‘Revolting Language: British Romantics in an Age of Revolution,’

in Revolutionary Romanticism, Ed. by Max Blechman, A Drunken Boat Anthology (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1999) , pp. 65-82.

The essay I was asked to write for this book is one of 15 that draw in their different ways on ‘almost two centuries of intertwined traditions of cultural and political subversion’ in the history of Europe to develop their arguments. I argue  how the work of the younger generation of British Romantic poets Keats, Shelley and Byron is inconceivable without first looking at the key aims of Wordsworth, the poet whose first-hand 1790s experience of political revolution in France and then political reaction in England created a body of work to which they responded.

The impact of Coleridge on Wordsworth is also discussed. As is the fact that it wasn’t until the mid-Victorians in the 1860s started calling all of these writers ‘romantic poets’ that the now commonplace phrase, began to be used. Broadly speaking, following Wordsworth’s lead, all of the other poets began using more demotic or everyday forms of language to convey (or rather ‘express’, a better word for the kind of shifts in literary language use taking place from around 1800 onward) their deeply felt and new social convictions about the world. Much of this later and more direct school of writing – denigrated as ‘Cockney’ – was attacked by the literary establishment of the day, hence the title of my (relatively brief) essay. If you want to read a compact but serious account of the cultural politics of the British Romantic Poets (fully noted), this could be for you.

At the time of writing this title may be obtained from Amazon at:

At the time of writing this title may be obtained from Amazon at: