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18 - The Restoration poetic and dramatic canon

from LITERARY CANONS

Paul Hammond
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
John Barnard
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
D. F. McKenzie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Maureen Bell
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

When our great monarch into exile went,

Wit and religion sufferd banishment ...

At length the Muses stand restord again

To that great charge which Nature did ordain.

The idea,expressed here by Dryden, that the arts were restored in 1660 along with the Stuart monardhy was a Commonplace of the day, and formed part of the mythological and ideological fashining of this historical moment. The desire to represent the new King as a second Augustus, patron of poetry as well as bringer of peace and social order, was part of a movement by which this turning point in the nation’s history was understood, by which the future was sketched out and the past rewritten. Retrospectively the republic is represented as a barbarous interlude, and Dryden himself quickly forgets that only a few months earlier he had written of Cromwell that ‘in his praise no Arts can liberall be’.

During the early months of 1660, the presses poured out pamphlets of all kinds. In January alone, George Thomason collected two dozen verse satires against the Rump Parliament, the Army, and the leaders of the Republic; in February there were a further dozen satires, now interspersed with panegyrics to General Monck; in March verses began to be published favouring the Restoration of Charles II, and some satires took the form of miniature plays. By April it was possible to publish an elegy on Charles II entered London on 29 May, and by the end of July Thomason had collected some thirty separate poems or collaborative volumes of verse celebrating the Restoration.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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