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Restoration Notes



The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1800)

I.          Background—Literally, restoration means to restore to an original state. In British history, the Restoration refers to the coming back of the British monarchy and the Stuart rulers after the failure of the Puritan Commonwealth.  For some writers of the times, especially the Puritans Milton and Bunyan, the Restoration meant threatened or actual jail terms and fines, but for others, the Restoration was a welcome change from the oppressiveness of the Puritans.

II.          Rulers of the Ages

            A.      Stuart Rulers

                     1.   Charles II, son of executed Charles I (1660-1685)

                     2.   James II, brother of Charles II (1685-1688)

         3.   William II and Mary, daughter of James II and her Dutch husband (1689-1702)

         4.   Anne, sister of Mary (1702-1714)

B.      When Anne died childless, the throne could have passed to the son of James II, but because of religious and political reasons, this was undesirable and impossible.  Therefore, the throne passed to a more distant relative, the German Elector of Hanover.

         1.   George I (1714-1727)

         2.   George II, son of George I (1727-1760)

         3.   George III, grandson of George II, the first “English” Hanoverian (1760-1820)

III.         Areas of societal change and conflict

            A.      Religion

                     1.   When Charles II came to the throne, he claimed to be a devoted son of the Anglican Church, when in reality, he was a secret Catholic.  He had a Catholic wife (a Portuguese princess), whom he generally ignored and many mistresses, both Catholic and Protestant.  He was known as the “Merry Monarch” or “old Rowley” because of his reputation.  Many feared he admired his cousin, the Catholic Louis XIV of France, too much; in fact, Charles did sign a secret treaty with Louis promising to reinstate the Catholic Church for financial support.

                     2.   Test Act—all government officers has to renounce the Catholic Church and receive Communion in the Anglican Church.  James II lost his job over this one.

                     3.   When James II came to the throne, he tried to force religious freedom for Catholics and radical Protestants through the government.  Besides being an open Catholic, James took as a second wife a Catholic who bore him a son, thus ruining the nation’s hope for succession of his Protestant daughters, Mary and Anne.  When James tries to force Anglican bishops to advocate religious “freedom”—actually preference for the Catholic Church—the nation rebelled.  James sent away his wife and child, and then left England himself.  The “power brokers” of the nation invited William and Mary to take the throne, thus ending the rule of the last Catholic ruler of England.

            B.      Disasters

                     1.   the Plague of 1665—seen by some people as punishment for ending the Commonwealth.

                     2.   the Great Fire of 1666—a large part of London was burned to the ground before it was contained (partly by blowing up surrounding buildings to keep it from spreading).  Many people claimed that the fires was set by Catholics; others said that it, like the plague the before, was punishment for the sins of the nation, especially the sins of the court, since the courtiers were wild and Charles II kept many mistresses.

            C.      Political plots and plans

                     1.   the Dutch Wars—a series of wars with Holland over trade.  Charles took the opportunity of the Second Dutch War to make secret deals with Louis XIV.

                     2.   Popish plot—Titus Oates, a known liar, found out or made up the story of a plot to kill Charles II and replace him with the Catholic James II, a useless idea since Charles himself was Catholic.  The only reason the story was given any credence was some coincidences that occurred about the same time—murders, incriminating letters, etc.

                     3.   The Succession—The Earl of Shaftesbury, who did not want James on the throne, tried to push James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, one of Charles II’s illegitimate children, to the front of the succession.  This failing, Monmouth tried to seize the throne and was executed.

                     4.   The Stuart Pretenders—had he not been the Catholic son of a Catholic father, James Frances Edward Stuart would have been king.  His family never forgot this, and in 1715 and 1745, there were two attempts to restore the Stuarts to the throne.  The first attempt failed because James was abroad and did not unite with his Scottish supporters until a full sixteen months after his support was strongest.  The second attempt, by his son, Charles Edward, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” actually succeeded in invading England, but was forced back by a well-trained army led by a son of George II.  The Scots were defeated, and Charlie escaped, hunted by British soldiers and Scots.

                     5.   The Hanovers—they were Germans and actually thought more of their electorate of Hanover than they did of the British throne.  George I could not speak English, and George II was little better.  They left the ruling of the country in the hands of ministers and Parliament, and that is where it remains today.  George III is best remembered for losing the American colonies and going mad in the end.

