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categories which it has become customary to use in distinguishing and
classifying ‘movements’ in literature or philosophy and in describing the
nature of the significant transitions which have taken place in taste and in
opinion, are far too rough, crude, undiscriminating — and none of them so
hopelessly as the category ‘Romantic’.”

O. Lovejoy

“On the Discriminations of Romanticisms” (1924)

The first half of the nineteenth
century records the triumph of Romanticism in literature and of democracy in
government; and the two movements are so closely associated, in so many nations
and in so many periods of history, that one must wonder if there be not some relation
of cause and effect between them. Just as we understand the tremendous
energizing influence of Puritanism in the matter of English liberty by
remembering that the common people had begun to read, and that their book was
the Bible, so we may understand this age of popular government by remembering
that the chief subject of romantic literature was the essential nobleness of
common men and the value of the individual.

As we read now that brief portion of
history which lies between the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the English
Reform Bill of 1832, we are in the presence of such mighty political upheavals
that “the age of revolution” is the only name by which we can
adequately characterize it. Its great historic movements become intelligible
only when we read what was written in this period; for the French Revolution
and the American commonwealth, as well as the establishment of a true democracy
in England
by the Reform Bill, were the inevitable results of ideas which literature had
spread rapidly through the civilized world. Liberty is fundamentally an ideal;
and that ideal–beautiful, inspiring, compelling, as a loved banner in the wind
was kept steadily before men’s minds by a multitude of books and pamphlets as far
apart as Burns’s Poems and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, all read eagerly by
the common people, all proclaiming the dignity of common life, and all uttering
the same passionate cry against every form of class or caste oppression. First
the dream, the ideal in some human soul; then the written word which proclaims
it, and impresses other minds with its truth and beauty; then the united and
determined effort of men to make the dream a reality,–that seems to be a fair
estimate of the part that literature plays, even in our political progress.

The Romantic poets wrote during a
period of the late 18th to early 19th century. Most commonly known among
English speakers are the British Romantic poets. While there were many poets
that would fit the Romantic poets “framework,” generally the ones considered
most relevant are William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, John
and Lord Byron.

Though each of the Romantic poets had
their own special qualities, they all had things in common. They triumphed the
belief that nature and emotion were the places in which one found spiritual
truth, a response to the “Age of Enlightenment,” poets preceding them. Most
attributed to children special innate gifts, as Wordsworth stated, they come
from heaven “trailing clouds of glory.” As well, they wrote poetry as a
“spontaneous overflow of feelings,” again a Wordsworthian concept.

The Romantic poets particularly
changed the way in which poetry was written. Many wrote in a style of free verse at times,
moving away from the elaborate rhyming patterns of poets preceding them. The
Romantic poets were also much more interested in triumphing the rights of
women. Shelley was married to Mary Wollstonecraft,
whose mother wrote one of the earliest and most celebrated feminist tracts, A
Vindication of the Rights of Women. Mary Shelley can be considered an important
Romantic novelist of the period with her masterpiece Frankenstein.

The names Keats and Wordsworth are to
a certain extent tantamount to Romanticism, especially from the perspective of
modern academics. To many, Wordsworth and Coleridge are seen as the fathers of
English Romanticism as they were the first to publish literary works that were
seen as romantic with Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Yet although John Keats was only
born in 1795, he still contributed much to the Romantic Movement and is in
essence regarded just as highly as William Wordsworth.

Romanticism was a movement in the
late eighteenth or nineteenth century that marked a response against the
Neoclassical and moved away from traditions. The period arose so gradually and
contained so any phases that an exact definition is not possible. Romanticism
contained two “Generations” that comprised of different views and perspectives
about religion, art and philosophy. Though Wordsworth is a first Generation,
Keats was a typical second Generation poet, and due to this he had many
characteristics similar with Byron and Shelley. Keats also shares some literary
characteristics with the first generation poets, such as Wordsworth and
Coleridge, but Keats can be described as more “intense”. One can argue that to
a certain extent the Romantic Movement came into existence due to the French
and American revolutions. This period in history exemplifies a time when people
broke through the constraints of old social and political conventions. People
were starting to see life and the world in a different way. For the first time
after the age of reason took the stage, the Romantics placed an emphasis on the
imagination of man. To them the imagination was more important than reason

What it is.

is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement
that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Western
, and gained strength during the Industrial Revolution.[1]
It was partly a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction
against the scientific rationalization of nature,[2]
and was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature.

The movement stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic
experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation,
horror and awe—especially
that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque
qualities, both new aesthetic categories. It elevated folk art
and custom to something noble, and argued for a “natural” epistemology
of human activities as conditioned by nature in the form of language, custom
and usage.

In a basic sense, the term “Romanticism” has been
used to refer to certain artists, poets, writers, musicians, as well as political, philosophical
and social thinkers of the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. It has
equally been used to refer to various artistic, intellectual, and social trends
of that era. Despite this general usage of the term, a precise characterization
and specific definition of Romanticism have been the subject of debate in the
fields of intellectual history and literary
throughout the twentieth century, without any great measure of
consensus emerging. Arthur Lovejoy attempted to demonstrate the
difficulty of this problem in his seminal article “On The Discrimination
of Romanticisms” in his Essays in the History
of Ideas
(1948); some scholars see romanticism as essentially
continuous with the present, some see in it the inaugural moment of modernity,
some see it as the beginning of a tradition of resistance to the
Enlightenment—a Counter-Enlightenment—and still others place it
firmly in the direct aftermath of the French Revolution. An earlier definition
comes from Charles Baudelaire: “Romanticism is
precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way
of feeling.”[3]

Many intellectual historians have seen Romanticism as a key
movement in the Counter-Enlightenment, a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment. Whereas the thinkers of
the Enlightenment emphasized the primacy of deductive reason, Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination,
and feeling,
to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism.

