Johns Hopkins University Press

Since nothing here we fix'd or constant find,Why should the Nereid boast a settled mind?1

In 2014, the geographers Laurence le Dû-Blayo and Olivier Musard published "Towards a Shared Language: Semantic Exchanges and Cross-disciplinary Interaction," their introduction to an edited book called Underwater Seascapes: From geographical to ecological perspectives. Their essay asks whether it is possible to speak productively about underwater landscape when the meanings of landscape—in English, at any rate—have tended historically to derive from the countryside. ("Towards a Shared Language" was composed in English, but does briefly note a meaningful distinction between "landscape" and the French paysage.) As if composing landscape's champ lexical, Le Dû-Blayo and Musard ponder the words that tend to spring up in its vicinity, such as "visibility," "panorama," "belvedere," and "background." It is widely understood that aesthetic properties like these become altered, if not utterly transformed, when transposed to submarine settings.2 Le Dû-Blayo and Musard contend, similarly, that when "vocabularies" traffic between terrestrial landscapes and underwater seascapes, they variously "intersect and complete or contradict one another." These uncertain dynamics are demonstrably consequential, partly because they touch on the key legal question of whether the European Landscape Convention can, or should, be understood to apply to the undersea.3 [End Page 109]

In what follows, I discuss some other, older, poetic attempts to work from terrestrial conventions to imagine and represent the aqueous, the oceanic, and the submarine. I begin in the present in order to indicate the persistence, not to say the intransigence, of the concerns I will be examining in an eighteenth-century context. And I begin with geography so as to suggest how scholarship in poetics, aesthetics, and art history might have some important things to say to and with colleagues in other disciplines who involve themselves with underwater (and other) environments. As Le Dû-Blayo and Musard make clear, language, sensation, and imagination have material as well as theoretical impacts on undersea space, because they are involved in establishing its ontologies: as extractive zone, cultural seascape, sovereign territory, or otherwise. We who study the cultural histories of nature, and do so through eighteenth-century prisms, may have more to contribute to these debates than we tend to realize.

At the same time, this article is concerned with the work historicist scholarship can do to contribute to the blue, and more broadly environmental, humanities, diverse scholarly networks that frequently, and reasonably, stage their inquiries in or in close proximity to the present.4 I am interested, above all, in alternatives to the kinds of cultural analysis that reduce artifacts to unambiguous indicators of prevailing attitudes, and interpret relations among them strictly in terms of linear shifts in such attitudes. Accounts like these are not necessarily wrong, and can produce narratives of appealing vigor, but they hazard a reliance on generality, as well as a self-defeating tendency to regard their objects as absolutely cohesive and resolved. Many humanities scholars who have undertaken interdisciplinary work, and many who have not, will be familiar with the misconception that the primary contribution a literary academic (for example) can furnish is to tell an elegant story about another, ostensibly more knowledge-producing, discipline. Ironically, humanities research that treats its materials as plainly narratable data reinforces this misunderstanding, and may perpetuate the various misfortunes it brings about.

It is possible to animate the complexities of artifacts, and of their authors, while participating in the blue and environmental humanities, as well as other interdisciplinary formations. Doing so requires rigorous care: readings that desire a fluid and changeful sea ought to recognize authors, artifacts, and arrangements as fluxible, too. Alice Te Punga Somerville is one scholar recently to have argued that an Ocean Studies that cannot think past catch-all concepts—the ocean, the Pacific, the undersea, and so on—risks ignorance not only of marine histories, but of cultural, linguistic, ecological, and artifactual multiplicities.5 Literary criticism can provide uniquely productive tools for recognising and promoting granularity and polyvocality, which are known but sometimes elusive virtues in interdisciplinary work.

The present study joins others in acknowledging the involvement of more-than-human energies in the makings of literary things. Thus the kind of critical practice that Amitav Ghosh models in The Great Derangement (2016), when he interprets texts and other events as the consequences of encounter—sometimes uncanny, often unwitting, and not always felicitous—among subject, language, object, and "the planet."6 Bearing this paper's submerged locality in mind, this is a practice related to the geographer Philip Steinberg's call for scholars to think not so much of the ocean as from it.7 This does not imply the erasure of the material [End Page 110] and historical contingencies of human authorship, nor does it mean assuming some supernatural power to account for planetary complexity through a single act of literary criticism. It means, rather, locating in literary events the inscrutable yet undeniable presence of the worlds they describe, and with whom they may be said to collaborate.8

This essay's central preoccupations are the Nereides: or, Sea-Eclogues (1712) of the English poet William Diaper, who was born in Bridgwater, not far from the Bristol Channel, in 1685. The Nereides consist of fourteen poems, called eclogues, which adhere, in terms of form and register, to the cast and spirit of classically-derived pastoral dialogue. Traditionally, this genre features conversations, and occasionally lyrical contests, among idealised shepherd characters, who speak and sing about rural life, and above all about rural love. In so doing, they tend to produce and reproduce archetypal images of bucolic spaces and lives, images that have exerted potent influence over cultural understandings of how the rustic, and to some extent the natural, sound, look, and feel. Furthermore, pastoral dialogue's rather circumscribed parameters have the important effect of making its poems exceptionally generically legible. This is not coincidental to a mode that so self-consciously asserts and extends a genealogy reaching to classical masters like Theocritus and Virgil.

The Nereides, however, set their dialogues not in the countryside but beside, on, and even under seawater. Instead of classical bucolic voices, they present marine ones, as of the sea-deities called Tritons, and of the Nereids, or sea-nymphs, that give the collection its name. The poems are designed, in this way, to enact the strange transfer of terrestrial poetic conventions to fresh—rather, salty—environs. But ultimately, they do not so much express a cohesive oceanic attitude as experiment with the aesthetic and sonant capacities (and oddnesses) of such substitution. While their numerous dialogists describe loves won and lost, debate the relative pleasures and virtues of life at sea and on land, and detail the marvels of their aqueous element, the poems play with the poetic and allegorical potentialities of oceanic phenomena.

Diaper's text, and the poet himself, have been frequently mentioned in literary and cultural histories of the ocean and of the pastoral, but have rarely been considered in significant detail.9 And when the sea-eclogues have been made objects of closer scrutiny, their complexities have mostly passed unseen. They have tended, that is, to be regarded either as bare curiosities or as earnest, and even ecologically prescient, efforts on behalf of ocean consciousness. Indeed, a degree of critical simplification has attended these poems ever since their first publication, and has resulted, over time, in a gradual winnowing of the Nereides' meaning. Thus, for example, the recent and compelling claim that Diaper's oeuvre articulates the "clearest example of an oceanic ecovision in English piscatorial poetry."10 As this article aims to show, a reading of this sort may have substantial merit, but may also run the risk of overlooking the ways that the Nereides express multiple, and sometimes equivocal, meanings.

