British Literature

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British Literature

Nike K. Pokorn


• Palaeolithic nomads from mainland Europe;

• New inhabitants came from western and possibly north-western Europe (New Stone Age);

• in the 2nd millennium BC new inhabitants came from the Low Countries and the middle Rhine (Stonehenge);

• Between 800 and 200 BC Celtic peoples moved into Britain from mainland Europe (Iron Age)
• first experience of a literate civilisation in 55 B.C.

• remoter areas in Scotland retained independence

• Ireland, never conquered by Rome, Celtic tradition
• The language of the pre-Roman settlers - British (Welsh, Breton); Cornish; Irish and Scottish Gaelic (Celtic dialect)
• The Romans up to the fifth century

• Britain - a province of the Roman Empire 400 years

• the first half of the 5th century the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (N Germany, Jutland)

• The initial wave of migration - 449 A. D.

• the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735)

• the Britain of his time comprised four nations ­English, British (Welsh), Picts, and Scots.

• invaders resembling those of the Germans as described by Tacitus in his Germania.

• a warrior race

• the chieftain, the companions or comitatus.

• the Celtic languages were supplanted (e.g. ass, bannock, crag).

  • Christianity spread from two different directions:

  • In the 5th century St Patrick converted Ireland, in the 7th century the north of England was converted by Irish monks;

  • in the south at the end of the 6th century Aethelberht of Kent allowed the monk Augustine and his helpers, who came directly from Rome, to convert his kingdom to Christianity.

  • The monks adapted the Roman alphabet from Latin to write English and replaced the old writing system based on the use of signs called runes, which were developed to be carved in wood or stone.

Brittene igland is ehta hund mila lang.

7 twa hund brad. 7 her sind on his iglande fif geheode. Englisc. 7 brit­tisc. 7 wilsc. 7 scvttisc. 7 pyhtisc. 7 bon leden. Erest weron bugend rises landes brittes.
Word-for-word translation

Of-Britain island is eight hundred miles long. & two hundred broad. & here are in this island five languages. english. & brit­

ish. & Welsh. & scottish. & pictish. & book latin. First were inhabitants of-this land britons.
• a Romano-British king called Arthur in the 470s (against the Saxons)
• The strongest social bond - kinship

• wergild - the sum that the kindred could accept in place of vengeance if a man were killed

• nobles (3 ceorl's wergild in Kent or 6 x ceorl's wergild elsewhere), a ceorl (a normal freeman), ­slaves (no wergild)
• the language is different dialects of West Germanic

• from 5th cent. to 12th century - Old English.

• Art - a combination of native elements and influences from Ireland and the Mediterranean.

• The Hiberno-Saxon style of manuscript illumination - the Lindisfarne Gospels

• During the 8th century - the Norwegian sea-raiders, the Danes

• the Danelaw - the territory in the North and East Midlands

• King Alfred the Great (871-899), a great revival of learning, a translator
• Literature - the common Germanic metre

• The earliest oral poetry - little or none survives

• The manuscripts in which Old English poetry is preserved are almost all unique, almost none of them were written until the end of the tenth century.
• St. Bede the Venerable, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("Ecclesiastical History of the English People"), the late 7th century Caedmon, an illiterate Northumbrian cowherd, a short hymn in praise of the creation
• figurative diction - the chief characteristics of Old English poetry

• form - alliterative verse: a single-line unit, consisting of two hemistichs (half lines) separated by a caesura (pause). The words alliterate, i.e. consonant sounds at the beginning of words or stressed syllables are repeated.

A song I sing of sorrow unceasing
• Religious Old English poetry: The Dream of the Rood

• Heroic OE poetry: Beowulf, anonymous.

• it refers to the common heroic past of the Germanic race

• the perpetual struggle of light against dark, good against evil

• Beowulf as an example to follow

• The poem falls into two parts.

Part I

• In Denmark, King Hrothgar in Heorot

• 12 years visited by an evil monster, Grendel

• young Beowulf, a prince of the Geats of southern Sweden, offers to cleanse Heorot of its monster.

• Grendel devours one of the sleeping Geats, fights with Beowulf, tears off his arm, and leaves, mortally wounded.

