The Satirists of Restoration Period in English Literature

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      The Restoration period ushers in the age of satire and criticism. The influence of France and the spread of science and commonsense produced a critical literature in the period. The exuberance and creative impulses of the Elizabethan period had exhausted itself. A critical temper had permeated the minds of thinkers and writers. The religious and political feuds had given rise to satirical literature. Dryden was the greatest satirist of the period. Besides Dryden, there are other satirists whose works have considerable importance in the period.

Restoration Satires
Restoration Satire

      Samuel Butler's Hudibras is a product of the revolt against Puritanism. He began writing it during the civil wars and was published in three parts. He was inspired by Don Quixote and represented the Presbeyterian in the grotesque person of Sir Hudibras, and the Independent in the guise of Ralph, his squire. The work consists of an account of how Hudibras one day began a campaign to prevent a bear-baiting, a profane and Pagan amusement. The fight with the crowd of revellers is in the pseudo-heroic mode. The Knight conquers in the first attack and is ultimately overpowered and put in the stocks. Meanwhile, he is wooing a rich widow who, to put his love to the test makes him promise to submit to a whipping. After long shuffling, and atter having discussed the matter with his squire and consulted Sidrophel the astrologer, Hudibras goes to the widow with a lying tale, but is soon reduced to confessing all his heinous offences. Butler does and excel either in the recital of adventures or character drawing; as a romance his poem is of the worse.

      There is an amusing contrast between the Presbeyterian Hudibras heavy with learning and loaded with scholasticism and Ralph the independent scorning all written knowledge. The poem is valuable for the vein of satirical comedy which runs through it from end to end and tills everything portraits, dialogues and narratives with moral and ironical reflections. It is, however, more than a satire on Puritanism. It is a mine of human folly almost as rich as Rabelais's burlesque epic which inspired Butler. Butler wrote in verse, in octosyllabic couplets full of aphorisms and piquant formulas.

      Andrew Marvell produced prose pamphlets and satires in verse in which he ridiculed religious intolerance, autocratic tendencies and lack of patriotism.

      John Oldham was a faithful disciple of the ancients and particularly of juvenal. He shows a tendency to Gerneralisation in his Satires against the Jesuits (1681). He had vigour and ardour but he died young before the fulfilment of his promises.

      The verses of the court poets of the period have satiric touches. But here satire is mingled with other elements gallantry, trifling and often obscenity. The most characteristic of all the court-poets is John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1648-80). His sarcastic insolence blazes out in The Session of the Poets, his ironic pessimism in his Satyr against Mankind. Charles Sackville later Earl of Dorset (1683-1701) is distinguished by the bitterness of his irony and the harshness of his realism. Sir Charles Sedley (1639-1701) recovers better than any other the gallant vein of the Cavaliers. He produced graceful songs as facile as theirs.

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