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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
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The Restoration Mob: Drones and Dregs                            
Abstract: Attitudes toward the people, the lower orders, the demos in England predictably polarize along monarchical and constitutional lines, but the currency of the term "mob" in the Restoration and the extent to which the image or symbol of the people "together on the march" serve as a watershed or topical sluice for memories and projections of both social chaos and political change make the issue of the mob an especially provocative concern for the Restoration. The Earl of Shaftesbury's Green-Ribbon Club coined the term as a truncation of mobile vulgus, the more classical tag for the thousands of citizen-discontents (merchants, watermen, laborers, apprentices) marshalled by the Whigs for political processions, rallies, and Pope-burnings. As a political entity in the abstract or as the actual, physical tool of modern politics, the mob elicited a good deal of verbally energetic response from the writers of the age. The attention the mob received in polemical literature not only fanned the flames to extant political fires, but set off sparks in related areas of public literary taste.

Michael A. Seidel


Abstract: Sigismonda and Guiscardo illustrates how much Dryden changed the originals of the translated works in the Fables so that the translations express his own ideas. The heroine not only resembles, but seems influenced by the heroines of Dryden's tragedies, especially in the way her sense of her individual worth inspires her to defy tyrannical authority and to make herself into a symbol of personal and political freedom. However, like Dryden's villainous female characters (e.g. Lyndaraxa), Sigismonda also is treated ironically, since her defiance may be motivated by physical desire: we are left uncertain about her character. This uncertainty may be traced to Sigismonda's inability, shared by her father, to rise above sense perception as a source of knowledge. Sense perception (which is not always reliable) leaves the characters uncertain of what goes on in each other's minds and without either a guide to action or knowledge of the afterlife. Their motivations seem arbitrary, though the characters are groping for truth. A coherent pattern of light imagery enforces these themes and demonstrates Dryden's success at making the poem his own.


       Judith Sloman

Abstract: Samuel Johnson viewed The Hind and the Panther, Part I, as flawed because Dryden, setting out to write in the heroic style, did not resist falling into satire. In point of fact, the poem exemplifies a third genre. Dryden has skillfully combined heroic with anti-heroic elements to mirror the tensions of actual human experience. The poem's stylistic complexity thus reflects its conceptual unity.
Rebecca Price Parkin
Abstract: Despite the claims that Daniel Defoe's Roxana is incomplete, an examination of the structure of the novel reveals that the work can be read as a whole. In particular the novel is controlled by two unifying devices. The plot is an elaboration on the story of Hagar and Rachel, allusions to which occur throughout the novel and give significance to the conclusion of the work. The second major device is the character development Roxana undergoes; the novel chronicles the destruction of Roxana's soul. From a religiously educated, proper young lady in the first few pages to an unregenerate whore in the last few, Roxana undergoes a thorough change of values which Defoe defines in terms of the puritan theology with which he was familiar. By the end of her story, Roxana is unable to see beyond immediate physical reality, a sure sign of her spiritual damnation, and her supposed conversion is explicitly defined as nothing more than the alteration of appearances.

C. R. Kropf

Abstract: Young regards Pope's Essay on Man as a misleading argument, based on reason alone, that man's complaints about his condition in this world not only question God's providence but reveal as pride and vanity the belief that God created all things for man. Young's response, based on reason and Christian revelation, is that man's complaints are impious only if man fails to see that God has given him alone in all the created universe the gift of immortality, which makes him capable of endless material, intellectual, and spiritual progress. Young's attitude and his conception of Pope's are revealed in the way each poem confronts man's nature and place in the chain of being and the problem of evil. While Pope sees man as a link whose nature is limited and fixed, Young interprets the chain and the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ in such a way as to support belief in the progressive development of man. While Pope appears to solve the problem of evil by reference to the imperfections in the system of things, Young uses the Christian belief in man as fallen but gloriously redeemed.
Daniel W. Odell
Magistrate or Censor? The Problem of Authority in Fielding's Later Writings Abstract: In the Enquiry into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers (1751), Fielding hesitates between his normal literary role of censor and his actual historical position at the time, as justice of the peace. In the first part of the pamphlet, he adopts a Ciceronian pose, in which "luxury" or the evils of the age will be cured by a restitution of authority and of traditional class distinctions, without legislation. Fielding here alludes to and reenacts the traditional role of the Roman censor, as the maintainer of auctoritas. In the remainder of the pamphlet, Fielding propounds utilitarian "palliatives," which must necessarily be implemented by legislative acts. Here he speaks as a magistrate, exercising the potestas from which the Roman censor is traditionally debarred. In one pose, Fielding encounters the paradox of impotent authority; in the other, of illegitimated power. From these problems, which characterize not only his pamphlets but also Amelia, Fielding escapes, not through irony (with the concomitant genres of comedy and tragedy), but rather through burlesque (with the concomitant genres of romance and farce). This is seen, in Amelia, in the figure of Dr. Harrison, as a fictive censor and as a spokesman for Fielding's social ideals. Precisely because the role of a clergyman affords a truer parallel to that of a censor, Dr. Harrison can speak for a more radical "cure" of social evils than Fielding could plausibly propound in his own role as magistrate. That society refuses to recognize either the "invisible and incorporeal" nature of Harrison's authority, however, or the utilitarian necessity for Fielding's "palliatives" is a burlesque demonstration of the effects of luxury.
Hugh Amory
Abstract: Samuel Johnson's conversation, as it is recorded in Boswell's Life, is remarkable for its wit and its argumentative quality, and should be analyzed in the context of a particular literary tradition, that of the literary lion performing for an audience. Although he sometimes engaged in mere "talk," friendly social discourse, he excelled in "conversation," discursive battle in which he pitted his intellect against that of a challenger, to master, correct, or expose his competition. To explain his determination to show up his company some scholars analyze his character, citing his social insecurity and intellectual ambition, but such psychological analysis is speculation at best. If we turn to Augustan conventions of polite conversation, we find that Johnson violated them all. Instead, it is evident that Johnson operated within a social and intellectual tradition in which a literary lion was encouraged to display his wit and imagination by responding to provocative questions and conversational gambits offered by an audience interested in seeing him prove his intellectual superiority. Johnson delighted in this competition not because he liked to put his fellows down but because he felt it to be his social and intellectual duty, and because he loved to perform.

