Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) was a British writer of the fin de siècle period, widely seen as the most representative example of the 'tragic generation' of decadent poets. This book presents a full-length and coherent reading of Dowson's oeuvre for the first time in English.
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Ernest Dowson: Lyric Lives is the first full-length critical study of this canonical writer to appear in English. It challenges the many myths that have surrounded Dowson's life and work for more than a century, contending that, in his distinct theory of muse-fired inspiration; his authentic Catholic confessionalism; his deep love of France, its literary tradition, and its culture; his prolonged battle with tuberculosis; and his final abandonment of creative writing, Dowson is among the most engaged and representative artists of this fascinating era. Far from the moribund dream-lover of legend, Dowson, in fact, led an engrossing and robust existence, while practicing a vigorous, sullen craft; he wrote about the subjects which poets have always written about, with inimitable style and incorrigible élan.
Ernest Dowson presents a chronological and comprehensive series of generative new readings of his work, situated in relation to that of his notable contemporaries, as well as the pressing cultural and aesthetic debates of the Victorian fin de siècle. It explores the drastic implications of Dowson's and his era's myopically aesthetical attitude towards life, and reveals precisely how he transformed his own lived experience into art. By reinstating an author of flesh-and-blood at the heart of his slender canon, and by ousting the legendary imposter of our collective, critical imagination, this volume aims to resuscitate Dowson's small but illustrious oeuvre, reclaiming it from likely oblivion.