IV.        Characteristics of the Restoration

            A.      A time of change—the court was a vast contrast to the drabness of the Puritan government.

            B.      Everything French was imitated—fashion, furniture, manners, ideas, etc.

            C.      The Clergy was often ridiculed

            D.      Fashions were bright and luxurious for men and women.

            E.      Men wore powdered, curled wigs, and women often wore huge decorative hairdos.

            F.      Morals were lax

            G.      Many merchants became rich.

            H.      Puritans, displaced from pulpits, became teachers, tutors, and founded academies.

            I.       Theatres were reopened, but with actress and a new type of play, the comedy of manners which was filled with sexual connotations.

V.         Characteristics of the Eighteenth Century

            A.      Age of reason—reason and common sense dominated the thinking and writing of this period.  This attitude of mind resulted from three situations:

                     1.   advancement of science—three terms—reason, natural law, and progress—caused as much excited then as astronaut, spaceship, and rocket do today.  Scientists such as Newton had ushered in the age of Enlightenment. Reason was the key factor.

                     2.   Reaction against the moral license of the Restoration period.

                     3.   Material interests of a growing British Empire.

            B.      Wealth, power, and prestige went to the heads of the middle class.

            C.      Costumes were elaborate

            D.      Homes looked like public institutions.

            E.      Prose became the preferred form of expression.

            F.      More regard for form than feeling (little emotion)

            G.      More people lived in cities.

            H.      Improved inventions—cloth manufacturing, pottery factories, etc.

            I.       Growth of trade and colonies—building of the empire.

            J.       Wars were not threatening London—most serious was the American Revolution (1775-1781)

            K.      Patriotism was high.

            L.      The Whigs, political liberals, dominated.

            M.     Characterizes as the “most agreeable society England has ever known.” In contrast

                     1.   wages of factory workers had not kept pace with the cost of living.

                     2.   In London, the inequality of the distribution of wealth was apparent.

                     3.   Ragged unfortunates were found in the narrow lanes and crowded streets.

                     4.   The noises of street vendors’ cries, church bells, wandering musicians, and whines of beggars filled the air.

                     5.   Many sounds, smells, and general confusion led many people to travel by river.

            N.      Entertainment:  There was a variety of entertainment for Beaux and Belles—plays, Italian operas, orchestras, Vauxhall or Raneleigh gardens—dining, drinking, watching fireworks, dancing, gaming tables.  All Londoners enjoyed the “spectator sports” of the day—the antics of the insane, inmates at Bedlam, public floggings and hangings.

VI.        The common meeting places of both the critics and those criticized were the coffeehouses.  At their peak, during the reign of Queen Anne, a partial list of these establishments runs to nearly 500 names.

            A.      They were the chief organs through which the public opinion of the metropolis vented itself.

            B.      Every man of the upper and middle classes went daily to his coffeehouse to learn news and to discuss it.

            C.      Every rank and profession had its headquarters

                     1.      Will’s Coffeehouse—Dryden, Pope, and Addison, the place of poets, critics, and men of letters.

                     2.      St. James’s Coffee House—The Whigs

                     3.      Cocoa Tree Chocolate House—The Tories

                     4.      The Grecian Coffeehouse—The world of scholarship

                     5.      Truby’s Coffee House—the clergy

                     6.      Lloyd’s Coffee House—the merchants

                     7.      White’s Coffee House—the dandies

            D.      Coffeehouses set London apart from all other cities.

            E.      No one was excluded from the coffeehouses—a condition that hastened the union of the middle class and the aristocracy.

            F.      Macaulay tells us in his History of England that it was in the ”eternal for stench” of the tobacco-filled coffeehouses that the boorish middle class could rub shoulders with England’s men of letters and with the members of the hereditary aristocracy.

VII.       English influences on American culture—the Eighteenth Century coincides with our colonial and revolutionary periods.

            A.      Architecture and furnishings—formality, precision, and balance—New Classical homes and buildings; because of the English law of primogeniture, younger sons could not inherit the ancestral estate home.  Therefore, many imitations were carved in the New World.

                     1.      public buildings—Palladian style in England; often called Federal style in America.  Characterized by a high central dome, porticos on four sides, roof supported by columns. 

