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Industrial Revolution and The French Revolution

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    Notes: • The French Revolution and Industrial Revolution had an important influence on the fictional and nonfictional writing of the Romantic period, inspiring writers to address themes of democracy and human rights and to consider the function of revolution as apocalyptic change. • Romantic poets presented a theory of poetry in direct opposition to representative eighteenth-century theories of poetry as imitative of human life and nature by suggesting that poetic inspiration was located not outside in nature, but inside the poet’s mind, in a “spontaneous” emotional response. Literature also became a profitable business in the Romantic period with the increase of potential readership due to education reform and increased literacy. • Attendant upon the increased profitability of literature was the growth of the periodical industry and the consequent added importance of the essay as a literary and critical form. • The novel increased in popularity and prominence with two new genres: the gothic novel and the novel of purpose. Summaries

    The British Romantic period designates the time period 1785–1830. Romantic poets and writers would not have considered themselves similar and many of the writers considered canonical today were not popular until later in their careers or after their deaths. This period, nonetheless, designates a time in which many writers were responding to similar events and ideas about the form and function of literature. The period was socially turbulent and imported revolutionary ideas created social conflict, often along class lines.

    The French Revolution had an important influence on the fictional and nonfictional writing of the Romantic period, inspiring writers to address themes of democracy and human rights and to consider the function of revolution as a form of apocalyptic change. In the beginning, the French Revolution was supported by writers because of the opportunities it seemed to offer for political and social change. When those expectations were frustrated in later years, Romantic poets used the spirit of revolution to help characterize their poetic philosophies.

    The Industrial Revolution, while bringing about changes in manufacturing and thus improving the efficiency of production, brought about a different and related reaction in literature that addressed the rights of the laboring classes and improved labor conditions. This revolutionary spirit prompted Romantic poets to posit new theories about the function and form of poetry. These arguments are demonstrated in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry.

    Romantic poets presented a theory of poetry in direct opposition to representative eighteenth-century theories of poetry as imitative of human life and nature by suggesting that poetic inspiration was located not outside in nature, but inside the poet’s mind, in a “spontaneous” emotional response. This new theory of poetry also posited new possible subjects of poetic expression in a revaluation of the outcast, delinquent, and the supernatural. Indeed, it often reveled in representations that made the ordinary appear miraculous.

    This wonder at the ordinary was often achieved in making the natural appear supernatural. Such representations often exemplify the interest of much Romantic poetry in describing and depicting alternate states of consciousness. Literature also became a profitable business in the Romantic period with the increase of potential readership due to education reform and increased literacy. Improved printing technology and a new aesthetic valuation of art and literature for its own sake contributed to the growth of literature as a business.

    Attendant upon the increased profitability of literature was the growth of the periodical industry and the consequent added importance of the essay as a literary and critical form. Taking inspiration from their poetic counterparts, Romantic essayists prized a subjective viewpoint and often took on an autobiographical tone. In addition to the essay, drama and the novel experienced formal revision in the Romantic era. Playwrights such as Shelley and Byron attempted to revitalize the poetic play, but without much practical success.

    Aside from a lack of popularity, only Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters had the right to produce spoken drama thanks to a licensing act that was not repealed until 1843. Unlike drama, the novel increased in popularity and prominence with two new genres: the gothic novel and the novel of purpose. While the latter sought to propagate the social and political theories of the day, the former was less didactic and more interested in terror, perversion, and mystery. William Godwin’s Caleb Williams is an appropriate example of the novel of purpose.

    Ann Radcliffe, Gregory Lewis, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley all wrote gothic fiction. Although interested in historic novels more than gothic or novels of purpose, Sir Walter Scott also rose to prominence in this period. « Previous Edition Notes: • Some of the best regarded poets of the time were in fact women, including Anna Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, and Mary Robinson. • Many writers of the period were aware of a pervasive intellectual and imaginative climate, which some called “the spirit of the age. ” This spirit was linked to both the politics of the French Revolution and religious apocalypticism. Wordsworth influentially located the source of a poem not in outer nature but in the psychology and emotions of the individual poet. • Romantic poems habitually endow the landscape with human life, passion, and expressiveness. • Although we now know the Romantic period as an age of poetry, the prose essay, the drama, and the novel flourished during this epoch. Summaries Writers working in the time period from 1785 to 1830 did not think of themselves as “Romantics,” but were seen to belong to a number of distinct movements or schools.

    For much of the twentieth century scholars singled out five poets—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Percy Shelley, and Keats—and constructed a unified concept of Romanticism on the basis of their works. Some of the best regarded poets of the time were in fact women, including Anna Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, and Mary Robinson. Yet educated women were targets of masculine scorn, and the radical feminism of a figure like Mary Wollstonecraft remained exceptional. The Romantic period was shaped by a multitude of political, social, and economic changes.

    Many writers of the period were aware of a pervasive intellectual and imaginative climate, which some called “the spirit of the age. ”  This spirit was linked to both the politics of the French Revolution and religious apocalypticism. The early period of the French Revolution evoked enthusiastic support from English liberals and radicals alike. But support dropped off as the Revolution took an increasingly grim course. The final defeat of the French emperor Napoleon in 1815 ushered in a period of harsh, repressive measures in England.

