‘Shortliv'd as foliage is the race of man’: The Last of the Race and the Natural World

Fiona J. Stafford

in The Last of the Race

Published in print June 1994 | ISBN: 9780198112228
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670718 | DOI:
‘Shortliv'd as foliage is the race of man’: The Last of the Race and the Natural World

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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The development of the last of the race figure in rural literature is said to have been brought about by the new consciousness of change and loss. In poems such as William Shenstone's ‘The School-Mistress’ and Thomas Gray's ‘Elegy’, a traditional agricultural community being viewed as a disappearing race is implied, although in Oliver Goldsmith's ‘The Deserted Village’, rural depopulation, or the entire community vanishing leaving only a single survivor, is perceived as historical fact. The general acceptance of ‘extinction’ is also said to have resulted from the obsession with natural history in the eighteenth century. It is unavoidable for the concept of life to lead to the idea of death, either individually or for the whole. The last of the race is an inevitable occurrence in this organic universe.

Keywords: race; rural literature; School-Mistress; Elegy; Deserted Village; life; death; extinction

Chapter.  11541 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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