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Title: William Mason : nature and the English garden, 1750-1785
Author: Smith, Samuel
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 8163
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis offers a re-assessment of the life and works of a major but neglected eighteenth-century poet, Rev. William Mason. It focuses on his diverse engagements with nature as a philosophical concept and in its domestic form, the garden. Broadly conceived of, this dissertation argues for the centrality of Mason’s Anglicanism and Whig politics to his work as a playwright, poet, and garden designer. More specifically, it argues that Mason’s writings on nature during his early career (1750-1759) are statements of orthodox belief and conservative Whiggism, which seek to defend the religious and political establishment of mid-eighteenth century Britain. In his later work, particularly in his four-volume georgic poem entitled The English Garden (1772-1783), Mason continues to use nature as a vehicle through which to espouse Anglicanism and Whiggism. Yet his position with regards to the political establishment had changed and his work in this period criticizes the government and its handling of the American War. Alongside this narrative of continuity and change, three of Mason’s garden designs are analyzed for the manner in which they physically realize the theories of his written work. Throughout the thesis Mason is treated as a writer engaged in a wide range of eighteenth-century debates and involved in a series of networks. The multifariousness of his activities necessitates a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on English literature, art history, intellectual history, political history, religious history and garden history. Identifying and analyzing the importance of orthodox Anglican belief to Mason’s work, this thesis takes issue with the methodologies currently adopted in the academic discipline of garden history. Although strong on the political and social aspects of eighteenth-century gardening, religion is often overlooked in modern garden histories. This thesis rectifies this omission by simultaneously dealing with the philosophical, political and theological issues surrounding nature and gardening in the eighteenth century.
Supervisor: Lillie, Amanda Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available