18th century English literature

Topics: 18th century, London, Centuries Pages: 5 (1695 words) Published: May 7, 2014
HISTORIC & CULTURAL BACKGROUND OF ENGLAND IN THE 18TH CENTURY The Silver Age of the European Renaissance
1. There was a sense of relief and escape, relief from the strain of living in a mysterious universe and escape from the ignorance and barbarism of the Gothic centuries –not referring only to Gothic literature. The dark period provokes that people want to change and improve their lifestyle when they entered the 18th century. There was a general desire to emancipate from the dark aspects of rural and dark living. 2. Sanity, culture, and civilization had revived. There was a general feeling of emancipation from historic specters, a sense of security from the upheavals of the Civil War period. 3. Dryden wrote in 1668 “We have been so long together bad Englishmen that we had not leisure to be good poets”. This quote exemplifies that 17th century men were occupied with complete other things than humanities. “Nature”–philosophical concept/religious concept that rule the 18th century. Western thinking– has been a controlling idea in the Western thought ever since antiquity, but it has probably never been so universally active as it was from the Renaissance to the end of the 18th century. The laws of “Nature” are the laws of reason; they are always and everywhere, and the axioms of mathematics they have only to be presented in order to be acknowledged as just and right by all men. This was the Golden Age of natural theology and deistical freethinking: Spinoza, Boyle, Locke, etc. During the Christian centuries religion has rested upon revelation; now it rested largely upon “Nature” and even the Orthodox who retain the supernatural basis felt that faith must be grounded firmly upon “Nature” before one had recourse t super-Nature. The 18th century is the century of Reason. If we want to apply reason, it has to be stable. Everything ought to be structured in logic axioms. It is the Golden Age of liberal thinking, also in religion which one had the power and gave divine explanations but they will not provide the answers anymore, but science will do. The scientific movement of the 17th and 17th centuries: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Newton produced a “climate of opinion” in which supernatural and occult explanations of natural phenomena ceased to satisfy. The Universe came to be regarded as the Great Machine, working by rigidly determined laws of material causation –laws of Physics; everything has a cause. The supernatural, in both its divine and its diabolical forms, was banished from Nature. Another relevant issue: the state power passed from the king gradually to the Parliament and the Cabinet ministers. A huge expansion abroad of British colonies in Asia, Africa and North America caused the Industrial Revolution. The basis consists of democratic principles. ! London became more and more the center of the literary and intellectual life of the country and writers came to look upon “polite” London society as their chief, if not their sole, audience. The opposite of natural living, cultivated people lived in London. Aristocracy in the old sense has been transmuted into gentility and wealth becomes the main motivating power in society –aristocracy regarded as gentile; educated and cultured people. Wealth becomes the motor of society -> new social class that centers in commercialization. Economics and Ethics are finally separated. The new economists prove to their own satisfaction that the individual desire to make money can produce in the long run nothing but good, and poverty can only be the result of idleness. In London, the coffeehouse replaces the Court as the meeting place of the men of culture. The journalist makes his appearance, and poetry becomes social and familiar. There was a correlation, between social class and education and between elegance –which was related to education; e.g. people went to the theatre– and learning that has not always existed in subsequent periods –people wanted to be...
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