WILLIAM JOHN FOX
The dedicatory inscription in the volume of The Monthly Repository, in which the following review appears, will indicate—in a few words—the motives inspiring the editor, W. J. Fox, in his journalistic career:— “To the Working People of Great Britain and Ireland; who, whether they produce the means of physical support and enjoyment, or aid the progress of moral, political, and social reform and improvement, are fellow-labourers for the well-being of the entire community.”
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Pauline was published, when Browning was 21, at his aunt’s expense. It secured only one favourable notice, here printed; while the author and his sister deliberately destroyed the unsold copies.
W. J. FOX ON BROWNING
[From The Monthly Repository, 1833]
Pauline; A Fragment of a Confession. London, Saunders & Otley. 1833
The most deeply interesting adventures, the wildest vicissitudes, the most daring explorations, the mightiest magic, the fiercest conflicts, the brightest triumphs, and the most affecting catastrophes, are those of the spiritual world....
The knowledge of mind is the first of sciences; the records of its formation and workings are the most important of histories; and it is eminently a subject for poetical exhibition. The annals of a poet’s mind are poetry. Nor has there ever been a genuine bard, who was not himself more poetical than any of his productions. They are emanations of his essence. He himself is, or has been, all that he truly and touchingly, i.e., poetically, describes. Wordsworth, indeed, never carried a pedlar’s pack, nor did Byron ever command a pirate ship, or Coleridge shoot an albatross; but there were times and moods in which their thoughts intently realised, and identified themselves with the reflective wanderer, the impetuous Corsair, and the ancient mariner. They felt their feelings, thought their thoughts, burned with their passions, dreamed their dreams, and lived their lives, or died their deaths. In relation to his creations, the poet is the omnific spirit in whom they have their being. All their vitality must exist in his life. He only, in them, displays to us fragments of himself. The poem, in which a great poet should reveal the whole of himself to mankind would be a study, a delight, and a power, for which there is yet no parallel; and around which the noblest creations of the noblest writers would range themselves as subsidiary luminaries.