<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>The History of Meter</b> <p> <p> When this, this little group their country calls From academic shades and learned halls, To fix her laws, her spirit to sustain, And light up glory through her wide domain; Their various tastes in different arts display'd Like temper'd harmony of light and shade, With friendly union in one mass shall blend, And thus adorn the state, and that defend. — Anna Laetitia Barbauld, "The Invitation: To Miss B*****" <p> Upon few other subjects has so much been written with so little tangible result. — Coventry Patmore, "Prefatory Study on English Metrical Law" <p> When you are at school and learn grammar grammar is very exciting. — Gertrude Stein, <i>Poetry and Grammar</i> <p> <p> A Metrical History of England <p> With the above lines from "The Invitation" by "Our Poetess" (Anna Laetitia Barbauld), William Enfield begins his 1774 <i>The Speaker</i>, an elocutionary handbook that was intended for use in classrooms at the moment when vernacular literature was beginning to displace classical literature in private grammar schools. Enfield was a schoolmaster at the dissenting Warrington Academy, and both he and Anna Laetitia Barbauld (daughter of schoolmaster John Aiken, also of Warrington Academy, and author of <i>The Female Speaker</i> ) were invested in the cultural capital of English literature. As John Guillory describes it, "by the time Thomas Sheridan published <i>British Education: Or the Source of the Disorders of Great Britain</i> (1756), the connection between vernacular linguistic refinement and a progressive political agenda was firmly entrenched." Urging English literature as "models of style," Sheridan expressed "anxiety ... that in the absence of an institutional form of dissemination, literary culture [could] not be entrusted to preserve English works of the past. It is in this climate that Barbauld imagines a collective classroom community in which (as the epigraph to this chapter states) "academic shades and learned halls" will "fix the laws" of the English language and do their duty: "with friendly union in one mass shall blend / And thus adorn the state, and that defend." Barbauld hints at the act of friendly union between England and Scotland in 1707 in her imagined classroom, a classroom in which the potential differences in English pronunciation might blend into an English language that "adorns" England with its greatness. By bringing together students to practice reciting English literature and learning English grammar, education would inspire all students subject to the English language to defend Britain. <p> In the late eighteenth century, this classroom community was limited. Dissenting academies (schools, colleges, and nonconforming seminaries) like Warrington provided an education for those who did not agree with the tenants of the Church of England, which had a stronghold at Oxbridge. Those who could pass the entrance exams to the old universities (Oxford and Cambridge) were educated in grammar schools or by schoolmasters or schoolmistresses in the ancient languages. Elocutionary guides, grammar books, and other pedagogical literature rushed to fill the void created by England's express desire, after the publication of Johnson's <i>Dictionary</i> in 1755, for a unified linguistic and literary culture at a time when it lacked any organized national school system to support it. Intended to provide a "proper course of instruction," Enfield's <i>Speaker</i> and John Walker's <i>Elements of Elocution</i> (1781) were two of the most popular guides to the proper performance of speech for those aspiring to the upper classes as well as for those already in the upper classes who wanted to supplement their classical educations with a working knowledge of English literature. "By a steady attention to discipline," Enfield's speaker promised the literate, who were willing to practice, the ability to pass as aristocracy. Here was no course of study for the mere hedge school or church school, though that was exactly the sort of community that would find these lessons useful. For both Enfield and Walker, "accent" should follow the abstract "laws of harmony," "general custom," and "a good ear." Though the Scots dialect was everywhere present in eighteenth-century discussions of "proper" English speech accent, the hope of these and other late eighteenth-century textbooks was for a national unity that could be achieved through linguistic unity. But linguistic unity, for these popular elocutionists, also meant a unified approach to the measure of English speech in <i>poems</i> (ever popular for recitation) and therefore a unified approach to English meter. <p> Though Fussell has argued that the idea of classical quantity in English was practically irrelevant in eighteenth-century English verse, supplanted by "conservative" syllabic and stress regularity (the number of syllables and stresses per line), the dream of establishing universal and standard pronunciation was nonetheless evident in discussions of versification. Prior to phonetic science, authors like Enfield and Walker often took for granted the ideal of sameness in "English" quantity (the short "e" versus the long "e" for instance) and therefore in pronunciation. Because their idea of proper speech was so ingrained, Enfield and Walker eschewed a system for measuring meter through quantity at all, as a student of the classics would have, precisely because "quantity" would have been associated with classical languages and literature, on the one hand and, on the other, actually providing rules for quantity in English would mean securing, standardizing, and