• The next night Grendel's mother comes to avenge her son and kills one of Hrothgar's men.

• Beowulf kills her in her cave at the bottom of a mere

and kills her

• Beowulf returns home to King Hygelac of the Geats.

Part II

• King Hygelac dies in a battle, Beowulf becomes the king and rules for 50 years

• He fights a fire-breathing dragon

• Beowulf kills the dragon but is mortally wounded.

• The poem ends with his funeral rites and a lament.

The Middle English Period and Geoffrey Chaucer
• The OE age ends in 1066 when the Normans invaded the Island.

• Harold vs. William

• The Normans - the descendants of Scandinavians, the north coast of France

• subjects of the French king, speaking the French language

• states in South Italy and Sicily

• the French language became the norm of educated and aristocratic communication.

The Norman Conquest

  • Christmas Day, 1066, William of Normandy

  • English aristocracy driven to a lower position in society ­

  • They created one kingdom from many.

  • Every inch of the land was declared to be the king's

  • William and his followers as his tenants with defined services

  • The building of strongholds, castles

  • Domesday Book - a written record of a statistical survey of England (1086)

  • relatively stable 11th century and the beginning of the 12th, sons of William the Conqueror

  • the period of anarchy, the reign of Matilda and Stephen, civil war.

  • northern dialect of the French language, Latin, Old English

  • Middle English: a mixture of English, felt in syntax and morphology, and of French, which contributed much vocabulary.

  • literature influenced by France

  • the beginning of the Middle English Period literature in English was scarce (Ancrene Riwle, The Owl and the Nightingale, Layamon's history of King Arthur)

  • education - the beginnings of the University of Oxford; Cambridge was founded during the early thirteenth century.

  • the only English universities for more than five hundred years.

  • Henry Plantagenet (1154)

  • Thomas à Beckett

  • Richard I, a.k.a. the Lion-Heart, the Crusades

  • his brother John, the beginning of the 13t'' century, lost his estates in France, was excommunicated, forced to sign Magna Carta which ensured that the king was beneath the law.

  • literature - tales of Charlemagne, Roland and the rest (Matter of France), of Arthur (Matter of Britain (i.e. Brittany)), of Alexander the Great and of Troy (Matter of Rome / Gesta romanorum) displaced the Germanic heroic legends.

  • The romances were written in the French verse: rhyme, stanza form, metrical feet - i.e. with alternating stressed and unstressed syllables.

  • The subject matter: the virtues of chivalry, warlike

  • courage, true courtesy, honour and ideal knighthood in the service of the Christian faith and of the lady.

  • women, love, and praise of women occupy a dominant position

  • The 13th century - the beginning of Parliament.

  • The ideal of a parliament - a council of regency ruled on behalf of a child king not yet able to govern in his own right.

  • Edward I - representatives in Parliament were needed to give consent to taxation

  • the wars against the Welsh, French, and Scots

  • The 14th century - the age of war and plague.

  • England and France, conflicts from 1337 onward were called the Hundred Years' War.

  • In 13 81 the Peasants' Revolt

  • the Bible was translated into English

  • The Black Death struck in 1348-49

  • the increasing use of English

Geoffrey Chaucer

• Influence of Petrarch, Boccaccio and Dante

• independence of the tradition he respected

• Canterbury Tales (1390s)

• A group of 30 pilgrims at the Tabard Inn

• storytelling contest

• shrine of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury

• the full plan for his book was not completed

• 120 tales - 22 tales + 2 uncompleted

a unified book, not a collection of unfinished fragments

• Knight, prioress, monk

• merchant, man of law, Franklin, scholarly clerk

• miller, reeve, pardoner

• wife of Bath

Literary genres

• Courtly romance

• fabliau

• saint's life

• allegorical tale

• beast tale

• medieval sermon
• mixture of all genres
The outline

• General Prologue

• chivalric tale of the knight

• Miller's fabliau: the tale of the Reeve

• Summoner : Friar

• the Wife of Bath: the Clerk's tale

• short stories in verse

• two expositions in prose

Heroic couplet

• Ten- or eleven-syllable iambic pentameters rhyming in

After Chaucer

• Sir Thomas Malory

• King Arthur
By the end of the 15th century

• Powerful kingdom

• commercially prosperous

• unified legal system

• beginnings of parliamentary government

• lagging behind Italy in arts and in scholarship

The prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale

• Partly deaf, lustful

• scarlet stockings

• gap-toothed

• survived five husbands

• sexual, verbal, polemical vitality

dominance in marriage

• resistance to aging and to death

The Renaissance
• The invention of movable-printing in 1454

• the discovery of the New World (1492)

