Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader

Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader

Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader

Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader


Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader presents an anthology of the key texts that both defined the debate over the French Revolution during the 1790s and influenced the Romantic authors.
  • Presents readings chronologically to allow readers to experience the unfolding of the debate as it occurred in the 1790s
  • Provides an accessible and in-depth sampling of the major contributors to the Revolution debate, from Price, Burke, and Paine to Wollstonecraft and Godwin


Writing to Byron on 6 September 1816, Percy Shelley referred to ‘the master theme of the epoch in which we live – the French Revolution’. British literature and culture of the Romantic period are steeped in the discourse generated by the Revolution. This anthology focuses on the first wave of writing in the Revolution controversy, up to and including Godwin’s Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793). These texts were crucial to the development and democratization of political debate, not only in terms of their arguments as such, but also in that they released into the culture of politics more generally a series of metaphors and phrases – like Burke’s image of revolutionary Don Quixotes (p. 22 below), which would be turned so memorably against him (see front cover and pp. 75, 98). Such tropes were endlessly revisited, argued over, and recast in subsequent texts, opening up political discourse to a much wider audience. Even Godwin’s book, despite its elevated manner and price, was widely debated in radical meetings, and its principles were disseminated at popular lectures by radical leaders such as John Thelwall. Paradoxically, radicals themselves recognized the importance of Burke’s attack on the Revolution in stimulating public debate. A wave of popular conservatism could even be said to have had the unintended consequence of transforming the political culture which it meant to preserve from innovation.

All the texts represented here bear the mark of the powerful jolt given to European political consciousness by the French Revolution of 1789 – not just the iconic event of the fall of the Bastille, but also the rush of developments that increasingly radicalized

The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. by Frederick L. Jones, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), I, 504.

The Politics of English Jacobinism: Writings of John Thelwall, ed. by Gregory Claeys (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), pp. xxvii–xxx.

See Kevin Gilmartin, Writing against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790–1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.