Romantic Literary Criticism

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I want to have an overview grasp of the Romantic poets, in particular Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, and Shelly. Would you please recommend some books of criticism to read?

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For a general overview of English Romanticism, and the individual contributions of the four poets you mention, the best place to start is the introduction to a well-edited anthology of their work. The best available is Duncan Wu's Romanticism: An Anthology (Blackwell, 2012), which contains a comprehensive and insightful introduction, as well as a large selection of the poems.

Tim Blanning's book, The Romantic Revolution (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012) is an excellent and fairly brief introduction to the Romantic Movement. Given that you are principally interested in the English poets, you may find it too broad in scope (since Blanning includes music and art, as well as literature). However, there is good coverage of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and their philosophical contributions to Romanticism.

Wordsworth and Coleridge themselves expounded their opinions on poetry and their revolutionary approaches to it. The best primary sources are Wordsworth's preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads and Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, particularly the chapters in which he discusses the difference between his own views and those of Wordsworth.

For the second wave of Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley, there are several excellent literary biographies. Nicholas's Roe's John Keats (Yale, 2012) and Richard Holmes's Shelley: The Pursuit (Harper Perennial, 2005) are both magisterial and very well-written, though also, particularly in the latter case, very long. Both focus extensively on literary criticism and analysis as well as on the poets' lives. Holmes also wrote extensively about the other Romantics, particularly Coleridge, and all his many books are worth reading or consulting. You might also look at the Penguin Classics anthology of Keats's letters (Penguin, 2014), which has an insightful introduction by John Barnard.

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