• the new approach to classical learning

• the classical models for prose and verse styles

England's Renaissance

• 1509-1660

• the reign of the Tudor Henry VIII and his children and the first two Stuarts, and the government of the Commonwealth

• Catholic Church against Anglican Church

• wars with Spain
14th and 15th centuries in England

• Political and military conflicts at home and abroad

• the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) - war with France
The Hundred Years' War

• Loss of all English possessions in France, except Calais

• developed a sense of nationalism

• English claims to French territory ended

The Wars of the Roses

• Mid 15th century

• Houses of York and Lancaster - two branches of the royal family

• Henry VI vs. Richard, Duke of York

• Henry VII

• Henry VIII; Catherine of Aragon, six children, only Mary I survived; Anne Boleyn (Elizabeth), the Church of England separated from Rome and Henry VIII became its supreme head, Anne beheaded

• Jane Seymour (Edward), died in childbirth

• 3 more wives (one divorced, one beheaded)

Religious controversies

• Martin Luther in Germany

• John Calvin in Switzerland

• Henry VIII in England

• John Knox in Scotland
England's revolutionary changes

• The new growth of the Parliament

• the break with Rome

• dissolution of monasteries

After Henry VIII

• Edward VI, the English Church becomes Protestant

• 9 days of Lady Jane

• Mary I, Roman Catholic Church

• 300 people accused of heresy

• loss of Calais

• "Bloody Mary"
Elizabeth I's reign

• Church on a moderate course

• neutralized the Scottish threat

• raided Spanish ships

The Spanish Armada

• Defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588

• prevented the invasion of England

• conquered Ireland in 1603

The theatre

• The age is dominated by drama (tragedy)

• A blend of English vernacular popular tradition with a Latin one.

• Tragedies of Seneca

• first outdoor theatre in London 1576

• travelling companies of actors, attached to the household of some nobleman

• 70 years of flourishing
The revenge tragedy

• Elizabethan and Jacobean period

• the plot - crime, its consequences, suffering, numerous murders (the tragedy of blood)

• influence of Seneca - horrific event, revenge, five acts, ghosts

• themes: lust, jealousy, ambition, revenge

• man's religious views vs. his desire for vengeance

Elizabethan and Jacobean drama

• Cyril Tourneur

• John Webster

Ben Jonson

• Christopher Marlowe
Cyril Tourneur

• The Atheist's Tragedy

• The Revenger's Tragedy

• Vindice's lady was murdered by the Duke

• Duke's son wants to seduce Vindice's sister

• Duke kisses the skull of the woman he once raped, his tongue nailed to the ground, his bastard son makes love to his wife

John Websten

• The White Divel, The Duchess of Malfi

• The Duchess marries her steward Antonio

• Her brothers, a cardinal and a duke object

• the Duchess is strangled, her children too

• the Duke goes mad, the Cardinal is murdered, Antonio's death is a tragic mistake

Ben Jonson

• England's first poet laureate

• comedies: The Alchemist, Volpone, Bartholomew Fair

• masques, dancing and singing in a royal court or nobleman's house

• Inigo Jones - magnificent costumes and scenic effects
Comedy of humours

• Every Man in His Humour, Latin comedy

• four main characters or humours of medieval and Renaissance medicine: choler, melancholy, phlegm and blood

• selected side of a character, simplification

• the Restoration theatre
Christopher Marlowe

• Canterbury shoemaker

• Cambridge

• playwright, political missions

• violent, atheist, homosexual

• at 29 stabbed to death

• Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus
Doctor Faustus

• temptation of forbidden knowledge

• the absence of virtue, disobedience to divine law

• religion and morality

• authenticity: collaboration

• first great tragic monologues vs. second-rate farce (clowns, devils, dragons)

