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The term Augustan comes from the reign of the Roman emperor born Gaius Octavius
Thurinas, who became Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus (27BC 14AD). The term is applied to a
section of English literature written in a period which, theoretically, imitated and embodied the
ideals of the Augustan period allegedly a golden age of Classical Rome. Those ideals included
civic responsibility, decorum, and self-discipline. It is important to distinguish between ideal
and practice.
The period which produced Augustan literature produced neo-Classical styles of
architecture, furnishing, and literature. Augustan ideals of literary style were formality, balance,
clarity, and seriousness. Satirical and political as well as other forms of writing were able to
flourish in the reign of Augustus, and they did again during the English Augustan period. The
models of the later period were in particular Cicero, Horace and Virgil.
Particularly influential in the literary scene of the early eighteenth century were the two
periodical publications by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Tatler (1709-11), and The
Spectator (1711-12). Both writers are ranked among the minor masters of English prose style
and credited with raising the general cultural level of the English middle classes. A typical
representative of the post-Restoration mood, Steele was a zealous crusader for morality, and
his stated purpose in The Tatler was "to enliven Morality with Wit, and to temper Wit with
Morality." With The Spectator, Addison added a further purpose: to introduce the middle-class
public to recent developments in philosophy and literature and thus to educate their tastes.
The essays are discussions of current events, literature, and gossip often written in a highly
ironic and refined style. Addison and Steele helped to popularize the philosophy of John Locke
and promote the literary reputation of John Milton, among others. Although these publications
each only ran two years, the influence that Addison and Steele had on their contemporaries
was enormous, and their essays often amounted to a popularization of the ideas circulating
among the intellectuals of the age. With these wide-spread and influential publications, the
literary circle revolving around Addison, Steele, Swift and Pope was practically able to dictate
the accepted taste in literature during the Augustan Age. In one of his essays for The Spectator,
for example, Addison criticized the metaphysical poets for their ambiguity and lack of clear
ideas, a critical stance which remained influential until the twentieth century.
The literary criticism of these writers often sought its justification in classical
precedents. In the same vein, many of the important genres of this period were adaptations of
classical forms: mock epic, translation, and imitation. A large part of Pope's work belongs to this
last category, which exemplifies the artificiality of neoclassicism more thoroughly than does any
other literary form of the period. In his satires and verse epistles Pope takes on the role of an
English Horace, adopting the Roman poet's informal candor and conversational tone, and
applying the standards of the original Augustan Age to his own time, even addressing George II
satirically as "Augustus." Pope also translated the Iliad and the Odyssey, and, after concluding
this demanding task, he embarked on The Dunciad (1728), a biting literary satire.
The Dunciad is a mock epic, a form of satiric writing in which commonplace subjects are
described in the elevated, heroic style of classical epic. By parody and deliberate misuse of
heroic language and literary convention, the satirist emphasizes the triviality of the subject,
which is implicitly being measured against the highest standards of human potential. Among
the best-known mock epic poems of this period in addition to The Dunciad are John
Dryden's MacFlecknoe (1682), and Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1714). In The Rape of the Lock,
often considered one of the highest achievements of mock epic poetry, the heroic action of
epic is maintained, but the scale is sharply reduced. The hero's preparation for combat is
transposed to a fashionable boat ride up the Thames, and the ensuing battle is a card game.
The hero steals the titular lock of hair while the heroine is pouring coffee.
Although the mock epic mode is most commonly found in poetry, its influence was also
felt in drama, most notably in John Gay's most famous work, The Beggar's Opera (1728). The
Beggar's Opera ludicrously mingles elements of ballad and Italian opera in a satire on Sir Robert
Walpole, England's prime minister at the time. The vehicle is opera, but the characters are
criminals and prostitutes. Gay's burlesque of opera was an unprecedented stage success and
centuries later inspired the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht to write one of his best-known
works, Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera, 1928).
One of the most well-known mock epic works in prose from this period is Jonathan
Swift's The Battle of the Books (1704), in which the old battle between the ancient and the
modern writers is fought out in a library between The Bee and The Spider. Although not a mock
epic, the satiric impulse is also the driving force behind Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's
Travels(1726), one of the masterpieces of the period. The four parts describe different journeys
of Lemuel Gulliver; to Lilliput, where the pompous activities of the diminutive inhabitants is
satirized; to Brobdingnag, a land of giants who laugh at Gulliver's tales of the greatness of
England; to Laputa and Lagoda, inhabited by quack scientists and philosophers; and to the land
of the Houhynhnms, where horses are civilized and men (Yahoos) behave like beasts. As a
satirist Swift's technique was to create fictional speakers such as Gulliver, who utter sentiments
that the intelligent reader should recognize as complacent, egotistical, stupid, or mad. Swift is
recognized as a master of understated irony, and his name has become practically synonymous
with the type of satire in which outrageous statements are offered in a straight-faced manner.
The Augustan age was characterized by the expansion of the middle classes made up
above all of traders, merchants, bankers and other professional men. Actually the middle-class
was favoured by the development of foreign and colonial trade and by the mercantilistic policy
adopted by the government, thus growing in power and prestige and strongly influencing the
social life of the Augustan Age. They promoted the emergence of new, more practical values,
which contributed to create a materialist, worldly, pragmatic society, interested more in
material than spiritual goods. This society presented an unequal distribution of wealth,
therefore the money and prosperity of the middle classes were contrasted with the poverty and
terrible living conditions of the lower classes . A religious movement, Methodism, arose in
reaction to the general apathy about the misery and squalor among the poorer classes
(providing them with services to improve their life) and to the material middle-class values
(stressing moral dignity, piety and temperance).
The 18th century in England was called Augustan after the period of Roman history
which had achieved political stability and power as well as a flourishing of the arts. In particular
ancient Augustan writers were considered to be precious provided models for their clarity and
This period was also known as the Age of reason since it was dominated by a search for
order, discipline and balance, by a profound faith in reason and common sense, which prevailed
over emotions and imagination, and by a greater importance given to education. This rational
trend accounts for the essential qualities the Augustans looked for in literature. They were
interested in real life, in the recognizable facts of their own existence. This emphasis on realism,
verisimilitude and necessity for precise, detailed descriptions led to the predominance of prose
over poetry and especially to the development of journalism and of the MODERN NOVEL,
expressing the belief in the power of reason and the individual trust in ones own abilities.
These prose genres provided stimulating reading matter for the wider reading public, mostly
the middle-class. Another factor that gave much impulse to the new prose forms was the
sudden growth of women readers from the upper and middle classes, in a period of
emancipation for women, who, better educated and with more leisure for themselves, began
to develop a taste for books.
A. Poetry
As we have seen that the Augustan poetry was the product of intelligence, good sense,
reason and sanity. Polish and elegance of form were of more importance than subtlety or
originality of thought. It plays upon the surface of life and entirely ignores primary human
emotions and feelings. It is didactic and satiric. It is realistic and unimaginative. It is town
poetry. It ignores the humbler aspects of life and the entire countryside. The poetic style is
polished, refined and artificial. It led to the establishment of a highly artificial and
conventional style which became stereotyped into a traditional poetic diction. During this
period the satiric and narrative forms of poetry flourished. Heroic couplet dominated in this
poetry. This metre produced a close, clear and pointed style. Its epigrammatic terseness
provided a suitable medium of expression to the kind of poetry which was then popular. Lets
see the eminent writers of the period.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Pope is the representative poet of the Augustan Age. His famous works include
Pastorals, An Essay in Criticism, Windsor Forest, The Rape of the Lock, translations of lliad and
Odyssey, Elegy to the memory of an Unfortunate Lady and An Essay on Man.
He was a great poet of his age. His influence dominated the poetry of his age. Many
foreign writers and the majority of English poets looked to him as their model. Popes poetry is
the real picture of the spirit of the age. The three poems in which he is undisputably the
spokesman of his age are The Rape of the Lock, picturing its frivolities; Dunciad unveiling its
squalor; The Essay on Man, echoing its philosophy. He is a representative poet of the age of
prose and reason. A hard intellectuality and rationality, qualities proper to prose, distinguish
Popes poetry. In The Rape of the Lock he realistically dealt with the life of the fashionable
upper strata of London society. He had a meticulous sense of the exact word in the exact sense.
His poetic art is the finest specimen of the neo-classic conception of correctness. His admirable
craftsmanship is best seen in the excellent use of the heroic couplet. He for the first time
imparted immaculate artistic excellence to it.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
Dr. Johnson, a voluminous writer, was a man of versatile literary genius. He was the
acknowledged dictator in contemporary literature. Smollett called him the great champ of
literature. Johnsons two poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes belong to the
Augustan school of poetry. Both are written in the heroic couplet and abound in
Personifications and other devices that belonged to the poetic diction of the age of neo-
classicism. In their didacticism, their formal, rhetorical style, and their adherence to the closed
couplet they belong to the neo-classic poetry.
Other Poets
Other poets who deserve mention are Matthew Prior, John Gray, Edward Young and
Lady Winchilsea.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
He was a first-rate prose writer of the eighteenth century. In the beginning he
contributed to The Gentlemans Magazine and to his periodical The Rambler which appeared
twice. These papers were full of deep thoughts and observations. They lacked the elegance of
The Spectator. The Rambler re-established the periodical essay when it was in danger of being
superseded by the newspaper. During 1758-60 he contributed papers to The Idler and to The
Universal Chronicle. In 1747 he began working on his monumental work The Dictionary of the
English Language. In the Preface he explains that his aim was to preserve the purity and
ascertain the meaning of our English idiom and prevents the language from being overrun with
cant and Gallicized words. He also wrote Rasselas and Prince of Abyssinia, a philosophical
novel. It is as a literary critic that Dr. Johnson left his imperishable mark on English prose. His
two memorable critical works are Shakespeare and The Lives of the poets, a series of
introductions to fifty two poets. T.S.Eliot regards him as one of the three greatest critics of
poetry in English literature: the other two begin. Dryden and Coleridge. As a poet and literary
critic he was an ardent exponent of neo-classicism. His Lives of the Poets, remarks T.S.Eliot, is
the only monumental collection of critical studies of English poets in English language, with a
coherence, as well as amplitude, which no other criticism can claim.
Johnsons prose style has been variously termed as manly and straightforward, lucidly
distinct, heavy, individual and ponderous, full of mannerisms, vigorous and forceful, wearisome
but lucid. The style of The Rambler and The Rasselas is marred by mannerisms, but in The Lives
of the Poets he gives up mannerisms and writes as lucidly and easily as he talked. Indeed, his
style has the merits and defects of scholarship. He seldom uses language which is either empty
or inexact. To him a standard prose style should be above grossness and below refinement.
