Documentary Script

Documentary Scripts by Alan Howarth

There are various approaches to producing a documentary script though broadly they sit between two poles, which I term the “Content First” and the “Researched Document”.

Sometimes the route an idea takes to screen is determined by events and sometimes by the producers view of events.

Documentary Script: Content First

The more immediate project often needs the content first – until you have the interviews and the footage there is no project, just an idea.

The footage leads the script; links and edits are the tools of choice.

Documentary Script: Researched Document

The researched script takes a background to foreground route – write the script then film it – with planned interview questions and a strict shooting schedule – archives and research are tools of choice here.

Documentary Script: Romantic Poets

This script about the Romantic Poets was obviously a ‘Researched Document’ but it demonstrates that academic research doesn’t have to be formal and stiff. This light hearted portrayal was written to demonstrate an accessible, entertaining approach to what would normally be deemed a ‘high brow’ subject.

It could be re-written, as one of a four or six parter about different literary epochs, alternatively I could re-write it as a six parter – one for each romantic poet.

Alternatively, just view it as a ‘calling card’ script.

*I know some students of the Romantic Movement find this page, often as a result of some quite obscure search strings; it only takes about 20 minutes to read through and it gives an alternative, but academically sound perspective, to some of the poets’ quirkier sides. Give it a read, let me know what you think, please.

LEICESTER SQUARE TUBE STATION EXIT

NEWS VENDOR (Presenter)
(Shouting – fade up audio)

Standard! Standard! Romantic Movement! – Scandal! Read all about it! Scandal! Get Your Standard! Standard!

CUT TO

LEICESTER SQUARE TUBE STATION EXIT – WIDE

Presenter walks towards the news vendor.

CUT TO

LEICESTER SQUARE TUBE STATION EXIT – CLOSE-UP PRESENTER

PRESENTER

Scandal? Romantic Movement? Hmmm Poets? I suppose it makes a change from politicians.

Presenter buys the paper

NEWS VENDOR
(Salutes casually)

Thanks Gov.

CUT TO

LEICESTER SQUARE – WIDE

We see our Presenter walk on reading paper and the news vendor in the background still pitching

NEWS VENDOR

Standard! Standard! Romantic Movement! – Scandal! Read all about it! Scandal! Get Your Standard!

CUT TO

LEICESTER SQUARE

PRESENTER

Romantic Poets? Sex? Drugs? Wild! Or what? This is nothing like the Poetry I studied at school?

CUT TO

OPENING TITLES

CUT TO

CLASSROOM – OLD FASHIONED (Hawkshead)

Presenter walks in as teacher, (cap, gown and cane) he goes to the front of the class of which he is also part.

PRESENTER – TEACHER
(Dull droning voice – enthusiastic only when telling off pupils)

Right! Tuesday! Second period! Time for Poetry! Now Pay Attention!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC)

Remember these dull dull lessons?

PRESENTER – TEACHER

William Blake was born in 1757 Listen boy! This is poetry!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC)

Show me the poetry! Show me the poetry!

PRESENTER – TEACHER

William Wordsworth was born in 1770 Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772. Pay attention! Wake up child!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC)

Child?

PRESENTER – TEACHER

Lord Byron was born in 1788 Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in 1792 John Keats was born in 1795 You need to know this laddie!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC)

You don’t! It’s not when – it’s how they lived – and the Romantic poets certainly lived.

PRESENTER – TEACHER

John Keats died in 1821 Percy Bysshe Shelley died in 1822 Is this boring boy? Look alert!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC) )

Exciting fascinating characters doing exciting fascinating things. Rebels with a cause.

PRESENTER – TEACHER

Lord Byron died in 1824 William Blake died in 1827 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died in 1834 YOU! Pay attention!

PRESENTER – PUPIL
(Confidential – TC) )

Pay attention? To this? C’mon I’ll show what it was all about.

Presenter (the pupil) gets up and walks out

PRESENTER – TEACHER

You get back in your seat, boy, Right report to the headmaster. Right now!

CUT TO

LEICESTER SQUARE

Presenter still reading paper – continued from opening scene as if without break

PRESENTER – TEACHER
(V.O.fading)

William Wordsworth died in 1850. William Blake was born in 1757 Presenter reads from newspaper occasionally looking to camera

PRESENTER

Says the Romantic Movement started in 1797

CUT TO

NETHER STOWEY

Presenter still reading the paper

PRESENTER

Like so many new directions in the arts Gilbert & Sullivan, Lennon & McCartney, Chas & Dave or Pearl & Dean it began with a partnership.

Presenter continues walking through the village

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Two hundred years ago it was the same with Poetry. We even know the exact time and place.

Presenter walks out of shot

DISOLVE TO

GREAT TRACK

Presenter walks into shot

PRESENTER

4-30 in the afternoon – 13th November – 1797 – here at The Great Track – Nether Stowey – Somerset – England.

Presenter starts walking (montage the next few lines)

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Coleridge and Wordsworth. They walk – 40 miles! They talk  – poetic philosophy? They write – a movement is born! They looked at what had gone before and said – let’s change this – let’s have poetry from the heart – Poetry of the people – by the people – for the people. They re-wrote the rules. Poetry would never be the same again.

CUT TO

BELL INN, WATCHET

We see Presenter walk to the Bell Inn

PRESENTER

They stopped here for the night, the Bell Inn, Watchet, Somerset An forgotten but seminal location for world literature.