Resulting in part from the
libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, the romantic
movements had in common only a revolt against the prescribed rules of
classicism. The basic aims of romanticism were various: a return to nature and
to belief in the goodness of humanity; the rediscovery of the artist as a
supremely individual creator; the development of nationalistic pride; and the
exaltation of the senses and emotions over reason and intellect. In addition,
romanticism was a philosophical revolt against rationalism.

Our modern sense of a romantic character is sometimes based on Byronic
or Romantic ideals. Romanticism reached beyond the rational
and Classicist
ideal models to elevate medievalism and elements of art and narrative
perceived to be authentically medieval, in an attempt to escape the confines of
population growth, urban sprawl and industrialism, and it also attempted to
embrace the exotic, unfamiliar and distant in modes more authentic than chinoiserie,
harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. Although the
movement is rooted in German Pietism, which prized intuition and emotion over Enlightenment
rationalism, the ideologies and events of the French
laid the background from which Romanticism emerged. The
confines of the Industrial Revolution also had their influence on Romanticism,
which was in part an escape from modern realities; indeed, in the second half
of the 19th century, “Realism
was offered as a polarized opposite to Romanticism. Romanticism elevated the
achievements of what it perceived as misunderstood heroic individuals and
artists that altered society. It also legitimized the individual imagination as
a critical authority which permitted freedom from classical notions of form in
art. The Romantic poets are grouped into two generations. The
poets of the first generation, William Blake, William Wordsworth and Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, were influenced by the French Revolution, which they
considered to be almost a physical realisation of the ideals of Romanticism.
The enthusiasm for the French Revolution soon dissipated and within a decade
disillusionment had set in.

The Characteristics of

Romanticism, attitude or intellectual orientation that
characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture,
criticism, and historiography in Western civilization over a period from the
late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of
the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality
that typified Classicism
in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular. It was
also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against
18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. Romanticism
emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the
personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the

Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the
following: a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general
exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning
in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its
moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and
the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner
struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose
creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and
traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to
transcendent experience and spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk
culture, national and ethnic cultural origins, and the medieval era; and a
predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult,
the monstrous and the diseased.



Description of Characteristic

Interest in the

common man and


Romantics believed in the natural goodness of humans
which is hindered by the urban life of

civilization. They believed that the savage is
noble, childhood is good and the emotions inspired by both beliefs causes the
heart to soar.

Strong senses,

emotions, and

Romantics believed that knowledge is gained

through intuition rather than deduction. This is

best summed up by Wordsworth who stated that

“all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of

powerful feelings

Romantics stressed the awe of nature in art and

language and the experience of sublimity through

a connection with nature. Romantics rejected the

rationalization of nature by the previous thinkers

of the Enlightenment period.

Celebration of the


Romantics often elevated the achievements of the

misunderstood, heroic individual outcast

Importance of


Romantics legitimized the individual imagination as

a critical authority.

Some other important characteristics
of romanticism are given bellow:
 1. Romanticism was a rebellion against the objectivity of
 2. For romantics, the feelings, intuitions and emotions
were more important than reason and
common sense.
 3. Romantics did not think of the world as a ticking watch
made by God. They stressed the close relationship between man and nature.
 4. They emphasized individualism, placing the individual
against the group, against authority. They saw the individual at the very
center of life and art. They emphasized personal freedom and freedom from
formalism, tradition, and conformity.
 5. They affirmed the inner life of the self, and wanted
each person to be free to develop and express his own inner thoughts.
 6. They cherished strong interest in the past, especially
the medieval.
 7. They were attracted by the wild, the irregular, the
indefinite, the remote, the mysterious, and the strange.
 8. They were interested in variety. They aspired the
sublime and the wonderful, and tried to find the absolute, the ideal by
transcending the actual.

Organization Chart

The Romantic Period
Many scholars say that the Romantic period began with the publication of
“Lyrical Ballads” by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge in 1798.
The volume contained some of the best-known works from these two poets
Coleridge‘s “The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner” and
Wordsworth‘s “Lines Written a
Miles from Tintern Abbey.”
Of course, other Literary scholars place the start for the Romantic period much
earlier (around 1785), since Robert Burns’s Poems (1786), William Blake’s
“Songs of Innocence” (1789), Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A
Vindication of the Rights of Women,” and other works already demonstrate
that a change has taken place — in political thought and literary expression.
Other “first generation” Romantic writers include: Charles Lamb, Jane
Austen, and Sir Walter Scott.
A discussion of the period is also somewhat more complicated, since there
was a “second generation” of Romantics (made up of poets Lord Byron,
Percy Shelley and John Keats). Of course, the main members of this second
generation — though geniuses — died young and were outlived by the first
generation of Romantics. Of course, Mary Shelley — still famous for
“Frankenstein” (1818) — was also a member of this “second
generation” of Romantics.
While there is some disagreement about when the period began, the general
consensus is… the Romantic period ended with the coronation of Queen
Victoria in 1837, and
the beginning of the Victorian Period. So, here we are in the Romantic era. We
stumble upon
Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Shelley, Keats
on the heels of the Neoclassical era. We saw amazing wit and satire (with Pope
and Swift) as a part of the last age, but the Romantic Period dawned with a
different poetic in the air. Some most important part of romantic period is
given bellow:
  • George
    III was king of Great
    and Ireland from 1760-1820 during
    this period Britain
    continued to develop economically and politically.
  • The
    British population was divided into three social classes:

landowners and aristocracy: that had ruled the country for centuries and held
most of the wealth. Its members were the only citizens who could vote.

businessmen and industrialists: that had brought about the Industrial
Revolution. They were rich but they had no voting rights.

masses: they were poor, and left the countryside for work in the factories.

