Individualism and the Emotions
For most of this period, France was distinguished among nations for the personal freedom enjoyed by the individual and for a considerable amount of mutual tolerance. Private liberty was one of the most fundamental features of this society, as was the variety of thought and action that has attracted admiration ever since. This liberty was a recent acquisition, however, and needs explanation, because though France had had its Revolution, the institutions and many of the administrative methods of the ancien regime had not been shaken off. It was the romantic movement that finally entrenched the independence of the individual in an unassailable way, by greatly expanding the idea of what an individual was. The romantics were writers, and it was the influence of writers therefore that must explain the greatly increased sense of individuality that developed in this period. From the point of view of literary history, romanticism flourished mainly in the early nineteenth century, but its teachings were incorporated into virtually all subsequent thought.
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