Shelley, Dante, and Romantic Irony
By John B. Padgett
Table of Contents Works Cited
|Copyright © 1991, 1995 by John B. Padgett|
The Link between Shelley and Dante
Percy Bysshe Shelley's allegiance to and adaptation of the poetry and philosophy of Dante Alighieri results in one of the most profound transfigurations of a well-known poet in literary history. While it is dangerous to overemphasize Dante's influence on Shelley Shakespeare, Milton, Plato, and Aeschylus are other key influences nevertheless, Shelley's unique adaptation of Dantesque ideas is one of the most profound instances of a poet's complete and inexhaustible revamping of another poet's works to match his own.
The allegorical poem Epipsychidion (1821), for example, presents a number of parallels with Dante, not least of which is the poet-speaker's description after two abortive attempts at glorifying Emilia, the "Epipsyche" of the title of his first encounter with her:
She met me, Stranger, upon life's rough way,
And lured me towards sweet Death; as Night by Day,
Winter by Spring, or Sorrow by swift Hope,
Led into light, life, peace.
He continues his description of her, in the religious imagery begun earlier in the poem, as "a mortal shape indued / With love and life and light and deity, / And motion which may change but cannot die" (112-14) and as "a Splendour / Leaving the third sphere pilotless" (116-17). The latter image is an overt reference to Dante's Paradiso, both in the use of the word "Splendour," which for Dante is synonymous with "angel," and in the mention of the "third sphere" of the planet Venus, the realm of caritas, or divine love.
But even in this brief selection, there are other similarities between the author of Epipsychidion and Dante. The poet-speaker's initial meeting with Emilia "upon life's rough way" mirrors the opening of Inferno, the first canticle in Dante's monumental Divine Comedy. Dante, writing in the first person, tells how "Midway in our life's journey, I went astray / from the straight road and woke to find myself / alone in a dark wood." Dante, significantly midway through his life's journey (like Epipsychidion's "rough way"), departed from the "straight road" of life's joys, particularly those of love, to wake in a dark wood of spiritual death. Thus, both speakers depict a growing awareness of the interplay of life and death, and, more specifically, the interplay of love and death. The Comedy is on one level Dante's quest to be reunited with Beatrice Portinari, whose apotheosis resembles and was in fact a model for Shelley's ideal in Emily. Both poets describe their lives as journeys in search of the ideal, and both must ultimately face their mortality along the way, represented ominously in the title of Dante's canticle. However, where Dante fulfills his journey in the company of the ideal in paradise, Shelley's journey ends almost before it begins, with questioning and doubts, even despair.
This ubiquitous link between Dante and Shelley is clarified somewhat in several essays by T. S. Eliot. Eliot, more than any other poet or critic in the twentieth century, has served as a standard-bearer for the poetry of Dante, yielding new and lasting appreciation in the modern age for the fourteenth-century poet's works. Though Eliot in the main disregards Shelley as "humorless, pedantic, self-centered, and sometimes almost a blackguard," as a writer whose poetry Eliot never read except "with some special reason for reference" ("Shelley and Keats" 89), he nonetheless concedes that Shelley "is the English poet, more than all others, upon whom the influence of Dante was remarkable" ("What Dante Means to Me" 130). Eliot refers in large part to Shelley's last great poem, The Triumph of Life (1822), "Shelley's greatest tribute to Dante," which Eliot thinks, not surprisingly, was Shelley's greatest poem. However, Eliot also finds evidence of Dante's influence in earlier poems such as "Ode to the West Wind": the image at the beginning of leaves being blown by the wind "Like stricken ghosts from an enchanter fleeing," Eliot says, "would have been impossible but for the Inferno in which the various manifestations of wind, and the various sensations of air, are as important as are the aspects of light in the Paradiso" ("What Dante Means" 130).
