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A Man of Taste in the Empire of Dulness: Theatre, Commerce, and the Imagination in Edmund Burke's The Reformer

Show simple item record Harvester, Daniel 2014-10-29T14:32:51Z 2014-10-29T14:32:51Z 2011
dc.description.abstract In 1748, Edmund Burke, then still an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, was the principal contributor to a short-lived and little-known periodical called The Reformer. The purpose of the paper was to muster public opinion against Thomas Sheridan, the manager of Dublin's largest theater, Smock Alley. Burke's friend Beaumont Brennan had written a play and Sheridan was hesitant about producing it. A total of thirteen weekly editions of The Reformer were published. In them, we get a glimpse of the young Burkean mind at work, writing for the public for the first time. Burke's talents are already evident; he expounds at length on the moral and artistic degradation of the times. The root of the city's ills lie in the commercial activity and mindset of the nobility and gentry, who by spurning their traditional role as patrons of the arts, have allowed the whims of the free market to set cultural standards. Burke castigates "the People" for their low Taste in theatre, he laments the rise of the merchant classes as the new arbiters of good Taste, and he calls on the nobility to retake control of cultural production through patronage of the arts. Along the way, he touches on several themes that will remain central to his career; the role of the aristocracy in society, the role of culture in preserving manners, and the importance of passion and imagination as guides of human action. His often vituperative attacks on contemporary failings in each of these realms combine to create a vision of modern commercial society as an "Empire of Dulness," a site as devoid of lofty ideals and virtuous behavior as it is of inspiring poetry and theatre. Contrary to popular belief, Burke had such a vision of society in 1748; if it receded in later years, it arose again, refined and revitalized, in Burke's attack on the French Revolution. Consequently, The Reformer may be a more important document in the history of Western political thought than has been previously assumed.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Reformer (Dublin, Ireland : 1748)
dc.subject.lcsh Burke, Edmund, 1729-1797 -- Views on society
dc.subject.lcsh Dublin (Ireland) -- Politics and government -- 18th century
dc.title A Man of Taste in the Empire of Dulness: Theatre, Commerce, and the Imagination in Edmund Burke's The Reformer
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Haverford users only

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