Romanticism Twitter study guide

Hey guys! As one of the tweeters for this period I’ve put together a study guide on the website Padlet using the tweets of my fellow classmates and I. The study guide opens up with the beginning of the Romanticism period and the start of the French revolution in 1789 and ends with the rise of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837. The guide splits off into two sections: the history of this literary period and the literary elements of it. Enjoy!

Link into it  here!

Preceding Reputations


In The Country Wife by William Wycherley and The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope we see a lot about their reputations. During the Restoration Period, the people deeply valued their reputation but especially the woman. Their reputations seem to be more important to them than most things, including their virginity, and sometimes their family. The women care a great deal about their looks and what people will think of them. In these two pieces in literature we see it very clearly how important these things are to them. Not all of the characters in these pieces feel this way, but predominately this is the case.

In The Country Wife woman are seen as sexual objects, they have no individual thoughts. The men are superior and the woman are just there for the men. The men will only marry woman so they can show them off and build their own reputation or they do not marry at all. “Pinchwife: ‘Tis my maxim. He’s a Fool that marries, but he’s greater that does not marry a Fool. What is wit in a Wife good for but not to make a Man a Cuckold?’” (Wycherley, pg. 7). Wycherley is portraying woman as someone who will eventually cheat. A man wants a “dumb” woman because the smart ones will find someone better. Instead of the men wanting a smart woman to be able to brag about, they would rather just walk around with them on their arms to build their ego.

Wycherley has the characters in The Country Wife use their reputation for their own power. Because they need to keep their reputation they become very sneaky. They become sneaky mostly when it comes to adultery. This is interesting to me because instead of not cheating on their husbands, they just make sure no one knows. They don’t care about hurting their loved ones just making sure no one knows they are doing so. The men are so frightened over the thought of being cheated on, because they don’t want other men to look at them rather than their loves sleeping with someone else. Wycherley uses the word Cuckold, which is a man who has been cheated on, many times and shows the fear that the men have of it. “Pinchwife: . . . A Cuckold is a kind of a wild Beast.” (Wycherley, pg. 65), they are disgusted in them and think the man is lesser.

In The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Belinda’s reputation is something that she was trying so hard to keep in tact, but unfortunately couldn’t. Throughout this piece Pope demonstrates how woman exaggerate and make small events into something larger. He does in the letter to Mrs. Arabella Fermor in the beginning and throughout the story as well. He says, “Let an Action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost Importance” (Pope, pg.69). According to Pope, it is the end of the world then things go wrong in a woman’s life. He throws digs at woman throughout the whole piece, whether it be about their reputation and or beauty. Pope states a very negative view of woman’s problems, like their issues are less than a mans. Woman at this time didn’t have much rights, so they were looked at as inferior to men. “Or some frail China jar receive a Flaw, / Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade, / Forget her Pray’rs, or miss a Masquerade, / Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball” (Pope, pg 76), he is saying that these little things would be blown up into a major crisis. The woman would not want to be seen out or have people know if these things were to happen to them. But then again who would, everyone is just trying to be liked in society, then and now. But again, he is try to throw subtle digs at woman.

The reputations that the woman of The Rape of the Lock is different from The Country Wife because they care more about their looks. Pope makes it so that Belinda would rather have sex with someone than have her hair be cut. She wanted Baron to sleep with her because less people would know of that rather than have her lock cut off.

In both of these pieces the importance of the character’s reputations was clearly stated, in different ways. The importance of reputation is still very present in today’s society and literature. But the emphasis of it during the Restoration period is much larger.

Johnathan Swift wrote a poem The Lady’s Dressing Room, where he exposed woman for being human. I thought this was interesting to read after reading The Rape of the Lock, because I believe it goes hand and hand. In The Rape of a Lock woman are said to over exaggerate everything, but Swift seems to over exaggerate as well. He says how disgusting woman are but they are just as disgusting as men are. Lady Mary Montague put him back in his place, but it’s the fact that he thought woman were un-human. Woman put themselves together to build their reputation, they put all that makeup on to make themselves look better in the eyes of others. This is also still very present in today’s society; women are still getting themselves done up.

No one wants a bad reputation, people want to be liked by their colleagues. But to go to the extent that some of these characters go through seems far fetched. Whether people want a good reputation for business or just for the people in their lives it is very important. During the restoration it seems critical to their lively-hood to have. Even in the higher power if someone had a bad reputation then others would follow that rather than create their own idea of them. both men and woman want good reputations, but in these works during the restoration period it seems like in some instances the writers are making it seem like it woman who care so much.giphy.gif



Wycherley, William. The Country Wife., 2013.

Pope, Alexander. The Rape Of The Lock.,

Religion Revival

On this site we are reminded of how the Founding Fathers separated Church and State, because they did not like the idea of those two “Intermingling”. The Second Great Awakening happened between the 1790s and 1830s, which was the revival of many different religions. This site then goes on to explain the religions that were being practiced.



“The Rights of Woman”: An Anti-Feminist Analysis

lady liberty
“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix

At first glance, “The Rights of Woman” seems to be a cry for female equality. Written in 1792 by
Anna Barbauld, the bulk of the poem beckons women to assert themselves in male dominated, Romantic Period England. Barbauld rips into the patriarchy of the era, calling man “treacherous”, and referring to them as women’s “imperial foe” (Barbauld, 18-19). “The Rights of Woman”’s initial stanzas aim to invokes a feeling of power and rebellion, urging women to take back the authority to rule over man.