Re-figuring the Nereides as generatively ambiguous may not only return them some of their nuance, but reassert the possibilities of blue- and environmental-literary scholarship. This approach also affirms the usefulness of fine-grained literary history for environmental-humanist work. Diaper's sea-eclogues arrived at a [End Page 111] moment when pastoral poetics and ocean poetics were subjects of real controversy. They were printed in the midst of substantial critical discussion, and frequent critical distress, respecting the status of British pastoral and the viability of its generic kin, such as the piscatory (fishing) eclogue. Nicholas Smith has observed that early eighteenth-century pastoral criticism teemed with arguments about fish and the sea, a fact belied by the relative scarcity of piscatorial poems.11 The Nereides touch upon, but ultimately exceed, the piscatory tradition, and their relation to that tradition is never straightforward: in a preface, Diaper remarks that those "few Piscatory Eclogues" he knows do "like the first Coasters … always keep within sight of Shore, and never venture into the Ocean."12 Nonetheless, the difference the Nereides profess is really one of degree: piscatory eclogue, and the criticism treating it, are relevant here, largely because Diaper's poems are out at sea, and so out of conventional order, to an extent that most piscatorials did not attempt.

The Nereides claim that transferring the pastoral to the sea represents a needed, quasi-colonial expansion of the genre's territories, because those territories' exhaustion has put the eclogue at risk of final expiration. In its new marine environs, the pastoral might be re-realised, or re-idealised—excused, that is, from the pretentiousness and factionalism that have allegedly tainted its august tradition. In this way, the sea, and the submarine in particular, become sites of generic refugia, in biological parlance: places where the pastoral might flourish in isolation from the vicissitudes of politics and fashion. So the drama, here, derives in great part from the energies that issue when an established, hyper-conventional poetic genre is abstracted from its traditional setting and mapped onto a different one. However, as the Nereides construct an alternative mythology for the pastoral, they simultaneously erode their reader's capacity to confidently interpret their meaning, and leave oceanic meanings essentially at play.

This is so because Diaper and his pastoral creations do not express themselves univocally or straightforwardly. By reading the Nereides at various depths, it becomes clear that if these poems are about the sea, they are also, and unsurprisingly, about politics, colonialism, and the nation. They are also about poetry. When their dialogues culminate in arguments, they rarely close a subject, and are never invulnerable to structural tensions and subversions. For instance, the Nereides may maintain a conservative, Toryish scepticism toward imperialism and the dissipations it entails, but at the same time, they justify their own existence through a quasi-imperial approach to novel settings, and to the poetic and aesthetic resources they might afford. Furthermore, the poems' individual and collective indeterminacy results, to a powerful degree, from the heteroglossia that is always latently available in pastoral dialogism, a potentiality that the genre's rather chequered career is perhaps to blame for having dimmed in the general critical consciousness.13

The Nereides open oceanic spaces that they can only temporarily control. Diaper makes poems, and makes fun, with matters, regions, processes, and lives that, in their unfamiliarity, enable experimentation and surprise. But he does so knowing that, as his subjects become more empirically intimate, their plenitudes are likely to prove so remarkable as to overwhelm pastoral's organizational powers. To an extent, this is his own satirical point: like reckless economic, military, and cultural expansionism, ignoring traditional generic boundaries means courting poor taste, and dallying with the ludicrous. Still, the Nereides amount to more than [End Page 112] a sly critique of oceanic avant-gardism. Their submarine conjurings are pleasures as well as curiosities, and crucially, these are pleasures that the poems cannot keep altogether in check. Instead, Diaper sets in motion an incontrollable, and occasionally exquisite, marine poetics, where pastoral encounters a boundary at once fluid and insurmountable. What the Nereides are, in the end, is poetic tangle-wrack, neither unitary in nature nor static in meaning. They do not so much tell us about the sea as display the traces of its conduct.


In early eighteenth-century Britain, pastoral poetry was in a prolific, not to say overabundant, phase. It could be recalled as undergoing a particularly "lively" moment, in Stephanie LeMenager's sense of that word: its subjects, settings, and styles had been the objects of substantial experimentation, and the relevant critical literature, itself burgeoning, celebrated the genre's virtues and contested its bounds with great enthusiasm.14 On the other hand, this could be remembered as the pastoral's moribund stage, as it slipped away from favor and toward the sort of anachronistic posturing that John Gay burlesqued in his Shepherd's Week (1714).15 British critics concerned with regulating correct practice addressed themselves toward a Continental debate that had been marked, especially, by René Rapin's Dissertatio de Carmine Pastorali (1659) and Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle's Discours sur la nature de l'églogue (1688). But despite reaching across the channel, and for all the disagreements among its own practitioners, British criticism was broadly engaged in distinguishing an essentially British pastoral.16 In clarifying the triumphs and misadventures of continental poets and critics, British writers were attempting not only to refine a poetic ideal, but to distinguish and invigorate a national style.

Among the foremost promoters of the national cultivation—of what Robert Cummings calls the "anglicising mode of pastoral,"17 and James Sambrook its eighteenth-century "naturalization"—was Thomas Tickell, who in April 1713 wrote for Richard Steele's The Guardian a series of essays which give an account of pastoral's history and subject a selection of its practitioners to critical judgment.18 The ocean, and certain efforts to compose marine pastoral, come in for mordant treatment. After four "didactic"19 critical articles, Tickell activates his principles by presenting an original, if not quite ingenious, pastoral tale. It proceeds mostly conventionally, employing the standard conceit of a musical contest among rural youths who vie for the hand of a maiden. In this case, that hand belongs to Amaryllis, daughter of a wealthy Arcadian named Menalcas. Amyntas, "the most beautiful of all the Arcadian swains," wins the match because he plays "notes" that are at once "melodious" and "a little wild and irregular"—an apt instance, we might say, of the eighteenth century's enthusiasm for harmony amidst variety. During the ensuing celebration, however, the yarn takes an unexpected and grotesque turn:

While they were in the midst of their joy, they were surprised with a very odd appearance. A person in a blue mantle, crowned with sedges and rushes, stepped into the middle of the ring. He had an angling rod in his hand, a pannier upon his back, and a poor meagre wretch in wet clothes carried some oysters before him. Being asked, whence he came, and what he was? He told them, he was come to invite Amaryllis from the plains to the sea-shore, that his substance consisted in sea-calves, and that he was [End Page 113] acquainted with the Nereids and the Naiads. 'Art thou acquainted with the Naiads?' said Menalcas: 'to them then shalt thou return.' The shepherds immediately hoisted him up as an enemy to Arcadia, and plunged him in the river, where he sank, and was never heard of since.20

After the expulsion of the fisherman and his associate, Tickell's fable draws swiftly to a close, but not before it recounts the happy issue of Amyntas and Amaryllis's connection. In so doing, it sketches a genealogy for admirable pastoral: their child, we read, "was called Theocritus, who left his dominions to Virgil; Virgil left his to his son Spenser, and Spenser was succeeded by his eldest-born, [Ambrose] Philips."21 In the course of crafting an origin story for British pastoral, Tickell regulates the hydrosphere out of it, demonstrating, in a fiction, the mode's absolute identity with terra firma.