The peculiar power of his style consists in making the old new, and the commonplace
Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74)
Goldsmith enriched the periodical essay. He contributed to The Monthly Review and to
several other periodicals. The earliest periodical with which his name is associated was The Bee
which was published weekly. It contained papers on a variety of subjects. After the closure of
The Bee his papers began to appear under the caption The Citizen of the World in a journal
called The Public Ledger. It is one of the finest collections of essays ever written. Goldsmiths
essays reveal an extraordinary power, boldness, originality of thought and tenderness. His
minute observation of man and human nature is remarkable. As an essayist he was inspired by
a touch of fellow feeling, personal experience and kindly sympathy. His essays are also
conspicuous for their genial humour. His style is clear, limpid and delicate. After Goldsmith the
periodical essay began to decline. About his contribution to prose, Rickett writes: Indeed, his
quaint whimsicality, passing unexpectedly from delicate fancy to elfish merriment, anticipates
in many ways the methods of Elia and Leigh Hunt.He was a poet of a talent, a prose man of
genius, a prose man, moreover, of distinctive and original genius.
Other Prose Writers
During this age prose was a common and popular medium of expression and
communication. John Arbuthnot is remembered for his political writings which include The
History of John Bull and The Art of political Lying. Lord Bolingbroke wrote on politics and
philosophy in an agreeable, lucid and vigorous style. His works include Letter to Sir William
Wyndham, A Letter on the Spirit of Patriotism and The Idea of A Patriot King.
Edmund Burke was the renowned politician, parliamentarian and orator. He wrote on political
and philosophical topics. His philosophical writings are A Vindication of Natural Society and Our
Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. His politic writings consisting of his speeches and pamphlets
have an abiding place in English prose. His speeches collected in American Taxation and On
Conciliation with the Colonies are distinguished by a passionate, rhetorical, brilliant and lucid
style, fine and artistic arrangement of material and the statesmanlike insight which underlies
these arguments. His speeches on the impeachment of Warren Hastings are highly moving. He
also wrote a number of pamphlets. Burkes style has assigned him a permanent place in
literature. Adam Smith is known worldwide for his The Wealth of Nations. He laid the
foundation of modern economic thought. In the history of English prose he is remembered for
his plain and businesslike prose. George Berkeley wrote The Principles of Human Knowledge
and The Minute Philosopher. His writing revolves around the scientific, philosophical and
metaphysical topics in a language of literary distinction. Boswells The Life of Samuel Johnson is
the first great biography in English literature. Lord Chesterfield was an eminent letter writer of
this period. His Letters to His Son are noticeable for lucidity of expression, intimacy and flawless
ease. Thus, the eighteenth century was the golden age of English prose. Varied type of prose
was written during this period.
The first half of the eighteenth century was almost blank in dramatic literature. The days of
the brilliant Restoration Comedy of Manners were over. Addisons Cato is the only noteworthy
work in the field of tragedy. Steeles The Constant Lovers does not amuse as a tragedy. It
preaches. So he became the founder of that highly genteel, didactic and vapid kind of play
which is known as sentimental comedy. George Lillo wrote London Merchant and Fatal
Curiosity. They are examples of domestic drama, in these plays, the characters and incidents
were taken from common life and not from romance and history. Hugh Kellys False Delicacy
and Richard Cumberlands The West Indian are regarded the best examples of the sentimental
comedy. In sentimental comedy tears took the place of laughter; melodramatic and distressing
situations that of intrigue, pathetic heroines and serious lovers and honest servants that of
rogues, gallants and witty damsels.
Reaction to the Sentimental Comedy
Goldsmith and Sheridan pioneered the movement against the sentimental comedy.
Goldsmith endeavors writes Nicoll to revive the spirit of As You Like It, where Sheridan
strives to create another The Way of the World. Goldsmith attacked the sentimental comedy
in his essay The Present State of Polite Learning. In another essay On the Theatre or A
Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy, he started
with the classical formula that tragedy should represent the misfortunes of the great and
comedy the frailties of humbler people. So, according to the classical principle the sentimental
comedy had no place in literature. In the Preface to is comedy The Good Natured Man
Goldsmith exposes the hollowness of sentimental comedy. She Stoops to Conquer is
Goldsmiths masterpiece. About Goldsmiths dramatic writing, Rickett writes: Goldsmiths
Good Natured Man is excellent in parts; She Stoops to Conquer is excellent throughout, with a
bright whimsical humour and a fresh charm of dialogue not attained since the days of
Congreve. Less witty than the Restoration dramatists, Goldsmith is greatly superior in his
humanity and taste. Sheridan sought to revive the spirit and atmosphere of the comedy of
manners, especially those of Congreve in The Rivals and The School for Scandal. His last play
The Critic or A Tragedy Rehearsed is very telling on popular sentimental drama. It has been
called the best burlesque of the age.
Pre-Romanticism is a cultural movement in Europe from about the 1740s onward that
preceded and presaged the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Chief among these
trends was a shift in public taste away from the grandeur, austerity, nobility, idealization, and
elevated sentiments of Neoclassicism or Classicism toward simpler, more sincere, and more
natural forms of expression. This new emphasis partly reflected the tastes of the growing
middle class, who found the refined and elegant art forms patronized by aristocratic society to
be artificial and overly sophisticated; the bourgeoisie favored more realistic artistic vehicles
that were more emotionally accessible.
A major intellectual precursor of Romanticism was the French philosopher and writer
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He emphasized the free expression of emotion rather than polite
restraint in friendship and love, repudiated aristocratic elegance and recognized the virtues of
middle-class domestic life, and helped open the publics eyes to the beauties of nature.
