The Romantic Age (1798 – 1832) Part – I
Topics so far –
1. The Road Map for NET/JRF in English
16. The Romantic Age: Part – I
Outline to the Romantic Age
Poetry: The First Generation of Poets
Miscellaneous Prose & Utilitarians
Poetry: The Second Generation of Poets
Other Prose Works
The Romantic Age – I
Romanticism in Itself and in Relation to Society: The first thirty years of the nineteenth century form a natural period. We witness the realization in all its plenitude of a type of emotional and imaginative literature that has escaped from the constraining forces of sovereign reason! This consummation is brought about by an inner progress, but at the same time it is favoured by the general influences of the social and moral surroundings.
After the great upheaval caused by the transformation of industry, after the religious awakening of Methodism and Evangelicalism, the decisive shock to thought comes with the French Revolution. It is legitimate enough to date the beginning of the new age in literature from the publication of the anonymous work which united the young talents of Wordsworth and Coleridge (1798). Romanticism in England is the affirmation of an innovatory aesthetic creed, as opposed to orthodox art. English Romanticism does not consist in the triumph of ‘self’. The personality of the writer has a characteristic place in it, because sensibility and imagination are of the very essence of individuality. Classicism laid stress upon the impersonal aspects of the life of the mind; the new literature, on the other hand, openly shifts the centre of art, bringing it back towards what is most proper and particular in each individual.
The Romantic spirit can be defined as an accentuated predominance of emotional life, provoked or directed by the exercise of imaginative vision, and in its turn stimulating or directing such exercise. Intense emotion coupled with an intense display of imagery, such is the frame of mind which supports and feeds the new literature.
The Elizabethan age had already been essentially an age of Romanticism. What are the traits which distinguish the later Romanticism from the earlier? In the first place there are delicate differences due to the immediate happenings and to near historical influences. (for an elaborate intro to Romanticism do read Legouis and Cazamian’s wonderful book History of English Literature)
The general features of the Romantic movement were -
a) A return to Nature - to the real nature of earth and air, and not to the bookish nature of the artificial pastoral.
b) A fresh interest in man's position in the world of nature. This led to great activity in religious and political speculation
c) An enlightened sympathy for the poor and oppressed. In English literature during this time one has but to think of the work of Cowper, Burns, and Crabbe, and even of the classically minded Gray, to perceive the revolution that is taking place in the minds of men.
d) A revolt against the conventional literary technique, such as that of the heroic couplet. On the other hand, we have a desire for strength, simplicity, and sincerity in the expression of the new literary ideals.
e) Fresh treatment of Romantic themes in such poems as The Lay of the Last Minstrel, The Ancient Mariner, La Belle Dame sans Merci. Writers turned to supernatural stories, legends, and the more colourful periods of history, especially the Middle Ages.
Political and Periodical Writing: The age did not produce a pamphleteer of the first class like Swift or Burke, but the turbulence of the period was clearly marked in the immense productivity of its political writers. The number of periodicals was greatly augmented, and we notice the first of the great daily journals that are still a strong element in literature and politics. The Morning Chronicle (1769) was started by William Woodfall, The Morning Post (1772) by a syndicate of London tradesmen, and The Times (1785), under the name of The Daily Universal Register, by John Walter. Of a more irresponsible type were the Radical Political Register (1802) of Cobbett and The Examiner (1808) of Leigh Hunt. A race of powerful literary magazines sprang to life: The Edinburgh Review (1802), The Quarterly Review (1809), Blackwood's Magazine (1817), The London Magazine (1820), and The Westminster Review (1824). Such excellent publications reacted strongly upon authorship, and were responsible for much of the best work of Hazlitt, Lamb, Southey, and a host of other miscellaneous writers.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: Wordsworth’s creative originality among English poets remains closely linked with the revolutionary faith. A spiritual bond was formed never to be broken.
Asserting in the preface to his Lyrical Ballads that poetry should comprise ‘‘language really used by men,’’ William Wordsworth challenged the prevailing eighteenth century notion of formal poetic diction and thereby profoundly affected the course of modern poetry. His major work, The Prelude, a study of the role of the imagination and memory in the formation of poetic sensibility, is now viewed as one of the most seminal long poems of the
nineteenth century. The freshness and emotional power of Wordsworth’s poetry, the keen psychological depth of his characterizations, and the urgency of his social commentary make him one of the most important writers in English.
Writing Habits and Lifelong Friends: Following a brief sojourn in London, Wordsworth settled with his sister at Racedown in 1795. Living modestly but contentedly, he now spent much of his time reading contemporary European literature and writing verse. An immensely important contribution to Wordsworth’s success was Dorothy’s lifelong devotion: She encouraged his efforts at composition and looked after the details of their daily life. During the first year at Racedown, Wordsworth wrote The Borderers, a verse drama based on the ideas of William Godwin and the German Sturm und Drang writers, who emphasized emotional expression in their work. The single most important event of his literary apprenticeship occurred in 1797 when he met the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two had corresponded for several years, and when Coleridge came to visit Wordsworth at Racedown, their rapport and mutual admiration were immediate. Many critics view their friendship as one of the most extraordinary in English literature.
In 1802, Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson. Realizing that Wordsworth now required a more steady source of income, Coleridge introduced him to Sir George Beaumont, a wealthy art patron who became Wordsworth’s benefactor and friend. Beaumont facilitated the publication of the Poems of 1807; in that collection, Wordsworth once again displayed his extraordinary talent for nature description and infusing an element of mysticism into ordinary experience. Always fascinated by human psychology, he also stressed the influence of childhood. Most reviewers singled out ‘‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’’ as perhaps Wordsworth’s greatest production.
Romantic Movement: Wordsworth was a quintessential Romantic poet. The Romantic Movement in literature, which began in the late eighteenth century, was a reaction against what was seen as the cold rationality of the Enlightenment period. During the Enlightenment, developments in science and technology ushered in the massive social changes in western society. The Industrial Revolution brought about population explosions in European cities while the works of political scientists and philosophers laid the groundwork for the American and French Revolutions. The Romantics viewed science and technology skeptically, and stressed the beauty of nature and individual emotion in their work.
Early response to his poetry begins with Francis Jeffrey’s concerted campaign to thwart Wordsworth’s poetic career. His reviews of the works of the Lake poets—Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Robert Southey—and of Wordsworth’s poetry in particular, were so vitriolic that they stalled public acceptance of the poet for some twenty years but brought many critics to his defense. To Jeffrey, Wordsworth’s poetic innovations were in ‘‘open violation of the established laws of poetry.’’ He described Wordsworth’s stylistic simplicity as affectation. Like Jeffrey, many readers may have believed Wordsworth ‘‘descended too low’’ in his writing, as an advertisement printed with the Lyrical Ballads in 1798 warns. The advertisement recognizes that the familiar tone Wordsworth uses may not be what poetry readers prefer and tries to frame Wordsworth’s poetic inclusion of ordinary language as an ‘‘experiment’’ that attempts ‘‘to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure.’’ Despite this public hesitation, Wordsworth’s poetry eventually gained acceptance. By the 1830s, Wordsworth was England’s preeminent poet.
Wordsworth’s The Prelude was published shortly after his death. Begun some fifty years earlier, the poem was completed in 1805 and then drastically revised over time. Greeted with uneven praise at its first appearance, the poem is now hailed as Wordsworth’s greatest work. Scholar Alan Richardson notes that because of the work’s autobiographical slant, many literary critics view The Prelude through a variety of lenses, particularly psychoanalytic.
Wordsworth, or the poet, becomes the subject, while the critic becomes amateur analyst. At the same time, some critics tend to explore the poem through historical criticism, preferring, as David Miall suggests, to see how ‘‘Wordsworth engages with contemporary events . . . at the local level and . . . on a broader canvas.’’ In this vein, scholars like to analyze the way Wordsworth may ‘‘position himself as a historical figure.’’
In general, critics laud The Prelude’s blending of autobiography, history, and epic, its theme of loss and gain, its mythologizing of childhood experience, and its affirmation of the value of the imagination.
