James Beattie's The Minstrel and the Origins of Romantic Autobiography

Author: King, Everard
For the first time The Minstrel is here presented as the earliest sustained attempt in English to write the kind of autobiographical poem which sets out to trace the source and the growth of the author's own mind and imagination as affected by literature, life, and especially by nature. Using The Minstrel as a creative model, King illuminates the sources and nature of Romantic autobiography in the works of Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Scott, Byron and Chateaubriand.


"The influence of Beattie's poem, particularly on the first generation of English romantics, was far greater than anyone had imagined before Professor King's pioneering essays. Now, in a comprehensive and richly patterned work, King has provided the essence of those many scattered articles, to which he has added the fruits of long years of original thinking and research. Everard King is without doubt the world's foremost authority on Beattie. . . . he has added substantially to our understanding of the development of romanticism in England, and Europe, especially the centrality of creative autobiogrpahy. . . . The section on The Prelude and The Excursion, tracing Beattie's shadow through Wordsworth's many manuscripts, should be essential reading to Wordsworth scholars and students of influence . . . Above all, perhaps, he brings to his subject a vast knowledge of the literature and intellectual history of Scotland, an achievement which few if any Romantic scholars can match." Dr. Norman Fruman

". . . . a valuable influence study of an often-neglected poet. . . . After detailing Beattie's clear influence on Wordsworth, King shows a more complicated influence on Shelley. . . Through good detective work, King shows that influence sometimes attributed to Wordsworth in Keats's 'O Solitude' actually belongs to Beattie and that Keats echoes and transforms themes, characters and diction from The Minstrel throughout much of his other work. . . . In an appendix to this source study, King publishes the 1777 edition of The Minstrel and two earlier, related poems: Retirement and The Hermit. . . . this study remains timely, demonstrating the transhistorical and cross-Channel intertextuality of Romantic writing." - The Wordsworth Circle