BOOK REVIEW 41
cultural materialist readings of the Romantic output is in the choice of a specific problematic. If these readings have by and large sought to re-situate Romanticism in the inherent tensions of a national and at best a continental context, Leask's study finds its niche in Romantic representations of an already colonized East. However, unlike John Drew's book on India And.The Romantic Imagination (OUP, Delhi:
1987), Leask is not interested in the East as a simple repository of the quaintly sublime. As the subtitle 'Anxieties of Empire', suggests, representations of the East are construed as effects of the political economy of imperialism and its implications for issues of race, subjection and acculturation. The attempt to re-situate Romanticism in a national context thus finds its logical extension in the effort to view the 'national* as imperial metropolis. Leask's own neck of the wood thus enables him to prise open the national to include the imperial encounter with a colonised Orient. Given this orientation it is hardly surprising that British Romantic Writers And The East should find a strong precursor in Edward Said's Orientalism (1978). The resemblance is evident in Leask's perception of 'the connection between prolonged and sordid cruelty of such practices as slavery, colonialist and racial oppression and imperial subjection on the one hand and the poetry, fiction and philosophy of the society that engages in these practices on the other* (Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, 1993; p., xiv). It is perhaps natural that the successor of a strong precursor will, with some persistence, seek to remind his audience, even as he reminds himself that his distance from the precursor ought to be noticed. The first of several kindred reminders occurs quite early in the book when Leask observes that despite his 'admiration for Said's project. . . I have chosen in this book to focus upon the anxieties and instabilities rather than the positivities and totalities in the Romantic discourse of the Orient' (p. 2). The anxiety of influence which appears to beset Leask is not really unique to him but pervades a critical supermarket (at least in its contemporary incarnation) where the will-to-suspect is perhaps a symptom of its will-to-survive. Be that as it may, it will be agreed that to regard Said's description of the Orient as a seamless fabric of totalities and positivities is only half the story. The other (actually the first) half lies in the fact that a vision of the Orient as a closed system is already a consequence of a certain disquiet in metropolitan culture. Even if the manifest content of Orientalism is intent on exploring the contours of a closed system there is, nonetheless, a latent content sensitive to the desire and disquiet that the Orient (as the other) exercises on the Occident. To that extent Leask's focus on 'anxieties and instabilities1 is part of an attempt to retrieve and articulate, through a few case studies, the obverse of Said's endeavour.
The particular analysands of the authors analysis are (in that order) Byron, Shelley, Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey. In all these