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I found the following book on Google Books: The Book of Georgian Verse edited by William Braithwaite, published in 1909. What is the meaning of Georgian? Search engine results provided nothing of use.

Additionally, how would you describe this book? Is it a compilation of poetry from a certain period?

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  • I did omit the word verse from my search. I had not thought to include it because I know nothing of poetry. I found only information on the country. I do feel very stupid for not thinking to include the word verse, which is obviously related to poetry. @user14111 – BestReasonofWiseMen Dec 20 '18 at 21:26
  • @user14111 That wikipedia page uses the term to refer to verse written in the reign of George V, which is outside the OP's range. – kimchi lover Dec 20 '18 at 21:31
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    Could I ask what you mean? Do you mean the term, Georgian? @kimchilover – BestReasonofWiseMen Dec 20 '18 at 21:37
  • My comment was directed at a since-deleted comment pointing to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgian_Poetry. Your book has poems from 1714-1830; the wikipedia page is about poems from 1911-1922. – kimchi lover Dec 20 '18 at 21:42
  • Ah! Great catch, I did not notice! I do appreciate your time today! I will leave knowing more about poetry than when I first joined this forum hours ago. You have done me a great service! You certainly know more about poetry than I! @kimchilover – BestReasonofWiseMen Dec 20 '18 at 21:51
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It is clearly an anthology of English poems written during the "Georgian" era, that is, during the reigns of kings George I through IV, spanning the years 1714 to 1830. The title page gives a hint: it refers to a similar compilation of "Elizabethan" verse, referring to the reign of Elizabeth I.

The book's preface says

This anthology, according to the editor's intention, includes those poets born under the four Georges, who seem to represent the rise and development of a distinct poetical epoch...

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  • I am un-able to find that word-for-word in the preface of the book! I did find mention of the word anthologies once! – BestReasonofWiseMen Dec 20 '18 at 21:23
  • I have no access to that link on HathiTrust; instead I get a page saying, "This item is not available online ( Limited - search only) due to copyright restrictions." – Tsundoku Feb 22 at 12:38
  • @Tsundoku Pity. Can you access the links given in verbose's answer? – kimchi lover Feb 22 at 14:58
  • Yes, except Gutenberg.org, which blocks visitors from Germany. – Tsundoku Feb 22 at 15:04
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Introduction: Braithwaite's nonce definition of "Georgian Verse"

In his preface to the book you're asking about, The Book of Georgian Verse, the anthologist William Stanley Braithwaite explains what he means by the term "Georgian":

This anthology, according to the editor's intention, includes those poets born under the four Georges, who seem to represent the rise and development of a distinct poetical epoch.     (p. xiii)

The four Georges are the British monarchs between George I, who ascended the throne in 1714, and George IV, who died in 1830. The poets Braithwaite saw as belonging to this Georgian epoch ranged from Thomas Gray (1716–1771) to John Keats (1795–1821).

However, Braithwaite's use of the term Georgian verse here is highly problematic. There are two excellent reasons to avoid using the term Georgian in Braithwaite's sense:

  1. Literary historians do not consider the poets from Gray to Keats to represent a distinct era.
  2. The term Georgian verse now has another meaning altogether in literary history, as Braithwaite himself acknowledged later.

Let's examine each of these reasons in turn.

Braithwaite's nonstandard periodization of literary history

Braithwaite compiled this anthology as part of a projected four-volume series collecting English poetry from the Renaissance to the Victorian period. Each volume was to represent what he saw as a distinct period of the literary history of England:

  • The Book of Elizabethan Verse, covering roughly the period 1557–1660 and including such poets as William Shakespeare (1564–1616) and John Donne (1572–1631)
  • The Book of Restoration Verse, covering the late 17th and early 18th centuries and including such poets as John Milton (1608–1674) and Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
  • The Book of Georgian Verse
  • The Book of Victorian Verse, covering the era of the eponymous monarch (1837–1901) and including poets such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) and Matthew Arnold (1822–1888). Although Braithwaite completed work on this volume, it was never published as he could not obtain copyright permission to reprint poems by Tennyson, Arnold, and some others (Szefel p. 582 n. 19).

This periodization of literary history that Braithwaite asserts, particularly in the middle two volumes, appears to be unique to him. He was aware that his view was unorthodox. In the preface to Georgian Verse, he writes:

This grouping of British poetry seems, to the present editor, to furnish a very definite classification. With the first and fourth books in the design stated, there seems little or no difference from the accepted classification of literary history; the division between the second and third books, he realizes, suggests the acceptance, on his part, of a theory in literary interpretation about which many are certain to discover matter for discussion. Some critics are likely to find fault with the scope of a period to which he has applied the designation "Georgian" ...     (ibid.)

