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30 Great Myths about the Romantics


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xi Introduction xiii A Note on Monetary Values xxvii Myth 1 Romanticism began in 1798 1 Myth 2 English Romanticism was a reaction against the Enlightenment 8 Myth 3 The Romantics hated the sciences 17 Myth 4 The Romantics repudiated the Augustans, especially Pope and Dryden 29 Myth 5 The Romantic poets were misunderstood, solitary geniuses 40 Myth 6 Romantic poems were produced by spontaneous inspiration 49 Myth 7 Blake was mad 58 Myth 8 Blake wrote `Jerusalem' as an anthem to Englishness 66 Myth 9 Lyrical Ballads (1798) was designed to illustrate `the two cardinal points of poetry', using poems about everyday life and the supernatural 74 Myth 10 Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads was a manifesto for the Romantic revolution 82 Myth 11 Wordsworth had an incestuous relationship with his sister 90 Myth 12 Tory Wordsworth 98 Myth 13 The person from Porlock 108 Myth 14 Jane Austen had an incestuous relationship with her sister 115 Myth 15 The Keswick rapist 124 Myth 16 Byron had an affair with his sister 132 Myth 17 Byron was a great lover of women 140 Myth 18 Byron was a champion of democracy 149 Myth 19 Byron was a `noble warrior' who died fighting for Greek freedom 156 Myth 20 Shelley committed suicide by sailboat 166 Myth 21 Shelley's heart 175 Myth 22 Keats's `humble origins' 185 Myth 23 Keats was gay 193 Myth 24 Keats was killed by a review 203 Myth 25 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote Frankenstein 212 Myth 26 Women writers were an exploited underclass - unknown, unloved, and unpaid 220 Myth 27 The Romantics were atheists 232 Myth 28 The Romantics were counter-cultural drug users 242 Myth 29 The Romantics practised free love on principle 251 Myth 30 The Romantics were the rock stars of their day 261 Coda 270 Further Reading 277 Index 283

About the Author

Duncan Wu is Professor of English at GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, DC. He is the editorof Romanticism: An Anthology, 4th edition(WileyBlackwell, 2012), and the author of books about Romanticism,Wordsworth, and Hazlitt.


"Wu is not a scholar who trades in faddish or modish opinion, and as its title implies, this is by its very nature an exercise in controversy and debate. The book represents a triumph of individual scholarship over what is claimed as often flawed, albeit consensual, critical opinion. Wu's fluid, readable prose is accessible to all, and his extensive and subtle insights are a joy to read. This unique addition to the student bookshelf provides enjoyment and instruction simultaneously." Jane Moore, Cardiff University

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