  • Economy
    continued to grow thanks to:
  • The
    colonies, that were a source of cheap raw materials.
  • The
    bank of England
    started to operate around the country.
  • The
    transport system was developed.
  • In
    agriculture, mechanization meant that food could be produced cheaply and
  • People
    continued to live and work in the same dreadful condition that the first
    industrial workers had had to endure in the middle of the eighteenth
    century. The cities became ever more overcrowded and unsanitary. Factory
    workers continued to slave in inhuman conditions for long hours on
    miserable pay.
  • For
    many people Britain’s
    new generation of Romantic poets expressed the unease that was felt at the
    excesses of industrialization. The idyllic world of nature was an antidote
    to the grim realities of life in the cities.
  • Those
    who were horrified at the exploitation of factory workers and the
    degradation of the cities found inspiration in the ideals of the French
    Revolution. The toppling of a despotic regime by Napoleon’s republican
    forces was greeted by some in Britain as a chance to channel
    the discontent of the masses into social revolution. A high point in the protest movement was a
    rally near Manchester
    in 1819 to protest against the rise in the price of bread caused by a ban
    on the import of foreign corn (The First Corn Law, 1815). Eleven people
    were killed by the army in what is now known as the Peterloo massacre.
  • The
    government introduced many reforms:

Factory Act of 1833 limited working hours and children under nine could not

1825 Trade Unions were recognized and factory owners formed their own

and industrialists were given the vote in 1832.

police force was established in 1829.

local government was established in every town.

system of national primary education was set up in 1834.

The First
Generation Poets

William Blake’s
life was spent in rebellion against the rational philosophy of the eighteenth
century and restrictive influences of institutions such as government and the
Church. Blake was aware of the negative effects of the rapidly developing
industrial and commercial society, in which individuals became dehumanised.

William Wordsworth’s
poetry emphasises the value of childhood experience and the celebration of
nature. He glorifies the spirit of man, living in harmony with his natural
environment, far from the spiritually bankrupt city.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s
poetry often deals with the mysterious, the supernatural end the extraordinary.
While Wordsworth looked for the spiritual in everyday subjects, Coleridge
wanted to give the supernatural a colouring of every day reality. In later life
Coleridge claimed that poetic inspiration had
deserted him and he turned his attention to literally criticism.
The poets of the second generation,
Gorge Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, all had intense but
short lives. They lived through the disillusionment of the post-revolutionary
period, the savage violence of the terror and the threatening rise of the
Napoleonic Empire.
George Gordon Byron was the prototype
of the Romantic poet. He was heavily involved with contemporary social issues
and like the hearse of his long narrative poems, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and
Don Juan, was a melancholy and solitary figure whose action often defied social
conventions. Like
Shelley, he left England and
live on the continent. He pursued adventure in
Italy and Greece.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was the most
revolutionary and non-conformist of the Romantic poets. He was an individualist
and idealist who rejected the institutions of family, church, marriage and the
Christian faith and rebelled against all forms of tyranny. Shelley’s ideas were
anarchic and he was considered dangerous by the conservative society of his
time. Many of his poems address social and political issues.
John Keats had a really brief life.
The main theme of his poetry is the conflict between the real world of
suffering, death and decay and the ideal world of beauty, imagination and
eternal youth.
Romantic Fictions
By the beginning of the nineteenth
the novel had became a major literary form. Three types of novel flourished in
Romantic period: the
historical novel, the gothic novel and the novel
of manners

Sir Walter Scott
is generally regarded as the inventor of the historical novel. He used
well-known historical figures, and gave a complete panorama of the political
and social context in which they lived. The two major Romantic elements in
Scott’s work are the descriptions of nature and the lives of ordinary people.

