with the revolutionary spirit of the age, we have to attend to
the aesthetic concerns that occupied writers even amidst, and sometimes
athwart, their political interests and ends.
Romanticism is generally acknowledged to have emerged out of two
parallel aesthetic movements or ideologies of the second half of the
eighteenth century, both of which center on issues of emotional affect
and transmission: sensibility and the sublime. Grief and terror were their
foundational emotions, and in this chapter, I want to show how this
meant that the Romantics inherited a tradition of thinking about (and
writing in) anger that led to a seeming aesthetic paradox: how can a poet
be ¬lled with fury yet pleasingly terri¬ed, enraged yet in control, angry yet
a ¬gure of sympathy to an audience? These dilemmas formed the unstable
ground upon which the Romantics found themselves, newly pressurized
by the discourse of the Revolution and the Terror.
In Restraining Rage, William Harris has surveyed the numerous and
varied attitudes towards anger and its control in classical antiquity, tracing

Towards Romantic anger 17
the long tradition of concern over that emotion.1 It turns out that, like
most struggles, the debate over the value of anger has always been
concerned with issues of boundaries and thresholds. Plato explicitly
compares the spirited element of the soul (thumos) to the guardians of a
city, who use anger to avenge injuries from without while limiting or
moderating incursions of anger from within.2 For both Plato and Aristotle,
moderate anger in response to a perceived injustice can be a natural, even
a rational and requisite, means of correction. In the Nicomachean Ethics,
Aristotle sums up the classical ideal of emotional moderation: “Now
we praise a man who feels anger on the right grounds and against
the right persons, and also in the right manner and at the right moment
for the right length of time.”3 Anger, kept within its proper bounds by
reason and the will, delimited by multiple considerations of rightfulness
and kept beneath the level of irrational over¬‚ow, helps de¬ne and defend
the self.
Plato™s banishment of poets from the ideal republic and Aristotle™s
subsequent defense of them in the Poetics both arise from a commitment
to the control of potentially destructive human emotions. More speci¬-
cally, both philosophers are concerned with the relationship of poetic texts
to the over¬‚ow or eruption of immoderate emotion. Both name Homer
the ¬rst of tragedians, thereby emphasizing the importance of poetic
representations of anger to their debate.4 Menin, the ¬rst word of the
Iliad, means “wrath,” and Homer™s epic devotes itself to marking the
evolution of this emotion in Achilles. In The Republic, Plato holds that,
because the poet naturally imitates the extremes of emotion, “he stimu-
lates and fosters this element in the soul, and by strengthening it tends to
destroy the rational part” (ii .10.7). Poetry, dealing in vehemence, encour-
ages the growth and expression of strong emotion by example. For
Aristotle, however, observation of poetic emotion provides for harmless
release, or catharsis, of potentially violent passions. As W. Hamilton Fyfe
summarizes Aristotle™s position in the Poetics, “pent-up emotion is apt to
explode inconveniently. What the citizens need is an outlet such as
dramatic poetry conveniently supplied.”5 Both Plato and Aristotle see
the individual and the populace as emotional pressure-cookers; Plato
advises turning down the heat, while Aristotle is in favor of blowing off
steam.6 The role of poetry, particularly dramatic poetry enacted before a
large audience, is central to both conceptions, which have been shaped by
fears of an uncontrollable angry mob. As we will see in the chapters that
follow, this prescriptive disagreement persists and acquires fresh urgency
in the Romantic era in England.
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
The classical tradition of writing against anger culminates in Seneca™s
De Ira (c. 40“50 ad ), perhaps the most in¬‚uential treatise on the subject.
