I’ve been reading more from the 1776 travel diary of Samuel More. Last week I quoted his impressions of John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson’s volcano-like iron foundry at New Willey in Shropshire, and how the region was already starting to see the proliferation of iron railroads — long before the rise of steam locomotives.
It's great to see the occasional optimistic take on the industrial revolution.
Like we see today, development is often cast in a negative light.
As late as the 1950s, such air pollution was often taken as a sign of progress, until London's smog apocalypse killed tens of thousands.
Rachel Carson, and burning rivers finally ended that romance.
I read a novel where the gouty old industrialist was so taken with the beauty and strength of iron that he commissioned a series of iron dildos that he wanted to try out on his housekeeper. I can't remember the title.
This is a marvelous, enchanting essay that conveys a real sense of the man, Samuel More. Thank you.
This reminded me of this old post: https://vpostrel.com/deep-glamour/factory-glamour and related photos: https://www.flickr.com/groups/deepglamour/pool/18559198@N02
Also of Richard Preston's magnificent book American Steel, about the construction of a minimill in the late 1980s.
New reader, and haven't had a chance to explore your essays fully, but love this. There was definitely a Romantic poetic exploration of the sublimity of the industrial as well. When I teach a British survey course, I often include Joanna Baillie's "London" because it's so interesting in this regard. https://www.bartleby.com/lit-hub/poems-of-places-an-anthology-in-31-volumes/london-14/
also here: https://www.eighteenthcenturypoetry.org/works/bjb18-w0220.shtml
. . .
St. Paul’s high dome amidst the vassal bands
Of neighboring spires, a regal chieftain stands,
And over fields of ridgy roofs appear,
With distance softly tinted, side by side
In kindred grace, like twain of sisters dear,
The towers of Westminster, her Abbey’s pride:
While far beyond the hills of Surrey shine
Through thin soft haze, and show their wavy line.
Viewed thus, a goodly sight! but when surveyed
Through denser air when moistened winds prevail,
In her grand panoply of smoke arrayed,
While clouds aloft in heavy volumes sail,
She is sublime.
Of course, Wordsworth tried his hand at being pro-industrial in "Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways"
. . .In spite of all that beauty may disown
In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace
Her lawful offspring in Man’s art. . .
Interestingly, in that poem, Time is personified to look at "triumphs o’er his brother Space" with "cheer sublime."