THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC PERIOD (1798-1837)
The term “romantic” first appeared in England in the 17th century in the sense of “extravagant, fictitious, unreal”, but, by the end of the 18th, it had already assumed a somewhat (piuttosto, alquanto) different meaning and was particularly connected with feelings, imagination and emotional pleasures.
The English Romantic period was dominated above all by poetry.
The main characteristics of the great romantics were: the return to nature as a spiritual influence on life; the interest in men, not considered as members of a community, but as individuals; the rediscovery of old sagas and medieval romances and the emphasis upon individual genius.
Lyrical poetry, which had been neglected for more than a century, became the most important literary form. As never before in literature, the poet spoke of himself, of his joys and fears, of his melancholy and triumphs, of his passions and his rebellions. Romantic poets, in fact, turned into social rebels and opposed society or rejected its traditional moral codes and religious values. They looked into themselves to analyse their own hearts and looked for solitude.
It seems that, realizing the danger of industrialism and urbanization, they turned to nature for protection.
New poetical forms were created, but also older verse forms were revived (vennero riprese) such as ballads and songs.
THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC PERIOD: POSITION OF WOMEN
In order to help their men-folk (gli uomini della famiglia), working-class women were often forced to take jobs in factories where, in spite of their lower wages, they competed with men and ended by gaining more and more independence.
In the upper and middle classes, however, where capital and money were on the increase, they had no need to work. Surrounded by a host (un grande numero) of servants, the wealthier women, after being taught some French, music and dancing, found themselves with even too much leisure, which they typically spent reading, gossiping and looking for husbands. There were, naturally, some exceptions. The tradition of literary “salons” having disappeared, some women took to writing domestic novels, while others devoted themselves to humanitarian activities. Humanitarianism in fact became increasingly widespread, mostly due to anti-slavery campaign of Sir William Wilberforce; the most conspicuous result of the latter was the abolition of slavery in 1833.