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A Half-Century of Greatness

The Creative Imagination of Europe, 1848-1884

Frederic Ewen, Jeffrey Wollock, Aaron Kramer

Publication Year: 2007

Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008

A Half-Century of Greatness paints a vivid and dramatic picture of the creative thought of mid- to late nineteenth century Europe and the influence of the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848. It reveals often unexpected links between novelists, poets, and philosophers from England, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Ukraine—especially Dickens, Carlyle, Mill, the Brontës, and George Eliot; Hegel, Strauss, Feuerbach, Marx, Engels, Wagner, and several German poets; the Hungarian poet Sándor Petöfi; Gogol, Dostoevsky, Bakunin, and Herzen in Russia, and the great Ukrainian poet Shevchenko. Ewen goes on to trace the transition from Romanticism to Victorianism, or what he calls “the Victorian compromise”—the ascendancy of the middle class.

The book was reconstructed and edited by Dr. Jeffrey Wollock from Ewen’s final manuscript. It includes the author's own reference citations throughout, a reconstructed bibliography, and an updated “further reading” list.

This is Ewen’s last work, the long-lost companion to his Heroic Imagination. Together, these books present a panorama of the social, political, and artistic aspects of European Romanticism, especially foreshadowing and complementing recent work on the relation of Marxism to romanticism. Anyone interested in what Lukacs called “Romantic anticapitalism,”; who appreciates such books as Marshall Berman's Adventures in Marxism or E.P. Thompson's The Romantics (1997), will find Ewen’s work a welcome addition.

Published by: NYU Press

Title page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Editor's Introduction

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pp. vii-xiv

The work presented here, never previously published, is the second and concluding part of Frederic Ewen's magnum opus on the Romantic period of European literature in its social and political context. It gives central emphasis to the crucial influence exercised by the 1848 revolution, and its failure, ...

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pp. xv-xviii

At the time, however, we hardly realized the uniqueness of our situation, assuming that every campus must have at least one Frederic Ewen. As for me, it was only later that the blessed subversiveness of my five Ewen semesters grew clear. America's English departments had long since fallen under the sway of the New Criticism ...

Part One England at the Great Divide: 1830 - 1848

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Chapter One The Battle for Reform

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pp. 3-12

Though Victoria did not come to the throne of England until 1837, the "Age of Victoria" - a term which was coined somewhat later - actually commenced in 1830, with the great struggles over the reform of Parliament. "Victorianism" has become a word of many colors and patches, dyed and cut to many patterns. ...

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Chapter Two The Battle for Minds and Secular Salvation "Utopia" and "Utility"

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pp. 13-19

What other Utopians dreamed of, Robert Owen, son of a Welsh saddlemaker, tried to make reality. Undoubtedly a man of genius, he was a combination of the visionary and the realist. He had been moulded in the crucible of hard personal experience, had by his own efforts succeeded, achieved affluence, and thereafter ...

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Chapter Three Thomas Carlyle: Out of the "Nay" into the "Everlasting Yea"

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pp. 20-41

Amidst the clamors of protest, adjuration, warning and counsel, and the turmoils accompanying popular agitation for reform, there was also one voice that forcefully penetrated to the ears of the generation of the 1830s and the 1840s. It was the voice of a Scotsman who in June 1834 settled in London, and established himself ...

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Chapter Four Charles Dickens: The Novel in "The Battle of Life"

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pp. 42-66

The year is 1833 - an embattled year, as we have seen, rampant with auguries, good and evil, for the state of England, battered by conflicting winds of doctrine and threats of violence, even though the Great Reform Bill had been passed the year before. Disenchantment was already setting in, as the greater mass of England's population ...

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Chapter Five John Stuart Mill: The Majesty of Reason

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pp. 67-94

It would no doubt have shocked those two remarkable Utilitarians, both religious sceptics - Jeremy Bentham and James Mill - if they had been told that the latter's brilliant son, John Stuart Mill, was being brought up like one of those Old Testament youths ultimately to be dedicated to the priesthood, or to a prophet's mission. ...

Part Two Russia: Dark Laughter and Siberia Nikolay Gogol and Young Dostoevsky

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Chapter One The Dark Laughter of Nikolay Gogol

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pp. 97-123

Strange are the anomalies that at times occur in what appears to be a predictable universe. Such, for example, as happened when Tsar Nicholas I of Russia extended his imperial permission for the production and performance of a comedy, The Inspector General, composed by Nikolay Gogol. The play opened at the ...

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Chapter Two Young Dostoevsky: The Road to Siberia

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pp. 124-156

No imperial lightning rods established by Tsar Nicholas I and his agents after the Decembrist uprising of 1825 were sufficiently effective to deflect the flow of new ideas or the mental unrest of a part of the younger generations. The powerful and populous armies of the Tsar, "the gendarme of Europe," might stand ready ...

Part Three Europe: Revolution 1848 - 1849

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Chapter One The Lightning of Ideas: Reason and Revolution 1835 - 1848

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pp. 159-209

While Britain was roaming the high seas, sending its goods and its culture far and wide - and from its factories, teeming treasures of linens, cottons and woollens, coal and iron - a revolution was taking place in Germany that was to shake the world as profoundly, though in an altogether different manner ...

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Chapter Two Revolution: 1848 - 1849

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pp. 210-255

For those who could read, hear, or see, there were auguries, portents, and forewarnings of an imminent explosion. They were there in the writings of journalists, in the speeches of politicians and statesmen, but most unmistakably in the actions and faces of men, women, and children. The "Hungry Forties" spoke out more ...

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Chapter Three The Lyre and the Sword: Art and Revolution

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pp. 256-326

July 31, 1849. This was the day on which Sándor Petöfi, Hungary's uncrowned poetlaureate, was last seen alive. He fell at the battle of Segesvár, a soldier in General Bem’s armies, during the disastrous defeat at the hands of the Russians. His body was never recovered. But his cenotaph, aside from the innumerable physical ...

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Part Four Swan Song and Elegy: Germany and the Poets

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pp. 327-372

Rarely had the Zeitgeist - the Spirit of the Age - revealed such coherence of feeling and thought, such a sense of participation in momentous historical experiences. That the events of 1848 and 1849 formed a sharp dividing line between past, present, and future seemed apparent to all, whether they shared exultations, ...

Part Five England: Crystal Palace and Bleak House

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Chapter One The March of Empire and the Victorian Conscience

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pp. 375-389

There it stood - unreal, yet true - the unbelievable, the mighty structure of steel and glass, spreading its gigantic majesty over Hyde Park: England's Great Exhibition Hall, soon to be named Crystal Palace. On May 1, 1851 it was officially opened by the Queen, the Prince Consort in attendance. Actually it was the latter's ...

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Chapter Two The Novel and the Crisis of Conscience: The Brontës - The Caged Rebels of Haworth

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pp. 390-440

The village of Haworth, in Yorkshire, was in the early nineteenth century - to use the words of one of its visitors - a "dreary, black-looking village," defying, through a steep ascent of its roadway, the footing of a visitor. The street leading to the top was paved with flagstones, so placed that pedestrians, horses, ...

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Part Six Woman of Valor: George Eliot and the Victorians

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pp. 441-496

So Tennyson dreams in his early poetic career in the 1830s. If we, today, are the unfulfilled inheritors of those dreams, the heirs of those "titanic forces" as well as of untold anxieties and questings, it may, perhaps, do us good to look back, instead of forward—at least for the moment - say, a hundred years or so, ...


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pp. 497-520


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pp. 521-536


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pp. 537-569

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About the Author

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The late Professor Frederic Ewen was the author of The Prestige of Schiller in England, The Poetry and Prose of Heinrich Heine, Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art, and His Times, and Heroic Imagination: The Creative Genius of Europe from Waterloo (1815) to the Revolution of 1848. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814722800
E-ISBN-10: 0814722806
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814722367
Print-ISBN-10: 0814722369

Page Count: 600
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Europe -- History -- 1789-1900.
  • Europe -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
  • Romanticism -- Europe.
  • Europe -- History -- 1848-1849.
  • Revolutions -- Europe -- History -- 19th century.
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