English Romanticism: The Human Context
by Marilyn Gaull
This is a very impressive introduction to English Romanticism and its era. Gaull gives a real sense not only of the intellectual currents of the time, but of the way people thought and felt. It’s a wide-ranging survey not only of literature, but of politics, painting, philosophy, science, and other forces that shaped those turbulent, fruitful years. Gaull’s style is brisk and authoritative, and she moves quickly and easily from one subject to another. Mostly, she works through descriptions of the lives of prominent historical figures, creating a series of characters who collectively define the time.
It’s not a perfect book. The edition I had suffered from probably the worst proofreading of any book I’ve ever read (including a bewildering insistence on referring to Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer as Melmouth). And inevitably there are a few judgements that I’d disagree with. But on the whole, it’s an incredibly valuable resource, and makes you feel the excitement of a time when great spirits on Earth were sojourning.