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The Crisis of Literature in the 1790s:
Print Culture and the Public Sphere

by Paul Keen

Chapter One: The Republic of Letters

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  1. However amorphous this sense of inexorable historical progress may have been, these developments were recognized as being singularly dependent on technical advances in the print industry. [22] In Letters on Education (1790), Catherine Macaulay argued that the "advantages of printing, by rendering easy the communication of ideas, giving an universality to their extent, and a permanence to their existence, will ever be found a sufficient remedy against those evils which all societies have experienced from the superstitions of the weak, and the imposing craft of the subtleJean d'Alembert's (323). Thomas Holcroft placed a similar emphasis on "the art of printingJean d'Alembert's in the defence of this progressivist vision of history which his protagonist makes to the cynic Stradling in Hugh Trevor (1797):

  2. When knowledge was locked up in Egyptian temples, or secreted by Indian Brahmins for their own selfish traffic, it was indeed difficult to increase this imaginary circle of yours: but no sooner was it diffused among mankind, by the discovery of the alphabet, than, in a short period, it was succeeded by the wonders of Greece and Rome. And now, that its circulation is facilitated in so incalculable a degree, who shall be daring enough to assert his puny standard is the measure of all possible futurity? (352)

    HolcroftJean d'Alembert'ss account of Western culture, from the wonders of Greece and Rome to the final glimpse of utopian futurity, is structured by its juxtaposition of Western traditions with Egyptian and Indian tyranny. But it is also informed by a teleology that bridges two historical epochs characterized by two different types of print in an irreversible march of social progress. From printing as a signifying system capable of reproduction to print as the mechanized basis of that reproduction, technical advances in the art of written communication foster democratic advances as a direct result of the dissemination of knowledge. DJean d'Alembert'sIsraeli was less confident of the effects of "the invention of PrintingJean d'Alembert's, but he none the less acknowledged that it was fundamentally reshaping society by diffusing new ideas throughout a growing reading public which included "those whose occupations had otherwise never permitted them to judge on literary compositionsJean d'Alembert's. [23]

  3. The printing press made it possible to produce large editions relatively cheaply and quickly, but the virtual space of the public sphere which this created remained dependent on a growing network of lending libraries, reading rooms, reading societies, coffee houses, debating societies, and on the beginnings of a national postal system efficient enough to facilitate the circulation of books, newspapers, and pamphlets. [24] This infrastructure spanned the major cities and the provincial towns, and embraced, in varying degrees, both the polite and the poorer classes. [25] Richard Altick notes that the more exclusive libraries, which charged fees and were often attached to the "literary and philosophical societiesJean d'Alembert's which sprang up in the larger towns, were complemented by numerous book clubs composed of members who banded together to share the cost of books, and by the commercial libraries which lent popular literature (generally novels) at accessible prices. AltickJean d'Alembert'ss warning against overestimating the extent of the diffusion of reading beneath the level of artisans and small shopkeepers is probably true for those areas of literature whose price and length limited their accessibility. [26] But it overlooks the enormous eighteenth- century demand for chapbooks, as well as for newspapers, which by the 1790s carried extensive reports of parliamentary proceedings. [27] It also underestimates the effects of those formal and informal associations and practices which helped to extend the privileges of print culture amongst the lower orders.

  4. The provision made in the Pitt governmentJean d'Alembert'ss 1789 bill to increase the stamp tax against hiring out newspapers for a minimal charge suggests a nervous awareness by the government of a potentially large body of working-class readers. [28] The tradition of tavern debating, especially in London, made it possible for anyone who could afford the sixpence fee to be a part of the same exchange of ideas about current topics that was identified by many as the most important function of literature. [29] Whatever their more political concerns, the Sunday night meetings of the London Corresponding Society offered members of this class a chance to participate in reading and discussion groups. [30] These expansionary dynamics reinforced links between literate and non-literate social groups, who were able to hear pamphlets and newspapers read aloud in the taverns. All of these factors reinforce Stuart CurranJean d'Alembert'ss observation that "the sense that history was being made, or remade, on a world scale was universal; so was the recognition that it did not actually occur until it happened in printJean d'Alembert's. [31]

