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European history during the early 19th century was dominated by the French Revolution with its ideals, i.e.: Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood. The root of the ideals was on the belief about human’s dignity and his rights. Naturally, man is good. The bad things attached to man so far were caused by the disorderedly natural good deeds done by social institutions. Therefore man has to be freed and given a possibility to build better world, conforming his good natured characteristic. In the new world, there will be no gaps on ranks or social groups. The only thing exist will be equalized brotherhood amongst humans. In such condition, man being led and protected by his feelings and conscience will be able to reach a perfect happiness.
The ideals above, especially about individuals’ dignity and scientific good deeds, implicitly have been found in the works of the authors who tended to Romanticism, such as Gray, Cowper, Burns etc. The emergence of the French Revolution made the ideals more explicit, and in the British literary works these gave a big force to move to a more conscious and certain romanticism.
Romanticism was the manifestation of the ideals which expected literature to reflect spontaneous things, not artificial, in nature as well as in human, and free to follow his own intention. By stressing on feelings and spontaneity, this period was more dominated by poetry. Based on the number of the poems produced and their quality the poems during Romanticism period can be paralleled to those of Elizabethan period. The famous poets: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Walter Scott.
French Revolution gave him inspiration. Most of the subjects in his poems were about the lives of common people, written in simple and modest language. The humanity feelings was even the source of his morality. He was always made realized every time he contemplated about nature. He believed that every object and creature in the world was covered by the same spirit. He gave more attention to children. In his opinion, life is just one of the chains. A child will be closer to God. Close to God means close to nature, and therefore a child always had pure soul and had solid happiness. Naturally, child’s soul should be possessed by human through his life. However, society and its way of lives had destructed the soul. The essence: living modestly was the only way out to getting rid of human’s sufferings.
More about Wordsworth…
Wordsworth’s works: “Tintern Abbey”, “The Rainbow”, “Ode to Duty”, and “Intimations of Mortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” (All of them are about his belief to nature and child).
Other works modest people/ society: “The Solitary Reaper”, “To a Highland Girl”, “Michael”, and “Stepping Westward”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
“ Ode on the Destruction of the Bastille” poems, philosophy and religion should be free from dogmatic tenets and traditions.
“ Ode to France” his disappointment towards the French Revolution. Other works: “Kubla Khan”, “Christabel” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The increasing number of non-fictitious prosaic works, covering history, biography, literary criticism, scientific discussion, religion, essay etc. E.g.: Essay of Elia by Charles Lamb, an autobiography Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey, The Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays and Lectures on the English Poets by William Hazlitt
The phenomenon was also caused by the emergence of periodicals: The Morning Post (1772) and The Times (1785) and magazines like: The Edinburgh Review (1802), The Quarterly Review (1809) and The London Magazine (1817)
Still about prose…
New type of novel: “historical novel” or “historical romances” by Walter Scott. Its characters were derived from the past (old legends/ballads), made illogical. The setting in his works incorporated nature and history of Scotland.
The number of Scott’s novel was tremendous in consideration of the short period of time he made them. E.g.: Guy Mannering, Heart of Midlothian, The Bride of Lammermoor, Ivanhoe, and The Talisman.
Other writers were not interested in realistic nature, but invisible nature, such as: Horace Walpole Castle of Otranto , Anne Radcliffe The Mysteries of Udolpho . These pioneered “Terror Novels”
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)
She was excellent in depicting the characterisation of the characters in her novels.
Her works characteristics: using simple, clear and fluent language, little humour, light satirical and using the principle of common sense.
Her works: Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park
Maria Edgeworth (1776 – 1849)
Susan Ferrier (1782 – 1854)
New development with female writers
Higher education was needed in order to be able to make sharp observation and sensitive feelings for prosaic language.
Prose writer or novelist as the most appropriate job owned by woman besides her major role as a housewife.
During this period drama experienced a drawback.
Drama was no longer appreciated as a literary work
Drama performers/players were not highly appreciated
House was the only place many people can feel home, so novel was more preferably than drama.