Thursday, March 15, 2012

Charlotte Turner Smith Essay

Charlotte Turner Smith Essay

Charlotte Turner Smith is an outstanding English poet and novelist, famous all over the world and is obliged only to her own original thinking and talent for her fame and recognition of readers. Charlotte Smith lived in the epoch of gradual changes and the formation and development of the Romanticism as a significant movement, which covered different spheres of people’s lives of the period including literature, and poetry in particular. It appeared in the middle of the eighteenth century on the territory of Western Europe and spread quickly, penetrating into each country’s culture and influencing views. It became especially popular during the Industrial Revolution, at the period of which many changes in agriculture and manufacture took place and industry came to a new level. The French Revolution is also considered to be a major reason of the development of this literary movement. Strong emotions of horror, sorrow and wretchedness filled the ideas of romanticists.

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Charlotte Smith was a great enthusiast during the events of the French Revolution, and her house even served a meeting place for those who were not ignorant, but favored radical changes, which were taking place. It is considered that romanticism did not like to accept what was really true but their motives were guided by feelings and emotions. The most known representatives of this movement in Britain were Samuel Coleridge, William Blake and William Wordsworth, whose poetic heritage, by the way, influenced Charlotte Smith’s viewpoints, and literary tastes on the whole.

Charlotte Smith came out of a well-to-do family of a merchant, but fate was not favorable for the young poetess as she soon found herself in debt and was even taken to prison for some time. To get out of the situation she decided to have her works published in order to get some money. Her Elegiac Sonnets were a considerable unexpected success. Her poetry on the whole was deeply influenced by the epoch, as she being sensitive to the surrounding circumstances could not be indifferent to the French Revolution and criticized Jacobinism oppression (Elliott 31). The Romantic poet William Wordsworth in his Prose Works: Critical and Ethical evaluated her as a poet “to whom English verse is under greater obligations than are likely to be either acknowledged or remembered” (Wordsworth 45). It should be mentioned that Charlotte Smith was one of the first women-poets who was later ardently followed in the long formation of the Gothic genre. That is why it is necessary to say that Smith’s poetry of course cannot be described in several words but if to generalize, it can be called as Romantic, while her novels, such as The Orphan of the Castle, The Recluse of the Lake, The Old Manor House, The Wanderings of Warwick, The Young Philosopher, The Letters of a Solitary Wanderer, etc. are mostly Gothic in nature, including various elements of other genres. Charlotte Smith’s poetry very much embodies her inner world, her attitude to problems and her poems are mostly run through with the idea of sadness and a kind of melancholy. As Charlotte Turner Smith was forced to leave her Motherland for France, she felt all the background of emigrants’ feelings and expressed them in her poem called The Emigrants. On the whole the early and unwise marriage led to a number of hardships the poetess faced and could not long get rid of them. Divorce procedure was costly and complicated for an English woman at the time (Voller 53). The difficulties she withstood in her life were later reflected in poetry as well as her Gothic novels.

Her outlook having been formed by the gradual changes in the world, Charlotte Smith created her best works in the period of “second Renaissance” as Romanticism is sometimes called; (Fernandez) consequently, in her poetry there is a mixture of political, social and intellectual on the one hand, and highly spiritual and emotional on the other.

Certain ambiguity of her view, so called double nature is expressed also in the poems under consideration, which are Care and To the Moon. These two poems reflect a kind of opposition and at the same time they are harmonious and both depict sadness and sorrow. They express the variety of female nature, as in different poems Charlotte Smith states her positions which may vary but finally she still longs for achieving peace and tranquility as she sees it in her personal understanding; though one has to go through definite hardships and withstand them as far as possible. Moreover, Charlotte Smith’s understanding of the world is binary but not strictly determined and it gives her poems special sophisticated originality. These two poems of Smith are not traditional though they express her steady state of mind that is filled with suffering of soul.

Surprisingly, the poem Care does not deal with description wanderings of a traveler, but Charlotte Smith from the very beginning tells about the emotional state of the wanderer. She writes that despite of the fact his path goes “through thorns and roughness” (Smith 3), he plucks “the wild rose or woodbine’s gadding flowers” (Smith 4). There is a certain contrast between the notions she “knocks together”, they are rest and sultry hours; thorns, roughness and flowers, such as rose and woodbine. The poetess points out in her poem Care: “So have I sought thy flowers, fair poesy so charmed my way with friendship and the muse” (Smith 7). That is how she laconically describes what she sought for and lacked in. In the second part of the poem that unhappiness multiplies as “new evil clouds” (Smith 10) appear. In this poem as well as the other one, To the Moon, Smith considers that hopes are dying and in both poems she touches upon death problem as a relief from suffering and problems. Death seems to be a way out of the situation; Charlotte Smith calls it metaphorically a “tranquil shore” (Smith 13), where one cannot be found by any threat of the world. Judging from her poem, the sharp boundary between life and death is clearly seen and the way our existence is connected with this harmonious cycle of life and death. Death is not a disaster; it is a continuation of the natural process.

The poem To the Moon has a symbolic title, as though the soul aspires to the moon, poetically called by Charlotte Smith the “Queen of the silver bow” (Smith 1) at the very beginning of the poem. But the moon in Smith’s poem is also a manifestation of sadness and pensiveness, which is reflected, “trembling in the stream” (Smith 3). Charlotte Smith personifies it calling the Moon the queen, who may help in a desperate situation. Sorrow of the poem To the Moon is forced by such epithets as placid, troubled, desperate, toiling. If to consider this row of epithets, they are disposed in a trouble increasing order and create the whole atmosphere. Charlotte Smith hopes that she can experience something calm and serene on the moon, where “the wretched may have rest” (Smith 8). The poetess concentrates on this idea and considers that this heavenly body may bring long-awaited healing peace, but not destructing and all-absorbing war. Charlotte Smith appeals to it and demands justice in the form of reaching the “world serene” (Smith 13). In both poems Smith tells of a pilgrim, a wanderer who seeks for calmness and peace, but he is caught in the toils, hence, both poems are pessimistic in rendering the emotions and public mood of the time. Charlotte Smith was called by Curran “the first poet in England whom in retrospect we would call Romantic” (Curran 11).

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