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Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader

Jon Mee (Editor), David Fallon (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3043-4
216 pages
February 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader (1444330438) cover image


Romanticism and Revolution: A Readerpresents an anthology of the key texts that both defined the debate over the French Revolution during the 1790s and influenced the Romantic authors.
  • Presents readings chronologically to allow readers to experience the unfolding of the debate as it occurred in the 1790s
  • Provides an accessible and in-depth sampling of the major contributors to the Revolution debate, from Price, Burke, and Paine to Wollstonecraft and Godwin 
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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements.

A Note on the Texts.


1. Richard Price, A Discourse on the Love of Our Country.

[What has the love of their country hitherto been among mankind?]

[A narrower interest must give way to a more extensive interest].

[Every degree of illumination … hastens the overthrow of priestcraft and tyranny].

[The principles of the Revolution].

[Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom and writers in its defence!]

2. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London relative to That Event.

[All the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction].

[The public declaration of a man much connected with literary caballers].

[The two principles of conservation and correction].

[The very idea of the fabrication of a new government, is enough to fill us with disgust and horror].

[Our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers].

[Their blow was aimed at an hand holding out graces, favours, and immunities].

[A profligate disregard of a dignity which they partake with others].

[The real rights of men].

[But the age of chivalry is gone. – That of sophisters, oeconomists, and calculators, has succeeded].

[The real tragedy of this triumphal day].

[We have not … lost the generosity and dignity of thinking of the fourteenth century].

[Society is indeed a contract].

[The political Men of Letters].

[We do not draw the moral lessons we might from history].

[By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little].

[Old establishments … are the results of various necessities and expediencies].

[Some popular general … shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself].

3. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke.


[I have not yet learned to twist my periods, nor … to disguise my sentiments].

[I perceive … that you have a mortal antipathy to reason].

[The champion of property, the adorer of the golden image which power has set up].

[Misery, to reach your heart, I perceive, must have its cap and bells].

[In reprobating Dr. Price's opinions you might have spared the man].

[The younger children have been sacrificed to the eldest son].

[The respect paid to rank and fortune damps every generous purpose of the soul].

[The spirit of romance and chivalry is in the wane; and reason will gain by its extinction].

[Reason at second-hand].

[This fear of God makes me reverence myself].

[The cold arguments of reason, that give no sex to virtue].

[What were the outrages of a day to these continual miseries?].

4. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution.

[The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave].

[Mr. Burke has set up a sort of political Adam, in whom all posterity are bound for ever].

[Mr. Burke does not attend to the distinction between men and principles].

[The Quixote age of chivalry nonsense is gone].

[Lay then the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity].

[We are now got at the origin of man, and at the origin of his rights].

[The natural rights of man … the civil rights of man].

[Governments must have arisen, either out of the people, or over the people].

[Titles are but nick-names … a sort of foppery in the human character which degrades it].

[Toleration is not the opposite of Intolerance, but is the counterfeit of it].

[The church with the state, a sort of mule animal].

Miscellaneous Chapter.


[In mixed Governments there is no responsibility].

[The Revolutions of America and France, are a renovation of the natural order of things].

[It is an age of Revolutions, in which every thing may be looked for].

5. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects.

To M. Talleyrand-Périgord, Late Bishop of Autun.

[The prevailing notion respecting a sexual character was subversive of morality].


[I shall disdain to cull my phrases or polish my style].

Chap. II The Prevailing Opinion of a Sexual Character Discussed.

[The grand end of their exertions should be to unfold their own faculties].

[To endeavour to reason love out of the world, would be to out Quixote Cervantes].

[Surely she has not an immortal soul who can loiter life away].

Chap. III The Same Subject Continued.

[It is time to effect a revolution in female manners].

Chap. IV Observations on the State of Degradation to Which Woman Is Reduced by Various Causes.

[Their senses are inflamed, and their understandings neglected].

