18th Century British Literature – Handout 1: Historical and Intellectual Background
1. Historical facts
The Tudor Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) – Stuart line: James I (1603-1625), Charles I (1625-1649) beheaded – Civil War (1649-1660)
Charles II (1660-1685): restoration of the Stuart monarchy, the Anglican Church and landownership; persecution of nonconformists (Roman Catholics and dissenters) – Clarendon Code.
James II (1685-1688): forced Catholicism and exclusive power. Jacobitism: Old Pretender (1715) and Young Pretender (1745)
1688: agreement between Tories and Whigs -- the King was abdicated – Glorious Revolution
William III (1688-1702) + Mary II: era of limited monarchy and parliamentary government. Bill of Rights, Tolaration Act.
Queen Anne (1702-1714): War of the Spanish Succession – ended in 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
Whig – Tory ’war’ at home, the Queen was for Tories. 1707: Act of Union (towards GB).
1714: Stuart line died out --- Hanoverian succession: the Georges (I-IV)
George I (1714-1727): Protestant, German with bad English. Riot Act, Septennial Act
George II (1727-1760): Sir Robert Wolpole, the Prime Minister governed. Seven Years’ War
George III (1760-1820): colonization, parliamentary reforms: the King’s Friends. War of Independence (1775-1783), Declaration of Independence (1776)
George IV (1820-1837) --- Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
The Augustan Age or the Age of Reason/Enlightenment: sense of compromise, self-confidence, commercial and economic expansion. In religion: High, Low and Broad Church. Deism. 1760’s: agrarian and industrial revolution – enclosure, factories, growing cities, decline of the country.
London: 1665 Great Plague, 1666 Great Fire. Sir Christopher Wren – rebuilding. Two-faced city: clubs and coffee-houses, journalism (Tatler, Spectator) but poverty, no sanitary system, gin-drinking, gambling.
2. Periods in Literature
Age of Dryden Age of Pope Age of Johnson