Literary Characteristics of The Age of Pope aka Augustan Age within Neo-Classical

Updated February 25, 2023

The Reason, rationality, satire, nature and heroic couplet characterizes the Age of Pope (1700-1750) and names after Alexander Pope, the prolific poet of the time. It is a fact that literature reflects society of the age and 18 th century is no exception in that sense. Precisely, the political & social changes exhibiting the supremacy of good sense, rationality, patriotism, sanity and balance left an imperishable mark on the literature of the Age of Pope.

The Age of pope also takes name of the Age of Augustan and is integral to the Neo-Classical Age. The term “The Augustan Age” was first used by the great poet Goldsmith to designate the early 18 th century i.e. the time of his predecessors. Goldsmith observed that the writers of this period tried to imitate the characteristics of the Virgil, Horace, Cicero and other writers of the age of Augustus Caesar in Rome.

During Age of pope we have the works of highest order in prose, poetry and drama. On a broader note, works of this age is essentially work of classical Age. And, the reason lies in the fact, that the writers of pope age too followed the set principles and rules. Essentially, you can find them adopting the qualities such as restraint, simplicity dignity serenity, repose and reason.

Characteristics of the Age of Pope  

The literature of the Age of Pope bore the hallmark of intelligence, of wit and of fancy, not a literature of emotion, passion, or creative energy. The main literary characteristics of the age of Pope are as below:

The Predominance of Prose

The 18 th century was essentially an age of prose and reason. It was so dominant the form that even the poetry of this period had the qualities of prose. Since the poetry and prose of this age were characterized by terseness (brevity), neatness, condensation and elegance, this age has been considered as the Age of Prose.

Matthew Arnold goes to the extent of saying that Dryden and Pope are not the classics of our poetry but they are classics of our prose. The whole of the 18 th century prose marks two distinct two categories: (a) The prose of the Age of Pope (1700-1744) and (b) The Prose of the Age of Transition (1745-1798).

The Prose of the Age of Pope is basically the history of the growth of the periodical literature. Daniel Defoe, Richard Steele, Addison, Goldsmith and Jonathan Swift are the four great writers of the periodical essays in the 18 th century.

Similarly, during the period of Transition, prose saw immense enrichment by the contributions of a host of writers. Dr. Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith and Horace Walpole are the prominent writers of that age. Dr. Samuel Johnson was the most important among them.

The Age of Reason and Good Sense

The Augustan Age is also called the Age of Reason and Good Sense because it was based on the good sense ideal of the French critic Boileau. It was the Age of Understanding and Enlightenment.

The supremacy of the reason was well established and a general belief in the advancement of human mind was upheld. It is called the Age of Pope because Pope was the representative poet of this period. He reflected the qualities of the new school in the most perfect form.

The religious and philosophical thoughts of the Age are worth considering. People believed in respectability and design and formality. People hated enthusiasm, mystery, peacefulness and religious broodings. This outlook was rational and this outlook on life was critical.

The poets of this age repressed all emotions and enthusiasm. Wit took precedence of imagination. Inspiration was lost in technical skill. “Formality”, Correctness” and Elegance of Expression” had the upper hand as compared to simplicity, emotionalism and enthusiasm. In fact, the whole literature was marked by coldness and want of feelings.

Influence of French Literature

You can see the literature of this age having an influence of French Literature. We clearly see the stress being not on the originality of the idea, but upon the value of the form. Expression was more important than the thought. Accuracy and correctness were the watchwords of the literature of this age.

The Age of Pope Followed Nature

One important characteristics of the age was the belief that literature must follow nature. Pope was a great advocate of it but this nature was not the ‘nature’ of Wordsworth. It was, in fact human nature. The aim of the writers was to copy man and manners and not to describe flowers and the change of seasons.

The literature of the period was concerned with the exhibition of views of society. Precisely, it aimed to interpret the society. “The Rape of the Lock” by Pope is a fine example of this exhibition. However, an important fact to note is that the literature of this period portrayed the life of town.

