Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime
and Beautiful certainly should be mentioned among the texts which chiefly
influenced English culture during the second half of the Eighteenth century.
Published in 1757, the treatise can be considered an authentic turning
point in Arts and Literature, drawing attention to the passion of the
Sublime and producing a progressive shift "from an objective to a subjective
discourse". This essay deals with the deep ascendency exerted by the
Enquiry on Shelley's and Turner's productions. Driven by a highly evocative
and imaginative spirit, the two authors investigate man's inner emotions,
especially when assailing the mind while observing the immense power of
Nature. A power which has the great capability of raising the passion of
the sublime; i.e. the sensation felt by man when his gaze is caught by the
immeasurable vastness of a boundless landscape, or it is trapped by the
dreadful, charming vision of Nature expressing its vigorous supremacy: in
that half-suspended state of the soul in which imagination, astonishment
and fear eventually merge.