Wordsworth was keenly interested in depicting idealized portraits of rural people. Here are some other works that champion or examine ‘‘common’’ rural, hardworking lives:
So Big! (1924), a novel by Edna Ferber. Ferber’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel shows a moral contrast between the hardworking farm woman and her city-dwelling architect son.
The Grapes of Wrath (1939), a novel by John Steinbeck. This novel set during the Great Depression follows Tom Joad and his family on their journey to the promised land of California.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), a book by James Agee with photographs by Walker Evans. Agee and Evans photographed and detailed the real lives of sharecropper families in the U.S. South. Their portraits are a far cry from Wordsworth’s idealized visions.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was a poet, philosopher, and literary critic whose writings have been enormously influential in the development of modern thought. In his lifetime, Coleridge was renowned throughout Britain and Europe as one of the Lake Poets, a close-knit group of writers including William Wordsworth and Robert Southey. Today, Coleridge is considered the premier poet-critic of modern English tradition, distinguished for the scope and influence of his thinking about literature as much as for his innovative verse.
Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772, in the village of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, England, where he lived until the age of ten, when his father died. The boy was then sent to school at Christ’s Hospital in London. Later, he described his years there as desperately lonely; only the friendship of future author Charles Lamb, a fellow student, offered solace. From Christ’s Hospital, Coleridge went to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he earned a reputation as a promising young writer and brilliant conversationalist. He left in 1794 without completing his degree. Coleridge then traveled to Oxford University, where he befriended Robert Southey. The two developed a plan for a ‘‘pantisocracy,’’ or egalitarian agricultural society, to be founded in Kentucky. By this time, the American colonies had completed their revolution, and the United States was in its infancy. Kentucky became a state in 1792. For a time, both Coleridge and Southey were absorbed by their revolutionary concepts and together composed a number of works, including a drama, The Fall of Robespierre (1794), based on their radical politics. Since their plan also required that each member be married, Coleridge, at Southey’s urging, wed Sara Fricker, the sister of Southey’s fiancée. Unfortunately, the match proved disastrous, and Coleridge’s unhappy marriage was a source of grief to him throughout his life. To compound Coleridge’s difficulties, Southey lost interest in the scheme, abandoning it in 1795.
Focused on Poetry Writing: Career Coleridge’s fortunes changed when in 1796 he met the poet William Wordsworth, with whom he had corresponded casually for several years. Their rapport was instantaneous, and the next year, Coleridge moved to Nether Stowey in the Lake District, where he and Wordsworth began their literary collaboration. Influenced by Wordsworth, whom he considered the finest poet since John Milton, Coleridge composed the bulk of his most admired work. Because he had no regular income, he was reluctantly planning to become a Unitarian minister when, in 1798, the prosperous china manufacturers Josiah and Thomas Wedgwood offered him a lifetime pension so that he could devote himself to writing.
Aided by this annuity, Coleridge entered a prolific period that lasted from 1798 to 1800, composing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Frost at Midnight, and Kubla Khan. In 1798, Coleridge also collaborated with Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads, a volume of poetry that they published anonymously. Coleridge’s contributions included The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published in its original, rather archaic form. Most critics found the poem incomprehensible, including Southey, who termed it ‘‘a Dutch attempt at German sublimity.’’ The poem’s unpopularity impeded the volume’s success, and not until the twentieth century was Lyrical Ballads recognized as the first literary document of English
Coleridge traveled to what later became Germany, where nationalism was on the rise. He developed an interest in the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich von Schelling, August
Wilhelm, and Friedrich von Schlegel. Coleridge later introduced German aesthetic theory in England through his critical writings.
The poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner perhaps best incorporates both Coleridge’s imaginative use of verse and the intertwining of reality and fantasy. The tale of a seaman who kills an albatross, the poem presents a variety of religious and supernatural images to depict a moving spiritual journey of doubt, renewal, and eventual redemption.
Influence of German Romantic Philosophy: Coleridge’s analyses channeled the concepts of the German Romantic philosophers into England and helped establish the modern view of William Shakespeare as a master of depicting human character. The Biographia Literaria, the most famous of Coleridge’s critical writings, was inspired by his disdain for the eighteenth-century empiricists who relied on observation and experimentation to formulate their aesthetic theories. In this work, he turned to such German philosophers as Kant and Schelling for a more universal interpretation of art. From Schelling, Coleridge drew his ‘‘exaltation of art to a metaphysical role,’’ and his contention that art is analogous to nature is borrowed from Kant.
