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A History of Eighteenth-Century British Literature



A History of Eighteenth-Century British Literature

John Richetti

ISBN: 978-1-405-13502-3 October 2017 Wiley-Blackwell 384 Pages


A History of Eighteenth-Century British Literature is a lively exploration of one of the most diverse and innovative periods in literary history. Capturing the richness and excitement of the era, this book provides extensive coverage of major authors, poets, dramatists, and journalists of the period, such as Dryden, Pope and Swift, while also exploring the works of important writers who have received less attention by modern scholars, such as Matthew Prior and Charles Churchill. Uniquely, the book also discusses noncanonical, working-class writers and demotic works of the era.

During the eighteenth-century, Britain experienced vast social, political, economic, and existential changes, greatly influencing the literary world.  The major forms of verse, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, experimental works, drama, and political prose from writers such as Montagu, Finch, Johnson, Goldsmith and Cowper, are discussed here in relation to their historical context. A History of Eighteenth-Century British Literature is essential reading for advanced undergraduates and graduate students of English literature.

Topics covered include: 

  • Verse in the early 18th century, from Pope, Gay, and Swift to Addison, Defoe, Montagu, and Finch
  • Poetry from the mid- to late-century, highlighting the works of Johnson, Gray, Collins, Smart, Goldsmith, and Cowper among others, as well as women and working-class poets
  • Prose Fiction in the early and 18th century, including Behn, Haywood, Defoe, Swift, Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett
  • The novel past mid-century, including experimental works by Johnson, Sterne, Mackenzie, Walpole, Goldsmith, and Burney
  • Non-fiction prose, including political and polemical prose
  • 18th century drama

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction 1

1 Verse in the Early Eighteenth Century, I: Pope, Gay, Swift 8

2 Verse in the Early Eighteenth Century, II: Prior, Addison, Defoe, Finch, Montagu, Thomson 59

3 English Verse, III: Mid-Century Onwards: Johnson, Gray, the Wartons, Collins, Smart, Watts, Goldsmith, Churchill, Cowper 92

4 Eighteenth-Century Verse, IV: Women, Workers, and Non-Elite Poets 132

5 Prose Fiction in the Early Eighteenth Century: Behn, Haywood, Defoe, Swift 153

6 Prose Fiction in the Mid-Eighteenth Century: Richardson, Fielding, Smollett 180

7 The Novel Past Mid-Century: New Directions and Experiments: Johnson, Sterne, Mackenzie, Walpole, Goldsmith, Burney 223

8 Non-Fictional Prose, I: Addison to Burke 254

9 Non-Fictional Prose, II: Political and Polemical Prose 291

10 Eighteenth-Century Drama: Sentimental Pathos, Melodrama, and Humor 319

Index 357