Presenter enters

CUT TO

BELL INN, WATCHET – INT

We see Presenter enter, pick up a pint from the bar and take a seat.

PRESENTER

Here Coleridge began writing his Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.

VOICE OVER POET

It is an ancient mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

PRESENTER
(aside to poet)

Whoa, great poetry – but it’s very long and I’ve got a different tale to tell.

VOICE OVER POET
(stutters to a stop on next line)

The Bridegroom’s doors are open wide.

Presenter picks up his next pint – the empties are mounting up

PRESENTER

This is the right sort of place for poetry. But – Scandal? Anyway? Why Romantic Movement? Why here? Why then? What’s it all about?

CUT TO

EXPERTS

Tell about the social situation, the changing world, American independence. French Revolution I’ll give you the definition of the Romantic Movement WW and STC knew they were starting something new, they planned it, knew they would upset people.

CUT TO

BELL INN, WATCHET – INT

Another pint for Presenter

PRESENTER

These guys – Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron – they were the pop stars back then. . And they have lots in common with today’s pop stars too. .

CUT TO

TOP OF THE POPS PASTICHE

DJ – SMASHY/NICEY STYLE

They certainly do, mate. Like the Beatles in the 60’s, Punk in the 70’s, computers in the 80’s and rappers in the 90’s Wordsworth and his gang were the innovators in their time. And just as wild. They didn’t throw TV’s out of hotel windows, or park cars in swimming pools. But scandals came just as thick and fast.

(Alan Freeman style countdown)

Straight in at number 5 it’s Cockney John Keats and his hot new Nightingale Ode.
Lover Boy Byron’s She walks in beauty falls 2 to 4 – looks like lover boy’s not going all the way this time – is this the first time?
Into the top 3 and stuck at number 3 for the 2nd week – William Wordsworth with his juicy Lucy. Is living with three girls slowing the old boy down?
At 2 – up from last weeks number 10. Will he soar to that top spot with his Skylark? Swinging Shelley, he’s always up for a lark! Not’arf!
And still at number 1 for four weeks now – it can’t get any higher, but Sam Coleridge reckons he can – sail on you Ancient Mariner.
That’s it for this week poem pickers – all right – stay bright.
Till next time – keep in rhyme!

CUT TO

BELL INN, WATCHET – INT

PRESENTER

The people loved the romantic poets, when they published new poems fans went crazy, lined up all night at bookshops – Byron’s second book sold 8,000 copies in it’s first day. But – just like some modern day icons, Blake didn’t make it big until he was dead.

Presenter puts down another pint glass – one of several – we see him leave

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

CUT TO

BELL INN, WATCHET – EXT

Presenter walks out of the pub, stands by the doorway.

PRESENTER

Wordsworth said: “The child is father to the man.” So let’s see what influences were at work on these kids. William Blake was born first – we’ll start there.

CUT TO

LONDON – CARNABY ST

PRESENTER

Blake was born on 28th September 1757 here near Carnaby St London – also birthplace of the swinging sixties. At four – William saw his first vision “God’s face pressed against the window”. By nine he was seeing whole trees filled with angels. Blake was very close to Robert his youngest brother, they: “Delighted in each others company like lovers”. It’s said the word ‘lovers’ was not too strong! He left home at 14 – to learn the craft of engraving – and to see more visions.

CUT TO

WESTMINSTER ABBEY – EXTERNAL

PRESENTER

Working in Westminster Abbey he often saw Christ and the apostles walking up and down the aisle. He also saw the remains of Longshanks, King Edward the first – when his tomb was opened 500 years after his death.

CUT TO

WESTMINSTER ABBEY – EXT

PRESENTER

A bit weird?  Blake said the King’s face was like chocolate with fleshy eyeballs still moving in the sockets.

Bite’s cadbury’s flake

CUT TO

LAKE DISTRICT

We see Presenter skipping through flowers and long grass – frilly shirt – slow motion pastel dream

PRESENTER

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in 1770. He said his early life was a “Giddy Bliss”. But in reality he was a little bugger! Always in trouble.

Still running through grass camera pulls back to reveal him being chased by teacher – alt – stepping stones pull out to see two kids he’s pushed into the river

CUT TO

LAKE DISTRICT – HAWKESHEAD

PRESENTER

Then calamity – His mother died. His sister Dorothy went to live with an aunt. He was sent to Boarding school here in Hawkshead. At 13 his father died – the effect – He matured even more quickly – enjoying female company – he even took dancing lessons, strictly to increase his girl meeting opportunities.

CUT TO

LAKE DISTRICT – FIELD LOCATION

We see Presenter walk from woods to fields and stand by a dry stone wall.

PRESENTER

Walking these woods and fields he began to write his first poetry – and to explore his sexuality, he may well have had his first physical encounter behind this very wall.

SHEEP (V.O.)

Baaaa!
(Changes to orgasmic ba)

Presenter raises eyebrow

PRESENTER

Amazing how well some kids cope with tragedy, compared with our other heroes, young Wordsworth seems very well adjusted.

CUT TO

OTTERY ST MARY

Bridge and Riverbank walk

PRESENTER

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born October 1772 in Ottery St Mary Devon, the youngest of ten. Fighting his brother Frank, who had ‘crumbled his cheese’ young Sam thrust a knife into him, then frightened of his parent’s anger, ran away and spent a freezing October night sleeping on a riverbank.

CUT TO

SCHOOL – EXT

PRESENTER

At 8 his father died – Sam was sent to Blue Coat School, London. It was a strict, Spartan regime.

