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British Romanticism:

A Shift to Favor Individualism and Supernaturalism in Literature -Emma Joy Fitzelle-Jones





Section 1: Table of Contents………………………………………………………………………..


Section 2: Preface: A Short Note on the Appeal of British Romanticism…………………………


Section 3: British Romanticism: A shift to favor Individualism and Supernaturalism in Nature.....


Section 4: Sir Bertrand, a Fragment: The Search for Knowledge, and the Corresponding Ignorance……………………………………………………………………………………...........


Section 5: Review of The School for Scandal: The search for acceptance in society, and the Disreputable means…………………………………………………………………………...........


Section 6: Analysis of Northanger Abbey: The Heroic Ignorance Effect………………………….


Section 7: The Forsaken Friend, the Remembered Poet: William Wordsworth……………….......


Section 8: Explication of The Two Thieves or, The Last Avarice: The Stolen Morality of Society…………………………………………………………………………………………....... Section 9: Works Cited……………………………………………………………………….......... Section 10: Picture Works Cited…………………………………………………………………...


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“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke - Aye! And what then?” ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As the writer burdened with the immense responsibility of capturing the fervent tones and lilting, dazed undercurrents of the British Romantic movement within the space of a few, short essays, it is my duty to here, in the preface, note the tangibility of the movement’s rebellion against reason. This rebellion manifested through the development of the biting satirical, the brooding gothic, or the simple pastoral. For Romantic writers, to abandon their belief of the supernatural was to succumb to the lure of the Enlightenment. This unwillingness of Romantic authors to acquiesce on certain points of reason is why many regard the movement of Romanticism as a childish attempt to resist progress and change—a cheater’s way to preserve and protect a set of customs without allowing for innovation. However, the Romantics do not merely strive to overthrow the values of the Enlightenment, but rather serve to elucidate the natural resistance to change while showcasing the human propensity for internal turmoil. Many do not realize that although Romantic works cling to a notion of a perpetuated simple society, emotional change and growth is often the overarching theme. In “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment,” the focus is less on the Romantic ideal, and more on the battle between the ideals of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Therefore, the journey of Sir Bertrand marks a sharp moral and physical journey in which the symbolism of Sir Bertrand is reversed at the conclusion of the tale. Likewise, Northanger Abbey follows the journey from innocence to revelation. This is used as a device to showcase the transient nature of the human condition. “The School for Scandal” explored the concept of the family within the greater context of society. Yet, it is also shown that it is the individual morality that prevails within the family unit. This idea of family was also prevalent within Wordsworth’s poem: “The Two Thieves, or, The Last Avarice.” As a writer and reader, the idea that it is the defined nature of humanity that showcases the contrasting ephemeral nature of the mind is what led me to be interested in the time period of British Romanticism. This is also why the Romantic Period resonates with many people in the modern world. In a society that is defined by innovation, many seek a realm which is not


characterized by growth in industry or technological innovation, but rather a world in which conflict is a larger struggle portrayed by the foibles of an individual. Through this, the reader is not only able to reach an uneasy peace with the “larger” issues of the Romantic movement such as science and religion, but is able to revel in the rarity of a mind that is not caught in the web of modern thought, a mind that seeks simplicity (even while seeking knowledge). As humanity embraces new and complex facets of modern society, the lure to maintain a sense of security in simplicity is perpetuated in the mind of the Romantic poet, novelist, and playwright. Romanticism can terrify in the gothics or pose as humorous in satire, but ultimately it is the secret and terrifying desire within man to indulge regressive tendencies that allows the Romantic genre to endure. As a child, it was simple to equate concepts—as simple as the first words I learned to read. Just as the words “cat” and “hat” reflect the simplicity of my childhood, the British Romantics provided a glimpse into the simplistic sublime. Through the literary medium, an author can equate science and religion. With the flourish of the pen and the stamp of the press, an author can liken personal autonomy and societal uniformity. With this generality comes an element of irony. Although one is able to revisit the childlike state, one can only see the word through a lens, warped with age and cracked with growing cynicism. Therefore, the irony becomes double edged: with one edge that leaves the reader satisfied in reminiscence, and one edge that cuts with the dullest prick. Through a haze of emotion, the reader realizes that they cannot simply wander the forest, with its mystical castles and scandalous stories. The reader knows that they cannot revel evermore in the duplicity of thieves or resign themselves to the idling intricacies of English society. In an imperfect victory, the ideals of Romanticism gently creep like a gothic mist on the moor, ensnaring the senses. It is the guise of simplicity that is the bait, and it is the complexity that lurks like an electric eel. Slithering around the feet, the eel waits to shock and horrify, waits to bestow bright flashes of understanding. After spending a school year studying Romantic works and analyzing potential meanings, I am now less conflicted about my own beliefs, for I am now better equipped to revel in conflict. After allowing myself to be thrown into the wild storm sky of humanity and the deceptively tranquil oceans of the sublime, I have realized that it is the contrast, the compliment, the never ending subtle dance of battle between calm and chaos that characterizes the human condition.




“Seventh Plague of Egypt” 1823

Creativity reigns supreme within the constraints of British Romanticism. However, although British Romantic works range from satirical to gothic, British Romantic works by Romantic authors such as Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Emily Bronte, and William Blake all manage to find cohesively in that they all explore the supernatural; and ultimately find that the supernatural is not able to overcome war and suffering. An affinity for supernatural and metaphorical imagery may have been derived from the age of new beginnings and revolutions. Burgeoning revolutions in industry, the classification of nature, and politics led to the exploration of new territory: the expression of thought, and the desire to delve into the supernatural. The period in literature often described as British Romanticism is characterized by the expression of fantastical language and places beyond the imagination while paradoxically emphasizing the inevitability of war and quintessential human aspects of life. A precursor to the Romantic Movement, the dramatic movement in German poetry of the mid- eighteenth century, the Sturm and Drang movement (or “Storm and Drive” movement), set


the foundations for Romantic literature to emerge. This movement firmly rejected the French ideals of Rationalism and instead focused on expressions of extremes. The Sturm and Drang movement concentrated on the subjectivity and personal thought present throughout a work. Later, these ideals would evolve into works which featured individuals with unquestionable moral compasses that served as a critical authority, rather than society. Johann Georg Hamann, originally an advocate of the Enlightenment, abandoned his conviction of the secularized rationale in favor of Protestant beliefs. This conversion to Protestantism subsequently influenced many of his works, such as Socratic Memorabilia, and Aesthetics in a Nutshell, both of which opposed Enlightenment ideals. Friedrich Maximilian Klinger, another author whose works embody the Sturm and Drang movement, wrote many works that exemplified the wild, passionate prose that influenced the British Romantics,