Eliot's praise for a passage from The Triumph of Life (lines 176-205, in which the speaker identifies Rousseau in the form of a gnarled root) segues into Eliot's testimonial about what Dante's poetry teaches. "The important debt to Dante," he says, "does not lie in a poet's borrowings, or adaptations from Dante; nor is it one of those debts which are incurred only at a particular stage in another's poet's development." The debt, he continues, is not in a poet's consciously modeling a passage after Dante, or a critic's locating passages dependent upon the poet's knowledge of Dante, or even to what "one may owe to the thought of Dante, to his view of life, or to the philosophy and theology which give shape and content to the Divine Comedy" ("What Dante Means" 132). Rather, the lesson of Dante's poetry is, first, that Dante more than any other poet a "student of the art of poetry, a scrupulous, painstaking and conscious practitioner of the craft" demonstrates that "the poet should be the servant of his language, rather than the master of it." Second, Dante teaches the importance of the "width of emotional range." The great poet should not only be more perceptive to "vibrations" than ordinary men; he must always remember "the obligation to explore, to find words for the inarticulate, to capture those feelings which people can hardly even feel, because they have no words for them." At the same time, this "explorer beyond the frontiers of ordinary consciousness" must ensure he has a "firm grasp upon the realities with which [his fellow-citizens] are already acquainted." A final lesson, "that Dante is, beyond all other poets of our continent, the most European," recalls Dante's plan for world peace posited in De Monarchia ("What Dante Means" 132-35).
Such an elucidation of the lessons taught by Dante introduces the study of Dante's influence on world literature. Eliot's hindsight into the mysteries of Dante's influence on future generations was no doubt felt intuitively by Shelley, who alludes to some of the same considerations in his great prose essay A Defence of Poetry. What is not so clear, in either Shelley's or Eliot's treatise, is to what extent either poet was aware of how far removed from Dante's original conception their own interpretations went. In many ways A Defence of Poetry seems an attempt by Shelley to reconcile his own poetic and philosophical ideas with those of Dante. Shelley writes,
The distorted notions of invisible things which Dante and his rival Milton have idealized, are merely the mask and the mantle in which these great poets walk through eternity enveloped and disguised. It is a difficult question to determine how far they were conscious of the distinction which must have subsisted in their minds between their own creeds and that of the people. Dante at least appears to wish to mark the full extent of it by placing Riphζus, whom Virgil calls justissimus unus, in Paradise, and observing a most heretical caprice in his distribution of rewards and punishments. (A Defence of Poetry 498)
Dante is seen not so much as a pious Catholic writing of dogmatic orthodoxy, but as a heretical revolutionary whose "confounding the distinctions between Heaven and Hell [was] a game that satisfied his capriciousness" (Ellis 15).
The nature of Dante's influence on Shelley would seem, therefore, a willful seeking-out of only those Dantesque ideals which support, in whole or in part, Shelley's own poetic and philosophical ideals. One might assume that Shelley unwittingly perhaps misinterpreted, or even misread, Dante. However, such an assumption is not supported by Shelley's own writings. After referring to the power of Dante's poetry to instill thought, he then says, "All high poetry is infinite; it is as the first acorn, which contained all oaks potentially" (Defence 500). A poet, moreover, "participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not" (Defence 483). Poetry differs from a "story" in that it is "universal, and contains within itself the germ of a relation to whatever motives or actions have place in the possible varieties of human nature" (Defence 485). Thus, poetry consists of two parts: the temporal, the "catalogue of detached facts, which have no other bond of connexion than time, place, circumstance, cause and effect"; and the eternal, "the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the creator, which is itself the image of all other minds" (Defence 485). It is by this exegesis that Shelley feels justified in overlooking in Dante that which he believes temporal, such as Dante's dogmatic Catholicism, to focus on what he feels are eternal truths.
Shelley's use of Dante, then, becomes not a concentrated attention to the orthodoxy depicted in the Comedy and elsewhere, but rather an emphasis on Shelley's perceived remnants of true poetry in the works of Dante. Shelley is not so much, in Steve Ellis's words, "attending to Dante's 'poetry' while neglecting or discounting his beliefs" (3); he is, rather, interpreting only those beliefs which are manifested in that part of poetry which is eternal. Such a distinction may seem slight, but it is an important one in successfully countering the modern critical practice of viewing Shelley as a philosophical bargain-hunter, who invests only in those artifacts guaranteed to add to the worth of his poetic estate.
Shelley had ample reason for allying himself with Dante. He spent the last four years of his life in Italy, and some of his greatest works owe at least part of their genesis to his observations of both the natural wonders of the Italian countryside and its cultural artifacts. Prometheus Unbound, for example, was written, Shelley says in the preface to the poem, "chiefly
...upon the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, among the flowery glades, and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees which are extended in ever winding labyrinths upon its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in the air." The Roman sky, the coming of spring, and "the new life with which it drenches the spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of this drama" (Shelley's Poetry and Prose 133). Similarly, "Ode to the West Wind" was inspired by the witness of a "tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating ...collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rains" (qtd. in Holmes 547). The "Ode" was written, incidentally, while Shelley was living in Dante's hometown, Florence.
His attitude toward his stay in Italy also played a role in his assimilation of Dante. He spent much of his first two years as a "tourist," seeing in Rome, for example, literal and symbolic evidence that the "schema which he had dimly revealed in the colossal wreck of Ozymandias was a permanent and historic truth"; the allied forces of human love and freedom, and of Nature, "did in the end reassert themselves," an attitude which would dominate Prometheus Unbound (Holmes 490). In Rome in 1819, however, he began for the first time to see the city "as a living city rather than an enormous museum. He had ceased to be a tourist." Simultaneous with his "growing identification with the real Italy" came the realization that if he was not a tourist, then he was really an exile (Holmes 510). Such a perception gains added weight by the actual mandated exile of Dante from Florence, imposed because of his alleged extortion, barratry, and opposition to the Pope and Charles of Valois, who had taken charge of Florence (Bergin, Dante's Divine Comedy 15-16).
The chief significance of Shelley's stay in Italy, however, is the incentive his environment spurred in him to study Italian literature. Prometheus Unbound, he says, owes part of its imagery to Dante, and Epipsychidion likewise refers explicitly to Dante in its "Advertisement." It is The Triumph of Life, however, that demonstrates Shelley's deepest debt to Dante. The sparseness of imagery, the dispassion in his view of humanity, even the verse form of terza rima ("third rhyme"), which Dante invented for the Comedy, are the "fruits of a fresh study of Dante," a study apparently prompted by his reading of his friend Taaffe's Comment on the Inferno the previous year (Ellis 30).
Philosophically, Shelley probably saw parallels between his own detestation of monarchical rule and Dante's similar reservations about the dangers of absolute papal rule. In his Latin treatise De Monarchia ("On Monarchy"), Dante argues the need for a strong civil state independent of the church. During this period, the Church had made clear its position that emperors were as dependent on the popes as the moon on the sun. Dante denounces this position, saying that rather the two powers were like "two suns," one designed to guide humanity to peace and happiness in this world, the other to spiritual salvation in the next:
To these states of blessedness, just as to diverse conclusions, man must come by diverse means. To the former we come by the teachings of philosophy
...in conformity with the moral and intellectual virtues; to the latter through spiritual teachings which transcend human reason ...in conformity with the theological virtues....Now the former end and means are made known to us by human reason ...and the latter by the Holy Spirit....Nevertheless, human passion would cast all these behind, were not men, like wild horses in their brutishness, held to the road by bit and rein.
Wherefore a twofold directive agent was necessary to man in accordance with the twofold end: the Supreme Pontiff to lead the human race by means of revelation, and the Emperor to guide it to temporal felicity by means of philosophic education. (qtd. in MacAllister, Inferno, Introduction xxii-xxiii)
Dante believed that the political chaos of his day had hampered man's pursuit of happiness. For that reason in much the same fashion that Shelley would do some five hundred years later Dante would attempt in his poetry to protest this evil and to suggest a remedy (MacAllister, Inferno, Introduction xx). Thus, the pilgrim Dante in the Comedy would descend through Hell and climb Mt. Purgatory, learning all he could about both theological virtue and philosophical wisdom, so that Virgil Dante's guide and a symbol of secular, pre-Christian Reason could "crown and mitre" Dante lord of himself (Purgatorio 27.139-43). Henceforth, Dante is to be "his own philosopher-king and his own bishop-pope; completely educated in the cardinal and theological virtues, he needs no further formal guidance in this life" (MacAllister, Purgatorio, Introduction xvi). This doctrine of self-directed morality and freedom was to play a key role in Shelley's understanding of Dante.
