Romanticism in English literature of the Beginning of the 19th Century icon

Romanticism in English literature of the Beginning of the 19th Century



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Romanticism in English literature of the Beginning of the 19th Century

(The Age of Romanticism)

Britain became a large trading empire. The cities grew fast. London remained the largest one. In the 19th century Britain was at its height and self confidence. It was called the "work­shop" of the world. The rich feared the poor both in the countryside and in the fast-growing towns.

Nevertheless the great emphasis was made on the individual based on interdependence of Man and Nature.


During the second half of the 18th century economic and social changes took place in England. The country went through the so-called Industrial Revolution when new industries sprang up and new processes were ap­plied to the manufacture of traditional products. During the reign of King George III (1760-1820) the face of England changed. The factories were built, the industri­al development was marked by an increase in the export of finished cloth rather than of raw material, coal and iron industries developed. Internal communications were largely funded. The population increased from 7 mln to 14 mln people. Much money was invested in road- and canal-building. The first railway line which was launched in 1830 from Liverpool to Manchester allowed many people inspired by poets of Romanticism to discover the beauty of their own country. Romanti­cism was the greatest literary movement in the period between 1770-1840. It meant the shift of sensibility in art and literature and was based on interdependence of Man and Nature. It was a style in European art, liter­ature and music that emphasized the importance of feeling, emotion and imagination rather than reason or thought. Romanticism in literature was the reaction of the society not only to the French Revolution of 1789 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. Everybody was dissatisfied with the result. In such a situation the writers decided to solve the social prob­lems by writing. In England the Romantic authors were individuals with many contrary views.

But all of them were against immoral luxuries of the world, against injustice and inequality of the society, against suffering and human selfishness.

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 writing, they believed in liter­ature being a sort of Mission to be carried out in order to reach the wisdom of the Universe.

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 by the downfall of the French Revolution. His young contemporaries, Samuel Coleridge (1772— 1834) and William Wordsworth (1770-1850), both were warm admirers of the French 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. The Late Romantics, George Byron (1788-1824), Percy Shelley (1792-1822), and John Keats (1795-1821), were young rebels and reflected the inter­ests of the common people. That is why the Romantic Revival of the 18th-19th centuries can be divided into three periods: the Early Romantics, the Lakists and the Later Romantics.

The representatives of the early stage of English Romanticism were George Crabbe (1754-1832), William Blake (1757-1827) and Robert Burns (1759-1796).

^ The Early Romanticism

The most outstanding representative of the Early Romanticism in England was Robert Burns. Unlike George Crabbe and William Blake, he was very popular in his time. Robert Burns became the national bard of Scotland. His hatred of injustice was firmly rooted in his personal life experience full of trouble and sufferings.

His attitude to life Robert Burns shows in his "Poem on Life" written in the year of his death:

Dame Life, tho` fiction out may trick her,

And in paste gems and flipp`ry deck her,

Oh! flick`ring, feeble and unsicker I’ve found her still,

Aye wav'ring like the willow wicker, tween good and ill.


^ Robert Burns (1759—1796)

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, near Ayr. His father, William Burnes, was a hard-working small farmer who had come from the north-east of Scotland. William Burnes (Robert dropped the "e" from the spelling of the family name) took great trouble to give his children education, he had the traditional Scottish respect for education “...valuing knowledge, possessing some and open-minded for more" (wrote Thomas Carlyle, the influ­ential writer and historian born not far from Dumfries in 1795).

Robert's mother was Agnes Brown, a farmer's daughter from South Ayrshire. Although his mother was uneducated, Robert Burns nevertheless inherited from her a great love for the rich tradition of Scottish balladry. When Burns was seven, his family moved to Mount Oliphant farm not far from Alloway. Robert got much of his schooling there. Burns at early age worked on the family farm. Despite the desperate hardship of the farm (where by the age of thirteen Burns did most of ploughing and reaping and threshed the corn with his own hands) he would always have a volume of Scottish ballads ready to read in any spare minute. It was the combination of hard labour and poor food that caused heart attacks which troubled him during all his life and from which he died.

Meanwhile, from his mid-teens onwards, Burns was conscious of the Scottish folk songs and dances of Ayrshire where he was brought up. He wrote his first poem at fourteen. The poem was inspired by and devoted to a young girl with whom Robert worked in the fields.

By 1777 Robert Burns had acquired a good knowledge of English Literature, Greek, Latin and French. He attended a young men's debating society in Tarbolton.