    The nation’s growing population was increasingly polarized into two classes of capital and labor, rich and poor. In 1819, an assembly of workers demanding parliamentary reform was attacked by sabre-wielding troops in what became known as the “Peterloo Massacre. ”  A Reform Bill was passed in 1832, extending the franchise, though most men and all women remained without the vote. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s sense of the emancipatory opportunities brought in by the new historical moment was expressed in their Lyrical Ballads (1798), which revolutionized the theory and practice of poetry.

    Wordsworth influentially located the source of a poem not in outer nature but in the psychology and emotions of the individual poet. In keeping with the view that poetry emphasizes the poet’s feelings, the lyric became a major Romantic form. It was held that the immediate act of composition must be spontaneous—arising from impulse and free from rules. For Shelley, poetry was not the product of “labor and study” but unconscious creativity. In a related tendency, Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and later Shelley would all assume the persona of the poet-prophet.

    Romantic poetry for present-day readers has become almost synonymous with “nature poetry. ”  Romantic poems habitually endow the landscape with human life, passion, and expressiveness. Wordsworth’s aim was to shatter the lethargy of custom to renew our sense of wonder in the everyday. Coleridge, by contrast, achieved wonder by the frank violation of natural laws, impressing upon readers a sense of occult powers and unknown modes of being. The pervasiveness of nature poetry in the period can be linked to the idealization of the natural scene as a site where the individual could find freedom from social laws.

    Books became big business, thanks to an expanded audience and innovations in retailing. A few writers became celebrities. Although we now know the Romantic period as an age of poetry, the prose essay, the drama and the novel flourished during this epoch. This period saw the emergence of the literary critic, with accompanying anxieties over the status of criticism as literature. There was a vibrant theatrical culture, though burdened by many restrictions; Shelley’s powerful tragedy The Cenci was deemed unstageable on political grounds.

    The novel began to rival poetry for literary prestige. Gothic novelists delved into a premodern, prerational past as a means of exploring the nature of power. Jane Austen, committed like Wordsworth to finding the extraordinary in the everyday, developed a new novelistic language for the mind in flux. “Romantic Orientalism” — the second term sometimes expanded to “Oriental exoticism” or “Oriental fantasy” — brings together two concepts that continue to be much in dispute among theorists and literary historians.

    For practical purposes, “Romantic” here refers to the writers (and the ideas and culture they reflect) of the Romantic Period section of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, where the dates are given as 1785–1830. “Orientalism” refers to the geography and culture of large parts of Asia and North Africa, plus some of what we now think of as Eastern Europe. Above all, from a British point of view, “Orientalism” connotes foreignness or otherness — things decidedly not British — and it sometimes seems as if the “East” signified by “Orient” is not only what is east of Europe and the Mediterranean but everything east of the English Channel.

    In literary history, Romantic Orientalism is the recurrence of recognizable elements of Asian and African place names, historical and legendary people, religions, philosophies, art, architecture, interior decoration, costume, and the like in the writings of the British Romantics. At first glance, Romantic literature may seem to be divided between the natural settings of sheep fields in the southwest of England or the Lake District and the unnatural settings of medieval castles that are, for all their remoteness from present-day reality, always Christian and at least European, if not always British.

    But a closer look reveals a tiger — decidedly not indigenous to the British Isles — in one of Blake’s most famous songs; an impressive dream of “an Arab of the Bedouin Tribes” in book 5 of Wordsworth’s Prelude; the founder of the Mongol dynasty in China as well as an Abyssinian “damsel with a dulcimer” in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”; Eastern plots, characters, and themes in Byron’s “Oriental tales,” some of which show up later in Don Juan; a poet’s journey into the innermost reaches of the Caucasus (the legendary boundary between Europe and Asia) in Percy Shelley’s Alastor; a tempting affair with an Indian maiden in Keats’s “Endymion” and a feast of “dainties” from Fez, Samarcand, and Lebanon in “The Eve of St.

    Agnes”; an Arab maiden, Safie, as the most liberated character in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Orientalism, via the literature and art of the time, was increasingly in the air (as well as the texts) in both London and the British countryside. The Orientalism of British Romantic literature has roots in the first decade of the eighteenth century, with the earliest translations of The Arabian Nights into English (from a version in French, 1705–08). The popularity of The Arabian Nights inspired writers to develop a new genre, the Oriental tale, of which Samuel Johnson’s History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759) is the best mid-century example (NAEL 8, 1. 2680–2743).

    Romantic Orientalism continues to develop into the nineteenth century, paralleling another component of Romanticism already presented in the Norton Web sites, “Literary Gothicism. ” Two of the authors here — Clara Reeve and William Beckford — are important figures in the history of both movements. Like Gothic novels and plays, Oriental tales feature exotic settings, supernatural happenings, and deliberate extravagance of event, character, behavior, emotion, and speech — an extravagance sometimes countered by wry humor even to the point of buffoonery. It is as though the “otherness” of Oriental settings and characters gives the staid British temperament a holiday.

    Gothicism and Orientalism do the work of fiction more generally — providing imaginary characters, situations, and stories as alternative to, even as escape from, the reader’s everyday reality. But they operate more sensationally than other types of fiction. Pleasurable terror and pleasurable exoticism are kindred experiences, with unreality and strangeness at the root of both. Before the publication of Edward Said’s extremely influential and controversial Orientalism (1978), scholars tended to view the Eastern places, characters, and events pervading late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century British literature as little more than stimuli for easy thrills. But this attitude has changed dramatically.

    Along with its well-studied interests in the inner workings of the mind, connections with nature, and exercise of a transcendental imagination, the Romantic Period in Britain is now recognized as a time of global travel and exploration, accession of colonies all over the world, and development of imperialist ideologies that rationalized the British takeover of distant territories. In the introduction to their fine collection of essays in Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780–1834 (1996), Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh notice references to the Spanish “discovery” and penetration of the Americas, British colonial wars, and “ethnographic exoticism” in several shorter pieces of Lyrical Ballads (1798) and connect the Ancient Mariner’s voyage to a “growing maritime empire of far-flung islands, trading-posts, and stretches of coastline on five continents. ” Wordsworth and Coleridge were more aware of British expansionism than we had realized.

    Such recontextualizing of Romantic Orientalism gives it a decidedly contemporary and political character involving questions of national identity, cultural difference, the morality of imperialist domination, and consequent anxiety and guilt concerning such issues. A handy example is the call for papers at an international conference on the topic at Gregynog, Wales, in July 2002, whose focus is “the cultural, political, commercial, and aesthetic dimensions of the synchronous growth of Romanticism and Orientalism. The European Romantic imagination was saturated with Orientalism, but it reflected persistent ambivalence concerning the East, complicated in Britain by colonial anxiety and imperial guilt.

    We shall consider how Western notions of cultural hegemony were bolstered by imperial rhetoric and challenged by intercultural translation. ” As a spate of new books and articles attests, a political approach to Romantic Orientalism is currently one of the major enterprises among critics and theorists. Colonial anxiety and imperial guilt may not be immediately apparent in the extracts assembled for this online topic, from Frances Sheridan’s History of Nourjahad, Sir Willliam Jones’s Palace of Fortune and Hymn to Narayena, Clara Reeve’s History of Charoba, Queen of ? gypt, William Beckford’s Vathek, W. S. Landor’s Gebir, Robert Southey’s Curse of Kehama, Byron’s Giaour, and Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh.

    But the texts are representative of the materials that scholars are currently working with, and three of them — the works by Sheridan, Beckford, and Byron — have recently been reprinted in a New Riverside Edition, Three Oriental Tales (2002), with an introduction and notes by Alan Richardson pointing out the works’ “use of ‘Oriental’ motifs to criticize European social arrangements. ” The texts and additional background materials included in this topic enhance the reading of canonical Romantic poems and fictions, as well as suggest how those poems and fictions connect with the political and social concerns of their real-life historical contexts.

    In a letter to Byron in 1816, Percy Shelley declared that the French Revolution was “the master theme of the epoch in which we live” — a judgment with which many of Shelley’s contemporaries concurred. As one of this period’s topics, “The French Revolution: Apocalyptic Expectations,” demonstrates, intellectuals of the age were obsessed with the concept of violent and inclusive change in the human condition, and the writings of those we now consider the major Romantic poets cannot be understood, historically, without an awareness of the extent to which their distinctive concepts, plots, forms, and imagery were shaped first by the promise, then by the tragedy, of the great events in neighboring France.

    And for the young poets in the early years of 1789–93, the enthusiasm for the Revolution had the impetus and high excitement of a religious awakening, because they interpreted the events in France in accordance with the apocalyptic prophecies in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures; that is, they viewed these events as fulfilling the promise, guaranteed by an infallible text, that a short period of retributive and cleansing violence would usher in an age of universal peace and blessedness that would be the equivalent of a restored Paradise. Even after what they considered to be the failure of the revolutionary promise, these poets did not surrender their hope for a radical reformation of humankind and its social and political world; instead, they transferred the basis of that hope from violent political revolution to a quiet but drastic revolution in the moral and imaginative nature of the human race. “The Gothic,” another topic for this period, is also a prominent and distinctive element in the writings of the Romantic Age.

    The mode had originated in novels of the mid-eighteenth century that, in radical opposition to the Enlightenment ideals of order, decorum, and rational control, had opened to literary exploration the realm of nightmarish terror, violence, aberrant psychological states, and sexual rapacity. In the first Gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), the ominous hero-villain had embodied aspects of Satan, the fallen archangel in Milton’s Paradise Lost. This satanic strain was developed by later writers and achieved its apotheosis in the creation of a new and important cultural phenomenon, the compulsive, grandiose, heaven-and-hell-defying Byronic hero. In many of its literary products, the Gothic mode manifested the standard setting and events, creaky contrivances, and genteel aim of provoking no more than a pleasurable shudder — a convention Jane Austen satirized in Northanger Abbey.

    Literary Gothicism also, however, produced enduring classics that featured such demonic, driven, and imaginatively compelling protagonists as Byron’s Manfred (NAEL 8, 2. 636–68), Frankenstein’s Creature in Mary Shelley’s novel, Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and, in America, Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby-Dick. The topic “Tintern Abbey, Tourism, and Romantic Landscape” represents a very different mode, but one that is equally prominent in the remarkably diverse spectrum of Romantic literature. Tintern Abbey, written in 1798, is Wordsworth’s initial attempt, in the short compass of a lyric poem, at a form he later expanded into the epic-length narrative of The Prelude.

    That is, it is a poem on the growth of the poet’s mind, told primarily in terms of an evolving encounter between subject and object, mind and nature, which turns on an anguished spiritual crisis (identified in The Prelude as occasioned by the failure of the French Revolution) and culminates in the achievement of an integral and assured maturity (specified in The Prelude as the recognition by Wordsworth of his vocation as a poet for his crisis-ridden era). In this aspect, Tintern Abbey can be considered the succinct precursor, in English literature, of the genre known by the German term Bildungsgeschichte — the development of an individual from infancy through psychological stresses and breaks to a coherent maturity.