We see Presenter walk towards the school and peer in through a window.

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Caught crying on his first day a master shouted at him:

CUT TO

SCHOOL – INT

Presenter dressed as schoolmaster with cane and also as Coleridge bent over desk – cut between

VOICE OVER POET

Boy! The school is your father!

Boy! The school is your mother!

Boy! The school is your brother!

And your sister!

The school is your first cousin, your second cousin, and all your relations! Boy! Let’s have no more crying!’

CUT TO:

SCHOOL – EXT

Presenter turns away from the window and walks to camera

PRESENTER

At Blue Coats he was given opium – to ease his rheumatics – and his sore behind! He quickly become addicted. (ASIDE) To the opium not the caning! That Blue Coat School! Phew, pretty tough! Bet no one messed with his cheese though.

CUT TO:

BYRONESQUE LOCATIONS – POSSIBLY HARROW SCHOOL

PRESENTER

Young Byron had a poor start, with his father already dead and a moody and erratic mother who scolded and beat him – his only respite – their maid May Gray, who comforted and caressed him – often to a pleasurable climax. (ASIDE) Was this in her job description? In 1794 age 10 he became 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale when his grandfather was hit by a cannonball. He excelled at Harrow school. But without May Gray to lend a hand – fellow pupils provided sexual gratification. At 15, propositioned by a neighbour, Lord Ruthyn, Byron said: “I am the hunter not the hunted.” When he told his mother she flew into a jealous rage – it seems she had been bedding Lord Ruthyn herself. Byron said his youth was: “A turmoil of physical passions and desperate emotions” – he wasn’t joking.

CUT TO

KEATSISH LOCATIONS

PRESENTER

John Keats was a cockney, born in London. After his father died. Keats and his two brothers were sent to boarding school in the countryside – Enfield. His mother died soon after – Young John was distraught – hid under his school desk – refused to come out. He left school at 14 became an apprentice surgeon.

CUT TO

LONDON – ST MARY LE BOW

PRESENTER

John Keats – a Cockney poet? Gor-Blimey Guv’nor. Would you Adam and Eve it?

CUT TO

ETON

PRESENTER

Shelley was sent to boarding school aged

The other boys called him “A girl in boys clothing”. He couldn’t play schoolboy games –  marbles –  leapfrog and – – worst crime of all – he hated cricket!

Presenter is pelted with lots of cricket balls.

PRESENTER

At 14 he went to Eton. Back then Public Schools were places of “Bullying, riot, sodomy and occasional classical grammar”. Shelley only hated the first two. A curious friendship grew with Dr. Lind, the King’s doctor. He encouraged Shelley’s unorthodox behaviour. Shelley – Set himself on fire – intent on ‘raising the devil’. Shelley – Watched Saturn through a telescope – convinced aliens lived there. His fascination with chemistry, still linked to alchemy, was the final straw. His father said he was mad – wanted him committed. Dr. Lind said Shelley was ‘just growing up his own way’.

CUT TO

ETON – CRICKET GROUND/PAVILION

PRESENTER

An arsonist? – An alchemist? – Little green men? I wonder why they called him ‘Mad Shelley’?
OK – it’s out of short pants and goodbye childhood. But Poetry? – These kids? – Any kids? – Was it really the thing?

CUT TO

EXPERT

Comments about kids with guitars, dj’ing nowadays poetry was the cool thing back then, Links to current pop stars

CUT TO

CAMBRIDGE – VARIOUS LOCATIONS INC PUNT

PRESENTER

What’s next? Depends on your background – For the poor – get a job – for the rich – university? Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron came here to Cambridge. Wordsworth in 1787.

Presenter as sixties hippie-student with spliff & umbrella sits under the willows on the river bank

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Always a cool dude – dressed in style with an umbrella, the coolest fashion statement. When he discovered the joys of student life – Drinking and whoring – He rebelled against the conventional lifestyle. More important – when he met his sister Dorothy again after 9 years there was an: “instant buzz of attraction”. Revolution in France roused his passionate temperament. Fellow student, Robert Jones, got the physical benefit. They spent a summer walking through France and Switzerland. 30 years later, Jones – still a bachelor clergyman – reminisced on his Wordsworth summer:

VOICE OVER POET

“Seldom a day passes that I do not think of William with feelings of inexpressible affection.”

PRESENTER

Hmmm Robert Jones, prostitutes, his sister too? – Wordsworth was taking all the extra curricular options.

CUT TO

CAMBRIDGE LOCATION MONTAGE

PRESENTER

Coleridge’s Cambridge was chaotic. He checked out the pubs – partied all night – got deep in debt. He checked out the babes – at church on Sunday – he fell helplessly, but hopelessly, in love. To solve his problems. He borrowed more money To buy a lottery ticket Certain he’d win his fortune, fix his financial affairs and patch up his broken heart. Luckless as ever. He fled to London – joined the Dragoons as Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. I guess plain John Smith lacked poetry! His brothers paid his debts, bribed an officer to declare him insane, then sent him back to Cambridge. He left again soon after – without a degree – but with a new vision. Were the dragoons right? Was Coleridge mad? If he wasn’t, I think Silas Tomkyn Comberbache may well have been.

