Restoration Literature: Political, Social and Economic Background to Restoration England

Restoration Literature: Political, Social and Economic Background to Restoration England

1660 – the Restoration of monarchy in England. Charles II comes to the throne from exile, he is later followed by his brother James II who is eventually deposed and exiled as a result of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Relative order restored:

government to be based on a partnership of king and parliament
the House of Lords and bishoprics were restored
the army disbanded, having secured back pay and pensions
Puritans driven out of public life by a series of laws passed between 1661 and 1665. Many imprisoned, like John Bunyan, author of the Pilgrim’s Progress
Cromwell’s body hanged, his followers persecuted
The two last Stuarts are the kings who attempted absolutist rule and who were steering towards Catholicism against the will of the Parliament. The Revolution of 1688 led to the establishment of a king by contract: William of Orange and Mary were parliamentary monarchs
Charles II – lover of pleasure and women, but also actively supporting arts, playhouses and sciences – French and Italian musicians, painters from the Low Countries, founded the Royal Society.
Economic situation: enormous growth in England, the so-called Commercial Revolution – growing trade with the colonies. The fortunes amassed will be important in the 18th c. Industrial Revolution.

Politics, philosophy and science (Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Newton):

Political writing:

Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) written in the times of the Civil War and advocating a rational social contract between the absolute ruler and the governed people.
Man as naturally determined by aggression than love, selfishness than generosity, by self-interest
To escape this the idea of Commonwealth is necessary – people must submit themselves to government.

The state as a body composed of individuals upon common agreement:
society is a population under common authority which may not tolerate opposition
Neither the royalist nor republican cause is clearly supported, but the book is also anti-clerical, and thus supportive of the English union between the Church and the State.

Science and the Scientific Revolution:

Earlier, in 1620s, the scientific method is established by Francis Bacon advocated scepticism and empiric reasoning: moving from empiric analysis of individual facts to general conclusions, the role of scientific experiments stressed (abandoning a priori thinking).
The general idea, true for science and philosophy of the period is that most beliefs rest upon opinions and thus people should not hunger for some ultimate, inaccessible truth,
Royal Society (for the Improving of Natural Knowledge) is founded in 1662 – based upon the ideas of scientific pursuit presented by Bacon in his utopian New Atlantis (1627), a text presenting an island governed by scientists.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) revolutionizing science.
Of humble background, but educated at Cambridge, later rising to the position of the master of mint and President of the Royal Society. Unmarried, adverse to luxury, had few friends.

Of formidable intellect – made enormous contributions to mathematics, dynamics, astronomy, optics, natural philosophy, but also theology, biblical chronology, alchemy and the hermetic tradition. Chief works are Philosophiae Naturalis, Principia Mathematica, Opticks, Artithmetica Universalis.
Newtonianism was the dominant philosophy of the Enlightenment, influencing not only science, but making ways into the poetry of Alexander Pope (next week) and Edward Young, influencing also William Blake (who poetically imagined Newton as a giant).

Philosophy (Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes should also be called philosophers):18th c. philosophy shuns metaphysics. Instead it is empiricist, based upon experience.
John Locke (1632-1704), educated at Oxford where he also held academic positions.
Fled England in result of involvement in the Shaftsbury Plot but returned during the Glorious Revolution.
Empiricist philosopher (continuing the empiricism of Bacon).

Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) – examination of the human mind and its powers of understanding: the source of ideas is experience not innate ideas.

Also a discussion of language – words have meaning insofar as they stand for ideas in the mind and they are signs not of things but of ideas. Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas.
Also published on religion and on government, combating the divine right of kings; civil state is for him the result of the contract (like the Glorious Revolution) and the sovereign is not above the law.

Human mind is tabula rasa at birth – experience crucial in development.
Immensely influential and widely read – he appears throughout the literature of the 18th c. Writers of the period will describe the observable world rather than offer subjective interpretations of the workings of psyche.
His lines of thought will be continued and developed in the 18th c. by David Hume and George Berkeley.

From Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690):
If by this inquiry into the nature of the understanding, I can discover the powers thereof; how far they reach; to what things they are in any degree proportionate; and where they fail us, I suppose it may be of use, to prevail with the busy mind of man to be more cautious in meddling with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things which, upon examination, are found to be beyond the reach of our capacities. . . . Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.