John Chapman Ward

Abstract: Recent articles by William R. Keast and James L. Battersby have concluded that statements in Johnson's Lives of the English Poets (1779-81) which appear to have been borrowed from "Cibber's" Lives of the Poets (1753) actually represent material which Johnson had himself given earlier to Robert Shiels, who compiled "Cibber's" Lives. These studies stress the lack of originality in Shiels's work and the close relationship of Johnson and Shiels in the period before 1753. A comparative study of the biographies of James Thomson appearing in the two works casts considerable doubt on this interpretation as a general conclusion. Shiels put together in his "Life of Thomson" a respectable body of biographical and critical commentary which there is no reason to believe originated with Johnson or any other outside source. He was more familiar with Thomson's career and work and wrote in greater substance and detail than did Johnson. Johnson, under pressure of time and uninclined at so late a stage in his career to do much research, relied heavily on the lives of Thomson by Shiels and Patrick Murdoch (1762). He borrowed both factual and critical material, sometimes simply abbreviating or paraphrasing Shiels's longer statements. Johnson also used information in his "Life of Thomson" which he had obtained from Richard Savage prior to 1743. The fact that this information is not found in Shiels's work of 1753 further suggests that Johnson was not a prime source for the work. In at least one significant instance, then, Johnson did borrow fairly heavily from Shiels.

Hilbert H. Campbell

Abstract: Though Boswell is the world's greatest biographer, critics have consistently patronized Boswell the man. This attitude of condescension, notorious in Macaulay and persistent even in the most recent criticism, suggests two questions: 1) what did Boswell's contemporaries think of him? 2) is there something in Boswell's self-presentation that accounts for the confusion of writer and person? Boswell's contemporaries tended to divide sharply in their opinion of him, the more perceptive recognizing that as well as being an agreeable friend and companion he was also a great writer. Yet Boswell, in spite of a chameleon-like capacity for adapting himself to his company, sometimes misjudged his contemporaries' reactions to him, especially to his frankness in his works about himself and others. More important in accounting for the confusion of man and writer is Boswell's skill and technique as a biographer. Using a plain or even "naive" style, Boswell often presents himself as the ingénu, a role which polarized his readers as sympathetic or condescending long before Macaulay's description of him. Boswell risked this characterization as one element in his complex portrayal of Johnson, because he assumed that his readers could make the elementary distinction between man and writer.

Frank Brady

Abstract: Chatterton, who recognized and condemned his own personal pride, consciously presented his hero Aella as immoderately greedy for fame and renown. Yet in the end Chatterton failed to bring his hero to a purgative knowledge of self. This imperfection in an otherwise Aristotelian tragedy may reflect its creator's own flaw. Chatterton's celebration of the flawed Aella is brought into clear relief by his treatment of Celmonde, one who despises honor, as a despicable contrast to the honor-loving Aella. It is probably an indication of Chatterton's own refusal to face the pain of humbling himself that, although he was acutely aware of his own flaw, he allowed Aella hardly an inkling of his.

Irvin B. Kroese


Recent Studies in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century

Robert Rogers, Richard N. Ramsey



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