For Seneca, anger is a sickness, “the most hideous and frenzied of
emotions, ” always to be eliminated.7 Such is the path of the Stoic:
The man who does not get angry stands ¬rm, unshaken by injury; he who gets
angry is overthrown . . . [The Stoic] will say, “Do what you will, you are too
puny to disturb my serenity. Reason, to whom I have committed the guidance of
my life, forbids it. My anger is likely to do me more harm than your wrong. And
why not more? The limit of the injury is ¬xed, but how far the anger will sweep
me no man knows.” (3.25.2)
Yielding to one™s feelings of anger amounts to transgression, a willful
crossing of a line that involves one in an episode of expression with a logic
of its own. Seneca condemns comprehensively here, but behind his
diatribe against anger lies a terri¬ed and seemingly exaggerated perception
of its power: “There is no passion of any kind over which anger does not
hold mastery” (2.36.6). Because of its “unbridled . . . ungovernable” (1.9.3)
nature, anger once indulged threatens to engulf the self, leading to
madness: “Never will the wise man cease to be angry if once he starts”
(2.9.1). Faced with the perversity of the world around him, the wise man,
the vir bonus or vir sapiens of satiric tradition, must respond with uninter-
rupted rage unless he continually checks his rising feelings and controls
his tongue. The alternative, as Seneca sees it, amounts to an insane loss of
control, an unlimited trajectory of anger.
The precondition of the Stoic attitude seems to be a radical permeabil-
ity to passion, a profound sense of vulnerability to the promptings of
the emotions. Stoicism sees itself as a protection of the self ™s integrity, its
rigid exclusion of anger reminiscent of the no-alcohol policy for alcohol-
ics. As Gordon Braden says, Stoicism is “informed by a drive to keep the
self ™s boundaries under its own control,” a kind of “inner imperialism.”8
As such, it reverses the Homeric ethos, in which the defense of the
boundaries of the self is accomplished through outward action, and spe-
ci¬cally through anger. Braden writes that Achilles resents Agamemnon™s
appropriation of Briseis, “because she is the outward demarcation of
his time, his martial honor and worth. Agamemnon has trespassed on
almost physical territory, whose largely arbitrary markers are given their
very real meaning precisely by Achilles™ anger, the emotion that locates
and maintains the borders of a kind of honori¬c self ” (Renaissance
Tragedy, 10). Seneca rejects the idea, held by Plato and Aristotle as well
as Homer, that any boundaries can be maintained once anger exists, for
Towards Romantic anger 19
anger is precisely that which recognizes no limit: “If . . . anger suffers any
limitation to be imposed upon it, it must be called by some other name “
it has ceased to be anger; for I understand this to be unbridled and
ungovernable” (De Ira, 1.9.3). In other words, in the Stoic conception,
anger produces only chaos.
Seneca™s priority as a theorist of anger rests in part on this thorough and
uncompromising stance; De Ira became a rich deposit of anti-anger mater-
ial that later writers could mine. However, its originality depends more
heavily on its author™s ambivalent fascination with anger: Seneca wrote De
Ira while simultaneously composing some of the angriest tragedies in
Western literature, which had their own extensive in¬‚uence on English
drama.9 Moreover, his writings reveal that he was acutely aware of the
rhetorical and aesthetic power of the spectacle of anger. For example, De Ira
begins with an extended catalogue of anger™s outward manifestations:
you only have to behold the aspect of those possessed by anger to know that they
are insane. For as the marks of a madman are unmistakable “ a bold and
threatening mien, a gloomy brow, a ¬erce expression, a hurried step, restless
hands, an altered colour, a quick and more violent breathing “ so likewise are the
marks of the angry man; his eyes blaze and sparkle, his whole face is crimson
with the blood that surges from the lowest depths of his heart, his lips quiver, his
teeth are clenched, his hair bristles and stands on end, his breathing is forced and
harsh, his joints crack from writhing, he groans and bellows, bursts out into
speech with scarcely intelligible words, strikes his hands together continually and
stamps the ground with his feet: his whole body is excited and “performs
great angry threats”; it is an ugly and horrible picture of distorted and swollen
frenzy. (1.1.3“5)
A more kinetic description can scarcely be imagined.10 The angry man
curiously approaches dance and song as he “groans and bellows, bursts out
into speech . . . strikes his hands together. . . . and stamps the ground,”
literally making a spectacle of himself. For Seneca, anger is theater: its
manifestations are energetic and dramatic, and we experience another
person™s anger as spectators. Anger becomes a violent, compelling
performance, a ritual of self-expression that for Seneca is like the raving
of a madman.