Just four days before The Guardian published Tickell's pastoral notion, it released the third in his didactic essays. Like the story of Amyntas and Amaryllis, the article is partly concerned with defining what ought not be allowed within the pastoral frame. And like its imaginative exemplar, it takes special exception to oceanic transpositions. Tickell makes some generally disparaging comments about Italian pastoral, fundamental though its products may have been to the latest flourishing of "pastoral writing." He subsequently narrows his critique to the Renaissance Neapolitan poet Jacopo Sannazaro (1457–1530), author of the path-breaking Arcadia (1504) and a controversial set of Piscatory Eclogues (1526)22:

When I am speaking of the Italians, it would be unpardonable to pass by Sannazarius. He hath changed the scene in this kind of poetry from woods and lawns, to the barren beach and boundless ocean: introduces sea-calves in the room of kids and lambs, sea-mews for the lark and the linnet, and presents his mistress with oysters instead of fruits and flowers. How good soever his style and thoughts may be, yet who can pardon him for his arbitrary change of the sweet manners and pleasing objects of the country, for what in their own nature are uncomfortable and dreadful? I think he hath few or no followers, or, if any, such as knew little of his beauties, and only copied his faults, and so are lost and forgotten.23

Tickell would have us believe that Sannazaro was a poet of practically zero consequence, a hard claim to accept in view of the latter's manifest influence on a variety of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poets, John Milton among them.24 One wonders, then, whether this rather gratuitous piece of prejudice spilled over from Tickell's specific dislike for piscatory eclogue, which he accuses of the kind of absurd substitution that he dramatizes and demonizes in his own fable. Fertile and cultivated spaces are displaced, in Tickell's account of Sannazaro's eclogues, by wasteland, and by horrible infinitude—a quasi-Old Testament, Grand Abyme vision of the sea that, in Alain Corbin's canonical cultural history, looks substantially archaic by the early eighteenth century.25 Seals, gulls, and oysters we are expected to recognize, in Tickell's argument, as self-evidently unbeautiful in comparison with rural-terrestrial fauna and flora. Particularly important, here, is what this may imply about Tickell's sense of pastoral as genre: he clearly values it highly enough to safeguard it from perversions, but in his reactionism he also signals the mode's limits, not to mention its vulnerability. [End Page 114]

In repeatedly assailing Sannazaro, piscatory eclogue, and marine pastoral, Tickell reduces to a watery collectivity a diverse poetic corpus. In the critique of "Sannazarius," Tickell refers explicitly to the littoral and the oceanic, while reserving special condemnation for what he perceives as "arbitrary" substitution. But in his own pastoral tale, the blue-mantled interloper carries "an angling rod," affirms acquaintance with "the Nereids" and "the Naiads," and is dispatched to a river. By lumping marine together with riparian pastoral, Tickell enacts a surprising degree of false homogenization, a tendency that continues today to interfere with some critical views of piscatory eclogue, and of literary histories of aqueous poetry.26 By putting an angling rod in the hands of a sea-fisher, Tickell seems himself to be taking an arbitrary degree of poetic and critical license.

The rod is important, because the status of aqueous labor is ever in play in river- and ocean-going pastoral. Poets and critics frequently invoke the idea that angling and sea-fishing are actually incomparable, aesthetically and poetically speaking. Generally, the former, essentially freshwater practice is conceivable as leisurely and contemplative, while the latter, fundamentally marine pursuit, is not. The clergyman and poet Moses Browne's Piscatory Eclogues (1729) explicitly examine and exemplify this relation. In a prefatory "Essay in Defence of Piscatory Eclogue," Browne positions pastoral fishing as a "rural" activity, angling as a picturesque object, and the angler as a kind of picturesque subject: "Who can have greater leisure, or be lead into more agreeable Contemplations than an Angler, peacefully seated on the shady Banks of a River at his quiet Recreation, attentively considering the gliding Streams, mingled Groves, and open Plains, the various Landscapes around him?"27 One of the things this throws into relief is that for pastoral to function, it must persuasively present characters who not only produce impressive poetic effects, but are themselves situated to make poems.

Later in the "Essay," Browne explains that while angling is in fact ideal pastoral—"the innocent Diversion of the infant World"—ocean-going fishing is basically inadmissible to the mode. Because "Fishers" perform "their laborious Employments on the Main," they "cannot be so properly reduc'd to [pastoral] Taste, nor are these the most elegant Subjects."28 Browne has, however, included fishers in his verse, "to try how a Mixture of Characters would become this poem," and his treatment of them is instructive.29 The third of the Piscatory Eclogues, "The Sea Swains," features Chromis, a stock character of the genre, who tells an extraordinary tale of remoras interfering with ships. At just the same moment, Browne distances himself, the Piscatory Eclogues, and his reader from this kind of thing, explaining in a footnote that Chromis's story is a piece of "fabulous Opinion."30 The imputation of superstitious or otherwise naïve beliefs to sailors and fishers is, of course, no innovation. But the charge carries a distinct valence in the context of a text like Browne's Eclogues, which endeavors to unequivocally differentiate one sort of watery proceeding from another. (Any lingering potential for confusion was summarily dispensed with by a reissue of Browne's Eclogues, in 1773, under the title Angling Sports.)

It is worth reading Browne as making a piscatorial contribution to the naturalization of British pastoral. His Eclogue V, "Colin's Despair," imitates Milton's "Lycidas" (1638) while locating itself "by flowing Thames's Stream, / My native Stream" and gesturing toward the River Soar, in Leicestershire.31 The [End Page 115] sea-fisher, however, is unassimilable within such a scheme, for being aesthetically unappealing, poetically insensible, and thus impossible to nationalize. A comparable sentiment issues from an argumentatively dissimilar source: in prefatory remarks to his 1726 translations of Sannazaro (whom Browne disparaged) and others, John Rooke defended the Neapolitan poet's marine settings by observing that his source's "Native Country" is "a Maritime Place," a disposition evidently alien to Britain and to British critics.32 The point is not that Rooke is right—he has an argument to make, and is no more or less credible than anyone else—but that the possibility of such an argument's existence, in Rooke's moment, is notable. After all, by some other lights, eighteenth-century British culture appears to have been fully occupied by the ocean.33

