chapter  11
5 Pages


Varieties of Cultural Improvement in the Long Eighteenth Century
WithGerard Carruthers

A dominant line of twentieth-century criticism found Scottish literature and culture during the long eighteenth century to be un-improvable. Scottish 'improvement', then, was contested between Moderate and Popular parties, as well as between Whigs and Tories. In the periodical culture, in the kirk and also in terms of dynastic tensions, this background to the Scottish trajectory of cultural and economic improvement represented a rich set of interests. For David Daiches, the improved trajectory of Scottish culture during the long eighteenth century was an illusory thing. Lacking the crucial Romantic movement, in part due to broken tradition, in part due to an over-reliance on neo-classical enlightenment during the long eighteenth century, Scotland stood naked in the cold light of a true cultural modernity that had occurred in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Attempted improvement meant a betrayal of 'things native', with the neo-classical New Town of Edinburgh exhibit one in a synthetic programme of eighteenth-century cultural engineering.