VI. Romanticism English Literature of the Beginning of the XIX Century

The greatest literary movement of the beginning of the 19th century was called Romanticism. It was born in the atmosphere of the economic and political activity brought on by the Great French Revolution of 1789. The period of Romanticism covered about thirty years, beginning from the last decade of the 18th century and continuing up to the 30’s of the 19th century.

Romanticism in literature was the reaction of the society not only to the French Revolution, but also to the Enlightenment connected with it. The common people didn’t get what they had expected: neither freedom, nor equality. The bourgeoisie was disappointed as well, because the capitalist way of development hadn’t been prepared by the revolution yet. And the feudals suffered from the Revolution, because it was the Revolution that had made them much weaker. Thus there were differences in the ideological contents of Romanticism which caused two main directions in literature: progressive (George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley) and conservative (the Lakists). The first reflected the interests of the common people and the progressive part of the bourgeoisie; the second trend defended the hopes and wishes of the defeated feudal class.

The period of Romanticism in England had its peculiarities. The romantic writers of England did not call themselves romanticists (like their French and German contemporaries). Nevertheless, they all depicted the interdependence of Man and Nature. The romantic writers based their theories on the intuition and the wisdom of the heart. On the other hand, they were violently stirred by the suffering of which they were the daily witnesses. They hoped to find a way of changing the social order by their writings, they believed in literature being a sort of Mission to be carried out in order to reach the wisdom of the Universe.

During the second half of the 18th century economic and social changes took place in England. The country went through so-called Industrial Revolution when new industries sprang up and new processes were applied to the manufacture of traditional products. The factories were built, the industrial development was marked by an increase in the export of finished cloth rather than of raw material. Internal communications were largely funded. Much money was invested in road-and canal-building. The first railway line was launched in 1830 from Liverpool to Manchester which allowed many people inspired by poets of Romanticism to discover the beauty of their own country.

The Industrial Revolution in England had a great influence on the cultural life of the country. The writers tried to solve the problems, but we can’t treat all the romantics of England as belonging to the same literary school. William Blake (1757-1827) was bitterly disappointed in the downfall of the French Revolution. His young contemporaries, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and William Wordsworth (1770-1850), both were warm admirers of the Revolution, both escaped from the evils of big cities and settled in the quietness of country life, in the purity of nature, among unsophisticated country-folk. Living in the Lake country of Northern England, they were known as the Lakists.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonshire in 1772. His father was a priest and wanted his son to follow...

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

William Wordsworth was born in Cumberland in 1770 and educated at Cambridge. Like Coleridge, he graduated from the University without...

Walter Scott (1771-1832)

Walter Scott was the greatest romanticist of the time. Though personally friendly to “The Lakists”, he never shared their literary...

George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)

George Gordon Byron was born in London on 22 January, 1788. His father was English, but mother was of the...

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Byron’s friend, was the only among the romanticists who understood that liberty could not be won without...

John Keats (1795-1821)

Like Shelley, Keats created his own world of imagination. Like Shelley, Keats hated oppression, but he never mixed his political...

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Jane Austen was the most well-known lady-novelist of those times. She possessed a vivid imagination and a great sense of...

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