ByEvan Gottlieb, Juliet Shields
Pages 12

The prose pastoral, intrigued with rural burial practices, funerals, and mourning rituals, became one of graveyard literature's many updated vehicles, beginning in the 1810s and 1820s. Churchyard-centered prose pastorals flourished because of the churchyard's potent associations with ways of life and death that were vanishing and because churchyards themselves appeared to be threatened. Changes in burial arrangements and in attitudes toward death came about more slowly in the country: that was one reason for returns to rural churchyard scenes in the prose pastoral. Living near the churchyard, then, spiritually and physically this, according to Bowles, is English tradition, the purest manifestation of English character. At the same time, it offered palliatives, including preservationist sympathy expressed in the reading act itself and an encouragement to enshrine remnants of idealized England for the purposes of memory and heritage tourism. Regardless of locality, readers and writers could claim the literary dead, which meant drawing on, appropriating, and situating oneself within a literary tradition.