The development of attitudes between Cowper’s The Task (1) in the 1780s and the writings of the 1820s was considerable. For Cowper, London was the only contemporary English city of much significance. He admired its cultural achievement and pre-eminence, but feared the influence of its modes and morals on rural society, especially on the landowning classes, and condemned its moral corruptions. The city was identified with ‘excess’ rather than with destitution as it became later. Rural life was the social norm and the foundation of the nation’s well-being, and the countryside stood for moral virtue against the unnatural evil of the city.