Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(16) Eighteenth-Century Prose

Periodical Essay

- developed by the literary collaborators Sir Richard Steele and Joseph Addison in their respective periodicals The Tatler (1709 - 11, published three times a week) and its successor The Spectator (1711 - 12, daily except Sunday)

- both essayist were conscious moralists who intended to improve the minds and manners of their readers

- their essays are less formal and didactic than those of Francis Bacon, but less personal than those of Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt in the next century

- strove for a balance between the new mostly Puritan philistine middle-class and the old often libertine aristocracy

- fostered a new social ideal which stressed moderation, reasonableness, self-control, urbanity, and good taste

Sir Richard Steele (1672 - 1729)

- together with his friend and literary collaborator Joseph Addison developed the genre of the periodical essay

> The Tatler (1709 - 1711):

- an influential newspaper published three times a week, run by Steele with contributions by Addison

- its mixture of news with personal reflection soon proved to be hugely popular with large audiences

- Steele's essays comment on a variety of topics that he considered pleasing or useful, as the theatre, true breeding against vulgar manners, education, simplicity in dress, the proper use of Sunday, etc.

- assumes the persona of an earnest advocate of ethical propriety and an admonisher of dissolute London

- Steele's contributions to Addison's Spectator deal with drama criticism and express his dislike of the moral excesses of the Restoration stage

> The Christian Hero (1701):

- a treatise inspired by his brief but successful career as a rakish officer

- argues that religious principles are the basis for the making of a virtuous man, a condition especially difficult to achieve in the military life

Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)

- together with his friend and literary collaborator Richard Steele developed the genre of the periodical essay

- produced the model of the middle style in his prose, familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious

- assumed the role of a self-appointed definer of cultural rules for a broad spectrum of society

- Addison's contributions to Steele's Tatler initiated his clever and agreeably humours study of eccentric characters

> The Spectator (1711 - 1712):

- an influential newspaper published daily except Sunday, dominated by Addison with contributions by Steele

- included not only social criticism but also Addison's popularization of current philosophical and scientific notions

- soon come to dominate clubs and coffee-houses, the new discussion places for non-aristocratic men, which replaced the now declining court culture

- the paper was purportedly written by Mr Spectator, a man of broad education, well-travelled, and politically alert, who gathered around himself a small club representative of different aspects of English life (the Tory country squire, the Whiggish City merchant, the army officer, and the man-about-town)

- represents Addison's ideal persona, proudly patriotic, insularly confident about future, and modestly progressive, standing for the ideal of an educated common man speaking directly to and on behalf of his less articulate fellows

>> "On the Pleasures of the Imagination" (1712, this is not a title but the subject matter of the essays):

- a series of essays for the Spectator dealing with the aesthetics of visual beauty in nature and art

- classes 'the pleasures of the imagination' at a mid-point between the grosser 'pleasures of sense' and the refined 'pleasure of understanding'

- stresses the self-evident interrelationships of the greatness in nature which inspires the greatness in art

>> "On Milton's Paradise Lost" (1712, not a title):

- praises Milton's genius and aims to refine public taste by short, reasoned, and accessible articles on literature


- the mid-century novels of Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding developed a new form of prose writing which amplified and finally superseded the autobiographical model established by Daniel Defoe

- emphasis was put on the presentation of real life, without the exaggerations of earlier heroic romances

- novels became a classless phenomenon as they were newly available for a moderate fee from circulating libraries supported by subscribers, the first such library was established in Edinburgh (1716), then in London (1740)

- the earliest types of prose fiction include courtly romance (Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, 1590), Christian allegory (John Bunyan's The Pilgrim Progress, 1678), or fictional history (Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, 1688)

- Daniel Defoe: shows his readers a world they know and introduces the characters of unheroic people who try to cope with practical problems

- Samuel Richardson: perfects the technique of a minute analysis of his characters' mind (Pamela, 1740)

- Henry Fielding: seeks to compose a comic epic-poem in prose (Tom Jones, 1749)

- Tobias Smollett: produces picaresque novels full of coarse practical jokes (Roderick Random, 1748)

- Laurence Sterne: experiments with temporal and narrative perspectives (Tristram Shandy, 1760 - 1767)

- sentimental novel: demanded by the popular taste

> Jean Jacques Rousseau's The New Heloise (1761)

- Gothic romance: emerges as a new genre in response to the medieval revival in poetry

> Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764)

> William Godwin's Caleb Williams (1794)

> Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk (1796)