Johann Georg Hamann

such as Die Zwillinge or The Twins. In Die Zwillinge, Klinger explores familial relations and showcases the concept of fratricide. However, Klinger also wrote works that calmly and accurately portrayed the ideals of the Sturm and Drang movement, such as Geschichte Raphaels de Aquillas, while simultaneously advocating the philosophical romances. The French Revolution paved the path to individualism within literature. This individualism favored stories with a strong narrative voice, rather than tales that focused on a broader context. The bloody French Revolution also may have served to provide insights into the value of life and death. Consequently, these insights reinforce the contrast between personal choices the uncontrollable choices of society depicted in war. The intrinsically violent nature of war is commented on by many writers of the British Romantic era. Works such as Byron’s Napoleon’s Farewell, Blake’s The French Revolution, and Coleridge’s France: an Ode and Fears in Solitude attempt to mask the nature of war by "Liberty Leading the People”1830


focusing on personal suffering and individual morality instead of by stressing the differences of opposing political sides. However, these works fail to entirely exclude the influence of war, which is by nature, wholly uncontrollable. In essence, the main contention of the French Revolution was the idea that aristocratic rule was not an effective system of governance. This grievance is frequently explored in British Romantic Literature through the examination of social classes and the contrast between prosperous and poor. The reaction to social norms and conventions further emphasized the importance of individual thought and stressed the evils of governance, thus allowing for a path of self-guidance led by personal morality. However, images of war were not the only thing that Romantic philosophers rebelled against. The cogent images of nature represented so prevalently in British Romantic works were a reaction against the industrial destruction of nature during the 1800s. The Industrial Revolution was directly a product of man’s ability to create at the cost of destruction. This theme is imbued throughout many works of Romantic literature. Romantic Literature features protagonists with morality so finely honed that they are able to combat destruction and fight against their human urge to create and destroy. Thus, the protagonist is shown to have an affinity with nature and God, rather than structured society. This is epitomized in the concept of “Dark Romanticism” or the “Gothic”. This The Progress of the Century. 1876

relates to the Industrial Revolution in

that like society, the massive industries that emerged were governed in a semblance of dictatorship. Although the industrial revolution would not come into full swing until the 1800s, the rapidly encroaching industry threatened to uproot traditional lifestyle. Visually, the harsh, mechanical factories contrasted the comparatively idyllic countryside. These images combined with the threat of the decline of traditional life lead to an affinity with nature in Romanic literature. For example, Thoreau’s On Man and Nature calls for man to abandon society. Instead of a world where nature


is expendable, Romantic authors strive to create a world where nature is extendable into the outer depths of the imagination, thus introducing the supernatural. The understanding of the human mindset in regard to education played a crucial role in British Romantic works. Although Enlightenment scholars and British Romantic authors are often regarded to be intellectual adversaries, many authors of the Enlightenment contributed to the British Romantic works. This is mainly in regard to the notion that education would help to create a better society. The philosophy of the Enlightenment states that by emphasizing self-learning and expression, one could uncover the self that nature intended, rather than the self that society perpetrated. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher during the 18th century who influenced the French Revolution, greatly emphasized these values in his novel, Emile. In contrast to Rousseau, the philosopher Immanuel Kant sought to reconcile the ideals of rationalism, human freedom, God, and Romanticism. However, Kant also added to the philosophy of Romanticism by asserting that humans have an inherent ability to distinguish between right and wrong, but are born with the desire to choose right, something that comes into play when looking at many British Romantic protagonists. In many British Romantic works, the protagonist is the character with absolute goodness, in contrasts to, which is painted as the epitome of evil, and thus the influence that would bring the protagonist’s downfall. This philosophy is dubbed the Categorical Imperative. Kant also speaks of the mind’s ability to create separate from actual sensory experience, which relates directly to the characteristically visual and supernatural aspects of Romantic literature. Although considered an Enlightenment philosopher, Kant’s philosophies are said to directly refute the main ideals of the Enlightenment and instead, pave the way for Romanticism. The desire to explore the supernatural was rooted in a stance against the systematic scientific rationalization of nature. Religious contention throughout the continent threatened the protestant tradition established in the United Kingdom. Methodism, a highly emotion style of preaching Christianity sprang forth as a reaction to more secularized ways. France, in particular, vied to become a secularized entity in an attempt to garner control of the fragile empire after periods of absolutist, religious rule. Although this thought was unpopular amongst many pious


peasants, the Age of Reason ushered in Enlightenment values that managed to gain hold. These values diminished the role of religion in everyday life. The rationalization of nature allowed for the possibility that nature creates itself, and that God does not have a direct role in shaping lives and nature. As the science of the time progressed, these claims were supported with tangible evidence. The reaction against this was what shepherded in many intensely religious works such as that of William Blake and John Keats. Furthermore, the desire to adhere to traditional stories concerning the supernatural, as well as shape their own world to the reaches of their imagination indicated that British Romantic writers were hesitant to let go of their ingrained beliefs, not to mention their religion. The desire to build upon the known world in an inherently preternatural way was a direct reaction against the known being strictly defined. As a whole, Romantic poets, artists, writers, and musicians used an emotional connection with nature as the point on which they emphasized the role of God and humanity. Factors such as war, secularization, and burgeoning innovations in industry provided the context for the literary culture to rebel against new perceptions of life and cling to the standard ideas of God, found through nature. However, philosophers such as Kant and Rousseau contributed to the ideals of Romanticism by contributing ideas of morality and personal self-education. Although the strong, visceral images of many Romantic works indicate rebellion against society and a perceived antiecclesiastical tone of realism, the tangible tone of rebellion indicates the inescapability of human nature





