The first person to have applied the term to man's relationship with the environment seems appropriately enough for what has become an alternative, radical ideology - to have been a woman. The aim of the Poem' Darwin said in his Adiertisement, was 'to inlist lmagination under the banner of Science' antl 'to induce the ingenious to cultivate the knowledge of Botany, by introducing them to the vestibule of that delightful science, and recommendit g ,o their attention the immortal works of the celebrated Sweclish Natuialist, LINNEUS'.
Lf it, piincipal emphases is the vital role that vegetation plays in the overall economy of nature a footnote describes the Process of of a Contemplator was ever ground, is but the back of the Blade in comparison with the Subtlety of Nature. Zoonomia rs one. Fundamental to all these developments was the practice of field observation. The eye that is fixed on the natural world sees the economy at work: The most insignificant insects and reptiles are of much more consequence, and have much more influence in the oeconomy of natur;, than the incurious are aware of; and are mighty in their effect, from their minuteness, which renders them less an object of attention; and from their numbers and fecundity.
Earth-worms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm'e This is Gilbert White in Selborne, from where it is a short steP to those key Romantic texts, Coleridge's notebooks and the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth and Henry David Thoreau.
For all his resistance to pantheism, Coleridge was a scrupulous, deeply inquiring observer of the natural world; the very subtlety of his own intelligence attuned him to the economy of nature: 'The finest edge, into which the meditative mind 38 chapter, Ruskin attributed his own capacity to see the landscape and the 'W'ordsworth's example; if he had known Dorothy's journals, he sky to would have discovered that Wordsworth's eye for the detailed observation of nature was opened by his sister. And as for Thoreau, the whole project of his writing might be summed up as an attempt to develop a human economy that is responsive and responsible in its relationship with the economy of nature.
By , symbolically appropriate palaeographic error the invention of the word 'ecology'was for a time actually attributed to Thoreau: the editors ofhis Correspondence, published in , misread 'geology' and had him speaking in , eight years prior to of 'Botany, Ecology, etc. Thoreau would occupy the central place in a study of the Romantic ecology in the United States. There are major distinctions to be made between American and British ecological attitudes, not least because of differences of size and space - Wordsworth's mighty Helvellyn would Haeckel, Supplement but a foothill in the Rockies.
The British tradition I am tracing is much concerned with localness, with small enclosed vales; the American environmental tradition is far more preoccupied with vastness and with threatened wilderness ohn Muir's High Sierra , as de Tocqueville be recognized: It is this consciousness of destruction, this ariire-pens1e of quick and inevitable change that gives, we feel, so peculiar a character and such a touching beauty to the solitudes of America. One sees them with melancholy pleasure; one is in some sort of a hurry to admire them.
Thoughts of the savage, natural grandeur that is going to come to an end, become mingled with splendid anticipations of thb triumphant march of civilisation. One feels proud to be a man, and at the same time one experiences I cannot say what bitter regret at the power that God has granted us over nature. One's soul is shaken by contradictory thoughts and feelings, but all the impressions it receives are great and leave a deep mark. Erasmus Darwin wrote footnotes about photosynthesis, while Wordsworth wrote poems about how flowers may vitalize the human spirit.
Was it a "waste" when a hundred perhaps of since without photosynthesis there would be no oxygen human beings how to live as part o[ it. They foreshadowed Ellen Swallow in the move from theoretical description to an applied science of healthy and happy living. The 'Romantic ecology' reverences the green earth because it recognizes that neither physically nor psychologically can we live without green things; it proclaims that there is'one life' within us and abroad, that the earth is a single vast ecosystem which we destabilize at our peril.
In sharp contrast to the so-called 'Romantic ldeology', the Romantic ecology has nothing to do with flight from the material world, from history and society - it is in fact an attemPt to enable mankind the better to live in the material world by entering into harmony with the environment. Creeping his gait and cowering, his lip pale, His respiration quick and audible. The limbs increase; but liberty of mind Is gone for ever; and this organic frame, So joyful in its motions, is become Dull, to the joy of her own motions dead; And even the touch, so exquisitely poured Through the whole body, with a languid will Performs its functions; rarely competent To impress a vivid feeling on the mind Of what there is delightful in the breeze, The gentle visitations of the sun, Or lapse of liquid element - by hand, Such outrage done to nature as compels The indignant power to justify herself; Yea, to avenge her violated rights, For England's bane.
Ex cursion, Man ought to be 'earth's thoughtful lord' , but he has abnegated his responsibilities in the name of material gain. The dark Satanic mills are the temples of a new religion of capital: Men, maidens, youths, Mother and little children, boys and girls, Enter, and each the wonted task resumes Within this temple, where is offered up To Gain, the master-idol of the realm, Perpetual sacrifice. Excursion, viii. Of the erasure of supposedly barren waste land, Wordsworth 40 healthy boys and girls were playing there of a Sunday instead of creeping about covered with filth in the alleys of a town?
Imprisoned in the facrory, enslaved to wage labour, the child has lost that primal 'liberty'which is embodied in the mind's joyful responsiveness to breeze and sun and water. The Wandere r does not omit to speak of the favourable effects of industry, but his main concern is to produce graphic images of the deprivation and dehumanization that are the price of 'progress'.
By the mids The Excursionhad been printed four times and sold more copies than any other volume of Wordsworth's poetry. It was without question the most widely read work of the most admired English poet of the first half of the nineteenth century. But, paradoxically, most such critics working on the Romantic period have gone on privileging poetry by devoting the best of their own work to readings of such canonical texts as 'Tintern Abbey', The Prelude, 'To Autumn', and Don Juan.
To think for a moment of Wordsworth as Pre-eminently not the author of 'Tintern Abbey' andThe Prelude but the compiler of the Guide to the Lakes will thus be not only to recover an important nineteenthcentury view of him, but also to begin to move away from narrow canonicity. If we are to historicize Romanticism, we must bring the Guide from the periphery to the centre. The neglect of it is quite extraordinary. Jerome McGann's sense that there have been too many readings of Romanticism in terms of idealist aesthetic theory is supported by the fact that what has interested critics most about the Cuide has been its relation to those now well-worn categories, the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque.
The Guide was first written in the form of an introduction and text for the Rev. This edition carried the explanatory advertisement: This Essay, which was first published several years ago as an lntroduction to some Views of the Lakes, by the Rev. Joseph Wilkinson, ", expensive work, and necessarily of limited circulation, is now, with emendations and additions, attached to these volumes; from a consciousness of its having been written in the same spirit which dictated several of the poems, and from a belief that it will tend materially to illustrate them.
The edition included a new account of an excursion up Scafell Pike and the added an account of an excursion to Ullswater - both were based closely and without acknowledgement on unpublished material by Dorothy Wordsworth. The Guide appeared in under the auspices of a Kendal publisher previous editions having been published in London , with the title A Cuide Through the District of the Lakes in the North of England, with a Desuiption of the Scenety, etc.
Fifth Edition, with considerable additions. In For the Use of Tourists and Residents. Wordsworth began this edition by saying that his purpose was 'to furnish a Guide or Companion for the Minds of Persons of rasre, and feeling for Landscape, who might be inclined to explore the District of the Lakes with that degree of attention to which its beauty may fairly lay claim', but that he would begin by getting out of the way 'the humble and tedious Task o[ supplying the Tourist with directions'.
Professor Sedgwick, Edited by the Publisher i. John Hudson of Kendal. Wordsworth explained in a letter to Adam Sedgwick, the first 'W'oodwardian Professor of Geology in the University of Cambridge, that in the tourist market his guide was being outsold by others which attended more to the needs of 'the Body of the Tourist', that he had tried to remedy this defect but found the work troublesome and'infradig.
Hudson, who had undertaken to interweave it with further marter compiled by himself but to leave 'all that related ro mind' entire and separate from the rest. In addition, Thomas Gough of Kendal would 'promote the Botany' h. There was a consonance between poet and scientist: for Sedgwick, as for Wordsworth, the mountains 'give back to us, as the earth's touch did of old to the giant's body, new spirits and enduring strength.
The textual morphology of the Cuide is a fascinating index of the shift from the age of Gilpin and Farington to that of Lyell and Darwin. Sedgwick actually used the opportunity provided by Wordsworth to contribute to that highly significant nineteenth-century genre, the self-consciously popularizing work on geology: I wish to address more general readers - ary intelligent traveller whose senses are open to the beauties of the country around him, and who is ready to speculate on such matters of interest as it offers to him.
I will therefore endeavour to avoid technical language as far as I am able, and I do not profess to teach, in a few pages, the geology of a most complicated country for that would be an idle attempt ; but rather to open the mind to the nature of the subject, and to point out the right way towards a comprehension of some of its general truths. And in the case of the edition, the Guide was used by Sedgwick for the statement of his case in with Sir Roderick Murchison over the latter's fallacious extension of his Silurian sysrem into 20, feet of strata which did not belong to it. In addition to its picturesque and geological functions, the Cuide served as a complement to one of Wordsworth's most favourably received poetic productions, the Duddon volume,21 and as a pocket companion for tourists.
In the latter of these manifestations it belonged in a genre going back to the works of the eighteenth-century travellers who formed the new taste for the wildness of the Lakes, John Brown, Thomas Gray, and Thomas 'West. Wordsworth's book is, however, unlike earlier guides in two key respects. First, it is, as the textual history shows, a multi-purpose text: it invites all kinds of appropriation, all kinds of use - it aims to answer 'every purpose that could be desired'. It is his great dispute 44 I i i I i remarks about the tediousness of the'guiile mattet', it uses the popular guidebook format to put Wordsworth's own concerns across to the public.
It is symptomatic that in writing of the rootedness of Lakeland cottages'Wordsworth included some lines of verse from the unpublished manuscript of Home at Crasmere, a poem which, as I shall show in chapter 4, was cardinal to his sense of himself as a dweller in Westmorland. Where earlier guide writers adopted the picturesque tourist's point of view and rarely descended from their stations, Wordsworth's approach was holistic: he moved from nature to the natives, exploring the relationship between land and inhabitant; then in his third section he considered the evolving and increasingly disruptive influence of man on his environment.
By the time we reach this text we have come a long way from Thomas West and his attempt to make a visit to the Lakes comparable to the composirion of a landscape painting. The geologist's hammer has replaced the Claude glass. I have laboured the point about the drfferent textual manifestations of the Guide because they throw into question the proposition that Romantic discourse attempts to seal itself hermetically off from materiality.
The history of this central Romantic text constitutes a successive series of engagements with highly varied and highly material discourses such as tourism and geology. The Romantic ldeology is supposed to purvey a myth of individual inspiration, of the isolated and privileged poet, yet this text is a composite production, shaped and reshaped according to the needs of the market, a pooling of the 'W'ordsworth, resources of figures as varied as lVilkinson, Dorothy, Hudson, Sedgwick, and Gough.
Furthermore, the extrinsic materiality of the book is matched by the intrinsic materiality of certain key passages in the text. For Marilyn Butler, the later Wordsworth'ceases to see others as social phenomena; they are objects for contemplation, images of apparent alienation which the poet's imagination translates into private emblems of his troubled communion with nature.
