Noakes’s changes to the garden bring it from an 18th century Enlightenment mode of order and symmetry to the 19th century Romantic style, an attempt to return to and celebrate the wildness of nature, rather than to constrain it. Yet Romanticism thematically transcends the garden, becoming a sounding board for each character to express their own philosophies about beauty and art. The characters have mixed feelings about whether Noakes’s garden is beautiful. Lady Croom finds the whole thing overwhelming, even silly: “Where there is the familiar pastoral refinement of an Englishman’s garden, here there is an eruption of gloomy forest and towering crag”” (Act 1, Scene 1).
In the present day, Hannah agrees that Romanticism is “intellectual rigor turned in on itself…cheap thrills and false emotion” (Act 1, Scene 2). Bernard, on the other hand, is a scholar of Byron, one of the most important Romantic poets, and he sees the Enlightenment’s will to order and divide as false, and science’s progress as unimportant. He prefers the Romantic emphasis on individual experience: “A great poet is always timely. A great philosopher is an urgent need” (Act 2, Scene 5). As for Thomasina, and Valentine after her, their stroke of genius is to try to combine both forms of beauty, bringing the scientific rigor of the Enlightenment to bear on the wildness of nature.
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty ThemeTracker
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Quotes in Arcadia
But Sidley Park is already a picture, and a most amiable picture too. The slopes are green and gentle. The trees are companionably grouped at intervals that show them to advantage. The rill is a serpentine ribbon unwound from the lake peaceably contained by meadows on which the right amount of sheep are tastefully arranged—in short, it is nature as God intended, and I can say with the painter, “Et in Arcadia ego!” “Here I am in Arcadia,” Thomasina.
The whole Romantic sham, Bernard! It’s what happened to the Enlightenment, isn’t it? A century of intellectual rigor turned in on itself. A mind in chaos suspected of genius. In a setting of cheap thrills and false emotion…The decline from thinking to feeling, you see.”