Karl Blenchen, Staircase at the Villa Farnese on the Palatine Hill

The search for knowledge is a quest that has continued throughout all time. The desire to progress is a fundamental attribute of human civilization. However, often the pursuit of knowledge manifests itself with a philosophical bent. Many schools of thought teach that mortality is the bond that allows humanity to prosper under the threat of death. Thus, many seek to unravel the mysteries of death in an attempt to preserve life. In “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment,” the adventure of Sir Bertrand hinges on the pursuit of metaphysical representations of life and death. This search for knowledge appeals to the values of Romanticism. The Enlightenment taught that life and death could be defined by science and reason. The corresponding rebellion against this movement of reason became known as Romanticism, or a rebellion which preferred to define the unknown—the supernatural—as a symptom of a collective human experience in faith. Thus, the short story of “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment” becomes a metaphor for the pervasive nature of the Enlightenment. However, in the story, the values of the Enlightenment fail. The righteous protagonist is welcomed into the arms of death, and yet, he comes no closer to understanding the knowledge that he sought. The story cuts off directly before the mysterious woman can impart her wisdom upon Sir Bertrand.


In “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment” by Anna Barbauld, the struggle to accept the mysterious nature of life and death becomes a metaphor for the struggle to maintain faith amidst the growth of the Enlightenment. “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment” is the embodiment of the gothic tale; it features a mysterious castle, an eerie forest, a shadowy woman, and a righteous protagonist. The story details the travel of the protagonist, Sir Bertrand, and his encounters with the veil of death, represented by the door of a castle. “A momentary glimpse of moon-light he had a full view of a large antique mansion, with turrets at the corners, and an ample porch in the centre… All was still again--He repeated the strokes more boldly and louder--another interval of silence ensued--A third time he knocked, and a third time all was still.” Here, the mansion represents civilization and human signs of life. And yet, the life is disturbed by “The injuries of time”. Thus, the castle becomes a metaphor for the human condition and old age. The door also represents a barrier between life and death. The man encounters great difficulty in opening the door, and when he finally succeeds, he encounters a flame: “beheld, across a hall, upon a large staircase, a pale bluish flame which cast a dismal gleam of light around…He came to the foot of the stairs, and after a moment's deliberation ascended. He went slowly up…The flame proceeded along it, and he followed in silent horrors…It led him to the foot of another staircase, and then vanished”. In many cultures, fire is regarded as a symbol of life and guidance. Here, Sir Bertrand is guided by the light to a series of staircases. However, as surely as a fire preserves the delicate balance of life in a harsh and inhospitable climate, the absence of fire can condemn a man to certain death. Thus, when the fire abandons the man at the foot of the staircase, the fire abandons the man to certain death. The idea that a staircase can serve as a bridge between life and death is rooted in theology. In Genesis 28:10-22, Jacob views angels ascending a ladder, or staircase. Thus, to descend into hell can be likened to descending down a staircase, just

The Dream of Jacob. Between 1660 and 1665

as the ascension to heaven can be compared to ascending a staircase. Sir Bertrand is shown to


“ascend” the staircase, and yet, the flame deposits the man on the brink of heaven and departs. This signals the end of Sir Bertrand’s journey in life. In this portion of the story, Sir Bertrand is confused, and is only able to blindly follow the direction of the fire, of his life. In doing so, he sacrifices his autonomy to a higher power, in keeping with Romantic Values. Sir Bertrand continued to ascend up the staircase, but soon he regrets his choice to search for knowledge. In this moment, Sir Bertrand values the mysteries of life over the promised knowledge of death. The lure of mystery fails to enrapture the imagination of the adventuresome knight, and he fights: “A dead cold hand met his left hand and firmly grasped it, drawing him forcibly forwards…he made blow with his sword, and instantly a loud shriek pierced his ears, and the dead hand was left powerless in his--He rushed forwards with a desperate valor.” He begins to regret his choice, and yet, he is forced to continue up the staircase. This is simultaneously a metaphor for the inevitability of death and a warning to those who seek to unravel its mysteries: knowledge comes at a price. The word “valor” reveals the tone of the story. The author does not merely seek to assert that the search for understanding of death is futile, but that Carus, Gustav. Blick Auf Dresden Von Der Bruhlschen Terrasse

righteousness can stem from abstaining from the search for death. Sir Bertrand is described as a righteous knight,

sent to pursue adventures. The author of “Sir Bertrand, a Fragment” creates a world in which the virtues of Sir Bertrand are not bolstered by an unseen force, by rather, his faults are shown to the reader in an attempt to display that he is bound by the essence of humanity. In doing so, the author allows Sir Bertrand to represent the struggle to understand death and the failure that is inevitable. Therefore, Sir Bertrand embodies the conflict that arose during the 18th century. He is torn, physically and emotionally, between understanding of death and trust in a higher power. Essentially, Sir Bertrand is torn between reason and religion.


Between the room and the staircase, Sir Bertrand encounters an in-between world: “with difficulty he turned the bolt---instantly the doors flew open, and discovered a large apartment, at the end of which was a coffin rested upon a bier,” When Sir Bertrand eventually is able to enter the above room, which contains the mysteries of the castle, he is greeted by another mystery, garbed in the guise of a woman. “Suddenly, a lady in a shroud and black veil rose up in it, and stretched out her arms towards him--at the same time the statues clashed their sabers and advanced.” Sir Bertrand is only able to reach the room of abundance after he kisses the woman of death. Then, he is