The more standard view of English literary history during the period Braithwaite covers would be:

  • The Renaissance (1500–1660). Milton is typically placed here rather than among the Restoration poets, where Braithwaite has him.
  • The Neoclassical period (1660–1789), comprising the Restoration, the Augustan Age, and the Age of Sensibility. Poets from John Dryden (1631–1700) to Gray are included here.
  • The Romantic period (1789–1832), which includes poets from William Blake (1757–1827) to Keats.
  • The Victorian period (1832–1901), where Braithwaite's periodization tracks the standard.

It is not entirely clear why Braithwaite chose a nonstandard periodization. An African-American poet and critic, Braithwaite faced discrimination and poverty. Needing to support his family after his father's death, he began working as a very young boy and never received any higher education. He determinedly set out to educate himself, eventually becoming a major figure in American letters during the early years of the twentieth century. Perhaps the self-taught nature of his scholarship allowed him to break past traditional views and reconsider literary history with fresh eyes. But the fact remains that the periodization he lays out has not been widely accepted.

The typically understood meaning of Georgian poetry

In English literary history, the term Georgian poetry has taken on another meaning. It refers to a group of poets who were influential during the early part of the reign of George V, who had come to the throne in 1910. The Georgian poets included John Masefield (1878–1967) and Walter de la Mare (1873–1956). They are considered transitional between the Victorians and the modernists such as T. S. Eliot (1888–1965). Five anthologies entitled Georgian Poetry were published between 1912 and 1922, showcasing the work of these poets.

As these Georgians arrived on the literary scene, Braithwaite himself came to recognize that the term Georgian verse could no longer be used to refer to pre-Romantic and Romantic poets, as he had done in his 1909 anthology. In 1919, he published The Book of Modern British Verse, writing in the foreword:

This little collection is intended to present to American readers the character of contemporary British verse. The period has now definitely assumed the name of "Georgian."

Braithwaite does not explicitly acknowledge that this nomenclature supersedes his prior deployment of the term Georgian to refer to an earlier era, but the implication is clear.

Conclusion

From the preceding, it should be clear that while the specific book the question asks about uses the term Georgian verse to refer to English poetry written from the mid 18th to the early 19th century, this terminology is idiosyncratic and not shared by other critics or literary historians. Instead, the phrase typically covers poetry written in the second decade of the twentieth century. It is readily understood in the latter sense; using it in the former sense would be ill-advised.

References

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Baldick defines Georgian poetry as (emphasis added)

a body of English verse published in the first half of George V's reign (1910–36) in five anthologies edited by Edward Marsh as Georgian Poetry (1912–22). (...) The term Georgian is only rarely applied to the literature of the period of the first four Georges (1714–1830).

Applying the term "Georgian" to literature published under George I–IV is so rare that Cuddon's dictionary of literary terms, which is more exhaustive than Baldick's, does not even mention it.

As Braithwaite writes in his preface,

This anthology, according to the editor's intention, includes those poets born under the four Georges, who seem to represent the rise and development of a distinct poetical epoch. It does not include such poets as Tennyson, Browning, Rosetti, and Arnold (born under George IV.), who formed by the growth of a new temper in their work from 1840 onwards, the Victorian school.

(Today, Rosetti is typically described as a representative of the Pre-Raphaelites. Tennyson, Browning, Arnold and the Pre-Raphaelites are still considered as Victorian authors; the term "Victorian school" is rare today, as far as I know.)

A small part of what Braithwaite calls the Georgian period is now referred to as the Augustan age, during which authors such as Dryden, Pope, Addison, Swift, Goldsmith and Steele imitated the style of poets such as Virgil, Horace, Ovid and Tibullus (the original Augustan poets, who were active during the reign of Roman emperor Augustus). This period began around 1700 (either with the publication of Dryden's Virgil translations in 1697 or with the accession to the throne of Queen Anne in 1702) and ended with the deaths of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, in 1744 and 1745, respectively (see Cuddon's and Baldick's entries on "Augustan Age").

Another part of the period covered in Braithwaite's anthology is now referred to as the Romantic era. In a narrow sense, this refers to the period between the publication of the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798 and 1832, the year in which Walter Scott and J. W. Goethe died and the Reform Act was passed (see Cuddon's entry on "romantic revival"). Braithwaite's concept of romanticism appears to be wider (see page xiv in his preface), since he situates the roots of romanticism in the early eighteenth century, even though he considers the Lyrical Ballads as a landmark publication that heralded in a "splendid period of song".

The differences between Augustan and Romantic literature are significant enough for modern scholars to regard them as different periods, rather than lumping together as Braithwaite did (let alone applying the label "Georgian" to them).


References:

  • Baldick, Chris: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Second edition. Oxford University Press, 2001. (280 pages)
  • Cuddon, J. A.: The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Third edition. Penguin 1992. (1051 pages)

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