The early Romantic period are the early days of the French Revolution were dampened,
and for many drowned, in the events of the Reign of Terror, the reaction, and the Napoleonic
Wars. Generous liberal principles and gestures of the early revolution faded away in war and
ultimately were defeated. Romantic hopes that the Revolution would unite the downtrodden
vanished as ideological differences among conservatives, liberals, and radicals instead divided
classes, groups, nations, and individuals.
In the decades after the defeat of the Napoleonic forces at Waterloo (1815), European
politics swung like a pendulum between conservative and liberal poles. The great powers
(Prussia, Russia, Austria) used their armies to repress any sign of liberal ideas or politics both in
international affairs and in the internal affairs of nations they could control, such as the German
or Italian states.
In France especially, the conflicts between different visions of society and government
were acute, and intensified as industrialization led to a new class of urban workers who were
drawn to the talk of radicals, republicans, and democrats who remembered -- and romanticized
-- the French Revolution. Hoping that the power of the vote would force government to end
joblessness and homelessness, crowds of Parisians forced the deputies to grant universal
manhood suffrage and a republican form of government in 1848. The dream of "the people," as
their supporters called them, became to their detractors the terror of the "mob." The brutal
repression of demonstrating workers in "the bloody June days" by the army signified a new
alliance between conservatives and even many liberals -- landowners, factory owners, the
Catholic hierarchy -- and small business against the democrats, republicans, and early socialists
in the Second Empire.
Presiding over it all was Napoleon III, whom partisans of the defeated ruling families of
France, the Bourbons and the Orleanists, considered the epitome of the social climbers who
had replaced them. This alliance, it will be recalled, was built on new money, much of it banking
or financial fortunes, not on aristocratic birth and landed wealth. The most impressive
achievement of the nouveaux riches was the modernizing of Paris, turning a crowded medieval
city into a glamorous urban model.

Many pre-Romantic poets dealt with a detailed description of nature (Goldsmith, Thomson).
Thomson saw nature as not static but in motion, he sought wild sceneries in contrast with
civilized man. These poets were appealed by the melancholy and suffering produced by war or
by unrequited love and especially by the description of a wild, gloomy nature.

The Gothic novel
The adjective gothic was not invented in this period but it can have various meanings:
Medieval, because it was related to a model of architectonic art.
Irregular and barbarous, as opposed to Classicism
Wild and supernatural

But the deepest meaning of Gothic, used in Romanticism, was linked to social problems: the
industrialisation had destroyed the importance of the single human being and man had become
a slave to forces he could not control.
There are a few interesting novelists during the last thirty years of century. The novel
develops along three main lines: there is the novel of manners with a strong bent towards
sentimentalism, sensibility and melodrama. The second one is the gothic novel and the third
one is the novel of doctrine with its representative, the philosopher William Godwin who wrote
a political treatise inspired by communistic and anarchist ideals which influenced the early and
Coleridge. Godwin, in his works usually shows the tyranny of the powerful members of the
community against other poor people who have less privileges than themselves.
The gothic novel
The gothic novel flourished towards the end of the 18th century. Gothic literature can
now considered the product of a word which was conscious of social inequity, since it had its
origin in a period when the bourgeoisie began to understand its real conditions: the migration
towards industrialized towns and industrial exploitation had destroyed the importance of the
single human being and man had become a slave to forces he could not control. So, we can say
that gothic symbols are a denunciation of social problems. All the gothic novels are full of
suspence, mystery and terror. They are usually set in wild and sinister landscapes and places, in
ancient castles full of secret passages, where supernatural beings, like vampires, monsters and
ghosts, usually, live. Their main characters are generally men with an obscure past or
persecutors of beautiful, innocent and melancholy girls. The first exponent of this kind of novel
is Horace Walpole with his masterpiece: The castle of Otranto that tells the story of the rise
and fall of an usurper. But it was only with Ann Radcliffe that the fashion of the gothic novel
reached its fame.
Ann Radcliffe (1764-l823)
The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe masterpiece, is considered the first successful
thriller in English literature. The main character is Montonis castle. It is an example of gothic
architecture. A wild landscape surrounds this medieval place in an atmosphere of suspence,
mystery and terror.
By the early 1800s, theatres could be equipped with substantial backstage storage space
and revolving turntables; no longer did plays have to be presented against a single generalized
painted backdrop. Gas lights were introduced into some theatres in the 1820s and by mid-
century, lighting effects could be overseen by a technician stationed at a central control board.
Sunlight could become moonlight and summer turn into fall in the course of a single
performance; specific geographical locales could be reproduced on stage and shifted with ease.
At first, these resources were exploited in only a few extravagant productions. A famous
early treatment of Schiller's Maid of Orleans recreated the French countryside and churches of
Joan's childhood, most spectacularly in a coronation scene that had hundreds of actors and
musicians on stage in full view of the audience. A London production in the l850s of
Sardanapalus, written by Lord Byron, the English Romantic poet, actually set up on the stage a
replica of an ancient Babylonian palace that seemed to be consumed by fire at every
performance, thanks to intricate scenic construction and lighting devices.
