Valerie Rumbold

These two early poems appeared in the 1717 folio Works in which, still aged only twenty-nine, Pope demonstrated to the literary world the impressive range and accomplishment of his career to date. Eloisa was presented there for the first time, while versions of the Rape had already appeared in 1712 and 1714. The two poems served to show not only the quality but also the variety of which Pope was capable. While Eloisa draws on the tragic and elegiac rhetoric of the heroic letter (dramatic...

Christine Gerrard

The Seasons is arguably the most important long poem of the eighteenth century. Expansive in scale, ambitious in scope, it is the one poem written in the century following Paradise Lost that can lay genuine claim to epic status. During the first three decades of the eighteenth century admiration for Milton's great epic had become widespread. Addison's Spectator essays on Paradise Lost had rehabilitated the republican Milton for polite audiences, and critical writings by a sequence of Whig...

Shaftesbury Swift and Astell

Ridicule, taught the third Earl of Shaftesbury in A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm (1708), was the best test of truth, and its cousin satire was the natural nemesis of enthusiasm Good humour is not only the best Security against Enthusiasm, but the best Foundation of Piety and true Religion' (2001 15). Cutting humor was indeed the favored response by early eighteenth-century poets to enthusiasm and its defenders. Most satiric anti-enthusiasts, however, are best surveyed as a group only gradually...

The Nature and Development of Satire

Satire is the art of holding up to ridicule an individual, or an institution (such as the Church or the government), or a more abstract entity such as humankind. Early English verse satirists, for example Thomas Lodge, John Marston, and Joseph Hall, writing at the close of the sixteenth century, were not receptive to the idea that satire was an art. Satire's muse, they considered, was a snarling muse, fueled by anger and indignation. The satirist's vocation was to pinpoint abuses, identifying...

The Horatian Tradition

Most of the odes discussed so far have been Pindaric odes, but an alternative tradition was available throughout the Restoration and eighteenth century the Horatian ode, so named after its originator, the first-century bce Roman poet Horace. His Satires, Epistles, and Odes were all translated and imitated abundantly by eighteenth-century British writers see ch. 33, The Classical Inheritance . The Horatian ode differs from the Pindaric ode in a number of ways while Pindarics aspire to...

Translation and Nature Helen of Troy in Popes Iliad

The standard criticism of Pope's Iliad has been that, rather than faithfully rendering the Greek, Pope merely assimilates Homer to the polite social and religious norms of eighteenth-century England and to latinate ideals of epic decorum. Such criticisms are often illustrated by a handful of famous instances the elevation of the fly to which Menalaus is compared into a hornet (xvii. 642-5) the dignifying of the ass to which Ajax is likened (xi. 682-9) the assimilation of Homer's Zeus (i....

Carolyn D Williams

Eighteenth-century poets are sometimes seen as separate from the traditions that link Renaissance and Romantic poetry, too obsessed with the classical traditions of ancient Greece and Rome to value their more recent predecessors. Yet evidence from their perceptions of literary history, their attitudes to the past in general, their editing practices, and their critical and creative responses to earlier literature reveals a more complex and exciting picture. In fact, eighteenth-century English...

The Dynamics of Imitation The Epistle to Augustus

The early eighteenth century is still regularly described as the Augustan age of English literature. M. H. Abrams summarizes the common view, noting that the leading writers of the time . . . themselves drew the parallel to the Roman Augustans, and deliberately imitated their literary forms and subjects, their emphasis on social concerns, and their ideals of moderation, decorum, and urbanity (Abrams 1999 214). Such an account is seriously misleading. First, many of the classical poets...

The Decline of Mock Heroic

So far I have given the impression that mock-heroic thrives only as confined to self-standing poems, such as Philips's Splendid Shilling and Pope's Rape. However, one aspect of mock-heroic's advancement over the course of the eighteenth century is that it diffuses itself as a transient element within longer, non-burlesque works. Two such are the miscellaneous poems written by James Thomson and William Cowper, The Seasons (1730) and The Task (1785), both of which contain mock-heroic set-pieces....

The Poets and Their Work

The Deserted Village contains numerous indications that this poem is, at least on one level, an autobiographical account of Goldsmith's nostalgia for his childhood home and his grief about the sense of dislocation and financial hardship he experienced after he left (Goldsmith 1966 277 8). References to the village as Seats of my youth (l. 6) and home (l. 96) suggest that Auburn stands for Lissoy, while his bleak portrait of the city mirrors his own experience of London If to the city sped What...