Yet by focusing on the angry person™s loss of self-control, Seneca
justi¬es the elimination of anger as an emotion without condemning it
as a rhetorical mode: “˜The orator,™ you say, ˜at times does better when he
is angry.™ Not so, but when he pretends to be angry. For the actor likewise
stirs an audience by his declamation not when he is angry, but when he
plays well the role of the angry man” (2.17.1). Seneca himself “plays well
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
the role” of the angry person in writing the denunciations of De Ira, as
well as the furious soliloquies of a Medea. The genuinely angry person
expressing his or her emotion will never do, ultimately because such
expression amounts to self-absorbed verbal violence, rather than rhetorical
manipulation of others. Seneca, following Aristotle, Cicero, and Horace,
praises the orator who “pretends to be angry,” who calculates each tone
and gesture for its effect on his audience and thus retains control over
himself and his art.
Typically, the apparently impassioned rhetorician makes a bid for
affective command over his auditors through their mistaken sympathy;
he cultivates tears so that they will weep. And although Horace avoids the
issue of deception, his injunction in Ars Poetica, “si vis me ¬‚ere . . . ,” is
complicated by Seneca™s consideration of anger:
He that would have spectators share his grief,
Must write not only well, but movingly,
And raise men™s passions to what height he will.
We weep and laugh as we see others do:
He only makes me sad who shows the way,
And ¬rst is sad himself; then, Telephus,
I feel the weight of your calamities,
And fancy all your miseries my own.
But if you act them ill, I sleep or laugh.11

Unlike Seneca, Horace makes no distinction between actual and
feigned emotion; the command to grieve, “dolendum est,” implies that
the poet must actually feel the emotion, but the warning against inept
speech a few lines later, “male si mandata laqueris” (translated here as,
“But if you act them ill”), con¬‚ates the poet™s expression with the art of
theater, or rhetoric. Because Horace concentrates on grief, his conception
of audience sympathy remains simple: “We weep . . . as we see others do.”
He thus avoids Seneca™s anxiety over sincere versus theatrical emotion.
Anger, according to Seneca, quickly inspires revulsion and dismissal when
out of control (i.e., sincere). But for Horace, such a reaction to another™s
grief comes only when that emotion is improperly acted, dimly repre-
sented, or consciously undermined: in other words, when it is not
recognizable as grief. The question of sincerity doesn™t seem important
to Horace because an audience will readily respond with sympathy to
displays of intense grief.
Not so for anger, a more threatening and potentially explosive emo-
tion. Although Seneca does say, “we must pretend now anger, now fear,
Towards Romantic anger 21
now pity, in order that we may inspire others with the same” (De Ira,
2.17.1), Senecan anger ultimately resists the fellowship of Aristotelian fear
and pity because of its unique relationship to observers. As we have seen,
Seneca views the sincere expression of rage as “an ugly and horrible
picture of distorted and swollen frenzy” (1.1.5) he ¬nds no sympathetic
feeling for those who are angry, ergo out of control. Unlike Horatian grief
and Aristotelian fear and pity, Senecan anger rarely inspires sympathetic
feeling in an audience, because sympathy is not its goal. Clearly, anger has
importance in the rhetorical tradition (as indignatio), but its dynamics are
more complicated than those of grief.12 The angry orator can either be
angry at his particular audience, in which case he wants to evoke feelings
of remorse and fear, or he can be angry before them, so that they will
come to share his feelings of anger and be moved to action against a
common enemy. A third possibility haunts the other two: his anger may
be wholly alienating, so that the audience either judges him insane and
foolish, or is simply swept beyond both sympathy and judgment by the
violence of the rhetoric. Seneca wants to expose his angry speakers as
animals or madmen, and thus typically aims at this third goal.
