chapter  12
The Politeness of Literary Texts
Pages 17

At the zenith of its lofty meaning, 'politeness' embraced intellectual enlightenment and civilization as prized by the Augustans, and particularly by a metropolitan aristocracy which disdained rural life and cultural provinciality. Philosophically underpinned by Shaftesburian benevolism, ameliorism and moral sensibility, politeness entailed mental cultivation and polished manners, elegant refinement and neo-classical good taste. Such qualities were said to be their own reward, and they were epitomized in a polite conversation that was well-informed and pleasurable - easy, free, natural, pliant, humorous. The same qualities were also reflected in what was called polite literature. For the Augustans, the politeness of literary texts was these qualities.