David Fairer


As a genre, the eighteenth-century georgic poem seems to embody a compromise between the creative and the critical. Not only is it a conscious imitation of a specific literary text (Virgil's Georgics), but it grounds itself in the critical impulse: it offers judgments, gives advice, discriminates between right and wrong methods, and investigates questions of use and value. It has a duty to be both descriptive and didactic. In combining exact observation with specific recommendation, the georgic is conscious of the critical nature of its text. When John Dyer, in The Fleece (1757), offers advice on how to spot liver-rot in sheep, it is important that his facts are correct:



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