Take, as an example, Seneca™s description of anger personi¬ed:
let us picture anger “ its eyes a¬‚ame with ¬re, blustering with his roar and moan
and shriek and every other noise more hateful still if such there be, brandishing
weapons in both hands (for it cares naught for self-protection!), ¬erce and
bloody, scarred, and black and blue from its own blows, wild in gait, enveloped
in deep darkness, madly charging, ravaging and routing, in travail with hatred of
all men, especially of itself, and ready to overturn earth and sea and sky if it can
¬nd no other way to harm, equally hating and hated. (De Ira, 2.35.5)
Such a ¬gure is not a candidate for normal sympathetic response.
Attempting to present ira in unattractive terms, Seneca creates a sublime
tableau. De Ira is replete with such overpowering epic descriptions, and
Seneca™s tragedies present similar moments, in which we see the results of
uncontrolled wrath. In the midst of their anger, his characters experience a
dark glory in which the self is empowered beyond human limits, past all
boundaries of meddling intellect. Arguably transformed into monsters by
their own excesses, they nevertheless assume commanding postures
by seizing the metaphorical initiative. Seneca™s Medea ¬‚exes her own
emotion in this manner:
my madness shall never cease in its quest of vengeance and shall grow on forever.
What ferocity of beasts . . . shall burn with threats such as I? No whirling river,
no storm-tossed sea, no Pontus raging beneath the north-west wind, no violence of
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
¬re, fanned by the gale, could imitate the onrush of my wrath. I shall lay prostrate
and destroy all things . . . I will storm the gods, and shake the universe.13
Medea imagines her anger moving outward in an ever-expanding
vortex of destruction. This is the “unbridled . . . ungovernable” anger of
De Ira, an emotion that exists as transgressive transcendence, whose power
ceases in the instant of repose. Seneca may be “playing the role” of an
enraged woman here, yet clearly not in order to “inspire others with the
same” emotion. His renditions of anger are intended to inspire very
different responses, primarily those of revulsion; he hopes that the alien-
ating effects of anger and violence will make such ¬gures appear horri¬c
and therefore monitory. However, the intensity of his presentations more
often works to carry the reader beyond affective and cognitive responses in
a transport that indicates the presence of the Longinian sublime.
Longinus™ Peri Hypsous ([On the Sublime], 1st century a d ) is primarily a
study of rhetorical sublimity, a mode of writing in which the effect “upon
the audience is not persuasion but transport.”14 Indeed, Longinus™ lost
work on the passions may well have countermanded Seneca™s De Ira, for
in Peri Hypsous, Longinus privileges the expression of violent passion as
“intimately allied with sublimity”: “There is no tone so lofty as that of
genuine passion, in its right place, when it bursts out in a wild gust of mad
enthusiasm and as it were ¬lls the speaker™s words with frenzy” (On the
Sublime, 8.4). Seneca, in a Longinian passage discussing our response to
literature, makes a similar point, but views it negatively: “Passion, conse-
quently, does not consist in being moved by the impressions that are
presented to the mind, but in surrendering to these and following up such
a chance prompting . . . Anger must not only be aroused, but it must rush
forth, for it is an active impulse” (De Ira, 2.3.1“4). For Seneca, a mind will
inevitably be moved in the direction of anger by outward impressions,
both from literature and life. Only when that impulse leads to demon-
strable eruption, a “rushing forth” of violent action, is anger truly present.
Yet Longinus de¬nes sublimity as “passion . . . when it bursts out in a wild
gust of mad enthusiasm” in the “speaker™s words” and implicitly, in the
reader™s mind (On the Sublime, 8.4). For the reader, the Longinian
sublime results from an interiorization of that rushing forth which over-
turns all obstacles, a sublimation of physical violence, the imaginative
equivalent of an adrenalin rush. The reader™s imagination, confronted
with the onrush of the wrath of Seneca™s Medea, “is uplifted by the true
sublime; it takes a proud ¬‚ight and is ¬lled with joy and vaunting, as
though it had itself produced what it has heard” (Longinus, On the
Towards Romantic anger 23
Sublime, 7.2). Thus, a strangely intense alternative to sympathy emerges,
as the reader imagines the speaker™s anger as his/her own.