Definition of Imagination: Of the different sections in the Biographia Literaria, perhaps the most often studied is Coleridge’s definition of the imagination. He describes two kinds of imagination, the primary and the secondary: the primary is the agent of perception, which relays the details of experience, while the secondary interprets these details and creates from them. The concept of a dual imagination forms a seminal part of Coleridge’s theory of poetic unity, in which disparate elements are reconciled as a unified whole. According to Coleridge, the purpose of poetry was to provide pleasure ‘‘through the medium of beauty.’’
As a major figure in the English Romantic movement, he is best known for three poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, and Christabel. Although the three poems were poorly received during Coleridge’s lifetime, they are now praised as classic examples of imaginative verse. The influence of Ancient Mariner rings clear in Shelley and Keats in the next generation, and in Tennyson, Browning, Rossetti, and Swinburne among their Victorian inheritors. In the title of W. H. Auden’s Look, Stranger! (1936), the echo of the Mariner’s exhortation, ‘‘Listen, Stranger!’’ from the text of 1798, shows how far Coleridge’s voice would carry.
Coleridge was also influential as a critic, especially with Biographia Literaria. His criticism, which examines the nature of poetic creation and stresses the relationship between emotion and intellect, helped free literary thought from the neoclassical strictures of eighteenth century scholars.
Kubla Khan: For many years, critics considered Kubla Khan merely a novelty of limited meaning, but John Livingston Lowes’s 1927 study, The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination, explored its imaginative complexity and the many literary sources that influenced it, including the works of Plato and Milton. Though Coleridge himself dismissed the poem as a ‘‘psychological experiment,’’ it is now considered a forerunner of the work of the Symbolists and Surrealists in its presentation of the Unconscious.
Coleridge claimed Kubla Khan was inspired by an opium induced dream. Here are some other works that were inspired by dreams, opium experiences, or flights of imagination:
Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822), a memoir by Thomas de Quincey. Coleridge’s friend and fellow opium addict wrote of his experiences with addiction.
The Castle of Otranto (1764), a novel by Horace Walpole. The first Gothic novel, this story set the genre’s conventions, from crumbling castles to secret passageways to melodramatic revelations. A sensation upon its publication, it single-handedly launched a genre.
Compendium of Chronicles (1307), a literary work by Rashid al-Din. This fourteenth-century Iranian work of literature and history includes the detail that the inspiration for Kubla Khan’s palace was given to the Mongolian ruler in a dream. The book was published in English for the first time twenty years after the final revision of Coleridge’s masterpiece.
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790–1793), a poem by William Blake. This poem explicitly explores the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious minds and the role of imagination as prophecy.
ROBERT SOUTHEY: He was made Poet Laureate in 1813. His poems, which are of great bulk, include Joan of Arc (1798), Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), The Curse of Kehama (1810), and Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). Typically romantic in theme, most of them were too ambitious for a poet of Southey's limitations. In style they are straightforward and unaffected, but they lack the transfiguring fire of true genius and are now almost forgotten. Some shorter pieces, such as The Holly-tree, The Battle Of Blenheim, and The Inchcape Rock, are Still in favour, and deservedly so. His numerous prose works include The History of Brazil (1810-19) and The History of the Peninsular War (1823-32). The slightest of them all, The Life of Nelson (1813), is the only one now freely read. It shows Southey's easy 'middle' style at its best.
WALTER SCOTT: Modern scholars consider Scottish author Sir Walter Scott both the inventor of the historical novel and the first best-selling novelist. In addition to elevating the novel to a status equal to that of poetry, Scott singlehandedly created the genre of historical fiction, vividly bringing to life both Scottish and English history.
Poetic Success: In Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), his first publication, Scott’s interests as a poet, an antiquarian, and a Scottish cultural nationalist came together for the first time. This work contained the Scottish ballads he had collected over the years, many of which had never before appeared in print. Encouraged both by praise from friends and by the popularity of this collection, Scott wrote the highly successful narrative poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), a work Scott intended to illustrate the customs and manners of inhabitants on both sides of the Scottish-English border during medieval times.
