The Romantic Revolution, By Tim Blanning


The pan-European sweep of this concise, absorbing study takes the reader far beyond the familiar home-grown poets.

We learn that Byron brusquely opted out of the romantic obsession with imagination ("an Irish peasant with a little whisky in his head will imagine and invent more than would furnish forth a modern poem") but Goya, who "allowed his rational facilities to fall asleep and... has gone inside himself to explore his subconscious mind", fits the bill perfectly.

Noting that Wagner's Ring "presents the most radical and thoroughgoing critique of the modern world attempted by a romantic", but Mary Shelley found the spectacle of Germans kissing to be "hideous", Blanning turns our preconceptions upside-down.