The public taste for Gothic novels,
which had first appeared in the second half of the eighteenth century,
continued throughout the Romantic period. Gothic novels were based on tales of
macabre, fantastic and supernatural settings. The greatest Gothic novel of the
Romantic period is
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The novel of manners was another
popular form of fiction during the Romantic period.
Origins and some important aspects :
If the Enlightenment was a movement which started among a
tiny elite and slowly spread to make its influence felt throughout society,
Romanticism was more widespread both in its origins and influence. No other
intellectual/artistic movement has had comparable variety, reach, and staying
power since the end of the Middle Ages.
Beginning in Germany
in the 1770s, by the 1820s it had swept through
conquering at last even its most stubborn foe, the French. It traveled quickly
to the
Western Hemisphere, and in its musical
form has triumphed around the globe, so that from
London to Boston to Mexico City to Tokyo to Vladivostok to Oslo, the most popular orchestral music in
the world is that of the romantic era. Beginning in the last decades of the
18th century, it transformed poetry, the novel, drama, painting, sculpture, all
forms of concert music (especially opera), and ballet. It was deeply connected
with the politics of the time, echoing people’s fears, hopes, and aspirations.
It was the voice of revolution at the beginning of the 19th century and the
voice of the Establishment at the end of it.
This last shift was the result of the triumph of the class
which invented, fostered, and adopted as its own the romantic movement: the
bourgeoisie. To understand why this should have been so, we need to look more
closely at the nature of the style and its origins.
Historical Considerations
It is
one of the curiosities of literary history that the strongholds of the Romantic
Movement were
not the countries of the romance languages themselves. Thus it is from the
historians of English and German literature that we inherit the convenient set
of terminal dates for the Romantic period, beginning in 1798, the year of the
first edition of
Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge and of the
composition of
Hymns to the Night by Novalis, and ending in 1832, the
year which marked the deaths of both Sir Walter Scott and Goethe. However, as
an international movement affecting all the arts, Romanticism begins at least
in the 1770’s and continues into the second half of the nineteenth century,
later for American literature than for European, and later in some of the arts,
like music and painting, than in literature. This extended chronological spectrum
(1770-1870) also permits recognition as Romantic the poetry of Robert Burns and
William Blake in
the early writings of Goethe and Schiller in
Germany, and the great period of
influence for Rousseau’s writings throughout
The early Romantic period thus
coincides with what is often called the “age of
revolutions”–including, of course, the American (1776) and the French
(1789) revolutions–an age of upheavals in political, economic, and social
traditions, the age which witnessed the initial transformations of the
Industrial Revolution. A revolutionary energy was also at the core of
Romanticism, which quite consciously set out to transform not only the theory
and practice of poetry (and all art), but the very way we perceive the world.
Some of its major precepts have survived into the twentieth century and still
affect our contemporary period.
Folklore and Popular Art
Some of the earliest stirrings of the Romantic movement are
conventionally traced back to the mid-18th-century interest in folklore which
arose in Germany–with Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm collecting popular fairy tales
and other scholars like Johann Gottfried von Herder studying folk songs–and in
England with Joseph Addison and Richard Steele treating old ballads as if they
were high poetry. These activities set the tone for one aspect of Romanticism:
the belief that products of the uncultivated popular imagination could equal or
even surpass those of the educated court poets and composers who had previously
monopolized the attentions of scholars and connoisseurs.
Whereas during much of the 17th and 18th centuries learned
allusions, complexity and grandiosity were prized, the new romantic taste
favored simplicity and naturalness; and these were thought to flow most clearly
and abundantly from the “spontaneous” outpourings of the untutored
common people. In
in particular, the idea of a collective
Volk (people) dominated a good
deal of thinking about the arts. Rather than paying attention to the individual
authors of popular works, these scholars celebrated the anonymous masses who
invented and transmuted these works as if from their very souls. All of this
fantasizing about the creative folk process reflected precious little knowledge
about the actual processes by which songs and stories are created and passed on
and created as well an ideology of the essence of the German soul which was to
be used to dire effect by the Nazis in the 20th century.
But one of the early effects of this interest in the folk
arts seems particularly strange to us moderns: the rise and spread of the
reputation of William Shakespeare. Although he is regarded today as the epitome
of the great writer, his reputation was at first very different. Shakespeare
was a popular playwright who wrote for the commercial theater in
London. He was not
college-educated, and although his company had the sponsorship of King James,
his work was not entirely “respectable.”
Academic critics at first scorned his indiscipline, his
rejection of their concepts of drama which were derived in part from ancient
Roman and Greek patterns. A good play should not mix comedy with tragedy, not
proliferate plots and subplots, not ramble through a wide variety of settings
or drag out its story over months or years of dramatic time; but Shakespeare’s
plays did all these things. A proper serious drama should always be divided
neatly into five acts, but Shakespeare’s plays simply flowed from one scene to
the next, with no attention paid to the academic rules of dramatic architecture
(the act divisions we are familiar with today were imposed on his plays by
editors after his death).
If the English romantics exalted Shakespeare’s works as the
greatest of their classics, his effect on the Germans was positively explosive.
French classical theater had been the preeminent model for drama in much of
Europe; but when the German Romantics began to explore
and translate his works, they were overwhelmed. His disregard for the classical
rules which they found so confining inspired them. Writers like Friedrich von
Schiller and Goethe created their own dramas inspired by Shakespeare.
Faust contains
many Shakespearian allusions as well as imitating all of the neoclassical
qualities enumerated above.
Because Shakespeare was a popular rather than a courtly
writer, the Romantics exaggerated his simple origins. In fact he had received
an excellent education which, although it fell short of what a university could
offer, went far beyond what the typical college student learns today about the
classics. In an age drunk on the printing and reading of books he had access to
the Greek myths, Roman and English history, tales by Italian humanists and a
wide variety of other materials. True, he used translations, digests, and
popularizations; but he was no ignoramus.
To the Romantics, however, he was the essence of folk poetry,
the ultimate vindication of their faith in spontaneous creativity. Much of the
drama of the European 19th century is influenced by him, painters illustrated
scenes from his plays, and composers based orchestral tone poems and operas on
his narratives.
The Gothic Romance
Another quite distinct contribution to the Romantic Movement
was the Gothic romance. The first was Horace Walpole’s
Castle of Otranto (1765),
set in a haunted castle and containing various mysterious apparitions such
as a gigantic mailed fist. This sort of thing was popularized by writers like
Ann Radcliffe and M. L. Lewis (
The Monk) and eventually spread abroad to
influence writers like Eugène Sue (
France) and Edgar Allan Poe (the U.S.).
Rejecting the Enlightenment ideal of balance and rationalism, readers eagerly
sought out the hysterical, mystical, passionate adventures of terrified heroes
and heroines in the clutches of frightening, mysterious forces. The modern
horror novel and woman’s romance are both descendants of the Gothic romance, as
transmuted through such masterworks as Charlotte Bronte’s
Jane Eyre and
her sister Emily’s
. Another
classic Gothic work, Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein, is often cited as a
forerunner of modern science fiction.
The other influential characteristic of the Gothic romance
was its evocation of strong, irrational emotions–particularly horror. Whereas
Voltaire and his comrades had abhorred “enthusiasm” and strove to
dispel the mists of superstition; the Gothic writers evoked all manner of
irrational scenes designed to horrify and amaze. Romantic writers generally
also prized the more tender sentiments of affection, sorrow, and romantic
longing. In this they were inspired by certain currents contemporaneous with
the Enlightenment, in particular the writings of Voltaire’s arch-rival,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Another important aspect of Romanticism is the exotic. Just
as Romantics responded to the longing of people for a distant past, so they
provided images of distant places. The distances need not be terribly great:
Spain was a
favorite “exotic” setting for French Romantics, for instance.
North Africa and the Middle East
provided images of “
Asia” to
Europeans. Generally anywhere south of the country where one was resided was
considered more relaxed, more colorful, more sensual.
Such exoticism consisted largely of simple stereotypes
endlessly repeated, but the Romantic age was also a period in which Europeans
traveled more than ever to examine at first hand the far-off lands of which
they had read. Much of this tourism was heavily freighted with the attitudes
fostered by European colonialism, which flourished during this period. Most
“natives” were depicted as inevitably lazy, unable to govern
themselves while those who aspired to European sophistication were often
derided as “spoiled.” Many male travelers viewed the women of almost
any foreign land one could name as more sexually desirable and available than
the women at home, and so they are depicted in fiction, drama, art, and opera.
Just as Scott was the most influential force in popularizing
the romantic historical novel, exoticism in literature was inspired more by
Lord Byron–especially his
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818)–than
by any other single writer. Whereas the Romantic lyric poetry of Coleridge,
Shelley, Keats and Wordsworth had a negligible influence outside of their
native tongue, the sweep of Byron’s longer poems translated well into other
languages and other artistic media.
“Nature” meant many things to the Romantics. As
suggested above, it was often presented as itself a work of art, constructed by
a divine imagination, in emblematic language. For example, throughout “Song
of Myself,” Whitman makes a practice of presenting commonplace items in
nature–“ants,” “heap’d stones,” and
“poke-weed”–as containing divine elements, and he refers to the
“grass” as a natural “hieroglyphic,” “the handkerchief
of the Lord.” While particular perspectives with regard to nature varied
considerably–nature as a healing power, nature as a source of subject and
image, nature as a refuge from the artificial constructs of civilization,
including artificial language–the prevailing views accorded nature the status
of an organically unified whole. It was viewed as “organic,” rather
than, as in the scientific or rationalist view, as a system of
“mechanical” laws, for Romanticism displaced the rationalist view of
the universe as a machine (e.g., the deistic image of a clock) with the
analogue of an “organic” image, a living tree or mankind itself. At
the same time, Romantics gave greater attention both to describing natural
phenomena accurately and to capturing “sensuous nuance”–and this is
as true of Romantic landscape painting as of Romantic nature poetry. Accuracy
of observation, however, was not sought for its own sake. Romantic nature
poetry is essentially a poetry of meditation
The imagination was elevated to a position as the supreme
faculty of the mind. This contrasted distinctly with the traditional arguments
for the supremacy of reason. The Romantics tended to define and to present the
imagination as our ultimate “shaping” or creative power, the
approximate human equivalent of the creative powers of nature or even deity. It
is dynamic, an active, rather than passive power, with many functions.
Imagination is the primary faculty for creating all art. On a broader scale, it
is also the faculty that helps humans to constitute reality, for (as Wordsworth
suggested), we not only perceive the world around us, but also in part create
it. Uniting both reason and feeling (Coleridge described it with the
paradoxical phrase, “intellectual intuition”), imagination is
extolled as the ultimate synthesizing faculty, enabling humans to reconcile
differences and opposites in the world of appearance. The reconciliation of
opposites is a central ideal for the Romantics. Finally, imagination is
inextricably bound up with the other two major concepts, for it is presumed to
be the faculty which enables us to “read” nature as a system of
Symbolism and Myth
Symbolism and myth were given
great prominence in the Romantic conception of art. In the Romantic view,
symbols were the human aesthetic correlatives of nature’s emblematic language.
They were valued too because they could simultaneously suggest many things, and
were thus thought superior to the one-to-one communications of allegory.
Partly, it may have been the desire to express the “inexpressible”–the
infinite–through the available resources of language that led to symbol at one
level and myth (as symbolic narrative) at another
Other Concepts: Emotion, Lyric Poetry, and the Self
Other aspects of Romanticism
were intertwined with the above three concepts. Emphasis on the activity of the
imagination was accompanied by greater emphasis on the importance of intuition,
instincts, and feelings, and Romantics generally called for greater attention
to the emotions as a necessary supplement to purely logical reason. When this
emphasis was applied to the creation of poetry, a very important shift of focus
occurred. Wordsworth’s definition of all good poetry as “the spontaneous
overflow of powerful feelings” marks a turning point in literary history.
By locating the ultimate source of poetry in the individual artist, the
tradition, stretching back to the ancients, of valuing art primarily for its
