Critical Overview

(Literary Movements for Students)

The writers who are now called “romantic” did not consider themselves to be part of a movement while they were writing. The term “romantic” was applied to them much later. At the time they were writing, their work received a mixed reception. Some works, like Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience were immediately praised, and others, such as Austen’s novels and Blake’s other work, did not receive recognition until long after their original publications.

As John R. Greenfield points out in his foreword in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, contemporaries of the romantic poets saw them “not as a monolithic movement all agreeing upon the basic premises of Romanticism, but as belonging to various schools with different orientations concerning taste, religion, and politics.” Greenfield also notes that much literary criticism was based not on the work in question but on the writer’s political stance; if the critic objected to a writer’s politics, he simply gave the writer a bad review. The critics divided the poets into various schools: a “radical circle” of Blake, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; the “Lake Poets,” including Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Robert Southey; the “Cockney School,” which included Keats and Leigh Hunt; and the “Satanic School” of Percy Shelley and Byron. The latter group received its name because of Byron’s...

(The entire section is 600 words.)