Poetically, too, Shelley felt a kinship with Dante. In a letter to his patron Can Grande, in which he introduces and explicates the Paradiso, Dante speaks of the nature of allegory and the multiple levels of meaning he employed in the language. He uses as a reference the scriptural passage "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from people of strange language, Judah was his sanctuary and Israel his dominion":
If we look only at the letter, this signifies that the children of Israel went out of Egypt in the time of Moses; if we look at the allegory, it signifies our redemption through Christ; if we look at the moral sense, it signifies the turning of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to a state of grace; if we look at the anagogical sense, it signifies the passage of the blessed soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory. And although these mystical meanings are called by various names, in general they can all be called
These four modes of language literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical along with a fifth, "the journey seen as a progress of the soul" posited by John Ciardi in a brief essay published with his translation of the Purgatorio ("How to Read Dante" 345), are all applicable, in varying degrees, in Shelley's poetry. Like Dante, Shelley preferred narrative rather than outright didacticism as a means of instructing. In the preface to Laon and Cythna (later The Revolt of Islam), Shelley explains his moral objectives in writing the long poem:
I have made no attempt to recommend the motives which I would substitute for those at present governing mankind, by methodical and systematic argument. I would only awaken the feelings, so that the reader should see the beauty of true virtue, and be incited to those inquiries which have led to my moral and political creed, and that of some of the sublimest intellects in the world. The Poem therefore
...is narrative, not didactic. It is a succession of pictures illustrating the growth and progress of individual mind aspiring after excellence, and devoted to the love of mankind....(qtd. in Holmes 382)
Shelley recognizes the didactic potential of pure narrative, just as Dante does, and struggles in his mature poetry to create a language that operates on several levels of meaning simultaneously. In the preface to Prometheus Unbound he says poetry is a "mimetic art" because "it creates by combination and representation." Poetical abstractions are beautiful not because they never before existed but because "the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the contemporary condition of them
..."(Shelley's Poetry and Prose 134). Carlos Baker has noted that Shelley's development as a poet "is the story of a struggle to realize in images a vision which in a measure resisted adequate realization." This struggle results in Shelley's inability to decide between two opposed points of view as to what kind of poetry he was best suited to write. On the one hand, he wanted to write sympathetically about observed human nature; however, he also had a "strong predilection for the construction of abstract metaphysical systems," a tendency manifested in the allegorical nature of most of his works (61-62). In Dante, Shelley found a poet capable of reconciling these two approaches to the craft of writing poetry. In the Defence, describing Dante as "the first religious reformer ...[and] the first awakener of entranced Europe," Shelley tells how Dante had "created a language in itself music and persuasion out of a chaos of inharmonious barbarisms"; Dante's words are "instinct with spirit; each is as a spark, a burning atom of inexhaustible thought; and many yet lie covered in the ashes of their birth, and pregnant with a lightning which has yet found no conductor." This realization of Dante's ability to create poetry which bore "a defined and intelligible relation to the knowledge, and sentiment, and religion, and political conditions of the age in which he lived," as well as a power to develop itself "in correspondence with [the] developement (sic)" of the ages which followed, further cemented Shelley's link with Dante (Defence 499-500).
This broad overview of the biographical and geographic, the philosophical, and the poetic associations between Shelley and Dante gives way to myriad detailed examples of such associations in Shelley's poetry. To catalog the passages in Shelley dependent upon his reading of Dante would be an arduous task and fortunately for the present study is not necessary. Far more interesting than an exhaustive explication of Dantesque passages in Shelley is a more focused look at how Shelley's adaptation and alteration of Dantesque materials result in a verse of decidedly different tone and intent from the original. By consciously adapting his poems according to a Dantesque model but subtly rearranging the emphases on love, freedom, reform, and salvation, Shelley throws a new light on his poetic precursor. He does this not to belittle Dante's philosophies; rather, his intent seems to be to "update" Dante for the present era and to augment his own philosophies with a "systematic form" that spans the bridge of time (Defence 499). Through his study of Dante, Shelley was able to structure his prosody with some semblance of tradition while simultaneously striking out in new, uncharted waters. At its height, Shelley's refurbishing of Dante results in a form of romantic irony, in which Shelley praises Dante's poetic ability and themes but simultaneously undercuts the validity of those poetic quests.
