The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors

By Alan Hager | Go to book overview

John Dennis
(1658-1734)

RICHARD J.SQUIBBS


BIOGRAPHY

John Dennis comes to us through literary history mainly among “the forms/Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms” preserved in the “Amber” of Pope's poetry (Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot). But the relative prominence Pope accords him in his attacks testifies to Dennis's stature in the literary scene of early-18th-century London. Born on September 16, 1658, to a London saddler and his wife, Dennis early studied classics at Harrow and later entered Caius College, Cambridge. He received his M.A. in 1683 from Trinity Hall, after being expelled from Caius for wounding another student with a sword. Following a tour of the Continent (a near-requirement for an aspiring wit), Dennis returned to London and fell in with the crowd at Will's Coffeehouse. He there apparently befriended Dryden and during this time developed his reputation as a controversialist. His earliest critical piece of note, The Impartial Critick (1693), was an attack on Thomas Rymer, and throughout his life Dennis would engage in public squabbles with Addison, Steele, Swift, and Pope, among others. Coupled with his deep interest in the sublime, Dennis's brash, and at times hostile, authorial demeanor would earn him the epithet “Sir Tremendous Longinus” in Three Hours after Marriage (1717), a play credited to Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot. In 1705, Dennis was appointed to a position in the London Custom House but was forced to sell it in 1715 out of financial necessity, a problem that would plague him for most of his life, leading to several stays in debtors' prison. Politically, he was a solid Whig, and though he wrote a number of forgotten panegyrics and pamphlets, these were likely motivated more by financial distress than outright sycophancy. Dennis continued to publish fractious criticism through the 1720s, but his health declined precipitously in the early 1730s, when he became almost completely blind. He died on January 6, 1734, a few weeks after Pope organized a benefit performance of Vanbrugh and Cibber's The Provoked Husband for him at the Haymarket. Aside from his perennial status as a target of Pope's satire, Dennis's critical writings—especially those on the sublime—give valuable insight into the various modes of critical thought in the early 18th century.

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The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Timeline of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors xvii
  • (1672-1719) 1
  • (1555-1626) 6
  • (1666-1731) 10
  • (1626-1697) 14
  • (1561-1626) 19
  • Bibliography 23
  • (1640?-1689) 25
  • (1649-1708) 29
  • (1627-1691) 32
  • Bibliography 38
  • (1612-1672) 39
  • Bibliography 41
  • (1605-1682) 42
  • Bibliography 47
  • (1628-1688) 48
  • (1577-1640) 53
  • (1612/1613-1680) 57
  • Bibliography 60
  • (1567-1620) 61
  • Bibliography 64
  • (C. 1595-1639) 65
  • (C. 1585-1639) 68
  • (1623-1673) 71
  • Bibliography 73
  • (1559?-1634) 74
  • (1656-1710) 78
  • Bibliography 80
  • (1613-1658) 81
  • (1653-1713) 85
  • (1618-1667) 89
  • Bibliography 92
  • (C. 1613-1649) 93
  • Bibliography 96
  • (1599-1658) 98
  • (1606-1668) 103
  • (1658-1734) 109
  • Bibliography 111
  • (1572-1631) 112
  • (1563-1631) 118
  • Bibliography 121
  • (1631-1700) 122
  • (1608-1666) 128
  • (1661-1720) 133
  • Bibliography 136
  • (1582-1650) 137
  • (1586-1639?) 139
  • (1563-1639 and 1593-1652/1653) 144
  • Bibliography 146
  • (1554-1628) 147
  • Bibliography 157
  • (1578-1657) 158
  • (1593-1633) 162
  • (1591-1674) 167
  • (1588-1679) 172
  • (1572/1573-1637) 181
  • (1660-1685) 187
  • (1666-1727) 191
  • (C. 1634-1693) 194
  • (1569?-1645) 198
  • (1615-1657) 202
  • Bibliography 205
  • (1632-1704) 206
  • (1618-1657) 216
  • Bibliography 218
  • (1672?-1724) 219
  • Bibliography 222
  • (1621-1678) 223
  • Bibliography 226
  • (1583-1640) 228
  • Bibliography 231
  • (1580-1627) 232
  • (1608-1674) 237
  • (1652-1685) 244
  • (1633-1703) 248
  • (1632-1694) 253
  • Bibliography 258
  • (1659-1695) 260
  • Bibliography 265
  • (1686-1758) 267
  • (1606-1669) 270
  • Bibliography 273
  • (1647-1680) 274
  • (C. 1637-1711) 280
  • (1577-1640) 283
  • (C. 1642-1692) 287
  • (1671-1713) 292
  • (1564-1616) 296
  • (1632-1677) 312
  • (1608/1609-1642) 316
  • (1652-1715) 320
  • Bibliography 323
  • (1578-1653) 324
  • (1575?-1626) 328
  • (1636?-1674) 332
  • (1599-1641) 336
  • Bibliography 339
  • (1621?-1695) 340
  • (1599-1660) 344
  • (1632-1675) 348
  • (1606-1687) 352
  • Bibliography 354
  • (1579?-1633?) 355
  • (1568-1635) 360
  • (1641-1715) 365
  • List of Authors by Birth Year 373
  • Selected General Bibliography 377
  • Index 379
  • About the Editor and Contributors 389
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