While the Romantic period in English-language literature has generally been defined to run from 1790 to 1830, a subset of Romantic writers and thinkers lived well beyond that conventional cut-off. These authors explicitly organised their texts around a shared sense of belatedness, productively translating their melancholy into attempts at preserving the legacy of Romanticism: they revisited outmoded forms of writing and used these to adapt the Romantic ideal of cosmopolitanism to a new context, rife with conservative and protectionist responses to the drastic changes that industrialisation and globalisation had introduced to British society and culture. In so doing, these writers reinvented Romanticism, forming their own movement of late Romanticism.
This project is the first to embark on a study of the late Romantics as a distinct movement. This research is crucial to our understanding of past and present for three reasons. First, in developing lateness as a theoretical and historical concept, I aim to show that late Romanticism was a coherent, original, and international phenomenon. Second, I will demonstrate that these texts require a new way of reading, which combines an analysis of the late text’s genre with an examination of its production and distribution. Finally, I will show that the late Romantics are especially relevant today, in a new age of nationalist reactions to rapid change.