Romanticism the zenith of the Romantic Age, the

Romanticism was a significant literary movement that greatly influenced Europe, the United States, and Latin America from the late 1700s to mid 1800s. Romantic artists challenged the rational ideals held so tightly during the Enlightenment while celebrating the imagination and intuition of the individual. Two prominent writers of this period, Mary Shelley (1797-1851)  and Jane Austen (1775-1817), are widely known for their writings that greatly influenced literature and conventional society. Despite both contemporary literary figures having lived during the zenith of the Romantic Age, the writings of Austen and Shelly are intrinsically different in regards to literary influences, genre, and style.Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in London, England on August 30, 1797 to philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, both of which were notable writers during the 17th century. Her father’s noted writings examined societal class and the abuse of power by the established upper class, while Mary Wollstonecraft, her mother, was a prominent writer who expressed her strong feminist views in her famous work A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). Mary Shelley never knew her mother, for Mary Wollstonecraft died of complications four weeks after giving birth to Shelley, and her father remarried when the young Mary was four years old.Mary’s auspicious father, who often engaged with various learned figures in their home all through her childhood years, ensured that Shelley was provided an education. Mary grew up an insatiable reader, and often borrowed literature from her father’s extensive library. The influence of Shelley’s unique childhood environment cannot be understated, as a constant stream of writers allowed Mary Shelley to experience firsthand the creative process. It was at home that Mary developed into a literary enthusiast, following in the family tradition of writers and thinkers. Unfortunately, all of Mary’s juvenilia was lost when she ran off with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1814, and none of her surviving manuscripts can be definitively dated before that year. It was in November of 1816 that Fanny, Mary’s half-sister, killed herself, and merely weeks later, in December, Shelley’s first wife Harriet also committed suicide. Percy and Mary were quickly married in St. Mildred’s Church in London on December 30, 1816, within two weeks after Harriet’s death. Percy Shelley enthusiastically encouraged Mary Shelley’s writing: “My husband was, from the first, very anxious that I should prove myself worthy of my parentage, and enroll myself on the page of fame. He was forever inciting me to obtain literary reputation.” While Mary seemed devoted to her husband, she did not have the easiest marriage. Their union was riddled with adultery and heartache, including the death of two more of their children. Born in 1819, their son, Percy Florence, was the only child to live to adulthood. Mary’s life was rocked by another tragedy in 1822 when her husband drowned in a sailing accident.Made a widow at age 24, Mary Shelley worked hard to support herself and her son. In addition to Frankenstein, she wrote several more novels, including Valperga and the science fiction tale The Last Man (1826). She also devoted herself to promoting her husband’s poetry and preserving his place in literary history.Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in the Hampshire village of Steventon, where her father, the Reverend George Austen, served as the Oxford-educated rector for a nearby Anglican parish. She was the second daughter and seventh child in a family of eight—six boys and two girls. Jane Austen’s mother, Cassandra, was a woman of ready wit, famed for her impromptu verses and stories, which undoubtedly influenced the clever tone incorporated into many of Jane Austen’s writings. Jane Austen’s lively and affectionate family was close and encouraged a love of learning and creative thinking, providing a stimulating context for her writing. Much like Shelley, Jane Austen was primarily educated at home, benefiting from her father’s extensive library and the academic atmosphere created by her father. Despite many of Austen’s novels being deeply concerned with love and marriage, Jane never married herself.In the 1790s, during her adolescence, Jane Austen wrote a large body of material that has survived in three manuscript notebooks: Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third, all of which contain prose such as plays, verses, and short novels. These writings unveiled her wit and dislike of sensibility, or romantic hysteria, a distinct perspective that would eventually characterize much of her later writing, influenced by both her education and close-knit family. In her six major novels (1811-1818) —Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion—Austen created the comedy of manners concerning the middle-class life in the England of her time. Despite this, Austen was never publicly acknowledged as a writer while she was alive. Her writings often explore women’s dependence on marriage in order to secure favorable social status and economic certainty, themes of which are a reflection of the social constructs of the period. Austen’s pieces often critique the novels of sensibility that pervaded the second half of the 18th century and helped usher in  the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Furthermore, her use of biting irony, along with her realism and social commentary, have earned her acclaim among critics and scholars.During Austen’s career, Romanticism reached its height of approval and impact, but she abandoned the principles of the movement. The romantics adulated the power of emotion, whereas Austen upheld the authority of the logical reasoning. Romanticism advocated the abandonment of restraint; Austen was a staunch believer in order and discipline. The romantics saw in nature a transcendental power to stimulate men to better the existing order of things, which they saw as essentially tragic in its existing state. Austen supported traditional values and the established norms and viewed the human condition in the comic spirit. The romantics exuberantly celebrated natural beauty, but Austen’s dramatic technique decreed sparse description of setting, as the beauties of nature are seldom detailed in her work.Just as Austen’s works display little evidence of the Romantic movement, they also reveal no awareness of the international upheavals and consequent turmoil in England that took place during her lifetime. It should be noted, however, that tumultuous affairs in her day did not significantly affect the daily lives of middle-class provincial families. The ranks of the military were recruited from the lower orders of the populace, leaving gentlemen to purchase a commission, the way Wickham does in the Pride and Prejudice, and thereby become officers.One literary offshoot of Romanticism is Gothic horror, which shares many characteristics with that wider movement. Essentially, Gothic horror functions as an extension of the Romantic notion of literary pleasure, that literature should inspire deeply felt emotional responses. Literature of the Gothic genre is widely considered to be a reaction to the “Age of Reason,” a movement in 18th-century British and European art and politics that stressed the power of the human mind above all. Empowered by an unchecked faith in humanity, people set out to reshape society, examples of which can be observed in the eruption the American and French Revolutions, as well as the Industrial Revolution. The Gothic novelists aimed to represent the dark side that accompanied this age of apparent human progress. In the most general terms, Gothic literature can be defined as writing that employs dark and picturesque scenery, startling and melodramatic narrative devices, and an overall atmosphere of exoticism, mystery, and dread.Mary Shelley’s works incorporate multiple aspects of Romantic Literature into her writing, including a concern with nature, human feelings, compassion for mankind, freedom of the individual and Romantic hero, and rebellion against society. However, her writing is intrinsically gothic, influenced by the grim tragedies that plagued Shelley’s childhood and adult life. Shelley’s tumultuous relationship with her husband, as well as the recurring deaths that characterized her life clearly impacted the darker themes and tones incorporated throughout her works.No other literary period consisted of more variety in style, theme, and content than the Romantic Movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is evident in the writings of Mary Shelley and Jane Austen, both notable writers who were raised in England during the early 1800’s. Jane Austen, known for her vivid -and often comic- depictions of English middle-class life during the early 19th century was influenced by her family’s love of learning and wit, as well as the conventional depictions of “sensibility” and marriage during the 1800s. Quite the contrary, Mary Shelley’s writing was influenced by her disastrous experiences and her father’s philosophical train of thought. Shelley utilized eloquent, creative narrative and figurative language to convey a darker, more horrifying literary style.