The Age of Satire

This period saw an immense growth in the field of satire. In fact, during entire neo-classical Satire was an important form of prose. The love for satire came to the surface and the cold worldliness of Augustan life found its expression in polished wit and satire. To be more precise, these satire of the period did not assault sin, it rather attacked dullness and personal enemies.

Heroic Couplet and the Poetic Diction as Tools of the Writers

The writers of this age were against anything romantic. The lucidity of the language was least. It became figurative and obscure. As regards poetry, the heroic couplet became the lone way of expression. Hence, the correctness and precision suppressed spontaneity and imagination.

The language of the poetry became gaudy, artificial, stilled, rational and intellectual. The major literary figures of the age are Defoe, Addison, Steele, Jonathan Swift , Pope, Henry Fielding, Smollett and Lawrence Sterne.

In this way, this Age of Prose or Reason developed a distinctive character. The changes and innovations, with certain limitations marked a new beginning in literature and the contributions of this period are of immense importance for literary evolution of English.

The Age of Pope in Conclusion

Some experts suggest that Age of Pope was part of larger and concurrent Augustan Age while, others hold both as concurrent and co-terminating. However, in any case Age of Pope and Augustan age integral to broader Neo Classical Age that spanned over 1660 to 1798. and major literary elements of Neo classical seems present in all these period segments.

Restoration Age (1660-1700), the Augustan Age (1700-1750) and the Johnson Age (1750-1798) are the three period segments of Neoclassical era. The Alexander Pope was the prominent poet of Augustan Age. Hence, it takes after the name: The Age of Pope. Romantic age seems to have born towards the end of Age of Johnson with advent of Shakespeare and other political events such as French and American revolutions

Beyond The Age of Pope Under Literature Reads

6 thoughts on “Literary Characteristics of The Age of Pope aka Augustan Age within Neo-Classical”

Very informative. Thanks for sharing such kinda knowledge.. Regards Ummama wajid.

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English Literature Study Material

THE AGE OF POPE (1700-1744)

You can listen to this post at Audio Version

It was poet Oliver Goldsmith who first designated the early 18th century, as the Augustan Age. The age has also been called the Age of Pope. The Augustan age includes the age of Dryden and Pope. The restoration of Stuart monarchy in 1660 marked the beginning of the Augustan age.

House of Stuart Family Tree | Britroyals

Eighteenth century in England was an age equal to the age of Augustus Caesar, when the Roman society had reached the peak of its glory. The name Augustan Age was chosen by writers who saw in Pope, Addison, Swift, Johnson and Burke the modern parallels to Horace, Virgil and Cicero, and all that brilliant company who made Roman literature famous in the day of Augustus. Past ages of England were looked upon as barbarous, and the classics of Greece and Rome were regarded as models which men of taste were to follow.

Characteristics of the Augustan Age

1. The Classical Age This period, in the first place, is called the classical age, because reason dominated emotion; social conventions became more important than individual convictions ; form became more important than content. The term “classic” is applied to designate writing of the finest quality. According to Goethe, “Everything that is good in literature is classical.” Every national literature has at least one period in which an unusual number of exceptional writers produce books of outstanding quality, and this is called the classical period of a nation’s literature. The age of Queen Anne is often called the classical age of England. Addison, Swift, Richardson, Fielding, Goldsmith, Dr Johnson, Burke, Gibbon and Pope are the great luminaries of the age.

2. Rule of rules The writers of this age were governed by set rules and principles. And, in this crazy adherence to rules the writers were deeply influenced by Boileau and Rapin, who insisted on precise methods of writing poetry and who professed to have discovered their rules in the works of Aristotle and Horace.

3. Age of good sense and reason The period is also called the age of reason and good sense, because it was based on the good – sense ideal of the French critic Boileau. It was an age of enlightenment when a literature which had become pellucid and clear began to diffuse knowledge among a growing public. The supremacy of reason was scarcely challenged. There reigned a common belief in the advancement of human mind.

4. Religious and philosophic thought The Augustans believed in respectability and designed conformity. They had no regard for boundless imagination and overflowing enthusiasm of the Elizabethan age. Their outlook was rational. The poets of this age strove to repress all emotion and enthusiasm. Good sense became the ideal of the time, and good sense meant a love of the reasonable and the hatred of the extravagant and mystical. Wit took precedence of imagination ; inspiration was lost in technical skill. The whole literature of the age was marked by coldness and want of feeling.

