Romantic Period in English Literature – breaking the conventions of Neoclassicism

Neoclassicism strived for traditionalism and concentration on man as a part of the progressing civilization; this, as the neo-classicists believed would lead to a more structured community and literary works. However, the writers and intellectuals of the late 18th century had different ideals from their predecessors. The French Revolution [1789-1799] brought new ideas into common people and those who believed a change is coming, became more interested in portraying their beliefs in common tongue rather than eloquent language that concentrated on the aristocratic class. Romantic period thus marked the entry of the poet who focussed on the poet’s feelings about Nature [not human nature] and the connection with the self.

The second edition of Lyrical Ballads published in 1800 of William Wordsworth and Coleridge marked the new beginnings. The Preface in the Lyrical Ballads written by Wordsworth is considered as the manifesto for the romantic period. Romantic period did not last a century, marked from 1785-1830, but its influence has become immortal because of the poetic and prose developments during the period.

Main aspects of romantic period

Escaping from the traditions of the age like urbanism, industrialism and searching for the imaginative mind concentrating on the exotic ideas.

Romantic Period - Engraving by Gustave Dore for Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S T Coleridge

Landscapes, trees, living beings and most things concerned with Nature are explained with precision and with great knowledge.  However, romantic literature did not find it as an exclusive trait but as a connection to the feelings of the poet.

Naturalness of language and flow is preferred over constructing a piece of literature. As Keats puts it, “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves of a tree, it had better not come at all”.

Simplicity in language did not entangle the poets and writers into undertaking simple subjects. Other than Wordsworth school, others followed either occult or fantasy or highly-imaginative or ecstasy or ecstasy elements that lifted the romantic literature to an unbelievable level.

Notable points of the period

The romantic poets are categorized into two generations. The first generation of poets consist of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Blake. The second generation of poets consist of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and George Gordon [Lord Byron].

The prose of romantic period was dominated by essays perfumed by the magnificence of Charles Lamb. People like Thomas Love Peacock adhered to the developing genre of English literature i.e. novel.

Important contributions

S. No Name Important works Notable aspects
1 William Blake Poetical sketches
Songs of Innocence
Songs of Experience
The Book of Thel
The French Revolution
The Four Zoas
Visions of the Daughters of Albion
2 William Wordsworth Lyrical Ballads Preface to Lyrical Ballads is crucial to the development of romantic period
Tintern Abbey
The Immortality Ode
Ecclesiastical sonnets
The Solitary Reaper
3 Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biographia Literaria
The Ancient Mariner
Kubla Khan
4 Robert Southey Thalaba the Destroyer
The curse of Kehama
Roderick, The Last of Goths
5 P B Shelley Queen Mab
Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude
Prometheus Unbound
The Witch of Atlas
Lines written among the Eugean Halls
To a Skylark
Defence of Poetry
6 John Keats Endymion
Eve of St. Agnes
Annus mirabilis
Ode to Nightingale
Ode on a Grecian Urn
Ode to Autumn
7 Lord Byron [George Gordon] Manfred
Hours of Idleness
Hebrew Melodies
Bards and Scotch Reviewers
Don Juan
Childe Harold’s Piligrimage
8 Leigh Hunt The Examiner Journal
The Story of Rimini
9 Charles Lamb Essays of Elia Lamb is “the most lovable figure in English Literature”. [E. V. Lucas]
A Tale of Rosamund Gray
Last Essays of Elia
Tales from Shakespeare With sister Mary Lamb
The Adventures of Ulysses With sister Mary Lamb
10 William Hazlitt The Round Table
Characters of Shakespeare’s plays
Table Talk
The Spirit of the Age
The Plain Speaker
11 Thomas De Quincey Confessions of an English Opium Eater
Suspiria De Profundis
12 Thomas Love Peacock Head Long Hall
Nightmare Abbey
The Misfortunes of Elphin
Crotchet Castle
Gryll Grange
Maid Marian
The Ages of Poetry Essay
13 Robert Burns A Red, Red Rose
A Man’s a Man for A’ That
To a Louse
To a Mouse
Ae Fond Kiss


The writers of the romantic period in English literature completely changed the thoughts of neoclassical age; shifting from art for human’s sake with the limitations of the society to art for the sake of the poet and estranged man who wonders about the universe in simple factions. It comes as no wonder that forms developed in the romantic age are much easier to embrace than those developed in the neoclassical age.


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