The first detailed treatment of Switzerland in British literature and culture from Joseph Addison to John Ruskin, this book analyzes the aesthetic and political uses of what is commonly called the 'Swiss myth' in the parallel development of Romanticism and liberalism. The myth merged the country's legends going back to the Middle Ages with the Enlightenment image of a happy, free nation of alpine shepherds. Its unique combination of conservative, progressive, and radical associations enabled writers before the French Revolution to call for democratic reforms, whereas those coming after could refigure it as a conservative alternative to French liberté. Integrating intellectual history with literary studies, and addressing a wide range of Romantic-period texts and authors, among them Byron, the Shelleys, Hemans, Scott, Coleridge, and, above all, Wordsworth, the book argues that the myth contributed to the liberal idea of the people as a sublime yet sleeping sovereign.
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