The Cult of the Primitive: Eden Phillpotts, John Trevena



Edward Thomas’s account of the withdrawal of David Morgan from London to the Welsh hills reflects one aspect of the sensibility of his age. The growth of towns and cities, which had advanced at an unprecedented rate in this period, had modified the popular view of what constituted country life. As town life in its threefold aspect of smart society, bourgeois conventionalism and slum brutality and squalor could be considered ‘artificial’, so the identification of country life with the ‘natural’ and ‘unspoiled’ followed. But a growth in population had also meant a further swallowing up of common land and the spread outward of industrial cities,1 so that villages were seen as being ‘threatened’ by the town. The hostility to industrialism and a desire to call a halt to it therefore led to a glorification of country which man could not change. However, nothing could in fact be more unnatural from the human point of view than a cult of the ‘natural’ in this sense, for country life was understood less in terms of living in a working community than as a means for undergoing various uplifting spiritual experiences. With this muddled thinking we find a turning towards the figures of the farmer and the agricultural labourer as types of primitive simplicity from which the urban consciousness could learn. The ideals of Carpenter and the Fabians were reduced to an aesthetic.


Walled City High Moor Primitive People Country Life Authentic Ring 
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  1. 1.
    See W. G. Hoskins: The Making of the English Landscape (1955), pp. 216–24.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    But for an apt comment on this see Edward Thomas, A Literary Pilgrim in England (1917), p. 143.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Eden Phillpotts: An Assessment and a Tribute, ed. Waveney Girvan (1953), p. 19.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    A. M. Allen, Baxters o’ the Moor (1923), p. 84.Google Scholar

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© Glen Cavaliero 1977

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