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A Victorian Faust

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2020



In 1833 a precocious seventeen-year-old boy, Philip James Bailey, came from Nottingham to London; and thus reached, in time and space, the very centre of the nascent Victorianism which he was destined so curiously to illustrate. Initiated by his father into liberal politics and theology, and by his own youthful reading into the spirit of romanticism, he set himself to writing endless verses that should be at once theology and romantic poetry. Bailey's Festus has been known to three generations of readers who have scarcely thought, perhaps, of the position of the work in literature or of the poet himself. The present paper is concerned with the poem Festus rather than with Philip James Bailey, although documents recently come to hand make it possible for us to follow his life in the thirties with some detail. And yet there is surprisingly little about London in Bailey's early letters. He did not, like Browning in the same decade, make his way into literary and theatrical circles; almost his only literary acquaintance seems to have been John Robertson, the editor who preserved himself like a fly in amber by telling Carlyle that “he meant to do Cromwell himself.” Although Bailey occasionally submitted his verses to the London editor as well as to his father, he seems not to have been open to suggestions.

Research Article
PMLA , Volume 40 , Issue 3 , September 1925 , pp. 743 - 768
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1925

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1 Selections from the correspondence of Philip James Bailey and his father, Thomas Bailey, were published by Mrs. F. Maud Brown in the Christian Science Monitor as follows: “A Victorian Poet's Private Papers,” March 17, 1919; “Philip Bailey's Letters,” April 9; “A Poet in Politics,” April 29; “A Reformer of Nottingham,” May 23. Mrs. Brown has generously allowed me to examine the extensive collection of Bailey papers now in her possession, but most of the important passages in the correspondence are given in the published extracts.

2 John Stuart Mill speaks favorably of Robertson's work as sub-editor of the Westminster ReviewAutobiography (New York, 1873), pp. 199, 207. Robertson cuts a less favorable figure in Alexander Bain, John Stuart Mill (London, 1882), p. 59, and in J. A. Froude, Thomas Carlyle: A History of his Life in London, 1834-1881 (New York, 1884), I, 129.

3 To Thomas Bailey, November 1, 1834.

4 Interview with Bailey in The Young Man, quoted by George Eyre-Todd, The Glasgow Poets (Paisley, 1906), p. 326.

5 First American edition (Boston, 1845), p. 5. All references to Festus are to this edition, unless otherwise indicated.

6 To Thomas Bailey, April 26, 1836.

7 “Festus and Faust,” Manchester Quarterly, XXII (1903), 1 fi.

8 To Thomas Bailey, July 4, 1837.

9 To Thomas Bailey, June 13, 1838.

10 To Thomas Bailey, November 11, 1834.

11 To Thomas Bailey, June 13, 1838.

12 To Thomas Bailey, May 29, 1837.

13 “A Victorian Poet's Private Papers,” Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 1919.

14 P. 413.

15 Journals, ed. Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (Boston, 1909-14), VII, 284 (1847).

16 Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Conversations with Carlyle (New York, 1892), pp. 101-102.

17 Bailey MSS. James Montgomery to Wilmot Henry Jones, September 21, 1839.

18 Portraits and Sketches (London, 1912), p. 73. A similar opinion appears in Garnett and Gosse, English Literature: An Illustrated Record (London, 1906), IV, 231.

19 P. 8.

20 Loc. cit.

21 Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll and Thomas J. Wise (London, 1895-96), II, 416.

22 Loc. cit.

23 Chaps. iii, x-xvi.

24 Chaps. xx, xxi.

25 Loc. cit.

26 The theological discussion in Marlowe is very brief. Cf. Scenes iii and v (according to the division into scenes by Ward and Bullen). In the Chorus preceding Scene vii it is said that Faustus ascends Olympus in a dragon-car, and in the expansion of this Chorus in the edition of 1616 the view of the heavens and the survey of “coasts and kingdoms” are briefly recounted. The survey is also in Scene vii itself, and there is a reference to a “journey through world and air” in the Chorus preceding Scene viii.

27 P. 100.

28 Pp. 38, 39, 266, 354.

29 P. 226.

30 Faust, vv. 135-6.

31 P. 34.

32 P. 319.

33 Ibid.

34 Faust, vv. 1699-1700, 1704-1706.

35 P. 371.

36 Since the Prolog had been generally condemned by the English commentators on Faust, Bailey shows considerable independence in this adaptation. For early English opinion on the Prolog cf. W. F. Hauhart, The Reception of Goethe's Faust in England in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1909), pp. 65, 100, 112, 114, 116, 127; supplemented by Adolph B. Benson, “English Criticism of the ‘Prologue in Heaven’ in Goethe's Faust,” Modern Philology, XIX (1922), 225-43. Bailey was not the first English poet influenced by the Prolog. Shelley had not only imitated the hymn of the archangels in his “Ode to Heaven,” but had adapted Goethe's scene in the fragmentary Prologue to Hellas, first published by Garnett in 1862. In the first edition of John Edmund Reade's Cain the Wanderer, a combination of elements from Byron's Cain and Heaven and Earth, there was a Prologue in which Lucifer appeared in Heaven and asked for the soul of Cain; cf. Edinburgh Review, LIII (1831), 111.