As late as 1750, Samuel Johnson—himself no great friend, it bears saying, of pastoral—would argue that "piscatory eclogue" like Sannazaro's is prevented from working by "the ignorance of maritime pleasures" among "the greater part of mankind."34 Most people "have … no opportunity of tracing in their own thoughts, the descriptions of winding shores, and calm bays, nor can look on the poem in which they are mentioned, with other sensations than on a sea-chart, or the metrical geography of Dionysius."35 There are a couple of things worth noting here. First, Johnson identifies piscatorials with marine settings and subjects; rivers and angling are not implicated. Second, and more consequential, is the tacit argument that because the majority of readers will fail to comprehend the content of an ocean-poem, ocean-poetry cannot work, and so cannot really be poetry at all. Johnson's objections to sea-eclogue go further still: "the sea is an object of terror" and, perhaps relatedly, has "much less variety than the land.36

This image of the ocean as aesthetically wanting was another commonplace. And the question of labor is never far away: Fontenelle, Hugh Blair, and William Roscoe were among those to claim that the unattractiveness of the ocean for art and poetry had a good deal to do with the fact that fishing (as distinct from angling) is excessively strenuous and insufficiently beautiful. In the Discours, Fontenelle described being shocked by the incongruous appearance of "Fishermen's hard and toilsome way of living" in pastoral poems.37 This is a decidedly different sentiment to the rare one Phineas Fletcher had promulgated in his tasteful AΛIEΨIKON, or, Piscatorie Eclogues (1633). There, another Chromis avatar actually laments the diminishment of "the fishers trade" in public consciousness, and a creeping ignorance of piscatorial toil: "Too foolish men, that think all labour stands / In travell of the feet, and tired hands!" For Fletcher's Chromis, no good fishers are left (the sea has killed many of them) and "Instead of these a crue of idle grooms, / Idle, and bold, that never saw the seas, / Fearlesse succeed, and fill their empty rooms."38 Of course, the fisher is for Fletcher a figure of moral, and not strictly aesthetic, excellence—Saint Peter's latter-day representative, perhaps—and his poems appear, in retrospect, at least as georgic as they are pastoral, but his notion of sea-fishing's vanishing intrigues.

The foregoing sketch has only partly illuminated the state and stakes of aqueous eclogue in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. What it has aimed to describe is an experimental domain in which the pastoral was broadly understood as capable of thriving only under specific, contested conditions. In an influential study of romance, Fredric Jameson reckons with works that express generic "eclecticism," [End Page 116] combining or confusing "different generic strands or modes."39 Piscatory eclogue, we might say, hazards committing eclecticism the moment it transposes setting, character, and image from terrestrial to aqueous surrounds. That eclecticism needs, subsequently, to be variously assimilated, apologized for, or trumpeted. Sea-eclogue's variegated character is rendered especially striking by the fact that it works through and preserves a rigorously structured form but produces a more or less radical vision, or what Jameson might call semantic content.40 For Jameson, genre creates "something like an environment" for a given work.41 To literalize his words is to twist their meaning, but in the case of turn-of-the-eighteenth-century pastoral, the spin feels apt: if pastoral constructed a linguistic habitat that was more or less hospitable to new poetic arrivals, it also proposed a material or topographical one, which could just about tolerate a river but was mostly at sea at sea.


Just a year before Tickell's Guardian polemics, another poet took to the ocean not to bound the pastoral but to expand its contour. William Diaper's Nereides were published, in 1712, by Egbert Sanger of London. The book's title, which will remind us of Tickell's blue-mantled interloper, borrows a Latin name for mythological sea-nymphs. The Nereides waste no ink before advertising, and justifying, their vanguardism. Their very epigraphs recast the pastoral's classical setting from terrestrial to marine: a line from Ovid's Hērō'idēs (late 1st c. BC–early 1st c. AD)—"Venus orta mari"—reminds that Venus was born at sea, and another, from Virgil's Aeneid (29–19 BC)—"Sic, sic juvat ire sub undas"—stresses Dido's descent beneath the waves.42 In a dedication to the Irish dramatist William Congreve, Diaper recognizes poetry's long-established predilection for "the Woods, "The flowry Meadows," "the whispering Trees," "gently rising Hills," and so on, but hails an uncharted element: "the vast unseen Mansions of the Deep, / Where secret Groves with liquid Amber weep, / Where blushing Springs of knotty Coral spread, / And gild the Azure with a brighter red."43

For Diaper, the advantages for poets, and so for readers, of transporting the pastoral to the deep are numerous. Those mansions and groves remain, crucially, "still untouch'd" by poetry, a designation that underlines the quasi-colonial nature of the Nereides' project.44 At the same time, the Dedication implies that the undersea provides a kind of refuge from polemic and factionalism:

Beside the Muse has no envenom'd Rage,No Party-wars her Innocence engage,Nor partial Falshoods stain the guilty Page.She loves no pompous Sound, or lofty Strain,Or soars to Sense obscure with awkward Pain,But would plain Songs in artless Verse contrive,And humbly modest only asks to Dive.45

These energies make strange fellows. On the one hand, a rhetoric of non-partisanship provides an early suggestion of the poet's attempts at a kind of graceful Toryism, a sensibility remarked upon by Dorothy Broughton, whose able 1951 edition of Diaper's oeuvre is the most recent extant. The Dedication asserts that for the pastoral to function free from the vulgarities of politics, it had better abandon its [End Page 117] accustomed, soily ground. This represents a departure that might entail, for critics of Tickell's persuasion, the total abdication of a poem's pastoral identity. More curiously, the last few lines of the above-quoted passage begin to sound hazardously like bathos, nearly to the point of parody. Diaper's cringing assertion that he intends only "to Dive" raises the question whether Nereides are, in fact, a kind of jesting. (Thinking of the author of "Peri Bathous" (1727), Diaper did appear, posthumously, in the Dunciad of 1728, though Pope acquiesced to removing the author of the Nereides from subsequent editions.46)

The Nereides are indeed underwritten, from the first, by irony, or a collection of ironies: these are poems that seek insularity by looking outward, toward untrodden poetic regions. They are also poems that espouse a sort of showy conservatism—they "would plain Songs in artless Verse contrive"—while pandering to the tastes they disdain: elsewhere in the Dedication, the poet accounts for his undertaking by explaining that "Since novel Treats our modern Gusts persue, / I hop'd at least to please by something new."47 Surely Diaper's pen is lodged, at least temporarily, in his cheek. (An invocation, later on, of Lucian of Samasota, the prolific satirist and author of the Dialogues of the Sea-Gods, suggests that Diaper understood humor and the sea as meaningfully related.) But these are also the tropes of frontier-speak. In "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (1894), the historian Frederick Jackson Turner locates at the perpetually-shifting westward boundary of settler expansionism a quasi-magical region of perpetual renewal, of "perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life."48 Whether tinged by ambivalence or not, Diaper's claim that the Nereides can reinvigorate, and as it were purify, the pastoral by lodging themselves underwater reflects a pioneering, even hydro-colonial,49 understanding of genre.50 The Nereides may not be explicitly imperial in their expressions, but they owe a great part of their impetus, and their interest, to liminality and frontierism.51