CUT TO

CAMBRIDGE BYRON LOCATIONS

PRESENTER

Byron was plagued with guilt – His erotic River Cam skinny dipping parties with other young students – went far beyond schoolboy fumbling Tormented by his sexuality Byron’s life became a merry go round of whoring and half-hidden homosexual affairs. He filled his lodgings with an endless parade of prostitutes – to prove his masculinity. Then he fell in love – with a 15-year-old Cambridge choirboy. But his homosexual affairs were dangerous. Sodomy was a capital offence – social class no protection. Byron left Cambridge with a degree, and his sexuality resolved – If it’s got a pulse -it’s fair game. That Byron – what stamina! I think he did most of his studying in bed – and he wasn’t too particular whose bed it was!

CUT TO

OXFORD LOCATIONS

PRESENTER

Shelley studied at Oxford for less than six months. He met Thomas Hogg, and together they wrote The Necessity of Atheism saying God was absurd. It was condemned as blasphemy. Every copy was burnt.

Presenter juggles burning book

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

It might have ended there, but Shelley had sent copies to every bishop in Britain. He was summoned before the college masters and expelled. Sent back to London, expelled, disgraced, his book burnt. Mad Shelley? I bet he was!

CUT TO

LONDON – GUYS HOSPITAL

PRESENTER

Keats too poor for university became a doctor, finished his apprenticeship then moved to Guy’s Hospital to become a surgeon. But his was heart given to poetry – his first poem published in 1816 – along with most young men, he dressed the part – turned down collars – open necked shirts – scarf – long hair – moustache – the full Byronic image. He became less attentive to his studies, telling a friend: “During a lecture, there came a sunbeam in the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray; and I was off with them to Oberon and Fairyland”. Keats quit surgery and became a full time poet.

CUT TO

LONDON – ST MARY LE BOW

PRESENTER

Sunbeams? Oberon? Fairyland? John Keats – a cockney poet – Gor-Blimey Guvnor? Would you Adam and Eve it?

CUT TO

LONDON – SOHO

PRESENTER

Blake lived further down the social scale. His life – a working class struggle. His early poem The Chimney Sweeper, a protest against the abuse of children helped introduce new law. Parliament made it illegal to send ‘climbing boys’ under 8, up lighted chimneys –

Presenter sitting in a tin bath by a fire, loads of bubbles

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

and they had to be washed once a week.”

CUT TO

LONDON – EROS

PRESENTER

He foolishly fell in love with “flirt and flibbertigibbet” Polly Wood. She allowed him “to keep company with her”. But she “kept company” with other men too. And laughed at his marriage proposal. Devastated – Blake left work – lodgings – friends.

CUT TO

LONDON – SOUTH OF THE RIVER

PRESENTER

Moved to Battersea – and the arms of innkeeper’s daughter – Catherine Butcher. He told her about Polly Wood. He said: “Catherine, do you pity me?” She said: “Indeed I do.” He said: “Then – I love you.”

CUT TO

EXTERNAL OF LONDON CHURCH

PRESENTER

He married her – on the rebound.

CUT TO

CHURCH -INT

Wedding scene – Presenter dressed as bride and groom

PRESENTER THE GROOM

So – teenage years nearly gone. Facing the future as men – Where do our heroes stand?

PRESENTER THE BRIDE

Blake’s married.

PRESENTER THE GROOM

Byron’s sex mad.

PRESENTER THE BRIDE

Wordsworth’s a revolutionary.

PRESENTER THE GROOM

Coleridge’s a catastrophe.

PRESENTER THE BRIDE

Shelley’s an atheist.

Long shot from end of church

PRESENTER THE BRIDE AND GROOM

And John Keats – a cockney poet. Gor-Blimey Guv’nor. Would you Adam and Eve it?

CUT TO:

BYRONESQUE DARK AND MOODY

PRESENTER

When the bottles were empty – the carriages gone – the women asleep – Byron started to write It became his three in the morning routine – the only spare time in his continuous round of sex and drink. It was said “He wrote his best when a cunt(bleep) was near the inkstand’.” That word Bleep. The very rude one we don’t use today – 200 years ago was in common use.

CUT TO

KEATSISH LOCATION

PRESENTER

Keats liked to party too. Wordsworth was guest of honour at one dinner Keats attended. Every time he started to speak Keats shouted drunkenly:

VOICE OVER POET

“Do let me have a look at that gentleman’s organs.”

PRESENTER

Eventually thrown out – he was still laughing and shouting:

VOICE OVER POET

“Who is that fellow? Allow me to see his organs once more.”

CUT TO

BO PEEP – HASTINGS

PRESENTER

Keats found romance – on holiday – at Bo Peep, near Hastings. He met – Isabella Jones – It was his first sexual experience She inspired his second book of Endymion, with the power of her romantic love.

CUT TO:

LONDON – LAMBS CONDUIT STREET

PRESENTER

Back in London they met again – secretly – Isabella was a kept woman – kept by someone else. Was she also to thank for the final book of Endymion? Keats finished it while staying home soothing a nasty little rash – She’d given him the clap!

CUT TO

MAYFAIR LOCATION

PRESENTER

Blake and wife Catherine’s early married life was more ordinary – a few rooms on Green Street – in the heart of London’s Mayfair, 200 years ago geese squawked in the street. He was regretting their hasty marriage. Catherine’s Christian, charitable love was not the erotic sexual love he craved. He hated his dependency. He felt trapped. As a child it was needing his mother’s care. As a man it was needing Catherine – for his sexual needs. Sex was his constant tormentor.

VOICE OVER POET

I saw a chapel all of gold

That none did dare to enter in,

And many weeping stood without,

Weeping, mourning, worshipping.

