IN PRAISE OF RURAL SOLITUDE

The rural Christian; or, the Pleasures of Religion. An allegorical Poem: In four Books. To which are added, sylvan Letters; or, the Benefits of Retirement. By a young Gentleman …

London: Printed for J. Buckland … 1772.

8vo., pp. viii, 216, frontispiece and engraved plate with rural scenes; occasional foxing but a good copy in contemporary sheep, rubbed, hinges cracked but holding, red lettering-piece; early ownership inscription ‘John Clarke / his book’.

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First edition of this volume of devotional pastoral verse, promoting the countryside as the ideal setting for Christian contemplation.

The lengthy poem, heavily referenced to scripture and to parallels in other poets, is an encomium to God’s creation and the variety in nature. Wright stresses that the Rural Christian is ‘not in the least improper to be read by persons residing in the metropolis’, but nonetheless establishes his firm views on the benefits of country living: ‘the calmness and serenity of the verdant fields, the beauty and harmony of the Creator’s works, are best seen, and better contemplated, in the Sylvan retirements of rural solitude’.

The ‘Sylvan Letters’ comprise correspondence, purportedly between third parties, which conveniently reflects the author’s sentimental view that rural life is virtuous and worthwhile, whilst town life inevitably involves the usual set of human temptations. Thus one letter, ‘from Miss R. to a young lady in the country’ describes ‘the pleasures and amusements of the town’ – Vauxhall, Ranelagh, etc. – ‘contrasted with the felicity of a country life’.

ESTC lists copies at the British Library, Bodley, the National Library of Scotland, Rice University, Alberta, and UCLA.

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