In the literature of sensibility, quite often the animals we come across serve a function similar to the landscapes the hero or heroine peer at and into: both incite deep emotional responses such as Yorick's compassion for the dead ass or Smart's enthusiastic rapture over his cat, Jeoffrey. Like the natural vistas in The Italian, there is something pre-rational, primitive in a Rousseauvian sense, about these animals that solicits a powerful reaction that is not always possible in response to a rational and corrupted human world. Importantly, on turning to the inspiring animals, the sensibilious observer is well grounded in the material, in the life of this world, and in certain instances, such as Smart's cat, this sensible world transports the observer to some place beyond this world and this self. The animal, as we see in these passages, is the locus for a number of other issue of primary importance in the literature of sensibility: instinct versus reason, isolation versus community, benevolence and sympathy.

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography