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4: Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1797)

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    Learning Objectives

    After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

    • Analyze how Parliament limited monarchical power and protected civil rights
    • Characterize Georgian rule (George I, II, and III)
    • Relate Neoclassical literature to the rise of reason and science
    • Analyze the changing relationship of authors to their readers, or audience
    • Describe characteristic features of the novel as genre
    • Compare the novel as genre to Elizabethan and Seventeenth Century poetry and drama
    • Compare Alexander Pope’s mock epic The Rape of the Lock to Milton’s epic Paradise Lost

    • 4.1: Introduction
      The novel was only one new kind of writing that developed throughout this century; others included the periodical essay and the mock-heroic/anti-epic. After the Glorious Revolution, certain changes occurred in audience, in the reading public. Writers could now express diverse points of view and opinions independent of high-born and wealthy patrons, and ranging between parties; they could explore individual psychology, consciousness, and conscience.
    • 4.2: Recommended Reading
      This page contains the recommended readings cited by the author.
    • 4.3: Aphra Behn (1640-1689)
      Aphra Behn was the first commercially successful woman writer in England in the seventeenth century, writing in various genres, including drama, prose, and poetry. She  wrote many kinds of prose, including the prose “history” of Oroonoko: Or, The History of the Royal Slave. Like many early novels, this work hybridizes various discourses and forms, including idealism and realism, and the travelogue, romance, and tragedy. Her prose contributed to the development of the novel as genre in English.
    • 4.4: William Congreve (1760-1729)
      Although born in Yorkshire, England, William Congreve grew up and was educated in Ireland where his father took a lieutenant’s commission. Congreve studied first at Kilkenny then at Trinity College, Dublin in 1686. Before earning his degree, Congreve left Ireland for Yorkshire where he lived a few years on his grandfather’s estate before moving to London and entering Middle Temple to study law. He also wrote.
    • 4.5: Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
      Daniel Defoe was born to James Foe, a tallow chandler and “auditor for the Butcher’s Company,” and Alice, who died when Daniel was eight. He changed his name to Defoe in 1695. Once he turned to writing, he wrote a number of propagandist pieces, including the parodic The Shortest Way with Dissenters. This oblique attack on the Tories caused Defoe to be arrested, convicted of seditious libel, and sentenced to jail. In 1730, he left home to hide from a creditor and died alone in a rented room.
    • 4.6: Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720)
      Anne Finch published a collection of poetry; she wrote in various poetic forms, including elegies, pastorals, epistles, and ballads. She also wrote drama and an epilogue. Finch often wrote in the classical style, using classical forms that she imbued with her own experience and views— particularly on the position of women in society. In and through her poetry, Finch contested the gendered occupations, belying the objectifications and relative positions that defined and confined women.
    • 4.7: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
      Born in Dublin, Jonathan Swift depended on the generosity of his uncle for both his upbringing and education. He studied at Kilkenny School and then at Trinity College, Dublin, from which he graduated in 1689. His Gulliver’s Travels (1726) vilified humankind for its misdirected pride and various atrocities against humanity. The force, range, and bitterness of this text’s indictment against humans who wrongly assume their own rationality strike home even today.
    • 4.8: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
      Alexander Pope was born into a well-to-do Roman Catholic family. Pope started writing very early in his life. Beginning with Pastorals (1709), Pope modeled his work on the classical writers of Rome, particular Horace, Ovid, and Lucretius (99-55 BCE), and wrote in several classical genres, including satire, epic, and epistle. He expressed his views on literary decorum in his important An Essay on Criticism (1711). His other poems included the verse mock-epic The Rape of the Lock.
    • 4.9: Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
      Henry Fielding was a strong student of the classics at Eton. This scholarship would later give design to his novels, works he first described as “comic prose epics,” that is, hybrids that openly declared their artfulness. He developed these strengths further in his comic novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749). Fielding himself appears as a character in these works; in Joseph Andrews, he clearly identifies himself as the creator of fiction in order to reveal Truth.
    • 4.10: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1698-1762)
      Mary Wortley Montagu was daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, 1st Duke of Kingston (1655-1726) and Mary Fielding (cousin of novelist Henry Fielding), who died when Montagu was five. As a female, she was tutored at home but was largely self-educated through reading the books in her father’s library. Despite being classically opaque, Montagu’s poetry contains some autobiographical elements, for instance, in “Saturday. The Smallpox.”
    • 4.11: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
      Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield, England to Michael Johnson, a bookseller, and Sarah Ford. During his childhood, he took full advantage of his father’s stock of books and read voraciously. Johnson began his writing career with translations of A Voyage to Abyssinia (1735). Johnson’s writing is characterized by its balanced, classical style. His use of the periodic sentence characterizes this style in his prose; his use of the heroic couplet, his poetry; and his precise diction, in both.
    • 4.12: James Bosnell (1740-1795)
      Born into a prominent Scottish family, James Boswell studied at the University of Edinburgh and studied law at the University of Glasgow. It seems that he made his life the matter of his work. But his greatest work, for which he has gained most renown, ostensibly took the life of Samuel Johnson for its matter. He devoted his last years especially to Johnson’s biography, publishing it four years before his own death. And in many ways, it could be said that Boswell gave his life to his Life.
    • 4.13: Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745-1797)
      Born in Essaka to an Igbo tribe elder, Olaudah Equiano (at the age of eleven) and his sister were kidnapped and sold to slave traders. In 1789, Equiano published The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Or, Gustavus Vassa, the African. Now considered one of the first major slave autobiographies in English, it became a bestseller. His narrative is characterized by its vivid imagery, humanity, and commitment to Christianity in the face of almost unbearable cruelty and struggle.
    • 4.14: Key Terms
      This page contains a list of key terms found in Chapter 4: Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1797).

    This page titled 4: Neoclassicism and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1797) is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Bonnie J. Robinson & Laura Getty (University of North Georgia Press) .

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