Home  »  Volume X: English THE AGE OF JOHNSON  »  § 2. Influence of Architecture

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

X. The Literary Influence of the Middle Ages

§ 2. Influence of Architecture

The Middle Ages did much to help literary fancy long before the time of Scott; but the thrill of mystery and wonder came much more from Gothic buildings than from Morte d’Arthur, and it is found in writers who had paid little or no attention to old English romance, as well as in those who showed their interest in it. The famous passage in Congreve’s Mourning Bride is romantic in spirit and intention, and its success is won from a Gothic cathedral, with no intermediary literature. So, also, the romantic ruin in the first version of Collins’s Ode to Evening, “whose walls more awful nod,” is pictorial, not literary, except in the conventional “nod,” which is literary, indeed, but not at all medieval. This “nod,” by the way, has been carefully studied in Guesses at Truth; it is a good criterion of the eighteenth century romantic style; Collins, happily, got rid of it, and saved his poem unblemished.