Subsequent to the dedication's invocation of those unused "Mansions" and "Groves," a preface to the Nereides further expands the economic-aesthetic argument for marine pastoral: "we know, that the agreeable Images, which may be drawn from things on Earth, have been long since exhausted, but it will be allow'd, that the Beauties (as well as the Riches) of the Sea are yet in a great measure untouch'd."52 This is a weird, or weirdly prescient, thing to have written. At midcentury, Johnson would proclaim of the pastoral tout entier that its stock of "images" were "exhausted," and that the genre's "inherent improbability always forces dissatisfaction on the mind."53 Marine pastoral must therefore have been, for Johnson, a double absurdity. But for Diaper, sea-eclogue's unlikelihood may have helped justify, not to say require, its appearance. This is because one of the things that made certain pastoral senses of the countryside no longer tenable, or needing overhauling, was the widening distance obtaining between representation and reality, socially and rationally known: between, that is, what John Barrell and John Bull called "the ideal and the real."54 The fact that the early eighteenth-century ocean was relatively alien to natural philosophy may have seemed to offer sea-eclogues an imaginative exemption. Thinking along this line, the beauties and riches of Diaper's sea exist in reverse proportion to the completeness with which they have been rationally explicated. [End Page 118]

Or to put the thing more precisely, the sea's strange situation as an object of knowledge in early eighteenth-century Britain renders it the site of unusual poetic possibilities. That situation was not one of Manichean opposition to rationalized land: as Rebekka von Mallinckrodt has recently explained, the Nereides were published at a moment of accelerating sea-going empiricism. Diving held a central place in processes of sea-knowing that were interlinked with processes of civilization, imperialism, and enslavement. That place was fundamentally ambiguous: if immersion was increasingly important, it was also associated with foreign, sensuous, and even quasi-animalistic bodies.55 Certain advances in oceanic natural philosophy, notably Robert Boyle's assertion of the exceptional tranquillity of water at the sea-floor, rendered possible benign alternatives to visions of the submarine as awful wasteland.56 But of course those latter visions did persist; scientific knowledge did not simply arrive to scrub misconception instantly away. There is a sustained sense, in the Nereides, of inhabiting a poetic setting that is not only a physical but an ontological and epistemological frontier, where poetic convention, natural history, and imagination can coincide and remain mobile. What emerge at their meeting-place are energies that activated Diaper's project at the same time that they rendered it unstable.

The Nereides also toy with relations among knowledges—poetic and natural-philosophical—and places. In skepticisms like Fontenelle's, and like John-son's, are evident associations between the ocean and the grotesque, the latter a spirit that was increasingly linked with baroque retrogression and opposed to harmonious rational nature.57 Diaper acknowledges oceanic bizarrerie—indeed, he capitalizes on it—but will not accept that this puts his poems out of natural-historical order. The preface pre-empts accusations of ludicrous unnaturalness by insisting that its author cannot be expected to adjudicate the veracities of classical and recent accounts of fantastic sea-creatures and actual sea-animals. By way of defense, he invokes the popular history of marine monsters and their display, as for instance "the Girl kept at Harlem, who was so far rational, as to be taught to spin, to understand those about her, and to express her Devotion at Prayers."58 And Diaper goes on to argue, in a Swiftian sort of vein, that "since we have gone so far as to have found Inhabitants in the Planets, I hope I shall not be condemn'd for having discover'd the Manners and Conversation of a People nearer home."59 Diaper's sport here is to adopt forms of polite knowledge in order to justify indecorous endeavors, and conversely to satirize those forms as less polished than they might generally be taken to appear.

Diaper understands that, at depth, whimsy and reality are not antagonistically related. If the Nereides are fantastical, they are nonetheless ornamented by careful natural-philosophical detail. At his death in 1717, Diaper left unfinished his Halieuticks, a translation of Oppian of Cilicia's late second-century text on fish and fishing. That work, which Diaper began before or around the same time that he published the sea-eclogues, imbued him with a zeal for enumerating and describing sea-denizens that threatens, at moments, to distract the Nereides from pastoral poetics.60 Broughton smartly observes that the poems' descriptive style partakes of both general and precise views: partakes, in other words, of both Augustan generality and a quasi-scientific inclination toward specificity.61 For Diaper, that specificity is articulated via the eclogues' keen natural-historical detail, as in [End Page 119] one Triton's appealing description of a manatee. That animal "Now sports in Seas, now grazes on the Coast," and so strikes its observer an emblem of the way that "Nature indulges thus th' amphibious Kind, / While to our watry Home we ever are confin'd."62

As the eclogues commence, the attributes of the undersea recommending it above its terrestrial counterpart multiply. To this end the poems partake, as it suits them, of natural-philosophical knowledge. One recurring trope, which may remind of Boyle's thesis, pertains to changelessness: in the first eclogue, Cymothoe describes, by way of contrast with the "Ocean," "Sun-burnt, sapless Earth," where "fading Beauties are too quickly lost" and "The Glories of … Spring are soon defac'd / By miry Storms, and tost by ev'ry Blast."63 And in the fourth, Muræna, who shares a name with a generic handle for moray eels, pities humans, "those earth-born Slaves," who "are expos'd to Cold, expos'd to Heat, / In different Seasons mourn a different Fate."64 The Tritons employ the idea of an equanimous sea to make their case for oceanic otium. Here, again, is Muræna:

I've seen the labouring Plowman's daily ToilFor a new Crop to fit the stubborn Soil,While Heav'n supplies our Wants without our Sweat,We ne'er are hungry, but we have to eat.65

This is oceanic living as exquisite ease. Marine labor is not simply easy-going; it is non-existent. Later, the seventh eclogue frames things explicitly in terms of piscatory work, and its relation to pastoral striving. A debate of sorts is carried out between two fishers, one of whom envies the "Shepherd Swain" his routine, his leisure, and his aesthetic experience. This fisher wishes he could likewise "sit on grassy Vales, and view the circling Plain." This is an instance of the sort of claim Browne makes on behalf of anglers: the pastoral object is distinguished by being a viable poetic subject. Diaper's other fisher counters that there is no spot more viable than the sea—that fishers are especially blessed by god, have work that is not toilsome, and are spared "earthy Fumes, or noisy Insect."66 The first, terrestrially-inclined fisher concedes his disputant's correctness.

