It was called the age of transition, because the drift of poetry of this period was towards Romanticism. It was the Romantic reaction, a rebellion against the classical domination. The “return to nature” is a name often given to one mode or feature of the Romantic reaction viz. the revival of the handling in poetry of subjects connected with external nature in a natural manner. Referring to this Romantic reaction Wyatt says: “Even while the fame of the classical poetry was at its height, the way was being prepared for its overthrow”.
Before Pope had reached the summit of his fame in the fourth decade of the century, James Thomson’s the Seasons (1730) had presented nature herself at first hand, not mere her conventional descriptions by poets who recommended her as a tonic to the town-weary, found a place once more in our literature, and was to find a larger one that at any earlier period.
Thomson’s The Seasons was the first noteworthy poem of the romantic revival; and the poems and poets increased steadily in number and importance till, in the age of Wordsworth and Scott, the spirit of romanticism dominated English literature more completely than Classicism had ever done. This Romantic Movement – (Victor Hugo says) liberalism in literature – is simply the expression of life as seen by imagination, rather than by prosaic “commonsense”, which was the central doctrine of English philosophy in the 18th century.
The Growth of Historical Research:
History appears late in English literature, for it presupposes a long apprenticeship of research and meditation. Like so many other things it was fostered in France, and it touched Scotland first. The general advance in knowledge and the research into national affairs which were the features of the 18th century culture quickly brought the study of history into prominence.
The historical school had a glorious leader in Gibbon, who was nearly, as much at home in the French language as he was in English.