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The English Urban RenaissanceCulture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770$
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Peter Borsay

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198202554

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202554.001.0001

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Civility and Sociability

Civility and Sociability

Chapter:
(p.257) 10 Civility and Sociability
Source:
The English Urban Renaissance
Author(s):

Peter Borsay

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198202554.003.0010

This chapter describes the Urban Renaissance not as a movement built solely on self-interest and social emulation but in terms of its nobler, uplifting aspects, seeking to foster man's finer qualities. In this respect, it was part of a wider movement, an English enlightenment, whose underlying mission was to rescue the nation from barbarity and ignorance; in a word, to civilize it. One of the most commendable activities a gentleman could engage in, and one in which moderation and an even temper were regarded as assets, was that of meeting and mixing with fellow human beings. Indeed, sociability was considered one of the foremost civilizing influences of the era. William Hutton, in the confident tones of the English enlightenment, wrote that ‘Man is evidently formed for society: intercourse of one with another, like two blocks of marble in friction, reduces the rough prominences of behavior, and gives a polish to the manners’. For this reason 18th-century England developed a thirst for human contact.

Keywords:   self-interest, social emulation, barbarity, ignorance, sociability, William Hutton

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