Romantics Essay

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The Romantics and Their Contemporaries A n n a L e t i t i a Ba r b a u l d Note in several of the selections the combination of an easy, even comic, tone with graver issues: in The Mouse’s Petition, “liberty” and “freedom,” charged terms in the era (see Perspectives: The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy), and the contrast in Washing-Day between the subject of the “domestic Muse” and the formal invocations (“Come, Muse”), Latinate diction (“impervious,” “propitious”), and mythological and historical allusion (“Erebus,” “Guatimozin”). One might compare the memory of the childhood self that emerges in this context (58 ff.) with Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey. One might also ask students to compare Barbauld’s picture of, and distance from, “red-armed washers” (l. 14) with Wordsworth’s positioning of himself vis-à-vis those of a lower social class whom he encounters and the class considerations in the works included in Perspectives: The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy. Barbauld’s ameliorative view of the poor in To the Poor and at the close of The First Fire, in which she invokes the “assist[ance]” of “ye / On whose warm roofs the sun of plenty shines” so that they may “feel a glow beyond material fire” (ll. 79–81), as eighteenth-century sympathetic moralists urged, should likewise be compared to the social restructurings urged by the authors in that section and in Perspectives: The Wollstonecraft Controversy and the Rights of Women. Inscription for an Ice-House similarly juxtaposes tones and genres: playing “fair Pleasure” against “the giant” stern Winter, and asking the reader to see in the lightest delicacies (the frozen berries and “sugared hail”) the sublime power that has produced them. The lofty couplets of Eighteen Hundred and Eleven mix panorama and prophecy, personifications (“Luxury” and “Want”) with a roll-call of the

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