Journal Article

James Thomson’s <i>The Castle of Indolence</i> and the Allegory of Selfhood

Sebastian Mitchell

in The Cambridge Quarterly

Published on behalf of Cambridge Quarterly

Volume 35, issue 4, pages 327-344
Published in print October 2006 | ISSN: 0008-199X
Published online October 2006 | e-ISSN: 1471-6836 | DOI:
James Thomson’s The Castle of Indolence and the Allegory of Selfhood

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The Victorian poet and critic James Thomson, ‘B. V.’, was an ardent admirer of The Castle of Indolence (1748), the last poem by his eighteenth-century namesake. B. V. regarded The Castle of Indolence as a persuasive account of the pleasures of retirement, and as a means of criticising the industrial spirit of Victorian England. This essay considers the poem in the context of two of its significant literary and cultural resources: its Spenserian antecedence, and its allegorical use of eighteenth-century accounts of healthcare. The author contends that the poem should be seen primarily as a work of art, rather than as a piece of historical evidence. The Castle of Indolence still provides affecting and disturbing images of repose: it offers a significant account of the nature of artistic creation, and produces a compelling allegory of unresolved selfhood.

Journal Article.  8000 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Art ; Film ; Music

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