Satire, History, Novel: Narrative Forms, 1665-1815

By Frank Palmeri | Go to book overview

Notes

INTRODUCTION

1. A number of critics have offered analyses of the decline of formal verse satire in the mid-eighteenth century. Andrew Wilkinson sees the increased importance of the middle class, of sentimentalism, and of a belief in progress producing a set of attitudes that precluded the need for satire (‘‘The Decline of English Verse Satire in the Middle of the Eighteenth Century,’’ Review of English Studies n.s. 3 [1952]: 222–33). W. B. Carnochan argues that, in the course of the century, Juvenal came to be valued as a source of the sublime and of sentiment rather than satire, while at the same time the complications of irony fell into disuse (‘‘Satire, Sublimity, and Sentiment: Theory and Practice in Post-Augustan Satire,’’ PMLA 85 [1970]: 260–67). Thomas Lockwood concentrates mostly on Charles Churchill to show that as verse satirists after Pope turned inward to focus more on feelings, their writing lost a public dimension (Post-Augustan Satire: Charles Churchill and Satiric Poetry, 1750–1800 [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979]). Vincent Carretta similarly ascribes the decline of political verse satire in the middle of the century to the loss of a uniformitarian historiography which deprived poets of the kind of norm such satire may require (The Snarling Muse: Verbal and Visual Satire from Pope to Churchill [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983], 211–26). William Dowling argues that Shaftesburian benevolism triumphs over verse satire because it displaces the philosophies of egoism and self-interest on which the satirists had concentrated their attack (The Epistolary Moment: The Poetics of the Eighteenth-Century Verse Epistle [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991], 105–6).

2. See Frank Palmeri, Satire in Narrative: Petronius, Swift, Gibbon, Melville, Pynchon (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990). Two recent works discern a move toward the representation of middle grounds in political and social terms in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and their arguments thus parallel and provide support for the argument that I am making here about a movement in narrative away from satiric extremes and toward novelistic middle grounds. See Dror Wahrman, Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, c. 1780–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), and Margaret Cohen, The Sentimental Education of the Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). In the Conclusion, I take up the relation of these works to my argument.

3. Such satire did not cease to be written after the first half of the eighteenth century. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), for example, Twain first satirizes the medieval world for its lack of the practical advantages and comforts that follow from advanced technology. But he reverses course in the work’s final chapters to sharply satirize the advanced technologies of nineteenth-

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