THE RISE OF ENGLISH NATIONALISM: A Critical History, 1740-1850 by Gerald Newman

THE RISE OF ENGLISH NATIONALISM: A Critical History, 1740-1850

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A history of English thought during the reigns of the Georges, focusing on the shaping of a largely new English national character. Not a lively cultural history, this is instead about ideas and, aside from commentary on Hogarth's prints and a few loamy novels by Fielding and others, a book that rarely gets its fingers dirty with common life. It is splendid, however, on aristocratic life and the silks and snobbery of the Frenchified Englishman most admired and fashionable during this period. The forming of the English national character has been widely ignored by scholars, who otherwise have done well by the Germans, English gentleman measured himself by his mastery of French and French manners, French being It as it were. English cosmopolitanism, though, was not without its unpleasantries: ""excessive spitting. . .drunkenness, indecency of conversation, the rinsing of the mouth at table, indifference to table linen, the free resort to chamber pots in the dining room after the retirement of the ladies and servants, and much scratching."" The literary revolution that arose and hoped to save Saxon vigor gave writers ""the fortitude required to be truly iconoclastic and original. . ."" Surprisingly, pamphleteering American revolutionaries famed for thumping for the rights of man were only aping English writers having their own revolutionary breakthrough and creating the new English national identity. Much of this lacks sensuous weight and passes through the mind like mist through a butterfly net. But his larger outline of the cresting of an identity is an important gift to the reader open to receiving it.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's