Introduction to the Life & Works of
As the eighteenth century closed, and during but the first couple of decades of the next century, there arose an acuteness of apprehension or feeling as to the beauties of nature. Rousseau was the first to emphasize: the natural, the wild, the primitive, the instinctive. This Rousseauish sensibility was to spread beyond the borders of France to Germany and to England. The adherents of this romantic sensibility, while subscribing to a simplicity of manner, often displayed an exaggerated capacity for emotional response. To walk in the country with the express intention of viewing the scenery was to be a common expression of the romantics of the age. They would take a camp stool so to sit at their favourite look offs and contemplate the scene. Often they would look away and use a mirror to see the reflection of the scene. These mirrors were known as a Claude Lorraine glass, named after Claud (of) Lorraine (1600-82), the French landscape painter. These hand held mirrors would be tinted or coloured in order to give the viewed scene, these objects of nature, a soft, mellow tinge, like the colouring of that master.
It is in the light of this romantic sensibility that we are to consider the English writers who occupied the literary stage during but a short period, a forty year period, from 1793 to 1833.1 The literary production of these writers, this eruption into the fashionable world, as Walter Bagehot observed, made an impact on English poetry and English criticism from which it will never recover.2
Though there are a number of others, to whom in due course I shall turn, William Wordsworth, the subject of this particular portrait, represents English Romanticism like no other of the age.
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