Noble Savage

The term noble savage (French, bon sauvage) expresses the concept of an idealized indigene, outsider, or "other" and refers to the literary stock character. In English, the phrase first appeared in the 17th century in John Dryden's heroic play, The Conquest of Granada (1672), wherein it was used by a Christian prince disguised as a Spanish Muslim to refer to himself, but it later became identified with the idealized picture of "nature's gentleman", which was an aspect of 18th-century sentimentalism. The noble savage achieved prominence as an oxymoronic rhetorical device after 1851, when used sarcastically as the title for a satirical essay by English novelist Charles Dickens, whom some believe may have wished to disassociate himself from what he viewed as the "feminine" sentimentality of 18th and early 19th-century romantic primitivism.

The idea that humans are essentially good is often attributed to the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, a Whig supporter of constitutional monarchy. In his Inquiry Concerning Virtue (1699), Shaftesbury had postulated that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate and based on feelings rather than resulting from the indoctrination of a particular religion. Shaftesbury was reacting to Thomas Hobbes's justification of an absolutist central state in his Leviathan, Chapter XIII, in which Hobbes famously holds that the state of nature is a "war of all against all" in which men's lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". Hobbes further calls the American Indians an example of a contemporary people living in such a state. Although writers since antiquity had described people living a pre-civilized conditions, Hobbes is credited with inventing the term "State of Nature".

Read more about Noble Savage:  Pre-history of The Noble Savage, Origin of Term, Attributes of Romantic Primitivism, The Reaction To Hobbes, Benjamin Franklin's Remarks Concerning The Savages of North America, Erroneous Identification of Rousseau With The Noble Savage, The 19th Century: Belief in Progress and The Fall of The Natural Man, Charles Dickens 1853 Article On "The Noble Savage" in Household Words, Scapegoating The Inuit: Cannibalism and Sir John Franklin's Lost Expedition, Scientific Racism, Opponents of Primitivism

Famous quotes containing the words noble and/or savage:

    O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!
    William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

    The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
    giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
    a savage servility
    slides by on grease.
    Robert Lowell (1917–1977)