    This genre came to include such major achievements as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh in verse (NAEL 8, 2. 1092–1106) and James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in prose. However innovative, in historical retrospect, the content and organization of Tintern Abbey may be, a contemporary reader would have approached it as simply one of a great number of descriptive poems that, in the 1790s, undertook to record a tour of picturesque scenes and ruins. There is good evidence, in fact, that, on the walking tour of the Wye valley during which Wordsworth composed Tintern Abbey, the poet and his sister carried with them William Gilpin’s best-selling tour guide, Observations on the River Wye . . . Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty.

    As Gilpin and other travelers point out, the ruined abbey, however picturesque, served as a habitat for beggars and the wretchedly poor; also the Wye, in the tidal portion downstream from the abbey, had noisy and smoky iron-smelting furnaces along its banks, while in some places the water was oozy and discolored. These facts, together with the observation that Wordsworth dated his poem July 13, 1798, one day before the anniversary of the Fall of the Bastille, have generated vigorous controversy about Tintern Abbey. Some critics read it as a great and moving meditation on the human condition and its inescapable experience of aging, loss, and suffering. (Keats read it this way — as a wrestling with “the Burden of the Mystery,” an attempt to develop a rationale for the fact that “the World is full of Misery and Heartbreak, Pain, Sickness and oppression”; see NAEL 8, 2. 945–47. Others, however, contend that in the poem, Wordsworth suppresses any reference to his earlier enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and also that — by locating his vantage point in the pristine upper reaches of the Wye and out of sight of the abbey — he avoids acknowledging the spoliation of the environment by industry, and evades a concern with the social realities of unemployment, homelessness, and destitution. “The Satanic and Byronic Hero,” another topic for this period, considers a cast of characters whose titanic ambition and outcast state made them important to the Romantic Age’s thinking about individualism, revolution, the relationship of the author—the author of genius especially—to society, and the relationship of poetical power to political power.

    The fallen archangel Satan, as depicted in Milton’s Paradise Lost; Napoleon Bonaparte, self-anointed Emperor of the French, Europe’s “greatest man” or perhaps, as Coleridge insisted, “the greatest proficient in human destruction that has ever lived”; Lord Byron, or at least Lord Byron in the disguised form in which he presented himself in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Manfred, and his Orientalist romances; these figures were consistently grouped together in the public imagination of the Romantic Age. Prompted by radical changes in their systems of political authority and by their experience of a long, drawn-out war in which many of the victories felt like pyrrhic ones, British people during this period felt compelled to rethink the nature of heroism.

    One way that they pursued this project was to ponder the powers of fascination exerted by these figures whose self-assertion and love of power could appear both demonic and heroic, and who managed both to incite beholders’ hatred and horror and to prompt their intense identifications. In the representations surveyed by this topic the ground is laid, as well, for the satanic strain of nineteenth-century literature and so for some of literary history’s most compelling protagonists, from Mary Shelley’s creature in Frankenstein to Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff, to Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab. The Gothic begins with later-eighteenth-century writers’ turn to the past; in the context of the Romantic period, the Gothic is, then, a type of imitation medievalism.

    When it was launched in the later eighteenth century, The Gothic featured accounts of terrifying experiences in ancient castles — experiences connected with subterranean dungeons, secret passageways, flickering lamps, screams, moans, bloody hands, ghosts, graveyards, and the rest. By extension, it came to designate the macabre, mysterious, fantastic, supernatural, and, again, the terrifying, especially thepleasurably terrifying, in literature more generally. Closer to the present, one sees the Gothic pervading Victorian literature (for example, in the novels of Dickens and the Brontes), American fiction (from Poe and Hawthorne through Faulkner), and of course the films, television, and videos of our own (in this respect, not-so-modern) culture.

    The Gothic revival, which appeared in English gardens and architecture before it got into literature, was the work of a handful of visionaries, the most important of whom was Horace Walpole (1717–1797), novelist, letter writer, and son of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole. In the 1740s Horace Walpole purchased Strawberry Hill, an estate on the Thames near London, and set about remodeling it in what he called “Gothick” style, adding towers, turrets, battlements, arched doors, windows, and ornaments of every description, creating a kind of spurious medieval architecture that survives today mainly in churches, military academies, and university buildings. The project was extremely influential, as people came from all over to see Strawberry Hill and returned to Gothicize their own houses.

    When the Gothic made its appearance in literature, Walpole was again a chief initiator, publishing The Castle of Otranto (1764), a short novel in which the ingredients are a haunted castle, a Byronic villain (before Byron’s time — and the villain’s name is Manfred! ), mysterious deaths, supernatural happenings, a moaning ancestral portrait, a damsel in distress, and, as the Oxford Companion to English Literature puts it, “violent emotions of terror, anguish, and love. ” The work was tremendously popular, and imitations followed in such numbers that the Gothic novel (or romance) was probably the commonest type of fiction in England for the next half century. It is noteworthy in this period that the best-selling author of the genre (Ann Radcliffe), the author of its most enduring novel (Mary Shelley), and the author of its most effective sendup (Jane Austen) were all women. This opic offers extracts from some of the most frequently mentioned works in the Gothic mode: Walpole’s Otranto as the initiating prototype; William Beckford’s Vathek (1786), which is “oriental” rather than medieval but similarly blends cruelty, terror, and eroticism; two extremely popular works by the “Queen of Terror,” Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (1791) and The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794); Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1796), involving seduction, incestuous rape, matricide and other murders, and diabolism; and two works of 1818 poking fun at the by-then well-established tradition, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (which refers specifically to the two Radcliffe novels just mentioned) and Thomas Love Peacock’sNightmare Abbey. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) was inspired, as Shelley explains in her introduction to the edition of 1831, by a communal reading of German ghost stories with her husband and Byron during bad weather on the shores of Lake Geneva. Frankenstein is the single most important product of this Gothic tradition, but it considerably transcends its sources.

