From Shakespeare to Pope: An Inquiry into the Causes and Phenomena of the Rise of Classical Poetry in England

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Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), best known for his memoir Father and Son, was one of the foremost literary critics of his day, even though he had not received a university education. Invited to give the prestigious Clark Lectures at Cambridge, he developed the materials for this book, first published in 1885. Gosse sets out his theory of classical poetry, analysing its rise in the seventeenth century in opposition to freer, more romantic blank-verse forms. The book became the subject of a famously excoriating forty-page review by Oxford-educated critic John Churton Collins. While Collins' estimation of the inaccuracies in Gosse's work was largely correct, the review went far beyond constructive appraisal and caused a literary scandal, though Gosse's reputation was not permanently damaged. This book and the controversy it caused form part of the story of English literature as it established itself as a professional academic discipline.