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Essay/Term paper: 18th literature

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Book Reports

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21 Febuary, 1997

18th Century Literature

The 18th century is a period of great literary works. The styles are different throughout

the period, but the unity of the work is still present. Much of this period focused on public and

general themes, until the Pre-Romantic era when literary works began to focus upon personal

expression. 18th century literature can be broken down into three main parts: the Restoration,

the Age of Pope, and Pre-Romantics.

The literature of the Restoration period covers a time span from Charles's recovery of

the throne to the years until the expulsion of James II in 1688 or until the death of John Dryden

in 1700. The literature of the Restoration was characterized by wit and elegance influenced by

French classical taste. This period pertained to traditional values and "wit". The Diary of

Samuel Pepys written by Samuel Pepys and A Journel of the Plague Years by Daniel Defoe are

just a few examples of literary works from the Restoration Period. The Diary of Samuel Pepys is

also an example of journalistic fiction. In the excerpts from Pepys' diary, he shows the historical

background and culture of the 18th century. The reader is able to understand the values and

ethics of the time through the description detailed by Samuel Pepys and the reader is also

exposed to the life a man in the 1660's. A Journal of the Plague Year is an example of historical

fiction. Defoe uses wide ranges of vivid descriptions including verisimilitudes and imagery, to

give the reader a realistic feel of what took place through the eyes of a witness. This literary

time period also included works from John Dryden, who used elegance and cleverness in his

writings. This period ended about 1700, and enabled a new age of literature.

In literary history, the first half of the 18th century is known as the Age of the Pope. In

this age, the writers expressed views of the public and restrained from writing personal topics or

expressions. In the Age of the Pope or the Neoclassical Age, most of the literary themes were of

social, political, and moral life. The Rape of the Lock and Epigrams by Alexander Pope, and "A

Modest Proposal" and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift are some examples from the Age of

Pope or the Neoclassical age. Most of the literary works in this period used satirical styles to

express a concern in society. "Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux", from The

Rape of the Lock shows an example of pathos a satirical device used in this age of literature.

Jonathan Swift also uses satire in Gulliver's Travels to mock the Parliament, and in "Modest

Proposal" he writes about eating children as a solution to a socioeconomic problem. After the

writings, literature began to focus on private expressions rather than public thoughts and


The Age of Johnson or the Pre-romantic era was shown in various ways. Characteristics

of the age included ballads, a new taste for ruins, Gothic castles and tales of mystery, and secret

societies interested in magic. Pre Romantics wrote about a mood in which the inner world of

wonder and strange feelings that led to private thoughts and emotions. Selecte Poems by

William Blake and the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray are some

examples of Pre Romantic literature. Both of this literary works focused on the self, rather than

on the society or public, which was the beginning of the Romantic Period.

The 18th century was known as the Restoration Period. The people of this period

sought unity and stability in everything. The people wanted to unify and stablize life,

government, and even maybe their literature. 18th century was filled with many different types of

devices and styles of literature. The three major literary periods of this era were the Restoration,

the Age of the Pope, and the Pre Romanitics.

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