As it did for Plato and Aristotle, Homer™s Iliad serves as a model text for
Longinus; he reads Homer as the model of sublime rage, a poet who, to
paraphrase Pope™s subsequent judgment of Longinus, is himself the great
angry sublime he draws: “In truth, Homer . . . shares the full inspiration of
the combat, and it is neither more nor less than true of the poet himself that
˜mad rageth he as Ares the shaker of spears, or as mad ¬‚ames leap wild-
wasting from hill unto hill in the folds of a forest deep, and the foam-froth
fringeth his lips™” (On the Sublime, 9.11). In depicting the destructive rage of
Hector, Homer partakes of an identical fury. Neil Hertz has commented on
Longinus™ tendency “to override certain conventional lines of demarcation “
between writers and their subject matter, between text and interpretation”:
that is, his stylistic and theoretical “transgressions of conventional limits.”15
Indeed, the Longinian sublime as enacted in the Peri Hypsous resides in such
transgressions, which in turn transport the reader; for Longinus, crossing
thresholds constitutes the sublime. In Thomas Weiskel™s concise de¬nition,
“The essential claim of the sublime is that man can, in feeling and in speech,
transcend the human. What, if anything, lies beyond the human “ God
or the gods, the daemon or Nature “ is a matter of great disagreement. What,
if anything, de¬nes the human is scarcely less sure.”16 For Longinus, sublime
excess is “the echo of a great soul” (On the Sublime, 9.2) rather than
an indication of monstrosity. He depicts Homer as rabid with “the full
inspiration of combat,” a description that, if it appeared in other works of
the classical period, would amount to severe condemnation. Certainly
Seneca would have abhorred Longinus™ privileging of the wild, the mad,
the frenzied, and particularly the enraged.
Seneca in fact speaks directly to this issue, in a passage from De Ira that
anticipates Longinus™ claims for sublimity:
And you must not assume this, either “ that anger contributes anything to
greatness of soul. That is not greatness, it is a swelling . . . All whom frenzy of
the soul exalts to powers that are more than human believe that they breathe
forth something lofty and sublime; but it rests on nothing solid, and whatever
rises without a ¬rm foundation is liable to fall. Anger has nothing on which to
stand. (De Ira, 1.20.1“2)
The recurrent theme of Seneca™s protest is the loss of control attendant
upon episodes of anger. Unable to determine where anger will carry him
or when the bottom will drop out, he rejects it, ¬xedly concerned with
preserving his command over himself. Angry sublimity “rests on nothing
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
solid” and thus “is liable to fall”; the episodic nature of intense internal
experience, like anger and sublimity, undermines Stoic ¬rmness with
unpredictable ¬‚uctuations. For Seneca, only when such anger is feigned,
or delivered as dramatic rhetoric, can true sublimity be engaged.
Like Senecan anger, the Longinian sublime seems to operate under the
sign of irrationality. E.R. Dodds, in The Greeks and the Irrational, also
considers Homer™s description of Hector here as a primary example of
menos, an inspired and destructive fury that is both angry and sublime:
When a man feels menos in his chest . . . he is conscious of a mysterious access of
energy; the life in him is strong, and he is ¬lled with a new con¬dence and
eagerness . . . It is something much more spontaneous and instinctive than what
we call “resolution”; animals can have it, and it is used by analogy to describe the
devouring energy of ¬re . . . It is an abnormal experience. And men in a
condition of divinely-heightened menos behave to some extent abnormally. They
can perform the most dif¬cult feats with ease . . . They can even, like Diomede,
¬ght with impunity against gods . . . They are in fact for the time being rather
more, or perhaps rather less, than human. Men who have received a
communication of menos are several times compared to ravening lions; but
the most striking description of the state is in Book 15, where Hector goes berserk
(μ±±νµ„±ι), he foams at the mouth and his eyes glow.17
The Longinian sublime is rhetorical menos; Longinus makes that iden-
ti¬cation explicit by attributing Hector™s rage to Homer. The “spontaneous
. . . devouring energy” of the berserker and the passionate enthusiasm of
the sublime poet both exempt their bearers from human limits. The value
of such transgressions, or what lies beyond the human, is, as Weiskel says,
“a matter of great disagreement.” Dodds™s remark that those in a state of
menos are “for the time being rather more, or perhaps rather less,
than human,” reveals his uncertainty as well. When sublime fury is the
propellant, the arc of transcendence can appear to lead either upward to
Longinian hypsos where man seems a divinely inspired minister of destruc-
tion, or downward to the chaos of Senecan ira where man seems a mad
demon or a rabid dog.
