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Satanic School

Satanic School

The Satanic School was a name applied by Robert Southey to a class of writers headed by Byron and Shelley, because, according to him, their productions were "characterised by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety."

The term was, therefore, initially coined in Southey's A Vision of Judgement as one of opprobrium and moral condemnation. However, Byron took some delight in Southey's description of him as an author of "monstrous combinations of horrors and mockery, lewdness and impiety." Byron responded to Southey with his own Vision of Judgment (n.b. the "reformist" spelling), where Southey appears as a scribbler writing encomiums on weak kings. Byron, however, additionally took up the theme of a "Satanic" school and developed the "Satanic hero" (also called the Byronic hero), who would, like Satan in Paradise Lost, be a tragic figure who is admirable even when wrong. Charles Baudelaire's poëte maudit would emerge from the Byronic hero.

Thomas Carlyle responded to this new anti-hero and accused Byron and Shelley of wasting their breath in a fierce "wrangle with the devil," having "not the courage to fairly face and honestly fight him." Byron, in the materials surrounding Manfred, would suggest that these characters are not paragons of bourgeoise virtues but are, rather, creatures of fire and spirit.

References

  • Metzger, Lore. "Satanic School" in Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds., The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. 1114.

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