Write a note on Eighteenth century Satire.

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      The age of English poetry of which Pope is the centre and symbol has been termed, rightly or wrongly the 'classical age', for the poets of the age made it their business to imitate the great masters of antiquity like Homer, Euripides, Sophocles (all Greeks) and Virgil, Horace and Juvenal (who flourished in the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus). The writers of the age simply imitated particularly the Latin writers, not even with the brilliant success of their French imitators, and this produced a literature which was polished, rational and perfect, which could be created in a century of retirement and supreme elegance. The rapid growth of experimental science (Issac Newton, the Royal Society, etc.) encouraged the rational temper of the age. The poetry of the age was the poetry of reason, of criticism and exposition of the ideals, fashions and follies of the age.

Pope's contemporaries in poetry were not his equals. It was the great age of prose and satiric spirit was most pronounced in the prose writings of the age.
Satirical portrait

      This critical or rational spirit of the age (18th century) is particularly favourable to the growth of moral or satirical works. The lyric impulse is practically absent in the age. The political atmosphere - the quarrel between Whigs and Tories and religious feuds were helpful to the popularisation of satire which reached its climax in the hands of Dryden and Pope. Pope is the supreme master of satiric art in which he rivals the Latin masters like Horace and Juvenal. Almost all his strongest and best poems on which his fame rests belong to this species. In The Rape of the Lock, Epistles and Satires and The Dunciad he touches the summit of English classical poetry. In these satires, he rivals the great masters like Horace and Juvenal. The Rape of The Lock is a general satire on the artificialities and frivolities of the eighteenth century. It is written in mock-heroic style. The Diunciad is also written in mock-heroic style and is inspired by Dryden. In Epistles and Satires, he imitated the great Latin master, Horace. Pope was Dryden's disciple and successor. In satiric talent and mastery of the couplet there is a close relationship between them.

      But before Pope came several poets-the best known is Matthew Prior. He made his debut with a parody of The Hind and the Panther written in collaboration with Charles Montague Like Dryden he used his verse to comment on the events of Dolitics. Sir Samuel Garth and Addison showed themselves good disciples of Dryden in their use of the heroic couplet. Garth produced in his Dispensary which he imitated from Boileau's Lutrin, a quite respectable example of the mock-heroic manner; he celebrated in it a quarrel between doctors on the subject of furnishing a dispensary with medicines.

      Pope's contemporaries in poetry were not his equals. It was the great age of prose and satiric spirit was most pronounced in the prose writings of the age. Swift and John Gay were popular as poets who practised odes and fables and imitated the French masters. The political rivalries of the time made Ambrose Philips an enemy of Pope and the Tories. He was parodied by Gay in The Shepherd's Week.

      The most memorable works of the period are in prose. The work of Daniel Defoe is very characteristic in this respect. His popular work - The True-born Englishman is a long satire in prosaic but clear and vigorous verse in which the author showed how the English nation was itself made up of the most diverse elements. Subdued strain of satire can be traced in many of the writings of Defoe - notably in his Robinson Crusoe. The greatest satirist of the age is certainly Jonathan Swift. The long list of his satires extends from The Battle of the Books and A Tale of a Tub to Gullivers Travels. The Drapier's Letters reveals his hatred of political hypocrisy. Gulliver's Travels is the indictment of the human race for refusing reason and benevolence as the ways of life. The Battle of Books grew out of a controversy in which Sir William Temple had taken a prominent part concerning the respective merits of ancient and modern literatures. The Tale of a Tub was designed to champion the Protestant church against the pretensions of the church of Rome. His greatest satiric work is Gulliver's Travels. In The Voyage to Lilliput we have an exposure of the infinite littleness and absurd pretensions of man. The Voyage to Laputa Swift scornfully attacks philosophers, projectors and inventors and all who waste their energies in pursuit of fantastic things.

      Addison and Steele through The Spectator and The Rambler gave satiric pictures of the age. They did not indulge in sweeping condemnations; they wrote good humouredly. They discussed, manners and fashions of the age. They Wrote with a moral aim to break down two opposed influences - that of the immoral Restoration tradition of loose living and loose thinking and that of Puritan fanaticism and bigotry on the other. They however used wit and humour rather than coarse satire for anatomising the foibles of the society. Their great creations were Sir Roger de Coverley, the great city merchant, Sir Andrew Freeport, a Clergyman, Captain Sentry a famous soldier and Will Honeycomb, a man of innocent foolishness. Addison made Sir Roger a lovable Tory with prejudices and superstitions. However these people represent various sections of society and their talks and manners bring out the angularities of the age.

      Satire permeates the writings of the age. In the novels and the plays, satiric strain is evident. Fielding's Tom Jones presents a satiric portrait of the society. But Fielding has a warm-hearted approach to life. It gives the fullest and richest picture of English life about the middle of the eighteenth century with its follies and foibles. His vein however is more comedic than satiric. Smollett in his many novels like Roderick Random, Humphry Clinker and Peregrine Pickley wrote expressly as a satirist and reformer and his purpose was to paint the monstrous evils of life. Johnson produced two satires - London and the Vanity of Human Wishes.

      This satiric strain runs through the plays of the age. In the hands of Sheridan and Goldsmith, the comic spirit revived and they good humouredly showed the foibles and follies ot the age in their plays like She Stoops to Conquer, The Good Natured Man, The Rivals and The School for Scandal.

      Satire flourished in the Periclean age of Greece and in the Augustan period of Rome when society attained some sort of stability. The greatest satires were written in periods when ethical and rational norms were sufficiently powerful to attract wide-spread assent. Satire exposes the departures from the norm or the standard of behaviour. Dr. Johnson defines satire as "a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured". The eighteenth century English literature is imbued with the classical spirit and consciously imitated the classical masters. Dryden and Pope were the great masters of satiric art, but satiric spirit ran through all the writings of the age. Personal rivalry, religious and political feuds were to some extent responsible for the growth of this satiric spirit. But the chief reason is the development of the attitude of reason and enquiry.

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