Thomas Lovell Beddoes's almost unknown poem "Pygmalion" (1825) is one of the first nineteenth-century treatments of the Pygmalion myth. For his version Beddoes draws on Ovid's Metamorphoses, on Rousseau's Pygmalion, scène lyrique and Confessions, and on Beddoes's father's Hygëia (1802), a work on medicine and public health. Beddoes uses his father's writings on masturbation and its connections with literature to compare the artist's solitary labors with the solitary vice of masturbation. Beddoes's fusion of the discourse of artistic creation and the medical discourse that warned of the dangers of masturbation enables him to suggest that poetic activity drains the artist of his strength and prevents him from achieving any direct relation to the world in which he lives. Beddoes's apparent ambivalence about the value of artistic endeavour can be seen in his own vacillations between a literary and a medical career and his ultimate lack of success in either field.

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