5. The French influence The 18th century literature was indebted to the growing influence of French literature. One notable feature of French influence may be seen in the tragedies in rhyme that were for a time in vogue, of which plots were borrowed from French romances. Boileau held supreme sway over the minds of the literary artists. He was almost a literary dictator.

6. Nature followed An important characteristic of the age was the belief that literature must follow nature. Pope exhorted his contemporaries to follow nature. However, the nature of the Augustan period was not the nature of Wordsworth. The Augustans were drawn towards human nature rather than the nature we have in forests. Their sole aim was to copy man and manners of society. Alexander Pope said : “ The proper study of mankind is man “.

7. Reflection of the contemporary society The literature of the age was concerned with the follies and foibles of the times. Literature became an interpretation of life, the kind of life that was led in the social and political circles of the times. Poetry became the poetry of the town, the coffee – house and artificial society ; Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is a classic example. The literature of the age lost all touch with the country life and became the literature of the town.

8. Satire Satire is the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes of amusement, scorn, or indignation. Satire is usually justified by those who practice it as a corrective of human vice and folly. Satire became the prominent form of literature during the Augustan age. The satires of Dryden are well known to us. In the age of Pope the love for satire came to the upper surface and the coldworldliness of Augustan life found its expression in polished wit and satire.

9. Poetic diction The language of poetry became gaudy and inane and the ordinary language was kept out from poetic literature. The result was that the literature of the age became artificial, stilted, rational and intellectual, losing all inspiration, enthusiasm and romantic fervour which were the hall-marks of the literature of the Elizabethan age. The Augustans were superior in other ways, notable in satire and journalism, in the technical language of philosophy and science and in the great branch of modern literature, the novel, of which they were among the English pioneers.

10. The heroic couplet In heroic couplet lines of iambic pentameter rhyme in pairs : aa, bb, cc and so on. The adjective “heroic” is applied because of the frequent use of such couplets in heroic poems (epic) and plays. This verse form was introduced into English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer. During the Augustan age the heroic couplet was recognised as the only medium of poetic expression. It was no longer possible to write one’s thoughts as the pen could move. The fastidiousness of the public ear did not appreciate “the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease.” In the heroic couplet the poets put all their skill and wrote with an unimaginable correctness and precision.

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Characteristics of the Age of pope

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The major characteristics of the Augustan age and why it's called age of reason.

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The Augustan Age


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Today’s panel shows, comedians, novelists and filmmakers make fun of politicians and the rich and famous all the time. In a liberal democracy like ours, it seems so normal to criticise, parody and satirise our ruling classes. In the 18 th century, it was a relatively new idea. The Augustan Age was characterised by satire in novels, poems, and plays.

Satire is a way of making fun of people (often politicians) or ideas by using irony , exaggeration, and humour. The idea is to ridicule the person or idea to show it for what it really is.

The Augustan Age summary

The so-called August Age spanned the period from the beginning of the 18 th century to its end, normally dated to the deaths of two writers of the period, Alexander Pope (who died in 1744) and Jonathan Swift (who died in 1745). That said, there are no settled dates for the Augustan age; movements do not begin one day and end on another. Instead, historians identify certain fixed points which seem, on reflection, to be moments at which a movement gets wind in its sails or loses it. For example, the writer Samuel Johnson (who wrote the first English dictionary in 1755) has been linked to the Augustan Age despite living and producing important works after the supposed end of the age.

In Roman times, the Augustan era was largely peaceful. The eighteenth-century movement of the same name harked back to the age of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (63BC – AD14).

Augustan Age meaning

It was in this period that the novel rose in prominence as a literary form , as well as genres like political satire , especially drama . In other areas, poetry turned inwards, characterised by reflections on the inner person.

Other areas saw development as well. For example, in science and philosophy, empiricism came to occupy a central position. In economics, capitalism developed, expanded, and ultimately produced the form of capitalism we are familiar with today.

Empiricism is the idea that learning comes from a combination of experience and observation.

