The history of John Galt : past and present in the wake of the Enlightenment
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Leighton, Cadoc D.
The placing of the history of Enlightenment ideas and their implications in a wider social context has been an important characteristic of Enlightenment studies for some time. This thesis offers John Galt, the early nineteenth-century Scottish historical novelist, as an example of this wider reception of the Enlightenment. It investigates his novels and gives an account of Galt’s attitudes to the ideas of his times, on the historical, socio-political and other matters. It returns the novels to their immediate Scottish intellectual and cultural contexts, speaking of Galt’s Greenock, contemporary Scottish literary circles and London politics, all of which played important parts in Galt’s formation. His works are interesting in showing a belief in the expediency of reason, learning and the possibility of human progress within an organic society and history, placing an emphasis on Divine Providential as the ground of a universal system. Galt supported progress, in so far as it brought advance of a merely practical nature; but he reached back to the moral values of the past as the true guides to living.The thesis delineates Galt’s ideas as composite, melding together traditional and new liberal/conservative notions. Thus a progressive understanding of history became, in the hands of Galt, a major element of his conservative stance in relation to radical reform and change. Using some contemporary theories such as historical inevitability and stadialism, he constructed a Scottish identity which highlighted the Calvinist traditions of the Lowlands. In brief, with Galt the dichotomy between Enlightenment and Counter- Enlightenment was disappearing.