In the latter part of the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the nineteenth, the British cultural imagination turned to coasts. Prior to this period, coasts tended to be thought of as uninviting, even dangerous, places – ‘repulsive’, according to Alain Corbin.1 A compound of interlinked developments – in medicine, in aesthetics, in leisure, in law, in military strategy, for example – altered the prevailing mood, however, and during the long nineteenth century, the coast was visited more often, and by an increasingly diverse collection of people. This swell of interest in the littoral meant that coasts began to function as zones of cultural and commercial interchange. In part, this was because coasts became places of literal intermingling, where geologists and quack doctors, composers and painters, holidaymakers and recluses might meet intentionally or accidentally. Geological tourists followed Mary Anning to Lyme Regis in droves to purchase or discover for themselves sea-shells by the sea-shore. And towards the end of the nineteenth century, artists formed colonies at Pont-Aven, St Ives and elsewhere....
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