ability to imitate human life (that is, for its mimetic qualities) was
reversed. In Romantic theory, art was valuable not so much as a mirror of the
external world, but as a source of illumination of the world within. Among
other things, this led to a prominence for first-person lyric poetry never
accorded it in any previous period. The “poetic speaker” became less
a persona and more the direct person of the poet.
Prelude and Whitman‘s “Song of
Myself” are both paradigms of successful experiments to take the growth of
the poet’s mind (the development of self) as subject for an “epic”
enterprise made up of lyric components. Confessional prose narratives such as
Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) and Chateaubriand’s Rene
(1801), as well as disguised autobiographical verse narratives such as Byron’s
(1818), are related phenomena. The interior journey and the
development of the self recurred everywhere as subject material for the
Romantic artist. The artist-as-hero is a specifically Romantic type
One of the most complex developments during this period is
the transformation of religion into a subject for artistic treatment far
removed from traditional religious art. The Enlightenment had weakened, but
hardly uprooted, established religion in
As time passed, sophisticated writers and artists were less and less likely to
be conventionally pious; but during the Romantic era many of them were drawn to
religious imagery in the same way they were drawn to Arthurian or other ancient
traditions in which they no longer believed. Religion was estheticized, and
writers felt free to draw on Biblical themes with the same freedom as their
predecessors had drawn on classical mythology, and with as little reverence.
begins and ends in Heaven, has God and the devil as major characters,
angels and demons as supporting players, and draws on wide variety of Christian
materials, but it is not a Christian play. The Enlightenment had weakened the
hold of Christianity over society to the extent that some at least, like
Goethe, no longer felt the need to engage in the sort of fierce battles with it
Voltaire had fought, but felt instead free to
play with it. A comparable
attitude can be seen in much of the work of the English Pre-Raphaelite painters
who began in mid-century to treat Christian subjects in the context of
charmingly “naive” Medievalism.
Contrasts with Neoclassicism
Consequently, the Romantics
sought to define their goals through systematic contrast with the norms of
neoclassicism.” In their critical manifestoes–the 1800
“Preface” to Lyrical Ballads, the critical studies of the Schlegel
brothers in Germany, the later statements of Victor Hugo in France, and of
Hawthorne, Poe, and Whitman in the United States–they self-consciously
asserted their differences from the previous age (the literary “ancien
regime”), and declared their freedom from the mechanical
“rules.” Certain special features of Romanticism may still be
highlighted by this contrast. We have already noted two major differences: the
replacement of reason by the imagination for primary place among the human
faculties and the shift from a mimetic to an expressive orientation for poetry,
and indeed all literature. In addition, neoclassicism had prescribed for art
the idea that the general or universal characteristics of human behavior were more
suitable subject matter than the peculiarly individual manifestations of human
activity. From at least the opening statement of Rousseau’s
first published in 1781–“I am not made like anyone I have seen; I dare
believe that I am not made like anyone in existence. If I am not superior, at
least I am different.”–this view was challenged
The Everyday and the Exotic
Scholars of English literature are prone to make much of the
distinction between the Romantic and Victorian Ages, but for our purposes the
latter is best viewed as merely a later stage of the former. The prudish
attitudes popularly associated with Queen
Victoria‘s reign are manifest in Germany and–to
a lesser extent–in
as well.
did not create Victorianism, she merely exemplified the temper of the time. But
throughout the Victorian period the wild, passionate, erotic, even destructive
aspects of Romanticism continue in evidence in all the arts.
Like the Enlightenment, Romanticism calls forth numerous
counter-movements, like Realism, Impressionism, Neo-classicism, etc.; but like
the Enlightenment, it also keeps on going. None of these were entirely to
replace the Romantic impulse. Hard-bitten naturalism in fiction and film
coexists today with sweeping romanticism; there are large audiences for both.
The contemporary vogue for “Victorian” designs is just one of many
examples of the frequent revivals of Romantic tastes and styles that have recurred
throughout the twentieth century.
Looking back over the list of characteristics discussed above
one can readily see that despite the fact that Romanticism was not nearly as
coherent a movement as the Enlightenment, and lacked the sort of programmatic
aims the latter professed, it was even more successful in changing
history–changing the definition of what it means to be human.
Recent Developments
critics have believed that the two identifiable movements that followed
Romanticism–Symbolism and Realism–were separate developments of the opposites
which Romanticism itself had managed, at its best, to unify and to reconcile.
Whether or not this is so, it is clear that Romanticism transformed Western
culture in many ways that survive into our own times. It is only very recently
that any really significant turning away from Romantic paradigms has begun to
take place, and even that turning away has taken place in a dramatic, typically
Romantic way.
Today a number of literary
theorists have called into question two major Romantic perceptions: that the
literary text is a separate, individuated, living “organism”; and
that the artist is a fiercely independent genius who creates original works of
art. In current theory, the separate, “living” work has been
dissolved into a sea of “intertextuality,” derived from and part of a
network or “archive” of other texts–the many different kinds of
discourse that are part of any culture. In this view, too, the independently
sovereign artist has been demoted from a heroic, consciously creative agent, to
a collective “voice,” more controlled than controlling, the
intersection of other voices, other texts, ultimately dependent upon
possibilities dictated by language systems, conventions, and institutionalized
power structures. It is an irony of history, however, that the explosive
appearance on the scene of these subversive ideas, delivered in what seemed to
the establishment to be radical manifestoes, and written by linguistically
powerful individuals, has recapitulated the revolutionary spirit and events of
Romanticism itself.
One of the
earliest and perhaps the greatest of English romantic poets, William Wordsworth
did much to restore simple diction to English poetry and to establish
romanticism as the era’s dominant literary movement. His verse celebrates the
moral influence exerted by nature on human thought and feeling.
was born on
April 7, 1770,
in Cockermouth,
and educated at
Saint John’s
, University of Cambridge. He developed a keen love of
nature as a youth, and during school vacation periods he frequently visited
places noted for their scenic beauty. In the summer of 1790 he took a walking
tour through
After receiving his degree in 1791 he returned to
France, where he became an
enthusiastic convert to the ideals of the French Revolution.
His lover
Annette Vallon of
bore him a daughter in December 1792, shortly before his return to
Disheartened by the outbreak of hostilities between
France and Great Britain
in 1793, Wordsworth nevertheless remained sympathetic to the French cause. Although
Wordsworth had begun to write poetry while still a schoolboy, none of his poems
was published until 1793, when
An Evening Walk and Descriptive
appeared. These works, although fresh and original in content,
reflect the influence of the formal style of 18th-century English poetry. The
poems received little notice, and few copies were sold.
income from his writings amounted to little, but his financial problems were
alleviated for a time when in 1795 he received a bequest of £900 from a close
friend. Thereupon he and his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, went to live in
Racedown, Dorsetshire. The two had always enjoyed a warmly sympathetic
relationship, and Wordsworth relied greatly on Dorothy, his devoted confidante,
for encouragement in his literary endeavors. Her mental breakdown in later
years was to cause him great sorrow, as did the death of his brother John.
William had met the poet
Taylor Coleridge
, an enthusiastic admirer of his early poetic efforts, and
in 1797 he and Dorothy moved to Alfoxden, Somersetshire, near Coleridge’s home
in Nether Stowey. The move marked the beginning of a close and enduring
friendship between the poets. In the ensuing period they collaborated on a book
of poems entitled
Lyrical Ballads, first published in 1798.
This work is generally taken to mark the beginning of the Romantic Movement in
English poetry. Wordsworth wrote almost all the poems in the volume, including
the memorable “Tintern Abbey”; Coleridge contributed the famous
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Representing a revolt against the
artificial classicism of contemporary English verse,
Lyrical Ballads was
greeted with hostility by most leading critics of the day.
In defense of his unconventional theory of poetry, Wordsworth wrote a
“Preface” to the second edition of
Ballads, which appeared in
1800 (actual date of publication, 1801). His premise was that the source of
poetic truth is the direct experience of the senses. Poetry, he asserted,
originates from “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Rejecting the
contemporary emphasis on form and an intellectual approach that drained poetic
writing of strong emotion, he maintained that the scenes and events of everyday
life and the speech of ordinary people were the raw material of which poetry
could and should be made. Far from conciliating the critics, the
“Preface” served only to increase their hostility.
however, was not discouraged, continuing to write poetry that graphically
illustrated his principles. Before the publication of the “Preface,”
Wordsworth and his sister had accompanied Coleridge to
Germany in 1798
and 1799. There
wrote several of his finest lyrical verses, the “Lucy” poems, and
The Prelude. This introspective account of his own development was
completed in 1805 and, after substantial revision, published posthumously in
1850. Many critics rank it as Wordsworth’s greatest work. Returning to
William and his sister settled in 1799 at Dove Cottage in
Westmorland, and the loveliest spot in the English Lake District. The poet
Robert Southey as well as Coleridge lived nearby and the three men became known
as the
Lake Poets. In 1802 Wordsworth married Mary
Hutchinson, a childhood friend, who is portrayed in the charming lyric
“She Was a Phantom of Delight.” In 1807
Poems in Two Volumes
was published. The work contains much of Wordsworth’s finest verse, notably the
superb “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” the autobiographical
narrative “Resolution and
and many of his well-known sonnets.
In 1813 Wordsworth obtained a sinecure as distributor of stamps for Westmorland
at a salary of £400 a year. In the same year he and his family and sister moved
to Rydal Mount, a few kilometers from Dove Cottage, and there the poet spent
the remainder of his life, except for periodic travels.
political and intellectual sympathies underwent a transformation after 1800. By
1810 his viewpoint was staunchly conservative. He was disillusioned by the
course of events in
culminating in the rise of Napoleon; his circle of friends, including the
Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, also influenced him in the direction of
As he advanced in age, Wordsworth’s poetic vision and inspiration dulled; his
later, more rhetorical, moralistic poems cannot be compared to the lyrics of
his youth, although a number of them are illumined by the spark of his former
greatness. Between 1814 and 1822 his publications included
The Excursion
(1814), a continuation of
The Prelude but lacking the power and beauty
of that work;
The White Doe of Rylstone (1815); Peter Bell
(1819); and
Ecclesiastical Sonnets (1822). Yarrow Revisited and Other
appeared in 1835, but after that Wordsworth wrote little more. Among
his other poetic works are
The Borderers: A Tragedy (1796; published
Michael (1800), The
(1800; published 1888), Laodamia (1815), and Memorials of
a Tour on the Continent
(1822). Wordsworth also wrote the prose works Convention
of Cintra
(1809) and A Description of the Scenery of the Lakes in the
North of England
(1810; reprinted with additions, 1822).
Much of Wordsworth’s easy flow of conversational blank verse has true lyrical
power and grace, and his finest work is permeated by a sense of the human
relationship to external nature that is religious in its scope and intensity.
To Wordsworth, God was everywhere manifest in the harmony of nature, and he
felt deeply the kinship between nature and the soul of mankind. The tide of
critical opinion turned in his favor after 1820, and Wordsworth lived to see
his work universally praised. In 1842 he was awarded a government pension, and
in the following year he succeeded Southey as poet laureate. Wordsworth died at
Rydal Mount,
April 23, 1850,
and was buried in the
Grasmere churchyard.
Keats and Romanticism
Keats belonged to a literary movement called romanticism.
Romantic poets, because of their theories of literature and life, were drawn to
; they even developed a new form of ode,
often called the
meditative ode
. The literary critic Jack Stillinger describes the typical
movement of the romantic ode: The poet, unhappy with the real world, escapes or
attempts to escape into the ideal. Disappointed in his mental flight, he
returns to the real world. Usually he returns because human beings cannot live
in the ideal or because he has not found what he was seeking. But the
experience changes his understanding of his situation, of the world, etc.; his
views/feelings at the end of the poem differ significantly from those he held
at the beginning of the poem.
Douglas Bush noted that “Keats’s
important poems are related to, or grow directly out of…inner
conflicts.” For example, pain and pleasure are intertwined in “Ode to
a Nightingale” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn”; love is intertwined
with pain, and pleasure is intertwined with death in “La Belle Dame Sans
Merci,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” and “Isabella; or, the Pot
of Basil.”
that is the theme of “Ode to a Nightingale” somewhat differently:
“the world of imagination offers a release from the painful world of
actuality, yet at the same time it renders the world of actuality more painful
by contrast.”

