"Luxury" and "the Surprising" in Sir William Chambers’ Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (1772): Commercial Society and Burke’s Sublime-Effect
This paper examines oriental landscape scenes of “luxury” and of “the surprising” as described by Sir William Chambers (1726–1796) in his Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (1772), and analyses them in relation to Edmund Burke’s theory of the sublime and the beautiful. I argue that Chambers’ depiction of these landscape scenes was motivated by a commitment to the importance of maintaining martial virtues in commercial and civil societies. The Dissertation puts forward the role of the surprising scenes for maintaining military vigour in coexistence with the landscape of luxury. For Chambers, landscape is a site for shaping citizens’ sensations and virtues. Chambers articulated his sensationalist landscape, which was deeply influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment discourses of physiology, virtue, and commerce theory, through the disguise of a Chinese garden. The Dissertation provides an important example of how discourses on the building of Britain’s identity operated through allegory within the framework of cultural interaction between Asia and Europe during the early modern period.
EU Marie Curie Actions
This is an open access article that is freely available in ORE or from the publisher's web site.
No. 2, pp. 45 - 76