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MINIATURIZATION IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH LITERATURE PHILIP STEVICK I A good many of the prominent tropes of the eighteenth century have a significant relation with physical size. In the great chain of being, for example, gradations are often pictured as extending from smaller to larger. In the imagery of deistic teleology the perception of aptness of physical proportion and appropriateness of size are key routes to the necessary conclusions. In the interplay between urban and TUral affinities so frequent in the literature of the period, shock at the city, pleasure in its diversit)" frustration at the limitation of the village, or the imaginative reconstruction of the village's communal integrity - all of these involve an explicit concern with size. In a different direction, ideas of the state of nature and the human community take their concrete shape by means of images precisely adjusted in their scale: man alone, the leader and the led, a dozen wits at Will's Coffee House, the audience at Tyburn, "the mob." The Newtonian delights in the literature of the period express themselves in images of cosmic regularity and microscopic intricacy. As the architecture of the eighteenth century enters literature, it tends to picture either Palladian grandeur or "the humble cot." Even in the tendency of the literature to speak of itself, the physical size of its printed format is significant. Joseph Andrews' two volumes duodecimo are "these little volumes." And the Duke of Gloucester, as everybody knows, found Gibbon's Decline and Fall to be "Another damned thick, square book." Literary history has emphasized the concern of the period with the representation of spaciousness, mainly for three very good reasons. First is the insistent Miltonic quality of so much of its verse, or qualities, if not always Miltonic, that express a straining after epic effects. Thomson justifies The Seasms by writing: Such themes as these the rural Maro sung To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height Of elegance and taste, by Greece relin'd. Volume XXXVIII, N1Unber 2, January 1969 160 PHILIP STEVICK And in a perfectly representative verse paragraph, a few lines later, he writes of "the whole leafy forest," "the liberal air," "lavish fragrance," the town "buried in smoke," the country "far diffus'd around, One boundless blush," Autumn being hid beneath "The fair profusion." It is a diction of passion and sweep or bombast and gush, according to one's taste. But what is indisputable is its constant impulse to enlarge. Second is the fondness of the writers of the period for the mock form, an ironic technique that ordinarily inBates, superimposing the grandiose traditions of a classic form upon a trivial or base subject rnatter. Molly Seagrim's epic battle in the churchyard, in Tom Jones, is a classic instance of parodic inBation. Another is the game of ombre in The Rape of the Lock. And Dryden's MacFlecknoe provided the paradigm for scores of works in which idiocy is enlarged to epic proportions. A third is that complex of both theory and practice conventionally referred to under the rubric of "the sublime" and described in Samuel Holt Monk's book of that title. It is a complex represented by the theory of Burke and the endless interpretations of Longinus, the painting of Gilpin, the vogue of the Gothic, the cultivation, in landscape gardening, of the wild prospect, and the poetry of Collins. The opposite tendency, however, is no less important in the imagination of the period, the tendency to reduce the literary object in its size. Literature of any period, of course, has its ways of reducing focus, most notably in the movement from the general to the particular, as a Renaissance poet moves from "love" to "my love," for example, and eighteenthcentury literature moves as easily between the two as the literature of any other period. It is not such particularization, which is, after all, universal in literature, that I wish to consider here. Neither do I wish to consider that kind of literature which is "miniature" by reason of its slightness, its compactness, and its epigrammatic symmetry. A couplet to be inscribed On a dog's collar ( Swift wrote one as well as Pope) is miniature...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 159-173
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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