At the end of the eighteenth century, British writers began to celebrate work in a strangely indirect way. Instead of describing diligence as an attribute of character, poets and novelists increasingly identified work with impersonal "energies" akin to natural force. Chemists traced mental and muscular work back to its source in sunlight, giving rise to the claim (beloved by nineteenth-century journalists) that "all the labor done under the sun is really done by it." The Work of the Sun traces the emergence of this model of work, exploring its sources in middle-class consciousness and its implications for British literature and science.

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