In 1781 Burns went to Irvine to train as a flax dresser; linen was one of the profitable branches of the Scottish economy in the 18th century. Burns worked with his father and brothers. But in 1784 his father died, and Burns moved to Mossgiel farm which they had rented from the Ayr lawyer Gavin Hamilton when it was clear that William Burnes was going to die. During this period Robert Burns met Jean Armour, his future wife. He seemed to have married her some time later because of objections of her father. Fortune was against Robert. As a farmer he was very unsuccessful. Therefore, he decided to emigrate to the West Indies. His most brilliant poems appeared in 1785—1786. He published them in August, 1786 in Kilmarnock under the title “Poems Chiefly in Scottish Dialect”. This volume contained some of his most popular earlу songs, as well as “To a Mouse", "To a Mountain Daisy” and others.


^ To a Mountain Daisy

Wee modest crimson-tipped flow`r

Thou's met me in a evil hour;

For I maun crush amang the stoure

Thy slender stem:

To spare thee now is past my pow`r,

Thou bonnie gem.


Alas! it`s no thy neibor sweet,

The bonnie lark, companion meet,

Bending thee `mang the dewy weet

Wi` spreckl`d breast

When upward springing, blythe to greet

The purpling east.


Cauld blew the bitter-biting north

Upon thy early humble birth;

Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth

Amid the storm,

Scarce rear`d above the parent-earth

Thy tender form.


Although Burns never received more than £20 for his book, it was a great success, being admired by everyone from ploughboys to the educated circles of Edinburgh.

Burns was so encouraged by such a warm reception given to his poems that he decided to move to Edin­burgh, the capital of Scotland since 1452. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson said that "no situation could be more com­manding for the lead city of a Kingdom; none better chosen for noble prospects”. Edinburgh lies between the Pentland Hills and the Firth of Forth — a situation which gives a different view from whichever point of the compass the arrivals approach.

They call Edinburgh "the Athens of the North”. Edinburgh Castle dominates the city and is an irresistible start-point. In addition the Royal Mile and the Old Town are admirable. In contrast the New Town with its wide leafy streets and splendid buildings is enjoyed on a casual stroll from Princes Street.

The development of the New Town, the birth of Classical Edinburgh, the concept of Athens of the North made the capital the most beautiful city in Britain.

The Old Town was a centre of not only Royal Court and Parliament, but the centre of culture, science and thought. It was a place where men like David Hume, the philosopher, and Adam Smith, the economist, strolled the High Street. Robert Burns was introduced to many famous people there; he found love, comfort and appreciation in Edinburgh. All were impressed by his modesty and talent. That was the Golden Age, the end of the 18th century when the first New Town was at the peak of its intellectual power.

The first Edinburgh edition of Burns's poetry appeared in spring of 1787. He became famous. The so-called "ploughman poet" was befriended and courted. No party in Edinburgh was held without him. He was respected in the capital of Scotland. He made friends with Lord Newton and Walter Scott. Robert Burns was called the "Caledonia's Bard".

Meanwhile, a second edition of Burns's poems ap­peared. The publication brought the author sufficient financial security to allow him to return to Ayrshire in 1788 where he produced two of his best-loved works, "Auld Lang Syne" and "Tam o`Shanter”, his last major work and many would say his masterpiece.


^ The Later Romantics

George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), Percy Byshe Shelley (1792-1822), John Keats (1795-1821) were the representatives of the highest level of the Age of Romanticism and all the three were greatly influenced by the Lakists. Unlike the Conservative Lake poets, the Later Romantics were progressive poets. They were young revolutionary rebels, talented and fascinating. Byron called the style of William Wordsworth "dull and simple", while his own poetic manner is often vivid and vigorous. His noble origin, charm, mysterious love affairs, eventful life, independence and pride, a great lyrical power established him as a Romantic poet and rebellious aristocrat.

Byron's friend Percy Byshe Shelley, also a revolu­tionary idealist, the lover of classical poetry, was very metaphorical.

John Keats was the youngest among the Revolution­ary Romantics. He died at 25 of tuberculosis. The style of his poetry was lofty and very lyrical. Keats was fond of writing odes. His talent made the poet mysterious and charming. Keats deeply felt the interdependence of Man and Nature and in his "Ode to a Nightingale” emphasized the contrast between the ugliness of Life and the beauty of the world of Nature.


^ George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)

George Gordon Byron was born in London on 22th of January, 1788. His father was English, but mother was of the Scottish origin. She was poor but noble, her name was Cather­ine Gordon. Byron spent his childhood in the small town of Aberdeen in the eastern coast of Scotland. Soon his father died, leaving his wife and child in more than reduced circumstances.