By way of Seneca and Longinus, we discover the ground of the angry
sublime: an oscillation or agon between rhetorical elaboration and ir-
rational expression enacted within the text. For the author or speaker
dealing in anger, sublimity amounts to maintaining ¬gurative coherence
and verbal complexity while presenting violent, theoretically ungovern-
able rage. Typically, as an emotion is felt more powerfully, rhetoric
becomes more dif¬cult; at the far end of our attempts to communicate
emotion there is only sound: snarls of anger, sobs of grief, shrieks of fear.
Towards Romantic anger 25
Thus sincerity comes to equal incoherence, and rhetorical invention seems
theatrical, often comic. W. H. Auden, writing on the poetic exchange of
insults, notes the
contradiction between the insulting nature of what is said which appears to
indicate a passionate relation of hostility and aggression, and the calculated skill
of verbal invention which indicates that the protagonists are not thinking about
each other but about language and their pleasure in employing it inventively. A
man who is really passionately angry is speechless and can only express his anger
by physical violence. Playful anger is intrinsically comic because, of all emotions,
anger is the least compatible with play.18
Theatrical or “playful” anger can seem a comic oxymoron: laughter
de¬‚ates both anger and the sublime. Therefore, to maintain metaphoric
control over the experience of anger while simultaneously yielding to its
transports is to walk the high-tension wire of angry sublimity. The result
is poetry produced out of cultivated anger: anger that is simultaneously
encouraged and shaped. Out of this combination of heat and pressure,
one™s metaphors are continually transformed. As we have seen, Seneca
thinks this feat impossible without invoking the dramatic: play the role of
an angry man, and do the trick with mirrors.
It ¬rst appears that Longinus, in favoring “genuine passion” (On the
Sublime, 8.4), reverses Seneca™s recommendation that the orator imitate
anger rather than feel it. Yet it becomes clear that, like Horace in Ars
Poetica, Longinus approaches passion from a reader-response perspective.
The sublime, as we have said, shifts from style to effect. Ultimately,
sincerity in and of itself is unimportant to the effect a work has on an
audience; the sublime is suf¬cient. As Suzanne Guerlac writes,
Sincerity implies a truth value, or at least an intended one. It operates at the level
of the ´nonce. The sincerity effect of the sublime, which operates at the level of
the enunciation, carries instead a “force-value” “ an apparent force of conviction,
which coincides with a force of seduction. In the Longinian sublime, sincerity
and duplicity produce the same effect: transport, ec-stasis.19
Horace, in failing to discriminate between sincerity and duplicity,
operates under a similar paradigm. As long as the “force-value” of the
enunciation is able to move the audience, the truth of the ´nonce remains
beside the point; this is a general maxim for all orators, rhetoricians, and
lawyers. Longinus, however, seeks “not persuasion but transport” (On
the Sublime, 1.4), not simply to “move” an audience emotionally but to
“transport” them beyond cognitive reaction, by means of an overpowering
affective response.
