M O N T H L Y S P E C I A L N E W S L E T T E R
O b j e c t i v e
This month's special is a tribute to a few of the most prominent
figures and critics of literature from the 15th to 18th century.
This newsletter aims to highlight not just their work, but
different points of their lives. As such, the entirety of the
magazine will not be compartmentalised - it will flow freely.
The main objective of this tribute is to provide readers to view
these particular exemplars not only as literary scholars, but as
people; people who have suffered loss, made their own
mistakes, had secret controversies and battled their own
demons, but held on to their dreams. In doing so, they have
each given the world immortal extensions of themselves which
will continue to live on as long as there will be people to
remember them by.
The Literary Tribute chooses to be amongst those people.
While Dryden might have been one of the cattiest
critiques, there can be no denial of the man's
literary prowess. With the publication of Absalom
and Achitophel, Dryden earned himself the title as
the first Poet Laureate of England in the year 1688,
or so he thought.
Unfortunately for Dryden, poet Thomas Shadwell
(re: the bane of Dryden's existence) robbed him of
the designation in broad daylight! Granted this
may be an exaggeration - Dryden simply refused
to swear the Oath of Allegiance to the newly
appointed sovereigns King William and Queen
Mary - but given the poet’s petty nature, it would
be safe to assume that it felt that way to him.
This debacle occupied a huge portion of Dryden’s
mind which was what inspired him to pen one of
his most biting satirical poem Mac Flecnoe where
Thomas Shadwell bore the brunt of Dryden’s
With the publication of An Apology for Poetry, Sir Philip Sidney
broke his silence and officially responded to the attacks against
poetry posited by Stephen Gosson in The School of Abuse. For
those unfamiliar with Gosson’s essay, the English satirist
believed that poetry was nothing but a web of lies that ‘nurses
abuse’. Gosson backed his declaration by referencing the
renowned philosopher Plato who concluded that poetry was the
“Mother of all Lies” and as such, he banished anything that had
to do with poetry from his ideal world.
While both Gosson and Plato seem to present a united front on
the matter, Sir Philip Sidney challenged these claims in his essay
by defending poetry and its purpose. Not only that, but Sidney
also argues that some of Plato’s philosophies and dialogues
were stained with traces of poetic elements and for those that
have picked up Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, it can be seen
that the philosopher actually does call on symbolic
representation and metaphors to get his point across which, if
anything, is an inherently poetic trait.
As Gosson constantly scurried to only what can be revered as
the protection of Plato’s claims, Sir Philip Sidney tried his best
to respectfully debunk the philosophers allegations by saying
that poetry could not possibly inflict abuse or corrupt the
masses as it is the culmination of the best facets of history
and philosophy. In other words, it promotes morality and
peace without being abstract or needing to directly refer to
“...the poet, he nothing
affirmeth, and therefore never
― Sir Philip Sidney, A Defence of Poetry
Throughout his response, Sidney tackled Gosson without
batting an eye. More than that, he was brave enough to
address claims of a philosopher whose ideologies have always
been studied with the highest regard.
Mary Shelley Wins Her
After the abrupt announcement of Percy Bysshe Shelly’s tragic death,
the young poet was cremated, and his ashes were buried by his loved
ones at the Protestant Cemetery situated in Rome. But there was an
integral part of P. B Shelley that refused to burn out - his heart!
While the rest of his body turned to ashes, Shelley’s reportedly
“unusually small” heart was merely scorched. His friend - and identifier
of his corpse - Edward John Trelawny, passed Shelley’s heart to
another friend/writer, Leigh Hunt who flat-out refused to hand it over
to Mary Shelley and instead preserved the organ in a jar of wine.
Luckily, Mary Shelley was relentless in
her pursuit and Leigh eventually
yielded. Mary finally won the heart of
her husband, and she buried it at
either Christchurch Priory or St.Peter’s
Church, apart from his grave.
The Latin inscription Cor Cordium was
etched atop P.B Shelley’s tombstone
at the Protestant Cemetery, which
translates to ‘Heart of Hearts’ and
although Shelley might not have been
cremated and buried with his actual
heart, it would be wrong to say that he
rests without one.
A Dreamer in
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was known to many as an
avid dreamer and was reportedly enthusiastic in his
youth. He possessed an insatiable thirst for
knowledge that even the demise of his father
couldn’t dampen. From being one of Cambridge's
exceptional students, Coleridge eventually became
an accomplished scholar.
However, Cambridge didn’t pose as much of a
challenge to someone who bore a brain that was
equivalent to a seemingly inexhaustible machine and
over time, Coleridge reached a new low and fell
victim to the claws of depression. After his departure
from Cambridge, Coleridge joined the military in the
early 1800’s which, according to renowned English
writer Thomas De Quincy, was when he morphed into
a full-scale opium addict.
Laudanum - which was essentially just a combination
of opium and alcohol - was prescribed to Coleridge
during the early stages of his rheumatism, but
eventually he lost control of his consumption and
continued to plummet into a downward spiral: he
separated from his wife, had a falling-out with his
good friend William Wordsworth and lost a portion of
Coleridge eventually gave up the ghost on the 25th
of July, 1834 due to heart failure and complications
with his lungs that were possibly linked with his
addiction to opium. However, it was during the last
years of his life that Coleridge managed to turn his
life around and even publish one of his most popular
works, Biographia Literaria, and it is widely believed
that Coleridge was somewhat happier than ever
before his passing.
“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of an Ancient Mariner.
Chamber of Secrets
William Wordsworth: gifted poet, trailblazer and also, a
While the last one may come as a bit of a shock, Mary Hutchinson
- his childhood sweetheart - wasn't the only woman that occupied
the chambers of Wordsworth’s heart, or his bed. During a visit to
France in the November of 1791, Wordsworth was beguiled by one
Annette Vallon and a year later, their daughter Anne Caroline
Wordsworth was born out of wedlock.
Due to complications between France and Britain, Wordsworth
returned to his homeland, leaving Vallon to raise their daughter in
his absence. Wordsworth returned with his sister Dorothy to
France in the year 1802, only to let her know that he was to wed
Incredibly little is known about Annette or their daughter and it
appears that Wordsworth intends for it to remain as such. He
actively avoided including their names in his works, to either
protect their reputations or to clear his name of scandal.