First Follow Nature: Primitivism in English Poetry, 1725-1750

By Margaret M. Fitzgerald | Go to book overview

2
Cultural Primitivism

MAN'S desire to "get away from it all" motivates his cultural primitivism.1 Periodically tiring of the complexities of civilization, he dreams of a simpler way of life.2 The city man wants "five acres and independence." The rich man (in literature at least) wearies of wealth's responsibilities and envies the lot of his poorer neighbor. The adventurous spirit longs for the pioneer days of rugged frontiersmen, the timid soul for the sunlit safety of a South Sea Isle. One and all are attempting to accomplish the same end--that is, to find a less intricate design for living.

As cultural primitivists early eighteenth-century poets make no pretence of hardihood. Pleasure, not pioneering is their watchword, and although now and then a more venturesome writer will admire the rugged simplicity of a far-off people, for the most part the poets, with due regard for their floury wigs and flowered waistcoats, hail relaxation and enjoyment as the chief blessings of an ideal community.

Although by the seventeen-nineties the vogue of cultural primitivism had ranged from the country gentleman to the noble savage, with the latter skyrocketing in popularity as the century progressed, the first fifty years of the century show traditional subjects strongly entrenched, and the more exotic aspects of cultural primitivism decidedly in the minority. The early poets have little to say about the noble savage or about hard and soft extremes of life on foreign shores: they are content with such stock themes as pastoral life, rural retirement, and the innate superiority of the man of humble means.

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First Follow Nature: Primitivism in English Poetry, 1725-1750
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Part One Primitivism Chronological and Cultural 1
  • 1- Chronological Primitivism 3
  • 2- Cultural Primitivism 28
  • Part Two Vivere Secundum Naturam 95
  • I- Philosophical Aspects 97
  • 2- Aesthetics 124
  • 3- Ethics 160
  • Part Three Epilogue 197
  • Epilogue 199
  • Part Four Notes Bibliography Index 209
  • Abbreviations 211
  • Notes 214
  • Bibliography 256
  • Index 265
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