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Robinson and Beauty

Mary Robinson was a known feminist and women’s rights advocate of the second half of the eighteenth century, and the first mistress of the Prince of Wales (to be later crowned King George VI). She lived a lifestyle many would even today call scandalous. She was known not only for her acting and poetry, but for her great beauty; it is beauty she comes to write about in two of her poems, The Old Beggar and Ode to Beauty.


            From the tone and title of these two poems, it is initially difficult to determine the message Robinson is attempting to deliver. The Old Beggar seems to be only about a haggard old man hard on the eyes, and Ode to Beauty at first looks as if it will be only stanza after stanza of praise to this young beauty. When one becomes familiar with Robinson’s feminist background, these concepts create dissonance. Robinson was an actress, which is how she eventually caught the eye of the Prince of Wales. Though she was married to another man, she agreed to an affair with the Prince, which lasted several years before being ended by the Prince. Ten years later, Robinson penned her Ode.

            Robinson didn’t believe in the traditional; one might argue that for a time she believed only in the beautiful. However, she eventually learned that beauty fades, and the beautiful will fail her; she turned to poetry and feminism, and she exhibits her beliefs in the last lines of her ode:

 For ah ! the beauteous bud, too soon, 
    Scorch’d by the burning eye of day; 
  Shrinks from the sultry glare of noon, 
    Droops its enamell’d brow, and blushing, dies away.


Robinson, Mary.”Ode to Beauty.” Digital Library UPenn. Web. 11 Sept.2012.

  • “The Old Beggar.” Google Books. Web.11 Sept. 2012.

Vegetables and Kings

In “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste than Fortune” by Denis Diderot, it is written, “Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles.” Diderot continues on to speak of Diogenes and Aristippus. These two men were Greek philosophers with opposite viewpoints. They had different beliefs with regard to how one should live their life. Diogenes always stuck to his morals and questioned mankind for their own, even though he himself was a beggar. He was a man with a clever and sharp tongue who taught others through his cynicism. Aristippus was a hedonist. This means that most, if not all, of his actions led to self-gratification. Whether it was indulging in food, wine or women, he always did it in excess and gluttony. He genuinely believed that his happiness and satisfaction was the most important thing in life and that obtaining those should never be delayed. There is a story about kings for each of the men that give an example of the differences between them.

“Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him, Plato said, ‘My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn’t have to wash vegetables.’ ‘And,’ replied Diogenes, ‘If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn’t have to pay court to kings.’”

Aristippus, on the other hand, was criticized heavily for being the “king’s poodle.” He would give into the king’s every whim in order to reap the benefits of being in a circle of importance and wealth, even if it gave him a bad name. Diderot relates these opposite ideologies to his dressing gown dilemma. He feels that his old gown was owned by him and granted him the freedom to do as he liked (such as with Diogenes) whereas he feels owned and controlled by the new gown (like Aristippus). In the end, sometimes it’s just best to stick with your vegetables than to be owned by a king.

~ JW

Diderot, Denis. “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste than Fortune.” 2005. Web. 9 Sept., 2012.

O’Keefe, Tim. “Aristippus (c.435-356 BCE).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 July, 2005. Web. 9 Sept., 2012.

Quinn, David. “Teachings of Diogenes.” Optus Home. n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.

Religious Terror

During the avant-garde times of the nineteenth century the largest and most powerful countries in Western Civilization flourished in the sublime reign of a catholic monarchy; sublime in a sense that the pernicious snares of power coupled with the deleterious claws of terror directed a lugubrious people. “we are first terrified, before we are let even into the obscure cause of our emotion: but when this grand cause of terror makes its appearance, what is it? Is it not wrapt up in the shades of its own incomprehensible darkness, more awful, more striking, more terrible, than the liveliest description, than the clearest painting, could possibly represent it?” (Burke, Section II: Part) The recondite mien of terror is something that many believers shared in accordance with the Catholic Church, a temerarious condemnation of their sins pushing them to rid the world of all paganism and sorcery. Such a rapacious impetus is something that few would dare resist, and a force that many innocent, or unintentionally ignorant rebels suffered in the Victorian era. For many the soporific veil of eternal darkness and comatose sleep covered their eyes as a result of the vanquishing ceremonies of self-righteous European Christians.













The jagged valley and ominously grey sky invoke a haunting sublime feeling that penetrates the senses and causes one to ruminate over the veracity and ubiquity of death.

Sources: Burke, Edmund. “On The Sublime.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.

