George Berkeley spent a couple years living in the "Paradise" neighborhood of Newport, waiting for the loans and grants to come through for his fantastic, visionary scheme to create a College for the Americas, for anglos & natives alike, in Bermuda. The money never materialized, & eventually he sailed back to England. But while in Newport, he composed some of his major philosophical dialogues. He liked to look out at the Atlantic from a cleft in a large puddingstone outcrop, known to locals as "Berkeley's Seat".

Was Irish philosopher George Berkeley an extreme idealist? A realist? A transcendentalist? He wrote against contemporaneous currents in science & philosophy which posited something abstract called "matter", a kind of substrate of reality upon which fleeting surface "phenomena" enacted their changes. For Berkeley, "esse est percipi", or "what is, is what is perceived". An Anglican bishop as well as philosopher & dabbler in scientific speculation (the benefits of "Tar-Water", etc.), his worldview is grounded in theism & a notion of creation. Thus the holistic Reality which we perceive and experience, is so perceived by a means somehow analogous to the divine Imagination which conceives it, imagines it, dreams it.

Berkeley is one of several local avatars in Stubborn Grew, where along with painter (& fellow "Paradise"-dweller) John LaFarge, he sort of sanctions the fiction-making, the fantastic elements, of this "local history" poem.

from the "Once in Paradise" chapter :


Aloft there on shale shelf, in cave mouth,
Berkeley's eyes drifted out to sea.
A pair of dicey gypsy barks
gambling on the shepherding waves.

You have your materialist peasants
nattering pedantically along with your
libertine idle blank-eyed statuettes O
London - and this jovial pleasant

noncholeric collared Irish bookish Dean
waves the Vico key in your face. And waits.
Waits for your double crosscheck, mates -
your doubloon that never comes - keening,

why have you forsaken me? In RI? Heaven's
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential - and recreational!
A dream, again! - again! - Bermudian!

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