British Poets and Secret Societies by Marie Roberts, the 1986 first US printing hardcover from Barnes & Noble Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“A surprisingly large number of English poets have either belonged to one or other secret society, or been strongly influenced by its tenets. one of the best known examples is Christopher Smart’s membership of the Freemasons, and the resulting influence of Masonic doctrines on A Song to David; a study of this work in the light of Freemasonry has long been a desideratum. but many other poets have belonged to, or been influenced by (since in many cases membership is hard to prove) not only the Freemasons, but the Rosicrucians, Gormogons and Hell-Fire Clubs. This study concentrates on five major examples: Smart, Burns, William Blake, William Butler Yeats and Rudyard Kipling. A number of other poets are considered in the course of the book, among them Churchill, Goldsmith, Scott, Shelley and Wilde. The author asks the question why so many poets have been powerfully attracted to the secret societies, and considers the effectiveness of poetry as a medium for conveying complex secret emblems and ritual. She shows how some poets believed that poetry would prove a hidden symbolic language in which to reveal great truths. The longevity of such symbolism as a poetic theme, particularly in Freemasonry, is particularly illuminating. The beliefs of these poets are as diverse as their practice, and the book is an unusually stimulating light on several major poets.” — flap copy
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