  5. This ideal of literature as a public sphere was universalizing in the claims that were made for it, but this did not, of course, mean that it was universally embraced. It was generally associated with the reformist middle class, and particularly with Dissenters such as Richard Price, Gilbert Wakefield, George Dyer, Godwin, Priestley (praised by the Analytical Review – which was in turn published by another famous Dissenter, Joseph Johnson – for possessing "a mind unincumbered with the shackles of authority, richly stored with knowledge, long exercised in liberal speculation, and . . . superior to artifice and disguiseJean d'Alembert's (9 (1791): 52–3)), Helen Maria Williams, Anna Barbauld, and Hays. [32] Kramnick notes that because large numbers of English Dissenters had emigrated to the America, those "who remained in England constituted about 7 percent of the population. But those 7 percent . . . were at the heart of the progressive and innovative nexus that linked scientific, political, cultural, and industrial radicalismJean d'Alembert's. [33] Rational Dissenters and their beliefs, values, and language permeated the non-establishment literary and social circles of the day, and had considerable influence over a wide area of printing and publishing. They "resorted to literature and publishing as sources of income because many other professions were denied to them by the TestsJean d'Alembert's. []

  6. by their faith, and in the case of Williams, Barbauld, and Hays, by their sex as well, Dissenters discovered in literary achievements both a form of self-legitimation and a vehicle for promoting political change. They could establish their credentials as citizens fit to participate in the political sphere by demonstrating their abilities and their integrity within the literary republic. In doing so, they frequently contrasted the moral worth of "the peaceful walks of speculationJean d'Alembert's with "the crooked and dangerous labyrinths of modern statesmen and politiciansJean d'Alembert's. [35] In An Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts (1790), Barbauld turned political loss to strategic advantage by comparing the selfless integrity of literature with the corruption of formal politics:

    You have set a mark of separation upon us, and it is not in our power to take it off, but it is in our power to determine whether it shall be a disgraceful stigma or an honourable distinction . . . If, by our attention to literature, and that ardent love of liberty which you are pretty ready to allow us, we deserve esteem, we shall enjoy it . . . If your restraints operate towards keeping us in that middle rank of life where industry and virtue most abound, we shall have the honour to count ourselves among that class of the community which has ever been the source of manners, of population and of wealth. (22–3)

    For many observers, these differences between the industrious and virtuous middle classes and the indolent aristocracy were reflected in the different approaches of the educational institutions attended by their sons. Whereas a foreign visitor to Oxford was reportedly amazed by a degree examination in which "the Examiner, candidate, and others concerned passed the statutory time in perfect quiet reading novels and other entertaining worksJean d'Alembert's, Dissenting academies such as Warrington, Exeter, Hackney, and Manchester were widely popular with the prosperous middle class for their efforts to offer a more practical and thorough education which included large components of the natural and applied sciences, philosophy, theology, and politics. In his Letter to the Right Honourable William Pitt on the Subject of Toleration and Church Establishment (1787), Priestley argued that "[w]hile your universities resemble pools of stagnant water secured by dams and mounds, and offensive to the neighbourhood, ours are like rivers, which, while taking their natural course, fertilize a whole countryJean d'Alembert's (20). Priestley pioneered the study of history and geography at a university level while teaching at Warrington, and – after being driven from Birmingham by the riots of July 1791 – gave free lectures in chemistry and history at Manchester, where the student body included William Hazlitt from 1793 to 1795.

  7. Importantly, dissenting academies held their lectures in English rather than Latin, drawing on a range of English sources which were more easily and rapidly consulted, and more modern in their range of thought. Gauri Viswanathan has argued that English Studies were first formally implemented in India in the early nineteenth century. It is not disagreeing with this to add, as McLachlan and Robert Crawford do, that the informal roots of English studies lie in those programmes of polite literature or belles lettres which were frequently taught in BritainJean d'Alembert'ss social and geographical margins – the Scottish universities and the "provincial, northern, non-metropolitanJean d'Alembert's settings of many of the academies. [36] It is in these political and institutional terms that we must read Peter HohendahlJean d'Alembert'ss argument that "[l]iterature served the emancipation movement of the middle class as an instrument to gain self-esteem and to articulate its human demands against the absolutist state and the hierarchical societyJean d'Alembert's. [37]

