THE MONARCHYGeorge III ruled Britain for more than fifty years. The first monarch from the House of Hanover to be born in Great Britain. King George showed great concern for his subjects, if not great prowess as a ruler. During the course of his long reign, King George lost the American colonies and suffered from bouts of dementia. Still, he was a kind, frugal family man whose sense of private duty and public morality made him popular with his subjects.
In 1783 George III name the youthful William Pitt prime minister of Britain. His nomination came at a good time, for Britain was on the brink of war with France, and Pitt was prepared with strategies. Over the years, as the French Revolution turned into a full-scale war, Pitt organized several coalitions of countries against France, leading eventually to the defeat of France's leader, Napoleon, in 1814.
In 1811, George III was officially declared insane at the age of seventy-three. His son was made regent, or stand-in ruler. In place of a mentally incompetent monarch, Britain now had an extravagant and thoughtless ruler. In 1820, his father died, and the prince regent became King George IV, a man who lived lavishly and paid little attention to his suffering subjects for the duration of his reign.
George IV died in 1830 and was succeeded by his more liberal brother, William IV. William's major contribution to his reign was his passage of the Reform Bill in 1832, which extended the right to vote to members of the middle class and some artisans. The bill encouraged political party organization and began to weaken the monarchy's grip on politics.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
* The population of Great Britain was quickly rising owing to several factors: Fewer people were dying of infectious diseases such as smallpox, and more people were marrying at a young age and producing large families.
*The agricultural way of life continued to decline as people poured into industrial towns in search of work. Uncontrolled urban growth produced dreadful living conditions, stirring the poets Shelley to write, "Hell is a city much like London."
*The rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer, while middle-class customs and values, especially an emphasis on money making, came to dominate on money making, came to dominate the society.
Out of the smoke of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution emerged a new approach in writing characterized by emotion over reason. In the Romantic Age, the individual person was valued over society, imagination was valued over logic, and the natural was valued over the artificial. Romantics found inspiration in nature, folk art, the past, and their own passions.
William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were two of the most important Romantic poets. Wordsworth created simple poems about common people in ordinary settings. Coleridge, on the other hand, explored exotic and supernatural themes.
NATURE AND LIBERTARIANISM
The Romantics watched as cities grew, industry prospered, and farming life declined. In an effort to reclaim nature, the Romantics made it a central force in their loves and their literature. Nature was celebrated as a source of delight, an image of love, and a model of moral perfection. To the Romantics, nature provided the pattern on which to base their creative lives.
At the same time, libertarianism, or an emphasis on individual rights, became popular. The Romantics rejected the authoritarian themes of the previous period and asserted individual freedoms in their writings. To them, nature and libertarianism went hand in hand.
* The literature of this period reflected the effects of the American and French Revolutions.
* The revolt against reason and sound sense as standards of creative expressions followed by Classicists, was manifested in two ways:
1. the rise of a new kind of fiction – the novel
2. the growth of a new romantic stream in poetry
Different poets during the Romantic Period had different styles in writing:
1.Novelists like Richardson and Sterne portrayed life in the lower and middle classes.
2. Poets like Goldsmith wrote in praise of rural life.
3.Thomas Gray discovered the common man.
4. William Blake saw, in his own way, that all men are created equal and that all created things deserve man’s affection.
5.Robert Burns expressed a deep sympathy for humble lives and delighted in the unclassical speech of the common man.
6. William Wordsworth, one of the greatest Romanticists, lifted everyday happenings out of the commonplace by making them truly poetic amidst an atmosphere of romance and poetry.
* Manifested in many romantic poets’ works were a strong sense of delight in nature and the beauty of the world around them, a deep sympathy with obscure, or humble, or underprivileged people and a vivid imagination that can construct fantastic dream worlds.
*Also reflected in the works of the time were a rebellion against tyrannical authority based on the belief in liberty for the individual, an interest in ancient legends and traditions, a melancholy that comes from being able to reach some ideal, and a great sense of individuality which often leads to loneliness.