AND PAULA R. FELDMAN
The sonnet was one of the leading poetic forms of the Romantic period, and many of the best-known poems of the period are sonnets, including Percy Bysshe Shelley's “Ozymandias, ” John Keats's “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer, ” and William Wordsworth's “Composed upon Westminster Bridge.” Most of the sonnets in this book appeared between 1789 and 1837, the traditional dates associated with British Romanticism. But, in order to place the Romantic-era sonnet within its broad and rich literary context, this selection spans the one hundred years from 1750 to 1850 and documents the sonnet revival from its beginning in the hands of Thomas Edwards and Charlotte Smith to its culmination in the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.This is a century of impressive and sustained achievement in one of the most challenging and enduring lyric forms in the English language.
The sonnet was a maturing form, growing into its majority as a staple of English poetry between 1750 and 1850, and the poets who practiced it then seem to have felt an obligation to make it something more than it had been. They drew on the strength of its tradition in full confidence that it would endure.The sonnet became, during this period, something uniquely suited for a new age of poetry, full of innovation, while not wholly divorcing itself from its origins in the Renaissance poetry of Italy and England. Indeed, this golden age of the sonnet is largely responsible for the qualities and eccentricities now commonly associated with the form.The sonnet was pervasive, appearing not only in individual books of poetry but also in periodicals, anthologies, annuals, gift books, and even novels. At the height of the sonnet's popularity it seemed that nearly everyone wrote them—women and men, the rich and the poor, rural and urban poets, established professional writers and those struggling to make a name for themselves.Their subject matter is