Other conflicts appear in Keats’s
  • transient
    sensation or passion / enduring art
  • dream or vision
    / reality
  • joy /
  • the ideal / the
  • mortal /
  • life / death
  • separation /
  • being immersed
    in passion / desiring to escape passion
Keats often associated love and pain
both in his life and in his poetry.  He wrote of a young woman he found attractive,
“When she comes into a room she makes an impression the same as the Beauty
of a Leopardess…. I should like her to ruin me…”  Love and death
are intertwined in “Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil,” “Bright
Star,” “The Eve of St. Agnes,” and “La Belle Dame sans
Merci.”  The Fatal Woman (the woman whom it is destructive to love,
Salome, Lilith,
Cleopatra) appears in  “La Belle Dame
sans Merci”  and “
Identity is an issue in his view of the poet and for the
dreamers in his odes (e.g., “Ode to a Nightingale”) and narrative
poems.  Of the poetic character, he says, “… it is not itself–it
has no self–it is every thing and nothing–it has no character–it enjoys
light and shade–it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, right or
poor, mean or elevated…” He calls the poet “chameleon.”
Keats’s imagery ranges among all our
physical sensations: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, temperature, weight,
pressure, hunger, thirst, sexuality, and movement. Keats repeatedly combines
different senses in one image, that is, he attributes the trait(s) of one sense
to another, a practice called
synaesthesia. His synaesthetic imagery
performs two major functions in his poems: it is part of their sensual effect,
and the combining of senses normally experienced as separate suggests an
underlying unity of dissimilar happenings, the oneness of all forms of life. Richard
H. Fogle calls these images the product of his “unrivaled ability to
absorb, sympathize with, and humanize natural objects.”

