chapter  I
THE SUBJECT DEFINED
Pages 23

To attempt at the outset a rigid definition of the word romanticism would be to anticipate the substance of this volume. To furnish an answer to the questionWhat is, or was, romanticism? or, at least, What is, or was, English romanticism?— is one of my main purposes herein, and the reader will be invited to examine a good many literary documents, and to do a certain amount of thinking, before he can form for himself any full and clear notion of the thing. Even then he will hardly find himself prepared to give a dictionary definition of romanticism. There are words which connote so much, which take up into themselves so much of the history of the human mind, that any compendious explanation of their meaning-any definition which is not, at the same time, a rather extended description-must serve little other end than to supply a convenient mark of identification. How can we define in a sentence words like renaissance, philistine, sentimentalism, transcendental, Bohemia, preraphaelite, impressionist, realistic? Definitio est negatio. It

may be possible to hit upon a form of words which will mark romanticism off from everything else-tell in a clause what it is not; but to add a positive content to the definition-to tell what romanticism is, will require a very different and more gradual process.*

Nevertheless a rough, working definition may be useful to start with. Romanticism, then, in the sense in which I shall commonly employ the word, means the reproduction in modern art or literature of the life and thought of the Middle Ages. Some other elements will have to be added to this definition, and some modifications of it will suggest themselves from time to time. It isg provisional, tentative, elastic, but will serve our turn till we are ready to substitute a better. I t is the definition which Heine gives in his brilliant little book on the Romantic School in Germany, f “ A ll the poetry of the Middle A ges/’ he adds, “ has a certain definite character, through which it differs from the poetry of the Greeks and Romans. In reference to this difference, the former is called Romantic, the latter Classic. These names, however, are mis-

p. 158.