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Characteristics of the

the Revolu


The last decade of the eighteenth century witnessed the opening scenes of the most exciting and alarming historical tragedy of modern times. The execution of the king and queen of France in 1793, the Literature of abolition of all feudal privileges, the establishment of a government based in theory on the Period. rights of man, and the complete reversing of the order of society in France, could not but impress very profoundly the imaginative minds of England. We have noted how it affected Burke, who could see in the French Revolution nothing but anarchy. To younger men it meant emancipation, a great step forward, the beginning of a new era, the triumph of justice over centuries of oppression, a release from slavery, a realization of the 'brotherhood of man. To generous minds these are exciting and inspiring conceptions, and they must result in a boldness and radicalism of thought, especially in young men, which is certain to be reflected in literature. The disposition to scrutinize the foundations of things gives poetry life and originality, and the disposition to accept things as they are and make the best of them results in a sluggish or cautious conservatism which looks to the established authorities in art or literature as absolute models.

In the age of Queen Anne, Gothic meant barbarian ; in the Georgian age men learned that Gothic architecture was an expression of the devotional mind, and that the charm not only of antiquity, but of genuine art, hung about the castles and churches of the Middle Ages. A pseudo-classic architecture of which our own country is not without examples came to be the fashion in building in the early part of the nineteenth century. In literature a romanticism—which if it did not entirely comprehend the spirit of the Middle Ages at least felt a genuine inter

est in the past-influenced literary production. In the hands of inferior artists, this romanticism produced a crop of novels in which a supernatural element, generally explained by some natural cause, was combined with the mystery hanging about an ancient castle and a secret crime. Walpole's "Castle of Otranto" was one of the first of this class, and Mrs. Radcliffe's "Mysteries of Udolpho is one of the best. An undercurrent of romanticism based on a feeling for the associations clustering about monuments of the past, with a slight infusion of German mystical sentimentalism, also colors much of the poetry of the time. Love for the past and a perception of the picturesque features are evident in all of Walter Scott's work. A true love of nature and a sense of its beauty, whether spiritually interpreted, as by Wordsworth, or picturesquely interpreted, as by Scott, either of which interpretations would have been absolutely foreign to Pope or Johnson, runs through nearly all the imaginative writings of the period. Again, to Coleridge and Wordsworth at times, to Byron and Shelley always, there comes a sense of the dignity and worth of a nation (a people, not merely a ruling class) especially when striving against oppression and injustice. This is a result of the French Revolution, and of the discussions about the rights of man and the foundations of society which it set in motion. All these general sentiments, the origins of which can be traced back into the eighteenth century, combine to give the literature of the Revolutionary period a different set of thought elements from that which dominated the previous age.

Partly as a cause, and partly as a consequence of this widening of the mental horizon, we find a wonderful increase in variety and freedom of poetical form. Wordsworth wrote many sonnets, and used some fifty different


metrical schemes. Coleridge's use of the ballad form is enough to justify his title to poetic genius. The same may be said of Shelley's "Sensitive Plant," which would have struck the former generation as the work of a lunatic. Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare were the most valuable contributions ever made to literary criticism. In scope, variety, sincerity, and musical form, the literature of the Revolutionary period is inferior to none other. The drama was the only form not successfully cultivated. With that exception the age of Coleridge and Shelley has bequeathed to us as rich an artistic heritage as did that of Shakespeare.


What were some of the results of the influence of the French Revolution on English literature?

How does the literary ballad differ from the folk ballad?

Outline the supernatural element in Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel "; Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel."

What two great periodicals were founded during this period? What were their purposes? Give some account of the distinguished writers and statesmen connected with them.


ARNOLD, M. Essay on Keats. (In Ward, T. H., English Poets.)
ARNOLD, M. Introduction to his Selections from Byron.
ARNOLD, M. Introduction to his Selections from Wordsworth.
BRANDL, A. S. T. Coleridge and the English Romantic School.
DOWDEN, E. The French Revolution and English Literature.
DOWDEN, E. Life of P. B. Shelley.


The French Revolution and the English Poets.
Age of Wordsworth.

The True Lord Byron.

The True Shelley.

KEATS, J. Poetical Works and Other Writings. Edited by H. Bux

ton Forman. 4 v.

KNIGHT, W. Life of William Wordsworth. 3 v.

LOCKHART, J. G. Life of Sir Walter Scott.


nineteenth centuries.

Literary History of England, eighteenth and 3 v.

SCOTT, Sir W. Journal, 1825-1832.

SHELLEY, P. B. Complete works. (The editions edited by H. Buxton Forman and G. E. Woodberry are the best.)

SMITH, G. Life of Jane Austen. (G. W. S.)

See also articles on Byron, Blake, Coleridge, De Quincey, Keats, Lamb, Moore (T.), Scott, Shelley, Godwin (Wm.), Southey, and Sheridan, in the "Dictionary of National Biography."



Historical References

AUBREY, W. H. S. Rise and Growth of the English Nation, v. 3.
BESANT, Sir W. Fifty Years Ago.

BRIGHT, J. F. History of England: Growth of Democracy, 18371880.

GREVILLE, C. C. F. Greville Memoirs, 1837-1860.


Edited by H.

GAMMAGE, R. G. History of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1854.
MCCARTHY, J. History of Our Own Times, 1837-1880. 4 v.
MACAULAY, T. B. Life and Letters. 2 v.

REID, S. J. Prime Ministers of Queen Victoria.

WARD, T. H. (Ed.). Reign of Queen Victoria.

WALPOLE, S. History of England from the Conclusion of the Great War in 1815.

Consult Poole's Index for reference to almost every topic in English history political, economic, literary, and social.


SINCE the accession of Queen Victoria the English nation has increased marvelously in population and wealth. Great as has been the growth in Great Britain, Disraeli was justified in saying, when in 1876 the Queen took the title "Empress of the Indies,” that "England was an Asiatic rather than a European power." A policy of intelligent justice has bound her colonies into an imperial unity, a "world federation,” the magnitude of which is the chief inspirational conception of Rudyard Kipling's verse. This material expansion is

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