Romanticism and the historical novel

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI:
Romanticism and the historical novel

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Despite much discussion concerning the nature and purpose of Romanticism both at the time and afterwards, it took to the historical novel in a surge during the later 1810s and 1820s—partly under the influence of German origins, and partly due to the popularity of Scott’s novels. Nevertheless, Romanticism and the historical novel were two different phenomena. Sooner or later the latter would have to free itself from the former. The many contradictions in Romanticism passed into the historical novel. Strong interest in medieval themes, particularly where medieval liberties were contrasted with modern absolutism, represented one element; the influence of the French Revolution, early liberalism, and nationalism, other elements. Medieval historians such as Thierry acknowledged the influence of Scott. Balzac contrasted local Catholic resistance to Paris Revolutionaries in ‘Les Chouans’, again setting fictional characters in first place. Vigny and Mérimée, by contrast, placed historical characters at the centre of the action. Dumas developed the romance element in the historical novel and gained a wide and lasting popular audience through his entertaining writing and plots. Hugo and Dickens observed French and English mobs with a mixture of artistic delight and social revulsion.

Keywords: medievalism; Romantics; Neo-Classicism; liberalism; nationalism; Catholicism; revolution; rebellion; violence

Chapter.  13959 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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