    Its numerous thematic resonances relate to science, poetry, psychology, alienation, politics, education, family relationships, and much else. Even so, one cannot imagine a more archetypically Gothic circumstance than the secret creation of an eight-foot-tall monster out of separate body parts collected from charnel houses; some of Victor Frankenstein’s most extravagant rhetoric in the novel almost exactly reproduces the tone, and even some of the words, of the extract given here describing Isabella’s distress in Otranto — as in this passage expressing Victor’s feelings of horror when Justine is condemned for the murder of his brother William: My own agitation and anguish was extreme during the whole trial. I believed in her innocence; I knew it.

    Could the daemon, who had (I did not for a minute doubt) murdered my brother, also in his hellish sport have betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy? I could not sustain the horror of my situation; and when I perceived that the popular voice, and the countenances of the judges, had already condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out of the court in agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would not forego their hold. . . . I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had before experienced sensations of horror; and I have endeavoured to bestow upon them adequate expressions, but words cannot convey an idea of he heart-sickening despair that I then endured. . . . (volume 1, chapter 7) More pervasive signs of Gothic influence show up in some of the most frequently read Romantic poems — for example, the account of the skeleton ship and the crew’s reaction (“A flash of joy . . . And horror follows”) in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (NAEL 8, 2. 430); the atmosphere, setting, and fragmentary plot of witchery and seduction in Coleridge’s Christabel (NAEL 8, 2. 449–64); the initial scene (“a Gothic gallery”) and most of the rest of Byron’s Manfred (NAEL 8, 2. 636–69); and the medievalism and several details of the plot of Keats’s The Eve of St. Agnes (NAEL 8, 2. 88–98), including Porphyro’s invasion of Madeline’s bedroom, which, while the poem is always at some level an idealized tale of young love, has obvious connections with the predatory overtones of our extracts from both Udolphoand The Monk. Looking back to his early radical years from his conservative middle age, the English poet Robert Southey (1774–1843) declared that few persons but those who have lived in it can conceive or comprehend what the memory of the French Revolution was, nor what a visionary world seemed to open upon those who were just entering it. Old things seemed passing away, and nothing was dreamt of but the regeneration of the human race. gt;> note 1 In the prologue to his successful play The Road to Ruin (1792), Thomas Holcroft predicted that the French Revolution would “fertilize a world, and renovate old earth! ” And in The Prelude (1805), Wordsworth remembered the early years of the Revolution as a time when all Europe                    was thrilled with joy, France standing on the top of golden hours, And human nature seeming born again. (6. 340–42; NAEL 2. 346) Human nature regenerate in a world made new: this was the theme of many enthusiasts in England during the first four or five years after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. These concepts are obviously theological.

    They originate in the apocalyptic and millennial passages of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and their use indicates that for a number of British idealists, the early enthusiasm for the revolution had the momentum and excitement of a religious movement. The term apocalypse, derived from the Greek word meaning “revelation,” designates the disclosure, in the Bible, of God’s providential design for the end of human history. In its fully developed form, an apocalypse is a prophetic vision, elaborately symbolic of the imminent events that will abruptly end the existing world order and replace it with a new and perfected condition both of humanity and of the world.

    The root elements of apocalypse are the concern of the Hebrew prophets with the catastrophic punishments to be visited upon Israel and its enemies in “the latter end of the days,” as well as with the expectation of a Messiah, a deliverer from suffering in this disaster-ridden world. These elements are collected in the writings attributed to the prophet Isaiah, which foretell, after God has vented His wrath, the advent of a renovated world of ease, joy, and peace. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,” in which “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock” (Isaiah 65. 17–25). The Hebrew Bible also contains a full-fledged apocalypse, the Book of Daniel. Passages predicting an imminent apocalypse occur in the New Testament, both in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Epistles of Paul.

    The New Testament then concludes with the most spectacular and intricately ordered of all apocalyptic prophecies, the Book of Revelation. A series of seven symbolic events signalize the conflict between the forces of Christ and of Antichrist, culminating in a prodigious violence in which the stars fall like ripe figs and the harvest of the earth is cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God. ” (6. 13). This fierce destruction, however, is a cleansing one, preparatory to the inauguration of the Kingdom of Christ on earth, which will last one thousand years — in Latin, a “millennium,” from which are derived the terms “millennial” and “millenarian” to signify the belief in a blissful earthly condition at the end of history.

