September 28th, 2004

English Romantics - Explaining Postmodernism

I'm still reading Stephen Hicks' very engaging Explaining Postmodernism.  I have a question about a small thing on page 68.  He writes: "The English Romantics, most famously, were among the first to turn to Germany for philosophical and literary inspiration.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, for example, spent time in Germany for that purpose."

Coleridge and Wordsworth did indeed travel to Germany, along with Wordsworth's sister, in September of 1798.  But Wordsworth seems to have had a miserable time there, spending a very cold winter in a remote German village, and then coming back to England with his sister, leaving Coleridge behind to study some more. 

Coleridge was unquestionably deeply influenced by German philosophy and literature. He translated a play of Schiller's and explained Kant's ideas in lectures.  He was into this stuff.

But was Wordsworth so influenced?  That Wordsworth displays some counter-enlightenment ideas is manifest.  I'm just wondering about the lineage.  Usually I've heard Rousseau mentioned as a big indirect influence.  You see, Wordsworth traveled quite a bit in France and had been caught up in the spirit of the Revolution for a while.

Coleridge and Wordsworth were extremely close friends for a number of years, so it would be reasonable to hypothesize that Coleridge had transmitted German ideas to Wordsworth.  But I haven't yet seen good evidence as to this point. 

Some sources indicate that the biggest philosophical influence on Wordsworth was David Hartley, an advocate of associationist psychology.

None of this is critical to Stephen Hicks' excellent book.  I am not certain of my ground.  It just has me wondering.

Rhyme of the Day:

I'm not sure Wordsworth's sermons
Show the influence of Germans.