Restoration & 18th Century 1660-1785

Restoration & 18th Century
Based on Norton Anthology of
English Lit 8th edition
Religion and Politics
Return of Charles II (Stuart) after
“Interregnum” of Cromwell family, during
which country run by puritans or “dissenters”
Anglican bishops were not tolerant of
Test ACT required all who attend university,
and all holders of civil and military office, to
take sacrament and deny belief in
Widespread anti-catholic sentiment; blamed
for fire of London and fictional “popish plot”
Ousting of Stuarts
James II, a Catholic, did not hide his sympathies
like his father had. Ousted
Dutchman William of Orange and his wife, James’
protestant daughter Mary, come to London and
James flees to France: “Bloodless Revolution”
His supporters, called Jacobites, persisted,
especially in Scotland, until final unsuccessful
uprising of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745
Succession settled on German Sophia, Electress of
Hanover and her descendents (granddaughter of
James I
England’s New Wealth
War of Spanish Succession in 1702
weakened England’s commercial
rivals; England gained new colonies
and contracts to supply slaves to
New wealth created tensions between
old and new money
Whigs and Tories
These aristocratic parties fight for
ascendancy throughout period.
Whigs, like “Petroleum conservatives,”
tolerated dissenters; supported new
moneyed interests (bankers, etc.);
centralized government
Tories, like “Bible belt conservatives,”
supported monarchy, established church,
affirmed land ownership as proper basis of
wealth, suspicious of centralized government
that rewarded followers with wealth
Emergency of Empire
First prime ministers (Walpole and Pitt)
expand British power and commerce
Britain becomes colonial power, ruling
Canada and India, though they lose
American colonies.
Slave trade enriches nation; opposition to
slavery widespread by both Anglicans and
Discontent: The rich get richer
Great wealth does not spread to poor;
women remain disenfranchised
1780 London riots turn the poor (Catholic
and Protestant) against each other
Popular king George has 60-year rule, but
inherited madness increasingly mars rule
Fear of radicals who call for new democracy
contributes to British reaction against
French revolution
Context of Ideas: Contrast &
Holdovers of revolution: Pilgrim’s Progress
and Paradise Lost express the conscience
of “dissenters”
Contrast with court, in which Charles II and
his followers “aggressively celebrated
pleasure” and considered London’s “wives
and daughters fair game”
Compromise brewing among intellectuals;
suspicions of all excess
Suspicion of Dogmatism &
All anxious to avoid strife of 1640-60
All dogma unpopular: puritan enthusiasm,
papal infallibility, divine right of kings,
modern Cartesian philosophy
Pursuit of absolute certainty is “vain, mad,
and socially calamitous.”
For religious people and cynics, faith can
take up where reason and sensory evidence
Distrust of received knowledge
New theories: Hobbes supports absolute
government because of scientific theory of
matter in motion: human desire for power
leads to “state of war”
Atomic theory
Advancement of empirical study by careful,
systematic observation is the great
contribution of 18th c. England to the world
Science—still a lay activity
Natural history (collection & description of
natural facts) & Natural philosophy (study of
those facts)
Microscope and telescope expand
complexity of universe
Aphra Behn translates Fontenelle’s
“Conversation on the Plurality of Worlds”
suggestng alternate universes
Exploration and colonization increase
apetite for “wondrous facts” about new flora
and fawna
Science, cont’d
Discovery of electricity led to
fashionable experiments with
Matthew Boulton creates first factories
powered by steam engines
Chemistry allowed new market by
Wedgewood in domestic porcelain
Deism or “Natural Religion”
Newton’s discoveries suggest “universal order in
creation” created by God like watchmaker and
Encounter with other non-Christian peoples led to
“universal” religious tenets that could be embraced
by rational beings
Deism: Reason recognizes goodness and wisdom
of God and natural law; no need for mystery or bible
Deism’s God winds world like a watch and then
withdraws. American Founders like Ben Franklin
embraced Deism, which seemed like a better
foundation for new nation than religious division
Berkeley: we know the world only through
our senses; we cannot prove that material
things exist; reliance on faith
Hume: causes and effects are discernable
by experience, not reason
Locke examines “limits of human
understanding” to help us avoid “meddling”
in things that exceed our comprehension
Swift & Pope warn against metaphysics,
abstract logic, theoretical science. Pope:
“Presume not God to scan.”