Samuel Richardson (1689 - 1761)

- a self-educated Londoner, apprenticed to a printer, advanced to two successive marriages to the daughters of former employers and finally to the mastership of a stationer's company

- his writing manifests his fascination with class, but in no sense any attempt of social or moral iconoclasm

> The Apprentice's Vade Mecum or Young Man's Pocket Companion (1733):

- his first own publication, little more than a handbook of ethics for the aspirant lower middle class, but brought him a commission for a further manual

- his next manual was a series of 'familiar letters' to serve as models to prospective correspondents, providing the ideal letters of consolation, excuses for not lending money, formal recommendations for chambermaids, etc., but including also some seven letters sketching the story of Pamela

> Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded (1740):

- an epistolary novel, not the first novel narrated in this form, but the most influential

- unlike Defoe's public retrospective autobiographies (Robinson Crusoe, Colonel Jacque, or Moll Flanders) takes the intimate form of private letters written by Pamela to her worthy parents and of entries into her journal

- a virtuous servant-girl is embarrassed by the sexual attentions of her master and finally succeeds in marrying him

> Clarissa: or, The History of a Young Lady (1748):

- experiments with multiple voices and multiple points of view, but keeps a strictly chronological discipline

- told by four major letter-writers, Clarissa Harlowe and her friend Anna, Lovelace and his friend Belford, and a host of minor correspondents or note-writers

- begins in January with Lovelace's duel, continues in spring with Clarissa's escape from her home from an unwanted marriage, in summer Clarissa is violated by her supposed deliverer Lovelace, and in December she dies while Lovelace is mortally wounded in another duel

- the plot is based on Clarissa's rebellion against marrying a physically repulsive but rich man chosen by her parents, the novel both advises caution to parents against 'the undue exercise of their natural authority over their children' and more significantly warns women against preferring a man of pleasure to a man of probity

- Clarissa is the first great bourgeois heroine, though a victim of parental strictures, sibling rivalry with her elder sister, and the physical and spiritual abuse of her lover, she endures her martyrdom with patience and intelligence

- Lovelace is a direct descendant of the aristocratic rakes of Restoration drama, he rejoices in and derives pleasure from plots, hunts, and stratagems designed to win him the attention of the woman he desires

- Clarissa dies a Christian death, having rediscovered the meaning of her suffering, and also the dying Lovelace expiates

> The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1754):

- an epistolary novel written on the urge of Richardson's friends who wished him to write about the 'Good Man'

- the novel's upright protagonist with his deadening propriety becomes also the main shortcoming of the story

- Sir Charles rescues a young lady from an attempted abduction and she in turn delivers him from an amatory obligation to a Catholic Italian lady

Henry Fielding (1707 - 1754)

- started as a playwright, but his last play, a political satire, provoked Walpole's government into passing a Licensing Act which which introduced official censorship and restricted London performances to two theatres only

- his experience as a playwright is projected in his novels in their grasp of idiomatic speech and dialogue, their understanding of the patterning of incident, and their feeling for well-establishment denouement

- unlike Richardson does not focus his moral preoccupation on a single class or on an exemplary individual, but rather attempts to define an overall human norm

> An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews (1741):

- a satire on Richardson's Pamela presenting the heroine as a calculating hypocrite and an upward-mobility seeker

- exploits not only the once virtuous Pamela, who originally refers to her employer modestly as 'Mr B.' and now calls him 'Booby', but also the once sympathetic character of Parson Williams

> The Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend, Mr Abraham Adams (1742):

- rejects the inward-looking epistolary form in favour of a more variable third-person narrative

- begins as a parody on Pamela in following Pamela's brother in the service of another branch of the Booby family

- experiments with a new fictional form which he calls 'a comic epic poem in prose', taking the wide range of character, incident, diction, and reference from the epic, but adopting a moral stance by laughing away faults rather than preaching against them

- features two innocent protagonists, Joseph Andrews and his protector Parson Adams, who engage in an epic voyage of discovery during which they encounter corruption but also unexpected charity of the humble and meek

- both exposes hypocrisy and discovers selflessness, simple honesty, and a virtue that does not seek for a reward

> The Life of Jonathan Wild the Great (1743):

- develops the basic idea that a 'Great Man' brings 'all manner of mischief on mankind', whereas a 'good' man removes mischief, the former exploits society, while the latter enhances it

- exerted a profound influence of Fielding's most dedicated 19th century admirer, William Makepeace Thackeray

