Leisure and Civilisation in English Literature
Many have described the effects of the decline of patronage on writers’ sense of their relationship with the public.1 With the old system of patronage authors had a sense of belonging, even though they might be subject to the whims of their benefactor or of a relatively small group of subscribers. The market type of relationship which ensued was characterised by an unpredictability which was bound to be more inscrutable. Such a position need not entail a more acute sense of the effects of division of labour on society in general. But the writer’s loss of an intimate audience, a close public, did facilitate a sense of the alienation inherent in the system as a whole. Yet these were not the terms in which writers tended to discuss the matter. Poets in particular, but not only poets, saw the origins of alienation in the gradual compartmentalisation and division of the various human capacities, leading up to the emergent industrial civilisation; original unalienated humanity, they felt, had expressed itself in poetic figures on all topics, and had accorded pride of place to professional poets, who were the repositories of the religious, legal, royal, historical and magical lore of the tribe, and were also regarded as prophets: the acknowledged legislators of mankind. Descriptions of the division of humanity are often, at the same time, accounts of how poetry has declined in social importance and, indeed, in energy and aesthetic value, and has become the province of an isolated and specialised élite.
KeywordsEnglish Literature Free Play Industrial Civilisation Market Type Leisured Class
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.