'An ideal personage [...] of poetic credibility': Richard Hole's The Northern Enchantment and the revival of Arthurian romance in the late eighteenth century
Centre for Arthurian Studies
Amy Blaney, PhD student, Keele University, and P.J.C. Field Visiting Fellow to the Centre
Whilst it is recognised that the mid-eighteenth century saw a significant revival in the appreciation of ‘Gothic’ poetry and romance, the ways in which eighteenth-century writers reconceptualised the Middle Ages remains overlooked, and the century is still largely perceived as a period in which medievalism, if embraced at all, was done so only half-heartedly.
Reappraising Richard Hole’s pre-Romantic Arthuriad Arthur: or The Northern Enchantment (Welsh Rare Book X/DG 393 HOL), my lecture will contend that rather than being a period that was striving feebly towards Romantic and Victorian medievalism, the later eighteenth century developed its distinctive comprehension of the Middle Ages by combining an appropriation of patriotic sentiment and national myth-making with the ‘novelisation’ of literary taste and the rise of the Gothic to explore wider societal and cultural anxieties.
Hole’s appropriation of King Arthur brings together several prevailing discourses, combining the popularity of developmental narratives with the particularity characteristic of the novel; blending Gothic landscapes with Romantic sensibilities; and reconstructing moral absolutes as aspirational values. My lecture will contend that The Northern Enchantment reconfigures chivalric romance so as to appeal to those whose birth or status did not allow them automatically to identify with the societal elite. As such, Hole’s poem should be seen as foundational to both the Romantic medievalism of Walter Scott, Robert Southey, and Kenelm Henry Digby and to the wider nineteenth-century revival of chivalric sensibility.
Meeting ID: 997 7273 1647