Wedding. 1980

accommodations: “The doors opening to soft music, a lady of incomparable beauty, attired with amazing splendor entered”. Although Sir Bertrand “ascends” up the staircase, implying an ascension to heaven, it is unclear whether the final destination is heaven or hell for the abundance of food and comfort in the room could simultaneously represent temptation or reward. Likewise, the woman could contain the answers to all is questions, or force Sir Bertrand to endure eternal ignorance. Thus, the question of what the room represents becomes an authorial device used to further develop the conflict between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Eternal ignorance is likened to hell, and yet, the quest of Sir Bertrand is designed to instruct on the virtues of ignorance. Metaphorically, Sir Bertrand sacrifices his life for the promise of knowledge through the kiss of death. The irony of the story is that it cuts off just when the woman was about to impart her wisdom to Sir Bertrand. Therefore, it is unclear whether the quest of Sir Bertrand was fulfilled or not. It is this uncertainty that shows the true authorial intent. The author crafts a story in which knowledge of death defies the supernatural and comes at a price that is intended to ward off scientists of the Enlightenment. Likewise, the author neither rewards the pursuits of the reader, nor acknowledges Sir Bertrand’s final fate. The story hangs in the balance of a subtle war of ideals, and therefore, is a product of torn opinion and subconscious reckoning of religion. The story of Sir Bertrand introduces the gothic as a symptom of the battle to maintain ignorance and innocence. In the story, knowledge of death is characterized as an urge that must be


repressed to safeguard the values of religion and the supernatural. Romantic values dictate that the unknown should be regarded as sacred. To romantic authors, enlightenment values are regarded as flouting the sacred nature of life and death. The journey of Sir Bertrand represents the journey from the living to the dead. The gothic elements such as the castle and flame represent life, and yet, the door of the castle serves as the barrier between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. The story details the futility of the desire to understand death, just as the story shows that death is inevitable. Many believe that it is human mortality that defines life, and thus, Sir Bertrand becomes a metaphor for the human experience and the importance of maintaining the mysteries of death.







Macleod, Murdo. The School for Scandal at the Pleasance

Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, The School for Scandal was published in 1777 and first performed at the Drury Lane Theatre on May 8 of the same year. The play features the gossiper and consequent instigator of scandal, Lady Sneerwell. The housewife who succumbs to the evils of society is portrayed by Lady Teazle and her righteous husband, Sir Peter Teazle is left to bear her crimes of adultery. The play’s main plot revolves around two brothers: Charles Surface, a good man whose reputation is not respectable, and Joseph Surface, an insidious scoundrel who is lauded for his scruples. Both brothers compete with each other for the hand of Maria, Sir Peter Teazle’s ward. However, as the play progresses, they indirectly compete with each other for the inheritance given by their uncle, Sir Oliver. This introduces the theme of familial ties with respect to monetary gain. Throughout the play, Joseph Surface, Charles Surface, and Sir Oliver are the only characters truly related by blood, thus providing a context for Sir Oliver to choose which man he would prefer to be his heir without interference from Sir Peter and his family. However, this also isolates each character and does not allow for the deep bonds of family. Thus, the destructive potency of a scandal is heightened, which in turn, plays into the idea of reputation. During the course of the play, a good reputation is shown to be less of a protective force than a target for inspection.


Therefore, as it is asserted by villains in the play, it is better to have a bad reputation and be able to control it through lies; than have a good reputation and have liars challenge your morality. Thus, Richard Brinsley Sheridan seeks to expose society as an influential yet superficial force. The play satirizes society by contrasting the power that is bestowed upon gossipers with the shallowness and callousness that they hold; consequently, corruption becomes a function of civilization. The play begins with Lady Sneerwell and her henchman, Snake, discussing their insidious plans for the family of Sir Peter Teazle. When Snake questions her motives, Lady Sneerwell alludes to the fact that she is in love with Sir Peter Teazle’s adopted son, Charles Surface, who is engaged to Sir Peter’s ward, Maria. Lady Sneerwell and Snake are soon interrupted by Joseph Surface, the brother of the man that Lady Sneerwell desires. It soon becomes evident that Joseph Surface is an accomplice of Lady Sneerwell because he wants to marry Maria, his brother’s intended. Thus, Lady Sneerwell and Joseph Surface conspire to sully the reputation of Charles Surface. Meanwhile, in the house of Sir Peter Teazle, Lady Teazle, a former country lady, is shown to have been seduced by the lure of material possessions. Sir Peter Teazle laments the loss of his simple wife, and implores her to limit her spending. Lady Teazle soon leaves to go to the house of Lady Sneerwell. When she arrives, the party gossips extensively about their neighbors. Out of the whole group, only Sir Peter Teazle and Maria condemn the group’s slanderous ways, but do not directly speak their concerns to the group, instead merely leaving. At the house of Sir Peter Teazle, the uncle of Charles and Joseph Surface arrives, intending to test each of his beneficiaries under a disguise. To test Charles Surface, Sir Oliver pretends to be a moneylender alongside a Jew. Upon seeing the roguish life that Charles Surface lives, Sir Oliver is apt to believe the account of Sir Peter Teazle—that Charles has succumbed to a life of ill morality. However, when Charles refuses to sell a portrait of Sir Oliver out of sentimentality even when offered a large sum of money, Sir Oliver begins to believe that Sir Peter has been tricked into thinking Charles a scoundrel: “But he wouldn't sell my picture". To test Joseph Surface, Sir Oliver plays the part of the poor family member who is in need of assistance. Although Sir Peter attests to Joseph’s goodness, Joseph proves not to be generous and refuses to give Sir Oliver money, spouting lies as to why he cannot part with the money. Sir Oliver knows these things to be false, and is outraged. Later, Joseph Surface and Lady Teazle meet under scandalous circumstances when they are interrupted by Sir


