Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Though James Sheridan Knowles is now remembered almost exclusively for his drama, he wrote several other works that were highly regarded in his own time. At the beginning of his literary career, he wrote a popular ballad, The Welch Harper (1796), which the critic William Hazlitt praised in his critical volume The Spirit of the Age (1825). In 1810, Knowles published (by subscription) a collection of his best early verses entitled Fugitive Pieces; this work received little acclaim, and Knowles subsequently wrote little nondramatic poetry.

Knowles’s most significant nondramatic writings concerned oratory and theater. The most famous and influential of these was The Elocutionist (1823), a textbook on debate that he wrote for his students while teaching at Belfast. This book expresses Knowles’s view that the effective speaker must avoid artificiality and be in earnest, and it contains one of his most popular model debates, “Was Julius Caesar a Great Man?” The Elocutionist became a very popular textbook in both English and American schools and went through many editions during Knowles’s lifetime. His writings and lectures on poetry were also well received by his contemporaries, and his Lectures on Oratory, Gesture, and Poetry, published posthumously in 1873, considered the adaptability of poetry for elocutionary purposes. Though these discourses often concerned poetry by important writers, such as...

(The entire section is 485 words.)