According to traditional accounts, following the premature deaths of Keats, Shelley, and Byron in the 1820s, literature in England fell into a sort of slumber until the late 1830s and early 1840s, when a new generation-a generation we now call the Victorians-came on the scene. Literary scholarship has tended to ignore this period of slumber as an uninteresting gap between the two dynamic movements of Romanticism and Victorianism. It was during this transitional period, however, that Leigh Hunt, one of the most radical of Romantic figures, wrote and staged A Legend of Florence (1840) in an attempt to stimulate a literary revival. Hunt's play reasserts the radical philosophies that defined his younger days, when as the central figure of the "Cockney School" he had drawn other radical writers such as Keats and Shelley into his circle. These philosophies included the primacy of literature, political radicalism, sexual liberation, and group authorship. By writing a play in 1840 that reasserted these ideals, Hunt hoped to gather a new coterie following reminiscent of the Cockney School. Responses to the play from Hunt's younger Victorian contemporaries, however, demonstrate how Hunt's once radical "Cockney" ideals had now become relatively safe. The nostalgic fondness with which A Legend of Florence was greeted therefore highlights how in 1840 Romanticism was in the process of being absorbed into Victorian philosophy and aesthetics.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Malan, Adrianne Gardner, "Libertas Reborn: A Legend of Florence and Leigh Hunt's Literary Revival" (2007). All Theses and Dissertations. 969.
Leigh Hunt, A Legend of Florence, Romanticism, Victorianism, Cockney School