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
Yet even for Longinus, the expression of violent passion is not an
absolute good. He warns, for example, against what he calls parenthyrsus:
By this is meant unseasonable and empty passion, where no passion is required,
or immoderate, where moderation is needed. For men are often carried away, as
if by intoxication, into displays of emotion which are not caused by the nature of
the subject, but are purely personal and wearisome. In consequence they seem to
hearers who are in no wise affected to act in an ungainly way. And no wonder;
for they are beside themselves, while their hearers are not. (On the Sublime, 3.5)
The unifying moment of singularity which characterizes the sublime
breaks down in response to parenthyrsus, which is apparently a lack of
emotional concentration. In the sublime moment, the self must become a
conduit; any residue of the “purely personal” gets in the way. In express-
ing one™s anger, the poet must guard against the overreaction caused by
matters exterior to the issue at hand; this is “wearisome” and “empty.”
Anything internal which will not contribute to the coherent affective
nature of the expressed emotion should be eliminated from one™s dis-
course. Thus, far from being a source of untrammeled emotional expres-
sion, the sublime author of anger, as Longinus conceives of him, must
balance rage with rhetoric.
We learn from Seneca and Longinus that angry outbursts, unre¬ned by
self-dramatizing rhetoric to a greater (Seneca) or lesser (Longinus) degree,
have little chance of stirring an audience to anything other than disgust
or embarrassment. Further, when angry rhetoric does succeed in produ-
cing a like emotion in its listeners, it typically does so not by the routes of
sympathy typical to other emotions (like grief), but by means of the
sublime. The audience partakes of the emotion in a moment of imagina-
tive transgression and identi¬cation with the intensity of the angry rhet-
oric. Paradoxically, this intensity can be achieved only when the angry
speaker modulates his sincerity with calculation.
In effect, Longinus returned to the Western world™s consciousness with
Boileau™s translation of Peri Hypsous, which appeared in 1674 and, accord-
ing to Samuel Holt Monk, reached its height of popularity in the ¬rst half
of the eighteenth century.20 As one editor of Peri Hypsous observes, “The
days of Pope were the great days of the treatise” (Roberts, ed., Longinus,
On the Sublime, 261). In fact, as early as 1677, Dryden was calling
Longinus “undoubtedly, after Aristotle, the greatest critic amongst the
Greeks.”21 It is with Dryden and Boileau that any inquiry into the
fortunes of angry sublimity in the eighteenth century must begin, for
they not only established Longinus™ reputation, but also championed
Towards Romantic anger 27
Juvenalian acerbity over Horatian smoothness (Monk, The Sublime, 43).22
Both Boileau and Dryden produced their own versions of Juvenal™s
satires, and both found in the vehement invective of Juvenal an instance
of the Longinian sublime.23 As Dryden writes in comparing Juvenal
and Horace in “A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of
Satire” (1692), “[ Juvenal™s] expressions are sonorous and more noble; his
verse is more numerous, and his words are suitable to his thoughts,
sublime and lofty. All these contribute to the pleasure of the reader;
and the greater the soul of him who reads, his transports are the greater”
(Essays of John Dryden, i i :2.85). Indeed, Dryden and Boileau were not
alone in their ascription of sublimity to Juvenal. W. B. Carnochan and
William Kupersmith have charted the progress of Juvenal™s reputation
in post-Augustan England as a function of his perceived sublimity.