37 P. 138.

38 With Festus, 121, cf. Faust, vv. 386-91.

39 With Festus, 131-32, cf. Faust, vv. 2023-36; and with Festus, 133-34, Faust, vv. 1986 ff.

40 P. 284.

41 To Thomas Bailey; no date; about 1837.

42 Minor Poets of the Caroline Period, ed. George Saintsbury (Oxford, 1905), I, xiv.

43 Notes and Queries, 9th Series, X, 242, 243.

44 To Thomas Bailey, April 26, 1836.

45 P. 9.

46 Die romantische Schule in Deutschland, II, 2, in Gesammelte Werke (Berlin, 1887), V, 225.

47 J. P. Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe, hrsg. von H. Düntzer (Leipzig, 1885), II, 103.

48 Pp. 250-51.

49 P. 262.

50 P. 256.

51 P. 253.

52 Manfred, Scene iv; Festus, pp. 46-47. Evidently Mr. Gosse is wrong when he writes: “The attacks of the utilitarians had been chiefly directed against the disciples of Byron, and the new poet evaded the censure of such critics by ignoring in the main the influence of that daemonic enchanter. It is specious to see the effect of ‘Manfred’ upon 'Festus,' but in point of fact the resemblance seems to result from a common study of 'Faust'” (Portraits and Sketches, p. 72).

53 P. 375. Cf. Chilie Harold, III, vii.

54 Only at the end of the poem, in the account of the final defeat and chaining of Lucifer, does Bailey yield entirely to the influnce of Milton. But the extensive additions to the poem in later editions become increasingly Miltonic.

55 Young and Bailey are compared by the Scotch critic Gilfillan in Hogg's Instructor, n. s. X (1853), 113. See also Every Saturday XIII (1872), 500. In the cult of night Bailey followed Young, and was in turn followed by John Stanyan Bigg, Night and the Soul (1854), and George Gilfillan, Night (1867). Cf. George Gilfillan, Letters and Journals with Memoir (London, 1892), p. 293.

56 P. 35.

57 P. 342.

58 P. 376.

59 P. 144.

60 P. 315.

61 P. 254.

62 P. 413.

62a P. 281.

63 P. 79.

64 P. 322.

65 P. 277.

66 Autobiography (New York, 1885), I, 158.

67 R. H. Horne, “Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Some of her Contemporaries,” St. James Magazine, XXXVII (1876), 21. Tennyson and His Friends, ed. Hallam Lord Tennyson (London, 1911), p. 323.

68 Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Richard Hengist Horne (London, 1877), II, 13. Similarly the British Quarterly, III (1846), 377, brought Festus into favorable contrast with Taylor's dramas, “from which poetry is carefully excluded.”

69 “Pauline,” Monthly Repository, 1833, p. 252. “The Two Kinds of Poetry,” Ibid., p. 714.

70 Quoted in Pickering's announcement, 1840, p. 5.

71 Shakespeare and Other Lectures (London, 1888), p. 374.

72 Extracts from the Liverpool Chronicle, the Critic, the Metropolitan, and many others in Pickering's announcements, 1840-1850. Hogg's Instructor, n. s. XVI (1853), 453; Hewitt's Journal, III (1848), 151; Hepworth Dixon in Jerrold's Magazine, VII (1848), 84. There is generous but more guarded praise in the important Non-conformist organs, the Eclectic Review, LXX (1839), 654, and the British Quarterly, III (1846), 377. Cf. also George Gilfillan in Hogg's Instructor, VI (1847), 37; Tail's Magazine, XV (1848), 728; Hogg's Instructor, n. s. III (1849), 50; Second Gallery of Literary Portraits (New York, 1850), p. 345.

73 LXVII (1850), 420.

74 Athenaeum, 1839, 959; 1847, 14; Literary Gazette, XXIII (1839), 558; XXIX (1845), 340; Tail's Magazine, n. s. VII (1839), 339; Edinburgh Review, CIV (1856), 354; Dublin University Magazine, XXX (1847), 91; Blackwood's Magazine, loc. cit.

75 Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll and Thomas J. Wise, II, 418.

76 Alfred Lord Tennyson; A Memoir, by His Son (London, 1897), I, 234.

77 Autobiographical Notes, ed. William Minto (London, 1892), I, 100.

78 Some Reminiscences (New York, 1906), p. 101. Further evidence in W. M. Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti as Designer and Writer (London, 1889), p.7; Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His Family-Letters, with a Memoir (London, 1895), I, 89; Complete Poetical Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. W. M. Rossetti (London, 1888), p. xvii; Hall Caine, Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (London, 1882), pp. 97-101, 260.