Vomiting his poison out

On the bread and on the wine.

So I turn’d into a sty

And laid me down among the swine.

CUT TO

LONDON – SOUTH OF THE RIVER

PRESENTER

And laid me down with swine? – For Blake, sex was a secret, guilty, animal act.

Presenter starts to undress walking along behind a hedge.

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Exploring his sexual fantasies – he covered manuscripts with perverted motifs.

Presenter sits on bench and takes off shoes

PRESENTER(CONT’D)

Whether he committed these fantasies – in the flesh – is doubtful, indeed often impossible.

Presenter now almost naked

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

He and Catherine moved out of the city to Lambeth – 200 years ago all meadows and parkland.

Presenter, naked, walks away from camera towards the Tower of London

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

He turned to theosophy and naturism. Friends would find Blake seated in the garden reading to Catherine, both of them naked. Blake would say: “It’s only Adam & Eve you know.”

Presenter starts to gather up his clothes

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Then – as the French Revolution became the Reign of Terror – He became disillusioned and depressed.

Presenter still nude rushes round picking up clothes

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

On the other hand Wordsworth, excited by the French Revolution, travelled to France to join the action. But the only action he found was an affair with Annette Vallon.

CUT TO

EXPERT

When news broke they’d had a daughter. His allowance – and his adventures – were stopped. Back in England he made a fresh start at Racedown House in Dorset – with his sister Dorothy. He would be a poet – she – lady of their house.

CUT TO

LONDON – SOUTH OF THE RIVER

Presenter is looking over a hedge getting dressed

PRESENTER

Annette Vallon, wrote to Dorothy, asking her help. But Dorothy was not the one to appeal to.

Presenter finishes dressing and walks out from behind the hedge

PRESENTER(CONT’D)

She wanted her brother William for herself. Coleridge left Cambridge and married Sarah Fricker for all the wrong reasons. They moved to Nether Stowey.

CUT TO

NETHER STOWEY

PRESENTER

Coleridge soon saw his mistake, but it was too late. He had a wife he did not love, no money, and no prospects. He started to write – his only option. He visited Wordsworth and sister Dorothy at Racedown. He stayed a week – then returned to Nether Stowey taking the Wordsworths with him. Wordsworth and Dorothy moved into Alfoxden Hall to be near Coleridge – they spent everyday together – Walking the Somerset countryside, day and night.

CUT TO

WOODS – NIGHTIME MONTAGE

Presenter carries an old fashioned lantern as he walk through a wood.

PRESENTER

The fruit of their partnership – the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ – published the following spring – startled the literary world. Its brave new inspirations – began The Romantic Movement – changing poetry forever. It was a defining moment for English, even World literature and Culture that still echoes in our daily lives 200 years later. But, as so often, the importance of their work wasn’t recognised on their own doorstep. Wordsworth was evicted from Alfoxton Hall and Nether Stowey.

The lantern blows out – darkness

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

The Romantic Movement would flourish elsewhere.

Presenter re-lights the candle

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

For Coleridge, it was bitter disappointment. Working with Wordsworth had given his life meaning and direction.

CUT TO

NETHER STOWEY

PRESENTER

Coleridge was left in Nether Stowey. With the wife he did not love. And with self-doubt. Was his work second rate? Wordsworth’s was magnificent!

CUT TO

LONDON – OFF OXFORD STREET

PRESENTER

Shelley – sent down from Oxford, disgraced, took rooms on Poland Street. His father ashamed and disgusted by his atheism stopped his allowance and banned him from home. He was broke. His sisters sent him money – via schoolgirl Harriet Westbrook. A relationship developed – encouraged by Harriet’s conniving older sister Eliza who saw Shelley as a good catch.

CUT TO

EDINBURGH

PRESENTER

Eliza helped Shelley and Harriet elope to Edinburgh. He was 18 she was 16. Shelley invited his friend Thomas Hogg to join them for the honeymoon. Shelley kept pushing Hogg and Harriet together, until she complained Hogg was trying to seduce her. Shelley hoping to share his innocent young wife with Hogg, said:

VOICE OVER POET

“She is prejudiced, I hope it will not always be so.”

CUT TO

LYNMOUTH

PRESENTER

After time spent travelling they arrived in Lynmouth. Here he spread anti-Christian pamphlets – tied to balloons blown over the countryside or sealed in bottles thrown into the sea He also wrote his first important poem – Queen Mab. A plea for revolution, republicanism, free love and vegetarianism.

VOICE OVER POET

Nature rejects the monarch, not the man; The subject, not the citizen;

for kings and subjects,

mutual foes, forever play

A losing game into each other’s hands, Whose stakes are vice and misery.

CUT TO

LONDON

PRESENTER

Shelley chose poetry as the best way to reach young open minds, with his political, social and sexual freedom message. The same message still preached by today’s young rock and rap rebels. But Shelley was losing control. Back in London Eliza said: ‘Harriet – leave Shelley – come home – it’ll bring him to his senses.’

CUT TO

LONDON ALT LOCATION

PRESENTER

It didn’t. He met 16 year old Mary Godwin. Four weeks later at her mother’s graveside Shelley pledges undying love for her.

CUT TO

LADDER AT WINDOW

PRESENTER

Another 3 weeks Shelley and Mary elope – In true Shelley style he takes her sister Clare, too. It’s a fast coach to Dover and a night crossing to France.

