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The Lady of Shalott

Archetype of Romanticism, poets, and Victorian women


I wrote about semi-conductors for The Critic.

Last week I wrote about late bloomers and Alfred Hitchcock. There are still some guest posts to come and I will bring up one or two things from the archives soon also as there as so many new readers.

The book club schedule is at the bottom of the post at this link. The next meeting is 10th September, 19.00 UK time. We are reading The Annotated Alice.

On Thursday 7th September, I am running an InterIntellect salon. It is the first in a series of three salons, called ‘How to Read a Poem’.

The Lady of Shalott

Today I am going to show you how Romanticism was transmogrified into Victorianism through Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott. First, the poem is a re-working of Keats, especially To Autumn. Second, it represents the ideal of an artist, described by Mill in 1833, himself inspired by Wordsworth. Finally, the poem became an archetype of femininity that captured the Victorian imagination.

The Lady of Shalott remains popular today. Dana Gioia sent me Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt’s setting of the poem in Celtic folk style. These two videos of the song have over one-hundred-thousand views each. Dana pointed out this comment from one of those videos:

Taught the poem in my class. Nobody cared. Showed them this video. Everybody crying and learning the song by heart.

The Lady of Shalott can still capture our imaginations, too. As J.S. Mill wrote in his review of the poem, “Every line suggests so much more than it says, that much may be left unsaid.”


  1. Elaine of Astolat

  2. A metaphor for art

  3. Tennyson and Keats: autumnal poetry

  4. The angel in the house

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C19th Literature
A book club where you learn about great literature
Henry Oliver