‘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.

Monday 5 October 2015

Governesses. Not everybody liked them.

There are a lot of governesses in nineteenth-century fiction, and they are often point-of-view or sympathetic characters. So it's worth reminding ourselves that not everybody liked them. Here's Mrs Cantwell, a respectable middle-class female character, from Charlotte Sanders's Holidays at Home (1803), and she has positively Daily-Mailian views of governesses:

[Charlotte Sanders, Holidays at Home: Written for the Amusement of Young Persons (York, 1803), 103]. I like the phrase 'Artful Insinuating Hypocritical Emegrees' so much, I may take is as the name for my next band.

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