fixing pronunciation in a concrete way that neither Enflield nor Walker was yet able to imagine. That is, the abstract notion of "speech accent" (or emphasis, or just "accent") is paramount to the proper measure of an English verse line, quite beyond the rules for pronunciation that nineteenth-century grammar books would establish. In fact, as if to preclude any disagreement, Walker writes "it is accent, or emphasis, and these only, and not any length of openness of the vowels, that forms English metre," Both writers are invested in speech accent as the only ruling constituent of the English verse line. By erasing questions of English quantity, Enfield and Walker effaced the very differentiation of speakers from different regions of the country. If accent is the only measure of English meter (rather than the time it would take to pronounce the words, or the different ways the vowels might sound), then all Englishmen (irrespective of their Scottish origin) can access it. An idealized and yet-still-unestablished "English" accent, when properly learned and performed, would not, according to these rules, differentiate speakers; rather it would blend them into the "one mass" of the English nation. <p> With the expansion of the franchise, the growth of the linguistic sciences, and the rise of a state-controlled and somewhat regulated education system, English would haltingly replace the classics as the language and literature of the educated elite in Victorian England. But before the anxieties later in the century about the adequacy of English literature's role as a civilizing force, the study and attainment of "proper" English pronunciation and usage was already associated with upward mobility and national stability. Within the narrative of the "rise of English," (which begins even before the eighteenth century) we also find the "rise of meter" in popular pedagogical textbooks in English history and grammar. English "meter" emerges as an important yet still hotly contested and unstable medium for the transmission of English values. 7 Despite what Fussell argues are the widely held beliefs of the eighteenth century, that "prosodic regularity forces the ordering of the perceiver's mind so that it may be in a condition to receive the ordered moral matter of the poem," the desire for a stable and regular prosody was often complicated by the unstable ways that these terms ("prosody," "meter," "versification") circulated. The apparently specialized terms "prosody," "meter," and "versification" enjoyed a surprising prominence in English national life, in unexpected arenas. "Syntax" and "prosody" circulated not only in grammar books, but also as cartoon characters, even popular racehorse names. School stories (popular "boy's tales from school," such as <i>Tom Brown's School Days</i> ) often included stories about Latin exercises as punishment and bemoaned the rigors of scansion, yet the <i>bout-rimé</i> was a popular pastime throughout the Victorian era. Mnemonic jingles were used to teach a variety of different school subjects. From the middle of the eighteenth century onward, the terms "prosody" and "meter" mediated between elite and mass cultures, Latin and English, speech and text, classical and "native" pasts, "En gland" and its others. <p> Nineteenth-century poetics developed via a vast, unruly array of handbooks, manuals, periodical articles and reviews, memoirs, grammar books, philological tracts, essays, letters, and histories, all with something to say about English meter. Prosodic discourse extended into multiple disciplines, each with different disciplinary practices, expectations and, importantly, different audiences. These diverse methodologies and disciplines, however, came together to lay the groundwork for English literary studies as we now know it—a product of this cross-disciplinary project of nation making. To illustrate the centrality of meter to this nation-making project, the first part of this chapter studies nineteenth-century English history teaching, which employed various concepts of English "meter" to solidify a stable concept of En gland's regal past. I then turn to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century grammar books to show how, despite the hopes of grammarians to stabilize all aspects of "English grammar," English meter continued to evolve and change, playing a liminal and shifting role in the evolution of English grammatical study. The delineation of English meter in Victorian grammar books exposes many facets of the controversies that erupted in the later nineteenth-century "prosody wars." Grounded in Latin grammatical and metrical theory (about which scholars disagreed), but grappling with broadening cultural and historical contexts, grammar books reveal an oft-neglected ambivalence about English meter as grammar. Late nineteenth-century conflicts about meter are rooted in the disciplines of rhetoric and elocution, and even a subtle tension between classical and Anglo-Saxon meters. Through the study and investigation of both Anglo-Saxon and classical meters—and also of Anglo-Saxonism and classicism—historians, grammarians, and prosodists attempted to define concepts of English national identity that were often redefined radically by the century's end. The final section of this chapter broadly outlines the contours of prosody debates throughout the century, arguing that prosodic discourse was founded on disagreement and discord, and that the dream of a system for English prosody was also a dream of a stable national identity that was, perhaps, unattainable. <p> Though the use of versification to teach history might not seem all that