Peter Teazle. Here, the web of lies is subverted and true morality is revealed and once back at the house of Sir Peter Teazle the two brothers meet with Sir Oliver to determine their fate. The play, although masked in irony, provides many thoughtful insights into societal mores and behaviors. One of the most interesting insights was into the role of reputation in society. Society in The School for Scandal is crafted to be the epitome of evil. However, it is this hyperbole that allows the reader to see the extremes among the characters. The School for Scandal showcases the members inducted into “high society” as base creatures concerned only with ruining the reputation of their friends. This serves to elevate the gossipers to a higher level on the social spectrum: “' ‘Wounded myself in the early part of my life by the envenomed tongue of slander I confess I have since known no pleasure equal to the reducing others to the level of my own injured reputation’ ”. Paradoxically, what the society does to destroy others only exemplifies their evils to the reader, and casts Maria and Sir Peter as moral superiors. Thus, the reader is forced to consider vital question: who is to be trusted as the better man, Joseph or Charles, when the play itself is warped by the alleged lies of gossipers? When one is depicted as the ill-reputed man with a heart of gold, and the other a respected scoundrel, how is this decision to be made? This truth is masked by an elaborate web of falsity: “There is no trusting appearances”, and although the ending reaches a conclusion on the comparative morality of the brothers, it is decided by Sir Oliver, who is partial to Charles. This confusion is a trademark of the play, as it is used a device to shroud the intent of the author, and in doing so, exemplify the point of the play—that preconceived notions are the lies of society. Another issue where preconceived notions arise is in the issue of anti-Semitism. In the play, a Jew named Moses is caricaturized as a money lender with dubious lending practices. When teaching Sir Oliver how to act as a money-lender, Sir Oliver mocks Moses using compliments laced with sarcasm. This is a classic tendency of the group of gossipers themselves—to pretend to compliment when truly, they have the most malicious intent. Therefore, it is unclear whether Richard Brinsley Sheridan attempts to transfer some of this evil onto Sir Peter to make the reader sympathize with Moses, or simply uses the caricature as a humorous—if cruel by modern standards—device. From a modern perspective, if Sheridan set out to openly scorn Anti-Semitism as a function of the evils of society, they play would be accepted as a window into deeper insight.


However, if Sheridan did not intend to provide this insight, the play would be regarded as flagrantly non-politically-correct. Although one cannot blame Sheridan for upholding the ideals of his time, modern views have shifted the way this brand of humor is perceived. In the time that Sheridan wrote the play, the trend was towards anti-Semitic sentiment. Therefore, this brand of humor would not have struck as deep a chord with the original audience.





Gellée, Claude. The Enchanted Castle. 1664

Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, seeks to explore the adverse effect of wealth on society and man. Throughout the novel, the portrayal of wealth assumes an increasingly critical tone, and is thus used to highlight flaws in systems of courtship and the matrimonial system. This is shown by the contrast between Catherine’s relationship with Mr. Tilney and Isabella’s promiscuous ways. In this dynamic, Catherine remains pure and besotted with a poor clergyman, whereas her friend Isabella is shown to ensnare men with the goal of gaining wealth and societal status. Through this depiction, Austen provides commentary on a tenet of British Romanticism: that both love and the individual are only pure and righteous when freed from the constraints of society and affluence. Ironically, the Gothic novels that were prevalent in the later part of the British Romantic period are frequently cited throughout Northanger Abbey as a source of misfortune. Catherine, who is portrayed as good and pure, misguidedly trusts that the stories spun in Gothic novels are applicable to her own life. Meanwhile Catherine’s friend Isabella is portrayed


as a lover of the genre, which foreshadows her future nefarious deeds. Although the Gothics influence both Catherine and Isabella, Austen portrays the characters as a parody of opposites. Isabella assumes the role of the promiscuous villain and Catherine embodies the victim of the heroic tale. Austen continuously comments on the nature of heroism, and thus mocks the timid Catherine while ironically casting her a heroine. Hence, by creating a character who contains little greatness, innocence and ignorance allow Catherine to pose as a moral superior to society as a whole- thus branding society a shadow of evil. Despite Austen’s criticisms of Gothic literature imbued throughout Northanger Abbey, the contrast between Isabella in her caricatured form to the protagonist, Catherine, marks a satire of organized society, a rejection of the desire for wealth, and a biting commentary on the nature of war. A major theme in Northanger Abbey is the influence of society on Catherine, and Austen’s categorical commentary on this society through the character Isabella. The influence of society is often represented by the Gothics, popular books of the time. “He was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters.” (1) This quote is an allusion to the gothics, and is one which is used to clarify that the Morlands were not a family of consequence. Through this allusion, Austen exemplifies a key aspect of the novel: constant misinterpretation of events driven by the influence of the gothics. Thus, the influence of the gothics is an increasingly negative force throughout the novel. However, these gothic ideals are only further perpetrated by Isabella, Catherine’s first friend in Bath: “Catherine...was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina's skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying…‘there are two odious young men...I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming’.” (Austen, 29) In this quotation, Isabella’s affected paranoia at the advance of the mysterious men is evidence of her immersion into the Gothics. Although Isabella shows signs that her paranoia is merely for show, Catherine does not pick up on these subtle cues, and as a result is coerced through ignorance into further obliviousness. Austen attempts to create an aura of plainness around Catherine as to personify her modesty; “Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without color, dark lank hair, and strong features—so much for her person; and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind.” (Austen, 6) In contrast, Isabella is shown to take every opportunity to


use her virtue as a means of furthering her position in life: “Isabella-no wonder now I have not heard from her- Isabella has deserted my brother and is to marry yours! Could you have believed there had been such inconstancy, and fickleness...A girl who, before his eyes, is violating an engagement voluntarily entered into with another man!”(Austen, 244) In this way, Catherine’s physical appearance dictates how the audience perceives Catherine, and allows the reader to see Isabella’s beauty as a symptom of society’s shallow scruples. The concept of heroism is developed through the novel; Austen wavers between ironically branding Catherine a hero and mocking Catherine for her lack of true heroism: “She not only longed to be dancing, but …she was sharing with the scores of other young ladies still sitting down all the discredit of wanting a partner... one of those circumstances which peculiarly belong to the heroine's life, and her fortitude under it what particularly dignifies her character.” (Austen, 48) Through this dynamic, Austen provides a fundamental commentary on the nature of British Romanticism. Austen seeks to show that innocence is entirely separate from ignorance, and thus, innocence freed from the constraints of society does not wholly constitute a hero. However, Austen thereby attests that society’s evils are the force that leads to a hero’s demise, despite assumed innocence. Societal influence is referenced throughout Northanger Abbey. However, as a product and instigator of social discourse, war plays a tremendous metaphorical role throughout the novel. Romantic ideology dictates that the individual is above all else, and thus, war and society are inferior, yet great, evils. Therefore, just as Austen attempts to show the contrast between Catherine and Isabella as the contrast between individualism and society, the contrast between war and peace is shown between the nefarious General and his son. Through the portrayal of the soldier (General Tilney) as the antagonist, and the clergyman (Mr.Tilney) as the assumed hero, the notions of war and peace are emphasized as metaphysical opposites, just as those of good and evil. The relationship between the two—that of father and son further emphasizes the contrast between war and religion. War is portrayed as having the ultimate power- control of finance; “There was but one obstacle, in short, to be mentioned; but till that one was removed, it must be impossible for them to sanction the engagement...They were no more inclined than entitled to demand his money.” (Austen, 236) However, religion is able to uproot this oppression through the rejection to


