In the second half of the 18th century poets established new trends in poetry which managed to pave the way for the Romantic age.
Later poets showed a tendency to use subjective, autobiographical material. They were less intellectual and more emotional than the Augustan poets. The poetry was traditionally reflective for the sake of generalised reflections, flowing from a balanced presentation of a variety of emotional states. There is also a re-evaluation of rural origins and a sense of melancholy and sadness.
Pastoral poetry expressed the idyllic pleasure shown by COWPER in its simplicity, free from the corruption of urban life which is seen as an aberration of true nature. Many pre-Romantic poets dealt with a detailed description of nature (Goldsmith, Thomson). Thomson saw nature as not static but in motion, he sought wild sceneries in contrast with civilized man. These poets were appealed by the melancholy and suffering produced by war or by unrequited love and especially by the description of a wild, gloomy nature.
The adjective gothic was not invented in this period but it can have various meanings:
• Medieval, because it was related to a model of architectonic art.
• Irregular and barbarous, as opposed to Classicism
• Wild and supernatural
But the deepest meaning of Gothic, used in Romanticism, was linked to social problems: the industrialisation had destroyed the importance of the single human being and man had become a slave to forces he could not control. Therefore Gothic was used to denounce the problem represented by these problems.
The concept of Sublime influenced the gothic novels linked to the celebration of terror shown by Burke.
The main Gothic features were:
1. Terrifying descriptions.
2. Ancient settings, like old and isolated castles.
3. A sense of mystery pervading everything.
4. Supernatural beings like bats, monsters and ghosts.
5. Heroines persecuted or stricken by unreal terrors
6. Terrifying male characters
7. Exaggerated reactions of main characters.
8. Very complicated plots.
In gothic novels the motive of the frequent insertions of gloomy creatures like vampires was that of seeking forbidden knowledge, going beyond God, Nature and human limits. These creatures stood for the individualist man who was not satisfied with society.