WMR Reviews Clough's Bothie
|Topic||WMR Reviews Clough's Bothie|
|Standards||PRB aesthetic standards|
|Notes||Earliest review, Germ.|
50 Jan 1 The Germ
Rossetti reviews Clough's "Bothie of Toper-na-fousich"
Rossetti, William M. "The Bothie of Topper-na-fuosich: A Long-vacation Pastoral." The Germ: The Literary Magazine of the Preraphaelites. Ed. Andrea Rose. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1992. 34-46. Print.
One of the earliest Rossetti reviews, he confides later in the 1901 edition of "The Germ" that such critical reviews were "not favored" among the artists and so the task fell to him. It is also significant in Rossetti's career that at the outset, in this review, he proclaims that the PRB intends "not to take count of any works that do not either show a purpose achieved or give promise of a worthy event," thereby placing that sanction on the poetry published in The Germ by various writers, including Woolner, Patmore, William, Dante and Christina Rossetti, and Holman-Hunt. Such discrimination in review subjects ended with his transfer to The Spectator where Rossetti commented that he was required to accommodate the wishes of the publisher in matters of review subject selection.
Rossetti prefaces his review with an explanation for his view that criticism is a thankless and unappreciated endeavor and further, "the inventor is more than the commentator" in terms of hierarchical literary value.
Rossetti's review is a blend of analysis and close read, providing both qualitative and quantitative analyses. For example, ""The metre he has chosen, hexametral, harmonises with the spirit of primitive simplicity in which the poem is conceived; is itself a background . . . and gives a new individuality to the passages of familiar narrative and every day conversation. It has an intrinsic appropriateness . . ." Rossetti adopts the external critical perspective to identify components and the techniques used to employ them in the verse, then explains to the reader the import and value of the poetic moves the Clough employs.
Demonstrating a wide critical range, Rossetti points out flaws as well as poetic successes: "As regards execution, however, there may be noted, in qualification of much pliancy and vigour, a certain air of experiment in occasional passages, and a license in versification, which more than warrants a warning 'to expect every kind of irregularity in these modern hexameters.'" There follows specific examples of irreconcilable dactyls in specific lines.
The review is a combination of insightful hermeneutics and close read, with the actual poetic text dominating the latter part of the review. Embedded in the middle, we find "the moral of the poem, a moral to be pursued through commonplace lowliness of station through high rank, into the habit of life which would be, in the one, not petty,--in the other, not overweening, --in any, calm and dignified."
The thematic notion identified by the young Rossetti is in some ways remarkably perceptive: he points out that the hero has a reversed sense of valuation based on the unfamiliar, causing him not see the commonplace, yet notice the "new" things that are nonetheless commonplace in the "new" circumstances-thus ignoring the former while falsely embracing the latter.
Ultimately, Rossetti proclaims Clough's verse to be a matter of thought rather than simply style, underscoring that hierarchical valuation that by publication in The Germ, can be seen as an endorsed aesthetic standard, a notion that is explicitly affirmed in the first issue by John L. Tupper in the essay, "The Subject in Art."
Rossetti reported in the PRB Journal on January 27th, 1850, that he received a letter from Clough thanking him for the criticism and the copy of The Germ. (PRB Journal 251)
Standards of Judgment:
Rossetti, William Michael, and William E. Fredeman. The P. R. B. Journal: Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1849-1853 Together with Other Pre-Raphaelite Documents. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975. Print.