all the things that the war has to offer- material objects. This physical symbolism is a metaphor for the introspective war that is waged in Bath- the war of assets. This war revolves around the desire to acquire social and political power through the means of marriage and friendship. Naturally, this war is subtler and is based on one’s penchant for manipulation. The dynamic is portrayed through Isabella, the vain socialite who clings to the notion of marrying above her station, as well as General Tilney, the military widow who searches in vain for advantageous matches for his children. Both, having laid claim to opposite outcomes, attempt to coerce the third party (their intended) into matrimony or extended bachelorship. Catherine’s obsession with Gothic novels is evidence of her lack of intellectual reasoning and a testament to her over-emphasis on the importance of supernaturalism. Catherine’s “imagination run amuck” creates many difficulties throughout the novel, such as her massive misstep in which she mistakes Northanger Abbey to be a place of murder and mystery: “Northanger Abbey! These were thrilling words, and wound up Catherine's feelings to the highest point of ecstasy. Her grateful and gratified heart could hardly restrain its expressions within the language of tolerable calmness.” In this, Catherine is able to explore the supernatural world guided by a symbol of religion- (Mr. Tilney) into the domain of its intellectual opposite – war. This war is portrayed by the foreboding Northanger Abbey, which is the home of General Tilney. This imagined supernatural world sheds light onto Austen’s true intent in regard to the Gothics. In portraying the idea of supernaturalism through a character that is influenced by the society through the association with Gothic novel, Austen creates a satire within a satire. The first parody that Austen invokes is that of the Gothics themselves, for Austen continually remarks upon their uselessness. The second satire is of society, as she mocks the Gothics as popularized reading, and thus a product of society: “Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding — joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine.” (Austen, 30) This is commonly associated with Isabella, for as a selfpurported lover of the genre, Isabella not only represents the vanity of society, but the loathed societal influence on the Gothics. In Northanger Abbey, Austen abandons a subgenre of British


Romanticism (the Gothics) while upholding one of its most critical ideas: that society is the source of evil, and one must escape further into religion and isolation to remain pure. Throughout Northanger Abbey, British Romantic ideologies are evident. This is shown through the negative depiction of society. However, the novel does not simply seek to tear down the institution of society, but rather, shape a separate society based on the tenets of religion. The war between war and religion is depicted as the relationship between father and son. In this dynamic, religion cannot exist without the power and might of war, and yet, Mr. Tilney the clergyman defies his father, the General. This parallels the war over Catherine’s rumored dowry between the Thorpes and the Tilneys. Throughout the novel, Austen provides commentary which condemns the popularized Gothics as the source of all dissent. This, to a certain extent is true. Just as Isabella’s desire for wealth represents vanity and ultimately, society, it is Isabella’s attraction to the Gothics which transforms Catherine’s ignorance into paranoia. Northanger Abbey explores the synthesis between innocent ignorance and vain promiscuity to condemn the societal attributes of war, matrimony, and spirituality.




A Portrait of William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland. As a result of his father’s profession as a rent collector and law agent, Wordsworth’s family was fairly wealthy. Wordsworth attended the Hawkshead Grammar School before attending St John’s College, Cambridge in 1787. After Graduating in 1791, Wordsworth embarked on a journey through Wales on foot. It was in 1791 that Wordsworth became engrossed in the actions of the French Revolution. In 1792, he fathered an illegitimate daughter with a woman named Annette Vallon. However, his adventure in France was cut short due to Wordsworth’s lack of funds, and he returned to England. Wordsworth was prevented from returning to France in the following years due to the Anglo-French war. After Wordsworth reunited with his sister Dorothy in 1794, his sister served not only as a companion and housekeeper, but also as a close friend. The next year the siblings stuck an acquaintance with a man named Samuel Coleridge. Soon, the three became friends, and the two men of the trio embarked on an intellectual endeavor to write a book called Lyrical Ballads, which was published in 1798. In the fall of 1798 they three friends travelled to Germany, which although


providing intellectual stimulation for Coleridge, only provoked feelings of reminiscence in Wordsworth. Consequently Wordsworth returned with his sister and they settled in the Lake District, near Grasmere. In 1802, the Peace of Amiens allowed Wordsworth to return to France and settle outstanding issues with Annette Vallon regarding his illegitimate daughter, named Caroline. While in France, Wordsworth reached an agreement with Annette Vallon and returned to England. Soon after, Wordsworth received an inheritance owed by the employer of John Wordsworth since his father’s death in 1783. As a consequence of this sudden monetary influx, Wordsworth married a woman named Mary Hutchinson. By the year 1810 they had five children. However, this happiness was marred by several deaths. In 1805 Wordsworth’s brother died at sea, and in 1812 Wordsworth lost two of his five children. He also became distanced from his friend, Samuel Coleridge. It was this sadness that influenced many of Wordsworth’s darker poems. Wordsworth's literary career began when he published a work he called Descriptive Sketches in 1793. Before the turn of the century, Wordsworth’s career had catapulted to success with a work called Lyrical Ballads. It was lyrical ballads, a joint effort between Coleridge and Wordsworth that launched the beginning of Romanticism. In 1807, this success was further cemented with a work called Poems in Two Volumes. As his reputation grew, he received many reviews, some more harsh than others. Nevertheless, he was still lauded for his apparent originality in his work. This early success drove Wordsworth to experiment with longer poem styles. These later poems explored the views of man, nature, and society. They also often imbibed a distinct philosophical rendering of relationships in nature. The 17,000 lines which were eventually published made up only a part of this mammoth project. The second section of the project, The Excursion, was completed as was the first book of the first part, The Recluse. Inspiration gradually failed him for this project, and he spent much of his later life revising The Prelude. Although it is arguable which version of the work is better, the 1805 or the 1850, many agree that the work was the most successful blank verse epic since Paradise Lost. Wordsworth refused to publish The Prelude, because the work focused too much on Wordsworth himself. Wordsworth eschewed this brand of narcissism in writing, and thus, the work was not published in his lifetime.


