The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century

The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century
*Overall explanation
 1660 to 1800
 In 1660, England was utterly exhausted by nearly twenty years of civil war.
By 1700, it had lived through a devastating plague and a fire that left more than
two thirds of Londoners homeless. But by the end of the eighteenth century,
England had transformed itself and had settled into a period of calm and
 This period has been given several names: the Augustan Age, the Neoclassical
period, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason.
*Augustan and Neoclassical: Comparisons with Rome
 This period is called the Augustan Age because there are many similarities
between England in this period and ancient Rome, especially during the
reign of the emperor Octavian, who was called Augustus. Augustus restored
peace and order to Rome after Julius Caesar’s assassination and the Stuart
monarchs of England after the civil wars did, too.
 Many English writers modeled their works on the old Latin classics, which was
called neoclassical-“new classical”-.
*Religion and Politics: Repression of Minority Sects
 Religion determined people’s politics in this period. Charles II reestablished the
Anglican Church as the official Church of England and outlawed all the various
Puritan and Independent sects.
*The Bloodless Revolution: Protestants from Now on
 “Glorious Revolution”: After Charles II died, his brother James II, who followed
Roman Catholic, became the king. Most English people were utterly opposed to
James so that he fled to France. His protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch
husband, William of Orange, became the rulers of England.
*The Age of Satire: Attacks on Immorality and Bad Taste
 “Age of Pope”: Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift deplored the corrupt politics
of the time and the growing commercialism and materialism of the English
*Public Poetry: Conceived in Wit
 The poets of this period thought of poetry as having a public rather than a private
function. The best poems are like things artfully made for a particular purpose,
usually a public purpose. Regardless of its kind, every poem had to be carefully
and artificially constructed; every poem had to be dressed in exact meter and
 Ex) Elegies: the poets celebrate the dead person. / Satire: a kind of writing that
says the worst things about people that the poet can think of saying. / Ode: an
ambitious, pompous poetic utterance expressing a public emotion.
*The Commanding Figure of Johnson
 The last part of the eighteenth century is often referred as the “age of Johnson”.
 Samuel Johnson: his views of humanity were conservative and traditional. He
criticized the popular belief in progress (the belief that things are getting better
and better) and the assumption that men and women are naturally good.
*Searching for a Simpler Life
 After Johnson’s death, the Industrial Revolution was turning English cities and
towns into filthy, smoky slums and people knew that the age of elegance, taste,
philosophy, and reason was over.
 Writers were turning to external nature and writing about the effect of the
natural landscape on the human psyche. Disgusted with the excessive focus on
the upper classes and “good taste”, they were searching out the simple poems by
nameless poets.
Reasons and Enlightenment
 Before, the Age of Reason people always thought that disasters or bad happenings
meant something. They always asked why and in the enlightenment people
stopped asking why and started asking how.
o Edmund Halley ( 1656-1742) : Halley’s Comet
The Birth of Modern English Prose
 King Charles II charted a group of philosophers to answers questions about the
o The Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge
 Members wanted their readings to be exact and precise, creating
English Modern Prose.
Founder of English Modern Prose : John Dryden(1631-1700)
o Age of Dryden
Changes in Religion: More Questions
 In the age of Enlightenment, people begin questioning religion. If everything that
happened didn’t have reason than how did God send warnings? Many people
began to question if God had ever given warnings at all.
 Christian Rationalists and Materialists: Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), John
Locke (1632-1704)
Addicted to the Theater
 When Puritans ran England, the theaters in England were closed
 King Charles was obsessed with theater and reopened them as soon as he
regained the throne.(1642)
o Theater now had real actresses
o Displayed sexual, unromantic relationships with men and women
o Plays were about the British upper class and their servants.
Journalism: A New Profession
 Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) had middle class values: thrift, prudence, industry, and
responsibility. He did not care about polished manners and social pose.
o “Defoe has written a vast many things” Pope once said, “and none bad
though none excellent”
o New Form of writing: Journalism
 Joseph Addison
 Sir Richard Steele
 Saw themselves as reformers of public manners and morals
The First English Novels
 By the mid 18th century, people were writing novels ( “something new”)
 Novels: long fictional narratives
 Developed by the middle class
 Tom Jones (1707-1754) - include rough incidents, manages to
make his characters seem good, never soft or sentimental.
 Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) - explored the emotional lives of
his characters.
 Laurence Sterne ( 1713-1768)- wrote novels that were
experimental and whimsical.