William Shakespeare
• Born in 1564 at Stratford-upon-Avon

• father - a tradesman

• William married Anne Hathaway, four children

• left for London

• The plague

• Earl of Southampton (the Sonnets)

• theatrical company - the Lord Chamberlain's Men

• King James I - the King's Men

• the Theatre, the Globe, Blackfriars Theatre

• died at Stratford in 1616


• Authorized quartos carelessly printed

• the first folio in 1623 published by his friends

• it includes all his texts except Pericles

Shakespeare's popularity

• His work is varied

• Marxist neo-historicism - class struggle

• Feminists - oppressed and liberated heroines

• post-colonialists - emerging British Empire

• plays designed to be acted

Shakespeare - the poet

• Sonnets published in 1609

• no central mythical lady

• three figures: a blond young aristocrat, a dark lady, a rival poet

• the theme of time and its effects on people, things, buildings and human relationships

• Autobiographical?

• dedication to an unknown Mr. W. H.

• Early poems: urging the young man to marry and have children

• a group addressed to the lady

• 126 of the 154 sonnets are addressed by the poet to another man

Shakespearean form/sonnets:

• three quatrains (3x4 lines)

• one couplet (2 lines)

• rhyme: abab cdcd efef gg

• the idea is stated in the quatrains is summarized in the couplet (the solution is offered, the problem is resolved)

• 38 plays

• Romeo and Juliet vs. the Sonnets

• sonnets in the play, sonnet imagery

• the theme of the play: relation of love to time
The "meaning"

• The meaning of the play

• entertainment, stagecraft, observation of human nature, emotion, tragedy, comedy, etc.

• the "message" often not clear

• the conclusions often left to the audience
Romeo and Juliet

• Different and opposing interpretations

• Julia Kristeva: baroque sadomasochistic emotion, lust for death, hatred and desire

• Harold Bloom: healthy and normative passion

The Form

• Blank verse, i.e. unrhymed iambic pentameter - nobler


• prose - low born, common characters

Main topics

• Surface is an appearance, the truth lies underneath

• vanity and pride distort the truth

• self-knowledge is essential

• battle between good and evil

• evil: witches, Iago

• good: love, enthusiasm for life
Romeo and Juliet

• Written 1597

• set in Italy

• two families in Verona: the Montegues and the Capulets

Romeo is a Montegue, Juliet a Capulet

• families involved in a bitter feud

• Romeo loves Rosaline.

• Capulet banquet

• falls in love with Juliet

• they kiss, meet in secret, wed

• Romeo flees to Mantua

• Juliet should marry Paris and feigns suicide

• Paris, Romeo and Juliet die in the Capulet crypt

• Juliet, Mercutio, the Nurse, Romeo

• tragedy and comedy at the same time (Nurse and Mercutio)

• Mercutio: scene stealer, witty, courageous, obscene and

quarrelsome, repressed homoeroticism?
Shakespeare 's characters

• Develop themselves

• soliloquy and dialogue

• more than 100 maj or characters, many hundreds minor

• complexity

• Son of the former king of Denmark

• Queen Gertrude married his brother Claudius

• the ghost accuses Claudius

• Hamlet does not know what to do

• Is he lovesick for Ophelia?

• A murder scene

• Claudius stops the performance

• Hamlet kills Pollonius, Ophelia's father

• Hamlet is banished to England, escapes

• Ophelia drowns herself

• Laertes, her brother, fights Hamlet

• the final wisdom - the readiness is all

• Hamlet and Laertes are mortally wounded

• Queen drinks a poisoned cup

• Hamlet stabs the king

• Hamlet and Laertes die

• Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, takes over the country

The theme of Hamlet

• J. W. Goethe, 1795, weak character

• S. T. Coleridge, 1811, the action is the chief end

• A. C. Bradley, 1904, a man of genius and a weak character

• T. S. Eliot, 1919, an artistic failure: too much material, excessive

• Ian Kott, 1964, an intellectual and a moralist

• Marc Shell, 1993, Claudius his natural father

• Harold Bloom, 1998, leading Western representation of an intellectual

• a complex, plausible character
Sweet prince and arrant knave

• Arrant knave: violent towards his mother and Ophelia, murders Polonius, arranges the murders of his friends, places the players in danger

• Sweet prince: mother re-married too soon, Ophelia, Polonius, his friends were spies.

