The Style Historic: The Gothic Line from the Lake Poets to William Morris

Tom Duggett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses the continuities and contrasts between “Gothic Romanticism” and “Victorian Medievalism,” focusing on the linked and parallel figures of Robert Southey and William Morris. Bringing together the perspectives developed in Morris’s works on Gothic architecture in the 1880s and in News from Nowhere (1890), and in Southey’s “black letter” works of the 1810s and 1820s, I argue for the early and late nineteenth-century presence of an alternative “history of the Gothic.” This is Gothic as what Morris called the self-fulfilling and self-canceling “style historic,” articulated either side of the 1840s and the rise of historicism in architecture and “medievalism” in literature; growing out of a determination to have no “copying,” but “either no art at all, or an art which we have made our own.” Where Morris ultimately came to define “Gothic” against the “maundering medievalism” of Tennyson and Rossetti, Southey consistently avoided the category of the “medieval,” despite being an admirer and reviewer of the 1817 work in which the term first appeared. Thus revising received critical and semantic histories of the “Gothic” being subsumed by the “medieval,” the chapter moves to suggest the ongoing significance of “Gothic” as it emerges from this study, as the ground for a more truly historical approach to the art and poetry of the past.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGothic Romanticism
Subtitle of host publicationWordsworth, Architecture, Politics, Form
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Gothic
ISSN (Print)2634-6214
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6222


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