Among 'Wordsworth's chief concerns are the management of trees and the 'What are architecture of rural buildings. Critics like Butler and McGann are too limited in their view oIsociety: modern ecological politics teaches us that to consider society only in terms of production, income, and ownership is insufficient. Equal distribution of the means of agricultural production is not much use if the land is poisoned. Section First of the Guide,'View of the country as formed by nature', begins rvith'Wordsworth taking the reader to an imaginary station on a cloud midway between Great Gable and Scafell, from where the eight valleys of the Lake District may be seen stretched out like spokes from the nave of a wheel.
By substituting an imaginary station for an actual one, 'Wordsworth differentiates his Guide from those intended only for the bodies of tourists; with the image of the wheel, he introduces the idea of a unified place with a common centre. The remainder of Section First develops this sense of the unity of the country as formed by nature. Man works in partnership with his environment. Thus Lakeland comages may be said rather 'to have grown than to have been erected; - to have risen, by an instinct of their own, out of the native rock'; the buildings 'in their very form call to mind the processes of Nature' and thus 'appear to be received into the bosom of the living principle of things' pp.
Not even the places dedicated to Christian worship violate the religio loci. A consequence of such integration with nature is an integrated social structure: until recently there has been 'a perfect Republic of Shepherds and Agriculturists, among whom the plough of each man was confined to the maintenance of his own family, or to the occasional accommodation of his neighbour' p. There was no nobleman, knight, or squire; the ruling power was nature, not some human overlord. It is here that'Wordsworth speaks, in language that I discussed in the previous chapter, of the district of the Lakes as an 'almost visionary mountain republic' p.
But all this has changed as a result of influx and innovation, the subject of Section Third. New residents who are not rooted in the land have brought dissonant new building styles; worse, in accordance with the 'craving for prospect', their new houses have been built on obtrusive sites where they do not 'harmonize with the forms of Nature'. The rage for picturesque 'improvement' has resulted in the alteration of the contours of the principal island on 'Windermere lake: 'Could not the margin of this noble island be given back to Nature?
Wordsworth makes a powerful distinction between the way in which nature forms woods and forests, a gradual and selective process shaped whole quantity of water which falls upon the mountains in time of storm were poured down upon the plains without intervention.
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Thomas West never seemed to notice tarns, presumably because he did not deem them either picturesque or sublime. Where other guides concerned themselves with how the more majestic lakes contributed to the charm of a scene, Wordsworth's was interested in the function performed within the ecosystem by the smaller and higher bodies of still water. The new proprietors and tourists will not go away; the function of the Cuide is to educate them to care for the delicate ecosystem, as we would now call it, of the Lakes. In that phrase 'a sort of national property' -"y be seen the origins of the National Trust and the Lake District National Park.
He established a Lake District Defence Society and fought not only against the railway but for the establishment of public footpath rights. He gained support open air; the respect for buildings that have a history in the place; and the recognition that traditional agricultural practices are integral to the from the social reformer Octavia Hill, to whom he had been introduced by Ruskin, and Robert Hunter of the Commons Preservation Socie ty, a group in the vanguard of the open space movemenr which was agitating for the preservation of green land in and around London.
In its annual report of the Trust picked up on Wordsworth's idea o[ 'a sort of national property' and advocated the creation of a National Park in the heart of the Lake District, though it was not until the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of that this was actually established. The Act drew together conservation, planning, and access. It was based on the recommendations of a committee set up in under Sir Arthur Hobhouse; that committee had accepted rhe definition of a National Park propounded in the Dower Report of - an extensive area of beautiful and reiatively wild counrry in which fbr the nation's benefit and by appropriate national decision and actior, r the characteristic landscape beauty is strictly preserved, b access and facilities for public open air enjoyment are amply provided, c wildlife and buildings and places oI architectural and historic interest are suitably protected, while d established farming use is eflfectively maintained.
Conservation is sought by means of planning rather than possession. We walked around the two lakes. Grasmere was very soft and Rydale was extremely beautiful from the pasture side. Nab Scar was just topped by a cloud which cutting it off as high as it could be cut off made the mountain look uncommonly lofty. Imagine Alexander Pope composing poetry: we see him sitting in a patron's house or a coffee-house. Imagine 'Wordsworth or Coleridge composing: we see them in the open air, as Hazlitt did - Coleridge has told me that he himself liked to compose in walking over uneven ground, or breaking through the straggling 'W.
The National Parks, with their openness to walkers, sustain the spirit of the 'Wordsworth who, according to De Quincey, had by the s 'traversed a distance of t75 to , English miles' on foot, 'a mode of exertion which, to him, stood in the stead of wine, spirits, and all other 49 ROMANTIC ECOLOGY stimulants whatsoever to the animal spirits; to which he has been indebted for a life of unclouded happiness, and we for much of what is most excellent in his writings'.
For Rawnsley, there is no contradiction between opposing the extension of the railway into the l,akes and the idea that the Lakes belong to 'the people'. This is an important point, because 'Wordsworth's concern for the preservation of the Lakes has often been put down to a selfish desire to keep away artisan day trippers from Manchester. But in his letters to the Morning Posl concerning the projected Kendal and Windermere Railway, 'W'ordsworth's principal objection was to large-scale organized Sunday outings: Packing off men after this fashion, for holiday entertainment, is, in fact, treating them like children.
They go at the will of their master, and must return at the same, or they will be dealt with as transgressors. Let [the Master-manufacturers] consent to a Ten Hours' Bill, with little or, if possible, no diminution of wages, and the necessaries of life being more easily procured, the will develope itself accordingiy, and each individual would mind be more at liberty to make at his own cost excursions in any direction which might be most inviting to him.
There would then be no need for their masters sending them in droves scores of miles from their homes and families to the borders of Windermere, or anywhere else. Changing historical conditions bring different of putting ideals into practice: in the nineteenth century the railway represented a threat and there was a need for the protective methods demarcation of 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty', whereas now the railway is back in environmental favour and the Green Party advocates the abolition of the National Park sysrem on the grounds that 50 THE ECONOMY OF NATURE the whole country should be subject to the stringent planning regulations that apply in the Parks.
Between Wordsworth and Rawnsley there was John Ruskin himself, 'Westmorland cottage's adaptation to its environment, another protestor against extension of the railway into the Lakes. He is an absolutely key figure in my story, for it was through him more than anyone else that the 'lTordsworthian ecology entered into a broader - and indeed an explicitly political - nineteenth-century environmental tradition. As Wordsworth in his letters on the projected Kendal and Windermere Railway set the environmental effects of railway excursions in the context of factory conditions and the need for shorter working hours, so Ruskin recognized that there is an intimate connection between the conditions in which we work and the way in which we live with nature.
He explained that until recently the estatesmen of the Lakes had relied on two sources of income, their flocks and the home manufacture by their women and children of the produce of their flocks. The whole balance of the economy of the district was thus upset. In the s, however, the 'Ruskin Linen lndustry' was established under the auspices of Marion Twelves and Albert Fleming, disciples of Fors Clauigera; this initiative led to the revival of the cottage economy in several villages. It was Ruskin's involvement with schemes such as this that Rawnsley had in mind when, at the unveiling of the Ruskin memorial on Friar's Crag above Derwentwater, he spoke of the worker's friend, the man who more than others of his time so believed in the possibilities of a happier life for the working men, that he set himself against traditions and the ordinary accepted theories of capital and labour.
Labour is harmonized with nature. The securing of the place and the restoring of its local small-scale industries are twin goals for which Wordsworth and Ruskin worked. The traditional view of the Romantic return to nature is that it is a form of escapism. Wordsworth escapes to the Lake District to get away from the harsh political realities of the Terror; the Victorian Romantics escape into a world of medievalism to get away from laissez-faire capitalism and grimy factories. Freud thought that we need nature for the same reason that we need mental phantasy. He drew the analo gy in the twenty-third of his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: The creation of the mental domain of phantasy has a complete counterpart in the establishment of 'reservations' and 'natureparks' in places where the inroads of agriculture, traffic, or industry threaten to change the origin al face of the earth rapidly into something unrecognizable.
The 'reservation' is to maintain the old condition of things which has been regretfully sacrificed to ne cessity everywhere else; there everythin g may grow and spread as it pleases, including what is useless and even what is harmful. The mental realm o[ phantasy is also such a reservation reclaimed from the encroaches of the reality-principle. Hazlitt claims that no one has ever explained the true source of our attachment to natural objects or of the soothing emotions which the country infuses in us. People have talked of beauty, of freedom from care, of silence and tranquillity, of the healthiness and simplicity of life in the country as opposed to that in the city.
But none o[ these explanations comes to the underlying principle. Hazlitt then cites a passage in Rousseau's Confessions where Jean-Jacques describes how he moved into a certain room and was immediately particularly endeared to it because he could see 'a little spot of green' from his window and this was the flirst time since his childhood that he had had such an object constantly before him. Natural objects, Hazhtt says, are always associated with recollection: It is because natural objects have been associated with the sports of our childhood, with air and exercise, with our feelings in 52 solitude, when the mind takes the strongest hold of things, and clings with the fondest interest to whatever strikes its attention; with change of place, the pursuit of new scenes, and thoughts of distant friends: it is because they have surrounded us in almost all situations, in joy and in sorrow, in pleasure and in pain; because they have been one chief source and nourishment of our feelings, and a part of our being, that we love them as we do ourselves.
Loving one person doesn't make you love another person, but loving one tree makes you love all trees. You are affected by a sunset or a spring day not because of its inherent beauty but because it brings with it all the thoughts and feelings you've had in the face of previous sunsets and previous spring days.
Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition, 1st Edition
All this is very Wordsworthian, and it is symptomatic that at the centre of Hazlitt's essay there are quotations from the lmmortality Ode and 'Tintern Abbey': To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. It was William Morris's dream that one day 'This land we have loved in our love and our leisure'might be available to those who live in grim 'grry homes'. I will do what I Hazlitt's argument is right, this man loved Derwentwater out of something more intrinsic to his identity than a desire to get away from smoke and work.
Besides, there is the example of ;ohn Clare, whose writing suggests that he gained his identity through his bond with his native landscape and lost it in madness when he was displaced from that land. Nature may matter to a farm-labourer as well as to someone who looks at it over a five-barred gate. Furthermore, rhe link in Clare's poetry between nature and both the recovery of lost childhood and the possibility of some kind of endurance provides strong support for the argument of Hazlitt's essay.
In his poem 'The Eternity of Nature'Clare contrasts the permanence of the daisy with the rransience of the individual human's life and even of the posthumous life afforded to the poet. Sublimity and durability are founded in the minutiae of nature: the poem is built on the idea of, to reiterate Hazlitt's phrase, 'the transferable nature of our fleelings with respect to physical objects'. It asserts that the daisy plucked by the future child is in some senses the same as the daisy we see now: Leaves from eternity are simple things To the world's gaze - whereto a spirit clings Sublime and lasting - trampled underfoot The daisy lives and strikes its little root Into the lap of time - centurys may come And pass away into the silent tomb And still the child hid in the womb of time Shall smile and pluck them when this simple rhyme Shall be forgotten like a churchyard-stone Or lingering lie unnoticed and alone When eighteen hurrdred years our common date Grows many thousands in their marching state Aye still the child with pleasure in his eye Shall cry 'The daisy!
His work demonstrates that the Romantic concept of integration with nature is not only a reaction against urbanization and that it should not be dismissed as some kind of surplus-value or discarded among the baggage of bourgeois ideology. Like Hazlitt, he saw that nature is a universal home: when we can get beyond that smoky world, there, out in the country we may still see the works of our fathers yet alive amidst the very nature they were wrought into, and of which they are so completely a part: for there indeed if anywhere, in the English country, in the days when people cared about such things, was there a full sympathy between the works of man and the land they were made for: - the land.
Morris can be reclaimed as a father not only of the British Labour Party but also of the green movement. Thompson's biography argued that Morris had to shed his Romanticism before he could grow into his socialism. But the ideals of his Romanticism formed the foundation of his socialism; the utopian communism of News from Nowhere would not have been possible without the Romantic poetry of The Earthly Paradise.
If we trace the 'Romantic Ideology' forward into Morris and the prose-poet Ruskin, it becomes something far removed from German idealist aesthetics. It becomes an ideology that is concerned, for instance, with architectural style and town-planning. In chapter seven of Neuzs from Nowhue the houses of Piccadilly stand in carefully cultivated gardens which run over with flowers and fruit trees. Morris's vision continues: 'We came presently into a large open space, sloping somewhat of which had been taken of for planting an orchard, mainly, as I could see, of apricot trees, in the midst of which was a pretty gay little structuie of wood, painted and gilded, that looked like a refreshment stall.
A strange sensation came over me; I shut my eyes to keep out the sight of the sun glittering on this fair abode of gardens, and for a moment there passed before them a phantasmagoria of another day. A great space surrounded by tall ugly houses, with an ugly church at the corner and a nondescript ugly cupolaed building at my back; the roadway thronged with a towards the south, the sunny site advantage sweltering and excited crowd, dominated by omnibuses crowded with spectators.
Hazlitt's argument about nature as a universal home depends on its endurance, its constancy. A tree helps us to live because it is the same as the trees we saw in our childhood. If we destroy all the trees, we will irremediably disrupt not only the economy of nature but also our own social and psychological Whatever our class, nature can do something for us. Alan Liu writes that 'nature is the name under which we use the nonhuman to validate the human, to interpose a mediation able to make humanity more easy with itself". However, Liu links this statement to the claim that,'There is no nature', in other words that 'nature' is nothing more than an anthropomorphic construct created by Wordsworth and the rest for their own purposes.
The polemical desire to reject any casual recourse to 'nature'as panacea for social ills has the unfortunate consequence of occluding any consider- ation of the whole question of human society's stewardship of 'the features and products of the earth itself, as contrasted with those of human civilization' OED's thirteenth sense of the word. It is profoundly unhelpful to say 'There is no nature' at a time when our most urgent need is to address and redress the consequences of human civilization's insatiable 'We desire to consume the products of the earth. But until now there have always been domains into which 'human civilization' does not extend; there has always been a 'state of nature'.
Enclosure and landscape gardening have had no effect on the higher fellsides and tarns of Westmorland. Chernobyl, however, has. There is a difference not merely in degree but in kind between local changes to the surface configuration of the land and the profound transformations of the economy of nature that take place when the land is rendered radioactive or the ozone layer is depleted. Furthermore, even if we continue to think anthropomorphically, it is essential to modify the idea that we use nature to validate ourselves, 'to make humanity more easy with itself.
For if 'the nonhuman' is to do something for us, we must do something for it - not least give it space, allow it to continue to exist. Rousseau recognized that we economy. Such images of reciprocity er:- alien to classical Marxist discourse. Marx characterized the relationship between man and nature in terms of dialectical opposition rather than unity. Man is defined as different from the animals by virtue of his mastery of nature, his 'working-ove r of inorganic nature'.
The whole concept of society having an economic base with a legal and political superstructure fails to address the fact that the economy of human society may in the end be dependent on something larger, the economy of nature. Friedrich Engels is more amenable to ecological reading than Marx - while alert to the poverty of agricultural labourers, he emphasized the benefits of 'fresh country air' and 'healthful work in garden or field'lz - but the industrial pollution of Eastern Europe remains as a monument to the absence of ecological thinking in Marxist praxis.
Even the passage of Freud which I have quoted seems to take for granted the priority which capitalists and Marxists share: the nature-reserve and the park are associated with the old condition of things which must be sacrificed to the 'necessity' of economic progress. Note that phrase about everything being left alone in the nature-reserve 'including what is useless and even what is harmful': Freud is being wholly anthropocentric - he means useless and harmful to man, but much that is useless and even harmful within the human economy will be useful and beneficial within the economy of nature.
This is Gilbert White's point about earth-worms. Marxist criticism claims to bring texts down from the idealist stratosphere into the material world. But a materialism which follows Marx's tenth thesis on Feuerbach in taking the standpoint of human society inevitably finds itself falling in with high capitalism's privileging of the wealth of nations over the wealth of nature.
Until quite recently the Romantics were valued precisely because they se t themselves against the ideology of capital and offered an alternative, holistic vision - because, we may say, they were the first ecologists. John Ruskin proposed the 'strange political economy' that 'the question for the nation is not how much labour it employs, but how much life it produces. Life, including all its Powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. Furthermore, Ruskin's magnificent critique of the theory of divided labour - 'It is not, truly speaking, the labor that is divided, but the men: - Divided into mere segments of men - broken into small fragments and crumbs of life'rs - may be traced back to'Wordsworth.
The exemplary English ecologist is the Ruskin who undermined the very premises of nineteenth-century capitalist and Marxist theory with his claim that the fundamental material basis of political economy was not money, labour, and production but 'Pure Air, Water, and Earth'. He was thinking in particular of a passage in the Pinciplrt of Political Economy in which Mill wrote in Wordsworthian fashion of the importance of solitude - solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur - for the health of both individual and society, and then went on to express concern about the destruction to the environment that was being caused by economic As Leslie Stephen perceived, progress: The division of labour, celebrated with such enthusiasm by Adam Smith, tends to crush all real life out of its victims.
The soul of the political economist may rejoice when he sees a human being devoting his whole faculties to the performance of one subsidiary operation in the manufacture of a pin. This is the evil which 'Wordsworth's eyes, as it has certainly not is constantly before become less prominent since his time.
The danger of crushing the individual is a serious one according to his view. Men must be taught what is the really valuable part of their natures, and what is the purest happiness to be extracted from life. Many powerful thinkers have illustrated Wordsworth's doctrine more elaborately, but nobody has gone more decisively to the root of the matter. These Ruskinian texts, not Marx's Capital, were the inspirational force behind the socialism of Morris and others; English socialism is at root more 'green' than it is 'Marxist'. As Morris wrote in 'How I became a Socialist', 't had never so much as opened Adam Smith, or heard of how deadly dull the world would have Ricardo, or of Karl Marx been twenty years ago but for Ruskin!
It was through him that I learned to give form to my discontent. He argued that a maximum of woodland was needed in orde r to keep the air pure, that the growth of industrial manufacturing was not the answer to the problems of world poverty, and that the quality of hurrran life is not dependent on economic growth alone. It was here that he wrote the words which form the epigraph to my book.
Some years later, in the fifth letter of Fors Clauigera, Ruskin wrote once again of the dangers of pollution and o[ the importance of trees for their effect on the atmosphere. He perceived the relationship between deforestation and drought. His prescience is remarkable; his rousing rhetoric demands a long quotation: The first three [principles of political economy], I said, are Pure Air, Water, and Earth. Heaven gives you the main elements of these. You can vitiate the air by your manner of life, and of death, to any extent. You might easily vitiate it so as to bring such a pestilence on the globe as would end all of you.
On the other hand, your power of purifying the air, by dealing properly and swiftly with all substances in corruption; by absolutely forbidding noxious manufactures; and by planting in all soils the trees which cleanse and invigorate earth and atmosphere, - is literally infinite.
You might make every breath mothers of our environmental tradition. To close this chapter with the question of pure water and air. As has been noted, one version of the Guide to the Lahes was published with the Riuer Duddor4 sonnet cycle, which ends with the river flowing out from Cumbria into the Irish Sea; today, if we ascend Coniston Old Man, the mountain beneath which Ruskin lived in the years when he was writing Fors, the most prominent sight on the coast is the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, with its abysmal record for dumping contaminated of air you draw, food.
Secondly, your power over the rain and river-waters of the earth is infinite. You can bring rain where you will, by planting wisely and tending carefully; - drought where you will, by ravage of woods and neglect of the soil. You might have the rivers of England as pure as the crystal of the rock; - beautiful in falls, in lakes, in living pools; - so full of fish that you might take them out with your hands inste ad of nets.
Or you may do always as you have done now, turn every river of England into a common sewer, so that you cannot so much as baptize an English baby but with filth, unless you hold its face out in the rain; and Fors, is familiar and is modern. They are the fathers 'Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide,' wrote of the Duddon in his concluding sonnet; but now it is not only water that glides inexorably into the sea off Wordsworth's coast.
As for the air, let us go back into the stratosphere for a moment, not in metaphor but in meteorology. The young Ruskin, as will be shown in the next chapter, learnt from Wordsworth how to look at clouds; the waste. Brantwood by Coniston on 13 August , he attributed the air quality - 'one loathsome mass of sultry and foul fog, like smoke' to the exhalations from 'Manchester devil's darkness'.
People said Ruskin was mad. There are aspects of late Ruskin which we will want to reject - the moral opprobriousness; the obsessive, near-paranoid tone; the element of feudalism in the alternative vision proposed - but then all readings, all as of literary te xts are selective. Coleridge and Hazlitt did have reservarions: few readers save the young Ruskin can have found 'faultless majesty' throughout The Excursion. T But this should not be enough to justify the modern butchery whereby critics and editors have extricated the heart of book one and implied that 'The Ruined Cottage' is the only part of The Excursion with which we need concern 'This will never do.
There are few hatchet jobs so comprehensive and so witty.
Twentiethcentury opinion has tended to follow Francis Jeffrey: who now reads The Excursion? In Matthew Arnold definitively ranked Wordsworth as inferior only to canonization came a narrowing Shakespeare and Milton. But with this of the canon: 'The Excursion and The of greatest bulk, are by no means Wordsworth's best work. Shares in The Excursion, however, have remained depressed for a century.
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Arnold invented the conception of the 'great decade' and Wordsworth's subsequent decline; the notion that The Excursion is a product of the decline, a great white elephant, provides a convenient excuse for not reading what is after all a very long poem. Yet Coleridge said that 'proofs meet me in every part of The Excursion that the poet's genius has not flagged'and that 'one half of the number of its beauties would make all the beauties of all his contemporary poets collectively mount to the balance',3 Keats considered the poem to be one of the three things in the age to rejoice at,a and Hazlitt, who had no reason to do Wordsworth any favours, began his review with a sentence very different from Jeffrey's: 'In power of intellect, in lofty conception, in the depth of feeling, at once simple and sublime, which pervades every part of it, and which gives to every Prelude, his poems object an almost preternatural and preterhuman interest, this work has seldom been surpassed.
It is sometimes said that ourselves. The recovery and analysis of the manuscripts of such poems as'The Ruined Cottage'have been one of the great achievements of twentieth-century literary scholarship, but have resulted in an emphasis on what 'Wordsworth's poems were in their glad dawn at the expense of what they became once published and read. It is as if, in defiance of the Immortality Ode, scholars and critics have been trying to bring back the hour of spiendour. Thus, for instance, an important passage of blank verse about contemplating the forms of nature comes to be viewed primarily as a discarded conclusion to 'The Ruined Cottage'and only incidentally as the climax to book four of The Excursion.
The putative five-book Prelude of early spring looks like a rarher interesting compromise between that poem's comparatively brief genesis and its epically proportioned consummation: a four-book Excursior of t would hold similar attractions. It was the early books, and to some extent the last one, that were much quoted and discussed, that to a reader like Ruskin seemed to be Wordsworth's crowning achievement. Even Jeffrey found praise for the story of the ruined cottage in book one; Hazlitt, not surprisingly, was especially interested in the Solitary's account inbook three of his response to the French Revolution; Keats was exceptionally attracted to the Passage on mythology in book [our; and Charles Lamb wrote in his review that page of every volume of Modern Painters was a quotation of the passage in which the Wanderer sums up his attack on 'modern philosophy'and 'the calculating undustanding' : The fourth book, entitled 'Despondency Corrected', we consider as the most valuable portion of the poem.
For moral grandeur; for wide scope of thought and a long train of lofty imagery; for tender personal appeals; and a uersification which we feel we ought to notice, but feel it also so involved in the Poetry, that we can hardly mention it as a distinct excellence; it stands without competition among our didactic and descriptive verse. The general tendency of the argument which we might almost affirm to be the leading moral of the poem is to abate the pride of the calculatin g understanding, and to reinstate the imagination and the affections in those seats from which modern philosophy has laboured but too successfully to expel them.
He finds that he cannot single out the versification and write a piece of purely literary criticism, for everything about the book is bound up with its moral argument. The primary attraction of The Excursion for readers from its first reviewers through Ruskin to Leslie Stephen was its ethical content; it appeared to 'Wordsworth's crowning achievement because it was the fullest be of his philosophy.
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Arnold's emphasis on the poetry as to the philosophy was in large part a reaction against the tradition that culminated in Stephen's essay ''Wordsworth's embodiment opposed Ethics', which begins with the claim that the poet and the philosopher live in the same world and are interested in the same truths: ''What is the nature of man and the world in which he lives, and what, in consequence, should be our conduct?
To the kind of educated readers to whom The Excursion was perforce addressed given its length, its price, and its abstract diction , the Wanderer was a compelling figure precisely because he was different from themselves. Like Schiller's 'naive' poet, he is unalienated, he offers a path back to nature. He looked Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth And ocean's liquid mass, beneath him lay In gladness and deep joy.
The clouds were touch'd, And in their silent faces could he read conception of the life that is in nature. Lamb is again representative: 'To a mind constituted like that of Mr 'Wordsworth, the stream, the torrent, and the stirring leaf - seem not merely to suggest associations of deity, but to be a kind of speaking communication with it. In his poetry nothing in Nature is dead. Motion is synonymous with life. Sound needed none, Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank The spectacle; sensation, soul, and form, All melted into him; they swallowed up His animal being; in them did he live, And by them did he live; they were his life.
Where a Montgomery worried about the extent to which that faith did or did not coincide with Christian orthodoxy, Ruskin was content to share the feeling. Seeing the particular forms of nature is of the essence. The very first lines of book one are typical in their detailed perception of two different effects of sunlight: 'Twas summer, and the sun had mounted high: Southward, the landscape indistinctly glared Through a pale steam; but all the northern downs, In clearest air ascending, shew'd far off A surface dappled o'er with shadows, flung From many a brooding cloud.
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religior, - all in one. There is not a moment of any day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant of the most perfect beauty And yet we never principles attend to it. No domain For fickle, short-lived clouds, to occupy, Or to pass through; - but rather an abyss In which the everlasting stars abide, And whose soft gloom, and boundless depth, might tempt The curious eye to look for them by day.
Then at the climax of Modern Painters I there is a paean to the energy of Turner's cloudscapes: to mark the independent passion, the tumultuous separate existence of every wreath of writhing vapour, yet swept away and overpowered by one omnipotence of storm, and thus to bid 'Be as a presence or a motion - one Among the many there; and while the mists Flying, and rainy vapours, call out shapes And phantoms from the crags and solid earth, 68 As fast as a musician scatters sounds Out of an instrument,' - this belongs only to nature and to him.
At certain moments of intense feeling the optical becomes the visionary. Ruskin, fascinated as he was by clouds, must have been especially attracted to the Solitary's account of his visionary experience which forms the culmination of book two of The Excursion. The Solitary narrates how he was walking down from the mountainside through dull mist, when a step, A single step, that freed me from the skirts Of the blind vapour, opened to my view Glory beyond all glory ever seen By waking sense or by the dreaming soul! The Appearance, instantaneously disclosed, 'Was of a mighty City.
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought Upon the dark materials of the storm Now pacified; on them, and on the coves And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto The vapours had receded, taking there Their station under a cerulean sky. O, 'twas an unimaginable sight! Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf, Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky, Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed, Molten together, and composing thus, Each lost in each, that marvellous array Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge Fantastic pomp of structure without name, In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapp'd.
Within a few lines of the apparition that comes with the end Suddenly, there came in the direction of Dome du Go0ter a crash - of prolonged thunder; and when I looked up, I saw the cloud cloven and, like a risen spirit casting off its garment of corruption, and flushed with eternity of life, the Aiguilles of the south broke through the black foam of the storm clouds. One by one, pyramid above pyramid, the mighty range of its companions shot off their shrouds, and took to themselves their glory - all fire - no shade - no dimness. Spire of ice - dome of snow - wedge of rock - all fire in the light of the sunset, sank into the hollows of the crags - and pierced through the prisms of the glaciers, and dwelt within them - as it does in clouds.
