The British Romantic Period “The divine arts of imagination: imagination, the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a shadow.” William Blake How and When Did it Start? • Spring, 1798 • Two English poets, aged 27 and 25, sold some poems to pay for a trip to Germany. • Soon after, Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems, was published. • The poets were Wordsworth and Coleridge and the work contains poems considered among the most important of the era. Perhaps another explanation… • The French Revolution – 1789 • End with the Parliamentary Reforms of 1832 which laid the foundation for Modern Britain • A turbulent time which saw England change from an agricultural nation to an industrial one. • Large and restless working class Time Line of Important Events • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Storming of the Bastille 1789 King Louis XVI beheaded 1793 France declares war on England 1793 Thomas Jefferson becomes President 1800 Napoleon conquers Italy 1800 Act of Union creates United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1801 Workday of pauper children limited to 12 hrs. 1802 Louisiana Purchase made by US 1803 Napoleon becomes emperor 1804 United States bans import of slaves 1808 English artisans riot to stop industrialization 1811 Napoleon invades Russia 1812 United States declares war on Great Britain 1812 Mexico declares its independency from Spain • British forces burn Washington, DC 1814 • Napoleon defeated at Waterloo 1815 • First in a series of ineffective Factory Acts prohibits employment of children under the age of 9. 1819 • Antarctica sighted by Russian, British, and American sailing ships 1820 • George III, mentally ill since 1810, dies 1820 • In the US, Monroe closes the Americas to further European colonization 1823 • First labor unions permitted in Great Britain 1824 • Catholic Emancipation Act allows British Roman Catholics to hold public office 1829 • Charles Darwin serves as a naturalist on HMS Beagle during expedition along coast of South America 1831 • Reform Act extends voting rights of British uppermiddle class men 1832 • Slavery abolished in the British empire 1833 So, What is a Poet in Romantic Poetry? • According to Wordsworth, “He is a man speaking to men.” • The speaker is an ordinary man, a democratic concept. • The speaking in lyrical poetry is a passionate speaking from the heart. • It seems to be more of an “overhearing” – as if we are privy to a private conversation or someone speaking to himself. • A language of the heart • According to Keats, “What the imagination seizes as beauty must be the truth whether it existed before or not.” The Lure of the Gothics • Literature of the Romantic period is filled with examples of the eerie and the supernatural. • This taste for terror grew from a sensibility called “gothic” that set stories in gloomy medieval castles. • It’s intention? To make the readers’ blood run cold. • The turn from rational enlightenment to Gothic sensationalism indicated more than just a fad for terrifying tales and quirky architecture. • It was a way the people of the age expressed a sense of helplessness about forces beyond their control. So, What Does This Mean? • Idealists and liberals (which often writers are) felt exhilarated by the events in France. • Even made trips to France to watch “the new regime” • However, the Reign of Terror did instill some fear about how far things were going and when Napoleon took over it was evident that this new dictator was no less of a tyrant than what the French had seen before. • They felt betrayed. • Became a little more conservative realizing that political stability was non-existent. They also felt the repercussions of Britain’s war with France. Laissez- Faire • Hand-made changed to factory-made • Communal land is no more • Homeless migrated to cities and many went of the dole • Economics NOT controlled by government • Children paid biggest price • Resulted in poets rejecting formal, public verse and turning to private, spontaneous lyrically poetry. Imagination became the answer to the problems. Characteristics of Romanticism 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) Romanticism turned away from 18 century emphasis on reason and artifice. Embraced imagination and naturalness. Rejected the public, formal, and witty works of previous century. Preferred poetry that spoke of personal experiences and emotions, often in simple, unadorned language. Used the lyric as the form best suited to expressions of feeling, self-revelation, and the imagination. Wordsworth urged poets to adopt a democratic attitude towards their audience. Many turned to a past or an inner dream world that they saw as picturesque. Most believed in individual liberty and sympathized with those who had rebelled against tyranny. Thought of nature as transformative; fascinated by the ways nature and the human mind “mirrored” one another. This Nature Business • Yes, much of the literature of this time embraced nature • However, the Romantics prized experiences of beauty and majesty that could be found in nature. • According to Wordsworth, he “considers man and nature as essentially adapted to each other, and the mind of man as naturally a mirror of the fairest and most interesting properties of nature.” And Imagination? • Most of the Romantic poems present imaginative experiences as very powerful and moving. • They suggest that as well as being a special faculty of the mind, the imagination is also a kind of desire, a motive that drives the mind to learn and to know things it cannot learn by rational and logical thinking. • The mind moves in mysterious ways to imitate the powers of the Maker. • The purpose of this imitation is to create new realities in the mind.