Read this article to know about the Romantic Period and the background of Romantic Movement in English Literature.
Romantic Movement dates its origin in 1798 A.D. with the publication of Lyrical Ballads. Lyrical Ballads is a Magna-Carta (big constitution) of Romantic Movement. This movement in literature was preceded and accompanied by the change from monarchy to democracy in politics, from materialism to idealism in philosophy, from conservation (old style) to radicalism (revolutionary) in culture and from orthodoxy to emancipation in religion.
The influences that shaped the movement travelled as much from the foreign lands like France and Germany as they emerged from the native soil of England. In terms of borrowing from literary sources, Germany served the Romantic Movement quite as much as France had served the Neoclassical Movement and Italy had served the Renaissance Movement.
While the Renaissance Movement began in Italy and Neoclassical Movement in France, the Romantic Movement made its first appearance in Germany. Diametrically (entirely) opposed to materialism, idealism proceeds from the assumption (supposition) that spiritual reality is primary and the material reality is secondary.
German Idealist Romantic poets like Friedrich Schiller, Fostered, developed the ideas of individualism, spiritualism and organism among the English Romantic Poets. Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge, under the influence of Friedrich Schiller, regarded art as an instrument of forming the harmoniously developed human personality uninhibited in creating the good. They also sought to express the unity of being in man and nature.
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The entire stream of romantic poetry between William Blake and John Keats gives expression to the philosophy of idealism manifesting (showing) various aspects (sides) of individualism, spiritualism and organism. The French writers like Rousseau and German writers like Kant, Hegel and Schiller had a great impact on the thinking and mindset of the English Romantics. Rousseau’s emphasis on the dignity of man as a man and on nature’s influence on the growth of human personality had a tremendous impact on the writers of Romantic Age in England.
Rousseau’s Emile and Social Contract were the monuments of Romantic Humanism which emphasized the equal and natural rights of every individual on the one hand and regenerating power of love on the other. Rousseau’s slogans like “go back to nature” and “man is born free” became the watch-words of the Romantic Period all over the Europe and America.
Voltaire’s emphasis that God is inseparable from nature, combined with Rousseau’s glorification of Nature, as the nursing mother of man gave rise to the ideas of pantheism (God exists everywhere) which we find in the poetry of Wordsworth.
Among the major influences from the native thinkers like Edmund Burk and William Godwin whose A Vindication of Natural Society and Enquiry Concerning Political Justice respectively were largely responsible for the anarchic ideas in the social and political outlook of the Romantic poets, particularly in the poetry of Shelley and Byron.
The ideas of these (Burk, Godwin) social, political philosophers encouraged some of the most important characteristics of romantic literature in England. These men of thought-provoking ideas supplied the main threads of thought which the creative writers of the period used for weaving various kinds of imaginative patterns in poetic and prose compositions. In fact, the Romantic poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats etc. were highly conversant (familiar) with the cross-currents of ideas circulating through the western world of Europe and America.