In his short life, John Keats wrote
some of the most beautiful and enduring poems in the English language. Among
his greatest achievements is his sequence of six lyric odes, written between
March and September 1819–astonishingly, when Keats was only twenty-four years
old. Keats’s poetic achievement is made all the more miraculous by the age at
which it ended: He died barely a year after finishing the ode “To
Autumn,” in February 1821.

 Keats was born in
1795 to a lower-middle-class family in
When he was still young, he lost both his parents. His mother succumbed to
tuberculosis, the disease that eventually killed Keats himself. When he was
fifteen, Keats entered into a medical apprenticeship, and eventually he went to
medical school. But by the time he turned twenty, he abandoned his medical
training to devote himself wholly to poetry. He published his first book of poems
in 1817; they drew savage critical attacks from an influential magazine, and
his second book attracted comparatively little notice when it appeared the next
year. Keats’s brother Tom died of tuberculosis in December 1818, and Keats
moved in with a friend in Hampstead.
Keats was one of the
most important figures of early nineteenth-century Romanticism, a movement that
espoused the sanctity of emotion and imagination, and privileged the beauty of
the natural world. Many of the ideas and themes evident in Keats’s great odes
are quintessentially Romantic concerns: the beauty of nature, the relation
between imagination and creativity, the response of the passions to beauty and
suffering, and the transience of human life in time. The sumptuous sensory language
in which the odes are written, their idealistic concern for beauty and truth,
and their expressive agony in the face of death are all Romantic
preoccupations–though at the same time, they are all uniquely Keats’s.
to a Nightingale”
and “Ode
on a Grecian Urn,”
Keats tries to free himself from the world of
change by identifying with the nightingale, representing nature, or the urn,
representing art. These odes, as well as “The
Ode to Psyche”
and the “Ode
to Melancholy
,” present the poet as dreamer; the question in these
odes, as well as in “La
Belle Dame Sans Merci”
and “The
Eve of St. Agnes,”
is how Keats characterizes the dream or vision