Around this time, Scott quit practicing law full time and entered into a longtime relationship with the printer James Ballantyne, purchasing a third share in the business that would publish many of his works throughout the years. Scott followed the success of The Lay of the Last Minstrel with a series of highly popular poems featuring Scottish backgrounds and themes. Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field (1808), for example, tells of a famous—and disastrous—Scottish battle against the English. In 1810, Scott published his best-known long poem, The Lady of the Lake, set in the Scottish Highlands.
The Waverly Novels: The triumph of the first two cantos of Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold in 1812 convinced Scott that he could not compete with the younger poet. By the time Scott’s next work, Rokeby, appeared in 1813, readers were beginning to lose interest in his poetry. Anxious to keep his audience and income, Scott decided to revise and complete a fragment of a novel that he had begun ten years before about the Jacobite revolution in Scotland, an attempt to restore the old Stuart line to the Scottish and English thrones. Published in 1814, Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since quickly became the most successful work of its kind ever to appear, and the novel brought huge profits to Scott and his publisher. Over the next seventeen years, Scott wrote more than two dozen novels and stories in a series now known as the Waverly Novels. Because he never worked out his plots ahead of time, rarely revised his manuscripts, and followed strict work habits, Scott was able to maintain an impressively prolific pace. Through the speech, manners, and customs of past ages, most of the Waverly Novels describe the lives of ordinary individuals who become involved in historical events. This body of work is often divided into three groups: the ‘‘Scotch Novels,’’ including Old Mortality (1816), which deal with Scottish culture and history; the novels that focus on medieval history in England and Europe, such as Ivanhoe (1820); and those that are concerned with the Tudor-Stuart era in England, including Woodstock (1826).
Because writing novels was considered less respectable than writing poetry during this time, Scott published the Waverly Novels anonymously. Even when the success of this series increased general public appreciation for novelists, Scott chose to remain anonymous—most likely a result of his perception that the mystery surrounding the novels contributed to their sales. The Waverly Novels were published as ‘‘by the Author of Waverly,’’ and the author was often referred to simply as the Great Unknown. Although the Waverly Novels were published anonymously, many readers and critics alike knew Scott’s identity, and he became not only the most popular writer in contemporary English literature, but also a highly esteemed personality throughout Europe. In 1818, Scott was made a baronet and thereafter was known as Sir Walter Scott.
Influenced by History: Scott’s reading of the works of Edmund Spenser and Torquato Tasso and Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) did much to shape his later poetry, as did his many expeditions to the countryside, where he spent time collecting ballads, local legends, and folklore. Scott was greatly influenced by the history and life of people who lived in his native Scotland.
Novel Incorporations: Scott worked a number of ballads, songs, and other lyrics into his novels. Gothic writers such as Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis had revived the convention of interspersing lyric poems in prose narratives that was characteristic of earlier English romances such as Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590, 1593) and Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde (1590). Scott used this device to much greater effect than his Gothic predecessors did. His early mastery of song and ballad forms enabled him to establish atmosphere and character,
and his use of lyrics to comment on or foreshadow the action of the novels is often quite subtle and effective.
Influence: Twentieth-century critics have emphasized Scott’s important role in English literary history, as well as his considerable impact on nineteenth-century European literature. Literary historians have traced his influence on the masterpieces of novelists as diverse as Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Honore de Balzac, and William Makepeace Thackeray. Scholars have also explored Scott’s significant contribution—through his invention and development of the historical novel—to the history of ideas, specifically with respect to the modern concept of historical perspective.
Waverly; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since: The first in the Waverly Novels series, Waverley (1814), proved a popular sensation when first published and quickly became the most successful work of its kind ever to appear. Contemporary critical reaction, though also positive, did cite certain deficiencies in the work, including careless construction and prolixity. Yet most early reviewers quickly acknowledged the strengths of the novel, noting its originality, vivid portrayal of history, and lively characters.