When Byron was ten, his great uncle died, and the boy inherited the title of Lord Byron and the family castle of Newstead Abbey. Lord Byron and his mother moved to Nottinghamshire where they got a small pension from the government.

Lord Byron was educated at Cambridge. When he was twenty-one he became a member of the House of Lords. In 1809 he went on a two-year-long voyage to Portugal, Spain, Albania, Greece and Turkey. He re­turned home in 1811.

In 1812 Byron published the first two parts of his major work “Childe Harold's Pil­grimage" in which he de­scribed his journey to the for­eign lands. Thus Byron's liter­ary activity began. It can be divided into four periods:

1. The London period (1812-1816)

"Childe Harold's Pilgrimage” (parts 1, 2 ) (1812)

"The Corsair" (1814)

Lara” (1814);

2. The Swiss period (May-October, 1816)

"Childe Harold's Pilgrimage” (part 3)

"Manfred" (a philosophic drama);

3. The Italian period (1816-1823)

"Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" (part 4)

"Don Juan" (1818-1823)

"Cain" (1821)

The Vision of Judgment" (1821);

4. The Greek period (1823-1824)

Several lyrical poems.


All the periods of his literary activity were marked by the corresponding periods of his political life.

During the first period, which was called the London period and which brought him fame and universal acclaim after the publication of his “Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" in 1812, Lord Byron delivered his Parlia­mentary speeches in the House of Lords. Byron was a peer of the realm. His first speech was in defence of the Luddites (industrial workers who destroyed the equipment as a protest against unemployment and low pay). His main ideas were expressed in his poem "Song for the Luddites".


^ Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

The name of Sir Walter Scott is closely connected with the genre of the historical novel. It was he who introduced it into English Literature, because he was interested in the ro­mantic aspects of Scottish history. Walter Scott expanded the range of the novel as a literary form. His histor­ical novels changed attitudes towards the past, he made the world aware of Scotland, his novels struck the reader with their epic quality.

Walter Scott was born on 15th of August, 1771 into the family of a well-known Edinburgh lawyer. His mother Anne Rutherford was the eldest daughter at a professor of medicine of Edinburgh University. Both parents were descended from old Border families. Therefore, Walter Scott acquired an interest in the history and legends of the Borders. When a child, he spent much time with his grandparents at their farm in the Borders.

At the age of seven Walter Scott entered the High School of Edinburgh. He spent there five years.

In 1783 he proceeded to Edinburgh University. His father wanted him to study law. But Walter Scott's profound interest in history and passionate love for his country changed the course of his life. He was greatly interested in the folklore of Scotland; he collected legends and popular ballads of the Highlands and Border Country, filling his mind with romantic tradition. The works of the German romantics, Schiller and Goethe, attracted him. He possessed a great knowledge of romantic literature. Though personally friendly to the Lakists (William Wordsworth was his life-long friend), he never shared their literary tastes.

His early reputation was as a narrative poet. In 1802-1803 Walter Scott published a collection of Scottish legends under the title of "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”.

In hunting for balla­ds he also hit upon the goblin story out of which he developed his first verse-tale of Border chivalry, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”(1805).

Waiter Scott's tales portrayed vivid image of the chivalry of feudal times, well-drawn pictures of Border and Highland scenery. The great success of the collection encouraged Scott to make literature his main pursuit in life. The following literary ballad comes from “The Heart of Midlothian". It is called "Maisie". It is the death song of a mad peasant woman:

^ Proud Maisie is in the wod,

Walking so early;

Sweet Robin sits on the bush,

Singing so rarely.

Tell me, thou bonny bird,

When shall I marry me?" —

When six braw gentlemen

Kirkward shall carry ye."

"Who makes the bridal bed,

Birdie, say truly?” —

The grey-headed sexton,

That delves the grave duty”.

The glow-worm o'er grave and stone

Shall light thee steady;

The owl from the steeple sing,

"Welcome, proud lady".


In 1808 Walter Scott published "Marmion":


—    Such dusky grandeur clothed the height,

Where the huge castle holds its state,

And all the steep slope down,

Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,

Piled deep and massy, close and high,

Mine own romantic town.


In 1810 Walter Scott published the most powerful poem, “^ The Lady of the Lake”:


—    The summer dawn's reflected hue,

To purple changed Loch Katrine blue,

Mildly and soft the western breeze,

Just kissed the Lake, just stirr'd the trees.


Loch Katrine is situated not far from Edinburgh. There is the steamship "Sir Walter Scott" named after the great poet who wrote "The Lady of the Lake". It makes 8 miles cruise from the narrow inlet at Trossachs Pier to the Loch's southwestern shore, Royal Cottage and Glengyle House at the northern head of the Loch — the birthplace of Rob Roy MacGregor.

