[PDF Notes] The chief literary trends of this period may be summarized as:

The chief literary trends of this period may be summarized as:

(1) Rise of Neo-Classicism:

In the literature of the Restoration era we note a sudden breaking away from old standards, just as society broke away from the restraints of Puritanism. The break with the past was almost absolute. Post-restoration literature is a converse of the previous Elizab than Age. It is called Classical or Neo-classical as opposed to the Elizabethan Romanticism.

(2) Imitation of the Ancients:

Lacking the genius of the Elizabethans, the authors of the time turned to the great classical writers, in particular to the Latin writers, for guidance and inspiration. This habit, quite noticeable during the time of Dryden, deepened and hardened during the age of Pope so much so that the later poet laid down as a final test of excellence :

“Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem. To copy Nature is to copy them”.

Dryden himself was a noted classical scholar, and his translations of the classics, especially those of Virgil, are classics in their own way. Countless such other translations of ancient classics were made during the age.

(3) French Influence:

On the literature of this period, it was the French influence which predominated. Charles II, and the literary men who accompanied him had passed most of their time in France, and when they returned to England they brought with them a new admiration for French literature, renounced old ideals and standards, and demanded that English poetry and drama should follow the style to which they had grown accustomed in the gaieties of Paris life.

The influence of French comedy is seen in the coarseness and indecency of the restoration Comedy of manners, of Dryden, Wycherley and Congreve; the combined influence of French and classical models of tragedy is seen in a new genre, the heroic tragedy.

This type is well represented by Dryden’s Titanic Love. All for love is also heroic in spirit, though not written in the heroic measure. The foreign influence is also responsible for the growth and popularity of the Opera in Restoration England.

(4) Realism and Formalism:

The Restoration Literature developed realism in a marked degree. This tendency was at first thoroughly bad. Later, this tendency to realism became more whole-some. While it neglected much that is romantic and interesting to youth, it led to a keener study of the practical motives which govern human action.

There was a reaction against the excesses and extravagances of both the Elizabethans and the ‘metaphysical’ headed by Donne. This reaction resulted in a marked tendency towards directness and simplicity of expression and to this excellence tendency English literature is greatly indebted.

The Restoration writers brought back the tendency to regard established rules for writing, to emphasize close reasoning rather than romantic fancy, and to use short clear-cut sentences without an unnecessary word. Emphasis was laid on a ‘correct adherence’ to the rules of the ancients as interpreted by the French.

(5) An Age of Prose and Reason:

This tendency towards formalism and preciseness, this avoidance of enthusiasm or the exaltation of reason over passion would justify us in calling this period an ‘age of prose and reason’.

In Dryden’s age, English prose begins definitely to find its feet, and a prose style is gradually evolved which is admirably suited to the miscellaneous needs of everyday life. The critical temper of the age, the growth of science, and religious and political controversies all fostered the rise of prose.

(6) The Decline of the Lyric and Rise of Satire:

During this period, lyric spirit is largely on the decline and out-side Dryden, there is very little lyric poetry of any worth. The bulk of the poetic output is narrative and argumentative, its purpose being to convince or persuade and not to inspire.

The best poetry of the era is satirical. Dryden’s Absalom and Acidophil is an excellent example of political satire, and his Mreflecknoe that of personal satire. The Rehearsal, which parodies the literary vices of the time, is the finest literary satire in the language.

(7) Perfection of the Heroic Couplet:

Another significant contribution of the age is growth and perfection of the heroic couplet. Chaucer had also used the couplet, but he cared more for the thought than for the form. But with the Restoration writers, form became all-important.

Dryden made the couplet the prevailing literary fashion. Soon it became the order of the day, and excluded all other forms of versification. It was dominant in England for a full century; gradually it lost its freshness and vigor, and grew more and more mechanical and monotonous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *