Saturday, 13 April 2013

Rustic Renaissance by Godfrey Blount, The Introduction

I have recently got a copy of Godfrey Blount's Rustic Renaissance (The Simple Life Series No. 21, A.C. Fifield, London, 1905), and I have found that this small book excellently conveys the values of Godfrey Blount and with that the Peasant Arts movement itself.  It looks like the tree motif of A.C. Fifield's The Simple Life Series was designed by Godfrey Blount.

The Rustic Renaissance
(Blount, G., The Simple Life Series No. 21, A.C. Fifield, London 1905)

The Rustic Renaissance begins with a Preface which shows a remarkable self-awareness of their cause:

"My object in the following pages is to adduce sundry arguments in defence of what is beginning to be known as "The Simple Life," in which, if I have not succeeded in rescuing it from that position of ideal impracticability with which it is usually regarded - and indeed no advocate of simplicity ever expects his gospel to be eagerly welcomed by those who do not desire it - I have at least endeavoured to cope with some of the less recognised, but none the less formidable, difficulties in the way of attaining it, and to reason over their details.

"There are immense practical difficulties to be surmounted before any general or popular return to country life is possible, but I have avoided all reference to the Land question, not because I am ignorant how urgently reform in this direction is required, but because its need is admitted on all hands, and I am unwilling to commit myself to any particular plan of reform in this matter.  We must also acknowledge that till there is a more wide-spread desire on the part of our population to "inherit the earth" again, it is futile to tilt the dragons of monopoly.

"But neither is this little book intended to instruct the fugitive from modern industrialism how best to build a cottage, and cultivate the narrow strip of ground which public or private enterprise may have secured him from the grasp of the monopolist; nor is it designed to teach the would-be eremite how to sleep in the open air, grow carrots or eat grass.  These are subjects which deserve and have met with their worthy specialists.  My humble desire is rather to save "The Simple Life" on the one hand from that stigma of Bohemian savagery and want of culture for which the advocates of strange and extreme methods of living are responsible; and on the other hand, from the no less certain extinction that will overtake it, as it overtakes every good cause, as soon as it becomes the plaything of fashionable faddists.

"My object is to appeal for simplicity by identifying it with a revival of true culture, the culture which condemns alike an unsanctified asceticism and the refinements of epicurean luxury.  It insists, instead, firstly on the appreciation and then on the reproduction of those simple crafts and sciences which lie at the root of all civilisation, and are as superior to its superficial culture as a folk-story is to a popular novel."

Detail of Blount, G., The Rustic Renaissance,
The Simple Life Series No. 21, A.C. Fifield, London 1905

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