After Elizabeth I

• The son of Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth's cousin

• The Scottish King James VI - James I of England (1603-1625)

• the crowns of England and Scotland united

The Stuart kings

• The Puritans dissatisfied with the Church of England

• Parliament dissatisfied with the kings

• James I and Charles I - monarchy by divine right

Charles I

• Tried to rule without Parliament and to impose English-style worship in Scotland

• the Long Parliament tried to get control of the government

• Charles I vs. Puritan remainder of Parliament (Roundheads)

• civil war
The English Civil War

• The Roundheads won (help from Scotland)

• military leadership of Oliver Cromwell

• Charles I was executed in 1649

• monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished

• England was declared Commonwealth

• Ireland and Scotland subdued

• the protectorate was created, governed by a House of Commons,

Cromwell becomes Lord Protector

• Cromwell dies in 1658

• Charles II returned to England
Metaphysical poets

• 1610-1680

• intellectual and emotional

• ordinary speech and scientific concepts

• themes: love and religion

• paradox - an apparently self-contradictory statement

• conceit - deliberately unlikely metaphor
• John Donne, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan

• George Herbert (1593-1633) - a parish priest, piety and godliness

• Henry Vaughan (1622-1695) - spiritual and religious poetry
John Donne

• 1571-1631

• London, Oxford, Cambridge

• Catholic

• private secretary, secret marriage, imprisonment

• Anglican religion, lawyer, priest

• preacher, Dean of St Paul's Cathedral

• Poetry published after his death

• love and religion

• conventional representations of women reversed

Andrew Marvell

• 1621-1678

• Yorkshire, Cambridge

• freedom of worship

• supporter of Oliver Cromwell

• politician and satirist

The Restoration

• Protectorate collapsed in 1658

• the return of the dead King's eldest son

• Charles II returned home in 1660

• moderation, a dozen men were executed

• 1665 bubonic plague, 1666 Fire of London (it lasted 5 days, two thirds of the city destroyed)

A New London

• The architect Christopher Wren rebuilt the city in beauty and grandeur.


• The Restoration was a reaction against Puritanism, yet Paradise Lost by John Milton is a Puritan work

• Puritan ethic is Cromwell's ethic

• an attitude which saw the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican

Church as corrupt

• Puritans - return to a purer worship

John Milton

• 1608-1674

• London, Cambridge, a tour around Europe

• wealth of learning, classics

• defender of Puritanism and Cromwell

• blindness

• granted a full pardon

• Paradise Lost dictated

Epic elements in Paradise Lost

• Primary epics - e.g. the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, where the hero is part human and part divine, he excels in military prowess.

• Secondary epics - e.g. Virgil's Aeneid, where the hero is still a military hero and still has a divine parent, but he can think as well as fight. A more sophisticated hero.

• Tertiary epics - a conflict between the influence of the pagan epic and the scriptural, Christian literature.

Paradise Lost

• published in 1667, the second edition in 1674 reorganized the poem in an epic form of twelve books

• the topic: the fall from the perfect state of a human being into a state of human reality
Milton 's Language

• Latin, Italian and Hebrew influence

• long sentences, vast knowledge of the classics demanded

• blank verse

Paradise Lost

• Renaissance, Protestant, English epic

• Homer, Vergil, Dante, Spenser

• Epic - long narrative poem, elevated style, heroic subject matter

Epic elements

• Iliad, Odyssey by Homer, hero is part human and part divine

• Vergil's Aeneid, sophisticated hero

• a conflict between pagan epic and Christian literature

Paradise Lost

• 1667, 1674, twelve books

• the fall from the perfect state of man into a state of human reality

• Latin, Italian and Hebrew influence

• long sentences, vast knowledge of the classics demanded

• blank verse

• Fall of Satan

Devil - hero and a villain, energy and evil

• Satan is driven out of Heaven into the great Deep

• Fallen angels in Hell, Chaos

• Satan awakens his legions, they prepare for battle
The Plot of Paradise Lost

• Fall of Satan from heaven

• Satan, the once glorious leader of a rebellion against God, reveals some of the virtues of the human heroic.