Mary Astell argued for women’s
educational institutions and decried
marital tyranny; mocks Locke’s
insistence on political rights for men
Richard Steele and others advocates
improvement in women’s education
and “sociability.”
New Religion
Methodism—evangelical sect
promoted by John Wesley et al,
preached salvation through faith, not
works (unlike Anglicans)
New emphasis on individual and
personal God: diary keeping, letter
writing, and novel “all testify to
importance of private, individual life”
Conditions of Literary
Government licensing relaxed and replaced
by laws against sedition, libel, obscenity,
and treason
Stage licensing remained; all but two royal
theatres closed down
Copyright vested with publishers and
authors begin to profit by subscription; Pope
earns 5000 pounds for Iliad translation
Stamp acts allowed taxation of newspapers;
put some out of business but others thrived
New professional writing class
Grub St in where poorer writers lived
Market also appealed to literary elite; few
now wrote except for pay
Subscription allowed new wealth but also
helped women’s writing, which otherwise
had trouble finding publishers
Mostly wealthy or middle class, but some
poor authors made it into print, e.g. Mary
Collier’s “The Woman’s Labor”
Education of Women
Increase in literacy (male literacy as much as 75%
by end of period, perhaps 25% for women; literacy
mostly urban and surrounded the bible)
Women were barred from universities; all were selfeducated
Aristocratic women published widely, especially
Some “scandalous” writers of popular stories of sex,
satire, seduction were denounced by men as
immoral Pope’s Dunciad depicts pissing contest of
“scurrilous male booksellers” won by Eliza
Bluestockings: intellectual women who favored
moral literature, esp novels about young women
approaching marriage
Cost of reading
Books were still too expensive for laborers,
as were lending libraries
Poor sometimes taught to read as a
religious activity by aristocratic masters
Patrons interested in letters, travel literature,
and novels
Change of printing: capitalization reserved
for proper names instead of nouns; fewer
italics for emphasis suggests more
sophisticated reading public
Literary Principles: New
emphasis on Clarity
Elegant simplicity and restraint;
rejection of Donne’s metaphysics and
Milton’s large themes
“Neoclassical” or “Augustan” period
involved classical revival with English
Dryden’s interest in literature for moral
New interest in “nature”—external nature of
landscapes; human nature’s “enduring,
universal truths”
Study of the ancients seemed synonymous
with study of nature: combine method with
with, and judgment with fancy
Restraint: “The winged courser, like a
generous horse, Shows most true mettle
when you check his course.”
Mannered language; readable
Style dominated by personification,
periphrasis, latinate words, and words
forced into Latin syntax
Heroic Couplet (rhymed iambic pentameter
AA BB) inherited from Ben Jonson;
elaborately stylized, but short sentences.
For witty, moralizing verse
Blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)
favored for meditative poems
Restoration Literature 16601700
Dryden dominated; lit combined latest
European trends with English topics; made
Ovid and Virgil accessible through
Royal society asked for prose to be “plain
and utilitarian”; contrast with elaborate style
of Milton’s pamphlets and Donne’s sermons
Aristocratic, heroic subjects
Restoration drama favored comedies of
manners featuring pleasure-seeking males
who prey on beautiful, witty, emancipated
18th Century lit 1700-1745
Great age of satire: wit turned against “fanaticism
and innovation;” mock epics by Pope, Swift, Gay.
New prose genres: allegories, biographies of
notorious criminals, travelogues, gossip, romance—
often fictonalized, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and
Behn’s Oronooko
Sentimental drama rejected immoral comedies;
featured characters choosing between love and
Poems about sublime beauties of nature and “low
subjects” prefigure romantic age
New Modes 1740-1845
Prose modes: novels more popular than poems for
first time. Essays, literary criticism, biography,
philosphy, politics, history, aesthetics, economics
(Adam Smith)
Memoirs of women created celebrities who let
readers into private lives
Epistolary novels and satires; gothic novels;
experimental fiction influenced by Cervantes in
Spain; Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
First dictionaries
Poems were melancholy and lamented loss of
poetic age; “primitives” like Ossian were popular