Romanticism was anticipated by the Preromantic sensibility (Sterne, Richardson, Gray). Terror, passion, sublime, are the essential features of the Early Romanticism (1st generation of the romantic movement). The 2nd generation of the romantic movement included Shelley and it was influenced by legends and mythology of Medieval oriental literature. Many authors of this generation moved to foreign countries:
· Italy: developed in association with the need for freedom/patriotism and against the invaders(Leopardi: lyric; Manzoni: historical interests)
· France: Romanticism developed later as realism.
· Germany: Sturm and Drang (Storm and rush), Goethe anticipated Romanticism authors that rejected classical rules and looked to their own national history for source of inspiration.
In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo radical group reappeared in England to manifest against the economic situation and to obtain political equality.
In fact, as the Napoleonic threat was ended, riots and social unrest developed.
English authorities (in particular Pitt) feared the social unrest (French revolution’s ideals) that was spreading on Europe and so passed strict laws to avoid popular riots, as the Combination Act (1799-1800) that made trade unionism illegal (poor workers could not meet, not more than 2 people). Policy was afraid that they could conspirate against the government and prevented people to create riots.
Anyway a new sensibility was developing in English society: there is a slow opening towards civil rights, expressed by:
· the activity of the reformers Hunt & Owen
· the Factory act: to protect children from exploitation
· the Reform Act: right to vote to the middle classes
· the Reform Bills (1832/67/83): universal suffrage for men
Romanticism: a new Attitude
In the 18th century there is a new attitude towards literature, a new sensibility mankind and feelings (introspection and melancholy, desire for travelling, to see nature). This attitude culminated at the end of the century with a new way of considering man and his role in the society and was called Romanticism. This movement involved the whole of Europe and all forms of art and developed as a reaction against reason, order, rules, conventions.. (enlightenment).
This sensibility made itself in:
· The drama, in the form of sentimental comedy
· In the poetry, in the form of meditative poetry.
The Graveyard School belonged to the meditative poetry; this poetry was very grave and voiced poets’ sorrows. Death, suicide, life after death and decay were their obsessions which was revealed through the attention to Middle ages (medieval ruins,caverns,cadavers), in opposition with Enlightenment. Thomas Gray is the most important poet of this genre, the precursor of the Romantic movement, who wrote Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751).