In 1828, Wordsworth reconciled with Coleridge and the two toured the Rhineland together. Durham University granted Wordsworth an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in 1838, and Oxford conferred the same honor the next year. When Robert Southey died in 1843, Wordsworth was named Poet Laureate. He died in 1850, and his wife published the much-revised Prelude that summer. The Two Thieves, or, the Last Stage of Avarice Oh now that the genius of Bewick were mine And the skill which He learn'd on the Banks of the Tyne; When the Muses might deal with me just as they chose For I'd take my last leave both of verse and of prose. What feats would I work with my magical hand! Book-learning and books should be banish'd the land And for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls. The Traveler would hang his wet clothes on a chair Let them smoke, let them burn, not a straw would he care. For the Prodigal Son, Joseph's Dream and his Sheaves, Oh what would they be to my tale of two Thieves! Little Dan is unbreech'd, he is three birth-days old, His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told, There's ninety good seasons of fair and foul weather Between them, and both go a stealing together. With chips is the Carpenter strewing his floor? It a cart-load of peats at an old Woman's door? Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide, And his Grandson's as busy at work by his side. Old Daniel begins, he stops short and his eye Through the lost look of dotage is cunning and sly. 'Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own, But tells a plain tale of the days that are flown. Dan once had a heart which was mov'd by the wires Of manifold pleasures and many desires:


And what if he cherish'd his purse? 'Twas no more Than treading a path trod by thousands before. 'Twas a path trod by thousands, but Daniel is one Who went something farther than others have gone; And now with old Daniel you see how it fares You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs. The pair sally forth hand in hand; ere the sun Has peer'd o'er the beeches their work is begun: And yet into whatever sin they may fall, This Child but half knows it and that not at all. They hunt through the street with deliberate tread, And each in his turn is both leader and led; And wherever they carry their plots and their wiles, Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles. Neither check'd by the rich nor the needy they roam, For grey-headed Dan has a daughter at home; Who will gladly repair all the damage that's done, And three, were it ask'd, would be render'd for one. Old Man! whom so oft I with pity have ey'd, I love thee and love the sweet boy at thy side: Long yet may'st thou live, for a teacher we see That lifts up the veil of our nature in thee. *








McCurry, Steve. 2013, Photograph of Scales

Published in Volume II of Lyrical Ballads, “The Two Thieves, or The Last Stage of Avarice” by William Wordsworth explores the concepts of innocence and simplicity as components of the Romantic ideal. The poem begins with a reference to the “genius of Bewick”. Thomas Bewick was an English wood engraver and ornithologist who revolutionized wood engraving and restored its popularity. Thus, in the context of the poem, Wordsworth lauds arts that involve direct contact with the hands, with nature. Through this, the woodcarver comes to represent the Romantic ideal. The woodcarver is also a symbol of hard work and passion. This provides a foil to the thieves that are introduced later in the poem. This theory is strengthened by the last few lines in the first stanza: “When the Muses might deal with me just as they chose/ For I'd take my last leave both of verse and of prose”. This quote not only shows the contrast between the simplicity of woodcarving and the complexity of writing, but reveals a longing to engage in the simpler art. The “Muses” refer to the Greek myth of Balen, Hendrik Van. Minerva among the Muses

nine goddesses who provide inspiration to artists, poets,


and all others who require a “Muse”. Thus, Wordsworth laments the transient nature of his craft, and longs for a simpler task. The next stanza delves further into the life that could have resulted from being a woodcarver. Wordsworth semi-ironically details the idealistic world that would result from simple living: “And for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls/ Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls”. However, this perfection is soured by the first two lines of the stanza. In these lines, Wordsworth showcases the faults of such a perfect, simple world while disguising the criticisms as praise: “What feats would I work with my magical hand!/Book-learning and books should be banish'd the land”. This stanza marks a shift within the poem. The author tears away from the desire for simplicity and begins to show the fault in trusting simplicity to result in utopia. Thus, the poem imbibes a paradox in which simplicity is revered yet complexity in love, life, and learning is acknowledged as a necessary part of life. The next stanza finally introduces the Traveler, or the Thief. The Traveler is shown entering a tavern, and engaging in all the delights that can arise out of simple society. Wordsworth then makes a comment on the morality of the Traveler: “For the Prodigal Son, Joseph's Dream and his Sheaves/Oh what would they be to my tale of two Thieves!” These two lines directly reference two Bible stories. One, the Prodigal Son, shows forgiveness on behalf of a father to his son. This is often interpreted as a metaphor for the relationship between God and Man. However, in the parable, the prodigal or “wasteful” son is shunned by his older brother for discarding his own riches. The Father attempts to force the older brother to forgive the Return of the Prodigal Son 1667-70

younger son and accept him into their home. Thus,

Wordsworth comments on the nature of forgiveness and greed. However, it is unclear whether the reference to the parable is Wordsworth’s way of suggesting that the thieves not be wasteful, a warning to those who act on their greed, or a promise that the thieves will be forgiven. The second