Sir Walter Scott combined the life of a poet and country gentlemen with that of a principal clerk of the Court of Session (the Supreme Civil Court of Scotland). Edinburgh was a vital part of Scott's being and his books were published there. Up to 1814 Scott wrote poems on historical and legendary subjects and became famous as a poet. Meanwhile, he purchased a farm­house on the banks of the Tweed.

During 1814-1832 he began to write novel after novel. "Waverley", his first historical novel was pub­lished in 1814. It was the beginning. It was a success, and from then to the end of his life Walter Scott devoted himself only to prose. Every year he produced a novel. But he concealed his authorship until 1827, because he was Sheriff of Selkirk. But the success of the "Scotch Novels” was great and brought him a large income. Walter Scott managed to create a new genre — a historical novel by blending historical fact with roman­tic fancy. With his growing fame as a writer Walter Scott was made a baronet in 1820.

The historical events that attracted his attention were those closely connected with the relations be­tween Scotland and England, the struggle for Scottish independence. For many centuries England, that was much more economically developed than its northern neighbour, had oppressed Scotland and the freedom-loving Scots. The author described the 17th-18th cen­turies of the Scottish history. Among his most famous novels are "Rob Roy” (1818). "The Bride of Lammerтооr” (1819). He chose for his heroes the common people of Scotland.

Later Walter Scott extended his background also to England. He wrote several historical novels about Eng­land; the periods he chose there were the end of the 16th century (the Elizabethan Age) and the middle of the 17th century (the Bourgeois Revolution and the Restoration of Monarchy). Among those novels were: "Ivanhoe" (1820), "The Monastery” (1820), "The Abbot" (1820), "Quentin Durward” (1823).

England and Scotland were closely connected with each other in their historical development. Thus in "The Abbot” Walter Scott de­scribed one of the epi­sodes of the tragic life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

"Quentin Durward" was written on a different subject. Walter Scott por­trayed the King of France as one of the most cunning politicians of his time.

Among the outstanding historical novels "Ivanhoe" was one of the best.

George Byron, a great admirer of Scott's talent, said that "he (Walter Scott) was a library in himself”. Like Walter Scott, Byron had an exact feeling of the historical development. Unlike Walter Scott, Byron didn't share the Lake poets' disapproval of revolutionary methods.

But it was Walter Scott, the first writer of a new genre of the historical novel who depicted Scotland as a mysteriously romantic country full of adventure.

There are many places of interest connected with the name of Sir Walter Scott all over Scotland. Scott Monument in Edinburgh is one of the famous land­marks with a 287 step climb to the top.

In 1832 an architectural competition for an appropri­ate memorial to Sir Walter Scott was launched.

As a result the design by George Meikle Kemp had won.

In 1840 the construction of the monument to Walter Scott began in Princes Street Gardens.

In 1846 the monument was built. Sinсе then millions of tourists have climbed the 200 foot structure to ad­mire the views of Edinburgh and the statues of Walter Scott's characters which decorate the monument.

Scott Monument in Edinburgh attracts tourists greatly. Not far from the monument there is Sir Walter Scott's Tea Room, a cosy place where you can enjoy the view of Edinburgh castle just from the window of the Tea Room while enjoying the waitress service tearoom with authentic Scottish cooking. The festival Menu includes such delicious Festival Fancies as Haggis and Oatcakes, Salmon Pate Piper's Pie (chicken and mushroom), Juggler’s Lunch (ploughman's lunch) or Soup of the day (with a crusty roll) and Bread and Butter Pudding.

Sir Walter Scott's Tea Room invites the visitors:

^ Festival fancies

If you’re caught on the hoof,

Whilst doing The Fringe,

Why not come into our Tea Room,

Embark on a binge


We’ve Shortbread and Haggis

And Clootie Dumpling too,

If you're not sure what they are,

You should try a fair few.


The name of Sir Walter Scott is com­memorated by his re­lief profile on the north wall of the Writers` Museum in Edinburgh. More than that, the quotation from his "The Lay of the Last Minstrel” is inscribed in stone and set in the paving which leads to the door of the Writers` Museum:


Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!


The Museum has a unique collection of relics and manuscripts relating to Walter Scott: the rocking horse he used as a boy, his dining table from 39, Castle Street, the printing press on which Scott's Waverley Novels were printed and his chess set.

In Glasgow the tourists can enjoy the monument to Sir Walter Scott in the middle of the city square where there are many other monuments to great men of Scotland.




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