The Country Squire

Description

This prettily illustrated pocketbook for children was published in 1781. Its author, George Wright, wrote a number of books in the latter half of the 18th century on the joys of country walking and the spiritual bliss to be found in the quiet of nature.

The Country Squire is a conduct book of sorts, aimed at middle- and upper-class people living in the countryside. It instructs its readers on the best way to live a virtuous life through poems, reflections, parables and beautiful printed imagery:

From this small treatise Reader learn,
How good from evil to discern;
The former chuse, the latter shun,
This you’ll do or be undone. (p. viii)

Town and country stereotypes in 18th-century literature

The town and the country were often set against each other in the creative writing of the 18th century. Poems such as Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘The Deserted Village’ (1770) idealised rural life and depicted country dwellers as simple, wholesome people who were susceptible to the corruption of the town.

As The Country Squire reveals in its preface, however, there were negative stereotypes associated with country squires or the landed gentry:

In the country, gentlemen of independent fortunes … generally spend their time wholly in the pursuits of field sports, hunting, shooting, and the like, or the intoxicating pleasures of the bottle. (p. ix)

The character of Squire Western in Henry Fielding’s trailblazing novel Tom Jones (1749) fits this stereotype exactly. Western is uncouth, violent and ridiculous in his wilful ignorance of everything but hunting and drinking. In many ways he provides a comic foil to the exquisite manners of his daughter, Sophia, the wisdom and benevolence of Mr Allworthy and the good-natured generosity of Jones.

Despite Goldsmith’s concern for the vulnerable innocence of rural life, he drew on country stereotypes to create the character of Tony Lumpkin, an illiterate practical joker and benevolent bumpkin who is the comic lead for She Stoops to Conquer (1773). The character type of the bumbling provincial clown harks back to the verbal and physical comedy of the Restoration and Renaissance theatre.

Full title:
The country s̀quire. walking [sic] & talking or a new pocket-companion for children of all ages. (By Bob Short.) With the life of the author.
Published:
1781, London
Format:
Book / Engraving / Illustration / Image
Creator:
George Wright
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
RB.23.a.10047

Full catalogue details

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