  8. However coherent it may have seemed as a result of its adversarial status though, the reform movement remained a heterogeneous social body divided along lines of class as well as gender. In his analysis of the role of theory in the political developments of the period, David Simpson argues that

    for Tom Paine and his followers, as for their Enlightenment precursors, rational method was a liberating and demystifying energy, a way beyond the illusions of social, political, and religious conventions, which it exposed as just that: illusions . . . [T]he naturally reasonable mind had only to be shown the truth for the truth to spread and prevail. [38]

    The political aspirations of radical reformers such as Paine and the leaders of the London Corresponding Society overlapped with the professional ambitions of middle-class authors who were equally intent on mobilizing these ideas in order to legitimize their own reformist ambitions. Instead of either conflating these two groups or seeing them as wholly distinct, it is more important to view them as internally differentiated and multiply overlapping social constituencies, whose shared ideas about the role of literature led to a strategic entanglement and a mutual nervousness about the nature of their alliance in the polarized atmosphere of the mid-1790s. [39]Maintaining this focus on the heterogeneity of the reform movement, and remembering the points of commonality between many middle-class reformers and conservatives, usefully complicates the oppositional vision which structures approaches such as Olivia SmithJean d'Alembert'ss none the less valuable The Politics of Language, 1791–1819. As Isaac Kramnick puts it, "[i]n the last half of the eighteenth century . . . we find antagonistic interests and conflicting ideologies that require more than the dichotomy of plebeian and patricianJean d'Alembert's. [40] Kramnick situates his argument in opposition to what he describes as E. P. ThompsonJean d'Alembert'ss more polarized view, but in "Eighteenth-Century English Society: Class Struggle Without Class?Jean d'Alembert's Thompson argues in strikingly similar terms that "when the ideological break with paternalism came, in the 1790s, it came in the first place less from the plebeian culture than from the intellectual culture of the Dissenting middle class, and from thence it was carried to the urban artisansJean d'Alembert's (163–4).

  9. By tracing both the complex and often controversial relations between these elements of the reform movement, and their various points of opposition and collusion with their mutual opponents, for whom the word "reformJean d'Alembert's became increasingly intolerable, I want to develop a more intricate understanding of the sorts of claims that were being made on "literatureJean d'Alembert's in the period. Emergent or developing ideas about the nature of literature were shaped by both the areas of overlap and the differences between these various elements of the political struggles in the period. Conservative authors and journals were in many ways sympathetic to ideas about literature as an engine of progress. At times, this was because the rhetoric of "improvementJean d'Alembert's was too compelling to be seen to despise; elsewhere, it was because this spirit of improvement included priorities which conservative authors genuinely embraced. A correspondent to the GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss Magazine, a periodical which was no friend to the sorts of political reforms advocated by the likes of Godwin, Priestley, Wollstonecraft, or Hays, none the less proudly cited this diffusion of learning as a source of national pride: "Knowledge, which was long confined to few, is now universally diffused, and is not lost in empty speculation, but operates upon the heart, and stimulates more active and new modes of benevolenceJean d'Alembert's (58 (1788): 214). The GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss stressed, though without the political emphasis of these Enlightenment reformers, a similar sense of the need for this diffusion of learning throughout society:

    To what end was the learning of a few whilst it was confined to a few? Moroseness and pedantry. To what end was the Gospel, whilst its moralities were veiled by pomp or mysticism? Superstition or hypocrisy. They are now universally disseminated for the happiness of all. And we have now in our power more genuine felicity than was ever known at any former period. (61 (1791): 820)

    The British Critic could similarly announce that "[e]very publication which tends to the abridgement of labour, and the promotion of accuracy, must be acceptable to the literary worldJean d'Alembert's (it gave the particular example of logarithms), but it was unlikely to endorse the sorts of connections between literature and the cause of political reform espoused by liberal and radical authors (3 (1794): 1). The progressive power of literature was, as we have seen, frequently associated with the cause of political liberty, but again, the interpretation of this relationship depended heavily on whether liberty was understood to refer to the present state of society, and so to achievements that lay in the past, or to the goal of transforming present conditions, guided by a vision of a better future.

