Eighteenth Century England: Augustan and Johnson Age: Rise of the novel

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EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND / The Enlightenment. The Rise of the novel and the Pre-Romantic Period.THE AUGUSTAN AGE:   THE AGE OF POPE AND SWIFT (1700-1750)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDQueen Anne, youngest daughter of James  II (1702-14). Last Stuart monarch, died childless.  Protestant succession confirmed  by The Act of Settlement (1701) & The Hanoverians (1714-1901: George I-IV, William II & Victoria)Jacobitism: Bonnie Prince Charlie , Catholic , Stuart pretender to the throne of England,  Ireland and Scotland (Culloden 1746, between the Jacobites and the Redcoats)-1707: Act of Union between England & Scotland: Kingdom of Great Britain-Treaty of Utrecht (1713): puts and end to the War of Spanish Succession (partition of Spanish empire). England receives from Spain the right to the slave trade with the New World & obtains both Gibraltar and Menorca. Parliamentary England (Queen Anne,  last monarch to veto Parliament). Alternating power, party politics: Whigs and Tories, intra-class political contest among the propertied classes. Robert Walpole  (Whig) , the Bubble Sea Scandal and the War against Spain (a continuation of Spanish Succession) (1739). The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle  (1748) left Great Britain defeated and empoverished. From Walpole to William Pitt the Elder (Whig). 


-Development of coal mining by applying Newcomen’s steam pump to extract water from the mines. -Introduction of the use of coke—distilled coal—by the Darbys to melt iron. Coal demand, development of fuel and metal industries. -Increase production in the textile industry fostered by mechanical inventions: jenny  mule. -Transport improvement: deepening of rivers and canal building. -Increased importance of the propertied classes (landed gentry &  merchants in the cities) in comparison with the nobility. -Improved farming techniques. Increased production: crop rotation, seed selection, enclosure, fodder for animals (turnips). -The growing urban populations could be effectively and better fed.

Enlightenment England

A rationalistic and scientific approach to human condition and reason, in their multifarious manifestations, instead of dogma and tradition.  Commitment, tolerance, responsibility, flexibility and utilitarian analysis rather than fanatic intolerance or dismissal. Humanitarian individualism. Cultural spread and engagement (urban middle-classes). Periodicals (The Tatler, the Spectator,  the Rambler, The Gentleman’s Magazine) and coffee shops.  Clubs (Scriblerous Club—Tory (Johnson, Swift, Arbuthnot); Kit Kat Club—Whig (Addison, Steele, Congreve).

AUGUSTAN HUMANISM & AESTHETICSThe term. Neo-classic spirit in all arts and life-faring. Nature and eternal orderliness of things. Aristocratic courtliness (breeding and training). Restraint, dignity, noblesse oblige. Decorum, urbanity, cosmopolitan sophistication, indoors refinement. Conversational, natural ease. Symmetry, proportion, didactic pleasure. Universal significance through particulars. Standarizing. Critical-analytical spirit, self-consciousness, technique and method. Skepticism and tolerance.Rationalism: common sense, naturalness, reasonableness, balance, natural logics, status quo. Reason and nature. From patronage to subscription system, professional writing. Art as commodity, with responsibility. Copyright Act (1709).

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) •Satirical rationalism, and public utterance rather than private expression. •Refinement in the expression of universal social concepts. •Social, bookish, secular style. Classical imitation (recreation of classical aesthetics and ethics). Artistic expression. •Satire: Mock heroic •Analytical critical spirit •The Rape of the Lock (1712-14), The Dunciad (1728-43: satire on man’s imbecile disposition); translations from classics, Shakespeare’s editions.

Jonathan Swift (1667-45) •The Scriblerus Club (with Pope & Arbuthnot) •Nature and Reason: Wrong Reason and Commonsense to fight human pride and gross disparity man’s actuality and potentials. Saeva indignatio. Scatology. •Ironic inventive satire: plain language, minutely descriptive and argumentative, clear and simple, free from  unnecessary ornament. •Comic wit in satire, pushing arguments to absurdity to reveal innermost incongruity and deeper, most deceiving and harsh analysis of mankind. Black humour.•Occasionally tender, intimate and friendly (The Journal to Stella (1717-65), epistles to sketch vivid picture of contemporary London. •Battle of Books (1697), A Tale of a Tub (1696), Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World.  By Lemuel Gulliver (1726), A Modest Proposal (1729)

