Norris and the Enlightenment
Since Norris’s reputation rests primarily on his Platonic idealism and Metaphysical poetry, it is necessary to establish to what extent he occupies a position on the threshold of the Enlightenment. If we take Browne’s “America and untravelled parts of truth,” and Glanvill’s “unknown Peru of Nature,” as an expressive indication of the spirit of the previous generation; 1 and if we take the age of Watts and Addison, with its self-conscious Enlightenment, as having passed the threshold; then it must appear that Norris is nearer to Watts than to Glanvill. The age of Browne and Glanvill was an age of exploratory enthusiasm and insatiable curiosity. These qualities faded as men realised they were rid of the cobwebs of the Schools and no longer haunted by the ghost of the Stagirite. When Watts rescued one last science — logic — from the disrepute it had lain in since Bacon had begun the great assault on Aristotle, his self-congratulatory dedication to “so polite and knowing an age” was already a cliché.2 Norris is also conscious of living in an enlightened age, but he appears to be less comfortable and less complacent about it. This sense of being in the Enlightenment, but not quite of it, can be pin-pointed at the beginning and at the end of his literary career.
KeywordsIdeal World Syllogistic Reasoning Expressive Indication Private Path Universal Reason
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