  10. Conservative critics took pride in the fact "that, in almost every branch of science and literature, the industry and abilities of our countrymen have rendered themselves conspicuousJean d'Alembert's (BC 4 (1794): 417). Nor were they unwilling to advocate the freedom of the press. The GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss allowed, in a hostile review of ThelwallJean d'Alembert'ss Rights of Nature, that the republic of letters was a sphere within which "[e]very member. . . however obscure, possesses the most unbounded right to discuss with perfect freedom the opinions and reasoning of every otherJean d'Alembert's (67 (1797): 55). The British Critic offered its own cautious endorsement of the political importance of "an ample publication of authentic documents to convey correct informationJean d'Alembert's in the context of its support for the dissemination of conservative pamphlets (2 (1793): 152). Freedom of the press was too important a touchstone of English liberty to be seen to oppose. It was more effective to try to beat the radicals at their own game, as Hannah More did with her Cheap Repository Tracts, by using literature as a means of reaching the hearts and minds of the lower orders. And as the prosecution never tired of repeating in seditious-libel trials, respect for the liberty of the press demanded that it be defended as actively as possible from its greatest enemy, which was not the threat of state intervention, but a licentiousness which had betrayed the important social role which literature ought to play.

  11. UNENLIGHTENED MEN

  12. The respect of conservative journals such as the British Critic and the GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss Magazine for the importance of the dissemination of learning ought to caution against too-easy generalizations about the ways that political contradictions of the period were mediated by ideas about literature. The GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss and the British Critic were not opposed to reform, but they generally chose to concentrate on those non-threatening causes such as the reformation of manners in what they saw as a profligate age, or the reformation of those social structures which were intended to offer relief to the poor. As the situation polarized, however, the word "reformJean d'Alembert's became increasingly linked with the so-called Jacobin thinkers, in marked contradiction to the positions adopted by conservative authors and journals. The reformist vision of literature found its most influential critique in Edmund BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), and it would be echoed, in one way or another, in the reactions of conservative intellectuals to the social and political turmoil which marked the 1790s. [41]

  13. Insisting that he was "influenced by the inborn feelings of my nature, and not being illuminated by a single ray of this new-sprung modern lightJean d'Alembert's, [42] Burke mocked the grandiose ambitions of the Enlightenment reformers whose debates he dismissed as the "shallow speculations of the petulant, assuming, short-sighted cox-combs of philosophyJean d'Alembert's (109). English liberty was not to be identified with this spirit of innovation but, on the contrary, with "the powerful prepossession towards antiquity, with which the minds of all our lawyers and legislators, and of all the people whom they wish to influence, have always been filledJean d'Alembert's (76). Customs were a greater guarantee of liberty than reason, which meant that literature ought not to be considered in terms of unrestrained debate, but as the repository of the wisdom of past generations. It was a "history of the force and weakness of the human mindJean d'Alembert's, an accumulation of inherited wisdom which served as both a monument to the grandeur of past generations and a potent reminder of the imperfection of the human character (292). The logical consequence of the reformersJean d'Alembert's ideas would not be the dawning of some wonderful era of enlightened liberty, but the demise of serious intellectual activity: "No part of life would retain its acquisitions. Barbarism with regard to science and literature, unskilfulness with regard to arts and manufactures, would infallibly succeed to the want of a steady education and settled principleJean d'Alembert's (183). Unrestrained investigation led not to a newly harmonized sense of private interests but to the erosion of those unconscious affinities upon which social order was wholly predicated.

  14. Nor was this simply because truth, the boasted prize of "this new conquering empire of light and reasonJean d'Alembert's, was somehow hostile to the idea of social harmony (151). On a more fundamental level, Burke rejected the very capacity of these debates, carried on within the republic of letters, to have anything to do with truth. This autonomy, which was supposedly central to these intellectual exchanges, was, he argued, the source of the reformersJean d'Alembert's greatest problems. Fond of distinguishing themselves and lacking the sobering influence of any genuine political responsibility, these men of letters would pursue innovation for its own sake, rather than as a consequence of genuine debate about important social issues. "For, considering their speculative designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement of the state as of no estimation, they are at best indifferent about it. They see no merit in the good, and no fault in the vicious management of public affairs; they rather rejoice in the latter, as more propitious to revolutionJean d'Alembert's (129). Burke regretted that of the list of men elected into the Tiers Etat, "of any practical experience in the state, not one man was to be found. The best were only men of theoryJean d'Alembert's (90). Seduced by the apparently unlimited power of reason, these advocates of the Enlightenment were misled into an irrational and dangerous confidence in "the personal self-sufficiencyJean d'Alembert's of their own ideas (182). Instead of adequately respecting the accumulated knowledge of previous generations, they prided themselves on the unparalleled wisdom which characterized their own debates. Proper respect for established customs, on the other hand, bound individuals to the greater wisdom of the community.

  15. These "men of theoryJean d'Alembert's were not dangerous simply because they were naively optimistic or relentlessly sceptical. Instead, Burke traced a hegemonic shift in which the "monied interestJean d'Alembert's had begun to challenge the social dominance of the landed classes (205). Inseparable from this was the rise of a new breed of writers, "the political Men of LettersJean d'Alembert's (205). Rejecting their claim to a disinterested commitment to the general good, Burke contended that "[t]hese writers, like the propagators of all novelties, pretended to a great zeal for the poor, and the lower ordersJean d'Alembert's, in order to stir up popular opinion against the ancien régime, whose status they opposed, not because it was tyrannical, but because they felt their own aspirations impeded by it (210). By striking at the twin pillars of stable government – religious faith and a respect for the state – they had deliberately fostered an atmosphere of unrest which had resulted in their greatest triumph, the revolution itself. Unlike many conspirators though, men of letters enjoyed the prominence that was inevitably attached to the equation which they had insisted on between their own literary efforts and the public good:

    What was not to be done towards their great end by any direct or immediate act, might be wrought by a longer process through the medium of opinion. To command that opinion . . . they contrived to possess themselves, with great method and perseverance, of all the avenues of literary fame. Many of them indeed stood high in the ranks of literature and science. The world had done them justice; and in favour of general talents forgave the evil of their peculiar principles. This was true liberality; which they returned by endeavouring to confine the reputation of sense, learning, and taste to themselves or their followers. (208)

    These authors had concealed their plot by maximizing their visibility, keeping themselves, like a purloined letter, in the foreground of the affairs of the nation. No one had adequately recognized the true nature of their private agenda because they had so insistently identified themselves with the public good. This emphasis on publicity, however, was merely part of the conspiracy. Contrary to the openness which ought to characterize the republic of letters as a sphere of unrestrained debate, "a spirit of cabal, intrigue, and proselytism, pervaded all their thoughts, words, and actionsJean d'Alembert's (213). The 1790 edition of the Annual Register, which Burke had once edited, and which he had been involved with until only a few years earlier, reprinted his charge of conspiracy under the title "Political Effects of the Junction between the great monied Interest and the philosophical Cabals of FranceJean d'Alembert's (32 (1790)). In the preface to the 1792 edition it repeated the claim that "[b]y means of the press, the grand forum in which all public affairs were agitated, . . . the minds of men were alienated from kings, and became enamoured of political philosophyJean d'Alembert's (iv).

  16. Nor were these points missed by any of those writers who agreed with BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss assessment of the dangers of unrestrained enquiry, and of the worthlessness of abstract speculation. The Anti-Jacobin magazine managed to compress most of these arguments and rhetorical strategies into the preface of its first edition in 1797. Appealing for the support "of ALL who think that the PRESS has been long enough employed principally as an engine of destructionJean d'Alembert's, it similarly suggested that authors, fond of making an impression, were so attracted to the idea of innovation that they had corrupted print culture (1 (1797): 9). "NoveltyJean d'Alembert's, it suggested, was so much more important to this modern breed of authors than "TRUTHJean d'Alembert's that their own commitment to the truth was itself a novel proposition (2). This was not the only echo of BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss Reflections:

    We have not arrived (to our shame, perhaps, we avow it) at that wild and unshackled freedom of thought, which rejects all habit, all wisdom of former times, all restraints of ancient usage, and of local attachment; and which judges upon each subject, whether of politics or morals, as it arises, by lights entirely its own, without reference to recognized principle, or established practice.
          We confess, whatever disgrace may attend such a confession, that we have not so far gotten the better of long habits and early education, not so far imbibed that spirit of liberal indifference, of diffused and comprehensive philanthropy, which distinguishes the candid character of the present age, but that We have our feelings, our preferences, and our affections, attaching on particular places, manners, and institutions, and even on particular portions of the human race . . .
         In MORALS We are equally old fashioned. We have yet to learn the modern refinement of referring in all considerations upon human conduct, not to any settled and preconceived principles of right and wrong, not to any general and fundamental rules which experience, and wisdom, and justice, and the common consent of mankind have established, but to the internal admonitions of every manJean d'Alembert'ss judgement or conscience in his own particular instance. (3–6)

