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A "Huge Colossal Constable": Liberalism and International Law in Joseph Fawcett's the Art of War (Critical Essay)

Studies in Romanticism 2010, Spring, 49, 1

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THE LATE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY DISSENTING MINISTER JOSEPH FAWCETT IS a neglected progenitor of the English Romantic movement. A close friend of William Godwin and a member of the radical circle that included such figures as William Blake and Mary Wollstonecraft, he also influenced the young William Hazlitt. He is probably most frequently remembered as the inspiration for the Solitary, the despondent proponent of the French Revolution in William Wordsworth's 1814 The Excursion. It is the connection with Wordsworth that has most frequently prompted the handful of journal articles that have been published about Fawcett in the past century. This focus is unfortunate for Fawcett because Wordsworth's treatment of him is unsympathetic, and the glimpse of the man that we get through the portrait of the Solitary is vague at best. Evidence suggests that Hazlitt once considered writing a biography of his mentor, but that project was never realized. (1) As it is, relatively few contemporary biographical records survive. What does survive is a fair amount of Fawcett's writing. In addition to a two-volume collection of sermons, he published three volumes of poetry beginning with the 1300 line, blank verse The Art of War in 1795. The Art of War set the terms for all of Fawcett's more serious poetic efforts, and pacifist denunciation of international violence became his most characteristic theme. His 1798 collection, Poems, included a revised version of the long work, there retitled Civilized War. War Elegies published in 1800 treated the war theme exclusively, and was intended, according to Fawcett's preface, to reinforce the earlier poem's portrait of "the aggregate calamity of war" with "a few of such detached forms of it, as I thought would prove most affecting to my readers." (2) The Art of War clearly figured as Fawcett's masterwork, both in his own mind and the minds of others. Wordsworth specified it as the reason for his thinking "more about him than I should otherwise have done," and Fawcett himself asserted that "it will ever be a source of proud satisfaction to him to remember, that the first poetical effort he submitted to the public eye, was ... an indignant endeavour to tear away the splendid disguise, which it has been the business of poets, in all nations and ages, to throw over the most odious and deformed of all practices." (3)

A "Huge Colossal Constable": Liberalism and International Law in Joseph Fawcett's the Art of War (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 March 2010
  • Publisher: Boston University
  • Print Length: 28 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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