Any attempt to define the term "romantic irony" is a near-futile task. Several book-length works have been written attempting to define only English romantic irony, and the writers of those works invariably admit the incompleteness of their studies. Nonetheless, a rudimentary understanding of the basic tenets of romantic irony is necessary at the outset in order to understand more fully Shelley's adaptations of Dante. Romantic irony differs from traditional irony, which might be summarized as "saying one thing and meaning something else," as practiced by Swift in "A Modest Proposal" and Pope in The Rape of the Lock, two classic examples. Until the nineteenth century, irony as a rule had generally been regarded as "essentially intentional and instrumental, someone realizing a purpose by using language ironically,
...practised only locally or occasionally, ...a finite act" (Muecke 19), an irony principally between the narrative and the reader, who can pick up on signals to detect the irony (Furst 229). It generally denoted an intentional choice of words whose alternative, usually opposite meaning is perceptible by a select some of those who read them. Furthermore, before the nineteenth century it is generally "closed," existing entirely within the work in which it is found.
The first conceptualizations of romantic irony in the nineteenth century changed all that. Since then, irony has been found not just within the work; occasionally, the romantic ironist will reference the work itself, drawing attention to the artifice of the creation. It became possible to regard irony as "unintentional, something observable and hence representable in art, something that happened or that one became or could be made aware of"; irony was now "double-natured," sometimes instrumental, sometimes observable. It became possible to "generalize it and see all the world as an ironic stage and all mankind as merely players." It could now be thought of "as a permanent and self-conscious commitment: the ideal ironist would be always an ironist, alert even to the irony of being always an ironist" (Muecke 19). This new conception of irony would operate principally between the narrator and the narrative; the reader is no longer a participant (Furst 229-32). In short, it is a way of thinking about the world that finds a corresponding literary mode, consisting of a philosophical conception of the universe as "becoming" or fundamental chaos; a literary structure reflecting this state of chaos and the systems man imposes upon it; and "a language that draws attention to its own limitations" (Mellor 24-25).
This, in its broadest context, is what makes up romantic irony. In order to bring some focus to the particular irony in Shelley's use of Dante, I cite Stuart Sperry's postulations as a springboard; he defines romantic irony as a "quality of awareness," partly unconscious, which allows the ironist to make some sense of the chaos around him. The creative processes involved in this brand of romantic irony were not merely writing down thoughts but rather "a whole larger process of inner discovery in which sensation emerges into conscious realization and comes to assume the character of intellectual perception"; if he had to describe this sense of realization in a single word, Sperry says, he would choose the word indeterminacy ("Toward a Definition of Romantic Irony" 4-5).
Within this narrow scope, romantic irony assumes a secondary, almost imperceptible nature, arising as it invariably does not from conscious manipulation but unconscious imbedding into the text of literary works. Nonetheless, in Shelley's poetry romantic irony plays an important role, for it not only prefigures future philosophical systems such as existentialism but also subtly reconfigures pre-existing belief systems and philosophies. Such is true for Dante; Shelley's adapting and rearranging Dantesque material not only affords Shelley a "systematic form" for his mythology; it also endows the earlier poet with a new vitality to unite the modern and the medieval world.
Romantic irony obviously possesses a number of useful definitions, and the history of its tenure, from the original delineation of it in the writings of Friedrich Schlegel to modern interpretations of it, is a liquid process, each succeeding generation redefining it as seems most beneficial to the age. I will attempt to illuminate some of the progressive definitions of the term as they relate to Shelley, for Shelley's creation of romantic irony does change over the course of his career.