    Like Burke, the Anti-Jacobin rejected the rationalist juxtaposition of a "trueJean d'Alembert's knowledge of individual and collective interests with that false consciousness which went by the name of prejudice. Because all beliefs were culturally determined, they were necessarily rooted in the contingencies of history. Nor were they any worse for being so. The proposition that they could be replaced by ideas developed in the abstract sphere of intellectual debate was founded on a radical and dangerous misunderstanding of the human condition. Rejecting the reformist emphasis on reason as a threat to the social good, the Anti-Jacobin revelled in the same common-sense rhetoric as Burke.

  17. In his exploration of the analogous position of "theoryJean d'Alembert's within cultural–political debates at the end of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, David Simpson argues that this emphasis on the artificiality of theoretically developed ideas proved to be a rhetorically effective way of decrying the attempt to raise new questions reflecting the interests of people who were not supposed to take an interest in these matters. [43] Human experience, the argument runs, is too complex to be reduced to formulas derived from these sorts of political agendas. Ideas which did not grow imperceptibly out of generations of inherited experience were hardly likely to be the source of constructive social interventions. In A Second Letter to the Right Hon. Charles James Fox, upon the Matter of Libel (1792), John Bowles argued that in unsettled times, society could not afford to indulge idle speculators: "[t]heory, however fair, and however specious, is in such cases an ignis fatuus which leads toward destructionJean d'Alembert's (v–vi). T. J. Mathias agreed, in The Pursuits of Literature (1797), "that theoretical perfection in government and practical oppression are closely alliedJean d'Alembert's (III, 5).

  18. Reformers did their best to rebut these denunciations. The Monthly Review protested against the paradox that those who were quickest to denounce theoretical speculation were also the greatest enemies of the sorts of experimentation which could give those theories some practical grounding:

    as it has been long settled with respect to other branches of science, so one would suppose it must likewise be admitted with respect to this, that the way of experiment is the best and surest method of investigating truth. At least it might be expected that this would be unanimously maintained by those politicians who seem, from their conduct, to think it a sufficient refutation of the strongest arguments and most legitimate reasonings, to urge in opposition, that what has been advanced is mere theory. Yet so it is, that those who are the most forward to cry theory, on the first suggestion of an improvement, are often the foremost to prevent its being brought to the test of experiment, and reduced to practice, by setting up the shout of innovation! by displaying the great danger of departing from precedent, and by expatiating on the profaneness of violating the sacred institutions of antiquity.(7 (1792): 325)

    In a review of a published sermon entitled The Danger of too Great an Indulgence of Speculative Opinions, it posed the question, "to which of the dark ages are we returned, that we hear in every quarter, the cry of the danger of speculative opinions?Jean d'Alembert's Such a doctrine, which was "fit only for the gloomy cell of monastic ignoranceJean d'Alembert's, ran counter to BritainJean d'Alembert'ss own impressive history of philosophical enquiry:

    After all that free inquiry has done for the world, from the time of the reformation to the present day, and after all the blessings that science, in the persons of her favoured sons, her Bacons, her Newtons, and her Lockes, has bestowed on mankind, are we still to be told that to indulge in speculative opinions, is impious, absurd, and dangerous? (MR 10 (1793): 115–16)

    Ultimately though, the cries against innovation and against the disrespect of "the new philosophyJean d'Alembert's for established authorities drowned out those who were prepared to give "theoryJean d'Alembert's a chance. Arthur Young, a leading agrarian reformer but, by 1793, no friend of democratic political reform, struck a popular chord when, like Burke, he confessed to a natural antipathy to theory: "I have been too long a farmer to be governed by any thing but events; I have a considerable abhorrence of theory, of all trust in abstract reasoning; and consequently I have a reliance merely on experience, in other words, on events, the only principle worthy of an experimenter,Jean d'Alembert's [44] Theory was another word for that which remained untested, which as any English farmer could tell you, compared badly indeed with those tried and trusted ideas which testified to the importance of personal experience as a source of genuine knowledge.

