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SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
Rice University MS-46
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Houston, Texas 77005-1827

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Joel Blair
Abstract: Dryden's early poems praise such different men as Cromwell, Charles, Clarendon, and Charleton; yet each is pictured as changing faces of a single poetic character that, while retaining specific historical attributes, serves a ritualistic or ceremonial function. The structure of the poems is similar: a past danger is denoted, the hero who overcomes the threat is celebrated, and a glorious future for England is prophesied; the theme of the poems is regeneration. The hero has an individual destiny or will that complements his function, which is service to England. Such a hero is absent from "Annus Mirabilis" and "Absalom and Achitophel," where the function of service blurs the figure of the triumphant hero. When in the later panegyrics Dryden feels he must praise Charles and James in a manner similar to that of the early poems, he fails artistically, possibly because he now distrusts the idea of a hero with a destiny separate from his role as servant of the state.
Leon M. Guilhamet
Abstract: By extensive reference to seventeenth-century interpretations of the David story, this essay shows that, far from being faithful to usual views, Absalom and Achitophel departs from them in several significant ways. Scriptural parallels are presented only to be rejected as an inappropriate way of interpreting contemporary affairs. The poem moves from the pretense and parody of typological interpretation to the affirmation of a rational, classical ideal in the powerful conclusion. The conclusion, moreover, as an imitation of the conclusion of the Odyssey, sweeps away the dishonesty of religious faction and partisanship and announces the beginning of a new age based on Reason and Law, presided over by the king.
James O. Wood
Abstract: The narrative of the kidnapping of Gulliver by a monkey in Brobdingnag is a highly Swiftian elaboration upon a myth which was used in Swift's day by the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, to explain the monkeys in their coat of arms. A Duke of Leinster said that Swift put the story in to vex the contemporary Earl, Lord Justice of Ireland, with whom he had quarreled. The Kildares (now Dukes of Leinster) have subsequently found that the medieval Fitzgerald who figures in the original legend was not their ancestor and have consequently adopted a less interesting story. Swift's version may well bear some allegorical interpretation such as Thomas Fuller had given the same tale. Vanessa alludes to the passage in Gulliver in a letter to Swift describing the simian behavior of people. The monkey of Brobdingnag is a forerunner of Swift's Yahoos.
Richard B. Kline
Abstract: The attitude of Matthew Prior and Richard Steele towards one another seems to have been misrepresented. Despite the frequent assumption that all judgments during the Queene Anne period were based on politics, recent scholarly findings suggest that Prior, closely associated with the Tories, and Steele, a prominent Whig, respected each other professionally. In support of this thesis, passages from the writings of both men, and other circumstantial evidence, are cited to explain the seeming paradox of the Scottish poet Allan Ramsay's having Steele among the mourners for Prior in his pastoral elegy marking the latter's death in 1721. Chief indication of Prior's professional attitude towards Steele is a letter by Prior to the Tatler which, though facetious, strongly suggests a high regard for that periodical. On the other side, Steele's general view of Prior can be inferred by his attitude when the Tory diplomat returned from France virtually a prisoner of Sir Robert Walpole and his Secret Committee of Whigs. Writing in the periodical The Englishman, Steele twice alluded to Prior and twice excused him, once even complimenting him as a wit. Professor Rae Blanchard comments that the inference is inescapable that Steele deliberately withholds criticism of Prior in these papers.
Frank Brady
Abstract: This article traces the history of the "deathbed" edition of Pope's Epistles to Several Persons, focusing on To a Lady. It attempts to show that, contrary to received opinion, the Epistles were not fully printed off before Pope's death, and that Warburton, not Pope, gave To a Lady its final form. Next, the article discusses textual changes made in To a Lady during Pope's lifetime, with emphasis on the versions found in the 1735 folio edition, in the Prince of Wales's set of Pope's Works, and in the "deathbed" edition. Various orderings of the poem's parts are compared, and the article concludes that the Philomedé portrait should immediately precede that of Atossa; that one or more portraits are still lacking, as Warburton said they were; and that To a Lady is no immutable organic whole.
John M. Aden
Abstract: Pope's Satire II.ii (Bethel) has suffered from critical failure to recognize the place of decorum and strategy in the style of Bethel's sermon and Pope's exemplum. Bethel's essentially (but not exclusively) plain style is the effect of his homiletic purpose on the one hand and of Pope's desire to have his own exemplum stand out by contrast on the other. Both Bethel and Pope allude to the political crisis, especially to the Courtly origin or sponsorship of luxury and venal depravity. All these aspects—the homiletic, stylistic, and political—are caught up in two strategic and polar images, one (vv.37-40, imaging a Fall) appearing in Bethel's sermon, the other (vv.148-150, imaging a Redemption) in Pope's exemplum.
