Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-6f5p8 Total loading time: 0.001 Render date: 2024-04-12T17:34:01.685Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

1 - A Parliament of Monsters: Romantic Nonhumans and Victorian Erasure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

Ted Geier
Affiliation:
Ashford University
Get access

Summary

All out-o'th’-way, far-fetched, perverted things,

All freaks of Nature, all Promethean thoughts

Of man; his dullness, madness, and their feats,

All jumbled up together, to compose

A Parliament of Monsters. Tents and Booths,

Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast mill,

Are vomiting, receiving, on all sides,

Men, Women, three-years’ Children, Babes in arms.

Oh blank confusion! True epitome

Of what the mighty City is herself

To thousands upon thousands of her Sons,

Living amid the same perpetual whirl

Of trivial objects, melted and reduced

To one identity, by differences

That have no law, no meaning, and no end;

Oppression under which even the highest minds

Must labour, whence the strongest are not free!

An excruciating, vacant ecology and a frustrated human experience dominate works like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or William Blake's Book of Thel. Anxieties about the trouble with human/nonhuman intercourse also show up in less unnatural figures of animals, inhuman conditions and mass vacancy in works such as Burns's ‘To a Mouse’. And we might say that Samuel Taylor Coleridge's ‘Rime’ and ‘To a Young Ass’ join two poles of nonhuman thought in the period within one oeuvre. Animals and the nonhuman return again and again as targets of thought in British Romantic literature. This incorporation of animals includes domestic and agricultural modes, wilderness motifs, hunting, and meditations on less defined nonhuman modes include the quasi-scientific assemblage of dead body parts in Frankenstein, Coleridge's weird, possibly supernatural mariner, and the inescapable dark spirits of Robert Burns's ‘Tam o’ Shanter’.

Wordsworth and Coleridge craft Lyrical Ballads in 1797 as part of a broad, public social critique of the Poor Laws, and the poems include multiple engagements of animals and other nonhumans. Coleridge's separate poem, ‘To a Young Ass’, is about an abused, labouring animal, and Wordsworth's animals include owls, harts, heifers and many more. Burns and John Clare spend the majority of their poetic lives lamenting enclosure, cultural disruption, and the suffering of birds, badgers and others, and they narrate sentimental and non-sentimental losses of places that seem to ruin things for all critters equally. As David Perkins has noted, Clare writes ‘The Badger’ as bans on badger-baiting, bullbaiting and cockfighting pass thru British Parliament in 1835.

Type
Chapter
Information
Meat Markets
The Cultural History of Bloody London
, pp. 27 - 76
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2017

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×