A Brief Outline
Nineteenth century English literature is remarkable both for high artistic achievement and for variety. The greatest literary movement of its earlier period was that of romanticism. It was born in the atmosphere of the violent economic and political turmoil that marked the last decades of the 18th and the first decades of the 19th century. The outburst of political activity brought on by the Great trench Revolution of 1789, the bitter wars with Napoleon's France that ravaged Europe for almost 25 years were the dominant political forces at work. The hardships of the industrial and agrarian revolution whose joint effect was a gradual change Of all aspects of social life in England made the situation rife with class hatred.
Great distress was caused by large landowners enclosing millions of acres of land for their own purposes and thus dispossessing labourers who were reduced either to slaving on the fields of their masters or to migrating in search of the means to support themselves by working 12--14 hours a day for wages notoriously below subsistence level. The labouring poor, in town and country alike, suffered the utmost misery from underpayment and overwork and from crowding in hugely overpopulated industrial areas.
Misery resulted in blind outbreaks against machinery, which, the workers believed, did their work leaving themselves to unemployment and their families to slow starvation. Meanwhile "the rights of labour were not yet recognised, there were no trade unions... the majority of country-people could not read or write; the good old discipline of Father Stick and his children Cat-O'-Nine-Tails, Rope's End, Strap, Birch, Ferule, and Cane was wholesomely maintained; landlords, manufacturers and employers of all kinds did what they pleased with their own,.. Elections were carried by open bribery... the Church was intolerant, the Universities narrow and prejudiced."
The situation was not any better when the long wished for peace was at last ushered in by the victory over Napoleon's army at Waterloo (1815). Unemployment became worse than ever after soldiers came home only to find that "the labouring people were almost all become paupers." This was the way trie situation was summed up by William Cobbett, a democratic writer and publisher renowned for his support of people's rights. After a journey across England he wrote with the simple eloquence so characteristic of him: "Here are all the means of national power and of individual plenty and happiness... every object seemed to pronounce an eulogium on the industry, skill and perseverance of, the people. And why then were those people in a state of such misery and degradation?"
Meanwhile the wealthy ruling classes were frightened by what they called the excesses of the French Revolution and by the growing spirit of discontent at home. They were ever ready to see rebellion in any attempt of the workers to better their lot. They invariably voted for a conservative government at home and supported all its blundering attempts to suppress revolt: "The leaders of reaction reigned supreme... filled with dread of the revolution they seemed to think that the only function of government was the maintenance of order and the suppression of rebellion."
This, briefly, was the background of the English romantic movement. Its principal stimuli were on the one hand profound dissatisfaction with the atmosphere of reaction that seemed to have set in for good after the hope and fervour of the French Revolution was quenched in the blood of wars and numerous uprisings. The state of things in Europe seemed to mock the theories of the great men of the Enlightenment who had expected to see a world transformed by reason and common sense. Thence the romantic distrust of reason, rationalism, emphasis on emotion, intuition, the instinctive wisdom of the heart, on nature as opposed to civilisation.
On the other hand, romantic writers were violently stirred by the suffering of which they were the daily unwilling witnesses. They were anxious to find a way of redressing the cruel social wrongs and hoped to do so by their writings, by word or deed. A feature that all romantics had in common was a belief in literature being a sort of mission to be carried out in the teeth of all difficulties, with the view of bringing aid or, presumably, salvation to mankind.
In using the term "romantic" no effort is made here to treat all the romantics of England as belonging to the same literary school. Romanticism is here regarded as a very complex and certainly far from unified endeavour to give a new answer to the problems of revolution and reaction, of past history and present-day politics, of the materialistic philosophy dominant in the age of Enlightenment and the idealistic trends in early nineteenth century European thought. It is in the nature of the answer given to all these urgent questions that the romantics differ from each other. And it is precisely that difference, no less than the points of likeness between them, that should be given serious consideration.
As distinct from the romantic writers of Germany or of France, their English contemporaries did not call themselves romanticists, and some of them were at pains to disprove public opinion calling them so. Nevertheless they all made part of a movement eloquent of the spirit of the age, with its ingrained sense of incessant historical change, of the interdependence of man and the Universe, of the world as ruled by semi-intelligible powers surpassing individual will.
