Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

George Darley might be called a literary hack. The profession of writer in the early nineteenth century was a precarious one, and Darley tried his hand at most of the popular literary forms of his time. Although his work was usually unsigned, in keeping with the tradition of anonymous reviewing and publishing at the time, Darley can be credited with lyrical dramas, or masques, in the Elizabethan style, and a large number of reviews of art exhibits and current plays.

Among Darley’s major literary works were a series of “dramatic” poems, Sylvia: Or, The May Queen, a Lyrical Drama (pb. 1827); and two tragedies: Thomas à Becket: A Dramatic Chronicle in Five Acts (pb. 1840) and Ethelstan: Or, The Battle of Brunaburh, a Dramatic Chronicle in Five Acts (pb. 1841). The titles of Darley’s dramatic pieces suggest that they were written to be publicly staged, but none ever made it to the theater. Finally, Darley’s letters should be noted as a highly valuable commentary on the life of a professional writer at a critical phase in English literature. His letters, even more than his various essays on literature and art, provide a useful series of insights into the events and problems of the era. In spite of Darley’s shy disposition, he met many of the most famous poets and critics of his time, read widely in the literature of his day, and was a fair commentator on many pressing social issues.

It should be noted that Darley spent his last five years writing scientific textbooks for the use of students of secondary age. He may also have written a Life of Virgil, which is ascribed to him in the British Museum catalog.