The Romantic Age


- during 1770s, American colonies revolted against British rule

- American Revolution divided British public opinion and aroused some awareness of the need for reform

- French Revolution demonstrated that is was possible for a long-standing gov’t to be challenged by it’s own soil

- French Revolution began on July 14, 1789; group of French citizens stormed the Bastille

- Placed limits on the powers of King Louis XVI, established a new gov’t & approved a Declaration of the Rights of Man

- France became a constitutional monarchy

- Ruling class felt threatened by the implication of the events in France

- Charles James Fox, supporter of the revolution & leader of the Whig party

- William Wordsworth, poet, spoke out in support of the revolution

- William Godwin, philosopher & novelist, reacted to the revolution by writing an Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

o Predicted British society would evolve peacefully into a free, equal nation

- Edmund Burk- condemned events in France, Reflections on the Revolution in France, he argued that France, unlike the Americans, was attacking very fabric of their society with complete disregard for their roots & ancestry

o Warned that the revolution would grow violent

o Views disregarded until they became true

- 1792, France declared war on Austria

- Jacobins, radical group, gained control of French legislative assembly, abolished the monarchy, & declared the nation a republic Mobs attacked and killed many prisoners

- Revolutionaries tried and convicted Louis XVI on charge of treason, went to guillotine in 1793

- Violence reached its peak under Maximilien Robespierre- began the Reign of Terror

o Imprisoned 1000s of royalists, moderates & even radicals

o Ended ins summer of 1794

o Sent 17,000 to guillotine & then Robespierre was sent himself

- 1793, France took initiative of declaring war on Britain, thus beginning a series of wars that would drag on for 22 years

- Tory gov’t led by William Pitt outlawed all talk of Parliament reform outside the halls of Parliament, banning public meetings, and suspending certain basic rights

o Later crushed a rebellion in Ireland

- Many turned to literature and art as a way to find beauty & truth in the world

- 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte came into power in Paris

- Britain ruled the ocean, but Napoleon ruled Europe

- 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia & suffered a series of defeats

o forces were defeated in the Peninsular War in Portugal and Spain (1808-1814)

- allies closed in on him and exiled him to Elba, he plotted to return

- 1815 managed to return got 100 Days, but is glory ended in Waterloo, Belgium

- England, workers protested the loss of jobs to new machinery in the violent Luddite Riots (1811-13), mounted soldiers charged a peaceful mass meeting of cotton workers & killed several in what is known as the Peterloo Massacre

- 2 angry camps—working class, demanded reform, & ruling class, resisted reform

- Reform Bill of 1832- allowed voting rights to middle class males

- 1833, Parliament passed a reform to govern factory safety & abolish slavery

- Romantic style- offered a new perspective on the world, focused on nature and “the common place”

- abandoned many of the dominant attitudes & principles of 18th century literature

- shaped by the French revolutionary or the effects of the Industrial Revolution

- Thomas Gray, Robert Burns, & William Blake displayed Romanic thinking

Jean Jacques Rousseau

- died before start of Romantic period

- leading philosopher of 18th century

- planted the seeds of which Romanticism grew

- saw society as force evil infringed on personal liberty & human happiness

- thought humanity should revert to its natural state

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

- most influential

- source of pride for a new generation & also a primitive simplicity much in keeping with Rousseau’s ideas

- Romantic Age – called that b/c of its interest in medieval romance

- it produced music of Ludwig van Beethoven & Austria’s Franz Schubert

- painting, Britain’s John Constable & J.M.W. Turner

- 1798, William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge published the Lyrical Ballads, established romantic principles that would dominate British literature for decades

- William Wordsworth poems gave a charm of novelty to every day things

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge created imaginative settings & mysterious sequences of events

- Nature was no longer a force not to be tamed with or analyzed scientifically, but a wild, free force that could inspire poets to instinctive spiritual understanding

- George Gordon, Lord Byron

o Part of British aristocracy—member of the House