CUT TO

‘CALAIS’ BOARDING HOUSE

PRESENTER

Mary’s stepmother is close behind them and they wake to her banging on their bedroom door, screaming: “Mary – Clare – come home!” Wilful and headstrong as only teenagers can be, they ignore her and travel on.

CUT TO

LONDON

PRESENTER

6 weeks later, back in London, Hogg pays Shelley a visit – and, unlike Harriet, Mary gladly shares her favours with him too.

CUT TO

LONDON ALT

PRESENTER

Byron, at 21, said a grand tour would prepare him for his political career in the House of Lords – though more likely he just wanted to escape his creditors. He and friend John Hobhouse travel through Portugal, Spain, Malta, Greece and Turkey. Byron took his valet Fletcher, and 14 year old Robert Rushton as his bedwarmer.

CUT TO:

LONDON

EXPERT

In Turkey Byron found the sexual scene so savage and bizarre he sent young Robert home, fearing for his safety. Byron observed: “In England the vices in fashion are whoring and drinking, in the east Sodomy and smoking.” The barbarism of the Turks, which first Byron found exciting, began to pall. The party moved on to Athens where Hobhouse and Fletcher, disgusted by Byron’s behaviour, left him. Here he stayed a year, living life as he wished – boasting 200 conquests – politically correct before his time – half were male – half female.

CUT TO

LONDON

PRESENTER

His eastern tour inspired Childe Harold a poem of dissolute youth seeking spiritual refreshment. It was an instant hit – Byron an overnight sensation – a Star. He’d invented the golden best seller formula that still works today – exotic characters having exotic sex in exotic places.

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COUNTRYSIDE LOCATION

PRESENTER

Blake retreated into his visions. Walking and talking in the Sussex countryside with the spirits of – Milton, Old Testament prophets and his brother Robert.

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SOUTH MOLTON ST LONDON

PRESENTER

Eventually re-energized Blake returns to London – 17 South Molton St. His visions continue. Wife Catherine says: “I am very little in Mr Blake’s company; he is always in Paradise.” His real life was spent in poverty and obscurity. Blake won’t achieve recognition in his lifetime.

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LOCATION ALT

PRESENTER

But in his last days his star does begin to rise. He publishes Jerusalem, the result of 14 years work.

VOICE OVER POET

And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon Englands mountains green? And was the holy lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen

PRESENTER

Blake achieves cult status. To honour his great mind Phrenologist James Deville makes a cast of his head – but to Blake’s anger, the cast removes his few last hairs.

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LOCATION ALT

PRESENTER

Meeting John Varley a collector of mystical art. Blake sees his main chance. Varley asks for a portrait of William Wallace. Wallace’s spirit turns up on cue and Blake starts painting. Blake then insists Edward the first keeps standing in front of Wallace and won’t move unless he’s painted first. Varley gets two portraits – Blake gets two fees.

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THREE FOUNTAIN COURT.

PRESENTER

Blake lived with visions even in death. On Sunday 12th August 1827. Blake ill in bed; Catherine sat by him. He said: “Kate, you have been a good wife, I will draw your portrait.”

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BLAKE’S GRAVE

A few hours later Kate reports:

VOICE OVER POET

“His countenance became fair, his eyes brighten’d and he burst forth singing of the things he saw in heaven. He died like a saint.”

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BLAKE’S GRAVE

PRESENTER

So William Blake – first to leave us. – What can you say? – He never lacked vision? Unlike say Wordsworth and Dorothy, whose next vision was a trip to Germany. But they weren’t made welcome. Was it their weird brother – sister attachment?

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EXPERT

Explore his relationship with Dorothy and women in general, i.e. Lucy. They returned, setting up home together in the Lake District. Love is revealed in Wordsworth’s Lucy poems. Secret passions – Sad endings – the fate of their love.

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LAKE DISTRICT

VOICE OVER POET

She lived unknown,

and few could know

When Lucy ceased to be;

But she is in her grave,

and, oh, The difference to me!

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GRASMERE COTTAGE

PRESENTER

As you’d expect, a celebrity setting up home with his sister arouses public curiosity, interest in his private life was increasing – He had to be discreet. So, was it for love, to protect his relationship with Dorothy or for extra spice that he married his cousin Mary? She joined Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy at Grasmere – A cosy ‘menage a trois’

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EXPERT

Coleridge visited Germany too, but for a different purpose – was he happier away from his wife and kids. He returned when his second son died – weighed down by guilt – he’d abandoned his family. Explore. his guilt he soon left them again – to visit Wordsworth at Grasmere. And to fall in love with Wordsworth’s sister in law – Sara Hutchinson. Explore – Sara was everything his wife was not, thoughtful, warm and full of good sense and humour. She’s the Asra of his poetry.

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LAKE DISTRICT

VOICE OVER POET

Dear Asra, a woman beyond utterance dear This love which ever welling in my heart Now in its living fount doth heave full Now overflowing pours through every part Of all my frame, and fill and changes all.

PRESENTER

Sara – Asra. Who could miss this transparent anagram? Surely not his wife.

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EXPERT

That summer he took his family to live at Greta Hall, Keswick – Close to the Wordsworths – and Sara. His wife hated the north and the Wordsworths even more. Jealous of the time Coleridge spent with them. Explore Always subject to depression – Coleridge’s mind began to crack. Explore The public clamoured for more of his brilliant Poetry – but he couldn’t write Wordsworth’s poetry overwhelmed him – he felt inadequate. Explore And – was he married to the wrong woman.