In other words, the stage in the mid-nineteenth century was capable of providing
audiences with the large-scale panoramas that we associate with historical films. The embrace
of limits that had fueled the imagination of earlier dramatists had been eclipsed by a fascination
for decorative effect. This era of extravagant staging is notable as well for a new emphasis on
the actor as celebrity, for star performers quickly learned to exploit the sophisticated lighting
boards by commanding spotlights to follow their every movement onstage. Offstage, actors
hired railroad cars and crossed Europe and America in hugely publicized personal tours. Stage
image and star power drew so much attention that an entirely new theatrical professional, the
director, emerged. The director's job was to coordinate the performances of self-absorbed
actors and to oversee every detail of the expensive and complicated productions audiences
increasingly demanded.
The Romantic Period in English literature is taken to begin with the publication of
Wordsworth and Coleridge`s Lyrical Ballads and end with the death of the novelist, Sir Walter
Scott. The historical and literary contexts and effects covered a broader time span. No other
period in English literature displays more variety in style, theme, and content than the
Romantic Movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Furthermore, no period has
been the topic of so much disagreement and confusion over its defining principles and
aesthetics. In England, Romanticism had its greatest influence from the end of the eighteenth
century up to 1832, all the way up to about 1870. Its primary vehicle of expression was in
poetry. Because the expression Romanticism is a phenomenon of immense scope, embracing as
it does, literature, politics, history, philosophy and the arts in general, there has never been
much agreement and much confusion as to what the word means. It has, in fact, been used in
so many different ways that some scholars have argued that the best thing we could do with
the expression is to abandon it once and for all. However, the phenomenon of Romanticism
would not become less complex by simply throwing away its label of convenience.
The historical events which greatly influenced Romanticism were: The American
Revolution (1775-1783), The French Revolution (1789-1799) and The Napoleonic Wars. The two
revolutions affected the way of thinking bringing into Europe the ideals summoned up in the
French slogan Libert, Egalit, Fraternit while the Napoleonic wars affected the economy
and the way of living making business uncertain and closely connected with the ups and downs
of the wars: periods of overproduction and employment were followed by periods of
depression and unemployment. The working class also suffered because the State followed the
economic theory of the Scottish economist Adam Smith, that is: the Governments could not
interfere with the private economic activities if they wanted to improve the economy of their
country; every interference on the free economic competition could be negative. To explain this
theory he used the metaphor of the invisible hand: each individual who tries to reach a
personal economic advantage is pushed by an invisible hand to work for the good of the whole
society. In working out this theory, Smith was influenced by the French Fisiocrats (the label
laissez- faire was attributed to the French fisiocrat economist Jean-Claude-Marie-Vincent de
As a consequence of this policy there were no precise regulations about wages and
hours of work. The workers lived in the Slums; unhealthy quarters in the suburbs of
overpopulated industrial towns, without sanitation and forced to work from 12 to 19 hours a
day in turn of a small salary. To increase their home income, women and children of the lower
classes worked in factories, too. They were more exploited than men because they worked as
men but received a smaller salary. The above mentioned conditions brought to the
development of the first spontaneous Associations of workers, later known as Trade Unions,
which tried to defend them and to better their life. Both the Government and the
manufacturers looked at these organizations with increasing alarm and in 1799 Parliament
passed the Combination Acts which made them illegal. The workers living in the most
industrialized towns in the North opposed these laws attacking factories and destroying
machinery. To control the Mob and to protect machinery, the Government decided to use the
military force, in 1819, in the so-called Peterloo Massacre, the soldiers killed 11 workers. There
was a reaction in the public opinion and the Government was forced to repeal the Combination
Acts and to recognize the organizations of workers.
The situation gradually improved, unemployment decreased, communications and trade
increased too, and Parliament passed a series of Reforms. The most important were: The Bill for
Catholic Emancipation (1829), The First Reform Bill (1832), The Factory Act (1833). The
Catholics obtained the same rights as the Protestants, except the one of becoming Sovereign of
Great Britain because the Act of Settlement was not repealed. The Factory Act provided that no
children under 9 years of age could work in a factory and that people under 18 could not work
for more than 12 hours a day. The Reform Bill redistributed seats in Parliament and most of the
middle-class received the right to vote; yet only 5% of people could vote because the Bill
ignored the working class being based on census.

Little of that, however, is reflected directly in the works of the Romantics; most of their works is
characterized by the attempt to escape the great social problems of the day and to find a
personal solution to the meaning of life.

The English Romantic Age was mainly an Age of poets, even if some prose was produced. As
far as poetry, it is traditionally divided into two periods corresponding to The First Generation
of Poets (1798-1806) and The Second Generation of Poets (1818-1830). To the first generation
belong Wordsworth and Coleridge, while Blake is considered by many critics an early romantic
poet. To the second generation belong Byron, Shelley and Keats. The two generations were
bound together by the common faith in poetry, the same love for Nature and the same belief in
the power of the imagination. They also shared the same pain of living in a world they disliked
and they all sought refuge from real life refusing the real world which they considered corrupt.
Each of them found personal solutions: Wordsworth and Keats sought refuge in the sublime
world of Nature, Coleridge in the world of dreams, in the supernatural and in his utopian
pantisocracy, Byron and Shelley in political and social involvement.
The poets of the 1st generation were mainly influenced by the French and American
Revolutions which had shown that freedom could be achieved breaking free from old and
inadequate institutions and ideas. Wordsworth and Coleridge applied the same conception to
poetry and made almost a revolution.
