Augustan literature  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Augustan literature is a style of English literature produced during the reigns of Queen Anne, King George I, and George II in the first half of the 18th century, ending in the 1740s with the deaths of Pope and Swift. It is a literary epoch that featured the rapid development of the novel, an explosion in satire, the mutation of drama from political satire into melodrama, and an evolution toward poetry of personal exploration. In philosophy, it was an age increasingly dominated by empiricism, while in the writings of political-economy it marked the evolution of mercantilism as a formal philosophy, the development of capitalism, and the triumph of trade.

The chronological anchors of the era are generally vague, largely since the label's origin in contemporary 18th century criticism has made it a shorthand designation for a somewhat nebulous age of satire. This new Augustan period exhibited exceptionally bold political writings in all genres, with the satires of the age marked by an arch, ironic pose, full of nuance, and a superficial air of dignified calm that hid sharp criticisms beneath.

As literacy (and London's population, especially) grew, literature began to appear from all over the kingdom. Authors gradually began to accept literature that went in unique directions rather than the formerly monolithic conventions and, through this, slowly began to honor and recreate various folk compositions. Beneath the appearance of a placid and highly regulated series of writing modes, many developments of the later Romantic era were beginning to take place — while politically, philosophically, and literarily, modern consciousness was being hewn out of hitherto feudal and courtly notions of ages past.

William Hogarth's portrait of a Grub Street poet starving to death and trying to write a new poem to get money. The "hack" (hired) writer was a response to the newly increased demand for reading matter in the Augustan period.

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