John Thelwall and the Romantic Prison
Studying three prison poets of the 1790s (John Thelwall, James Montgomery, and John Augustus Bonney), this chapter investigates the significance of incarceration for Romantic-era culture. The prison is a key site and resonant metaphor in the work of Coleridge, More, Wordsworth, Hays, Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and many others. Tracing the poetry of confinement from the Tower and Newgate to the retreats of the West Country, this chapter follows the migration of the prison poem from the solitary cell to the practices of what M. H. Abrams called the “greater Romantic lyric,” showing how the shape of the prison poem endures in the Romantic lyric, registering political history in poetic form.
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