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LAKE DISTRICT VARIOUS

PRESENTER

His escape – laudanum – opium mixed with alcohol – he was doing a pint a day. It was a vicious downward spiral. Keats also wanted to feel the inspiration of the wild northern scenery. He took a 600 -mile walking tour through the Lake District and Scotland. But the effect it would have on his work was overshadowed by events. Back in London Tom his brother was dying of consumption. Keats quit writing – rushed home to care for him. Tom died aged 19.

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LONDON – HAMPSTEAD/HIGHGATE

PRESENTER

Only days after Tom’s death Keats met Fanny Brawne Keats loved Fanny,and Fanny was good for Keats,too. But without an income to support her Keats couldn’t have his Fanny. He left London to make his fortune – writing in solitude. Over worked – driven. Tormented – missing his Fanny. Depressed – grieving for Tom. He wrote to her:

VOICE OVER POET

“I have two luxuries to brood over, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could possess them both in the same minute.”

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LONDON HAMPSTEAD/HIGHGATE

PRESENTER

In February 1820 Keats staggered home coughing up blood saying: “Bring me a candle, let me see this blood – I know the colour of that blood – I must die. He had consumption. Throughout summer he got worse. Summoning enough strength to walk to Fanny Brawne’s, he stood outside sobbing. She took him in while he planned a trip to Italy – the climate his only chance of life. On 17th September with friend Joseph Severn he sailed on the Maria Crowther.

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‘ROME’ LOCATIONS

PRESENTER

After weeks at sea and 10 days in quarantine. They came ashore on his 25th birthday. His illness in its final stage, his body shaking, in delirium, his mind gone. Keats begged for laudanum to end his life. 4pm 23rd March 1821 he called:

VOICE OVER POET

“Severn – Severn – lift me up for I am dying – thank God it has come.”

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‘ROME’ ALT

PRESENTER

His self penned epitaph: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” echos his belief that his fame would be fleeting? He couldn’t have been more wrong.

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LONDON -ST MARY LE BOW

PRESENTER

John Keats – the Cockney Poet – just 25 and brown bread – Gor-Blimey Guv’nor. Would you Adam and Eve it?

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LOCATION AT SWYNFORD PADDOCKS USING SEVERAL ROOMS AND GROUNDS – BREAKING UP SCRIPT INTO SEPARATE SHORT SHOTS AND SCENES

PRESENTER

Byron’s poem Childe Harold made him the darling of society. And especially of a married noblewoman – Lady Caroline Lamb. She labelled him: “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.” He was her obsession. He tried to end the affair – She disguised herself as a page, pulled a knife on him – begged him not to. She became hysterical – burnt effigies of him in the street – graffitied ‘Remember Me’ on his walls and books. She finally lost control and sent him one last gift – her pubic hair – bloodied where she’d cut them too close. Convinced she was mad, He fled. . . To an even madder affair with his married sister Augusta. They were warned of the consequences. But for Byron, it was the heaven and hell he relished. He felt guilt. He felt anguish. He felt the most passionate love of his life. It was his best seller formula – Exotic characters – Augusta and Byron. Exotic sex  – Forbidden Incest. Exotic place – Six Mile Bottom. They needed a smokescreen of respectability to continue the incestuous affair. And Annabella Milbanke was the perfect fall girl. She’d worshiped Byron – in a strictly non sexual way – for years. He proposed – She accepted – It was disaster. On honeymoon they hardly spoke – The thought of sleeping with her horrified him – His black moods and heavy drinking terrified her – as with pistol and dagger in hand he stalked the house at night. He taunted her with his sex crimes – the number and variety. After the honeymoon Annabella, unaware of the gossip, invited Augusta to stay. Byron taunted her even more – hinting of his and Augusta’s past. A year after their marriage they had a daughter. Byron said he hoped she and the child would die in labour. A month later Annabella left him. Her parents leaked news of his behaviour. His madness -His cruelty – His homosexual affairs – His incest. Societies’ knives were out – he must leave England forever. He travelled through Europe – a lost, wandering soul. He thought of suicide – he thought of the joy it would give his mother in law – he thought of sexual adventures – he travelled on.

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EXPERT

Shelley, Mary and Clare hit the road again and in Switzerland meet Byron, who Clare knew very well. Byron and the Shelley’s bonded instantly. In the evening they read Gothic tales by candlelight – Byron reads Coleridge’s Christabel to such effect Shelley runs from the room screaming.

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SWYNFORD PADDOCKS

VOICE OVER POET

A snake’s small eye blinks dull and shy; And the lady’s eyes they shrunk in her head,

Each shrunk up to a serpent’s eye,

And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread,

At Christabel she looked askance!

One moment–and the sight was fled!

PRESENTER

Mary provides Byron with the customary sexual hospitality. Byron, being greedy, takes Shelley too.

Presenter walks to bookcase takes out book – Frankenstein

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Byron inspires Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein – the monster’s soulless character mirrored Byron’s soulless existence, repulsive in its loneliness yet desperate for sympathy.

Presenter walks in front of empty bed

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

The Swiss party breaks up.

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LONDON – SERPENTINE

PRESENTER

The Shelley’s return to London – to find that Harriet’s committed suicide – drowning in the Serpentine. Shelley is free to marry Mary.

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SWYNFORD PADDOCKS

PRESENTER

The Shelley’s and Clare are soon back travelling and in Italy meet Byron again. Now pay attention. The relationships become confusing. Basically – it’s a free for all. .

