The 18th century called an age of Prose and Reason
Question: Why is the 18th century called an age of Prose and Reason?
Or, how would you portray the 18th century as an age of Satire?
The Neo-classical Age (1660-1785) is well known as an age of satire or prose and reason. According to Mathew Arnold (1822-1888), this age is the age of prose writing. In this age, all writers wrote their works from a satirical point of view focusing on different aspects of English society. To prove this age as an age of prose, reason, and satire, we have to analyze the literary works of Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Addison, and Steele.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Jonathan Swift is one of the greatest writers of this period. He was famous as a fictional writer and satirist. His famous work is “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726). In his literary work, he satirizes politics and the futile effort of scientific inventions. He shows how to lead the life in a correct way by his wit, humor, and irony. By his works, we are informed that the Neo-classical period is an age of prose, reason, and satire.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
He was the representative poet of the Augustan age (1702-1745) of English literature. He is famous for satirical verse. His remarkable works are “An Essay on Criticism” (1711) and “The Rape of the Lock” (1712). In his works, he satirizes so-called scholars, fashionable ladies, and upper-class urban people. He wrote poetry in prose style based on satire. That is why the 18th century is called an age of prose, reason, and criticism.
John Dryden (1631-1700)
According to critics, John Dryden is the father of English critical theory or criticism. His vital works are “The Essay of Dramatic Poesy” (1668) and “All for Love” (1678). All of his writings are a vast vessel of satire. Though he is called a poet but Mathew Arnold has called him a prose writer due to his satirical prose style in poetry. So, an age that produces a poet and critic like Dryden cannot be anything but an age of prose and reason.
Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and Richard Steele (1672-1729)
They were two bosom friends and journalists. Their famous works are “The Tatler” and “The Spectator” (1709-1712) that were daily publication. These contain 555 essays in which Addition wrote 271 essays and Steele wrote 284 essays based on satire. Addison also explains to his readers what the purpose of the periodical is. He clearly states that the purpose is to “enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality.” For Addison, it is not enough just to be moral rather you have to be witty and moral. Without being reasonable, nobody can be wise.
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Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) was a famous novelist. His famous works are “Robinson Crusoe” (1719). William Congreve (1670-1729) was a playwright and poet. Edmund Burke was a satirical orator and parliamentarian. Dr. Samuel Johnson was a biographer and critic. All are satirists.
In termination, all the literary figures of the Neo-classical period were less of more satirist. Observing their literary works, we can say that the 18th century truly is the age of prose, reason, and satire.