Early examples of traditional irony can be detected in Shelley's first major attempts unconscious though they may be to assimilate the imagery and motifs of Dante's poetry. Alastor, like the Comedy, employs a quest motif in search for the love-ideal represented by the "visionary maiden," who represents to the poet, as Beatrice does to Dante, a mirror image of his own "intellectual faculties, the imagination, [and] the functions of sense" (Shelley's Poetry and Prose 69). In "Mont Blanc" we find examples of Shelley's attempts to create and manifest a cosmological system of symbols, with the river Arve as a rough approximation of human imagination, glaciers as representations of material phenomena, and Mont Blanc itself a symbol of a hypothetical divinity (Holmes 341). And in "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," a title reminiscent of Shelley's later characterization of Dante's Paradiso as a "perpetual hymn of everlasting love" (A Defence of Poetry 497), we see an early depiction of Shelley's devotion to the "cult of love," which is loosely comparable to Dante's definition of caritas (cf. Purgatorio, canto 15).
The irony in these works arises from their dissimilarities with Dante. Alastor's poet never finds his love-figure, and Mont Blanc, with its godlike grandeur (not to mention physical resemblance to the Mount of Purgatory), seems to undercut the philosophical portent of its symbology with the final lines, "And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea, / If to the human mind's imaginings / Silence and solitude were vacancy?" (142-44). The "Hymn"'s picture of an "awful shadow of some unseen Power" (1) to whom the speaker vows to "dedicate my powers" is not so much an apotheosis of a mortal being as a metaphor for "LOVELINESS" (71).
After this first creative flowering in 1816, and before leaving England for good in the spring of 1818, Shelley turned most of his literary efforts to effecting political and social reform. The major works of this period included two political tracts: A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote Throughout the Kingdom, which proposed a method of petition to call for electoral reform of Parliament; and An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, in which Shelley compares the nationwide mourning following the death of the Prince Regent's only daughter to the relative apathy following the execution of three Yorkshire workmen who were incited to "revolutionary activities
...by government spies posing as fellow workmen" (Reiman, Percy Bysshe Shelley 33-34). His major poem of this period, The Revolt of Islam, was designed to test, he says in the poem's preface, "how far a thirst for a happier condition of moral and political society survives ...the tempests which have shaken the age in which we live" (qtd. in Reiman, Shelley 34). The poem, "an idealized account of what Shelley believed the French Revolution should have been," depicts the bloodless overthrow of a king by the "combined resistance of a whole people dedicated to ending tyranny by direct action but without vengeance for past wrong" (Reiman, Shelley 35). The poem, Shelley's longest, is largely a failure, Reiman says, because of the poet's attempt at fusing "didactic-expository passages, a romance narrative, and mythic or symbolic passages," the latter of which sometimes descend to "unsophisticated allegory." Alastor, "Mont Blanc," and "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" are better poems because "they attempt to do less at one time" (Shelley 43). Nonetheless, parts of Revolt do look forward to the great poems which Shelley would write in Italy, notably in its suggestion of reform without revenge. Taken as a whole, these poems and tracts of the as-yet immature Shelley serve mainly as a foretaste of the visionary poems, and the increasing instances of romantic irony in them, Shelley would begin writing in 1818 as his interest in and study of Dante grew. 1. Shelley's Poetry and Prose, eds. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York: Norton, 1977), lines 72-75. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent references to Shelley's work will come from this edition and be cited in the text. Back to text
2. Inferno, trans. John Ciardi (New York: Signet-Mentor, 1954) Canto 1, lines 1-3. All subsequent references to works of the Comedy will be from Ciardi's translations and will be cited in the text following a canto-line number notation. Back to text
3. Lilian R. Furst, for example, in Fictions of Romantic Irony (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984) says her book does not purport to answer all the questions raised by romantic irony; her focus is on the correlation between traditional and romantic irony (ix-x). Likewise, Anne K. Mellor in English Romantic Irony (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980) says that the literary works she discusses are intended to be exemplary, not exhaustive (vii). For those interested in learning more about irony, and romantic irony in particular, I recommend the following works: David Simpson, Irony and Authority in Romantic Poetry (London: Macmillan, 1979); D. C. Muecke, Irony and the Ironic (New York: Methuen, 1982); and Wayne C. Booth's monumental A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1974). Back to text
4. The one outstanding exception to this rule is Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759-67), which is generally regarded as the first masterpiece of romantic irony written in English. Back to text
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