A Culture and Society Reader

(under construction)

Raymond Williams’ 1958 book Culture and Society 1780-1950 examines the impact of the industrial revolution in Britain on ideas about industry, society, art, culture etc – indeed claiming that the whole idea of “culture” grew out of this impact – and is a survey, history and criticism of the leading British writers and thinkers in those domains since 1780. I’ve collected here links to works mentioned in it, and some quotes from them.
Keywords (1976) is an expanded version of what was meant to be the appendix to Culture & Society, and includes detailed description of Williams’ motivation and methods.

Click titles to see quotes. Click [pdf] or ‘Save As’ to view/download the entire work.

Edward Young Conjectures on Original Composition, 1759 [pdf]
Edmund Burke Reflections on the French Revolution
William Cobbett
Robert Southey
Robert Owen A New View of Society (1813) [pdf]
+++++The Life of Robert Owen: by Himself [pdf]
Wordsworth – preface to Lyrical Ballads [pdf]
ShelleyDefence of Poetry
A.W. Pugin Contrasts
J.S. Mill Essay on Bentham (1838) [read online]
+++++Essay on Coleridge (1840) [read online]
Thomas Carlyle Signs of the Times (1829) [read online]
+++++Sartor Resartus (1836)
+++++Chartism (1840)
+++++On Heroes and Hero-Worship (1841)
+++++Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850)
+++++Past and Present (1843)
+++++Shooting Niagara – And After? (1867) [read online]
Industrial novels:

Elizabeth Gaskell Mary Barton (1848)
+++++North and South (1855)
Benjamin DisraeliSybil, or The Two Nations (1845)
Charles DickensHard Times (1854)
Charles KingsleyAlton Locke, Tailor and Poet (1850)
George EliotFelix Holt (1866)

John Ruskin Unto This Last
+++++The Two Paths
+++++The Crown of Wild Olive
+++++Stones of Venice
+++++Modern Painters
+++++Sesame and Lilies
John Henry Newman
Matthew Arnold Culture and Anarchy
William Morris How I Became a Socialist
Walter Pater The Renaissance
W.H. MallockThe New Republic
Oscar WildeThe Soul of Man Under Socialism
George GissingNew Grub Street
+++++The Nether World
George Bernard Shaw
Hilaire BellocThe Servile State
T.E. HulmeCinders
D.H. Lawrence

Rendered by QuickLaTeX.com

On Culture and Society
Terry Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology, London 1976, ch. 1
Francis Mulhern – Culture and Society, Then and Now (2009), New Left Review
Paul Jones – Raymond Williams’s Sociology of Culture: A Critical Reconstruction, 2004

Edward Young – Conjectures on Original Composition, 1759 [pdf]

The mind of a man of genius is a fertile and pleasant field, pleasant as Elysium, and fertile as Tempe ; it enjoys a perpetual spring. Of that spring, Originals are the fairest flowers : Imitations are of quicker growth, but fainter bloom. Imitations are of two kinds ; one of nature, one of authors : The first we call Originals, and confine the term Imitation to the second. … Originals are, and ought to be, great favourites, for they are great benefactors they extend the republic of letters, and add a new province to its dominion : Imitators only give us a sort of duplicates of what we had, possibly much better, before ; increasing the mere drug of books, while all that makes them valuable, knowlege and genius, are at a stand.
+++++The pen of an original writer, like Armida’s wand, out of a barren waste calls a blooming spring : Out of that blooming spring an Imitator is a transplanter of laurels, which sometimes die on removal, always languish in a foreign soil.
+++++But suppose an Imitator to be most excellent (and such there are), yet still he but nobly builds on another’s foundation ; his debt is, at least, equal to his glory ; which therefore, on the balance, cannot be very great. On the contrary, an Original, tho’ but indifferent (its Originality being set aside), yet has something to boast ; it is something to say with him in Horace,
+++++Meo sum Pauper in aere ; [I am poor, but I am not in debt]
and to share ambition with no less than Cæsar, who declared he had rather be the first in a village, than the second at Rome.
+++++Still farther : An Imitator shares his crown, if he has one, with the chosen object of his imitation ; an Original enjoys an undivided applause. An Original may be said to be of a vegetable nature ; it rises spontaneously from the vital root of genius ; it grows, it is not made : Imitations are often a sort of manufacture wrought up by those mechanics, art, and labour, out of pre-existent materials not their own.
+++++Again : We read Imitation with somewhat of his languor, who listens to a twice-told tale : Our spirits rouze at an Original ; that is a perfect stranger, and all throng to learn what news from a foreign land : And tho’ it comes, like an Indian prince, adorned with feathers only, having little of weight ; yet of our attention it will rob the more solid, if not equally new : Thus every telescope is lifted at a new-discovered star ; it makes a hundred astronomers in a moment, and denies equal notice to the sun. But if an Original, by being as excellent, as new, adds admiration to surprize, then are we at the writer’s mercy ; on the strong wing of his imagination, we are snatched from Britain to Italy, from climate to climate, from pleasure to pleasure ; we have no home, no thought, of our own ; till the magician drops his pen : And then falling down into ourselves, we awake to flat realities, lamenting the change, like the beggar who dreamt himself a prince. -p6-8

After all, the first ancients had no merit in being Originals : They could not be Imitators. Modern writers have a choice to make ; and therefore have a merit in their power. They may soar in the regions of liberty or move in the soft fetters of easy imitation ; and imitation has as many plausible reasons to urge as Pleasure had to offer to Hercules. Hercules made the choice of an hero, and so became immortal. -p10

Must we then, you say, not imitate antient authors ? Imitate them, by all means ; but imitate aright. … Tread in [Homer’s] steps to the sole fountain of immortality ; drink where he drank, at the true Helicon, that is, at the breast of nature : Imitate ; but imitate not the Composition, but the Man. -p11

…rules, like crutches, are a needful aid to the lame, tho’ an impediment to the strong. -p14

Genius often then deserves most to be praised, when it is most sure to be condemned ; that is, when its excellence, from mounting high, to weak eyes is quite out of sight.’ -p14

…by a spirit of Imitation we counteract nature, and thwart her design. She brings us into the world all Originals : No two faces, no two minds, are just alike ; but all bear nature’s evident mark of separation on them. Born Originals, how comes it to pass that we die Copies ? -p19-20