Earl Miner
Abstract: The narrative poetry of the Restoration, from Paradise Lost to the Fables was founded on assumptions of the meaningfulness of heroic or courtly action. In the eighteenth century this faith altered to another in persuasion or conversation, and plot mattered less than "sentiment." A polarity of natural description and discursive sense characteristically led to oppositions, alternations, or fusions of the two tendencies. Pope's two triads—sound, fancy, and wit; things, heart, and "Nature's light"—partially rejected traditional mimetic theory. A review of poets after Pope shows that they often alternated passages of "description" with those of "sense," but the finest eighteenth-century poetry usually merged the two. Along with this preference for poetic conversation to narrative, the age continued to enjoy the pleasures of articulated plots in prose fiction and drama. Writers such as Pope, Thomson, Akenside, Gray, Blair, Goldsmith, Dr. Johnson, and Cowper are considered, and Pope's superiority is once again affirmed.
William Bowman Piper
Abstract: Defoe conceived of Moll Flanders as a composition of three separate topics, sexual adventures, adventures in theft, and Virginia adventures, as the full title of the novel suggests; and he composed it, generally speaking, in accordance with this conception. In doing so, he was adhering to a method of composition apparent in all of his long prose works, including his other novels and his Journal of the Plague Year. Defoe was, however, never very strict in his adherence to his topical frameworks—in writing Moll or the Journal or anything else—digressing from them for the sake of good stories, good advice, and, most often as it seems, out of mere absence of mind. In Moll this method of composition, that is, the careless realization of a strict topical conception, has an extremely lucky expressive effect. Understanding Moll to be writing up her own story, we find her imperfect achievement of order in her narrations to correspond with her imperfect achievement of order in her life and thus to strengthen our sense of her integrity as a novelistic character.
Gerard A. Barker
Abstract: The traditional Protestant belief in the validity of self-judgment is exemplified in each of Richardson's titular characters. Pamela, Sir Charles Grandison, and eventually Clarissa manifest their virtue through an unhesitant and consistent approval of their own conduct. While Pamela reinterprets the past to demonstrate God's approval of her conduct, Clarissa deliberately orders events to force God's hand. Convinced that self-assurance of election is a sign of grace, she has only to attain the role of a saint to become convinced of her impending salvation. Yet, though Clarissa appears to gain patience, humility, and resignation, she can still voice her resentment against Lovelace and her father by playing on their emotions from behind the mask of Christian forgiveness. Pamela displays similar tactics in shaming Mr. B. into submission, as does Sir Charles Grandison in manipulating Lady Beauchamp's feelings. In their self-assurance and sense of superiority, Pamela and Sir Charles resemble their Calvinistic forbears, although faith in one's own goodness has supplanted faith in one's election. Such self-approval, though it weakens his characterizations, constitutes for Richardson a necessary concomitant of virtue, confirming the validity of personal judgment.
James L. Battersby
Abstract: For many years, scholars have suggested that when Samuel Johnson wrote his Prefaces he found several opportunities to appropriate material from Robert Shiels's Lives of the Poets (1753). For his biography of Addison, Shiels relies on the life written by Dr. John Campbell for the Biographia Britannica (1747). In general, the differences between the accounts by Shiels and Campbell are of the sort that inevitably occur when one text is reproduced in an abridged form. When Shiels occasionally deviates from his source, he adds critical commentary, which in most instances anticipates remarks in Johnson's biography. However, once the correspondences between the analogous passages are noted the only reasonable conclusion which emerges is that when Johnson wrote his account of Addison he simply reclaimed what was legitimately his own. In the case of Addison, it is clear that the direction of influence is from Johnson to Shiels. The servile dependence of Shiels upon Campbell, the infrequency of his deviations from the Biographia, the relationship between Johnson and Shiels, the manifest disparity between the quality of their minds, and the probable degree of their respective knowledge of literary particulars all contribute to the conclusion that Shiels's "originality" must be seen as reflecting the opinions and judgments, however transmuted in the exchange, of Samuel Johnson.
Henry Knight Miller
©William Marsh Rice University 1969