This dichotomy is elsewhere elaborated further. Palæmon opines that the gods made "Two different Kinds of Men," a terrestrial kind and a marine one. The former was not respectful of its "Guardian Spirit," and so that spirit departed, leaving the land-lubbers guideless. Sea-going persons, on the other hand, profess and enact a total complaisance "with what the Gods approve," and so "Do nought but ever sing, and—ever Love."67 The marine thus out-pastorals the pastoral in terms of its consequences: acceptance, pleasure, and amity. This may appear to be in tension with a claim made elsewhere in the Nereides, that in the deep ocean "all lies wrapt in Silence," but then this is a resonant kind of silence, a "deeper Sound"—the "slumbring Waters may be said to snore"—and it exists in tandem with "unactive Ease," as though the abyss might represent an extreme case of pastoral quietude.68 Another Triton urges that the sea is not exactly soundless, and so by implication not without poetry: "for even now / I hear the distant Lowings of the Cow, / While softer Breezes breath [sic] in Whispers round, / And ev'ry Wave breaks with a pleasing Sound."69 [End Page 120]

Marine serenity also emblematizes political composure. When, in Eclogue VI, a Triton celebrates "the unfathom'd Deep" as "always smiling with an easy Calm" and "constant Peace," it is clear that this might be read as a sign of beneficent conservatism.70 But here, as with the poems' colonial imperatives, tensions pulse. In Eclogue III, Drymon delivers a cutting critique of human seagoing:

'Twas Avarice that push'd those Wretches onTo seek for distant Isles, and Lands unknown;While Sea-born Swains desire no foreign Oar,Content with Sea, and careless of the Shore.Glaucus, a Mer-man now, (but not by Birth)Has told the Customs of those Sons of Earth:Tho' they have all that's good, and truly rare,Yet (envious) think their own too mean a Share:For foreign Toys they roam to ev'ry Shore,And bring Diseases home unknown before.By Commerce thus Humours and Fashions blend,And what they scorn'd before they now commend.Nothing has any worth that's fixt or true,But things their Value raise by being new.Hence endless Wars engage the earth-born Slave:This wets their Rage, and ever makes 'em brave.71

This is a familiar sort of judgment, one that impugns the conjunction of immoderate greed, disorienting commerce, and a predilection for the foreign. It would have been especially familiar to readers of pastoral, a British (and essentially Virgilian) strain whereof issued its critiques from among idealized prospects of country life.72 There are some obvious oxymorons in Drymon's opinion, which, while voiced by a fictional Triton, it is tempting to read as close to Diaper's own. First, the Treaty of Utrecht, which Diaper celebrated in the topographical Dryades (1713), concluded the War of the Spanish Succession. That was a not-pacific conflict, but British Tories frequently represented it as the result of French aggression and rapacity, and blamed Whig corruption for its prolongation.73 More striking yet is Drymon's criticism of novelty—of the attitude that "things their Value raise by being new"—and of acquisitiveness. Diaper's preface, as we saw, offers precisely this justification for the Nereides—that they represent an unprecedented sort of pastoral, and thus are worthy objects. So here, not for the only time, the text's voices contradict one another, decrying the very attributes that are elsewhere invoked to justify the poems' existence. These are unresolved disagreements, and their generative indecision derives not only from the nature of dialogue but from the surrounding element.

What is more, signs of oceanic quietude are subverted, or at least profoundly complicated, by the poems' own careful attention to the sea—on its own terms, so to speak—and to the natural philosophy that attempts to describe it. A long account of world-creation—a kind of liquid cosmology—in Eclogue VIII holds that "th' Ocean's constant Motion" gathered the stuff of land gradually together, but that such solidity is illusive, or at least temporary: "But here th' intrinsick Fluids still remain," claims a speaker, "And hardest Mettle will its Flux regain."74 Another voice, that of Muræna, attests to terrestrial solipsism, describing man as one who "forgets the Ocean's watry Mass, / Whose boundless Depths the scanty Earth surpass, / Where thousand different kinds of living Forms [End Page 121] / Lie hid in the Abyss, and brave the distant Storms."75 Those thousand different kinds suggest the fragile delight of a pastoral project that would plumb the seas for aesthetic and poetic material but would do so without letting the undertaking become overwhelmed. Muræna's companion Chromis iterates the limits of oceanic knowledge—"thousands more as beautiful as these / (Unknown to us) may sport in distant Seas"—and simultaneously cautions against presuming that humans will ever overcome such bounds.76 At the same time, Chromis cannot resist the urge to describe a litany of oceanic wonders, wonders that are, to be sure, informed at least as much by antiquated sources as by early eighteenth-century oceanographic science. If Muræna's "hidden living forms" should encourage reverent humility in human beings, they are also a symbol of the precariousness of Diaper's project: what happens to the pastoral when and if the thousand kinds emerge to view?

In this way, paradoxically, the ocean is so utterly unknown as to prevent the kind of speculation—Muræna calls it "The curious Learning of the vainly Wise"—that usually functions on land.77 Thus, the Tritons position the sea as essentially outside structures of knowability, the very same structures invoked by persons like Samuel Johnson, who complains that the sea isn't sufficiently familiar to be grasped by poetry. Jameson describes the way that nineteenth-century secular romance revises "the henceforth scandalous and archaic activity of fantasy" in order to render it credible and viable for a new era.78 This is the kind of assimilation that the Nereides want to keep at bay, so that pastoral marine magic can continue to operate. It is also just the kind of assimilation that Johnson thinks would be necessary for piscatorials to function, but is impossible for them to achieve. For Diaper, the promise of sea-settings has to do exactly with the oxymoronic impulse to simultaneously explore the "still untouch'd" and leave it partly, or largely, always beyond poetry's reach. This does the ideal of terrestrial frontier one better: in the ocean, limits will always entice, and never harden.