Literature:
The themes of the Restoration literature can be described as unheroic and distrustful of deep convictions:
feeling is distrusted because it implied strong convictions which produced the rifts of the Civil War;
imagination is distrusted because it suggests something wild, uncouth and fanatical.
The subjects are the themes of town not of the countryside: politics, high society, topics discussed in clubs and coffee-houses.
Clubs and coffeehouses as the meeting places for literary people also required decorum.
These were informal meeting places, first founded in 1652, by the turn of the century there were hundreds of them.
They functioned as a new public sphere, a place where men could drink coffee/tea/chocolate, smoke and exchange views and opinions. Scepticism and freethinking.
Scepticism and freethinking flourish among the men of letters. Distrust towards authorities (what authority could be safe if a king could be executed?).

The rise of the press – press was also read there, growing into prominence in the 18th c.

Various literary modes and ideas in the times of Restoration:
the poetry of Milton,
the elegance of Dryden’s poems,
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress,
witty and bawdy comedies in city theatre.

The literary forms: occasional verse, comedy, tragedy, heroic play, ode, satire, translation, critical essay.

John Dryden (1631 – 1700) is the most prominent figure, bringing modern literature to England from the 1660s to 1700s. He combined a cosmopolitan outlook with the richness and variety he found in Chaucer and Shakespeare. As a critic spread the claim that English literature could compete with the best literatures of the past.
He came from a pretty affluent family, he got a gentleman’s education, first at a Westminster school, then at Cambridge
Although initially he supported Cromwell (Heroic Stanzas – on the death of Cromwell, 1659), later he remained totally loyal to the Stuart Kings.
As a poet he is not solitary and subjective but a citizen of the world commenting publicly on matters of public concern. Every important aspect of the life of his times – political, religious, philosophical, artistic finds expression in his writings
Political poems – they are most typically occasional poems, which celebrate particular public events (a coronation, a military victory, ); they written for the nation rather than for the self. Two achievements of this kind are: Annus Mirabilis (1667) – a poem which celebrates the English naval victory over the Dutch, the fortitude of the people and the King during the Great Fire.
Between 1664 – 1681, Dryden was mainly a playwright. The newly opened theatres needed a modern repertory. He wrote plays which pleased his audience, largely drawn from the court circles. He produced rhymed heroic plays, where noble characters make difficult choices between love and honour. His comedies are mostly about intrigues worked out by lovers.
Dryden was also engaged in the theory of theatre and criticism. He studied the works of ancient Greece and Rome and modern England and France in order to found principles for a new drama that the age demanded. (1668 , An Essay of Dramatic Poesy)
His abilities both as a poet and dramatist brought him to the attention of the King, who in1668 made him poet laureate and later the historiographer royal
1678 – 1681 He discovered his talent for formal verse satire. Out of the stresses occasioned by the Popish Plot (1678) came his major political satire Absalom and Achitophel. He mastered the heroic couplet by means of which he was attacking by a logical argument or using it for a lyrical feeling and rapid narrative.

In 1682, he published Religio Loci – a poem which examined the grounds of his faith and defended the middle way of the Anglican Church against the rationalism of Deism and authoritarianism of Rome. When Charles II was succeeded by his Catholic brother James II, Dryden converted to Catholicism, which he maintained even later , when the Protestant William and Mary came to the throne.
Dryden’s achievement: he brought the pleasures of literature to the growing reading public; he made classics available to those who missed classical education; his canon of taste and principles became standards; as a writer of prose he established a modern, new style.

From John Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis, 1667

212 Yet London, empress of the northern clime,
By an high fate thou greatly didst expire;
Great as the world's, which, at the death of time
Must fall, and rise a nobler frame by fire!

213 As when some dire usurper Heaven provides,
To scourge his country with a lawless sway;
His birth perhaps some petty village hides,
And sets his cradle out of fortune's way.

214 Till fully ripe his swelling fate breaks out,
And hurries him to mighty mischiefs on:
His prince, surprised at first, no ill could doubt,
And wants the power to meet it when 'tis known.

215 Such was the rise of this prodigious fire,
Which, in mean buildings first obscurely bred,
From thence did soon to open streets aspire,
And straight to palaces and temples spread.

293 Methinks already from this chemic flame,
I see a city of more precious mould:
Rich as the town which gives the Indies name,
With silver paved, and all divine with gold.

294 Already labouring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,
And seems to have renew'd her charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of time allow.

295 More great than human now, and more august,
Now deified she from her fires does rise:
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And opening into larger parts she flies.

Restoration prose, like that of Pepys, is straight to the point, not florid like that of the past. It is informal and plain (Royal Society asked its members to employ a plain, utilitarian style to present truths). In polite literature (like that of Dryden or Cowley) it is the style of polite conversation: it is a social prose for a sociable age. The development of prose is important for its later role in 18th c. novels.