Presenter walks in front of the same bed filled with wriggling and writhing bodies under the covers.

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Shelley is sleeping with Clare. Byron is sleeping with Mary. Shelley is sleeping with Mary. Byron is sleeping with Shelley. Despite the sexual scandals Shelley and Byron’s genius lift them above criticism. They are the glitterati. European nobles and American tycoons were eager to spend time in their company. Earthly sins forgiven for heavenly poetry.
(T C) I think I could handle a bit of this poetic lifestyle myself.

Presenter jumps into bed with everyone else.

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EXPERT

In the summer of 1822 the Shelley’s begin their usual bizarre sleeping arrangements – setting up house with friends Edward and Jane Williams in Italy. Shelley’s last poems – written to Jane Williams.

VOICE OVER POET

Though thou art fair and kind

The forest ever green

Less oft is peace in Shelley’s mind

Than calm in water seen.

EXPERT

Shelley and Williams both keen sailors had a yacht built – the Don Juan. Out sailing a storm blew up – the Don Juan was lost. Their badly mutilated bodies were washed ashore; Shelley was only recognised by the copy of Keat’s poems in his pocket.

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BEACH

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Byron and friends Hunt and Trelawny cremated them on the beach throwing salt, wine and frankincense onto the burning bodies, an ancient Greek ritual. Poetically Trelawny rakes through the ashes to retrieve Shelley’s heart for Mary to keep. Un-poetically it turned out to be his liver he took to her.

Presenter turns away from the fire

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

Another poet dies an early rock star death. Only three left standing.

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LONDON LOCATION

PRESENTER

Coleridge’s drug addiction got worse. No one understood withdrawal symptoms. More opiates the only cure. He became obsessive – hating his idiotic expression and fat vacant face. His marriage had gone wrong and finally his wife left him.

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EXPERT

Explore Back again to London, living alone above a chemist shop, handy for his opium. A Dr Gillman offered him a 6-month cure – a last attempt to beat his habit. He thought he was winning but Coleridge had secret supplies hidden under the hedge. The six-month cure stretched until his death 15 years later.

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COLERIDGE’S GRAVE(S)

PRESENTER

His Highgate grave once bore his self written epitaph:

VOICE OVER POET

Stop, Christian passer-by!

Stop, child of God,

And read with gentle breast.

Beneath this sod A poet lies,

or that which once seem’d he.

O, lift one thought in prayer for S.T.C.

PRESENTER

The thought, and prayer, should have been: “S.T.C. R.I.P.” A few years ago they dug him up and moved him here – now the builders are back and he may be on the move once more.

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‘VENICE’ Locations

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Byron moved to Venice, for the sexual ambience and of course, the culture. Marianna his first Venetian lover, was also his landlord’s wife. Soon he’s telling friends of another lover: Her name Margarita. Marianna confronted Margarita who responded: “If he prefers what is mine to what is yours, is it my fault?” His final Italian escapade was a Contessa Teresa. He spent afternoons at her house, telling friends: “If I come away with a stiletto in my gizzard I shall not be astonished.” At 35, he left her to fulfil his Romantic dream – to free Greece from the Turks.

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‘GREECE’ – Locations

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Byron took a house in Missolonghi with his final lover – Lukas a 15-year-old boy. On 15th January 1824 aged 36, he suffered a convulsion. The cure – 8 leaches at his temples didn’t work. His death was slow, agonising and painful. Then he was butchered. The people of Missolonghi got his lungs. The rest of his body – the heart, brain and intestines packed separately – were sent back to England – for a State funeral procession along Oxford Street

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BYRON’S GRAVE

PRESENTER

Then finally buried at Hucknall Torkard.

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LAKE DISTRICT

PRESENTER

Back at Grasmere – three became four. Sara, Wordsworth’s sister in law, moves in too.

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EXPERT

Coleridge records witnessing Sara Hutchinson and Wordsworth making love. He watched, jealously envying, Wordsworth’s group relationship – and he wanted Sara. But attention and adulation from three women crippled Wordsworth’s creativity. Explore decline of powers. With his finest work behind him he settled into establishment life – becoming poet laureate in 1843.

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LAKE DISTRICT

PRESENTER

In 1850 Wordsworth died in his sleep – the last of the great romantic poets. . . . . . and the end of the Romantic Movement. Or was it? What have they left us – apart from magnificent poetry?

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RELEVANT IMAGES

MONTAGE OF EXPERTS COMMENT ON THE ROMANTIC IDEAL:

Listen to your heart. If you can dream it – you can do it. To climb the mountain – because it’s there. To boldly go where no man has gone before. .

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OLD FASHIONED CLASSROOM

PRESENTER THE TEACHER

Lord Byron died in 1824 William Blake died in 1827 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died in 1834 YOU! Pay attention! Wordsworth died in 1850

Presenter the pupil gets up from the class.

PRESENTER

Dates and statistics aren’t poetry, but those guys were

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Presenter the pupil in front of class

PRESENTER THE PUPIL

Romantic Poets? They were. Exciting fascinating characters – they lived exciting fascinating lives. Without tabloid kiss and tells, without cheque book journalists ferreting out the hot gossip, without the telephoto’d paparazzi lenses, the same salacious stories that fill today’s front pages were being told about these guys 200 years ago. Sex, Drugs, Rock n Roll? – they ain’t nothin new!

MUSIC GETS LOUDER –
PRESENTER PLAYS ‘AIR GUITAR’ AS THE
CREDITS ROLL.

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