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Susan Fenimore Cooper , though often overshadowed by her celebrity father, James Fenimore Cooper, has recently become recognized as both a pioneer of American nature writing and an early advocate for ecological sustainability.

Sensual Essays That Explore the Grandeur of Nature

Editors Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson have assembled here a collection of ten pieces by Cooper that represent her most accomplished nature writing and the fullest articulation of her environmental principles. With one exception, these essays have not been available in print since their original appearance in Cooper's lifetime.

Table of Contents. Cover Download Save. Frontmatter Download Save.

Essays on Nature

Contents Download Save. Foreword pp. Acknowledgments pp. Introduction pp. Editorial Principles pp. A Dissolving View pp. Preface to the edition of Rural Hours pp. Later Hours pp. Village Improvement Societies pp. A Lament for the Birds pp. Emendations pp. Textual Notes pp. Explanatory Notes pp. It ranges through the limits of art. In the embellished pleasure-ground particularly, tho all is neat, and elegant—far too neat and elegant for the use of the pencil; yet, if it be well laid out, it exhibits the lines, and principles of landscape; and is well worth the study of the picturesque traveller.

Nothing is wanting, but what his imagination can supply—a change from smooth to rough. These are the richest legacies of art. Thus universal are the objects of picturesque travel.

We pursue beauty in every shape; through nature, through art; and all it's various arrangements in form, and colour; admiring it in the grandest objects, and not rejecting it in the humblest. From the objects of picturesque travel, we consider it's sources of amusement —or in what way the mind is gratified by these objects.

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We might begin in moral stile; and consider the objects of nature in a higher light, than merely as amusement. We might observe, that a search after beauty should naturally lead the mind to the great origin of all beauty; to the — first good, first perfect, and first fair.


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Yet even this may be of some use in an age teeming with licentious pleasure; and may in this light at least be considered as having a moral tendency. We suppose the country to have been unexplored. The love of novelty is the foundation of this pleasure. We pursue her from hill to dale; and hunt after those various beauties, with which she every where abounds. The pleasures of the chase are universal. A hare started before dogs is enough to set a whole country in an uproar. The plough, and the spade are deserted. And shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal, than it is to the man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature?

After the pursuit we are gratified with the attainment of the object. Our amusement, on this head, arises from the employment of the mind in examining the beautiful scenes we have found. When we are fortunate enough to fall in with scenes of this kind, we are highly delighted. But as we have less frequent opportunities of being thus gratified, we are more commonly employed in analyzing the parts of scenes; which may be exquisitely beautiful, tho unable to produce a whole. We examine what would amend the composition; how little is wanting to reduce it to the rules of our art; what a trifling circumstance sometimes forms the limit between beauty, and deformity.

From all these operations of the mind results great amusement.

Decoding, interpreting, understanding and explaining landscapes - Words | Essay Example

We are most delighted, when some grand scene, tho perhaps of incorrect composition, rising before the eye, strikes us beyond the power of thought—when the vox faucibus haeret; and every mental operation is suspended. The general idea of the scene makes an impression, before any appeal is made to the judgment.

We rather feel, than survey it.

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Here and there a capital picture will raise these emotions: but oftener the rough sketch of a capital master. This has sometimes an astonishing effect on the mind; giving the imagination an opening into all those glowing ideas, which inspired the artist; and which the imagination only can translate. Having gained by a minute examination of incidents a compleat idea of an object, our next amusement arises from inlarging, and correcting our general stock of ideas. The variety of nature is such, that new objects, and new combinations of them, are continually adding something to our fund, and inlarging our collection: while the same kind of object occurring frequently, is seen under various shapes; and makes us, if I may so speak, more learned in nature.

We get it more by heart. From this correct knowledge of objects arises another amusement; that of representing, by a few strokes in a sketch, those ideas, which have made the most impression upon us.

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A few scratches, like a short-hand scrawl of our own, legible at least to ourselves, will serve to raise in our minds the remembrance of the beauties they humbly represent; and recal to our memory even the splendid colouring, and force of light, which existed in the real scene. It may be so in travelling also. It flatters us too with the idea of a sort of creation of our own; and it is unallayed with that fatigue, which is often a considerable abatement to the pleasures of traversing the wild, and savage parts of nature.

There is still another amusement arising from the correct knowledge of objects; and that is the power of creating, and representing scenes of fancy; which is still more a work of creation, than copying from nature. It is thus in writing romances.


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The marvellous disgusts the sober imagination; which is gratified only with the pure characters of nature. But if we are unable to embody our ideas even in a humble sketch, yet still a strong impression of nature will enable us to judge of the works of art.

Nature is the archetype. The stronger therefore the impression, the better the judgment. But this is not the case.