Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 July 2020
Poetry in the nineteenth century is often described as ‘haunted’; that is, as being replete with spectres and poignantly aware of its literary predecessors. From their readings of early Gothic fiction, the poets of the period learned both to celebrate and to mourn the past, an approach that is evident across a wide range of texts. Close reading demonstrates not only how the aesthetics but also the underlying anxieties of the Gothic permeate Victorian poetry, transforming Gothic into an acutely contemporary mode. To read Victorian poetry as Gothic offers a point of entry into the darker anxieties of the age, represented in miniature with splinters of Gothic anxiety. This chapter focuses on the ways in which poets such as Thomas Hood, James Thomson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Mary Coleridge appropriate Gothic aesthetics to reflect a nineteenth-century unease with social change, faith and death, looking backwards to the Gothic past and forwards to an uncertain future.