Like most of Scott’s novels, Waverley has fallen out of favor, although it continues to attract the attention of scholars interested in the view of history it offers. In the late 1960s, Robert C. Gordon wrote in Under Which King? A Study of the Scottish Waverly Novels, ‘‘Waverly,
then is one of the most distinguished innovations in literary history. It is also a splendid work in its own right. Scott found his solution to the problems of dealing with Jacobitism in the story of an immature, vain yet fundamentally proper young hero who becomes a warrior.’’
Other studies have been greatly influenced by the criticism of Georg Luka`cs in The Historical Novel. In this work, Lukacs examined Scott as a dialectical historian, claiming that he ‘‘endeavors to portray the struggles and antagonisms of history by means of characters who, in their psychology and destiny, always represent social trends and historical forces.’’ Numerous critics have taken up Lukacs’s idea and applied this thinking to Edward Waverley as he represents a significant moment of cultural transition in Scottish and English history.
Scott essentially invented the genre of historical fiction, a genre that still flourishes today. Here are some more recent works of historical fiction:
Gudrun’s Tapestry (2003), a novel by Joan Schweighardt. Set in the fifth century, this story vividly brings to life Attila the Hun and an ancient Norse saga.
I, Mona Lisa (2006), a novel by Jeanne Kalogridis. The author creates the life of a young woman in fifteenth century Florence, Italy, who is the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting.
Joshua’s Bible (2003), a novel by Shelly Leanne. This novel follows a young African American man in the 1930s who goes to South Africa as a missionary and confronts the early days of apartheid.
Night of Flames (2007), a novel by Douglas W. Jacobson. In this novel, a married couple is separated while fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2006), a novel by Lisa See. This novel, set in nineteenth-century China, examines
women’s roles in rural China.
The Sugar Cane Curtain (2000), a novel by Zilia L. Laje. This novel explores the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba.
Mary Shelley (1797–1851): British writer, married to Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; her best-known work is the 1818 novel Frankenstein.
Frankenstein (1818), a novel by Mary Shelley. Geneva is the hometown of the original mad scientist Victor Frankenstein, and much of the action in the novel takes place in and around Switzerland. Frankenstein was inspired, the story goes, by an evening which Mary Shelley spent with the poets Byron and Shelley and their friend John Polidori on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816. All four of them were to write something ‘supernatural’. Byron and Shelley
incorporated the ideas into poems. Polidori wrote The Vampire, published in 1818, a story which started a long line of vampire tales in English.
Farah has been credited with writing the first feminist novel to come out of Africa. However, feminism in literature dates back at least to the late eighteenth century, and has been produced in many cultures around the world. Here are a few more prominent feminist texts that argue that women deserve more freedom than society then allowed them:
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), a treatise by Mary Wollstonecraft. This work, written by the mother of Mary Shelley—the author of Frankenstein—is one of the first to present an argument for women’s rights in general, and the right to an education in particular.
The Feminine Mystique (1963), a nonfiction work by Betty Friedan. In this work, Friedan discusses the stifling nature of the role to which women were relegated at that time in America: the role of housewife, a position that she finds ‘‘terrifying’’ because of the loneliness the housewife must feel to be all day cut off from interactions with other adults.
The Subjection of Women (1869), an essay by John Stuart Mill. Arguing against the patriarchal system in which he lived and in favor of equality between the sexes, John Stuart Mill became one of the first major authors to support the burgeoning feminist movement.
A Room of One’s Own (1929), an essay by Virginia Woolf. One of the arguments made against the equality of men and women in the artistic sphere during Woolf’s lifetime was that women had not proven themselves capable of producing high art. Woolf argued that women would produce high art if aspiring female artists had their own money and ‘‘a room of one’s own,’’ just as men have, to explore their innate talents.
Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864). Landor had a long life' for he was born five years after Wordsworth, and lived to see the full yield of the Victorian era. Landor is seen at his best in his shorter works. The Hellenics, brief narratives based on Greek mythology, are for the most part in blank verse. Many of them have a pleasing conciseness of style and lightness of touch, though some are marred by the weaknesses of Gebir. His lyrics have often a classical restraint and delicacy.
