The Social Passions: Benevolence and Sentimentality

  • R. S. White

Abstract

An unexpected bridge linking philosophy, politics and romantic literature is the body of eighteenth-century works known to literary historians as ‘sentimental’. Indeed, it is hard to underestimate the importance of sentimentality in its eighteenth-century literary guise for the rise of romanticism, although the links relating to natural rights have not often been drawn. It is equally important to acknowledge that at least one strand of sentimentality had a strong connection with a general political stance, what G. J. Barker-Benfield calls ‘A Culture of Reform’, associated particularly with the articulation of women’s consciousness.2 Because the 1790s did not occur in an historical vacuum, this chapter looks backwards to the eighteenth century and forwards to the younger romantics, tracing the changes which increasing consciousness of reform under the pressure of a demand for natural rights, made to the genre.

Keywords

Burning Flare Lime Hunt Bark 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Quoted from James Thomson: Poetical Works, ed. J. Logie Robertson (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1908). This passage appeared for the first time in the third version, 1730.Google Scholar
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  53. 74.
    Unfortunately, the well-known book by Christopher Ricks, Keats and Embarrassment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), is a wasted opportunity, since Ricks focuses on the more superficial aspects of the sentimental link. So, I believe, does Marjorie Levinson (without referring to sentimental literature) in Keatss Life of Allegory: The Origins of a Style (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
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© R. S. White 2005

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