The first English poet to be fully aware of the dilemmas of the age of great bourgeois revolutions was William Blake. His poetry has been discussed in the first volume of the present series (An Anthology of English Literature, XVIII) where he chronologically belongs, but as a forerunner of romanticism in the 19th century he must also, be mentioned here. Blake's violent revulsion from rationalism, his repeatedly proclaimed belief in intuition and inspiration as the only paths to true wisdom, his idealistic and mystic conceptions of humanity and its mysterious ways were then quite original. Similar ideas were later taken up by many poets who did not know of his work, as in his own life-time he published but one of his books of poetry. The rest of his numerous lyrics and epics never reached the public of his days. In his portrayal of a gigantic world in the Prophetic Lays Blake precedes the Byron of Cain and Heaven and Earth, the Shelley of Prometheus Unbound.
Though bitterly disappointed in the downfall of the French Revolution, for reasons that were personal as well as public, Blake never wavered in his devotion to the cause of freedom, in his hatred of oppression and inequality. In this he differed from his younger contemporaries William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Both began as warm admirers of the Revolution, so much so that Wordsworth even travelled to France to witness the great liberation of mankind. But after their hopes were baffled when a rapacious bourgeois clique came to power in 1794, when the French republic started aggressive wars against its neighbours, both poets arrived at the conclusion that they had been unwise in expecting any good to come of political change, in placing too much trust in the capacity of reason to create a self-sufficient and well-regulated society of equals.
Both poets resolved to withdraw from the evils of big industrial cities and to devote themselves to seeking truth and beauty in the quiet of country-life, in the grandeur and purity of nature, among unsophisticated and uncorrupted countryfolk. They dreamed of creating art that would be true to the best that is in man and help to bring it out by sheer force of poetry. Living in the Lake country of Northern England they were known as the Lakists.
Together they composed and published a small volume of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads to which Coleridge contributed the gruesome tale of the Ancient Mariner and four more lyrics. The bulk of the volume was supplied by Wordsworth. He called his ballads lyrical, because their interest did not lie in subject-matter and plot but in mood and treatment, in making one feeling modify and transform all other feelings and all the persons and events described. That treatment was what Wordsworth and Coleridge termed imaginative. By imagination they meant the most essential faculty of a poet, the one that enables him to modify all images, to give unity to variety and see all things in one. "This power... reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities; of sameness with difference; of the general with the concrete; the idea with the image; the individual with the representative; the sense of novelty and freshness with old and familiar objects; a more than usual state of emotion with more than usual order..."
Thus the poetic imagination is a power of paramount importance to the creative artist. It is this power that helps Wordsworth to find beauty and significance in the simplest things pertaining to nature -- in the song of the cuckoo, in the unadorned beauty of an early spring afternoon. In his assertion of man versus society, of religion versus rationalism, of heart versus intellect, of nature versus civilisation Wordsworth was a romantic -- no less so than Coleridge with his passionate interest in mystical experience and the supernatural. T[ie latter is, for Coleridge, a symbol of the complexity of human life, its painful contradictions, its dark and unfathomable aspects. Thus, the tragic Odyssey of the Ancient Mariner, his fantastic adventures in the seas of everlasting ice and eternal tropics, his encounter with the spectreship and miraculous salvation are all symbols of states of mind, of crime, punishment and expiation through repentance, prayer and love.
In their later years, after the bulk of their work was done, both poets became increasingly conservative in their religious and political views and more rigid in their moral attitudes. The political evolution of the two poets was closely paralleled by a mutual friend of theirs, Robert Southey. His talent, at its best in simple ballads, was decidedly inferior to both Wordsworth's and Coleridge's. If he is at all remembered now it is chiefly for his lifelong intimacy with them. As time went on Southey came to voice the official opinion of the Tory government.
The greatest romantic poet of the elder generation was Walter Scott. Though personally friendly to the Lakists, he never quite shared their literary tastes and affinities. The author of a number of stylised imitations of old English and Scottish ballads and original epic poems dealing with the feudal past of his native Scotland, it is as a novelist and discoverer of a new province of writing that Walter Scott won his world renown. His claim to a high rank among the romantics mainly depends on, his profound sense of history. He was one of the first to realise the dialectical nature of the relationship between individual and public life, of the interdependence of great historical characters and popular movements and interests; with unerring acumen did he trace individual and social psychology, no less than the influence of social facts and circumstances upon the actions of the rulers and the ruled. His novels struck the reader (and still do so) with their epic quality, with his analysis of "the forces that go to make a situation and lead individuals to act as they do." "Scott's romanticism," Kettle proceeds to say, "lies in his rejection of the 18th century polite tradition and his attempt to write of and for far broader sections of the people." His art was steeped in folklore, in ancient balladry, in the robust realism of Fielding and Smollett, in the grandeur of Shakespeare's historical chronicles. While drawing largely on a vast store of book-learning and previous literary experience he inaugurated a new era in the history of the English novel.
