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An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning


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A treatise by Goldsmith, published 1759.

Goldsmith examines the causes of the decline of ‘polite learning’ from ancient times, through the dark ages, to its present state in Italy, Germany, Holland, France, and England, with perfunctory references to Spain and the Scandinavian countries. He attributes the alleged decay in England to the low status of the writer, driven to hack‐work for the booksellers through lack of patronage—‘We keep him poor, and yet revile his poverty’; also to the ‘disgusting solemnity’ and lack of comic spirit among poets, the restrictive conditions of the theatre, and the carping of critics.

Subjects: Literature.


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