Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 7, 2011

The Poetry of Lastness: Reconsidering a Neglected Motif in Early Nineteenth-Century Literature

Ralph Pordzik
From the journal


This essay explores a short-lived poetic subgenre that flourished during the first decades of the Victorian century. Apocalyptic poems addressing the idea of the Last Man enjoyed a surge of critical interest between 1820 and 1840 but fell into oblivion soon after. Some prominent samples by Thomas Campbell, Thomas Hood and Eugenius Roche will be selected for closer analysis in order to carve out the significant role the genre played in the transitional period between late Romanticism and Victorianism. It will be argued these poems were crucial in their negotiating anxieties gaining wider popularity not until the later decades of the century. More subdued in style and poetic imagery than their Romantic precursors, they juxtapose the perceived menace of a wayward history and incalculable universe with the idea of the solitude and abjectness of man as one of its foremost consequences, while also countering the more extravagant forms of Romantic lyrical egotism and the encroaching materialism of the age.

Published Online: 2011-04-07
Published in Print: 2011-April