The Concept of Nature in Nineteenth-Century English Poetry

By Joseph Warren Beach | Go to book overview

NOTES

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION
1
The nineteenth-century faith in progress was fed, no doubt, by many affluents; and in so large a question it would rash to make a hasty pronouncement. But it is clear that, among the most influential of writers who contributed to spread this faith, were Godwin, in Political Justice, and Condorcet, in his Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain, writers who exerted so great an influence on poets like Shelley. It is equally clear that certain Christian writers, like Newman, failed to share the sanguine views of Tennyson, and looked to religion for the hope denied by history.
2
My colleague, Professor C. A. Moore, has two sound and illuminating essays on the ethical and philosophical concept of nature in eighteenth-century poets: one on "Shaftesbury and the Ethical Poets in England" ( Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, XXXI--new series, XXIV, 264-325), and one on "The Return to Nature in English Poetry" ( Studies in Philology, 1917, 243-291). With regard to the meaning and implications of the word nature in the eighteenth century, particularly in esthetic and ethical criticism, Professor Arthur O. Lovejoy has published a number of authoritative articles: "Optimism and Romanticism," in Publications of the Modern Language Association, XLII ( 1927): 921-945; "'Nature' as an Esthetic Norm," in Modern Language Notes, XLII ( 1927): 444-450; "The First Gothic Revival and the Return to Nature," in Modern Language Notes, XLVII ( 1932): 419-446. Certain phases of the eighteenth-century Arcadian ideal of the "state of nature" are illustrated by Professor Chauncey B. Tinker in his Nature's Simple Plan, Princeton University Press 1922. The "noble savage" convention is followed in all its ramifications through the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century romantics by Professor Hoxie Neale Fairchild in The Noble Savage, Columbia University Press 1928. Some eighteenth-century writers, as well as poets of the age of Wordsworth, come in for treatment in Fairchild The Romantic Quest, Columbia University Press 1931. The treatment of rural scenery and country life is the main consideration in Myra Reynolds Treatment of Nature in English Poetry from Pope to Wordsworth, Chicago 1896, and C. E. De Haas Nature and the Country in English Poetry of the First Half of the Eighteenth Century, Amsterdam 1928. Earlier treatments of the general concept of nature in English poetry are those of John Campbell Shairp, On Poetic Interpretation of Nature, New York 1878, Roden Noel, Essays on Poetry & Poets, London 1886, and Stopford Brooke, Theology in the English Poets ( 1874?), tenth ed., London 1907; Naturalism in English Poetry (lectures delivered in 1902), New York 1920.
3
For Lovejoy, see "The Supposed Primitivism of Rousseu's Discourse on Inequality," Modern Philology, XXI ( 1923), 185-186; also Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity (by Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas), Johns Hopkins

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