The poets of the 2nd generation were influenced by the problems coming from the
Napoleonic Wars and were more socially and politically committed. Except Keats, they were
involved in movements to promote the cause of independence and freedom. Byron joined the
Italian Carbonari and supported the cause of the Greek against the Turkish while Shelley
supported the Irish Catholics in their struggle for the emancipation. They did not like
Wordsworth and Coleridge because these latter had revised their poems adopting them to the
orthodox Christianity of the time. They considered Wordsworth simple and dull and distrusted
his role as a patriotic public figure. All the poets of the 2nd generation lived very romantic lives
and all died abroad, Byron inGreece, Shelley and Keats inItaly.
The romantic poetry was different from before both as to form and as to contents. The new
ideas of simplicity and democratization affected the LANGUAGE, too. The poetic diction of the
previous Age, a very artificial language with the presence of uncommon and learned words,
Latinate and frequent use of periphrasis and apostrophe, was replaced by a selection of
language really spoken by men and closer to the masses. It was the real language of people
and not simply a tool to embellish their works.
The HEROIC COUPLET , which had been the favourite poetic form of the 18th century, gave
way to a return to earlier verse forms such as Blank Verse(Wordsworth, Shelley), The
Sonnet(Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats), the Italian Terza Rima(Shelley), the Italian Ottava
Rima(Byron) and the Folk- Ballad Stanza(Coleridge, Keats).
As to the contents, rejecting the neo-classical idea of man in society, seen as a peace of a
perfect whole, English Romantics focused on the individual seen at the centre of Art and Life.
Following the German post-Kantian philosophy, they reversed the old idea of seeing the human
mind as the Mirror of the Universe and considered it as being itself the Creator of that
The IMAGINATION was seen as the Key to penetrate the secrets of the Universe; it was a
God-like faculty, the highest and noblest gift of the poet who, through it, was able to modify or
even to re-create the world around him. To do that, the imagination had to work freely and the
composition had to come spontaneously, almost unconsciously: if poetry comes not as
naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all (Keats).
The POET was seen as a prophet divinely inspired, enjoying the same freedom as God
Himself in the sense that in writing his verses he was free from external rules except the ones
he himself imposed on his creative mind. He played an important role as an intermediary
between man and the world of the Spirit, which he discovered and interpreted through his
imagination and then recreated and communicated it to common people.
Besides Nature and Imagination there was another important concern in the romantic
period: the SUBLIME, that is the search for deep feelings, be they of pain or pleasure. Edmund
Burke made a distinction between Beauty and Sublime: beauty was associated with lightness,
delicacy and smoothness while the sublime with power, obscurity, fear, solitude, greatness and
intense emotion (the statue of Laocoonte, for instance, with the snakes that eat Laocoontes
Another feature of the Romantic Age was the desire to create MYTHS drawing on
personal experience; it was what Goethe described as a striving for the infinite or as Blake
stated less than everything cannot satisfy man. So, what was not unacceptable before for a
poet, that is the desire to exceed human limitation, now becomes glorious. The Romantics,
however, were well aware that the search for the infinity was destined to fail. It was as Shelley
wrote the desire of the moth for the star.
Even if the English Romantic period was mainly a period of poetry, yet some prose was
produced. We may divide Romantic Prose into two branches: fiction and non-fiction. In the
non-fictional prose the ESSAY of Charles Lamb and Thomas De Quincey continued the tradition
of literary journalism. The novelty was the development of a new type of Essay: the literary
criticism. The greatest critic was William Hazlitt. In His Spirit of the Age, he gave us a series of
portraits of his contemporaries he was a friend of: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott and Lamb. In
the fictional field the two great novelists of the Age were Walter Scott and Jane Austen.
SCOTT created the historical novel, a new type of novel which dealt with a series of
chivalrous and fantastic adventures of the distant past, set in a romantic atmosphere and made
up of heroism, honor, loyalty, full of heroes and heroines living fantastic adventures. Scotts
formula for the historic novel was a combination of fictional and historical elements and the
union of historical events and imaginary heroes.
JANE AUSTEN, instead, declared herself an anti-romantic. She wrote Novels of Manners or
Domestic novels, a kind of fiction quite conventional as to plots and characters, without any
romantic heroes or heroines and adventures. They dealt with common characters and events
taken from everyday routine life.
In Romantic Drama, three dozen comparatists join forces for a supranational, crosscultural
reexamination of the deep paradigm shifts appearing around the start of the nineteenth
century which revolutionized drama as a literary art within the enormous civilization
constituted by Europe and her overseas extensions. Romantic pronouncements on the canon
and poetics of drama, the symptomatic subject-matters treated by Romantic playwrights, the
structural means by which they expressed their view of the world, and regional peculiarities are
illuminated from multiple perspectives. The volume aspires to skirt the pitfalls of simplistic
genetic or teleological thinking. It does not treat Romanticism as a limited period dominated
by some construed singular master-ethos or dialectic; rather, it follows the literary patterns and
dynamics of Romanticism as a flow of interactive currents across geocultural frontiers. Finally,
this involves recognizing the Romantic heritage in literary phenomena reaching into our own
times. Thus the Romantic celebration of imagination, creation of a theater of the mind,
experience of intertextuality, dissolving of generic boundaries, and embrace of myth as a
challenge to older history figure among the important topics, as do Romantic foreshadowings
of Symbolist, Existentialist, and Absurdist drama.
WILLIAM BLAKE was the first of the great English Romantics, principally because he was the
first of the English poets to assault the principles of science and commercialism in an age when
the twin imperatives of industrialization and system' were beginning to dominate human life.
