Joseph Phelan, “‘Bloomluxuriance’: Compound Words in the Poetry of the 1830s and 1840s” (pp. 1–23)

The brief interregnum between Romanticism and Victorianism saw the emergence of and retreat from a number of formal and linguistic experiments in poetry. One of the most striking of these is the ostentatious employment of compound words; the early verse of Alfred Tennyson and some of his less-illustrious contemporaries is littered with coinages such as “tendriltwine,” “mellowmature,” and “bloomluxuriance.” The impetus behind this phenomenon came from developments in philology that emphasized the affinities between English and German and from the attempt to broaden the range of English verse by naturalizing metrical forms such as the hexameter, and was often associated with an impassioned if politically unfocused radicalism. In revising “Œnone” for republication in his 1842 Poems, Tennyson excised almost all of these compound words, a gesture of linguistic conformity that is the stylistic counterpart to what Isobel Armstrong calls the “loss of nerve” apparent in his work during this decade, and one that is paralleled in the work of some of his contemporaries. This experimental impulse did not disappear from Victorian poetry completely, however, and its survival helps to explain some of the quainter and more ungainly phenomena of later nineteenth-century verse.

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