  19. In the face of the optimism inspired amongst reformist authors by the virtually unbounded prospect of futurity, conservative writers offered a reverence for history as an impressive accumulation of wisdom – or, in more melancholy moods that recalled BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss lament for the death of chivalry – a dispirited sense of belatedness in the face of inevitable cultural decline. "The true Augustan age of Britain is pastJean d'Alembert's, the GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss wrote in its review of MathiasJean d'Alembert'ss The Pursuits of Literature, "and the decline and fall of science, and every good system, is hastening on, beyond the power of man, however superior his intellects and powers, to stem the tideJean d'Alembert's (66 (1796): 940). The finest relics of past literary greatness, it intimated in a review of a new publication of MiltonJean d'Alembert'ss Comus, could only offer the consolation of the memory of better times in the face of a strange and alienating sense of modernity. "To us, who have almost outlived antient times, and stand on the brink of the precipice of modern ones, every illustration of antient history and manners must afford delightJean d'Alembert's (GM 68 (1798): 703). [45]

  20. The excesses of the French Revolution were cited as proof that if the reform movement was inspired by a spirit of futurity, it was a future which was never to arrive. The appealing linearity of the reformersJean d'Alembert's progressive historical vision was reinterpreted as a rise and fall scenario in which the power of print culture was both blessing and curse, a cultural force leading civilized nations out of the wilderness of tyranny and superstition only to return them to an equally barbaric condition known as the "modernJean d'Alembert's age. A pamphlet entitled A Brief Reply to the Observations of Ben. Bousfield, Esq. On Mr BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss pamphlet, Respecting the Revolution in France (1791) argued that "the fumes of a capricious unsettled zeal for liberty have enveloped [England] in utter darknessJean d'Alembert's (iii). A correspondent of the GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss Magazine protested in similar terms against societyJean d'Alembert'ss "progress from barbarism to civilism, and its relapse from civilization into barbarism; which retrogation seems to be the glory of the present race of philosophersJean d'Alembert's (63 (1793): 224). In a pamphlet entitled Slight Observations Upon PaineJean d'Alembert'ss Pamphlet (1791), Thomas Green expressed his "disgustJean d'Alembert's, having changed "the air and comfort of the country, for the business of LondonJean d'Alembert's, to discover that, as a result of the feverish debates ignited by PaineJean d'Alembert'ss work, "the people here are actually mad, and I am apprehensive, almost literally speaking, of being bittenJean d'Alembert's (1). No sooner had he seated himself in his usual coffee house, Green explained, than he was pelted with "a multitude of questionsJean d'Alembert's about BurkeJean d'Alembert'ss and PaineJean d'Alembert'ss literary efforts "with an eagerness which astonished meJean d'Alembert's (2).

  21. The appropriation of the title of "philosophyJean d'Alembert's by reformist authors typified all that their critics found most offensive about the pseudo-scientific association of literature with the supposed omnipotence of reason. [46] Nor did it help that this emphasis on philosophy highlighted the intellectual indebtedness of these reformers to the French philosophes such as Voltaire and Diderot. Mathias argued that "[t]here is one description and sect of men, to whom more than common reprehension is due, and who cannot be held up too frequently to the public scorn and abhorrence. I mean the modern philosophers of the French system.Jean d'Alembert's [47] Citing PriestleyJean d'Alembert'ss "King-killing wishes and opinionsJean d'Alembert's as an example of the views of these modern philosophers, he suggested that the time had come when "the swarm of free thinking and democratical pamphlets with which the public has been pesteredJean d'Alembert's outweighed the evils of censorship. [48] In his satirical poem The UnsexJean d'Alembert'sd Females (1798), Richard Polwhele referred to "[p]hilosophism, the false image of philosophy . . . a phantom which heretofore appeared not in open day, though it now attempts the loftiest flights in the face of the sunJean d'Alembert's (10). The GentlemanJean d'Alembert'ss, in a review of Abbe´ BarruelJean d'Alembert'ss Memoirs, Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, suggested a similar opposition between "the words Philosophism and PhilosophistsJean d'Alembert's, which characterized "the sect of VoltaireJean d'Alembert's, and "the honourable terms of Philosophy and PhilosopherJean d'Alembert's, which were being overshadowed by these pretenders to knowledge (68 (1798): 151).

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