Boyd. “Snow Valley.” PhotoBucket. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.

Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism contains the largest group of Christians in the world and was very popular prior to Henry VIII’s introduction to the Church of England in the 19th century. The beginning of this new religion caused many Catholics to be denied their civil rights and to experience limitations in their everyday lives. This treatment was eminent from the start. When Henry VIII founded the Church of England (or Anglican Church) those who remained faithful to the Church of Rome were looked upon with suspicion and were denied their rights to serve in parliament, own certain kinds of property, and attend Oxford, Cambridge, and other major universities of that time. This behavior continued until 1829 when parliament granted Roman Catholics full civil rights. Later on in 1840 Parliament continued to support the Roman Catholic religion by taking away any tax support from the Anglican Church. In the end many Catholic rituals were defended and practices such as confession and celibacy were accepted rather than rejected by British Protestants who had long been against these Catholic beliefs.


Photographic Perspective

Photography is like religion in the sense of how we view it. We can all look at the same photograph but still see it in a different perspective. This is a lot like religion in the sense that everyone can look at a specific religion but still see it in a different light. Like an abstract photograph, all we can do is interpret the true meaning without learning the actuality. Everyone can have an opinion of what makes a photograph beautiful, some may share the same opinion and some may not. The photographer decides the angle and perspective that they want to view of their subject. In this sense we are all photographers of our own belief system and we all define our own meaning of each photograph or religious belief. We, as unique individuals, can capture what we believe in an aspect that carries an artistic element for others to perceive and interpret. Others will see things from a different angle and some may argue that one angle or perspective is better than others and may try to get that individual to see things in their perspective when it is ultimately each individual’s choice on what is right and wrong. In comparison with religion, we have to will to follow our own belief system. There will be others who will argue against your beliefs but since you are the photographer, no one can change what is seen through your lens but you.


Beliefs on Picturesque Beauty

The belief about what is picturesque and what is beautiful differs between people, religions, societies, and even amid different time periods. William Gilpin’s essay on the picturesque describes that beauty varies amongst spectators as does the standards and importance of its presence.  In the 19th century Britain’s religious faith found beauty in God’s word and the nature he had created around them. William Paley’s Natural Theology of 1802 stated that God’s natural design is both beautiful and influential to the British people. Their beliefs in God and his works gave importance to his creations, making them extremely beautiful to those who believed.  Believing in the existence of God generated their idea of beauty.

Those, however, who accepted nature versus the idea of religion found the objects around them to be picturesque. Gilpin describes picturesque as ruggedness which directly opposes his belief that beauty is smooth and neat. Beauty is the representation of an object while picturesque is nothing more than the object itself. Nature and all its flaws are what make up the picturesque.  The belief in physical objects rather than in ideas allows those who lean toward nature to find beauty in the imperfections and the roughness of the world.



Gilpin, William. “On Picturesque Beauty.” Essay I. Web. 27 August 2012.


Paley,William. Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity(1802). Internet Archive. Web. 27 January 2012.

Death at a Distance

Part I, Section VII of Edmund Burke’s “A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste, and Several Other Additions” is a piece detailing his personal view and definition of the sublime. His belief was that pain is unbearable when it is too near, but at a certain distance pain can become enjoyable. He also argues that there is no joy in the world that can overcome the greatest pain, and yet almost any type of pain is preferred to death.

Reading this piece with the theme of belief and religion in mind, we thought of how this idea might apply to a martyr. A martyr would not only endure pain for what they believe, but they would die for it. This contradicts Burke’s theory that “there are very few pains, however exquisite, which are not preferred to death.” A martyr would prefer death to the pain of denying their beliefs; Burke, however, writes that death is the absolute most frightening idea—it is the ‘king of terrors’.

Burke does write that “when danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are, delightful.” This definition of the sublime could very well define the other party involved in martyrdom: the persecutors. In the case of Joan of Arc, for example, there were many people there to not only witness her death, but to enjoy it as a show. Even today we study her life and death, and find it fascinating. In a sense, this fascination and interest can be seen as a sort of enjoyment derived from her pain.

Although martyrdom opposes Burke’s social theory, it is possible to argue for and against his opinion of death and pain. It is hard to know what we truly believe until we are facing death itself.

–          L.G. &  J.W.

Burke, Edmund. “A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste, and Several Other Additions: Part I Section VII” Project Gutenburg.  n.d. Web.  26 August 2012.