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Chapter 13 - Thomas Moore and the Social Life of Forms

from Part III - Reputations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Claire Connolly
Affiliation:
University College Cork
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Summary

Over the past two decades, Moore’s reputation as a producer and performer of Irish lyric has been at the centre of sharp-edged postcolonial critique condemning his exchange of the ‘wild harp’ of Erin for the ‘civil pianoforte’ of the English drawing room and fashionable society. This chapter reappraises Moore’s achievement as a poet with an attention to the interplay between lyric and song in their informing social and political contexts. It establishes the importance of Moore to British and Irish romanticism as a poet of sociability (in contrast to the idea of the solitary poet figured by the romantic ideology) positioned at the cross-roads of high and low art with an appeal across barriers of gender and social class. My title-phrase, ‘the social life of forms’, refers to the social contexts, the singing clubs and drawing rooms, in which Moore’s songs were performed, and gestures towards the sociality of song as a participatory medium. More than this, it identifies the surface, and, famously, in the judgement of William Hazlitt, the superficial quality of Moore’s poetry. That perceived superficiality is the quarry of this analysis, which argues for the significance of Moore’s surface technique.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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