Capitalism exists when private businesses and individuals own and control money rather than the government.

Political satire is when humour in literature, drama , poetry, TV, or film is used to point out the folly or double standards of politicians or their policies.

In literature, the period was known as the Augustan Age in part because of Alexander Pope’s use of the reference in his poetry. For example, his use of the name Augusta for Queen Anne draws a comparison between the early 18 th century and the reign of Caesar Augustus (63BC-14AD). Augustus, the Roman Emperor, was praised for his peaceful reign.

Because of the Roman reference, some fields outside the field of poetry have given it a different name. Some call it the neoclassical age and some call it the Age of Reason .

Neoclassicism is a movement in the West which draws inspiration from classical antiquity. Neoclassicism can be found across the arts, in painting, theatre, poems, and architecture.

The Age of Reason is the name for a period of European history in which the scientific method became prominent. Older systems of belief, especially religious ones, were rejected in favour of empirical knowledge, that is, knowledge based on experience and the use of reason or deduction.

Augustan Age characteristics

One of the chief drivers of literature in the Augustan Age was its availability. By the eighteenth century, printed material of all kinds (not only books but magazines, newspapers, tracts, and poems) was widely available.

The proliferation of printed material brought down the price of books, which meant even greater circulation. This was also the age before copyright, meaning that copies were widely circulated without the author's permission. As a result of all this, educational levels increased among the general population.

Augustan literature was characterised by a political tendency. Along with journalists, even novelists , poets , and playwrights were political. Political or human satire characterised the style or genre of writing in this period. Not only were politicians and important people satirised, but novels were written satirising other novels. For example, Samuel Richardson’s (1689-1761) novel Pamela (1740) was satirised by Henry Fielding (1707-1754).

A number of other kinds of literature and text characterised the period. The essay, for example. At the time, collections of essays began to be circulated in periodicals. One of these was the political magazine The Spectator , which is still in print today and is widely read. In this vein, essays were considered objective ways of ‘spectating’ or observing what was going on and commenting on it.

Dictionaries and lexicons also became popular at this time, as well as philosophical and religious writing.

The eighteenth-century novel was a vehicle for satire . The famous titles of the period are Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). These novels, and other satirical novels of the period, traced their roots to perhaps the most well-known European novel in the period just before the Augustan Age, Don Quixote by Cervantes (1547-1616).

Augustan Age literature

Other novels of the period include what are called sentimental novels. These became popular around 1740. Examples are Pamela by Samuel Richardson, Tristram Shandy (1759-67) by Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Julie (1761) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and a novel by Goethe (1749-1832), The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).

Sterne’s Tristram Shandy was written in the mould of Gulliver’s Travels by Swift. It is autobiographical, but it is unusual in that it moves backwards in time. Sterne explains one detail of his life, then explains the cause or reason for that detail, then the reason for that, and on and on, backwards in time.

Tristram Shandy is a satirical novel.

In the Augustan Age, there were other parallel developments going on. For example, there was an increase in the number of women writing novels at this time.

Augustan poetry was dominated by satire . The Augustan poets satirised each other, developing each other’s poems and often writing directly contrasting poems. The idea of the ‘ individual ’ was invented in the eighteenth century. The emphasis in the early part of the century was on the subjective self rather than on the public persona oriented primarily towards society.

Older styles of poetry, which had been used in public-facing ways, were turned to other uses. Poetry became studies of the individual. One interpretation of this shift of attention from the public to the private is the rise of Protestantism . The idea that it is the individual who stands before God changed the idea, dominant for so long in Catholicism, that it was being part of the community that mattered most.

Alexander Pope, whose death marked the end of the Augustan age, was the central figure of Augustan poetry. He was also a prime mover in the Augustan poetic tradition of ‘updating’ the classical writers.

Pope’s most celebrated poetic satires are The Rape of the Lock (1712; 1714) and The Dunciad (1722). The first was based on a poetic structure used by the Roman poet Virgil. The second was a satire of Pope’s enemy Lewis Theobald.

