THE AUGUSTAN AGE (1700-1750)
The term “The Augustan Age” was primarily used by the great poet Oliver Goldsmith to designate the period of the early 18th century. The writers of this period tried to imitate the characteristics of Virgil, Horace, Cicero, and other writers of Augustus Caesar in Rome. This Age is also termed as “the Age of Pope” and “the Neo-classical age”. It is so evident since we have had the greatest writers of all time in prose, poetry, and drama during this age.
Often the term “Classical Age” is also used for this period because the writers of this age were governed by set principles and rules. They adopted and regarded qualities such as restraint, simplicity, dignity, serenity, repose, and reason as something very critical in life.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AUGUSTAN AGE
- The period is primarily termed as “the Classical Age” of English Literature as the reason was supreme and the general belief of the human mind in the advancement was well established. Also, social settlements became more significant than individual agreements.
- This period was called “the Age of Pope” because Pope was known as the most prominent poet during this period. He had reflected the qualities of the new school in the most perfect form. He was the only writer who carried forward the new tradition at its peak.
- The period is also called “the age of reason and good sense” as the idea of enlightenment and understanding were seen to be developed among citizens.
- The faith in religious and philosophical thought was less in comparison to beliefs based on reason and proportion. People during this age were looked out on as being rational.
- Eagerness and passion were being bottled up by the poets of this era. The motivation was gone in technical skills.
- The literary works written in this era were mostly witty and fancy, and devoid of using sentiment, desire, and inspired energy.
- ‘Prose’ was seen to be a very common method of writing during this age. Meanwhile, the predominance of prose can be seen in various fields. One can even find the essence of prose in poetry.
- The writers of the Augustan era were the imitators of the French. So, the stimulus of French literature can be seen throughout the works of this time.
- One of the most significant features of this era was a belief, that works written in this period should contain the elements of human nature. The character portrayal of behavioral manner represented by a human was the first concern of writing.
- Satire became an important form during this period. Satire against the female sex can be seen in the mock-heroic epic “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope is a fine example of this demonstration, not based on sin but against dullness and personal enemies.
- The writers of this age were not a follower of a romantic theme. In the form of poetry, a ‘heroic couplet’ was perceived as the main mode of articulation. The language of the poetry became loud, artificial, calm, rational, and intellectual.
- The major literary figures of the age are Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, and many more.
THE PROMINENT WRITERS OF THE AUGUSTAN AGE
DANIEL DEFOE (1660-1731)
Born in the late 17th century, Daniel Defoe became one of the greatest known writers of the Augustan Age. He was also a trader, journalist, pamphleteer, and a spy by profession. Known as the pioneer of periodical essays, Defoe has carved his place as a great essayist in the world of English Literature. His most important works were published between 1704 to 1713 under the newspaper called “The Review”. Defoe’s most famous work is “Robinson Crusoe” which was published in 1719 and “Moll Flanders” in 1722.
RICHARD STEELE (1672-1729) and JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719)
Born in 1672, both Richard Steele and Joseph Addison are known for their periodical essays. They are considered as the actual initiator of periodical essays. Both Steele and Addison were prominent for their famous journals ‘The Tatler’ and ‘The Spectator’. Steele was the only creator of ‘The Tatler’ which got published in 1709 and ‘The Spectator’ was published in collaboration with Addison.
Richard Steele was well-known for his other works also. His first work, “The Christian Hero” was published in 1701. Numerous works of Richard were important for the sentimental comedies. Later, he had published several works in the form of political pamphlets and periodicals like, “The Englishman”, and “The Lover”.
Joseph Addison is also known for his most famous work Cato, a tragedy that was published in 1712. Addison’s friendship with Steele favored him in participation in the magazine called “The Tatler” and “The Spectator”.
JONATHAN SWIFT (1667 – 1745)
Born in the late 17th century, Jonathan Swift is known as an Anglo-Irish playwright, satirist, poet, pamphleteer, essayist, and Anglican cleric. Jonathan Swift is a prominent writer of the Augustan age who was famous for his controversial works like The Modest Proposal, The Battle of Books, A Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, The Journal to Stella, and The Drapier Letters. Most of his prose is in a satirical tone with obvious humor and irony. In other words, he was the greatest prose satirist of the Augustan age.
ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)
Another important philosopher, poet, and representative satirist of the Augustan Age in the field of 18th-century prose. Pope was a public figure. Pope was also considered the greatest master of the classical school. He is regarded as the master of the heroic couplet during the Restoration Period. Through the use of ‘heroic couplet’ in his mock-epic “The Rape of the Lock” this form came in recognition during Augustan Age. His major work “An Essay on Criticism” was published when he was just 23 years old. Pope became rich and famous after he translated the works of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” from Greek Homeric to English. His works were published by his friends Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. Pope died in Pope’s villa on 30th May 1744 because of dropsy and asthma.
HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754)
The greatest novelist of the 18th century took to novel writing after a career as a dramatist, journalist, lawyer, and magistrate. “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling” is his masterpiece. In the course of writing “Tom Jones”, Fielding has also provided his insights on the art of writing a novel. Fielding in his works talks about the contrast between social classes of British society.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH (1728-1774)
Considered among one of the chief poets of the Augustan Age, Oliver Goldsmith is also known as the transitional poet of this age. Goldsmith is an Anglo-Irish playwright, poet, and novelist of the 18th century. Lord Clare was the patron of Goldsmith.
Goldsmith’s contribution can be seen in many periodicals, pamphlets, and journals, like “Critical Review” (1756-1817), which was first edited by Tobias Smollett, and “The Monthly Review”. Also, there was a magazine called “The Bee” which was first introduced by him on 6th October 1759 which ran only for 8 weeks. In this magazine, he had published essays like “An Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe” and “The Citizen of the World”. Some important poems written by Goldsmith are “The Traveller” (1764), “The Deserted Village” (1770), “The Hermit” (1765), and so on. A comic satire written by him is “An Elegy in the Death of a Mad Dog”.