Chap. V Animadversions on Some of the Writers Who Have Rendered Women Objects of Pity, Bordering on Contempt – Sect. i [Rousseau].

[Is it surprising that some of them hug their chains, and fawn like the spaniel?].

[Let us then … arrive at perfection of body].

Sect. ii [Dr. Fordyce's sermons].

[Why are girls to be told that they resemble angels; but to sink them below women?].

Chap. VI The Effect Which an Early Association of Ideas Has upon the Character.

Chap. VII Modesty. – Comprehensively Considered, and Not as a Sexual Virtue.

[Those women who have most improved their reason must have the most modesty].

Chap. VIII Morality Undermined by Sexual Notions of the Importance of a Good Reputation.

[If the honour of a woman … is safe, she may neglect every social duty].

[The two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other].

Chap. IX Of the Pernicious Effects Which Arise from the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society.

[How can a being be generous who has nothing of its own? or virtuous, who is not free?

[I really think that women ought to have representatives].

Chap. X Parental Affection.

Chap. XI Duty to Parents.

[They are prepared for the slavery of marriage].

Chap. XII On National Education.

[Morality, polluted in the national reservoir, sends off streams of vice].

Chap. XIII Some Instances of the Folly Which the Ignorance of Women Generates; with Concluding Reflections on the Moral Improvement That a Revolution in Female Manners Might Naturally Be Expected to Produce – Sect. ii.

[Sentimental jargon].

Sect. vi [Women at present are by ignorance rendered foolish or vicious].

[Let woman share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man].

6. Thomas Paine, Rights of Man. Part the Second. Combining Principle and Practice.



Chap. I Of Society and Civilization.

Chap. II Of the Origin of the Present Old Governments.

Chap. III Of the Old and New Systems of Government.


[Monarchy … is a scene of perpetual court cabal and intrigue].

Chap. IV Of Constitutions.

[Government … has of itself no rights; they are altogether duties].

[The bill of rights is more properly a bill of wrongs].

[The sepulchre of precedents].

[Europe may form but one great Republic].

Chap. V Ways and Means of Improving the Condition of Europe, Interspersed with Miscellaneous Observations.

[I have been an advocate for commerce, because I am a friend to its effects].

[When … we see age going to the workhouse and youth to the gallows, something must be wrong in the system of government].

[The aristocracy are … the drones, a seraglio of males].

[The plan is easy in practice].

[Active and passive revolutions].

[In what light religion appears to me].

[What pace the political summer may keep with the natural, no human foresight can determine].

7. William Godwin, An Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness.


Book I Of the Importance of Political Institutions – Chap. i Introduction.

Chap. ii History of Political Society.

Chap. iv Three Principal Causes of Moral Improvement Considered – I. Literature.

[Truth … must infallibly be struck out by the collision of mind with mind].

II. Education.

III. Political Justice.

Chap. vi Human Inventions Capable of Perpetual Improvement.

[Let us not look back].

Book II Principles of Society – Chap. i Introduction.

Chap. ii Of Justice.

Chap. iv Of the Equality of Mankind.

Chap. v Rights of Man.

[The impossibility by any compulsatory method of bringing men to uniformity of opinion].

Chap. vi Of the Exercise of Private Judgment.

[Punishment inevitably excites in the sufferer … a sense of injustice].

Book III – Chap. vii Of Forms of Government.

Book IV Miscellaneous Principles – Chap. ii Of Revolutions – Section I. Duties of a Citizen

Section II. Mode of Effecting Revolutions.

Section III. Of Political Associations.

[There is at present in the world a cold reserve that keeps man at a distance from man].

Section IV. Of the Species of Reform to Be Desired.

Chap. iv Of the Cultivation of Truth – Section II. Of Sincerity.

[A gradation in discovery and a progress in the improvement, which do not need to be assisted by the stratagems of their votaries].

Chap. v Of Free Will and Necessity.

