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THE AUGUSTAN AGE
Oliver Goldsmith to
draw a parallel
between the golden
age of latin culture
Augustus and the reign
of Queen Ann
The new Augustan Age becomes identified with the
reign of Queen Anne (1702-14), though the spirit of
the age extends well beyond her death.
Augustan Age was characterized by the spirit of the
Age of Reason
The Enlightenment contrasts with the darkness of irrationality of
the Middle Age.
Belief in progress, the power of reason.
For the Enlightenment thinkers all men are equal in respect of
their rationality and the tolerance and individual liberty must be
granted by the law. Enlightenment thinking that tended to atheism
was the bases of French Revolution.
During the Augustan Age the wealth of the State, based on trade
with the colonies, increased dramatically and Britain’s position as
a world power was confirmed by the victory in the Seven Years’
War against France, for the supremacy in the colonies.
GEORGE I (1714-1727)
When Queen Anne died without an heir,
the parliament called the Duke of
Hanover=> his mother was the
granddaughter of king James I
He became King with the title George I
He spoke no English (only German) and
had to rely on the elected MPs to govern.
Most MPs were Whigs=> they were the
The Tories instead wanted the descendant
of King James II to govern England. They
were called Jacobites => Jacobus=James
(they attempted two rebellions, 1715 and
1745, without success)
GEORGE II (1727-1760)
His reign was marked by the presence and
influence of Sir Horace Walpole. This one
was a Whig supporter, who became the First
Prime Minister and remained in power for more
than 20 years.
The King gave Walpole the house at 10
Downing Street. Walpole managed to govern
England well and peacefully, but after 1726 his
government was accused of corruption. He lost
the election in 1742 and resigned his office.
GEORGE III (1760-1801)
His reign was marked by a series of
military conflicts, the American War of
Independence(1776) and the French
He suffered from mental illnesses later in
During his reign the Pitt family governed as
Prime Ministers: William Pitt the Elder
(1766-68) and William Pitt the Younger
THE SOCIAL SITUATION
Britain was still a rural country and the life
expectancy was low.
Middle Class or Middle Sort
Rise of a new working class as a result of a series
of Enclosure Acts.
LIFE DURING THE AUGUSTAN AGE
A new reading public: the middle class.
Connected to it are:
The rise of Journalism & The rise of
As a consequence of the advent of
coffee from the colonies, clubs and
coffee houses flourished in towns.
They were intellectual and social
centres for debates.
Satire became the major output.
EARLY NEWSPAPERS & MAGAZINES
Daily Courant in 1702, The Tatler (1709)
and The Spectator (1711)
Daily Courant also gossips 2 years
The Tatler (=Il chiacchierone) mainly
The Spectator politics, literature art.
The editors: Joseph Addison & Richard
Aimed at middle class readers!
Circulated mainly in the new coffee-houses
of the big cities.
Richard Steele with frequent contributions from
his friend Joseph Addison, turns the relaxed
and informal essay into a new journalistic art
form. In 1711 Steele and Addison replace
the Tatler with the daily Spectator.
The Augustan Age poetry was dominated by Pope.
Became a master in the use of rhymed heroic
couplets (=verso alessandrino) for the purposes of
Wide culture based on the study of the classics.
Founded the Scriblerus Club with Swift and Gay.
In 1711 he shows his paces with the brilliant Essay on
Criticism + the translation of Homer’s epic poems.
Mock –heroic Masterpiece: The Rape of the Lock(1714)
= speaks of a trivial matter in the language and style
usually reserved for epic poems → the effect is comical.
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
A nobleman cut a lock of hair from the head of Lady
Arabella Fermor. This caused an argument
between the two respective families and Pope, who
was a friend of both of them wrote this poem to
make them laugh and reconcile.
Jonathan Swift first makes his mark in 1704 with:
The Battle of the Books
A Tale of a Tub
two tracts, respectively about literary
theory and religious discord, reveal that
there is a new prose writer on the scene
with lethal satirical powers.
It was infertile period for drama
John Gay (1685 – 1731): The
Beggar’s Opera (1728): satire
towards Italian opera
THE RISE OF THE NOVEL
The word comes from the Italian “novella” = a long
Period of experimentation → no dominant form
Defoe and the Realist Novel
Swift and the Literature of the Fantastic
Richardson and the Sentimental Novel/ Epistolary
Fielding and the Comic Novel
Sterne and the Experimental Novel.
DE-FOE AND THE REALIST NOVEL
Defoe‟s works are written in the form of fictional
autobiography or diary to make them more
The protagonist must struggle to overcome a
series of misfortunes, using only his/her phisical or
No psychological development of characters.
Inspired by the real story of Alxander Selkirk
Divided into 3 sections
Hero of the middle class → values of hard work,
self improvement, belief in God’s providence.
Interpreted as a religious allegory → redemption
from sins through hard work
Economic Allegory of merchant capitalism
Imperialist allegory (more recently) → of the
British Colonizer who is convinced of hi superiority
over the savage.
Born into a middle class family of Dissenters.
Educated at a Dissenting Academy.
Merchant and interest in politics.
Journalist (correspondent) contribution to
contemporary newspaper: editorial & interview
1719 Robinson Crusoe a sailorman who was
deserted at an uninhabited island in the Pacific
1722 Moll Flanders → poor girl seduced by a rich
man, forced to become a prostitute and a thief,
managesi n the end to lead a respectable life,
repenting for her sins..
He used to criticize the political situation of the
Yet, first regarded as a children‟s story and only later
appreciated for its satirical value.
About the experience of dr. Lemuel Gulliver, a ship
doctor, in the dream countries of Liliput, Brobdingnag,
Laputa and Houyhnhnm. written in fluent, clean &
simple language enforced the realism.
Samuel Johnson or Dr Johnson (1709 – 1784)
known as the „literature dictator‟ known from The
Life of Johnson (biography), written by one of his
followers James Boswell.
Besides his eccentric characteristics, he was also
known as the first compiler of the most complete
English dictionary: A Dictionary of the English