Anna Barbauld

Despite these strong words, the poem closes with an ominous message, one that turns the previous feminist reading on its head. Barbauld’s final stanzas explain that cultivating love and trust between sexes will diminish a woman’s yearning for power. According to Barbauld, a woman’s appetite for vigorous action will fade with the warmth of a husband. If you slice away the last two stanzas of the poem, it can be viewed as a feminist text. However, with the final stanzas included, the poem takes on a strange, anti-feminist vibe.

For more on Anna Barbauld, see: Anna Lætitia Aikin Barbauld Bibliography

The Dissection: Close Readings of Important Passages

Stanza I, Lines 1-4
Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right!
Woman! too long degraded, scorned, opprest;
O born to rule in partial Law’s despite,
Resume thy native empire o’er the breast!
This opening stanza sets the stage for the poem. Barbauld addresses the “injured woman”, or the women who have been “degraded, scorned, opprest”. This speaks to the women of the Romantic Era, who were unable to receive the respect and authority that was organically given to men.  Barbauld says that women are “born to rule in partial Law’s despite”, meaning that they are capable of wielding power, placing them above man. The final line of the stanza, however, tells women to “resume thy native empire o’er the breast”. “Thy native empire” refers to the place where women naturally belong, and “o’er” the breast refers to the heart. This means that, while women have the power to rule, they rule predominately over their hearts. This is different than what one would expect a ruler to rule over; kings and queens are often associated with power kingdoms and countries, not power over emotions.
Stanza IV, Lines 13-16
Thy rights are empire: urge no meaner claim,—
Felt, not defined, and if debated, lost;
Like sacred mysteries, which withheld from fame,
Shunning discussion, are revered the most.
This passage solidifies the importance of women’s rights. It says that “thy rights are empire”, meaning they are of great importance. The language used here is also important, because it brings a focus toward what women should be striving toward: an empire. Barbauld tells women to “urge no meaner claim”, meaning that this goal is the meanest, or greatest thing they can ask of their oppressors. These rights are “felt” by women, but not defined. This means that women instinctually know that there is a need for equality, but the lines have never been drawn to create this equality.
In addition, she mentions that if these rights are debated, they will be lost. This can support the need for revolution seen in the first lines of the poem, which urge women to rise and take action rather than negotiate. In the last two lines, the tone changes a bit, becoming more abstract. Barbault relates women’s rights to “sacred mysteries”, as though they are something vital, but undiscovered. She notes that while they are not often talked about, they are revered, or greatly desired. In these ending lines, Barbauld may be pointing out that the discussion, or movement, toward the power and rights of women needs to be put at center-stage.
Stanza VII, Lines 25-28
But hope not, courted idol of mankind,
On this proud eminence secure to stay;
Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find
Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way.

At this point, the poem begins to shift. Barbauld notes that the “courted idol of mankind”, meaning women, will find “thy coldness soften, and thy pride give away”. The tone of the poem goes from one filled with vigor and ambition into one of vulnerability and defeat. The hoo-rah attitude in the beginning of the poem fades away. Even though women are “subduing”, they will eventually be “subdued”. Successfully rebelling against patriarchy is useless, their will to conquer cannot last.

Stanza VIII, Lines 29-32
Then, then, abandon each ambitious thought,
Conquest or rule thy heart shall feebly move,
In Nature’s school, by her soft maxims taught,
That separate rights are lost in mutual love.

This stanza follows the theme of the previous stanza, retracting the battlecry for Romantic women to take up arms. It is replaced with a request: that women “abandon each ambitious thought”, deconstructing the obelisk of rebellious desire, which is exactly what the previous stanzas built in their hearts. So what is causing this sudden change?

Men, of course.

In lines 31-32, Barbauld explains that due to mutual love, women will lose their lust for power in a male dominated society. Barbauld is basically saying that while women can be swayed away from revolution by the love of a man. All the ambition found in the previous stanzas goes to waste under the gaze of a tender man. This, she says, it part of “nature’s school”, which basically means that it is natural for females to lose their social aspirations when in love.

“The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain” by Richard Samuel

Final Thoughts

Barbauld has created a literary roller coaster with “The Rights of Woman”. Initially, we have a call to action for women to rise up against patriarchy. By the middle of the poem, the action rises. Barbauld pushes her ambitions for women even further, saying that women should not only be equals, but should also rule over their male counterparts. This attitude is then demolished by the final two stanzas, that basically say that a women’s natural role is to be a lover of man, not a lover of power. Once a woman saddles up and finds herself a husband, she naturally defaults into the housewife role, and her ambition to rule is swept away.

vindicationSo where is all this coming from? This poem came shortly after Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. By the title alone, one can see that “The Rights of Woman” is reactionary to Wollstonecraft’s novel. Wollstonecraft’s Vindication was known for its outspoken demand for equal education opportunities for women. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Barbauld’s poem conflict’s with that notion; in “The Rights of Woman”, she states that these dreams of equality become unimportant once a woman feels the love of a man. In her mind, it’s pointless to fill a woman with an impassioned, rebellious attitude when it will dissipate under the influence of romance.

View Works Cited


Ryan Jace French is an English student, blogger, and
fishing enthusiast attending Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH.  He can often be found weeping over his student debt while cooking Ramen noodles in the Belknap communal kitchen. Follow him on Twitter today: @RJaceFrench