    At the end of the millennium, the forces of evil are loosed again and finally defeated, after which the original creation, its function in the divine plot accomplished, will pass away, to be replaced by a new creation and by a new Jerusalem that will reconstitute, for the deserving elect, the paradise that was lost at the Fall: “And there shall be no more death . . . neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21. 4). Two distinctive images occur persistently in later writings that derive from biblical apocalypses. One is the image of a sacred marriage that signifies the consummation of history. In Isaiah, the final redemption is figured as a marriage between the people of Israel and their land (62. 2–5); in Revelation, it is figured as a marriage between Christ and the new, or purified, Jerusalem, “coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21. 2, 9–10).

    The second recurrent image represents the final condition of blessedness as a renovated heaven and earth. “For, behold,” the Lord said to Isaiah, “I create new heavens and a new earth” (65. 17, also 66. 22). Thus also Revelation: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (21. 1, also 21. 5). The apocalyptic and millennial books in the Bible are readily convertible into a scenario for political revolution, since they consist of an infallible text ordaining a necessary destruction of the forces of evil and guaranteeing the outcome of this violence in peace, plenty, and consummate happiness.

    In the Civil Wars in seventeenth-century England, for example, there were fervent apocalyptic expectations among radical parliamentary sects that were shared by Oliver Cromwell, as well as by John Milton. The late eighteenth century was another age of widespread apocalyptic expectation, when the promise of the American Revolution, followed by the greater and more radical expectations raised by the early years of the French Revolution, revived among a number of English Nonconforming sects the millenarian excitement of Milton and other seventeenth-century predecessors. “Hey for the New Jerusalem! The millennium! ” Thomas Holcroft exulted in 1791. gt;> note 2Preachers such as Richard Price, Joseph Fawcett, and Elhanan Winchester, as well as Joseph Priestley, who was not only a great chemist but a founder of the Unitarian Society, all interpreted the convulsions in France in terms of the prophecies in both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures. They thus invested the political events of the day with the explosive power of the great Western myth of apocalypse and expanded a local phenomenon into the expectation that humanity, everywhere, was at the threshold of an earthly paradise. The phenomenon is of great literary importance because, during their formative period in the early 1790s, the first generation of Romantic poets incorporated in their poems a vision of the French Revolution as the early stage of the abrupt culmination of history, in which there will emerge new humanity on a new earth that is equivalent to a restored paradise. In 1793, while still a student at Oxford, Robert Southey wrote Joan of Arc: An Epic Poem. In it Joan is granted a vision of a “blest age” in the future when, in a violent spasm not quite named the French Revolution, humanity shall “burst his fetters,” and “Earth shall once again / Be Paradise”. >> note 3 In the Song of Liberty that he appended to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in 1792, Blake represents a revolutionary “son of fire” moving from America to France and proclaiming an Isaian millennium: “Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease” (NAEL 8, 2. 122).

    In the short prophetic poems of revolution that he wrote in the early 1790s, Blake introduced the Giant Form that he names “Orc,” the spirit of Energy that bursts out in total political and spiritual revolution. See also Blake’s America: A Prophecy [1793], plates 6, 8, 16, and, for an earlier, nonsymbolic work on the events in France, The French Revolution. In 1793 Wordsworth concluded his Descriptive Sketches with the enthusiastic prophecy (which precisely matches the prophecy he attributed to the Solitary in his later poem The Excursion) that events following the French Revolution would fulfill the millennial prophecy of the Book of Revelation.

    In those happy early years of the revolution, Coleridge shared this expectation, in a historical sequence that he succinctly summarizes in his prose Argument of the plot of Religious Musings (1794) as “The French Revolution. Millennium. Universal Redemption. Conclusion. ” Two decades later, the young Percy Shelley recapitulated the millenarian expectations of his older contemporaries. His early principles, Shelley said, “had their origin” in those views that “occasioned the revolutions of America and France. “>> note 4 Shelley’s Queen Mab, which he began writing at nineteen, presents a vision of the woeful human past and the dreadful present, as preceding a blissful future “surpassing fabled Eden,” of which most features are imparted from biblical millennialism.

    Looking back in 1815, Thomas Noon Talfourd — an eminent jurist who was also a poet and playwright — analyzed the fashion in which the French Revolution had shaped the great literature of the age: At one moment, all was hope and joy and rapture; the corruption and iniquity of ages seemed to vanish like a dream; the unclouded heavens seemed once more to ring with the exulting chorus of peace on earth and good-will to men. . . . But “on a sudden” the “sublime expectation[s] were swept away” in “the terrible changes of this August spectacle. ” And an immediate effect “of this moral hurricane . . . this rending of the general heart” was “to raise and darken the imagination,” and so to contribute “to form that great age of poetry which is now flourishing around us.  ;; note 5 Talfourd recognized the religious, apocalyptic nature of the enthusiasm and hopes evoked by the early years of the revolution; he recognized also, however, that the essential featureof the French Revolution as a cultural influence was that it had failed. The greatest poetry of the age was written not in the mood of revolutionary exaltation but in the mood of revolutionary disenchantment and despair, after the succession of disasters that began with the Reign of Terror in 1793–94. A number of the major Romantic poems, however, did not break with the formative past, but set out to salvage grounds for hope in a new and better world.

    That is, Romantic thought and imagination remained apocalyptic in form, but with a radical shift from faith in a violent outer transformation to faith in an inner moral and imaginative transformation — a shift from political revolution to a revolution in consciousness — to bring into being a new heaven and new earth. “Romantic Orientalism” — the second term sometimes expanded to “Oriental exoticism” or “Oriental fantasy” — brings together two concepts that continue to be much in dispute among theorists and literary historians. For practical purposes, “Romantic” here refers to the writers (and the ideas and culture they reflect) of the Romantic Period section of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, where the dates are given as 1785–1830. “Orientalism” refers to the geography and culture of large parts of Asia and North Africa, plus some of what we now think of as Eastern Europe.

    Above all, from a British point of view, “Orientalism” connotes foreignness or otherness — things decidedly not British — and it sometimes seems as if the “East” signified by “Orient” is not only what is east of Europe and the Mediterranean but everything east of the English Channel. In literary history, Romantic Orientalism is the recurrence of recognizable elements of Asian and African place names, historical and legendary people, religions, philosophies, art, architecture, interior decoration, costume, and the like in the writings of the British Romantics. At first glance, Romantic literature may seem to be divided between the natural settings of sheep fields in the southwest of England or the Lake District and the unnatural settings of medieval castles that are, for all their remoteness from present-day reality, always Christian and at least European, if not always British.

    But a closer look reveals a tiger — decidedly not indigenous to the British Isles — in one of Blake’s most famous songs; an impressive dream of “an Arab of the Bedouin Tribes” in book 5 of Wordsworth’s Prelude; the founder of the Mongol dynasty in China as well as an Abyssinian “damsel with a dulcimer” in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”; Eastern plots, characters, and themes in Byron’s “Oriental tales,” some of which show up later in Don Juan; a poet’s journey into the innermost reaches of the Caucasus (the legendary boundary between Europe and Asia) in Percy Shelley’s Alastor; a tempting affair with an Indian maiden in Keats’s “Endymion” and a feast of “dainties” from Fez, Samarcand, and Lebanon in “The Eve of St. Agnes”; an Arab maiden, Safie, as the most liberated character in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Orientalism, via the literature and art of the time, was increasingly in the air (as well as the texts) in both London and the British countryside.

    The Orientalism of British Romantic literature has roots in the first decade of the eighteenth century, with the earliest translations of The Arabian Nights into English (from a version in French, 1705–08). The popularity of The Arabian Nights inspired writers to develop a new genre, the Oriental tale, of which Samuel Johnson’sHistory of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759) is the best mid-century example (NAEL 8, 1. 2680–2743). Romantic Orientalism continues to develop into the nineteenth century, paralleling another component of Romanticism already presented in the Norton Web sites, “Literary Gothicism. ” Two of the authors here — Clara Reeve and William Beckford — are important figures in the history of both movements.

    Like Gothic novels and plays, Oriental tales feature exotic settings, supernatural happenings, and deliberate extravagance of event, character, behavior, emotion, and speech — an extravagance sometimes countered by wry humor even to the point of buffoonery. It is as though the “otherness” of Oriental settings and characters gives the staid British temperament a holiday. Gothicism and Orientalism do the work of fiction more generally — providing imaginary characters, situations, and stories as alternative to, even as escape from, the reader’s everyday reality. But they operate more sensationally than other types of fiction. Pleasurable terror and pleasurable exoticism are kindred experiences, with unreality and strangeness at the root of both.

    Before the publication of Edward Said’s extremely influential and controversialOrientalism (1978), scholars tended to view the Eastern places, characters, and events pervading late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century British literature as little more than stimuli for easy thrills. But this attitude has changed dramatically. Along with its well-studied interests in the inner workings of the mind, connections with nature, and exercise of a transcendental imagination, the Romantic Period in Britain is now recognized as a time of global travel and exploration, accession of colonies all over the world, and development of imperialist ideologies that rationalized the British takeover of distant territories.

    In the introduction to their fine collection of essays in Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780–1834(1996), Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh notice references to the Spanish “discovery” and penetration of the Americas, British colonial wars, and “ethnographic exoticism” in several shorter pieces of Lyrical Ballads (1798) and connect the Ancient Mariner’s voyage to a “growing maritime empire of far-flung islands, trading-posts, and stretches of coastline on five continents. ” Wordsworth and Coleridge were more aware of British expansionism than we had realized. Such recontextualizing of Romantic Orientalism gives it a decidedly contemporary and political character involving questions of national identity, cultural difference, the morality of imperialist domination, and consequent anxiety and guilt concerning such issues.

    A handy example is the call for papers at an international conference on the topic at Gregynog, Wales, in July 2002, whose focus is “the cultural, political, commercial, and aesthetic dimensions of the synchronous growth of Romanticism and Orientalism. The European Romantic imagination was saturated with Orientalism, but it reflected persistent ambivalence concerning the East, complicated in Britain by colonial anxiety and imperial guilt. We shall consider how Western notions of cultural hegemony were bolstered by imperial rhetoric and challenged by intercultural translation. ” As a spate of new books and articles attests, a political approach to Romantic Orientalism is currently one of the major enterprises among critics and theorists.