Rise in autobiographical writing: the Diary of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703):
increased interest in self-analysis and individual experience, later leading to fictional first-hand narratives like Defoe’s Crusoe.
Numerous diaries held and preserved, authored by women and men.
Pepys of modest background (father a tailor), but well educated and employed by Lord Sandwich as Surveyor-General of the Admiralty victualling office (contact with the world of aristocracy and politics), but experiencing also downfalls in his career (imprisonment for supposed participation in the Popish Plot), reappointed, then losing his office (with the 1688 Revolution).
He was a Londoner to his core , he was interested in all activities of the city: the theatre, music, the social matters, business, religion, literary life and the scientific experiments
Diary held between 1660-1669, a very vivid and entertaining insight into his life. Pepys wrote about various matters: private (financial, marital, food, dress, visiting theatres etc.) and public events (work at the Admiralty, executions, parliamentary intrigues, the Plague of 1665, the 1666 Great Fire of London).
Written in shorthand and partly coded, transcribed partly in 1820s (bowdlerized) and fully transcribed in 1970-80.
It is document of social history, it is unsurpassed for its rich detail and honesty. It also gives us a sense of somebody else’s world, what it was like to live in the Restoration.

From Pepys’s Diary, 2nd of September 1666 [the first mention of the fire]
Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . .

So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King's baker's house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus's Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside, . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.

Satire of the early Restoration – Samuel Butler, Hudibras (1663), mock heroic romance derived from Don Quixote. Relates adventures of Sir Hudibras, a grotesque Presbyterian knight and is full of scathingly humorous exposition of Puritanism. Deliberately humorous rhymes. The beginning of the Civil War and Sir Hudibras are described:

When civil fury first grew high,
And men fell out, they knew not why;
When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
Set folks together by the ears,
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
For Dame Religion, as for punk;
Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
And out he rode a colonelling.
'Twas Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation,
Which always must be carried on,
And still be doing, never done;
As if religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended

John Bunyan (1628-1688), Pilgrim’s Progress (1677),
born in a humble family of a tinker, he received schooling, nothing suggested then that he would become a respected writer. He is known as a author of two main works: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and The Pilgrim’s Progress (1675)
Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) –his spiritual autobiography, written to show the way by which the sinner is led by God.
The Pilgrim’s Progress (1675)was written in imprisonment, Bunyan was a Non-Conformist preacher who refused to be silent.
Bunyan knew one book really well only – The Bible, and his style is based on it as well as his imagery. It is the most popular allegory , its basic metaphor - life is a journey and the protagonist Christian is a pilgrim. He can be a parable of Jesus, and the familiar objects and surroundings he meets on the way to the Eternal City are charged with symbolic meaning. (eg Vanity Fair)
Despite the purely Christian and Puritan nature of the allegory, it is read for its narrative skill, humour, intensity of observation and description
a basic took part in the war (parliamentarian)

Restoration Drama:

is chiefly comedy. The best plays are comedies of manners, picking on social behaviour, exposing struggle for power among the upper classes.
Human nature in these comedies is like that portrayed by Hobbes: selfish, false-hearted, sensual. Men live for pleasures, money and women that they can conquer. They stand out with their wit and well-bred grace.
The attitude of the age towards drama was fundamentally frivolous and sentimental. Serious analysis of human motive was reserved to other literary forms.
The re-birth of theatre occurred in 1660 , when the King returned from exile and granted patents to two theatre companies. Drama had to start all over again, inventing new techniques and appealing to the new taste. The only two theatres: the King’s Players and The Duke’s Players were indoor theatres and bigger, less intimate than Globe.
The shape of the stage changed, it became much shallower , so there is no contact between the actors and viewers – the intimacy of Elizabethan theatre was lost.
Introduction of women players (Mrs Nell Gwynn), which made the more realistic sexual atmosphere on stage possible.
Puritans killed the theatre-going habit which formerly belonged to all classes of society. From 1660, it becomes a monopoly of one class only, and a specialist drama to suit its narrow taste, they wanted smartness, humour and sex, they didn’t want to be moved or made to think. Shakespeare seems to be too sophisticated, he had too much poetry and complexity.
New Drama was modelled on French plays provided by the court of Louis XIV , the Sun-King, with the cynical and straight-forward exploitation of amorous themes. The new dramatists specialised in comedy which mirrored the manners of the day and which were about lust, intrigue and wit.
George Etherege (1634-91) Love in a Tub, She Would if She Could. The first one is about love rivalry, heroic couplets alternates with prose. The other is a typical Restoration production. About the pleasures of London with its love affairs and intrigues, the countryside couple visits London: she wants to pursue men, he wants to get drunk.
William Wycherley (1640-1716) The Country Wife – here we get the real cynicism and turning upside-down of morality on the theme of a jealous husband.
William Congreve (1670- 1729) , the most talented of the new playwrights. His comedies deal with the world of fashion, courtship, seduction but they are beautifully composed, full of wit. Titles: The Way of the World, The Double Dealer, The Old Bachelor, Love for Love.
Oliver Goldsmith (1730-74) revived the spirit of Restoration comedy – witty but purged of coarseness. There is a wholesome humour, a compassionate attitude to his characters: The Good-natured Man - a man is stupidly cheated by the false poor people and thus cannot afford paying his bills , She Stoops to Conquer – mistaking of the private house for an inn.

