초록 close

In his letter to Charles James Fox dated January 18, 1801, Wordsworth deplored the passing away of the class of “the small independent proprietors of land” in England. The rhetoric of this letter resembles that of Burke’s conservative landed interests voiced in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. While he confined his attention to the plights of the nobility during the French Revolution, Burke struggled to keep the landed interest from the infiltration of the speculative spirit of the French Revolution that was manifested in the issue of assignats. Wordsworth’s literary conception of the importance of “low and rustic life” of the small independent proprietors seems to reflect Burke’s politico-economical analysis of the post-Revolutionary situation in France in that it emphasizes the right of property in land as the basis of a political initiative. It seems to Burke that due to the speculative measures of the French “Men of Letters,” “that species of property [the land] becomes [. . .] volatilized.” Just as for him, the land was the foundation from which all the civilizing processes derived its principal energy, so, for Wordsworth, the existence and independence of the “statesmen,” another name for the small independent proprietors of land, constituted the moral health of the nation. And while for Burke, the nobility was its “Corinthian capital of polished society” and the manners, customs and prescription they helped to form, the promoters of the value of commerce, in Wordsworth’s eye the small independent proprietors’ right of property in land was the condition of the nation’s morality as well as their right to being. In Wordsworth’s poems, Burke’s rhetorical strategy for the aristocratic landed interests seems to transubstantiate itself into that of “rustic and low life” of the small independent proprietors. In this paper, attempts are made to locate in several poems of the Lyrical Ballads the Burkean rhetoric of Commercial Humanism. Commercial Humanism is J. G. A. Pocock's term for Burke's attitude recommending the manners, customs, and prescription as the promoters of commercial society based on Whig political ascendancy. Commercial Humanism in Wordsworth’s poetry can be said to have formed itself in response to the establishment and development of the modern free market economy, while the poet finds the prop of his moral philosophy in following Burke’s conservative lead of regarding the manners, customs, and prescription as humanistic values.