chapter  3
Romantic Literature and Childhood
WithJonathan Cook
Pages 20

A combination of social and ideological change gave peculiar prominence to the subject of childhood in late eighteenth-century England. The material basis for the new culture of childhood lay in the accumulation of wealth from commerce and agriculture, wealth which created opportunities for the kind of privacy and leisure which allowed parents to pay close attention to the needs and potentials of their children. The culture of childhood was by no means homogeneous in its assumptions and ideas. The chapter looks at the way two romantic writers, Blake and William Wordsworth, respond to the challenges posed by the subject of childhood. Blake’s concern with repression is central to aspect of the representation of childhood in the ‘Songs’. Like Blake, Wordworth found in childhood a medium for registering and valuing social change, and, at an abstract level, the figure of the child indicates parallel concerns in both writers.