By John Barrell
A part of a sequence, this assortment comprises essays introduced as papers, which concentrate on 18th-century British tradition. different titles within the sequence, through a number of authors, contain "The quandary in old Materialism", "The Freudian topic" and "Alice does not: Feminism, Semiotics and Cinema".
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In a sense, these images have no public: they invited those who looked at them to put aside their responsibilities as members of 'the public', to lose their duty in their inclination, and to rediscover, as private persons, the anxious landscape of rural England as a place where public fears and public pieties could, for the brief period in which such 'rapid Pictures' could engage them, be forgotten. 3o 2 The Public Figure and the Private Eye: William Collins's 'Ode to Evening' This piece is a reconstruction of some remarks made ex tempore, punctuated by questions and observations from students and followed by discussion, in one of a series of classes on eighteenth-century poetry.
But when chill blustring Winds, or driving Rain, Forbid my willing Feet, be mine the Hut, That from the Mountain's Side, Views Wilds, and swelling Floods, And Hamlets brown, and dim-discover'd Spires, And hears their simple Bell, and marks o'er all Thy Dewy Fingers draw The gradual dusky Veil. While Spring shall pour his Show'rs, as oft he wont, And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest Eve! While Summer loves to sport, Beneath thy ling'ring Light: While sallow Autumn fills thy Lap with Leaves, Or Winter yelling thro' the troublous Air, Affrights thy shrinking Train, And rudely rends thy Robes.
Such signifiers work in contemporary oil paintings to announce the content of the paintings, to signify some thing; here they seem free, and yet, contained as the picture is by its evident informality, these drifting gestures cause no great unease, no puzzlement, no very urgent need to understand them. A more striking example of the untroublesome ambiguity of Rowlandson's pictures which, without our bothering much about it, at once suggests and withholds an anecdotal, and in this case a social and political content, would be the drawing known as A Group of Rustics (Figure 9)29, though three of the figures, carrying shotguns, are evidently farmers, gentlemen, or both.