This is the first of an important series of anonymous essays on pastoral poetry which likely originated as the lectures Thomas Tickell gave at Oxford when he was occupying Trapp's position as Poetry Professor in 1711. In contrast to Alexander Pope's Discourse on Pastoral Poetry (1717), these essays develop a Moderns theory of pastoral, drawing on Fontenelle's "Discours sur la Nature de l'Eglogue" (1688), but developing the Moderns position in a characteristically British way. The four essays on pastoral were commonly attributed to Joseph Addison prior to the twentieth century.
In contrast to "Ancients'" pastoral, which posits an ideal arcadia, Moderns pastoral tends to be historicist and materialist, encouraging the several sorts of pastoral realism that eventually evolved into Romantic poetics. Chief among these is the idea that the poet offers a "selection" of materials from real life calculated to give a particular kind of pleasure to readers. This leads to an idealism very different from that pursued in classical humanism, being grounded in psychology rather than morality and tending to set pastoral and imaginative writing in a new kind of opposition to prose genres. Much later critical theory lurks implicitly in Tickell's easy-going remarks, Mrs. Cornelia Lizard" being a forerunner of Emmanuel Kant.
James Edmund Congleton: "Tickell builds an independent rationalistic theory and states the cardinal principles of the new school of pastoral poetry in England" Theories of Pastoral Poetry (1952) 87.
As Tickell proclaims in The Prospect of Peace (1713) "With Philips shall the peaceful Vallies ring, | And Britain hear a second Spenser sing" Guardian, ed. John Calhoun Stephens (1982) 626. This series of essays inspired Pope's burlesque, which appears in Guardian No. 40.
Pastoral Poetry not only amuses the Fancy the most delightfully, but is likewise more indebted to it than any other sort whatsoever. It transports us into a kind of Fairy Land, where our Ears are soothed with the Melody of Birds, bleating Flocks, and purling Streams; our Eyes enchanted with flowery Meadows and springing Greens; we are laid under cool Shades, and entertained with all the Sweets and Freshness of Nature. It is a Dream, 'tis a Vision, which we wish may be real, and we believe that it is true.
Mrs. Cornelia Lizard's Head was so far turned with these Imaginations, when we were last in the Country, that she lost her Rest by listening to Nightingals; she kept a Pair of Turtles cooing in her Chamber, and had a tame Lamb running after her up and down the House. I used all gentle Methods to bring her to her self; as having had a Design heretofore of turning Shepherd my self when I read Virgil and Theocritus at Oxford. But as my Age and Experience have armed me against any Temptation to the Pastoral Life, I can now with the greater Safety consider it; and shall lay down such Rules, as those of my Readers, who have the aforesaid Design, ought to observe, if they would follow the Steps of the Shepherds and Shepherdesses of ancient Times.
In order to form a right Judgment of Pastoral Poetry, it will be necessary to cast back our Eyes on the first Ages of the World. For since that way of Life is not now in Being, we must enquire into the manner of it when it actually did exist. Before Mankind was formed into large Societies, or Cities were built, and Commerce established, the Wealth of the World consisted chiefly in Flocks and Herds. The tending of these, we find to have been the Employment of the first Princes, whose Subjects were Sheep and Oxen, and their Dominions the adjoining Vales. As they lived in great Affluence and Ease, we may presume that they enjoyed such Pleasures as that Condition afforded, free and uninterrupted. Their Manner of Life gave them Vigour of Body and Serenity of Mind. The Abundance they were possest of secured them from Avarice, Ambition or Envy; they could scarce have any Anxieties or Contentions, where every one had more than he could tell what to do with. Love indeed might occasion some Rivalships amongst them, because many Lovers fix upon one Object, for the Loss of which they will he satisfied with no Compensation. Otherwise it was a State of Ease, Innocence, and Contentment; where Plenty begot Pleasure, and Pleasure begot Singing, and Singing begot Poetry, and Poetry begot Pleasure again.
Thus happy was the first Race of Men, but rude withal and uncultivated. For before they could make any considerable Progress in Arts and Sciences, the Tranquility of the Rural Life was destroyed by turbulent and ambitious Spirits; who, having built Cities, raised Armies, and studied Policies of State, made Vassals of the defenceless Shepherds, and rendered that which was before easie and unrestrained, a mean, laborious, miserable Condition. Hence, if we consider the Pastoral Period before Learning, we shall find it unpolished; if after, we shall find it unpleasant.
The Use that I would snake of this short Review of the Country Life shall be this. An Author, that would amuse himself by writing Pastorals, should form in his Fancy a Rural Scene of perfect Ease and Tranquility, where Innocence, Simplicity and Joy abound. It is not enough that he write about the Country; he must give us what is agreeable in that Scene, and hide what is wretched. It is indeed commonly affirmed, that Truth well painted will certainly please the Imagination; but it is sometimes convenient not to discover the whole Truth, but that part only which is delightful. We must sometimes show only half an Image to the Fancy; which if we display in a lively manner, the Mind is so dexterously deluded, that it doth not readily perceive that the other half is concealed. Thus in writing Pastorals, let the Tranquility of that Life appear full and plain, but hide the Meanness of it; represent its Simplicity as clear as you please, but cover its Misery. I would not hereby be so understood, as if I thought nothing that is irksome or unpleasant should have a place in these Writings; I only mean that this state of Life in general should be supposed agreeable. But as there is no Condition exempt from Anxiety, I will allow Shepherds to be afflicted with such Misfortunes, as the Loss of a favourite Lamb, or a faithless Mistress. He may, if you please, pick a Thorn out of his Foot, or vent his Grief for losing the Prize in Dancing; but these being small Torments, they recommend that State which only produces such trifling Evils. Again, I would not seem so strict in my Notions of Innocence and Simplicity, as to deny the use of a little Railing, or the liberty of stealing a Kid or a Sheep-hook. For these are likewise such petty Enormities, that we must think the Country happy where these are the greatest Transgressions.
When a Reader is placed in such a Scene as I have described, and introduced into such Company as I have chosen, he gives himself up to the pleasing Delusion; and since every one doth not know how it comes to pass, I will venture to tell him why he is pleased.
The first Reason is because all Mankind loves Ease. Though Ambition and Avarice employ most Mens Thoughts, they are such uneasie Habits, that we do not indulge them out of Choice, but from some Necessity, real or imaginary. We seek Happiness, in which Ease is the principal Ingredient, and the End proposed in our most restless Pursuits is Tranquility. We are therefore soothed and delighted with the Representation of it, and fancy we partake of the Pleasure.
A second Reason is our secret Approbation of Innocence and Simplicity. Human Nature is not so much depraved, as to hinder us from respecting Goodness in others, though we our selves want it. This is the Reason why we are so much charmed with the pretty Prattle of Children, and even the Expressions of Pleasure or Uneasiness in some part of the Brute Creation. They are without Artifice or Malice; and we love Truth too well to resist the Charms of Sincerity.
A third Reason is our Love of the Country. Health, Tranquility and pleasing Objects are the Growth of the Country; and though Men, for the general Good of the World, are made to love populous Cities, the Country hath the greatest Share in an uncorrupted Heart. When we paint, describe, or any way indulge our Fancy, the Country is the Scene which supplies us with the most lovely Images. This State was that wherein God placed Adam when in Paradise; nor could all the fanciful Wits of Antiquity imagine any thing that could administer more exquisite Delight in their Elysium.