79 Spare Hours (Boston, 1866), I, 375.

80 For this English coterie see articles on Francis Foster Barham, James Pierrepont Greaves, John Abraham Heraud, John Westland Marston, in D. N. B.; also Edith Heraud, Memoirs of John A. Heraud (London, 1898). For Bailey's contact with the group, and his description of a “transcendental soirée,” see letter to Thomas Bailey, February 6, 1840, printed in part in Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 1919. Heraud's review of Festus is in Monthly Magazine, II (1839), 247. Evidence for relations between the English and American groups in the Dial, III (1842), 227, 279, 416; F. B. Sanborn and W. T. Harris, A. Branson Alcott (Boston, 1893), pp. 335, 365.

81 II, 175.

82 II, 231.

83 Margaret Fuller continues this eulogy in Life Within and Without (Boston, 1859), p. 153, a review of the first American edition, presumably first published in the New York Tribune.

84 Journals, VII, 284 (1847). Cf. also VI, 286 (1842); Dial, III (1843), 535; William B. Scott, Memoir of David Scott, R. S. A. (Edinburgh, 1850), p. 323

85 F. B. Sanborn, Recollections of Seventy Years (Boston, 1909), p. 270.

86 Life and Genius of Goethe, ed. F. B. Sanborn (Boston, 1886), p. 184.

87 Early in 1845 Festus was referred to in Griswold's Poets and Poetry of England in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1845), p. 487, in such a way as to imply that it was not generally known. About the same time Graham's Magazine, XXVI (1845), 94, mentioned as English poets little known in America “Herbert, Horne, Bailey, Darley, Alford, and Browning.” The Knickerbocker Magazine, XXVI, 72, reviewed Festus favorably in July, 1845, just before the first American edition came out.

88 Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Part of a Man's Life (Boston, 1905), p. 239.

89 Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Samuel Longfellow (Boston, 1891), II, 24.

90 Ibid., II, 33. Cf. Democratic Review, XVII (1845), 454; De Bow's Review, X (1851), 430; Southern Literary Messenger, XV (1849), 111; Christian Examiner, XXXIX (1845), 365; Graham's Magazine, XXXIII (1848), 170.

91 Prospective Review, III (1847), 511; Mercersburg Review, III (1851), 401; Southern Quarterly, XI (1847), 106; New Englander, V (1847), 175; Brownson's Quarterly, III (1846), 405; Thomas Powell, Living Authors of England (New York, 1849), p. 262.

92 II (1845), 395.

93 American Whig Review, II (1845), 55.

94 Ibid., V (1847), 43, 123. Likewise Literary World, “Bad News for the Transcendental Poets,” I (1847), 53; and International Magazine, II (1851), 453.

95 Harper's Magazine, VI (1853), 138, XII (1856), 258; Democratic Review XXXIV (1854), 145; William Winter, Old Friends (New York, 1909), p. 361. When the Duke of Argyll visited Longfellow in 1866 the poet talked among other things “of Alexander Smith and Bailey, as curious instances of the way young men come to the surface suddenly and then disappear, apparently never again to rise.”—Duke of Argyll, Passages from the Past, (London, 1907), p. 231.

96 Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Studies in History and Letters (Boston 1900), p. 262.

97 Some of the editions were not dated or numbered. My list is not complete, but I have noted editions with the following dates, all published at Boston unless otherwise indicated: 1845 (First), 1846, 1847 (Fourth), 1847 (Seventh), 1849 (Eighth), 1850 (Ninth), 1851 (Tenth), 1852 (Seventeenth), 1853, 1854 (Illustrated by Hammett Billings), 1856, 1857, 1866 (New York), 1869, 1889 (New York). There were also one or more undated editions at Boston, Philadelphia, and Louisville respectively; and two or more undated New York editions, one called the Thirtieth. Bailey “never got a sixpence” from the American publishers. (William Winter, op. cit., p. 336).

98 Bailey MSS. Pliny Miles to Philip James Bailey, May 15, 1855.

99 1839, 1845, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1864, 1866, 1872, 1877, 1889, 1893, 1901.

100 CXXI, 540.

101 Spectator, XXXIX (1866), Part 2, 1028.

102 Jubilee Edition (London, 1889), p. i.

103 “William Bell Scott and Modern British Poetry,” Macmillan's Magazine, XXXIII (1876), 425. Cf. also William Michael Rossetti, Some Reminiscences, p. 500.

104 Poems (London, 1913), p. 145. Dipsychus, II, 4.

105 Op. cit., p. 147.

106 Hogg's Instructor, XXI (1855).

107 This subject is studied in the writer's thesis, The Spasmodic School in Victorian Poetry, Harvard, 1920.

108 E. g., Saturday Review, I (1855), 34.

109 “Sydney Dobell and the Spasmodic School,” A Look Round Literature (London, 1887), p. 185.

110 Academy, VII (1875), 493.

111 Macmillan's Magazine, loc. cit.

112 ‘Festus’ and Recent Poetry,” Athenaeum, 1876, 465.

113 Literary Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century, II, 413. Professor Walker, The Literature of the Victorian Era (Cambridge, 1910), 349, thinks that Bailey was justified in his protest.

114 So Sir W. Robertson Nicoll reports, in his introduction to Gilfillan, A Gallery of Literary Portraits (Everyman's Library), p. xvi.

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