As for other themes of the period, pastoral was an important one. Landscape in the eighteenth century was a common feature in poetry. The seasons were depicted in the poetry of John Dyer (1699-1757) (in ‘Grongar Hill’, 1726) and Thomas Gray (1716-1771) (in ‘ Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’, 1750). It is clear that this interest in nature and landscape and the individual prepared the way for the Romantics of the second half of the eighteenth century.

The Romantics were writers, mainly poets , who lived during the eighteenth century. Their work emphasised nature, beauty, imagination, revolution and the individual.

In Augustan theatre, the same emphasis on satire existed. However, the Licensing Act of 1737 made it law for all plays to be scrutinised before being allowed to be performed. As a result, numerous plays were banned. Popular plays before the passing of the Act included John Gay’s (1685-1732), The Beggar’s Opera (1728) and Henry Fielding’s Tom Thumb (1730).

The Augustan Age - Key takeaways

Frequently Asked Questions about The Augustan Age

--> what was the most important development of the augustan age.

The development of satire as a means of ridiculing the politics of the day. 

--> When was the Augustan Age?

The 18th century.

--> Why is it called the Augustan Age?

Because it drew on the poetic traditions of the Roman Augustan Age. 

--> What were the main features of the Augustan Age?

The rise of the satirical novel.

--> What was the Augustan Age in British literature?

It was in this period that the novel rose in prominence as a literary form, as well as genres like political satire , especially drama. In other areas, poetry turned inwards, characterised by reflections on the inner person. 

Final The Augustan Age Quiz

Whose deaths mark the end of the Augustan Age?

Show answer

Alexander Pope (died 1744) and Jonathan Swift (died 1745). 

Show question

Which literary movement came after the Augustan Age?

Which famous book did Samuel Johnson write?

The first English dictionary.

Which Roman ruler was the Augustan Age named after?

Caesar Augustus

What genre of literature was generally produced during the Augustan Age?

What is political satire?

Political satire is when humour, in literature, drama, poetry, TV, or film is used to point out the folly or double standards of politicians or their policies. 

Outside literature, what two names were given to the Augustan Age?

The neoclassical  age and the Age of Reason

What is neoclassicism?

Neoclassicism is a movement in the West which draws inspiration from classical antiquity. Neoclassicism can be found across the arts, in painting, theatre, poems, and architecture. 

What is the Age of Reason?

The Age of Reason  is the name for a period of European history in which the scientific method became prominent. 

What are the characteristics of the Augustan Age?

Political satire, pastoral poetry, and satire of other novelists and poets. 

List some of the best-known texts from the Augustan Age.

Gulliver’s Travels  (1726) by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745);  Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). 

Pamela  (mentioned above) in 1740 by Samuel Richardson, Tristram Shandy (1759-67) by Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Julie (1761) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and a novel by Goethe (1749-1832), The Sorrows of Young Werther  (1774). 

Was Augustan poetry characterised by satire?

Which law brought Augustan theatre to a full stop?

The Licensing Act of 1737

Which type of text became more prominent during the Augustan era?

What factor caused the price of books and magazines to come down?

The availability of all kinds of text. 

Which magazine, founded during the Augustan Age, is still in print today?

The Spectator

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Augustan Age: Literary Characteristics

by Md. Rustam Ansari · Published September 30, 2022 · Updated November 18, 2022

essay on the literary characteristics of the age of pope

Matthew Arnold. (Wikipedia)

Matthew Arnold described 18th century as “the age of prose and reason.” The Enlightenment movement stressed on the significance of reason, common sense, wit and intelligent and shaped the tone of much of the Augustan writings. Order, clarity and stylistic decorum were the characteristic traits of the major writers of the age. Major literary figures like Pope, Swift and Addison were less concerned with emotion and imagination than with fact and reason. Alexander Pope was the most representative writer of the age.

The writers of Augustan age tried to imitate the classical forms like epic, ode, epistle. They looked for aesthetic and critical principles in the works of classical authors like Aristotle, Horace, Virgil and Cicero. As Alexander Pope says:

“ Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;

“ To copy Nature is to copy them. ”

However, they stressed more on the style of the ancient classical writers than the content.

Prose underwent massive growth and evolution during the period. Periodicals, essays, satires and novels flourished. Even poetry became prosaic and was used for criticism and satire. Augustan writers also focused on examining and understanding the enduring truths of human nature. In drama, sentimental comedy flourished, in which middle-class protagonist triumphantly overcame a series of moral trials. Best example of the form is Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lover (1722). Ballad opera, farce and pantomime are other prevailing dramatic forms.

The dominance of political parties grouped common people into the supporters of Whigs and Tories. Political discussion became common. Writers and poets were also engaged to represent differing political views. Clubs and coffeehouses peaked in number where people socialized and discussed politics and religion. The famous Scriblerus and Kit-Cat clubs with purely literary associations came into being. New publishing houses also emerged as the number of reading public grew with the rising interest in politics. Decline in drama also raised the demand for more literary output. A number of periodicals also appeared such as The Tatler and The Spectator among others. A new kind of morality came into existence as a reaction to the immorality of the Restoration age.

1. An Age of Prose

A number of practical needs arising from new social and political conditions inspired the necessity of a versatile medium of expression, not only for books, but also for pamphlets, magazines and newspapers. Poetry proved inadequate for such expression, so the eyes turned to prose. In no time prose evolved into the favourite medium of expression, versatile enough to suit various practical needs of the day. Even poetry became more prosaic , when it began to be employed not for the creative works of imagination, but for writing essays, satires and criticisms—exactly the task for which prose was being harnessed. Thus, the greatest literary contribution of the age is the development of various prose styles, so finely polished and perfected that they began to serve for the clear and precise expression of every human interest and emotion.

2. The Rise of Periodicals

essay on the literary characteristics of the age of pope

Front page of the first issue

In 1682, when freedom of press was restored, large numbers of periodicals appeared and flourished in their different fashions. These periodicals also started the trend of advertisements. In 1702, The Daily Courant, the first daily newspaper, was published which continued till 1737. Fierce contests between the Whigs and the Tories during the early years of 18th century led to rapid expansion of the periodical press. Nearly every writer of the period was employed by either of the party to serve their special interests. Defoe, for example, wrote for The Review (1704), the Whig weekly periodical, while Swift contributed to The Examiner , the Tory paper. Among the most famous periodicals of the period was Sir Richard Steele’s The Tatler (1709), which soon started publishing daily literary essays. This tradition was carried farther by Addison and Steele’s The Spectator (1711). Thus, literary journals gained prominence during this period.

3. The Rise of Essays

essay on the literary characteristics of the age of pope

Joseph Addison (Wikipedia)

Dr. Samuel Johnson defined an essay as “ a loose sally of the mind; an irregular indigested piece; not a regular or orderly composition. ” However, this definition is not complete. An essay may be defined as a short unmethodical personal piece of prose, written in a style that is literary, easy and elegant.

English essays originated in Elizabethan age in the miscellaneous work of Lodge, Lyly, Greene and other literary freelancers. But the credit of establishing essay as a literary form goes to Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who published short series of essays in 1597, enlarged in two later editions (1612, 1625). Bacon followed and was inspired by the French writer Montaigne, whose essays appeared about 1580. Bacon wrote short essays on miscellaneous themes, but they lacked skillful handling and style of a professional essayist. They appeared more the musings of a philosopher than the personal opinions of a literary man. Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) surpassed the limitations of Francis Bacon. His essays were written in a pleasant discursive manner, different from the dry and objective attitude of Bacon. His essays act as a link between the styles of Bacon and Addison. In the restoration age, we find Dryden’s Essay on Dramatic Poesy (1668) And Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). But they are too long to be called essays, they’re rather called treatises .

With the development of the periodical press, the essay form quickly evolved to maturity. It gained variety, character, suppleness, and strength . The contribution of Addison and Steele has been significant in this regard. Periodicals like The Tatler (1709) and The Spectator (1711) laid the foundation for the evolution of essay in the hands of the future spectacular writers. Swift, Pope and Defoe also made remarkable contribution to the essay form.

4. Narrative and Miscellaneous Prose

Narrative prose also found expression in the Augustan Age. They were also used for satirical purposes. Most of these narratives were still written as allegories. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels exemplifies sharp and heartless satires. Addison’s The Vision of Mirza is an example of allegorical prose narrative. Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe contributed to the emergence of lengthier prose narratives i.e. novels.