The term ‘romanticism’ is used to
describe the aesthetic movement during the period from

about 1776-1834. It was a revolutionary movement because it focused on ideals
which in stark contrast to the ‘Classical’ movement, The Enlightenment, which
preceded it. More importantly however is the fact that it reflected the social
climate of the period which with the development of the French Revolution was
itself revolutionary. Rationalism, empiricism, materialism and mechanism were
the central were the central philosophies of The Enlightenment and was
a period in literature that focused on the precision of the form and content of
the piece rather than its inspiration. In contrast, Romanticism brought
the attention back to the individual. The era of reason was replaced with a new
passion for mystery and the supernatural, freedom of thought and expression, an
idealization and pantheistic belief in nature, and the affirmation of the
creative (and divine) powers of the imagination.
Truth could be arrived at through
imagination and emotional faculties rather than reason.(Kitson, 1996). Romanticism
can therefore be viewed as a “reaction of emotion against reason, nature
against artificiality, simplicity against complexity, faith against
skepticism”. Rene Wellek beautifully and succinctly describes the spirit of
Romanticism in his assertion,” Imagination for the view of poetry, nature for
the view of the world, and the symbol and myth for poetic style”.
The catch cry for the period
therefore shifted from “I think therefore I am (Descartes)” to “I
imagine therefore I am human”. The value placed upon expression of these
notions in the works of those such as John Keats and William Wordworth,
effectively marked their poetic contributions as part of the ‘voice’ of the
Romantic Movement.
End of the Eighteenth and Beginning of the Nineteenth Century


Reign of George


The American


The French


War with France


Rebellion in Ireland


Unification of Ireland and England


The battle of


The battle of Waterloo

The first Corn Law


The Peterloo


Reign of George


Start of period
of legislative reform


Trade Unions


Police force


Reign of William


Vote for
businessmen and industrialists


Factory act


National primary
education system set up

1. Long  J William-English Literature, Friends Book
Corner (pages 369-450)
2. Hough Graham-The romantic
poets.. Hustchinson university library, London.(pages-156, 160-172)
3. Fausset H I’V
-Keats; A Study in Development.1922.
4. Lall RamjiJohn keats,slected
poem. Rama Brothers 1995(.pages-25-30,118-25, 128,130 ,162 ,181,186,188)
5. W.H. Hudson -A Short History of English
Literature” e-book (pages 85-98}
6. Jha A DrJohn keats
,slected poems. Aarti Book Centre 1980.(pages-30-34, 148, 158,178-82)
7. Davies, Hunter. William Wordsworth: A Biography.
New York:
Atheneum, 1980 (pages-56-88)
8. monarch notes –the
romantic poets. (Pages-182-85, 190-92 2005,2008)

9. Rabbani Golam,
G.R.Studies On John Keats, Hassan Book Depot.2004  ( 
pages-19-23,101-132,183-208,209-230, 264-67, 288,307-317)

10.  Gill, Stephen. William Wordsworth: A Life. New York Oxford University
Press, 1989
11.  Sendry Joseph, A
critical Study Guide To Keats The Odes, Littlefield,
& co.(pages-18,20,40,51,65-72,74-80, 87)
12.  Lall RamjiWilliam Wordswarth,slected
poem. Rama Brothers 1995(.pages-25-30,118-25, 128,130 ,162 ,181,186,188