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The word "romantic" came into common usage in English in the 18th century, by which time the connotations of the medieval romance had expanded to encompass a wide-ranging taste for the picturesque and the fanciful: the cult of sensibility (or sentiment} of the mid-18th century. The classically-mi nded Samuel Johnson (1709-84}, sceptical of the new tendency, defined "Romantick" in his Dictionary of 1755:

Resembling the tales or romances; wild, improbable; false; fanc1ful; full

"Romantic" had in fact been used since the Renaissance to suggest free expression of the imagination in the arts, but mainly in a negative sense. Romantic imaginings were thought to interfere with the clarity of the art form, and so lay beyond the bounds of proper subject-matter. The emerging Romantic spirit of 18th century England was seen by some as a revival of Elizabethan literature and its "Gothic" tendencies. English Romanticism has been described as a "renaissance of the Renaissance". 4

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