MARISA PALACIOS KNOX I feel at every page, as I read your book, the deep truth of that assertion of Strabo's . . . "To be a good poet one must first be a good man."1 dward Bulwer Lytton's words of praise for Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh demonstrate the confusion of categorization that her "novelpoem" presented for its first readers.2 Lytton elects not to paraphrase his translation of Strabo's aphorism so as to acknowledge Barrett Browning's gender; he includes her, instead, within the ostensibly universal category of the male poet. At the same time, the quotation directly aligns the quality of the poem with its author's identity. It seemed that Victorian critics like Lytton could neither avoid defining the aesthetic value of Aurora Leigh in gendered terms nor yet decide to which gender its hybrid form belonged. Admirers of Aurora Leigh tended to see it as a harmonious marriage of the masculine domain of poetry and the feminine domain of the domestic novel. Alongside the encomia of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin, Leigh Hunt praised the poem for its "combination of masculine power with feminine tenderness."3 Some reviewers, however, expressed their discomfort with Browning's appropriation of
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jul 20, 2014
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