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Chapter 4 - Switzerland No More: 1798 and the Romantic Imagination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Patrick Vincent
Affiliation:
Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
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Summary

Chapter 4 also looks at how the French Revolution, and in particular events in Switzerland and the French invasion, transformed the manner in which the Swiss myth was understood and deployed back in Britain. After examining contemporary reports of the 1798 invasion in periodicals and contemporary histories, I argue for a conjunction between invasion fears, apocalyptic discourse, and insinuations of guilt and treachery in various texts, including sermons and prophecies, as well as Coleridge’s “France: an Ode,” then show how the small Forest cantons, or Waldstätten, which had stubbornly fought against the French, were made into the sole custodians of the Swiss myth. I then discuss Wordsworth’s own delayed response in various poems, including The Prelude and the “Subjugation” sonnet. The primitive democracies’ heroic resistance was meant to regenerate Switzerland’s national spirit and the poet’s own disenchanted belief in republicanism, itself crucial to his creativity. The last section looks at a number of other poems and novels written in response to the invasion. As I claim, these often represent the Swiss as complicit in their fate in order to empty the country’s moral landscape and to displace it back home.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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