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Romantic Atheism
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Romantic Atheism explores the links between English Romantic poetry and the first burst of outspoken atheism in Britain from the 1780s onwards. Martin Priestman examines the work of Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron and Keats in their most intellectually radical periods, establishing the depth of their engagement with such discourses, and in some cases their active participation. Equal attention is given to less canonical writers: such poet-intellectuals as Erasmus Darwin, Sir William Jones, Richard Payne Knight and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and controversialists including Holbach, Volney, Paine, Priestley, Godwin, Richard Carlile and Eliza Sharples (these last two in particular representing the close links between punishably outspoken atheism and radical working-class politics). Above all, the book conveys the excitement of Romantic atheism, whose dramatic appeals to new developments in politics, science and comparative mythology lend it a protean energy belied by the common and more recent conception of 'loss of faith'.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The atheism debate, 1780-1800; 2. Masters of the universe: Lucretius, Sir William Jones, Richard Payne Knight and Erasmus Darwin; 3. And did those feet? Blake in the 1790s; 4. The tribes of mind: the Coleridge circle in the 1790s; 5. Whatsoe'er is dim and vast: Wordsworth in the 1790s; 6. Temples of reason: atheist strategies, 1800-30; 7. Pretty paganism: the Shelley generation in the 1810s; Conclusion; Glossary of theological and other terms; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

Reviews

"Priestman's study adds the obvious but still overlooked and unquestionably important feature of atheism, especially as it gets expressed in the discourse of Romantic poetry. By addressing attacks (both oblique and direct) on conventional religion expressed in Romantic poetry, Priestman presents us with a study that is long overdue." Religion & Literature "...a very conscientious, diligent, helpful, even moving book. Readers who share his assumptions may consider it definative." North Dakota Quarterly

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