Recent revisionist historiographical and organological studies have shown that, contrary to the traditional narrative, western lutes continued to be made and played throughout the long eighteenth century. Much more is known now about the luthiers who created them, the professional and amateur musicians who played them, and the performance spaces in which they were encountered. This in turn invites a sustained reconsideration of the many references to lutes that appear in works of English literature from 1680 to 1830—and that is precisely the task I undertake in this article. Specifically, I will examine the relationship between literary lutes and the natural world, charting the shifts from Neoplatonic notions of musica mundana, to the dendrological seventeenth-century understanding of material origins, to the descriptive conventions associated with the warbling of neoclassical lutes, to the lutenist-less Aeolian instruments of the Romantic era (as exemplified in the writings of Coleridge). I will argue that this specific trajectory is of particular importance, especially when viewed from an ecocritical perspective.

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