• Devil - hero and a villain, embodiment of energy and evil

• Satan is driven out of Heaven into the great Deep

• Fallen angels in Hell, Chaos

• Satan awakens his legions, they prepare for battle


• Charles II

• James II, a Roman Catholic

• William of Orange, a Protestant, the Netherlands

• James fled

• Glorious Revolution, sovereign Parliament

• Bill of Rights

• Jacobites in Scotland and Ireland

• both areas were subdued, Glencoe in Scotland, Boyne in Ireland
Restoration theatre

• English theatre, 1660-1700

• 18 years, theatres are closed

• converted tennis courts


• Drury Lane and Dorset Gardens

• United Company

• Spectators - social elite, rich, young, upper-class, London-based, cynical, fashionable

• female actors

• comedies and tragedies

• comedies: wit - verbal brilliance, high and noble birth
Stock characters

• A fop, a dandy - obsessed with appearance

• the young rake - fashionable, well-born

• the country bumpkin

• the pure young heroine

• the immoral young woman

• the sexually frustrated old woman

• the funny servant, the Puritan

Basic themes

• Inheritance and money - the younger son

• marriage - matter of economics, cynical

• morality of the plays - good looks, wit, conventions of the upper-class London life

• William III - middle classes accepted • John Vanbrugh, George Farquhar
William Congreve

• Ireland, law and literature

• the manager of a new theatre

• The Way of the World (1700)

The Way of the World

• The plot very complicated

• Mirabell, Millamant, Lady Wishfort

• impeccable morality

• good characters rewarded, the evil ones punished

• original and excellent characterisation

The eighteenth century

• Act of Union 1707, England and Scotland united

• the kingdom of Great Britain

• Queen Anne, George I, Elector of Hanover

• peace and stability

• George I, George II, Robert Walpole (Prime Minister)

Two decades of Conflict

• War with Spain

• Scottish Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charles

• Treaty of Paris - Canada and India, Florida

Population Growth

• Smallpox vaccine

• improved diet

• more efficient farming practices

• potato

• earlier marriages


• James Watt, the steam engine

• spinning and weaving

• cotton textiles

• iron, coal mines

• workshop of the world


• Factory life

• advantages: regular hours, higher wages

• disadvantages: poor, dangerous working conditions, discipline, less personal, long hours

• London - 600,000 inhabitants in 1701, 950,000 inhabitants in 1801
George III and George IV

• George III suffered apparent delirium, probably caused by the metabolic disorder porphyria

• He was succeeded by his eldest son, George IV.
American War of Independence

• 1783

• lost all its colonies in North America

• William Pitt the Younger - the modern prime ministership, annual budget

• after 1793, 22 years of all-out war
Augustan Age

• Emperor Augustus

• belief in progress, admiration of the classical age

• translators

• Dryden, Pope, Swift
Alexander Pope

• London, Roman Catholic

• tuberculosis and a curved spine

• prolific writer, satire

• scholar and translator

• Focus on unwelcome factors in life, revealing the true nature of things

• human weakness attacked

• vanity, hypocrisy and affectation

• not always universal
Originality and style

• Decorative artist, artificial, technical brilliance

• 18th century did not place much value on originality

• heroic couplet - end-rhymed iambic pentameters

• epigrammic lines
The Rape of the Lock

• Mock heroic masterpiece

• Lord Petre snipped off a lock of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair, ill feeling among the families

• satirical work, ridiculing the stupidity of those involved

The Eighteenth-Century Novel

The beginnings of a novel

• The Industrial Revolution brought with it also increased wealth and increased standards of literacy.

• Improved printing and communication systems helped distribute books more widely and efficiently - which led to the popularity of the novel.
The eighteenth-century novelists

• Daniel Defoe

• Samuel Richardson

• Henry Fielding

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

a Nonconformist, or Dissenter, family

• he could not be educated at the University of Oxford or Cambridge, but nevertheless received good education.