Suvir Kaul

About the attributes of the common reader, as also about the proper role of poetry and of the poet in eighteenth-century English culture and society, its explorations of such ideas become more open-ended and inclusive than the more culturally assured and polished forms of neoclassical poetics. We can thus read, embodied in the idiom and formal elements of the Elegy, a poetics appropriate to an English readership that crosses social classes and locations in fact, the poem even features various...

Walpole and His Opponents

Walpole's opportunistic rise to power followed the respective death and resignation in 1721 of his rivals Stanhope and Sunderland. Over the next twenty years he forged a de facto prime ministerial role from his combined offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the Commons, and King's adviser. Walpole enjoyed the confidence and trust first of the German-speaking George I and then, after 1727, of his son George II and his powerful wife Queen Caroline. Walpole's steady hand enabled...

The Midcentury Revival

In the preface to his 1764 volume of odes, Richard Shepherd describes the difference between the earlier generations of Restoration and eighteenth-century odes and the midcentury revival and revision of the form Of the descriptive and allegorical Ode, the Writings of the Ancients afford no Example . . . This Species of Writing is in almost every Circumstance different from the Pindarick Ode, which has its foundation in Fact and Reality, that Fact worked up and heightened by a studied Pomp and...

John Goodridge

The Thresher's Labour (1730) and The Woman's Labour (1739) form such a self-evidently interesting and accessible pair of poems for comparative study that in recent years they have become a familiar double-act in eighteenth-century studies, both as a topic in undergraduate courses and as an element in the scholarly recovery of a self-taught, laboring-class tradition in eighteenth-century poetry. Stephen Duck's poem had often been touched on by literary historians as an eighteenth-century...

Verse Satires 17001800 A Brief Commentary

One of the most powerful weapons in the satirist's arsenal is parody. Literary parody involves imitating the characteristic features, stylistic and other, of another work and turning those to ludicrous effect, often by applying them to a ridiculously inappropriate subject. Some of the most successful satires in the period are parodies, or involve parodic techniques. John Philips's The Splendid Shilling (1705) is a near-miss as far as the genre of satire is concerned this autobiographical poem...

Liberty and Letters

While Montagu's poem is mainly concerned with the moral reformation of English literature, her emphasis on freedom and progress reflects an emphasis on the native development of liberty and letters found elsewhere in critical writing of the eighteenth century. Rather than dating the heyday of modern letters from the Restoration of 1660, many Whig writers instead saw the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as the pivotal point in the nation's literary history. They argued that the constitutional freedom...

The Design of the Poem

Akenside himself attached a Design to the poem, which makes much easier the task of working out what philosophical ideas it is necessary to grasp in outline before reading it. His main concern, he tells us, is with certain powers in human nature which seem to hold a middle place between the organs of bodily sense and the faculties of moral perception these are the Powers of Imagination (Akenside 1996 85 italics changed throughout). Akenside then draws on the aesthetic definitions of Joseph...

Oliver Goldsmith The Deserted Village and George Crabbe

Towards the end of Oliver Goldsmith's career, and at the very start of George Crabbe's, both men launched critiques on the dire effects of England's expanding economy on the rural poor. They shared the view that the economic growth that helped London flourish from the Restoration through the eighteenth century had sapped rural villages of resources and widened the gap between rich and poor. Both writers came from poor families, and both spent their youth in rural areas Goldsmith in Lissoy,...

Pre Romanticism

As the century progressed, Thomson's Seasons proved to be more and more influential. Thomson's particularized descriptions derive in part from Lockean empiricism and the privileging of the sense of sight. His extraordinary expansiveness depends on his use of the same philosopher's association of ideas, whereby a landscape creates an association with a mood, a mood with a reflection, and so on. It is an increasingly explored paradox that the philosopher of the eighteenth-century compromise was...

Poetic Originality and the Whig Sublime

As I have argued, many Whig writers were convinced that the Revolution of 1688 marked a decisive moment in the establishment of modern political liberty. Not only did they believe that it would produce a rebirth of native literary culture, they also claimed that the Revolution demanded literary modes that would reflect its radical implications. The influential literary critic John Dennis argued for the need for new poetic forms to free English literature from the cultural hegemony of the pagan...

Neoclassical Order

As we have seen, Whig writers emphasized the need for new, original, sublime poetry to reflect the changed circumstances of public life. The rejection of the constraints of neoclassicism was seen as a blow for literary liberty. Such ideas appear in some contrast with the emphasis on order and authority in Tory poetry and literary criticism of this period. Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism 1711 , a poetic treatise on the art of writing good literary criticism and good poetry, has long been...