A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century

Henry A. Beers
A History of English
Romanticism in the Nineteenth

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Nineteenth Century, by Henry A. Beers
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Title: A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century
Author: Henry A. Beers
Release Date: May 28, 2005 [eBook #15931]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
E-text prepared by Al Haines

Author of A Suburban Pastoral, The Ways of Yale, etc.
New York Henry Holt and Company

My love dwelt in a Northern land. A grey tower in a forest green Was
hers, and far on either hand The long wash of the waves was seen, And
leagues on leagues of yellow sand, The woven forest boughs between.
And through the silver Northern light The sunset slowly died away,
And herds of strange deer, lily-white, Stole forth among the branches
grey; About the coming of the light, They fled like ghosts before the
I know not if the forest green Still girdles round that castle grey; I know
not if the boughs between The white deer vanish ere the day; Above my
love the grass is green, My heart is colder than the clay.

The present volume is a sequel to "A History of English Romanticism
in the Eighteenth Century" (New York; Henry Holt & Co., 1899).
References in the footnotes to "Volume I." are to that work. The
difficulties of this second part of my undertaking have been of a kind
just opposite to those of the first. As it concerns my subject, the
eighteenth century was an age of beginnings; and the problem was to
discover what latent romanticism existed in the writings of a period
whose spirit, upon the whole, was distinctly unromantic. But the
temper of the nineteenth century has been, until recent years,
prevailingly romantic in the wider meaning of the word. And as to the
more restricted sense in which I have chosen to employ it, the
mediaevalising literature of the nineteenth century is at least twenty
times as great as that of the eighteenth, both in bulk and in value.
Accordingly the problem here is one of selection; and of selection not
from a list of half-forgotten names, like Warton and Hurd, but from
authors whose work is still the daily reading of all educated readers.
As I had anticipated, objection has been made to the narrowness of my
definition of romanticism. But every writer has a right to make his own
definitions; or, at least, to say what his book shall be about. I have not
written a history of the "liberal movement in English literature"; nor of
the "renaissance of wonder"; nor of the "emancipation of the ego." Why

not have called the book, then, "A History of the Mediaeval Revival in
England"? Because I have a clear title to the use of romantic in one of
its commonest acceptations; and, for myself, I prefer the simple
dictionary definition, "pertaining to the style of the Christian and
popular literature of the Middle Ages," to any of those more pretentious
explanations which seek to express the true inwardness of romantic
literature by analysing it into its elements, selecting one of these
elements as essential, and rejecting all the rest as accidental.
M. Brunetiere; for instance, identifies romanticism with lyricism. It is
the "emancipation of the ego." This formula is made to fit Victor Hugo,
and it will fit Byron. But M. Brunetiere would surely not deny that
Walter Scott's work is objective and dramatic quite as often as it is
lyrical. Yet what Englishman will be satisfied with a definition of
romantic which excludes Scott? Indeed, M. Brunetiere himself is
respectful to the traditional meaning of the word. "Numerous
definitions," he says, "have been given of Romanticism, and still others
are continually being offered; and all, or almost all of them, contain a
part of the truth. Mme. de Stael was right when she asserted in her
'Allemagne' that Paganism and Christianity, the North and the South,
antiquity and the Middle Ages, having divided between them the
history of literature, Romanticism in consequence, in contrast to
Classicism, was a combination of chivalry, the Middle Ages, the
literatures of the North, and Christianity. It should be noted, in this
connection, that some thirty years later Heinrich Heine, in the book in
which he will rewrite
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