In 1798, the German critic and philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel ( 1772-1829) used the term romantisch to describe contemporary forms of artistic expression , relating it particularly to what he called "progressive universal poetry".
A new term is needed to define qualities in the arts which have never been given such prominence before . . . the fre e expression of imagination and association .
But what had happened in the forty years between Johnson and Schlegel to make such a difference in their attitudes? The Weste rn world had been shaken by two political revolution s, in America (1776) and France ( 1789), and by an industrial revolution which was beginning to erode the traditionally agrarian lives of many people.
New ways of living had to be reflected in new ways of thinking. Romanticism, for want of any better word, came to stand for this new experience of the world. The true Romantic was not an over-sensitive dreamer, but a heroic figure facing head-on the painful realities of his time - a f igure of genius.