The ponderous storm writhed and moaned beneath them, the forests wailed and waved in the evening wind, the steep river flashed and leaped along the valley; but the mighty pyramids stood calmly - in the very heart of the high heaven - a celestial city with walls of amethyst and gates of gold - filled with the light and clothed with the Peace of God. LE iv. The Excursion's mighty city, however, seems to me to have been a formative influence on the way in which Ruskin saw his vision. The Wordsworthian city is a commingling of cloud, rock, and turf, where the Ruskinian is composed more strictly of the shining rocky pyramids, but such distinctions are slight in comparison with the underlying similarity whereby in each visionary moment a celestial city is revealed through an opening in the clouds as the creative imagination transforms physical sight into what Ruskin called 'spiritual or second sight'.
For the Solitary, the apparition is but an interlude in the course of a narration that is focused on humanity rather than nature and on suffering rather than glory. He sees the celestial city as he and his neighbours are bringing down to safety an old man who, of the storm, the tone changes as attention is turned back to the old man: though he seemed at first to have received No harm, and uncomplaining as before 'Went through his usual tasks, a silent change Soon shew'd itself; he lingered three short weeks.
This causes him to florget the old man's suffering. But human pain and mortality are quickly reasserted as we learn that the quest for fuel and the exposure in the storm have cost the old man his life. As in the story of the ruined cottage, 'Wordsworth has juxtaposed the heartlessness and the beauty of nature. He does not rest with mountain glory; his is also the poetry in beatitude' ii.
The passage intended for Modern Painters 1f, on the other hand, works towards the obliteration of 'the associations of humanity' and the annihilation of the individual subject 'before, and in the Presence of, the manifested Deity': 'It was then only that I understood that to become nothing might be to become more than Man. In contrast to 'Wordsworrh - and indeed to the older 'de-converted' Ruskin who in Fors Clauigera penned 'Letters to the 'Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain' there is no consideration of the effects of storm and avalanche on those who actually live and work in the Alps or the Lakes.
The passage is all 'Mountain Glory': there is none of 'The Mountain Gloom', that sense of the oppressiveness of village life among the Alps which Ruskin introduced at the end of Modern Painters Evasion of human or social questions is an incidental of the desire that underlies the passage, namely, to transcend the individual perceiving mind. The professed aim of the whole of Modern Painters was to declare 'the perfectness and eternal beauty of the work of God';28 the desire to efface the image of self is bound up with Ruskin's belief that the modern disease was a form of subjectivity that was harmful to the religious sense.
Chapters eleven to seventeen of that volume remain one of the key texts of the nineteenth century. They are now too little known, so I make no apology for quoting from them extensively in the remainder of this chapter. The arts of the ancients represented men and other living creatures; the Greeks were not interested in mountains.
Prior to the modern period, mankind took very little interest in anything but what belonged to humanity; caring in no wise for the external world, except as it influenced his own destiny; honouring the lightning because it could strike him, the sea because it could drown him, the fountains because they gave him drink, and the grass because it yielded him seed; but utterly incapable of feeling any special happiness in the love of such things, or any earnest emotion about them, considered as separate from man.
I shall use the words in Schiller's way and do not intend to derogatory senses. Schiller's suggest essay is premised on a their current theory of loss - lost childhood and lost unity with nature closely akin to that of Wordsworth's great ode. Ruskin's argument also turns on the idea of loss: he seeks to relate the modern feeling for landscape to the loss of the old religious certainties, the stabilities of faith. Schiller's distinction provides a helpful way into Ruskin's next chapter, 'Of the Pathetic Fallacy'.
The naiVe poet is entirely possessed by his object, whereas the sentimental poet'reJlecrs upon the impression that objects make upon him, and only in that reflection is the emotion grounded which he himself experiences and which he excites in us' p. For the modern, then, the mind's consciousness of its self is such that nature can never be perceived in itself, but only in its effect on the perceiver. Blue would then be not a quality inherent in objects but 'the sensation of colour which the human eye receives in looking at the open sky, or at a bell gentian' Modern Painters lII, Both Schiller and Ruskin see the dangers of this potentially solipsistic post-Kantian state of affairs.
For Ruskin, it is the origin of the pathetic fallacy whereby, due to 'an excited state of the feelings' The pathetic fallacy occurs when the emotion distorts the mental reflection of nature in such a way that the poet no longer sees the object as it really is. Given that the pathetic fallacy is a condition caused by strong passion, it will be a characteristic of all poets, since for Ruskin poetry is passion.
But, according to Ruskin, 'the greatest poets do not often admit this kind of falseness. The creative and reflective are his equivalents of Schiller's naive and sentimental; for Schiller, too, Homer and Shakespeare are the greatest naive poets. Like Schiller's, Ruskin's categories serve as both an eternal measure of poetry and a model of historical decline. He sees all things in himself. The image is lost in the sentiment. Pastorals of this kind are written about shepherds by writers who are for ever cut off from the shepherd's imagined naive unity with nature; that is why pastorals of this kind are always bound up with loss, are always elegiac and often epitaphic.
It is significant in this respect that many of the narratives within The Excursion concern characters who are dead, and that'l7ordsworth included his first 'Essay upon Epitaphs', a text which I will discuss in the next chapter, as a long note to book five. The Wanderer defends pastoral's way of invoking passion in nature: because they fallaciously describe foam, but because they faithfully describe sorrow' Intensity of passion may transform a fallacy into a strength. The pathetic fallacy, Ruskin argues, is 'eminently characteristic of the modern mind'; the modern landscape poet or painter endeavours 'to express something which he, as a living creature, imagines in the The Poets, in their elegies and songs Lamenting the departed, call the groves, They call upon the hills and streams to mourn, And senseless rocks; nor idly; for they speak, ln these their invocations, with a voice Obedient to the strong creative power Of human passion.
Why is this? It is a matter of religious faith: Homer had some feeling about the sea; a faith in the animation of it much stronger than Keats's. But all this sense of something living in it, he separates in his mind into a great abstract image of a Sea Power. He never says the waves rage, or the waves are idle. To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above.
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