Further, Inez G. Scott, in a monograph devoted to explicating the Long-
inian hypsos of Juvenal™s satires, ¬nds in the rhetorical ¬gures of Juvenal a
“spirit of invective,” an “unrestrained wrath,” which “approaches the
grand style because of its lack of restraint, its use of ampli¬cation, and
its ˜passion.™”24
Reading Juvenal by the light of Longinus reveals sublimity that is
primarily rhetorical; the harangue of the Juvenalian satirist enacts the
stylistic recommendations of the Peri Hypsous. Dryden says of Juvenal,
“his soul is kindled, and he kindles mine” (Essays of John Dryden, ii :85).25
Yet this communication of emotion is carried out in the sublime register
rather than the normal sympathetic one. The reader is overawed by the
vehemence and hyperbole of Juvenal™s rhetoric, a moment of transport
that, in the Longinian paradigm, results in sublime identi¬cation. Boileau
and Dryden begin a tradition that favors Longinus and Juvenal over
Horace, the genius of the Augustan Age, by locating intense passion as
the mark of great poetry. As Carnochan observes, “When an eighteenth-
century critic looks at Juvenal, the ˜anger™ or ˜spleen™ that pleased Dryden
but offended many others comes . . . to be read as a spontaneous elevation
of feeling, the sign of a free spirit” (“Satire, Sublimity, and Sentiment,”
261) in which the reader can share. Indeed, by 1751, John Hill would
write that Juvenal™s “Admirers think him an angry Writer, whose
Subject required him rather to tear to the Bone, than to play about the
Imagination.”26 Juvenal™s saeva indignatio, his sublime anger, was set
against the urbane wit of Horace; and Pope, by cultivating his role as
the English Horace, became known, however erroneously, as an enemy of
sublimity and intense emotion.27 Thus the eighteenth-century champions
of Juvenal, from Boileau and Dryden forward, helped articulate the
Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism
anti-Augustan position so crucial to the Romantic movement, by ¬nding
in the satires a sublime anger that seemed the mark of poetic greatness.
The anger that structures Popean satire is rarely the ungovernable
emotion of Seneca™s De Ira or the irrationally creative menos of Longinus™
Peri Hypsous. X. J. Kennedy speaks of the “coldly intense” hatred in
Pope™s poetry, which “instead of rushing headlong, stands back with its
long slim foil and ¬‚icks off its victim™s buttons.”28 And Donald Davie,
after observing that, “Anger is beautiful; and the art that anger feeds
is crisp and clear and bright, not the hulking and nebulous immensities
of ˜the sublime™”, turns to Pope as his great example: “In . . . Pope, the
anger is more than half contempt. This has to be so, if the anger is to be
cleanly and completely discharged; the occasion of the anger is consumed
clean away, never to be thought of again.”29 Davie follows Seneca, in
the sense that he sees the loss of control of one™s anger as aesthetically and
personally destructive. A fear of “indistinct and murky” rage (Trying to
Explain, 61) and the absence of self-control it implies leads him to the
high and dry ground of the Popean satiric couplet, with its focused,
biting, and ironic contempt “ an emotion quite different from the
“unbridled, ungovernable” anger of Seneca and the sublime. In this
conception, Pope and Horace enact a healthy and restitutive process of
anger by employing contemptuous ridicule, while Juvenal and Seneca™s
Medea, for example, engage in a tragic and melancholic circle of rage
by refusing to relinquish their anger. Anger that is anger, not “more than
half contempt,” exacts a severe toll from its bearer because it cannot be
easily “discharged.”
As we have seen, both Horace and Seneca view anger as a brief madness, a
loss of control that disables rational expression, while for Juvenal and
Longinus anger is a primary tool of artistic communication, one whose
irrationality enables its power. In the eighteenth century, the venerable
choice between Horace and Juvenal as the ¬rst of satirists became a
choice between measured comedy and frenzied tragedy, a development
that Harold Weber has traced.30 To choose Juvenal meant to privilege,
according to John Dennis, “Anger, Indignation, Rage, Disdain, and the
violent Emotions and vehement Style of Tragedy.”31 The aesthetics of the
sublime, invigorated after mid-century by the theoretical modi¬cations of
Burke and Kant, grew in popularity through the post-Augustan age,
intertwined with the surging fortunes of angry Juvenalian satire. Yet just
as the eighteenth-century writers altered Juvenal, through acts of selective
perception, to suit their own needs, so also did they modify Longinus, a
process begun by Boileau™s translation.
Towards Romantic anger 29
The eighteenth century saw the theoretical evolution of the sublime
away from its Longinian beginnings. In the Peri Hypsous, the sublime style
prompts the reader to submission that feels like strength. As John Dennis,
writing in the early eighteenth century, describes the Longinian sublime,
“It gives a noble Vigour to a Discourse, an invincible Force, which
commits a pleasing Rape upon the very soul of the reader” (qtd. in Monk,
The Sublime, 53). Yet as the century continued, theories of the sublime

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