He wrote lyrics. He wrote vast verse epics. He wrote verse dramas. All of them were filled with
a yearning for spiritual reality, and for a redefinition of the human imagination beyond the
Newtonian precepts of order and control. He redefined the poetry of radical protest.
The Victorian period formally begins in 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) and ends in
1901 (the year of her death). As a matter of expediency, these dates are sometimes modified
slightly. 1830 is usually considered the end of the Romantic period in Britain, and thus makes a
convenient starting date for Victorianism. Similarly, since Queen Victorias death occurred so
soon in the beginning of a new century, the end of the previous century provides a useful
closing date for the period.

The common perception of the period is the Victorians are prudish, hypocritical, stuffy, *and+
narrow-minded (Murfin 496). This perception is (as most periodic generalizations are) not
universally accurate, and it is thus a grievous error to jump to the conclusion that a writer or
artist fits that description merely because he or she wrote during the mid to late 19th century.
However, it is also true that this description applies to some large segments of Victorian English
society, particularly amongst the middle-class, which at the time was increasing both in number
and power. Many members of this middle-class aspired to join the ranks of the nobles, and felt
that acting properly, according to the conventions and values of the time, was an important
step in that direction.
Another important aspect of this period is the large-scale expansion of British imperial
power. By 1830, the British empire had, of course, existed for centuries, and had already
experienced many boons and setbacks. Perhaps the most significant blow to its power
occurred in the late 18th century with the successful revolt of its 13 American colonies, an
event which would eventually result in the formation of the United States as we now know it.
During the 19th century, the British empire extensively expanded its colonial presence in many
parts of Africa, in India, in the middle-east and in other parts of Asia. This process has had
many long-term effects, including the increased use of the English language outside of Europe
and increased trade between Europe and distant regions. It also, of course, produced some
long-standing animosity in colonized regions.
The social changes during the Victorian era were wide-ranging and fundamental, leaving
their mark not only upon the United Kingdom but upon much of the world which was under
Britain's influence during the 19th century. It can even be argued that these changes eclipsed
the massive shifts in society during the 20th century; certainly many of the developments of the
20th century have their roots in the 19th. The technology of the Industrial Revolution had a
great impact on society. Inventions not only introduced new industries for employment, but the
products and services produced also altered society.[44]
The population of England almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in
1901. Scotland's population also rose rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901.
Ireland's population decreased rapidly, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901,
mostly due to the Great Famine. At the same time, around 15 million emigrants left the United
Kingdom in the Victorian era and settled mostly in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Not
only did the rapidly expanding British Empire attract immigrants, it also attracted temporary
administrators, soldiers, missionaries and businessmen who on their return talked up the
Empire as a part of greater Britain.
Culturally there was a transition away from the rationalism of the Georgian period and
toward romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and the arts. The era is
popularly associated with the "Victorian" values of social and sexual restraint.
The status of the poor is one area in which huge changes occurred. A good illustration of
the differences between life in the Georgian and Victorian eras are the writings of two of
England's greatest authors, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Both writers held a fascination for
people, society and the details of everyday life but in Austen the poor are almost absent, mainly
because they were still the rural poor, remote and almost absent from the minds of the middle
classes. For Dickens, only a few years later, the poor were his main subject, as he had partly
suffered their fate. The poor now were an unavoidable part of urban society and their existence
and plight could not be ignored. Industrialisation made large profits for the entrepreneurs of
the times, and their success was in contrast not only to the farm workers who were in
competition with imported produce but also to the aristocracy whose landowning wealth was
now becoming less significant than business wealth. The British class system created an
intricate hierarchy of people which contrasted the new and old rich, the skilled and unskilled,
the rural and urban and many more.
Some of the first attacks on industrialisation were the Luddites' destruction of machines,
but this had less to do with factory conditions and more to do with machines mass-producing
linen much quicker and cheaper than the handmade products of skilled labourers. The army
was called to the areas of Luddite activity such as Lancashire and Yorkshire and for a time there
were more British soldiers controlling the Luddites than fighting Napoleon in Spain. The squalid,
dangerous and oppressive conditions of many of the new Victorian factories and the
surrounding communities which rose to service them became important issues of discontent,
and the workers began to form trade unions to get their working conditions addressed.
The first unions were feared and distrusted,and ways were devised to ban them. The
most widely known case was that of the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1834, an early attempt at a union
whose members were tried on a spurious charge, found guilty and transported to Australia. The
sentence was challenged and they were released shortly afterwards, but unions were still
threatened. It was not until the formation of the TUC in 1868 and the passing of the Trade
Union Act 1871 that union membership became reasonably legitimate. Many pieces of
legislation were passed to improve working conditions, including the Ten Hours Act 1847 to
reduce working hours, and these culminated in the Factory Act 1901.
Many of these acts resulted from the blight of Britain's agricultural depression.
Beginning in 1873 and lasting until 1896, many farmers and rural workers were hard-pressed
for a stable income. With the decline in wheat prices and land productivity many countrymen
were left looking for any hope of prosperity. Although the British parliament gave substantial
aid to farmers and laborers, many still complained that rents were too high, wages too low, and
the hours laborers were required to work were too long for their income. As a result many
workers turned to unions to have their concerns heard and, with the acts listed above as proof,
were able to achieve some success.
