The Rage of Party under Queen Anne

Although Matthew Prior heralded the year 1700 with his optimistic panegyric Carmen Seculare, dynastic uncertainty underscored the advent of the new century.

Mary Chudleigh's "On the Death of his Highness the Duke of Glocester" mourned the loss that July of eleven-year-old William, last surviving child of Princess Anne, heir to the throne. The child's death also buried Tory hopes for a continuation of a Protestant Stuart dynasty. The following year, 1701, the Act of Settlement decreed that in default of issue to either William or Anne, the crown would pass to Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and to "the heirs of her body being Protestants." Anne succeeded William in 1702 following his sudden death by a fall from his horse (an act of God, according to some Jacobites). The text from Isaiah 49: 23 delivered at her coronation — "Kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers" — threw into sharp relief the tragic facts of Anne's maternal failure (seventeen pregnancies and five births) and her increasingly poor health. Finch's "A Pindarick Poem Upon the Hurricane" (Fairer and Gerrard 2004: 26-33), written shortly after the Great Storm of 1703 caused devastation across the south of England, registers a profound sense of unease and dislocation. Unlike her better-known "Nocturnal Rêverie," "Upon the Hurricane" is a bold public poem - a Pindaric ode - which draws analogies between the natural and political spheres to meditate on the upheavals of post-Civil War England. Finch's storm-damaged landscape subverts the idealized emblematic order of traditional loco-descriptive poems such as Denham's Cooper's Hill and Pope's Windsor-Forest, "Where Order in Variety we see, / And where, tho' all things differ, all agree" (ll. 15-16). The lofty pine tree, destined for British naval service, and the oak (symbol of Stuart monarchy), "so often storm'd," both fall victim to apocalyptic violence. Finch's poem, echoing the Puritan providentialism that sees the hand of God, the "Great Disposer," at work everywhere, depicts the hurricane as the "Scourge" of the "Great Jehova" (l. 110).Yet exactly who or what is being punished? In lines 96-111 Finch cautiously ventures ("we think") that the death from a collapsing chimney of Richard Kidder, new Bishop of Bath and Wells (a recent Whig replacement for the popular non-juror Thomas Ken), may have been a divine judgment. Yet the poem refuses to advance a partisan reading. It contains teasing fragments of seventeenth-century political thought (echoes of Dryden's and Rochester's Hobbesian vision of mankind naturally drawn to "wild Confusion" and "lawless Liberty" in pursuit of their "Fellow-Brutes"), and draws parallels between the destructive forces of the storm and the destructive forces of war (the thunder resembles "The Soldier's threatning Drum," l. 141). Yet Finch's hurricane transcends the petty world of party politics, placing it in perspective: "Nor Whig, nor Tory now the rash Contender calls" (l. 177). It is an idea that Swift was later to echo in his mock-georgic "Description of a City Shower" (1710), written soon after the Tory election victory of that year. Swift shrinks Finch's hurricane to a London downpour; in a world more urbane and less violent than Finch's, social etiquette and dry clothes dictate a political truce: "Triumphant Tories, and desponding Whigs, / Forget their feuds, and join to save their Wigs" (Fairer and Gerrard 2004: 76).

Three major factors sharpened Whig/Tory divisions under Queen Anne: religious controversy, dynastic politics, and war. The close relationship between the Tory party and the High Church was cemented by the trial in 1709 of the High Church Tory

Dr. Henry Sacheverell for preaching a sermon in St. Paul's implying that the Church was unsafe in the hands of the Whig administration. The trial rebounded on the government — support for Sacheverell was so strong that a Tory ministry was elected on its back which lasted from 1710 to Queen Anne's death in 1714. The War of the Spanish Succession, distinguished by the brilliant continental military victories of the Queen's general John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, remained a potent theme for Whig poets, who fanned the flames of patriotic fervor in panegyrics celebrating the slaughter of enemy troops amid "rivers of blood." Addison's The Campaign (1705), apotheosizing Marlborough in the thick of battle (he "Rides in the whirl-wind, and directs the storm," like the God of Psalm 104), represented a new mode of Whig verse — biblical rather than classical, Miltonically sublime, a self-confident affirmation of British national destiny. Yet by 1710 high taxation and national debt had left many people war-weary. Jonathan Swift's brilliant propaganda exercises for the Tories discredited the "Junto" of Whigs around Marlborough and Godolphin by accusing them of prolonging the war for their own financial gain. His famous Examiner essay 16 (Nov. 23, 1710), inspired by Marlborough's complaints of ingratitude for his military services, juxtaposed in account-book style "A Bill of Roman Gratitude" (a crown of laurels, a statue, a trophy, and so forth) with "A Bill of British Ingratitude" (Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, "Employments," "Pictures," "Jewels"). In his suggestively titled "Sid Hamet: or the Magician's Rod" (1710), a satire on the former Treasurer Sidney Godolphin, Swift gave a further spin to the "Tory myth," prevalent since Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, of the Whig leaders as duplicitous magicians deceiving an unwary public — a myth that was to reach its apogee in 1730s opposition satires on Robert Walpole.

Party politics polarized literary affiliations during the last four years of Anne's reign. Political friendships were formalized by the creation of partisan literary clubs: Addison's "Little Senate" of Whigs met at Button's coffee-house; the Tory wits, who eventually formed the Scriblerus Club, at Will's. Pope's former friendships with leading Whig writers came to an abrupt end over the so-called "pastoral controversy," which boosted sales of Ambrose Philips's assertively Whig pastorals rather than Pope's apolitical (perhaps quietly Jacobite) pastorals published in the same volume of Tonson's Miscellanies in 1709. The same quality also permeates Pope's Windsor-Forest, written to celebrate the Treaty of Utrecht concluded in April 1713. The peace itself became a site of literary partisan conflict (Williams 2005; Rogers 2005). Tory diplomacy sealed the peace, but Whig poets claimed the war's victorious conclusion as their party's unique achievement. The Whig Thomas Tickell's best-selling The Prospect of Peace celebrates the war itself as much as the conclusion to hostilities, whereas Pope's poem, with its emphases on the arts of peace and its displacement of real political events by mythological episodes such as the rape of Lodona and the leisure pursuit of hunting, locates the peace in a larger humanist meditation on war, peace, and man's irrepressibly violent energies. It is only the poem's stubbornly intractable assertion of a dynastic register — "And Peace and Plenty tell, a Stuart reigns" (l. 42) — that gives the poem an unapologetically Tory Jacobite edge.

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