> The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749):

- examines the aristocratic principle of the nobility of 'good nature', but suggests that the complementary qualities of 'prudence and religion' must be added

- manifests this idea in the character of Tom, who is of gentle birth and therefore of instinctively gentle manners

- offers the author's most meticulous response to the challenge of classical epic and his most considered comic redefinition of the role of the epic hero

- divides the novel into eighteen books, the first six dealing with Tom's supposed origins, his education, and the nature of his fall from grace, the following six tracing his journey to London paralleled to that of his adored but often estranged Sophia, and the last six books bringing all the character together

- contains a whole series of comments on other literary forms, as the satire, the pastoral, the comedy, and the mock-heroic, the omniscient narrator often digresses to comment on his methods, on literary criticism, philosophy, etc.

- the protagonist makes mistakes, but is finally brought to triumph which is viewed as a moral victory achieved through experience rather than imposed by the norms, laws, or codes of the often hypocritical society

> Amelia (1752):

- his most sombre work, a novel of married life, which follows the fraught and uncertain career of a captain and the frequent distress and isolation of his prudent, constant, and loving wife

- concludes with the captain's release from the Newgate prison and the discovery that Amelia is an heiress, on which the couple retires from the temptations of London life to the securities and simple pleasures of the country

Laurence Sterne (1713 - 1768)

> A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768):

- intended by the author 'to teach us to love the world and our fellow creatures better than we do', cultivates sentiment under the guidance of a witty country parson, but at the same time parodies the conventional travel-book

- the protagonist almost mischievously declines to see the sights of Calais and Paris, ends his journey in Lyons without even nearing the French border with Italy, and concludes his narrative with an abruptly broken sentence

> The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759 - 1767):

- the most daring bid to escape from the established literary models and an unprecedented experiment with form

- the organization of the novel lies in the consciousness of a narrator who fails in the first two of the total of nine volumes even to get himself born

- the narrator presents rather a series of comic ironies observed in a 'civil, nonsensical, and good-humoured' manner

- the underlying questioning of meaning is reinforced by digressions, hiatuses, absences, lacunae, dashes, asterisks, and the black, blank, and marbled pages

- all information remains provisional, all interpretation is relative, and any sense of ending is consistently denied

Tobias Smollett (1721 - 1771)

- adapted the picaresque tradition to suit a modern taste for realism and to describe a recognizably modern world

- distances himself from any deviations from probability and possibility and from all too sudden transitions in plot

- besides writing his own original novels he also translated Miguel Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605, 1615)

> The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748):

- features a well-born and well-educated Scottish protagonist who is exposed to the 'selfishness, envy, malice, and base indifference of mankind' in England and the wider world

- does not present the protagonist as a rebellious romantic outsider, despite his being a wronged disinherited heir

- draws on the experience of his native Scotland and on his naval experience as a ship's surgeon, pioneers the inclusion into the novel of scenes of modern warfare as alternatives to the fantasy battles of earlier romances

> The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751):

- features again a wandering protagonist, but this time a violent, imprudent, and arrogant man

- concludes with the protagonist's repentance, coinciding with rescue from prison and an inheritance, which allows for a happy marriage and retirement to the country

> The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753):

- a proto-Gothic novel

> The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771):

- an epistolary novel following the journey of an elderly and often cynical gentleman from his estates in Wales to London and then to Scotland, who acquires a servant, Humphry, on the journey who turns out to be his natural son

- the form allows for a multiplicity of viewpoints and epistolary styles

- notable for its topographical exactness and a sharp observation of both social and geographical irregularities


Oliver Goldsmith (c. 1730 - 1774)

- an Irish novelist, poet, and playwright

- preoccupied with the themes of a rejection of male ambition and a desire for philosophic harmony of the mind

- frequently employs the character of an unworldly priest as a spiritual guide and moral arbiter (poem The Deserted Village, novels The Citizen of the World and The Vicar of Wakefield)

> The Citizen of the World (1762):

- uses an alien Chinese narrator as an innocent commentator on the whims and hypocrisies of the European society

> The Vicar of Wakefield (1766):

- a philosophical tale of an innocent priest who bears all the misfortunes that befall him with Job-like patience

- the protagonist never really asserts himself, none the less he attempts to act as a moral persuader in his firm belief in the benign workings of divine providence

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    Britská literatura 3.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Přednášející

    Ema Jelínková.
  • Status

    Povinná přednáška pro III. blok.


Abrams, M. H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1999.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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