The period also produced a large body of religious, political and philosophical works which were mostly satirical. Swift wrote excellent political prose like The Drapier’s Letter and religious prose like Tale of a Tub.

5. Dominance of Satire

The literature of the preceding Restoration Age was known for it’s tendency towards:

These two tendencies were still present in the current age and can be easily seen in the works of its representative literary figures like Pope and Addison. The third tendency i.e. the prevalence of Satire, also developed in Augustan literature due to the unfortunate amalgamation of politics with literature. Political parties opportunistically used the ever expanding printing press to propagate their ideologies and counter those of the opposing parties. Both Whigs and Tories employed almost all the literary figures of the age to advance their special interests and satirize their enemies. Alexander Pope, though never involved in this rat race, also wrote satires in verse, following the trend of the prose satirists of the age.

Yet satire is, at its best, a destructive kind of criticism, and even though there is no doubt that the satires written by Pope, Swift and Addison are the best in English language, these works cannot be classified as great literature because great literature is fundamentally written with a constructive spirit. However we must acknowledge that these writers were capable of much better things than they ever wrote.

essay on the literary characteristics of the age of pope

Satirical poems were the most common and of high quality. Pope’s personal satire, The Dunciad is the best example. Though we don’t have any political satire comparable to Dryden’s in this age. Satires were written not only in the most popular verse form of the age i.e. heroic couplets, but also in other forms like in octosyllabic couplets by Jonathan Swift, Matthew Prior and John Gay. Alexander Pope also wrote epistolary form of Satire like Epistle of Horace Imitated , in his later years.

Narrative poems were among the best productions of the age. Pope’s translation of Homer is a good example. Matthew Prior and John Gay tried their hands in writing ballads.

Pastoral poems, partly due to the genre’s classic origin, also gained popularity but were mostly of artificial kind. Pope and Philip wrote pastoral poems.

7. The Classical or Pseudo-classical Age

The word “classic” is used in reference to literature in three different senses:

A) to refer, in general, to the writers of the highest rank in any nation. In English literature, it refers to the writers of ancient Greece and Rome, like Homer and Virgil. Besides, the works written following the simple and noble methods of these writers are also referred as having the classic style.

B) the period in the history of a nation’s literature that produced unusual numbers of great writers is called the classic period of that nation. The Augustan Age was the classic or golden age in Rome. Similarly, the age of Queen Anne (early 18th century) is often called the classic age of England.

Dryden and his successors tried to revive the classicism of the ancient Greek and Roman literature by strictly following the rules of writing established by ancient classic writers. They started looking at life critically and emphasized on intellect rather than imagination. They tried to repress emotions and enthusiasm and used precision and elegance as their writing principles.

However they stressed more on the form then the content and thus deviated from the very essence of true classic literature. Hence, these works became sham or pseudo-classics. It, therefore, appears illogical to call the age a classic age. One rather finds it more appropriate to call it Augustan Age–a name chosen by the writers themselves. It is an age that produced several great writers like Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Daniel Defoe, just like the ancient Augustan Age of Horace, Virgil and Cicero.

Drama remained the least prolific form of the age. Restoration Comedy of Manners lost its popularity and as a reaction to it’s profaneness, a new form of comedy, the Sentimental Comedy, was introduced, that was established by Richard Steele, with his The Conscious Lovers (1722) being the best example of the form. In sentimental comedies, the middle-class protagonists triumphantly overcome a series of moral trials. Richard Steele’s The Lying Lover (1703), The Tender Husband (1705), Edward Moore’s The Foundling (1748) are other examples.

Tragedies were not so popular, yet Joseph Addison’s Cato (1714) owes a mention. John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera is a remarkable ballad Opera known for its vitality, music and songs.

Copyright © Md. Rustam Ansari 2021-2022

Tags: Age of Alexander Pope Age of Pope Age of Prose Augustan Age Augustan Age Summary English Honours English Major English notes History of English Literature Literary trends Literature in Augustan Age Summary Trends and tendencies UGC NET UGC NET English

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