Thomas Percy's Reliques

Thomas Percy's Reliques

Thomas Percy

1767

London, England

Printed Book

These engravings come from the opening of Percy's Reliques of ancient English poetry, 2nd edn (London, 1767). They show how the bardic image of the poet, romance teller and ballad singer caught the imagination of eighteenth-century audiences. It was partly this idea of the oral tradition of folk ballads and songs that poets such as Keats and Wordsworth attempted to evoke in their own work, turning away from the deliberately artificial and classical models of much Augustan poetry from the earlier eighteenth century. Percy's enthusiasm for the ballad tradition and for traditional storytelling did not pass without criticism. It was reported that Dr Johnson decided one evening to start conversing in ballad stanzas to show how lacking in real literary merit they were. One went like this: 'As with my hat upon my head I walk'd along the Strand, I there did meet another man With his hat in his hand'. In his famous Preface (published 1800) to the Lyrical Ballads written by himself and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth felt moved to attack this verse parody as 'contemptible', while defending his own use of what he calls 'the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation'. Percy's Reliques, the Percy Folio, and the idea of medieval and traditional narrative verse formed a vital part of this debate about the language of literature.

Comments

A chapbook version of <em>Guy of Warwick</em>
A chapbook version of Guy of Warwick
The Percy Folio
The Percy Folio
A scatological ballad
A scatological ballad
Thomas Percy's <em>Reliques</em>
Thomas Percy's Reliques
Guy of Warwick on stage
Guy of Warwick on stage