Excerpt from Literary Friendships in the Age of Wordsworth: An Anthology
Isolatio N, in the arts at least, is by no means as splendid as the popular phrase would have it. In all the great creative epochs there have been groups Of men eagerly discussing the problems Of life and art, exploring new ideas and new realms Of technique, and generously sharing their results with one another. Athens, in the fifth century before Christ, and Florence, in the fifteenth century Of our era, could never have achieved their pre-eminence in the history Of Europe without the constant intercourse Of the men who made them great; nor can anyone doubt that Shakespeare, no less than his opponent, profited by those wit-combats betwixt him and Ben Jonson at the Mermaid Tavern. Even Milton, who seems to stand alone more than any other figure in English literature, was in close contact with the greatest men and the greatest deeds of his age. The truth is that great men are stimulants to one another, and lead on lesser men to achieve ments which would have been impossible for them without these high examples and high incentives. Incomplete and thwarted achievement is the penalty of isolation.
Almost all the poets who are generally spoken Of as the precursors of the Romantic Revival paid the penalty of isolation. Madness claimed Smart, Collins and Cowper; Gray never spoke out; Chatterton.
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