reference to “Joseph’s dream and his sheaves” is a story that showcases modesty as a virtue. In the parable, Joseph is the beloved son. This prompts Joseph to have a narcissistic dream in which his brothers (represented by sheaves of wheat) bow down to Jacob (represented by his own sheave of wheat). Thus, Wordsworth includes the reference to continue the theme of familial relations and comment on vanity’s role in avarice. Wordsworth asserts that the traveler would not take heed of the warnings in these two parables, and thus, the Thief would be destined to a life of sin. The next stanza introduces a child—innocent in ignorance, and yet, spoiled by the greed of his family. The poem shows the contrast in age: “Little Dan is unbreech'd, he is three birth-days old/ His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told”. This allows the poem to become dually a criticism and defense of those who steal. The child cannot fight the control of his family, so he cannot be held responsible for his sins. However, the grandfather, aware of his sins, must pay the full price for his greed. Wordsworth comments on the blindness of criminality and justice alike in the last line of the stanza: “both go a stealing together.” By showing the thieves as a united force, despite the gravity of their comparative wrongs, the reader is torn between two moralities: one that exonerates crimes for supposed innocence, and one that cannot condone thievery at any cost. The next stanza begins to qualify the notion of thievery: “With chips is the Carpenter strewing his floor? / It a cart-load of peats at an old Woman's door?” Then, Wordsworth details the grandson and the grandfather side by side in their duplicity: “Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide/ And his Grandson's as busy at work by his side”. This continues the theme of generational evils and the notion that those marred by the kiss of generational poverty will surely turn to the promise of riches when presented with ample opportunity. This idea is prevalent throughout the next stanza as well. In this stanza, the Grandfather’s soul is represented through the look in his eyes. Eyes have often been regarded as the window to the soul, and thus, Wordsworth capitalizes on this notion to show the Grandfather untouched by altruism: “Through the lost look of dotage is cunning and sly.” This shows that the grandfather does not act out of desperation for his child, but rather, out of a sinister desire to steal. However, Wordsworth excuses this in the next line: “'Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own,”. This line abandons the notion of generational sin for the idea of collective societal immorality. The line shows that the look in the


Grandfather’s eyes (his soul) is a product of his time, and is hardly unique. Thus, Wordsworth insinuates that it is society, rather than the person, that controls levels of wickedness. The next stanza further explores this concept of societal evils. The Grandfather and the child are shown to tread “a path trod by thousands before”. Pathways are a symbol of choices. The paths that shows the most wear is the path that society has chosen to frame its morals. Therefore, Wordsworth ironically comments on society’s choices. However, Wordsworth wrenches this excuse away from the Grandfather in the next stanza. In the next stanza, the Grandfather’s thievery is shown to be not equated with the typical greed of society: “but Daniel is one/Who went something farther than others have gone”. Wordsworth goes on to condemn this submission to greed by showing how greed is the means to eventual death: “You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs.” The next stanza reveals the innocence of the child while contrasting morality with darkness and night. The “Sun”, which represents reason, good, love, and life, does not smile upon the work that the thieves engage in late at night. In the next stanza, Wordsworth shows the grandfather and the grandson walking along, stalking their prey, and yet, their criminality is not determined by their own will: "And each in his turn is both leader and led”. Neither the Grandfather nor the Grandson has control over darkness, and yet, their activities lend the thieves control over their own lives. However, this control is shown to come at a price—one that can never be paid: “And wherever they carry their plots and their wiles.” Here, the plots are shown to be a tremendous burden. The villagers, in contrast, smile, light in their own moral superiority: “Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles.” Thus, Wordsworth allows the reader to feel sympathy for the thieves. This idea is expanded on throughout the next stanza. The Grandfather is humanized by the knowledge that he “has a daughter at home”. Therefore, Wordsworth shows that even criminals are bound by familial responsibility, and therefore, a brand of simple morality. Throughout the poem, the author appears conflicted about the morality of the thieves. Wordsworth strives to contrast innocence and old age, darkness and light, and atheism and morality. Wordsworth is able to reconcile these concepts by showing the thieves as a pitiable


antagonists. The role of the antagonist is to instruct, and thus, Wordsworth asserts that through displays of sympathy, one “lifts up the veil of our nature in thee.” The poem has a clear rhyme scheme of “aabb”, which allows the poem to have a “lyrical” quality. The poem does not have a clear syllabic pattern, which allows some of the lines to run longer and often, complete a full idea in a single line. It is this lyrical quality that forces the reader to remain conflicted, mirroring the conflict presented in the text of the poem. Just as the text itself is characterized by the struggle to identify morality, the form of the poem leads the reader to be torn between the reality of theft and the lilting, peaceful tone that the poem imbibes. Thus the reader is forced to acknowledge an uncomfortable paradox: the prettiest of poetry can reveal harshness and greed, just as an ideal society can (in the cover of night) reveal the wickedness of thieves.


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10 PICTURE WORKS CITED A Painting of William Wordsworth. N.d. Wordsworth House, Cockermouth. William Wordsworth. 4 May 2012. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Balen, Hendrik Van. Minerva among the Muses. N.d. Fine Art Store. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Blechen, Karl. Staircase at the Villa Farnese on the Palatine Hill, Rome. N.d. Oil Painting Reproduction on Canvas. 1st-art-gallery. Web. 2 July 2013. <,-Rome.html>. Carus, Gustav. Blick Auf Dresden Von Der Bruhlschen Terrasse. N.d. The 18th and 19th Centuries. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Currier and Ives. The Progress of the Century. 1876. The Progress of the Century, by Currier and Ives, 1876. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Dahl, Johan Christian. Fredericksborg Castle. 1817. Painting - oil on canvas. Statens Museum for Kunst (Denmark), n.p. Delacroix, Eugene. Liberty Leading the People. 1830. French Revolution Pictures. Discovery Channel. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. GellĂŠe, Claude. The Enchanted Castle. 1664. Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Martin, John. Seventh Plague of Egypt. 1823. The Beal Gallery (Europe, 1800â&#x20AC;&#x201C;1870) - 251. Museum of Fine Arts. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. McCurry, Steve. 2013. Photograph. Burma. Steve McCurry Blog. Web. 20 May 2013. <>.


Macleod, Murdo. The School for Scandal at the Pleasance. N.d. Photograph. The School for Scandal. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Murillo, BartolomĂŠ EstebĂĄn. The Dream of Jacob. 1660-1665. A Walk through the Imperial Hermitage. 2011. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Murillo, Bartolome Esteban. Return of the Prodigal Son. 1667-70. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Web Gallery. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Portrait Johann George Hamann. N.d. Johann George Hamann. 2006. Web. 2 June 2013. <>. Szoc, Max. Wedding. 1980. Web. 2 June 2013. <>.


British Romanticism: A Shift to Favor Individualism in Literature