A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 451 pages of information about A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century.

[29] Two of them, however, had been printed privately in 1857 under the title of “Enid and Nimue”:  the true and the false.  “Nimue” was the first form of Vivien.

[30] Matthew Arnold writes in one of his letters; “I have a strong sense of the irrationality of that period [the Middle Ages] and of the utter folly of those who take it seriously and play at restoring it; still it has poetically the greatest charm and refreshment possible for me.  The fault I find with Tennyson, in his ‘Idylls of the King,’ is that the peculiar charm of the Middle Age he does not give in them.  There is something magical about it, and I will do something with it before I have done.”

CHAPTER VII.

The Pre-Raphaelites.

In the latter half of the century the Italian Middle Age and Dante, its great exemplar, found new interpreters in the Rossetti family; a family well fitted by its mixture of bloods and its hereditary aptitudes, literary and artistic, to mediate between the English genius and whatever seemed to it alien or repellant in Dante’s system of thought.  The father, Gabriele Rossetti, was a political refugee, who held the professorship of Italian in King’s College, London, from 1831 to 1845, and was the author of a commentary on Dante which carried the politico-allegorical theory of the “Divine Comedy” to somewhat fantastic lengths.  The mother was half English and half Italian, a sister of Byron’s travelling companion, Dr. Polidori.  Of the four children of the marriage, Dante Gabriel and Christina became poets of distinction.  The eldest sister, Maria Francesca, a religious devotee who spent her last years as a member of a Protestant sisterhood, was the author of that unpretentious but helpful piece of Dante literature, “A Shadow of Dante.”  The younger brother, William Michael, is well known as a biographer, litterateur, and art critic, as an editor of Shelley and of the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Other arts besides the literary art had partaken in the romantic movement.  The eighteenth century had seen the introduction of the new, or English, school of landscape gardening; and the premature beginnings of the Gothic revival in architecture, which reached a successful issue some century later.[1] Painting in France had been romanticised in the thirties pari passu with poetry and drama; and in Germany, Overbeck and Cornelius had founded a school of sacred art which corresponds, in its mediaeval spirit, to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  In England painting was the last of the arts to catch the new inspiration.  When the change came, it evinced that same blending of naturalism and Gothicism which defined the incipient romantic movement of the previous century.  Painting, like landscape gardening, returned to nature; like architecture, it went back to the past.  Like these, and like literature itself, it broke away from a tradition which was academic, if not precisely classic in the way in which David was classic.

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A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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