In Diaper's final sea-eclogue, Chalcis identifies the water column—"where depthless Waters flow"—as a sort of utopian spot, one happily removed from the "Filth" of the liminal shoreline, and happily conducive to maximum mobility. There, one can choose either to "sport with Fish above, or dive below."79 This site of free motion, and free meaning, is perhaps the aptest of all the Nereides' images. Of course, it is also among its more problematic, pastorally-speaking: in comparison with, for instance, Browne's seated angler and the prospect he enjoys, a swimmer's vantage seems by turns stiflingly occluded and overwhelmingly expansive. In this manner, and for all their playfulness, the Nereides present an early eighteenth-century aesthetics of immersion. Much remains to be said about the status of that aesthetics vis-à-vis the period's dominant conventions. For example, when Diaper's Cymothoe eloquently describes the sea's treatment of visibility—"A faintish Light shines thro' the watry Green, / And lets us see enough, but—not be seen"80—she suggests how liquid matter might offer perspectival possibilities beyond neoclassicism's ken.81

If this seems an overstatement of the Nereides' commitment to the ocean in itself, it is worth again observing the conspicuous earnestness with which the poems have been interpreted, in the decade after their first publication and since. John [End Page 122] Jones completed and edited Diaper's Halieuticks and organised its publication in 1722. In a prefatory rebuke to Tickell's views of "the Water Poets," Jones insisted that anyone who argues "that there are no beauteous images to be drawn from the Waters, and that nothing is to be found there but Objects of Dread and Horrour, was certainly never at Sea but in a Storm."82 More recently, Robert Cummings described Jones's justification of Diaper's poetry as the defense of a "revolutionary" project.83 Dirk Passmann and Hermann Real's essay on the Nereides is one of the only sustained scholarly treatments thereof in existence; they see the eclogues as sincere testimonies on behalf of "the superiority of the marine world over that of pastoral Arcadia."84 Ultimately, Broughton's probably remains the most carefully considered analysis of all, but its positivism is notable, too: Diaper "had discovered a new sub-order of the eclogue," which conveyed "a gust of sea-breezes into the neo-Augustan scene."85

The point is not that these views are mistaken, but that in reducing the Nereides' achievement to the fact of their oceanicity, the criticism has neglected to wrangle with the poems' complex entirety. Ironically, so doing has also diminished the possibilities of oceanic criticism, because in this case, poetic complexity has everything to do with the things the sea is seen to make possible. Urging "a blue cultural studies," Steve Mentz has written that scholarship ought to "consider the physical environment as a substantial partner in the creation of cultural meaning."86 If this is right, then the partnership needs recognizing as an active and unresolved process, one importantly inflected by materiality but not simply determined thereby.

At a momentous juncture in the history of pastoral, the Nereides called the ocean in to help revivify a poetic genre. Some versions of the ensuing narrative appear to end in failure; in the 1780s, Sannazaro was still being castigated for his violations. "To put the elegant language of the Mantuan Muse into the mouths of the crew of a fishing smack," wrote the critic Vicesimus Knox, "is such a violation of truth and nature as tends to excite ridicule by its incongruity."87 As for substantial submarine appearances in later British works, as Charlotte Smith's Rambles Farther (1796) and John Keats's Endymion (1818), by the Romantic era the undersea may have come to signify the fantastical par excellence.88 Considering the many scientific investigations of the ocean made during the intervening period, there is something important needing understanding about the fates of submarine poetics and aesthetics over the same span. It goes without saying that the undersea needs recognizing, and reckoning, now more than ever. Better knowing the life of sea-eclogue, an unusual and unsettled species of collaborative literary organism, may furnish useful instruments for reanimating exchanges among language, literature, culture, and underwater world.

Killian Quigley

Killian Quigley is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney. He wishes to thank the organizers of the sixteenth David Nichol Smith Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies, where he first presented and received feedback on this research.


1. William Diaper, Nereides: or, Sea-Eclogues, in The Complete Works of William Diaper, ed. Dorothy Broughton (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 13–51, 6:15–16. This and subsequent references to the Nereides provide the eclogue number followed by line number(s) (not page numbers).

2. See, for example, S. M. Luria and Jo Ann S. Kinney, "Underwater Vision," Science 167, no. 3924 (1970): 1454–61.

3. Laurence Le Dû-Blayo and Olivier Musard, "Towards a Shared Language: Semantic Exchanges and Cross-disciplinary Interaction," introduction to Laurence Le Dû-Blayo, Olivier Musard, Patrice Francour, Jean-Pierre Beurier, Eric Feunteun, and Luc Talassinos, eds., Underwater Seascapes: From geographical to ecological perspectives (Cham: Springer, 2014), 1–15.

4. For a relevant, but differently-oriented discussion of ecocritical Renaissance scholarship, see Ken Hiltner, What Else Is Pastoral? Renaissance Literature and the Environment (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 2011), 3.

5. Alice Te Punga Somerville, "Where Oceans Come From," Comparative Literature 69, no. 1 (2017): 25–31.

6. Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2016), 21–22.

7. Philip E. Steinberg, "On Thalassography," foreword to Jon Anderson and Kimberley Peters, eds., Water Worlds: Human Geographies of the Ocean (Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2014), xiii–xvii.

8. See for example Killian Quigley, "Boggy Geographies and an Irish Moose: Thomas Molyneux's New World Neighborhood," The Eighteenth Century 58, no. 4 (2017): 385–406.

9. There are a couple of notable exceptions: see Dorothy Broughton, "Introduction," in The Complete Works of William Diaper, xv–lxxvii. See also Dirk F. Passmann and Hermann J. Real, "From 'Mossy Caves' to 'Rowling Waves': William Diaper's Nereides: or, Sea-Eclogues," in Hermann J. Real and Peter E. Firchow, eds., The Perennial Satirist: Essays in Honour of Bernfried Nugel (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2005), 29–47.

10. Steve Mentz, Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550–1719 (Minneapolis and London: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2015), 141.

11. Nicholas D. Smith, "Jacopo Sannazaro's Eclogae Piscatoriae (1526) and the 'Pastoral Debate' in Eighteenth-Century England," Studies in Philology 99, no. 4 (2002): 432–50.

12. William Diaper, "The Preface," in Nereides: or, Sea-Eclogues, 15–16.

13. In 1999, Terry Gifford observed that pastoral had become "a deeply suspect" term. See Gifford, Pastoral (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 147.

14. See Stephanie LeMenager, "Cli-Fi, Petroculture, and the Environmental Humanities," interview by River Ramuglia, Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (2018): 154–64.

15. One version of this argument appears in Passmann and Real, "From 'Mossy Caves' to 'Rowling Waves,'" 44–45.

16. See Robert Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 33, nos. 1-2 (2006): 194–216.

17. Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," 198.

18. James Sambrook, "Poetry, 1660–1740," in H. B. Nisbet and Claude Rawson, eds., The Cam-bridge History of Literary Criticism, 9 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), 4:73–116.

19. Thomas Tickell, "No. 32. Friday, April 17, 1713," in The Guardian; Complete in One Volume (London: Jones and Co., 1829), 47–48.

20. Tickell, "No. 32," 48.

21. Tickell, "No. 32," 48.

22. The poems' exact vintage is not clear. Nicholas Smith gives 1526 as the date of a Neapolitan publication, but notes compelling evidence for another, Venetian edition having been published in 1520. The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature refers to the poems' origin as "the late 1490s," without citing bibliographic detail. See "The Genre and Critical Reception of Jacopo Sannazaro's Eclogae Piscatoriae (Naples, 1526)," Humanistica Lovaniensia 50 (2001): 199-219; Peter Hainsworth, "Piscatorial Eclogue," in Peter Hainsworth and David Robey, eds., The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 15 July 2019,

23. Tickell, "No. 28: Monday, April 13, 1713," in The Guardian: Complete in One Volume, 41–42.

24. See Steven Mentz, "Towards a Blue Cultural Studies: The Sea, Maritime Culture, and Early Modern English Literature," Literature Compass 6, no. 5 (2009): 997–1013. On a possible debt owed Diaper by John Keats, and Endymion (1818), see Richard T. Bruère, "Richard the Elder, Diaper, and Keats," Classical Philology 61, no. 2 (Apr 1966): 107–08.

