Sunday, July 17, 2011


Nature Worship

Aldous Huxley, Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1960), pp. 114-116:
Nature worship is a product of good communications. In the seventeenth century all sensible men disliked wild nature. One has only to read Pepys' account of a country tour to understand the reason why. But a change was at hand. During the earlier years of the eighteenth century the French road system was completely overhauled; and from 1725 onwards General Wade was engaged in giving to Scotland and the Border their first decent highways. It began to be possible to look at wild nature in comfort and without serious risk. Poets responded to the invitation of the engineers....It was only after the making of the roads that people began to hold up their hands and bless the country. Untamed, nature seems not so much divine as sinister, alarming and, above all, exasperatingly obstructive. To go hiking across the mountains when you know that at any moment you can slip down into the valley and find a good road, with motor buses, and a service of wagon lits—this is a most delightful pastime. But if you have to traipse across the same mountains, not on pleasure, but on business, and for the sufficient reason that there is no other means of getting where you want to go—why, then the case is altered. The sublimities of Nature—and these damned barrancas are unquestionably sublime—come to be regarded, not with admiration, but with rage, not as evidences of God's handiwork, but as booby-traps put in your way by some insufferably waggish devil. In Central America one learns to understand the classical attitude to nature.
Asher Brown Durand, Kindred Spirits

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