romanticism


The story of English Romanticism is firmly linked with the story of a friendship between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They first met in Bristol in 1795, and started corresponding for two years. Both the poets had already written remarkable works, and their friendship and strict collaboration brought them to write what is seen as very influential for Romanticism and the trends that followed it, The Lyrical Ballads (1798), a collection of poems which starts with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge.
Wordsworth established a series of poetic principles in the “Preface” to the 1800 edition which constitute a primary document of the Romantic era. The main ideas are centred on the poet and on the role of poetry in the world. Wordsworth supports democratic themes, the lives of ordinary men and women, farmers , and the rural poor. He emphasizes his idea to write in the ordinary language of people and to depict realistic characters in realistic situations. The poet, is “a man speaking to men,” and his poetry is the result of “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” recollected in tranquillity, not the sum total of rhetorical art.
Afterwards, in 1808, Coleridge and his wife, Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy and his wife and the Poet Laureate Robert Southey went to live in the Lake District – a mountainous region in North West England, already mentioned by Thomas Gray in his journal of his Grand Tour in 1769. They were then joined by Thomas De Quincy, author of the autobiographic novel Confessions of an English opium-eater .
Unfortunately, despite the quietness and the beauty of the place, Coleridge started suffering for his marital problems (he had married Sara Fricker and Robert Southey her sister Edith) and from his addiction to opium he used to soothe his rheumatism. He fell in love with Wordsworth’s wife’s sister, a love never reciprocate. In 1810 Coleridge left Wordsworth to go to London where he retired in a clinic for mental disease. He recovered and died famous and wealthy in 1834. Also Wordsworth’s fame increased: he became poet laureate after Southey. But his private life was marked by great familiar tragedies and his liberal political ideas changed as he became disappointed by Napoleon’s ascent to power. He died in 1850.

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