    Colonial anxiety and imperial guilt may not be immediately apparent in the extracts assembled for this online topic, from Frances Sheridan’s History of Nourjahad, Sir Willliam Jones’s Palace of Fortune and Hymn to Narayena, Clara Reeve’s History of Charoba, Queen of ? gypt, William Beckford’s Vathek, W. S. Landor’s Gebir, Robert Southey’s Curse of Kehama, Byron’s Giaour, and Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh. But the texts are representative of the materials that scholars are currently working with, and three of them — the works by Sheridan, Beckford, and Byron — have recently been reprinted in a New Riverside Edition, Three Oriental Tales (2002), with an introduction and notes by Alan Richardson pointing out the works’ “use of ‘Oriental’ motifs to criticize European social arrangements. The texts and additional background materials included in this topic enhance the reading of canonical Romantic poems and fictions, as well as suggest how those poems and fictions connect with the political and social concerns of their real-life historical contexts. Not until the age of the American and French Revolutions, more than a century after Milton wroteParadise Lost, did readers begin to sympathize withSatan in the war between Heaven and Hell, admiring him as the archrebel who had taken on no less an antagonist than Omnipotence itself, and even declaring him the true hero of the poem. In his ironic Marriage of Heaven and Hell (NAEL 8, 2. 111–20), Blake claimed that Milton had unconsciously, but justly, sided with the Devil (representing rebellious energy) against Jehovah (representing oppressive limitation).

    Lecturing in 1818 on the history of English poetry, Hazlitt named Satan as “the most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem” and implied that the rebel angel’s Heaven-defying resistance was the mirror image of Milton’s own rebellion against political tyranny. A year later, Percy Shelley maintained that Satan is the moral superior to Milton’s tyrannical God, but he admitted that Satan’s greatness of character is flawed by vengefulness and pride. It was precisely this aspect of flawed grandeur, however, that made Satan so attractive a model for Shelley’s friend Byron in his projects of personal myth-making. The more immediate precedents of the Byronic hero—a figure that Byron uses for purposes both of self-revelation and of self-concealment—were the protagonists of some of the Gothic novels of the later eighteenth century.

    Examples are Manfred, the ominous hero-villain of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) (NAEL 8, 2. 579–82) and the brooding, guilt-haunted monk Schedoni of Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian(1797), who each embody traits of Milton’s Satan. Byron identified another alter ego in the towering historical figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, who to the contemporary imagination combined, in Satan’s manner, moral culpability with awe-inspiring power and grandeur. Between 1795, when Napoleon took command of the armies of France, and 1815, when defeat at Waterloo banished him from Europe to his final exile, patriotic supporters of Britain’s war effort represented Napoleon as an infernal, blood-thirsty monster.

    These demonizing representations frequently alluded to the example of Milton’s “enemy of mankind,” as William Wordsworth did in an 1809 sonnet, “Look now on that Adventurer,” and George Cruikshank did in an 1815 cartoon depicting the colossus in exile on the tiny island of St. Helena. Satanizing Napoleon made for effective wartime propaganda because it invoked an already established plot, a narrative of inevitable downfall. Yet Byron’s complex response to the man, worked out over the entire body of his work, yields a contrasting account of history—and also, and in particular in the “Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte” he wrote following Napoleon’s abdication, a contrasting account of Milton’s fallen angel.

    To Byron, Napoleon represents both a figure of heroic aspiration and someone who has been shamefully mastered by his own passions—both a conqueror and, after Waterloo, a captive: Napoleon thus becomes as much the occasion for psychological analysis as for moral condemnation. There was more than a touch of self-projection in this account. (At a tongue-in-cheek moment in canto 11 of Don Juan, Byron dubs himself “the grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme. ”) The characteristic doubleness of the Byronic hero is dramatized in the story of Napoleon’s venturesome rise and inglorious fall. Byron first sketched out this hero with his Satanic-Gothic-Napoleonic lineage in 1812, in the opening stanzas of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto 1 (NAEL 8, 2. 617–19). At this stage, he is rather crudely depicted as a young man, prematurely sated by sin, who wanders about in an attempt to escape society and his own memories.

    Conrad, the hero of The Corsair (1814), has become more isolated, darker, more complex in his history and inner conflict, and therefore more frightening and more compelling to the reader. The hero of Lara(also 1814) is a finished product; he reappears two years later, with variations in canto 3 of Childe Harold (see NAEL 8, 2. 619–22, stanzas 2–16, and 2. 627–28, stanzas 52–55 ) and again the following year as the hero of Byron’s poetic drama Manfred (NAEL 8, 2. 636–69). Early on, Coleridge recognized the disquieting elements in the appeal of this hero of dark mystery, and in the Statesman’s Manual (1816) warned against it, but in vain. Immediately affecting the life, art, and even philosophy of the nineteenth century, the Byronic hero took on a life of his own.

    He became the model for the behavior of avant-garde young men and gave focus to the yearnings of emancipated young women. And Byron was fated to discover that the literary alter egos he had created could in turn exert power over him: his social disgrace following the breakup of his marriage in 1816 was declared by Walter Scott to be a consequence of how the poet had “Childe Harolded himself, and outlawed himself, into too great a resemblance with the pictures of his imagination. ” Literary history demonstrates, similarly, that Byron could at best participate in but not control the myth-making processes of Byronism. Upstaging him, many others were determined to have a hand in the myth-making.

    Byron had borrowed from late-eighteenth-century Gothic novels to create his persona but, in the nineteenth century, the Byronic hero would be absorbed back into the Gothic tradition. The process began in 1816 with Glenarvon, a roman a clef whose author, Lady Caroline Lamb, mischievously recycled elements of Byron’s own poems—in particular The Giaour—to tell the story of her failed love affair with the poet and to portray him as a monstrous, supernaturally powerful seducer. It continued three years later with a novella published by the poet’s physician and traveling companion John Polidorithat would clinch the association of Byron and the evil undead. These works and the novels, plays, and even operas they spawned granted Byron an eerie afterlife, as the Gothic tradition’s vampire in chief.

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