The Restoration of the Monarchy
Charles II came back in England from France. He avoided his father inflexibility, the court became devoted to pleasure, fashion and gossip was born. The king supported the revival of drama and music. The Landowners resumed their power and the puritans were punished by the Parliament.
Charles II was able to finance himself bypassing the Parliament while it was concerned to avoid Roman Catholicism and despotism. The Test act excluded the Catholics from public offices.
With the discovery of unsuccessful “Popish Plots” favouring Charles’ brother, James, two new faction emerged in the Parliament. The Tories were the supporters of the king, the Church of England and the gentry; The Whigs were the nobles and merchants, who didn’t want absolute power.
The Glorious Revolution
Charles II died without any legitimate heir so James succeded him. He was supported by the Tories. He had only two famale heirs, married with the Rulers of Holland and Denmark. James married the Catholic Mary of Modena, he had a son and so a Catholic heir. The crown was offered to William of Orange to avoid a Catholic dinasty and so a civil war. James and his family run away to France and William took the power without clashes or involving the people or the Divine right -he was chosen by the Parliament.
William had to accepts the Bill of Rights which gave to Parliament alone the right to raise taxes,pass laws and control an army. With the Act of Settelment the Parliament decided also on the succession.
After William and Mary there was Anne from 1702 to 1714. In the 1707 with Act of Union Scotland was united with England, losing its indipendence.
The early Hanoverians
When Anne died without Protestant heir the Parliament chose the discendant of James I’s daughter, the Duke of Hanover. In 1714 he became king as George I. He spoke no English so he had to rely upon his ministers. They were from the families of the House of Lords and their proteges in the House of Commons. So ther was no democracy, no secret ballot and the election were corrupt.
The ministers met the king in the Cabinet and their leader became known as the Prime Minister; the first was Sir Robert Walpole.
Coffe houses in town were places for social, professional and cultural meeting and also for debate.
Middle-class women costituted a major market for fiction. The family in this period acquired new values such as the recognition of children as people in need of kindness and attention and so on.
Reason and sense
The 18th century, the golden age, was called the Augustan after the period of Roman history which gave political stability and power. It was an age of traditionalism but also of improvement. There was a materialistic society, pragmatic, whose policy was based on hierarchy, inheritance and privilege.
Also the arts changed with a new desire of balance, simmetry and refirement.
Optimism encuraged faith in progress and human perfectibility. People wanted to try new ways trusting in their reason. The rational trend was a feature of this period.
During this period a new philosophical movement developed: the Enlightement. It was founded on the reason of man and used it againist ignorance, superstition and obscurantism.
The literature of this period is characterised by the production of different genres, which reflected the economic and intellectual progress of the period and the growing interest in reading.
But in the country there were a lot of illiteracy people, few semi-literacy in towns. There were few schools and the attendance was usually too short because of the work.
The price of books also limited the reading public; for the lower classes there were cheper forms of printed materials like ballads or old romances about criminal.
Another factor was the lack of privacy since houses were overcrowded and there wasn’t enought light to read because of the Window tax.
Circulating libraries acquired a great importance since subscriptions were cheap. Women of the upper class, that had more spare time, read more than other people.
The middleclasses influenced the developement of the prose genre. They belief in the power of reason and the individual’s trust in his own abilities found expression in the novel and in journalism. Puritan morality had a leading role in the readers, infact Defoe and Richardson combined religious and secular interest in their works.
The rise of the novel
The fathers of the English novel are Defoe and Richardson. Generally the novelist was the spokesman of the middle class and the novels were directed to a burgeois public. The writer’s aim is to write in a simple way in order to be understood even by less-educated readers and also the realism. Since it was the bookseller who rewarded the writer, speed and copiousness became important economic virtues.
The story was appealing to pratical-minded tradesman who was self made and self reliant. The sense of punishment was related to the Puritan ethics of the middle classes. The subject of the novel was always the bourgeois man and his problems, a definited character and the hero of the story.
All the characters could be divided into two groups: the first is composed of people who believe in reason like Robinson Crusoe; the second by those people who cannot control their passions and subordinate reason to their desires.
The writer was omnipresent and the narrator omniscient, and he never abandoned his characters. The narrations followed the chronological order.
The setting in time and place is very detailed with specific references to the days or the cities which made the narration more realistic.
Daniel Defoe was born in 1660, in London, by a family of Dissenters. He studied in one of the best Dissenting Academies and then became a merchant. Defoe went bankrupt and to solve his financial problem turned to journalism. When Queen Anne ascended the throne, his political fortune changed. He was arrested and tried because of his position in defence of the Dissenters, sentenced to three days in the pillory and then spent some months in prison. To be released he denied his Whig ideas and became a secret agent of the government. In 1704 he wrote and published his journal, “The Review”, the periodical which he published two or three times a week. In 1719, at the age of fifty-nine he turned to prose fiction, certainly not for literary or artistic purposes, but considering it a kind of business activity which now paid better than many others.
He published his first novel, Robinson Crusoe, in 1719, attracting a large middle-class readership. He followed in 1722 with Moll Flanders, the story of a tough, streetwise heroine whose fortunes rise and fall dramatically. Defoe’s last novel was The Fortunate Mistress, better know as Roxana. Defoe died in London on April 24, 1731.
He is the main character of the novel. He was born in York and at the age of 19 he decides to leave his home and his rich life to travel and make his fortune. In his first voyage he is captured by pirates. He manages to escape, stealing a part of the treasure, and is rescued by a Portuguese ship that brought him to Brazil. Here he buy a plantation and, needing more labour, manages a voyage to Africa to get more slaves. During this journey he is shipswrecked on a desert island where he stay for 28 years. The rest of the novel tells how he rebuild the kind of society of his coutry. He writes a diary to maintain an ideal contact with the motherland. After 12 years he discovers the presence of cannibals on the island. Once he decides to attack them: they escape and leave a captured man who Robinson calls Friday, after the day of his salvation. Robinson teachs him English to read the Bible.
The novel end with Robinson’s return in England and the discovery that the plantation in Brazil has made him very rich.