The French revolution was an uprising in France that lasted from 1789-1799. The uprising was started for many different reasons but, was carried out by men like Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon came from a family of minor Nobility and started in the revolution as an artillery officer. He became a general at the age of 24 and was given command of the Army of Italy. The Revolution ended up over throwing the Monarchy at the time. For a time they formed a Republic but, when that failed, they ended creating a Dictatorship under Napoleon. Many of the ideas used in this dictatorship were spread to Western Europe and even other parts of the world. The revolution was strongly influenced by Liberal and Radical ideas that would end up helping to shape our modern day Democracies and Republics.
The French Revolution was occurring during a time where literature was focused more on the Sublime and the everyday man. Romanticism grew from the social changes caused by the French Revolution. The French Revolution was a rise of the lower class. These “everyday” people stood up and decided they wanted to have the same rights as the people they were being treated lesser than. This, along with other factors, cause the Romantics to stop looking for the rules governing nature and humans but rather to have direct interactions with nature. They also started treating people as unique individuals and wrote about them as such. The French Revolution also influenced writers to write about the Absolute Monarchy. Authors believed the Revolution caused a needed change in societies and the way the lower classes were being treated.
Authors like Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote about the everyday man along with the sublime. In Wordsworth’s poem Resolution and Independence he talks about meeting a leech collector. The idea of the everyday man and his individuality comes out in this poem but it also shows some of the poets egotistical sublime near the end. Using the everyday man to sort of make himself feel better about the fear of becoming a well known author and dying young. He even mentions Chatterton, a young poet who committed suicide. Wordsworth mentions how he always enjoyed life and was happy. At the end he says a phrase saying if he is ever alone or depressed he will think of how bad the leech collectors life is and perhaps appreciate his more. He also ignores the man more than he actually talks to him which suggests people may have still had a hard time treating lower class workers equally. Wordsworth makes suggestions that makes it seem like he thinks he is significantly better than the old man. Wordsworth is known for thinking the Author or poet is superior to everyone else and has a special talent that he mentioned in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads.
Coleridge wrote a poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner on a sailor who would be considered an everyday man. He also added the Gothic and mythical aspects to it as well. With the use of the sublime and the Gothic, Coleridge really covers a lot of the characteristics of a classic Romantic author. The poem doesn’t use as much of the sublime as Wordsworth does or some of the other popular poets but he does add some lines that are directly related to the sublime.
The French Revolution may not have been the longest or bloodiest war but, the literature and social changes it provoked has helped shape government and literature across the world. From starting a dictatorship to wanting to help the lower classes gain more power, the revolution touched people in countries like England to help influence poets and writers to support the lower classes to an extent as well. Though it didn’t completely change people’s opinions on classes in England, it did help start the movement to eventually help the British lower classes stand up for their rights as well.