His dramas, of which the best is Count Julian (1812), are all lacking in true dramatic qualities, though Landor shows some power as a creator of individual scenes. His literary fame rests, however, on his Imaginary Conversations, published at intervals between 1824 and 1846. These dialogues between actual persons of the past, or of Landor's own day deal with a wide variety of topics--from literary criticism to politics, and the method of exposition varies almost as much as the subjects discussed.
Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), one of the founders of The Edinburgh Review, was born at Edinburgh, educated at the high school and university of his native city, and was called to the Scottish Bar. Though for many years an industrious writer for his journal, he maintained a considerable legal practice, and distinguished himself in politics as an ardent Whig. When his party came into office he was rewarded by being appointed Lord Advocate, and played a considerable part in the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832. This meant the abandonment of his position on the Review, though he always kept a paternal eye on its progress. He was finally appointed to the Bench, with the title of Lord Jeffrey.
The Edinburgh Review was at first a joint production of a group of young and zealous Whigs, including Sydney Smith and Henry Brougham. Within a year of its foundation Jeffrey was responsible editor, and he drew around him a band of distinguished contributors, including at one time Sir Walter Scott.
Sydney Smith (1771-1845) was for a time a colleague of Jeffrey. He was born in Essex, was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and became a clergyman. He settled for a time at Edinburgh as a tutor, and assisted in the launching of The Edinburgh Review (1802). He took a large share in the political squabbles of the time, and wrote much on behalf of the Whig party. His works consist of many miscellaneous pieces, most of them of a political character. The most noteworthy of them is a collection called Letters on the Subject of the Catholics, to my Brother Abraham, who Lives in the Country, by Peter Plymley (1807-08), which deals with Catholic Emancipation. A more general selection from his writings was published in 1855, and his Wit and Wisdom in 1860.
John Wilson (1784-1854), who appears in literature as Christo pher North, was born at Paisley, the son of a wealthy manufacturer. He was educated at Glasgow and Oxford, wrote poetry, and for a time settled in the Lake District. He lost most of his money, tried practice as a barrister, and then joined the staff of Blackwood's Magazine. He was appointed in 1820 Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University. His early poems, The Isle of Palms (1812) and The City of the Plague (1816), are passable verse of the romantic type. His novels-- for example, The Trials of Margaret Lyridsay (1823)--are sentimental pictures of Scottish life. Wilson's longest work, and the one that perpetuates his name, is his Noctes Ambrosianae (beginning in 1822), which had a long and popular run-in Blackwood's until 1835. At times Wilson rises into striking descriptive passages, more florid and less impressive than De Quincey's, but beautiful in a sentimental fashion. His taste, however, cannot be trusted, and his humour is too often crude and boisterous. Here, as in his other writing for Blackwood's Magazine, we have the product of a boisterous, high-spirited critic, to whose temperament, restraint, whether in praise, blame, or humour, was alien.
John G. Lockhart (1794-1854) was born at Cambusnethan, educated at Glasgow and Oxford, and became a member of the Scottish Bar. He soon (1817) became a regular contributor to Blackwood's Magazine, sharing in its strong Tory views and its still stronger expression of them. He rather gloried in these literary and political fisticuffs, which in one case led to actual bloodshed, though he did not participate in it. In 1820 he married Scott's favourite daughter Sophia, and lived to be the biographer of his famous father-in-law. He was editor of The Quarterly Review from 1825 till 1853. Lockhart wrote four novels, the best of which are Valerius (1821) and Adam Blair (1822). They are painstaking endeavours, but they lack the fire of genius, and are now almost forgotten. His poetry is quite lively and attractive, especially his Ancient Spanish Ballads (1823). Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk (1819) is a collection of brilliant sketches of Edinburgh and Glasgow society. Lockhart's fame, however, rests on Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott (1837-38), which was first published in seven volumes. This book ranks as one of the great biographies in the language. Though it is full of intimate and loving detail, it possesses a fine sense of perspective and coherence; and while it is influenced by a natural partiality for its subject, the story is judiciously told. In this book Lockhart casts aside his aggressiveness of manner. His descriptions, as, for example, that of the death of Scott, have a masterly touch.
William Cobbett (1762-1835) was born at Farnham, Surrey, and was the son of a farm-labourer. He enlisted in the Army, rose to be sergeant-major, emigrated to America, where he took to journalism, and returned to England, to become actively engaged inpolitics. In 1831 he was elected to Parliament, but was not a success as a public man. He was a man of violent opinions, boxed the political compass, and died an extreme Radical. He was an assiduous journalist, beginning with The Porcupine (1800-01). His other journal was Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, which he began in 1802 and carried on almost unaided until 1835. His literary reputation rests, however, on one of his few full length books, his Rural Rides (1830), which gives an account of the English counties through which he wandered. A true son of the soil, Cobbett writes with insight and understanding of the agricultural conditions of his day. His close and honest observation of life and manners finds expression in a plain, homely style, which has none of the graces of fine writing, but all the vigour and simple directness of a Defoe. Instinctively right in his choice of language, he speaks straight to the heart of the reader, and, though his work is realistic rather than imaginative, the beauty of the English scene is impressed on many a page of the Rural Rides.
Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868) was educated at Eton and Oxford, and afterward wrote some plays, including the tragedy Fazio (1815). His chief historical works are The History of the Jews (1829) and The History of Latin Christianity (1854-55). Milman is a solid and reliable historian, with a readable style.
Henry Hallam (1777-1859) was a member of the Middle Temple, but he practiced very little. He wrote on both literary and historical subjects, and contributed to The Edinburgh Review. His historical works include The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry Vll to the Death of George II (1827) and his Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth. Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39). Hallam acquired a great and deserved reputation for solid scholarship. Like Gibbon, he tried to attune his style to his subject, and wrote in a grave and impressive manner, but, lacking the genius of Gibbon, he succeeded only in making his style lifeless and frigid.
LITERARY CRITICISM: No previous period had seen literary criticism of such bulk or such generally high standard as that produced in the age under review. In addition to the work of the professional critics, such as Hazlitt (see p. 354) and the reviewers, many of the poets and imaginative prose-writers have left us critical works of great and enduring value. Mention may be made of Wordsworth's preface to the Lyrical Ballads; Coleridge's Biographia Literaria and lectures on Shakespeare and the other poets; Shelley's The Defence of Poetry, in reply to the provocative The Four Ages of Poetry of Peacock; and Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, who lived about the Time of Shakespeare.
PERIODICAL LITERATURE: At the beginning of this chapter we noted the chief members of a great new community of literary journals. These periodicals were of a new type. Previous literary journals, like The Gentleman's Magazine (1731), had been feeble productions, the work of elegant amateurs or underpaid hackwriters. Such papers had little weight. The new journals were supreme in the literary world; they attracted the best talent; they inspired fear and respect; and in spite of many defects their literary product was worthy of their reputation.
THE ESSAY: Finding a fresh outlet in the new type of periodical, the essay acquired additional importance. The purely literary essay, exemplified in the works of Southey, Hazlitt and Lockhart, increased in length and solidity. It now became a review--that is, a commentary on a book or books under immediate inspection, but in addition expounding the wider theories and opinions of the reviewer. This new species of essay was to be developed still further in the works of Carlyle and Macaulay.
The miscellaneous essay, represented in the works of Lamb, acquired an increased dignity. It was growing beyond the limits set by Addison and Johnson. It was more intimate and aspiring, and contained many more mannerisms of the author. This kind also was to develop in the hands of the succeeding generation.
OTHER PROSE WORKS must receive scanty notice. The art of letter-writing still flourished, as can be seen in the works of Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Lamb. Lamb in particular has a charm that reminds the reader of that of Cowper. Byron's letters, though egotistical enough, are breezy and humorous. Biographical work is adequately represented in The Life of Byron, by Moore, and The Life of Scott, by Lockhart. These books in their general outlines follow the model of Boswell, though they do not possess the artless self-revelation of their great predecessor. There is an advance shown by their division into chapters and other convenient stages, a useful arrangement that Boswell did not adopt. The amount of historical research was very great, and the historians ranged abroad and tilled many fields; but in their general methods there was little advance on the work of their predecessors.
The Romantic Age – II
English Literature by Edward Albert [Revised by J. A. Stone]
History of English Literature, by Legouis and Cazamian
The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland, by Ronald Carter and John McRae
Gale’s Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature.