This essay argues that the aesthetic category named the picturesque was first systematized in a Welsh colonial context and that picturesque looking always reflects, to some degree, its initially imperialist function. While the picturesque rapidly acceded to a preeminent place in British travel and landscape writing, its rise was contested by Welsh and working-class writers like the antiquarian poet Richard Llwyd (1752–1835). By conspicuously failing to impose picturesque features on a carefully historicized landscape, Llwyd’s poem Beaumaris Bay (1800) lays bare the picturesque’s antihistorical drive to eradicate local difference. Renewed critical attention to early attempts to establish an antipicturesque aesthetic may uncover important precursors to present-day postcolonial and transnational theory, precursors that can enrich the ongoing global turn in literary history.

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