[Mind is a topic of science].

[That in which the mind exercises its freedom, must be an act of the mind].

[So far as we act with liberty … our conduct is as independent of morality as it is of reason].

Book V Of Legislative and Executive Power – Chap. xiii Of the Aristocratical Character.

[The principle of aristocracy is founded in the extreme inequality of conditions].

[Is it sedition to enquire whether this state of things may not be exchanged for a better?].

Book VI Of Opinion Considered as a Subject of Political Institution – Chap. i General Effects of the Political Superintendence of Opinion.

Book VII Of Crimes and Punishments – Chap. i Limitations of the Doctrine of Punishment Which Result from the Principles of Morality.

[The abstract congruity of crime and punishment].

Book VIII Of Property – Chap. vii Of the Objection to This System from the Principle of Population.

8. William Godwin, Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness.

Preface to the Second Edition.

[No man can more fervently deprecate scenes of commotion and tumult, than the author of this book].

Book VIII Of Property – Chap. viii Appendix. Of Cooperation, Cohabitation and Marriage.

[Our judgement in favour of marriage].

Further Reading.


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Author Information

Jon Mee is Professor of Romanticism Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. He has also taught at the Australian National University, the University of Delhi, the University of Chicago and the University of Oxford.

David Fallon is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at St Anne's College, University of Oxford, UK. He is currently writing a book on William Blake, Myth, and Enlightenment.

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"This anthology is perfectly pitched to help students understand the ideas and debates that underpin literary Romanticism. The introduction is excellent and the headnotes and footnotes make the texts themselves far more accessible. This is a hugely useful text for any Romantic Period module."
Sharon Ruston, University of Salford

"Jon Mee and David Fallon's Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader is destined to become the first choice for those seeking to analyze the most important context for the emergence of English Romanticism. This work-given the care of its preparation, the concision of its informative introductions, and the greater depth of its entries-will delight students and teachers and should supplant past anthologies in classrooms at every level of instruction."
-Mark Lussier, Arizona State University

"Romanticism and Revolution offers a representative anthology of immediate British reactions to the epoch-making events taking place in late eighteenth-century France. Reflections on the Revolution meant debate over the Rights of Man - and Woman - as well as on the nature of Government, patriotism, social and political justice. This careful selection of passages from the most important texts allows modern readers to see the intense contemporary debate unfold, to consider the arguments and to trace the dialogues between different writers. Key players in the great Revolutionary Debate come alive for a modern readership through these memorable passages of highly distinctive prose and are set in context by the other extracts as well as through judicious editorial introductions and notes. Anyone keen to develop a real understanding of the political climate of the early 1790s will find this volume indispensable."
Fiona Stafford, Somerville College, University of Oxford

"An indispensable volume – in every way a worthy successor to Marilyn Butler's Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy. In Romanticism and Revolution, Mee and Fallon provide intelligent, representative, wide-ranging selections from Price, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and Godwin for a new generation of students and scholars. Due not least to the generosity of their selections, Mee and Fallon revitalize our understanding of – to name but a few contexts – Price's politics of Rational Dissent, Burke's affective rhetoric of the sentiments, both Wollstonecraft's attack on Burkean theatricality and her arguments for female education, Paine's levelling of political language, and Godwin's ideals of political utility and disinterestedness. As Mee and Fallon note, the Revolution controversy was a political battle fought with literary weapons: Romanticism and Revolution illuminates this vital affiliation throughout, emphasizing as it does the indissoluble links between the rhetoric of political argument and the politics of literary forms and strategies. Romanticism and Revolution forcefully reminds us of the centrality of the Revolution controversy both for the writers of the 1790s, writing as they were under the pressure of events at home and abroad, and for critics of Romanticism ever since, trying to make sense of the incontestable though often unwieldy connections between Romanticism and Revolution. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the heady mix of politics and literature that continues to constitute Romanticism."
Charles W Mahoney, University of Connecticut

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