Among,the romantic poets of the younger generation Scott preferred Byron. They were drawn together by mutual admiration, personal and artistic alike, by their concept of literature as having a straight message to give humanity, and teach it a moral and political lesson. Like Scott, Byron had a distinct feeling of the movement of History, of unceasing development, of huge forces shaping human lives.
Unlike Scott, however, who shared the Lake poets' distrust of political reorganisation of society and their disapproval of revolutionary methods, Byron, though sometimes sceptical about the results of a future revolution, entertained no doubt whatever both about the inevitability of revolution and the moral and political necessity for any man to fight for it to the best of his abilities. He too was disappointed in the social aftermath of 1789 but he always realised its liberating effect and its role in the future of mankind.
Byron's romanticism was coloured by grief at sight of the corrupting and debasing influence of reaction and absolute power -- and hopes of future regeneration; by adherence to the ideals of the great men of the age of Reason -- and a sense that their theories were too single-minded, too facile to cope with the tragic conflicts of his own time. Yet never did Byron go so far as the elder poets in his negation of the theories of the Enlightenment, and only questioned the possibility of putting them soon into practice. Neither did he agree with the senior romantics' disparagement of classicism, one of the leading literary styles of the Age of Enlightenment. He broke most of its rules, but to the last he proclaimed it as the only path to truth, virtue and poetical excellence. Classicism was to Byron, along with the. ethical and political concepts of the Enlightenment, an ideal that he vainly endeavoured to live up to himself and induce others to follow...
Rodilas' v 1915 godu. Doktor filologicheskikh nauk, professor Pedagogicheskogo universiteta im. A.I.Gertsena. Nachala prepodavat' v 1934 godu, opublikovala 11 knig i okolo 300 statej. Naryadu s monografiyami o Bajrone sredi vazhnejshikh ee knig sleduet nazvat': "Londonskie romantiki i problemi anglijskogo romantizma" (L., 1970), "Kits i ego sovremenniki" (M., 1973), "Anglijskij romantizm: problemi estetiki" (M., 1978), "Tri veka anglijskoj poezii" (L., 1967, na anglijskom yazike), "Iz istorii anglijskoj literaturi" (L., 1983).
Kniga "Bajron v godi izgnaniya", vpervie izdannaya v 1974 godu, rasskazivaet o
zrelom tvorchestve Bajrona vo vremya ego prebivaniya v Shvejtsarii, Italii,
Gretsii. Kazhdaya iz etikh stran ostavila glubokij sled v ego poemakh, lirike,
dramaturgii i proze, vdokhnovlyala ego stremleniyu sluzhit' osvobozhdeniyu
chelovechestva. V pervoj glave knigi dan kratkij obzor rannego tvorchestva
Tat'yana Anatol'evna AMELINA
Kandidat filologicheskikh nauk. Zhila i rabotala v Rige na kafedre anglijskogo yazika v politekhnicheskom universitete. Zanimalas' anglo-amerikanskoj literaturoj XIX-XX vv. Opublikovala raboti, posvyaschennie yaziku i stilyu Dzhejn Ostin, Marii Edzhuort, Genri Dzhejmsa i Edit Uorton. V soavtorstve s Innoj Stam perevela p'esi Somerseta Moema, Sola Levita, Garol'da Pintera, a takzhe rasskazi P. G. Vudkhauza i Roal'da Dalya. V 1992 g. emigrirovala v SShA, gde odinnadtsat' let prepodavala russkij yazik i russkuyu kul'turu v Bostone i v Monteree, Kaliforniya. V Amerike opublikovala ryad perevodov na anglijskij yazik, v tom chisle neskol'ko stikhotvorenij iz sbornika Iosifa Brodskogo "Novie stansi k Avguste" v zhurnale "The Formalist, a Journal of Metric Poetry" (1999, 2000, 2001). Chtobi oznakomit' amerikanskikh studentov s luchshimi obraztsami russkogo yazika, zanimalas' adaptatsiej proizvedenij russkikh avtorov. V 2002 g. v Bostone vishla adaptatsiya T. A. Amelinoj povesti Pushkina "Kapitanskaya dochka". Vijdya na pensiyu, Tat'yana Anatol'evna ne prekratila rabotat'. Ona zanyalas' sovsem novim delom -- meditsinskimi perevodami v onkologicheskom tsentre Bostona, pomogaya emigrantam iz bivshego Sovetskogo Soyuza spravlyat'sya s tyazhelimi meditsinskimi situatsiyami v novoj strane.