‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Friday 21 November 2014

Jane Porter, Thaddeus of Warsaw (1803)

Scholars from Lukacs on have insisted that Walter Scott 'invented' the form of the modern Historical Novel; but here, more than a decade before Waverley, is an internationally successful exercise in precisely the mode that Scott made his own: Jane Porter's Thaddeus of Warsaw. The earliest edition Google Books has is the fourth edition of 1806:

(Here's a link to the in-one-volume revised edition of 1831). Wikipedia draws on the NDNB to tell the rather mournful tale:
It went through at least 84 editions, including translations into French and German. The German edition was praised by Tadeusz Kościuszko, the inspiration for the "Thaddeus" of the title and a hero of the American Revolution, and earned Porter a ladyship from the King of Württemberg. The book was responsible for the name of Warsaw, North Carolina (founded c. 1838). The character of Thaddeus Sobieski was the namesake of Thaddeus Lowe (b. 1832), the father of aerial reconnaissance in the United States, and Pembroke Somerset was the namesake of Pembroke, Kentucky (est. 1836). Nonetheless, in the shadow of Walter Scott's Waverley and the general dismissal of early female novelists by late Victorian critics,[2] Porter came to be so disregarded that the editor of an 1897 edition of Porter's diary took it for granted that her readers would not have heard of her and an 1905 edition of Thaddeus was published as part of a series on Half-Forgotten Books. By 1947, the Marxist critic Lukács felt entitled to argue that Scott's was the first "true" historical novel, which presented the past as a distinct social and cultural setting.
Booo! Porter, in her courteously phrased but still damning preface to the 1831 edition, is quite well aware of her rights of precedence, for all that Scott shot past her in fame:

The novel is set during the Second Partition of Poland. The novel deserves to be rediscovered.

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