The picturesque

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Edmund Burke had attempted to distinguish the sublime from the beautiful in 1757, and the picturesque followed a few decades later as an effort to define the beauty of the sublime. Literary versions of the idea appear in descriptive landscapes stressing roughness and irregularity, what Pope termed 'wild civility'. Typical features of the picturesque include gnarled trees, craggy cliffs, and architectural ruins. Naturally, picturesque travel accounts tend to visit rural prospects, and offered a welcome contrast to the repetitive accounts of the classical heritage and urban sights of earlier continental travel.

Elegant picturesque views

While Boswell's impressive volume is more historical and topographical than Gilpin or Combe, his title reveals the emphasis readers and publishers placed on the 'views'. The 'pleasing effect' of St. Michael's Mount and its 'agreeable' situation with its 'pleasant and extensive' 'prospect' are not archaeologically or strategically significant, but they certainly make this remote corner of the kingdom worthy of a visit by the discerning tourist. Most of the descriptions of English sites first appeared in the London Magazine from 1747 to 1760.
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Observations of picturesque beauty

William Gilpin is rightly credited with creating the terminology and demand for picturesque travel writing. While the interest in awe-inspiring nature and an appreciation (frequently condescending) of daily country life can be found in the poems of Thomas Gray and the sentimental novels of the day, Gilpin is the first to extend these interests to travel accounts. His analysis of the sources of natural beauty border at times on the comical ('Cows are commonly the most picturesque in the months of April and May, when the old hair is coming off' [253]), but his praises of the 'beetling' mountain, the tremendous precipice and chasm and the winding path establish the vocabulary of the picturesque and still inform many of our ideas of the Lake District.
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A satiric view

This volume is invaluable for its satiric view of late eighteenth-century taste in travel. The Rowlandson illustration captures the picturesque traveller's pretensions to learning that the verse echoes in terms like 'floating mists', 'low'r', 'tremendous'. Combe's iambic tetrameter lines, with comic double rhymes like 'flout it/about it' and 'disaster/master', echo the Hudibrastic satire of Samuel Butler a century earlier and jog the reader along through an amusing series of misadventures.
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Detail. Boswell, Henry.Historical descriptions of new and elegant picturesque views of the antiquities of England and Wales ...Shoults Ec/1786/B

Detail. Boswell, Henry.
Historical descriptions of new and elegant picturesque views of the antiquities of England and Wales ...
Shoults Ec/1786/B
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