The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XI. The Prosody of the Eighteenth Century

§ 8. Joshua Steele

Joshua Steele undoubtedly exercised great influence on many prosodic students, some of whom acknowledged it and some did not, while he has been recently hailed as “a master” by authorities who deserve respect. Yet, these same authorities, strangely enough, acknowledge that Steele’s actual scansion is “utterly wild.” It is not incumbent on a survey like the present to attempt the reconciliation, or at any length to expose the incompatibility, of two such statements. It is, perhaps, sufficient to say, on the first head, that Steele’s “mastery” seems to be shown in the fact that, for the first time, he proclaimed verse to be essentially matter of musical rhythm, and applied musical methods frankly and freely to the notation of metre; that he discarded syllabic feet; and that he gave the metrical franchise to pauses as well as to spoken syllables. As to the second head, it should be still more sufficient to state that he allowed from six to eight “cadences” in a heroic line; that he scans a famous verse

  • O &pipe; happiness &pipe; our &pipe; being’s &pipe; end and &pipe; aim
  • and starts Paradise Lost as
  • Of &pipe; Man’s &pipe; first diso &pipe; bedience &pipe; and the &pipe; fruit.