Hanoverians and Whigs

In the last years of Anne's reign Tories were forced to face the unpalatable prospect of a Whig-friendly German monarchy. The Whigs had jockeyed for favor with the Hanoverian family through diplomatic missions to Herrenhausen: both Ambrose Philips and his patron the Earl of Dorset belonged to the Whig "Hanover Club." Even John Gay, Pope's and Swift's impecunious friend, traveling as secretary to Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, paid court to the incoming royal family in hopes of poetic preferment. Within a few weeks of Anne's death on 1 August 1714 the die was cast. George I formed his new ministry almost entirely of Whigs. Lord Bolingbroke, who only the week before Anne's death had emerged victorious from his party leadership struggle with his rival Robert Harley, fled to the "Pretender" James's service in France — where he remained, proscribed and stripped of his title, for the next decade. Harley was sent to the Tower and Prior was impeached. Many Tory poets suffered a profound sense of loss and displacement. Swift and Parnell, two Irish members of the Scriblerus Club, returned to Ireland. Pope kept out of politics virtually altogether for another fourteen years, most of which were spent in the enterprise which was to create the foundation for his financial and hence political independence — his lucrative subscription edition of his Homer translations.

However, many other poets, of all political stripes rushed to greet the new monarchy in enthusiastic verse. There were at least fifty panegyrics published on George I's accession, for which the ground had been laid by the Act of Settlement thirteen years earlier and which proved less fraught by interpretative difficulties than William III's seizure of the throne from James II. Despite some anxieties about another "foreign" master, the accession of George I, with his ready-made Protestant dynasty (by 1714 he was already a grandfather of four) secured the future of Protestantism in Britain. If the Whigs under William and Anne celebrated a militant and militaristic patriotism, then Whig poets under the Hanoverians founded their sense of patriotism on peace, liberty, and prosperity, exemplified by Centlivre's Poem. Humbly Presented to His most Sacred Majesty George, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland. Upon His Accession to the Throne [see ch. 2, "Poetry, Politics, and Empire"].

0 0

Post a comment