• He became a merchant, dealing in many commodities, travelled widely at home and abroad; but misfortune, in one form or another, dogged him continually.

• Defoe went bankrupt often, and it is even thought that he died in hiding from his creditors.

• He served in turn both Tory and Whig; he acted as a secret agent for the Tories and later served the Whigs by "infiltrating" extremist Tory journals and toning them down.

Robinson Crusoe

• published in 1719, based on the true story of one Alexander Selkirk

• it is about a sailor marooned on a desert island for many years. It depicts a man adapting very successfully first to life on his own, and then to life with another, subservient man.
Robinson Crusoe - the style and the plot

• Defoe narrates in a matter-of-fact, almost documentary style. The narrator does comment, but characters are allowed to speak for themselves, and are judged by their actions.

• The plot of the book is relatively disorganised - which is a common feature of the early novel.
Robinson Crusoe - optimism and ethics

• Defoe is an optimist: e.g., while the real Alexander Selkirk was in a semi-savage state when he was rescued, Robinson Crusoe manages to build a small civilisation around him and survives his experience very well.

• the influence of the »Protestant Work Ethic, i.e. the belief that hard work is the answer to all social and moral problems.
Samuel Richardson

  • 1689-1761, a son of a London tradesman,

  • when 50 and a prosperous printer - he publishes his first work Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded (1740)

      • the epistolary form; a young gentleman, Mr. B, a beautiful fifteen year old maidservant, Pamela – manages to preserve her virtue.

      • Pamela – a pure and innocent heroire or a self-satisfied, hypocritical and calculating minx?

  • 7 years later by his masterpiece Clarissa: or, the History of a Young Lady (1747-48), epistolary form, multiple narrators;

      • Clarissa Harlowe, avoiding loveless marriage, escapes with a handsome libertine, Lovelace, who offers her protection but eventually rapes her.

  • immensely popular at the time of the publication.

Tobias Smollett

  • 1721-71, a medical doctor born in Scotland.

  • picaresque novels;

  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) the adventures of a family travelling through Britain told in a sentimental manner.

Henry Fielding (1707-1756)

• born of a family that by tradition traced its descent to a branch of the Habsburgs.

• He started his career as a playwright, wrote some 25 plays.

• Walpole's censorship stopped his career

• he became a barrister and a novelist in order to support his family
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749)

• the most popular of his works

• It is constructed around a romance plot: The hero, whose true identity remains unknown until the denouement, loves the beautiful Sophia Western, and at the end of the book he wins her hand.

• Numerous obstacles have to be overcome before he achieves this.

Tom Jones

• In the course of the action the various sets of characters pursue each other from one part of the country to another, giving Fielding an opportunity to paint an incomparably vivid picture of England in the mid-18th century.

• The novel is marked by deft alternations between humour and romance, and above all the speed and ease of the dialogue.
Tom Jones - The Narrator

• Each major section or Book in the novel is introduced by Fielding

• Fielding partly imposes his own personality on the reader. On the other hand, the authorial presence in the novel is often witty and amusing.

Napoleonic Wars

• At the beginning of the century Great Britain was in war with France.

• Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to invade the Island

• the British naval victory under Horatio Nelson at Trafalgar (1805).

The formation of the United Kingdom

• In 1801 the Act of Union with Ireland was signed

• the separate Irish Parliament is closed and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is formed.
The Kings

• from 1811, George III was intermittently mad and his son, the future George IV, acted as regent.

• In 1820 George III was succeeded by George IV.
Rioting in 1816, 1817, 1819

• Rapid demobilization after the wars;

• economic depression;

• bad harvests;

• 1819, the Peterloo Massacre (a radical meeting aiming to reform the parliamentary system), brutally dispersed by cavalry.
The age of reforms

• the working hours of women and children were limited

• Slavery was abolished

• In 1829 Robert Peel (Bobby) organizes the first modern police force (bobbies).

Catholic Emancipation

• Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants are given the right to hold government posts and become MPs.

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