25. See Alain Corbin, Le territoire du vide: L'Occident et le désir du rivage (Paris: Aubier, 1988), 11–16.

26. This habit is at work in some otherwise highly admirable studies. See Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," 201; and Mentz, "Towards a Blue Cultural Studies," 1007.

27. Moses Browne, Piscatory Eclogues (London: C. Ackers, 1729), 8–10.

28. Browne, Piscatory Eclogues, 18–19.

29. Browne, Piscatory Eclogues, 22–23.

30. Browne, Piscatory Eclogues, 57n.

31. Browne, Piscatory Eclogues, 77.

32. John Rooke, Select Translations (London: J. Millan, 1726), vii.

33. See, for instance, Laura Brown, "Oceans and Floods: Fables of Global Perspective," in Felicity A. Nussbaum, ed., The Global Eighteenth Century (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2003), 107–20.

34. On, for example, Johnson's disdain for the pastoral's perceived "impossibility," see Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," 197.

35. Samuel Johnson, "No. 36. Saturday, July 21, 1750," in The Rambler, 2nd ed., 8 vols. (Edinburgh: Sands, Murray, and Cochran, 1751), 2:72–78.

36. Johnson, "No. 36," 2:77.

37. Quoted in Smith, "Jacopo Sannazaro's Eclogae Piscatoriae (1526) and the 'Pastoral Debate' in Eighteenth-Century England," 433.

38. Phineas Fletcher, AΛIEΨIKON, or, Piscatorie Eclogues (Cambridge: the Printers to the Univ. of Cambidge, 1633), 21–22.

39. Fredric Jameson, "Magical Narratives: Romance as Genre," New Literary History 7, no. 1 (1975): 135–63.

40. Jameson, "Magical Narratives," 136–37.

41. Jameson, "Magical Narratives," 153.

42. Title-page to Diaper, Nereides.

43. William Diaper, "To Mr. Congreve," in The Complete Works of William Diaper, 13–14, lines 11–24.

44. Diaper, "To Mr. Congreve," line 25.

45. Diaper, "To Mr. Congreve," lines 26–32.

46. See Broughton, introduction, xx, xxiii.

47. Diaper, "To Mr. Congreve," lines 11–12.

48. Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1893 (Washington, 1894), 197–227.

49. For more on the hydro-colonial, see Kerry Bystrom and Isabel Hofmeyr, "Oceanic Routes: (Post-It) Notes on Hydro-Colonialism," Comparative Literature 69, no. 1 (2017): 1–6.

50. I do not mean to suggest that generic expansionism works in utterly hegemonic, or unidirectional, ways. For a study of imperialism and the mobility (and reusability) of genre, see Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-English Novel: Genre and Ideology in R. K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, and Salman Rushdie (University Park: The Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993).

51. Ken Hiltner has argued that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English "countrysides" emerged to consciousness at the same time that they became environmentally threatened. Meanwhile, colonial space increasingly became symbolic of "an absolute reference" for not-yet-exploited nature. It might be a stretch to interpret Hiltner's theses in relation to the undersea, but the Nereides' logic suggests a meaningful similarity. See Hiltner, What Else Is Pastoral?, 13–14.

52. Diaper, "The Preface," 16.

53. Quoted in Stephen Bending, "Literature and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century," Oxford Handbooks Online (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015), 20 May 2018,

54. John Barrell and John Bull, introduction to John Barrell and John Bull, eds., The Penguin Book of English Pastoral Verse (London: Penguin, 1974), 1–9.

55. See Rebekka von Mallinckrodt, "Exploring Underwater Worlds: Diving in the Late Seventeenth-/Early Eighteenth-Century British Empire," in Daniela Hacke and Paul Musselwhite, eds., Empire of the Senses: Sensory Practices of Colonialism in Early America (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018), 300–22.

56. Robert Boyle, "The Temperature of the Subterranean and Submarine Regions, As to Heat and Cold," in The Philosophical Works, ed. Peter Shaw, 3 vols. (London: Innys et al., 1725), 3:232–49.

57. See, for example, Rémy Saisselin, The Enlightenment Against the Baroque: Economics and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1992), 5–6.

58. Diaper, "The Preface," 15.

59. Diaper, "The Preface," 16.

60. See Passmann and Real, "From 'Mossy Caves' to 'Rowling Waves,'" 36.

61. See Broughton, introduction, xli–xlii, l–li.

62. Diaper, Nereides, 2:54–56.

63. Diaper, Nereides, 1:61–68.

64. Diaper, Nereides, 4:5–8.

65. Diaper, Nereides, 4:13–16.

66. Diaper, Nereides, 12:32–33, 68.

67. Diaper, Nereides, 4:22–39.

68. Diaper, Nereides, 5:74–81.

69. Diaper, Nereides, 2:62–64.

70. Diaper, Nereides, 6:59–60.

71. Diaper, Nereides, 3:5–20.

72. Barrell and Bull, introduction, 6.

73. "Spanish Succession, War of the," in Robert Crowcroft and John Cannon, eds., The Oxford Companion to British History (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015), 17 May 2018,

74. Diaper, Nereides, 8:41–42.

75. Diaper, Nereides, 13:17–20.

76. Diaper, Nereides, 13:21–22.

77. Diaper, Nereides, 13:108.

78. Jameson, "Magical Narratives," 145.

79. Diaper, Nereides, 14:57–58.

80. Diaper, Nereides, 1:81–82.

81. On neoclassicism's love of "clarity," see Sambrook, "Poetry, 1660–1740," 83.

82. Quoted in Broughton, introduction, xxix.

83. Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," 204.

84. Passmann and Real, "From 'Mossy Caves' to 'Rowling Waves,'" 34.

85. See Broughton, introduction, xxiii–xv.

86. Mentz, "Towards a Blue Cultural Studies," 1008.

87. Quoted in Cummings, "Sannazaro and the Crisis of English Pastoral Poetry," 205. As for the Nereides' broader generic kinship group, Mentz refers to a "piscatorial dead end." See Mentz, Shipwreck Modernity, 141.

88. See for example Elizabeth's discussion of where she would locate "a fairy tale," in Charlotte Smith, Rambles Farther: A Continuation of Rural Walks, 2 vols. (London: T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1796), 1:57–58.

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