different from using versification to teach other subjects, "metricality" in history teaching sometimes called upon a "natural" and emphatic rhythm that was distinct from subtly modulated rhythms of more "refined" poetry and the technical vocabularies that were being developed for these. Simple rhythms, called "meter," made it easier for the student-subject to memorize historical chronology. Hundreds of "metrical histories" appeared in the nineteenth century. These "metrical histories" were associated with progress in two respects: first, this somehow more natural "meter" was seen to aid the natural development of mental order and discipline; second, the periodicity and seeming inevitability of the succession of regents aligned meter with the development of the English nation. The pedagogic use of versification in teaching history promoted an understanding of English verse form as an emblem of order itself, applied to, but also derived from, a progressive and dynastic English past. English metricality, rather than English poetry or versification, was a popular vehicle for knowledge that skirted aesthetic questions and raised ideological questions instead. The "metrical histories" of England, then, can be read as the union of a particular idea about English meter with a particular idea of English national culture—orderly and falling into a natural line that should be easy to remember. At the same time, while this kind of "meter" may be easy for some to remember, the idea that "meter" could create mental discipline was derived from the traditions of memorization in classical education. Some metrical histories included an ironic subtext for more educated readers, employing subtler metrical systems but marketing their texts to the lay reader, who may not have any idea of what metrical forms were being employed. In that way some "metrical histories" spoke to more than one metrical community. Others were careful to separate their method of "versification" from a perceived aesthetic category of higher "poetry" with standards against which they did not wish to be judged. In all of these texts, however, even those that promote ease and pleasure in memorizing verses, there is a hint of the inherent difficulty and artificiality of meter—a meter that is not natural, that is not, in fact <i>rhythm</i>, which is what these texts mean when they say "metrical" in the first place. That is, while the ideologies of history pedagogy and mental ordering for the masses relied on metrical order, we find, especially toward the end of the nineteenth century, a suspicion about a form that could control you without your knowledge, an issue that was central to the teaching of poetry and the approaches to poetic education promoted by scholars like Matthew Arnold and Henry Newbolt at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. <p> Reading these histories in meter, and the meters of these histories, shows the tangled metrical and historical genealogy of England's classical and Anglo-Saxon pasts. For instance, we find what may be an entirely accidental line of dactylic hexameter (a meter associated with England's history only explicitly through translations) in the subtitle of Seymour Burt's 1852 <i>Metrical Epitome of the History of England</i>: "A <b>Met</b>rical <b>List</b> of the <b>Sov</b>ereigns of <b>Eng</b>land: // The <b>Angl</b>es and <b>Sax</b>ons." These hexameter lines reveal that English metrical history is more complicated than even the most straightforward-seeming metrical list of the earliest leaders of England. Though Burt writes the text of his metrical history in the more accepted Anglo-Saxon four-beat line (complete with alliteration on either side of the caesura), the dactyls of the subtitle regulate the following alliterated lines: <p> Egbert and Ethelwolf, Ethelbald, Ethelbert Ethelred, Alfred, and Edward and Athelston Edmund and Edrid, and Edwy and Edgar Edward and Ethelred, "Ironside" Edmund. <p> <p> Though these alliterative four-beat lines hint toward the dactylic pattern of the title, they seem to Anglo-Saxonize the possibility of dactylic hexameter, so that the subtitle reads, in retrospect, as a preview of the list to come—"A Metrical List of the Sovereigns of England" and then another subtitle: "The Angles and Saxons." Rather than civilize the Anglo-Saxon names into classical feet, the accents of the subtitle stand out prominently. But Burt does not attempt to make his metrical list imitate Anglo-Saxon meter so much as he uses the naturally alliterating names of the sovereigns to hint at the common Anglo-Saxon metrical patterns of two beats on either side of the caesura. At the same time, Burt was conforming to a classical standard; dactylic hexameter was widely known as the heroic classical meter of both Homer's <i>Iliad</i> and Virgil's <i>Aeneid</i>. Though the title is certainly not signaling the classical nature of England's history, the gesture to an epic meter with the Anglo-Saxon beats inside it makes the names of England's earliest leaders seem appropriately epic themselves. That is, the only appropriate meter for naming the founders of the English nation might be this hybrid of classical and ancient English patterning. Burt adds the word "and" to make the verse even more dactylic when a regent's name comes up one unstressed syllable short: "Edward and Athelston," the "and" a conjunction that ties the rulers to one another, echoing the "d" ends of their names, and filling the dactylic line. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Rise and Fall of Meter</b> by <b>MEREDITH MARTIN</b> Copyright © 2012 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.