LINDA H. PETERSON hen Robert Browning published Pauline in 1833, he both made--and avoided making--his poetic debut. The poem was launched into the literary world in a slender volume, between drab paper-covered boards, with a simple title: Pauline; A Fragment of a Confession. The poet's name is notably absent from the title page. Anonymous publication was, of course, common in the early nineteenth century for first volumes of verse. Most famously, Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads (1798) appeared without authorial signature, and other nineteenth-century poets used pseudonyms or generic names as they launched their careers: "by a lady" for Felicia Hemans's The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy (1816); "by two brothers" for the adolescent Poems (1829) of Alfred, Frederick, and Charles Tennyson; and "by A" for Matthew Arnold's The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems (1849). In publishing Pauline anonymously, though, Browning was not just modestly following convention, but allowing himself the possibility of making, revoking, and multiplying his poetic debuts. As he acknowledged to W. J. Fox, when asking for a review in the Westminster, by keeping his authorship of Pauline a secret, he kept "a loophole . . . for backing out of the
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jan 19, 2012
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