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Common courtesy in eighteenth-century English literature

Author: William Bowman Piper
Publisher: Newark : University of Delaware Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1997.
Edition/Format:   Print book : State or province government publication : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
This book examines the intersection between courtesy and understanding in works by Berkeley, Pope, Sterne, Johnson, and Boswell. It shows how each of these writers represents a conversational environment in which men and women, discussing general concerns on an equal footing, were able to achieve what the age described as "common sense."
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
History
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Piper, William Bowman, 1927-
Common courtesy in eighteenth-century English literature.
Newark : University of Delaware Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1997
(OCoLC)605217456
Material Type: Government publication, State or province government publication
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: William Bowman Piper
ISBN: 0874136458 9780874136456
OCLC Number: 36726669
Description: 200 pages ; 25 cm
Responsibility: William Bowman Piper.

Abstract:

This book examines the intersection between courtesy and understanding in works by Berkeley, Pope, Sterne, Johnson, and Boswell. It shows how each of these writers represents a conversational environment in which men and women, discussing general concerns on an equal footing, were able to achieve what the age described as "common sense."

In one of his Idlers, Johnson indicated the problems involved in such an achievement as follows: "As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied: not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion and each referring it to a different purpose. "Where, then, is the wonder, that they who see only a small part should judge erroneously of the whole?

Or that they, who see different and dissimilar parts, should judge differently from one another." Each of the two aspects of common sense, as suggested in this passage, focused unavoidable strains and challenges on conversational courtesy. Organizing many a small part of human experience to create an adequate tissue of knowledge challenged it in one way; resolving many individual disagreements to formulate a wider consensus challenged it in another.

This book is devoted to a study of this complex intellectual problem or, rather, to an exposition of the ways the greatest writers of this time confronted it and, indeed, solved it. Each of them grasped a special subject matter: Berkeley, for example, wished to espouse an "obvious but amazing" philosophy; Sterne wished to disclose a pitifully obscene private life. In Common Courtesy, the author describes the realm of courtesy each of them composed, a realm in which such subject matter could be made apprehensible to society. Readers of this book should ask, as they attend the author's analysis of each writer and each work: in discussing The Rambler, Tristram Shandy, and An Epistle to Dr.

Arbuthnot as essays in common courtesy, has the author been able to explain the individual sense of each one in turn and to show how its creator made this sense widely available and widely agreeable?

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