Societies for the Reformation of Manners began to attack the blasphemy and obscenity detected on stage during the 1690s. Jeremy Collier, a clergyman, attacked Dryden, Wycherley and Congreve in A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), speaking of the moral outrage of the pious middle classes.
In result the temper of the comedy softened – in late 17th c. heroes and heroines were often decent and good-natured.

Rise in autobiographical writing: the Diary of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703):
increased interest in self-analysis and individual experience, later leading to fictional first-hand narratives like Defoe’s Crusoe.
Numerous diaries held and preserved, authored by women and men.
Pepys of modest background (father a tailor), but well educated and employed by Lord Sandwich as Surveyor-General of the Admiralty victualling office (contact with the world of aristocracy and politics), but experiencing also downfalls in his career (imprisonment for supposed participation in the Popish Plot), reappointed, then losing his office (with the 1688 Revolution).
He was a Londoner to his core , he was interested in all activities of the city: the theatre, music, the social matters, business, religion, literary life and the scientific experiments
Diary held between 1660-1669, a very vivid and entertaining insight into his life. Pepys wrote about various matters: private (financial, marital, food, dress, visiting theatres etc.) and public events (work at the Admiralty, executions, parliamentary intrigues, the Plague of 1665, the 1666 Great Fire of London).
Written in shorthand and partly coded, transcribed partly in 1820s (bowdlerized) and fully transcribed in 1970-80.
It is document of social history, it is unsurpassed for its rich detail and honesty. It also gives us a sense of somebody else’s world, what it was like to live in the Restauration.

From Pepys’s Diary, 2nd of September 1666 [the first mention of the fire]
Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . .

So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King's baker's house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus's Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside, . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.

Restoration Literature

Political, social and economic background to Restoration England:
1660 – the Restoration of monarchy in England.
1688 - Glorious Revolution - establishment of a king by contract: William of Orange and Mary were parliamentary monarchs
Economic situation: the so-called Commercial Revolution – growing trade with the colonies.

Politics, philosophy and science (Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Newton):
Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) written in the times of the Civil War and advocating a rational social contract between the absolute ruler and the governed people.
1620s, the scientific method is established by Francis Bacon empiric reasoning
Royal Society (for the Improving of Natural Knowledge) is founded in 1662
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) revolutionizing science: Philosophiae Naturalis, Principia Mathematica, Opticks, Artithmetica Universalis.
John Locke (1632-1704) Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) – examination of the human mind and its powers of understanding: the source of ideas is experience not innate ideas.

Literature:
The themes of the Restoration literature can be described as distrustful of deep convictions: feeling is distrusted because it implied strong convictions which produced the rifts of the Civil War; imagination is distrusted because it suggests something wild, uncouth and fanatical.
Clubs and coffeehouses as the meeting places for literary people also required decorum.
Scepticism and freethinking - Distrust towards authorities
The rise of the press – press was also read there, growing into prominence in the 18th c.
The literary forms: occasional verse, comedy, tragedy, heroic play, ode, satire, translation, critical essay.

John Dryden (1631 – 1700)
Annus Mirabilis (1667) – a poem which celebrates the English naval victory over the Dutch, the fortitude of the people and the King during the Great Fire.
1668 , An Essay of Dramatic Poesy
1668 made him Poet Laureate and later the historiographer royal
1678 - political satire Absalom and Achitophel.
1682 - Religio Loci

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703): Diary held between 1660-1669, a very vivid and entertaining insight into his life.

Samuel Butler (1612 – 1680): Satire of the early Restoration Hudibras (1663), mock heroic romance

John Bunyan (1628-1688): Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) ; The Pilgrim’s Progress (1675)

Restoration Drama:

The re-birth of theatre - 1660
George Etherege (1634-91) Love in a Tub, She Would if She Could.
William Wycherley (1640-1716) The Country Wife
William Congreve (1670- 1729) The Way of the World, The Double Dealer, The Old Bachelor, Love for Love.
Oliver Goldsmith (1730-74) The Good-natured Man She Stoops to Conquer
1698 - Societies for the Reformation of Manners – against the blasphemy and obscenity detected on stage during the 1690s.