Second sight

The visionary imagination in late Victorian literature

By Catherine Maxwell

Second sight


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7145-4
  • Pages: 265
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: July 2011
  • BIC Category: United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, Ireland, RELIGION / Mysticism, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Mind, Body, Spirit: Meditation & Visualisation, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, Literature


This challenging and important study, which examines a range of canonical and less well-known writers, is an innovative reassessment of late Victorian literature in its relation to visionary Romanticism.

It examines six late Victorian writers - Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Theodore Watts-Dunton and Thomas Hardy - to reveal their commitment to a Romantic visionary tradition which surface towards the end of the nineteenth century in response to the threat of growing materialism. Offering detailed and imaginative readings of both poetry and prose, Second Sight shows the different ways in which late Victorian writers move beyond materiality, without losing a commitment to it, to explore the mysterious relation between the seen and the unseen.

A major re-evaluation of the post-Romantic visionary imagination, with implications for our understanding of literary modernism, Second Sight will be required reading for scholars interested in the literature of the late Victorian period.


[a] truly fascinating work. Maxwell's ability to take the reader into the hallowed area of her writers' imaginations makes this a spectacular work. Second Sight is a profoundly complex study of the workings of the interior language of the creative imagination. beautifully written... desirable on the bookself of anybody interested in Romantic, Victorian and early twentieth-century literature.


A note on the texts
1. 'An aching pulse of melodies': Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poetic magnetism
2. 'Walter Pater's 'strange veil of sight'
3. Of Venus, vagueness, and vision: Vernon Lee, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, and 'the spell of the fragment'
4. Theodore Watts-Dunton's Aylwin and the reduplications of Romanticism
5. Thomas Hardy's poetry: 'the intenser stare of the mind'


Catherine Maxwell is a Professor in Victorian Literature at Queen Mary, University of London.

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