                              Examples—St. Paul’s Cathedral (original destroyed in the fire of 1666; was designed by Christopher Wren; Capitol building in Washington; court houses)

                     2.      domestic architecture—Georgian Style—tall, three storied mansions found mainly in New England and Virginia (when it came South, the tall porticos and porches were added to form the Southern Colonial look)

                     3.      Furnishings—many homes had cabinets, chairs, tables, and four-poster beds; common names were Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton

                     4.      Chinaware and Earthenware—Wedgwood.

            B.      Thinking—Our private enterprise system is a reflection of the work of the English economist Adam Smith.  Jefferson’s work on the Declaration of Independence reflects the attitudes of the British thinker, John Locke.

            C.      Literary forms—newspapers, magazines, and novels have their origins in eighteenth century England.

 VIII.      Literary Works

A.   Notes on “A Modest Proposal” by Swift

§         The purpose of “A Modest Proposal” is to satirize English policy in Ireland.

§         Swift conveys his message by using exaggeration to emphasize the need to help the Irish.

§         The deeper meaning of Swift’s proposal is his feeling of sympathy for the Irish.

§         The narrator of “A Modest Proposal” assumes the role of economic planer acting for the benefit of England.

§         The narrator claims that landlords will benefit from his proposal because they will be able to sell excess children.

§         The narrator anticipates several advantages of selling babies. Selling babies for “food” will decrease the number of papists, decrease the number of beggars, and decrease the number of poor people.

§         The proposal describes lessening “the number of papists,” which is another name for the Roman Catholics.

§         “A Modest Proposal” can best be characterized as an indictment of England.

§         Swift probably wanted his readers to react to his proposal with outrage, amusement, and cynical agreement.

             B.   Literary Elements in “A Modest Proposal”

                        Word connotation

§         The connotation of a word refers to the association and feelings that a word suggests.

o        Example:  Hush and Shut up mean the same thing, but “hush” suggests politeness and not rudeness, while “shut up” is often seen as rude and people tend to get upset when they are told to “shut up”

§         Connotation helps create the overall tone of work of literature.

§         Swift’s diction in “A Modest Proposal” creates a tone that is harsh, especially toward the frivolous upper class.

§         Swift’s attitude toward the treatment of Ireland’s poor was horrified.  This essay was his way of mocking the unreasonable rents and callousness of English landlords during a time of scanty harvests in Ireland.  Ireland was crowded with beggars and hungry children, and most English people ignored the plight of these people. Swift ruthlessly satirizes England’s lack of compassion through his narrator’s commentary on ways to eliminate the poor.  The narrator fails to consider the Irish as human beings, as did many English people during Swift’s time.

             C.   Notes on The Rape of the Lock

§         The title refers to the theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair.

§         Umbriel brings sobs, grief, sighs, and passions from the Cave of Spleen.

§         The sylphs try to prevent the theft of the lock.

§         During the fight between Belinda and the Baron, Belinda throws snuff at the Baron.

§         The lock rises into the stars.

§         The line “Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers” is an example of personification.

§         The meaning of the couplet “But when to mischief mortals bend their will, / How soon they find fit instruments of ill!” is that once you decide to be bad, the rest is easy.

§         Pope’s point in the poem is summarized in the line “What mighty contests rise from trivial things.”

§         The heroic couplet as used and perfected by Pope normally features a complete clause or sentences, a long, drawn out description, and a clever rhyme.

§         The unmarried aristocrats are the “heroes and nymphs” in the story.

§         The characters pass their time gossiping about other people, flirting with each other, and playing card games.

§         In parts of the poem, such as lines 6 and 8, the poet deliberately includes trivial details as well as important matters of state.

§         Belinda wants the Baron’s plan to succeed.

§         A mock epic parodies and epic by treating a trivial matter in a lofty manner.

§         For Pope, wit was an admirable quality.

§         The Baron’s goal provides good evidence that The Rape of the Lock is a mock epic because his desire for Belinda’s lock is trivial and ridiculous. Pope mocks the Baron’s passion and the reaction to his “crime” by presenting such follies in the style of epic poetry.  The theft of the curl is told in dignified, grandiose language. Intricate figures of speech are also common in the poem. Such eloquence is clearly overblown for a tale about the theft of a piece of hair.

§         Pope’s use of satire condemns shallowness, pettiness, and fashion.  For example:

o        Pope condemns shallowness by pointing out how removed from reality these people are. He talks about judges condemning men to hang so that jurymen can eat.

o        Pope condemns pettiness in his description of the “war” between Belinda and the Baron, fought with scissors and snuff.

o        Pope condemns meaningless fashion with the overall theme of the poem, pointing out the absurdity of battling over a lock of hair.