Environmental and health standards rose throughout the Victorian era; improvements
in nutrition may also have played a role, although the importance of this is debated. Sewage
works were improved as was the quality of drinking water. With a healthier environment,
diseases were caught less easily and did not spread as much. Technology was also improving
because the population had more money to spend on medical technology (for example,
techniques to prevent death in childbirth so more women and children survived), which also led
to a greater number of cures for diseases. However, a cholera epidemic took place in London in
1848-49 killing 14,137, and subsequently in 1853 killing 10,738. This anomaly was attributed to
the closure and replacement of cesspits by the modern sewerage systems.
The Victorian Period literally describes the events in the age of Queen Victorias reign of 1837-
1901. The term Victorian has connotations of repression and social conformity, however in the
realm of poetry these labels are somewhat misplaced. The Victorian age provided a significant
development of poetic ideals such as the increased use of the Sonnet as a poetic form, which
was to influence later modern poets. Poets in the Victorian period were to some extent
influenced by the Romantic Poets such as Keats, William Blake, Shelley and W.Wordsworth.
Wordsworth was Poet Laureate until 1850 so can be viewed as a bridge between the Romantic
period and the Victorian period. Wordsworth was succeeded by Lord Tennyson, Queen
Victorias favourite poet.
Victorian Poetry was an important period in the history of poetry, providing the link between
the Romantic movement and the modernist movement of the 20th Century. It is not always
possible to neatly categorise poets in these broad movements. For example Gerard Manley
Hopkins is often cited as an example of a poet who maintained much of the Romantics
sensibility in his writings.
Female Victorian Poets
Before the Victorian era there were very few famous female poets. In the early nineteenth
century writing was still seen as a prominently male preserve. However despite views such as
this the Victorian period saw the emergence of many important female poets.

The Bronte sisters were perhaps better known for their romantic novels but their poetry,
especially that of Emily Bronte, has received more critical acclaim in recent years. Many have
suggested that her works were a reflection of the difficulties women of that period faced. Other
significant female poets include Elizabeth Browning and Christina Rossetti. Christina Rossetti in
some ways could be viewed as a more typical Victorian poet. Her poetry reflected her deep
Anglican faith and frequently pursued themes such as love and faith.

Classic Victorian Poems:
In Memorium Alfred Tennyson
The Charge of the Light Brigade Alfred Tennyson
The Windover Gerard Manley Hopkins
Dovers Beech Matthew Arnold
No Coward Soul is Mine Emily Bronte
Aurora Leigh Elizabeth Browning
Song Christina Rossetti
Saul Robert Browning
Gunga Din R.Kipling
The Ballad of Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde

Charles Dickens is the most famous Victorian novelist. Extraordinarily popular in his day with his
characters taking on a life of their own beyond the page, Dickens is still one of the most popular
and read authors of that time period. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836), written when
he was twenty-five, was an overnight success, and all his subsequent works sold extremely well.
The comedy of his first novel has a satirical edge and this pervades his writing. Dickens worked
diligently and prolifically to produce the entertaining writing that the public wanted, but also to
offer commentary on social problems and the plight of the poor and oppressed. His most
important works include Oliver Twist (18371838), Dombey and Son (18461848), Bleak House
(18521853), Great Expectations (18601861), Little Dorrit (18551857), and Our Mutual
Friend (18641865) The Old Curiosity Shop. There is a gradual trend in his fiction towards
darker themes which mirrors a tendency in much of the writing of the 19th century.
William Thackeray was Dickens' great rival in the first half of Queen Victoria's reign. With a
similar style but a slightly more detached, acerbic and barbed satirical view of his characters, he
also tended to depict a more middle class society than Dickens did. He is best known for his
novel Vanity Fair (1848), subtitled A Novel without a Hero, which is an example of a form
popular in Victorian literature: an historical novel in which recent history is depicted.

Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bront produced notable works of the period, although these were
not immediately appreciated by Victorian critics. Wuthering Heights (1847), Emily's only work,
is an example of Gothic Romanticism from a woman's point of view, which examines class,
myth, and gender. Jane Eyre (1847), by her sister Charlotte, is another major nineteenth
century novel that has gothic themes. Anne's second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848),
written in realistic rather than romantic style, is mainly considered to be the first sustained
feminist novel.
Later in this period George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), published The Mill on the Floss in 1860, and
in 1872 her most famous work Middlemarch. Like the Bronts she published under a masculine
In the later decades of the Victorian era Thomas Hardy was the most important novelist. His
works include Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The
Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).
Other significant novelists of this era were Elizabeth Gaskell (18101865), Anthony Trollope
(18151882), George Meredith (18281909), and George Gissing (18571903).
In drama, farces, musical burlesques, extravaganzas and comic operas competed with
Shakespeare productions and serious drama by the likes of James Planch and Thomas William
Robertson. In 1855, the German Reed Entertainments began a process of elevating the level of
(formerly risqu) musical theatre in Britain that culminated in the famous series of comic
operas by Gilbert and Sullivan and were followed by the 1890s with the first Edwardian musical
comedies. The first play to achieve 500 consecutive performances was the London comedy Our
Boys by H. J. Byron, opening in 1875. Its astonishing new record of 1,362 performances was
bested in 1892 by Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas.[5] After W. S. Gilbert, Oscar Wilde
became the leading poet and dramatist of the late Victorian period.[4] Wilde's plays, in
particular, stand apart from the many now forgotten plays of Victorian times and have a closer
relationship to those of the Edwardian dramatists such as George Bernard Shaw, whose career
began in the 1890s. Wilde's 1895 comic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, was the
greatest of the plays in which he held an ironic mirror to the aristocracy while displaying
virtuosic mastery of wit and paradoxical wisdom. It has remained extremely popular.