‘Hands full of employment, and a head not above it’
: Romantic writers and mass education

  • Joseph Hutcheon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The aim of this thesis is to examine the educational experiences, theories and influence of four key writers in the Romantic era (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt and De Quincey).

I begin by outlining the main developments in contemporary educational theories from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries, and explore the impact of these developments on the educational ideas of the relevant writers. I look in particular at the educational writings of Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Catherine Macaulay Graham, Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth, and Hannah More. I consider some key controversies that arose during this period, such as home versus school tuition, the appropriate education for girls, and children’s reading of fairy and ghost stories. In this chapter I also look at the growth of the Dissenting Academies, which attempted to put some of the more progressive ideas on education into practice, and at the rival ‘monitorial’ systems of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster.

In the chapters on individual writers, I look at their own educational experiences, the theories they developed on education, and the type of education they chose for their own children. I also consider how, for these writers, educational theory and practice coincided or differed, and to what extent their reputations as ‘radicals’ or ‘conservatives’ are mirrored in their ideas about education.

In the final chapter I examine the ‘afterlives’ of these writers in education, in particular their influence on Victorian educational reformers, focusing on John Stuart Mill and Matthew Arnold. I look at the development of private and commercial academies, which to some extent replaced the Dissenting Academies as an alternative to grammar and public schools. This chapter also covers the controversy around ‘payment by results’, which divided Mill and Arnold.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorRalph R G Pite (Supervisor) & Stephen H Cheeke (Supervisor)

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