Romanticism is a literary and artistic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies that placed value on emotion or imagination over reason, on theimagination over society. Some sources say Romanticism started in reaction toneo-classicism, or the Enlightenment. The most important result of romanticismwas the emphasis laid upon the supernatural. Some writers during this timeperiod were Mary Shelley with Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe with various poemsand selections, such as The Raven, The TellTale Heart, and The Pit and ThePendulum. One person who had a great effect on the Romantic era was WashingtonIrving.
Some called Irving the first real American writer. Washington Irving wasborn April 3, 1783, in New York City. He was the eleventh child of Sarah WilliamIrving. His father was a strict man, a merchant and deacon in the PresbyterianChurch. He started school at the age of four, but he never took it seriously. Even when he was older, he did not really care for school.
He did not impressany of his teachers as outstanding. It was out of school where his realinterests developed. His interests were more into reading books of adventure andtravel. He was very good at writing, though. He loved the theater.
Hisfascination with the arts grew and was encouraged by one of her sister’sboyfriends (Myers 64). His interests in the arts and in the theater were obviousin his works. Irving did not wish to go to college. Though he had greatinterests in the theater and the arts, his father expected each of his sons tosupport himself, so Washington decided to be an apprentice in a law office.
Hisemployer was Ogden Hoffman and Irving fell in love with his daughter. He alsowrote articles for his brother’s paper, the Morning Chronicle. He signed hisarticles “Jonathon Oldstyle”. Later he joined his brother William andhis friend Jim Paulding in making a humorous magazine called Salmagundi. In1809, he published Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York.
He later wentto Europe in 1815. Many people were very anxious to meet him. From 1815-1832, helived in England, Dresden, Paris, and Spain. In 1819, he published TheSketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, which most people see as his greatest work.
Thisbook was a collection of essays and stories. Among the stories it included”Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Boththese stories were based on German legends. He is very highly acclaimed forthese two children’s stories.
Irving wrote many good selections. Despite thisfact, some say Irving could be seen as a lesser man than his predecessors. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “He lacked the religious intensity ofMather, the versatility of Franklin, the statesmanship of Jefferson, or thededication of Paine. Yet he outlives them all in the history of Americanletters”(649). Others see him as the first real American poet. Everyone sawhim as such a great poet because of The SketchBook.
Everyone was reading it inthat time. It was all the rage. This book established Irving as a talentedwriter , one whose elegant good taste seemed to come instinctively. While he wasmaking Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York, he was interrupted by thesudden death of Matilda Hoffman, Ogden Hoffman’s daughter. It caused him muchgrief, but after a while, he learned how to live with it. For some years afterthe success of his book, his life seemed to him more or less aimless.
Duringthese years he turned to variety of pursuits. He primed an American edition ofThomas Campbell’s poems, edited the Analectic Magazine and acquired acolonelship during the war of 1812. The Romantic sonnet holds in its topics theideals of the time period, concentrating on emotion, nature, and the expressionof “nothing. ” The Romantic era was one that focused on the commonalityof humankind and, while using emotion and nature, the poets and their works shedlight on people’s universal natures. In Charlotte Smith’s “Sonnet XII -Written on the Sea Shore,” the speaker of the poem embodies two importantaspects of Romantic work in relating his or her personal feelings and emotionsand also in having a focused and detailed natural setting. The speaker takes hisor her “solitary seat” near the shore of a stormy sea and reflectsupon life and the “wild gloomy scene” that suits the “mournfultemper” of his or her soul (ll.
4, 7,8). While much Romantic writing dealtwith love and the struggles endured due to love, there was also emphasis placedon isolation, as seen in the emotions of Smith’s speaker and also in the settingon the work. Nature, in many Romantic sonnets, is in direct parallel with theemotions being conveyed. Smith, for example, uses the water to aid the reader’scomprehension of the speaker’s state of mind. Included in this traditionalnatural setting is the use of the sea as stormy, deep, extensive, and dark whichties the speaker in with the setting as the scene applies to the tone of thepoem as well. Also characteristic of the Romantic sonnet is the retreat from theneo-classical age and its significant historical references into a new age whereit becomes common to speak of “nothing.
” In William Wordsworth’s”Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,” there is no deeper meaning to begrasped other than the beauty of the day’s dawning. The speaker’s view of themorning and its “majesty” and the “calm” that comes over thespeaker are central ideas in the poem (ll. 3, 11). In this sonnet, it is againapparent how influential and prevalent nature is.