Image: “Traditional” angelic male with smokey to black colored wings rather than pristine white. Sensual, sexual, aggressive, and earthy rather than separated from man and nature.
Power: Liberty, knowledge, empowerment, conflict, polarity, conflict within the self.
Symbology: Choosing to follow love, knowledge, suffering, or freedom from a path outside of society’s dictates. Accepting that there is a price for following truth as it is revealed to the self rather than following someone else’s ideas blindly.
Milton’s Paradise Lost
This vision of Satanic masculinity complements Dorothea’s role as fallen femininity—both have abandoned divine order for the false promise of liberty.
Wollstonecraft’s dangerous experiments in love, motherhood, radicalism, and intellectual ambition created about her an aura of forbidden knowledge, which both attracted and repelled contemporaries.
Milton’s Satan fell through pride (or desire for knowledge and liberty, depending on one’s angelic or satanic allegiance). But the Bible does not tell this story, nor does it identify Satan as the serpent in Genesis. Genesis does tell a story regarding the fall of the angels, though in this account, the angels (sons of God) fell through love of mortal women (daughters of men): “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Genesis 6:2).
In the Genesis account, expanded in the works of the church fathers, medieval theologians, and the pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch, the angels fall through love/lust for mortal women, generations after Adam and Eve have left Eden. Both these accounts of the fall of the angels were available to the women poets I turn to now, but it is important to note how one account offers pride/knowledge as the forbidden object, while the other offers love. These desires are connected, but it is significant to note the prevalence of the fall for love/lust theme in women’s poetry of the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s, while earlier feminists like Wollstonecraft had looked to (and been depicted as) the Miltonic fallen angel as thief of knowledge.27
Romantic Satanism and the Rise of Nineteenth-Century Women’s Poetry
Adriana Craciun* New Literary History, 2004, 34: 699–721