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Yet methinks one shou’d have but an ill time, to be present at these bodily Operations. ’ For purposes of sketching out the terrain of the genre, such complaints are invaluable. Foregrounding the core features of the generic repertoire – a practice of writing geared to the absorption of what one reads as part of a practice of moral philosophy – these accounts show that the essay named a particular practice that existed over the course of a century (one that crosses other kinds of social, political, and cultural periodizations).
One uses the hook of Cowley’s intriguing phrase, ‘Discourses, by Way of Essays,’ and the other uses another Senecan figure for reading, traveling. What do you do with texts that leave only an incidental residue? That make no claim to found or ground? That are effects of reading, tools of learning, and not tools of teaching and works of writing? I want to try to read along. When you find that someone named Palmer wrote an essay on travel, you’re having a good day. ’1 Palmer claims his work is ‘by way of essay’ because it is a rough draft, a first attempt to explain to outwardly mobile Englishmen the rudiments of foreign 36 S.
The repetition of the connective, ‘together,’ stresses Culpeper’s account of the genre as a model of engagement, between oneself and the world and between the present and the past. Not a mechanism of disarticulation from the world, or a choice of experience over texts (or texts over history), essays provide exemplary little models, epitomes, of the way these work together. They are a way of engaging one’s world, a place where particular knowledges are used, where the familiar is registered, and use privileged over building.