NON-FICTION PROSE WRITINGS DANIEL DEFOE (1660-1731) - Dissenter, bourgeois, middle-class individualism: utilitarian, commonsensical, pragmatic, hardworking, committed. Homo economicus. - Trading qualities and morality. Relativism. - Improvement upon social conditions: divorce laws, means of transport, farming improvement, literacy, women’s rights. Yet conservative/traditional viewpoints. - Hawk-writing, plamphleteering, journalist prose (factual, photographic), actuality.• Variety of writings: argumentative pamphlets (The Shortest Way with Dissenters, 1702), argumentative verse (The True-Born Englishman, 1701, in defense of William III), journalism, descriptive/documentary narratives (A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, 1721-26; A Journal of the Plague Year, 1722).PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS Joseph Butler (Analogy of Religion, 1736), against rational deism. John Locke and David Hartley’s associationism (one idea conveys/leads to another, so interplay of abstract concepts, divinity included) (Observations On Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations, 1749). David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, 1739; Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding, 1748). Skepticism: no solid inner self but sense impresions out of sense data. Cause is but a shadowing memory. Relativized morality. Straightforward prose.Historical writings, History of England (1754-61)

EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND / The Enlightenment. The Rise of the novel and the Pre-Romantic Period.THE AGE OF JOHNSON:  THE RISE OF THE ENGLISH NOVEL (1750-1785)

Historical Background- Prosperity and national confidence under the younger Pitt (1783-1800), the first modern Prime Minister. - End of the Seven Years’ War (France vs England for trade monopoly). - Treaty of Paris (1783) put an end to American Independence War. - Industrial Revolution consolidates textile manufacture and blackens England. Watt’s steam engine. - Transformation from rural to industrial England. Landless, tooless, helpless working class. Proletariat and trade unions. 

•In arts, clean reduction to essentials and discontent with cold reason. From Neoclassicism to primitivism, gothic revival, sensibility.


Samuel Johnson (1709-84) •The Club of London, founded by Dr. Johnson & Joshua Reynolds (1764) •Poetic satires, essays & prose fiction (in The Rambler) •A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) •Literary criticism: The Plays of W. Shakespeare (1765)& The Lives of the Poets (1779-81) •Universalizing and general principles, didacticism, decorum, alien to textual paradoxes. Veracity (to fundamental universals) and pleasant entertainment. •Practical and moral perspective, the average reader’s.

Edward Gibbon (1737-94). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Teleological methodology, orderliness, vivid style.

Edmund Burke (1729-97). A Philosophical   Inquiry  into the Origin of Our Ideas of the   Sublime and the Beautiful (1756).


THOMAS GRAY (1716-71) Mixture Neoclassicism and pre-Romantic elements (subjective, emotional relationship to nature, symbolic pictorial). The Bard. JAMES MacPHERSON (1736-96) Poems of Ossian (1773) (fake). THOMAS CHATTERTON (1752-1770) Poems Supposed to Have Been Written at Bristol by Thomas Rowley and Others in the 15th Century (1777) (fake).


•ANTECEDENTS –Bourgeois ideals. –From universals to particulars: plot, time, characters, language. –Reaction against romances. –Italian novelle (factual anecdotes), picaresque prose, English prose and journalism. •VERISIMILITUDE, REALISM.

DANIEL DEFOE (1660-1731)   Autobiographic novel: individualism, first-hand experience, and actuality at the cost of narrative coherence.   Factual, “photographic” realism.   Robinson Crusoe (1719)    Moll Flanders (1722)   Roxana (1724)

SAMUEL RICHARDSON (1689-1761) –Novel of character. –Sensibility and moral conflict. –Epistolary technique. – Pamela (1740-41) Clarissa (1747-48)

HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754) From photographic factuality to realist truth: detailed, multifarious milieu where characters and actions fit into a credible, truthful structure. From autobiographical “I” to narrative omniscience. Self-avowed fictions to show and correct man’s true nature/essence Critical theory: “comic epic in prose”The History and Adventures of Joseph Andrews, and his Friend, Mr. Abraham Adams (1742), Shamela (1741), The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1749).

LAURENCE STERNE (1713-1768) ‘Realism is not reality’: experimental novel. Life and art. Parody to reveal the artificial/limited nature of realist conventions. Self-consciousness-Metafiction. Time, place, reason, characterization revisited. Relativity and mental association (stream of consciousness) over realist representation. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Squire (1760-1767).

                                                                                            THE GOTHIC NOVEL -Terror, irrational, folkloric root, mysterious, anxiety. The margins of reason and the rational. -The supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses, Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets and hereditary curses. -Stock characters include the Devil, tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, persecuted maidens, Byronic heroes, femme fatales, monks, nuns, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, dragons, angels, fallen angels, ghosts, skeletons…  -Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764) -Mathew Lewis: The Monk (1796)

Augustan Age

Age of Johnson: Rise of the novel

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