Augustan Age: The Legacy of a Great Era

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

The period between 1700 and 1750 CE in English literature is called the Augustan age. It is relative to the reign of the Roman Emperor, Augustus, who ruled from 27 BCE to 14 CE, and Latin literature reached its zenith with the presence of poets. Examples: Virgil, Horace, and Ovid.

English writers in this period tried to imitate many of the literary and philosophical ideals of these Roman poets. Like the ancient Romans, English writers saw that reason and wit should guide literature and life. They made every effort for balance and harmony in their writing. The Augustan era in English literature is also known as the era of neoclassicism.

Satire was one of the most popular genres of literature during the Augustan era. Despite the age’s emphasis on reason, most of the poetry of satire was scathing, personal, and therefore preposterous. The most famous satirists of this period were Jonathan Swift in prose and Alexander Pope in poetry.

Swift attacked the different interpretations of Christianity in The Tale of the Baptism 1704 CE. He also ridiculed the literary controversy of the hour in the book Battle of Books 1704 CE. This debate was heated between literati who preferred ancient authors and those who believed modern authors were better. Swift attacked the hypocrisy that he found in kings, countries, and scholars in Gulliver’s Travels 1726 CE, which is the most famous book of satire in the English language.

Novel Flourishing Era

The development of the novel is considered one of the most outstanding achievements of English literature. The novel’s roots can be found in the books of Daniel Defoe. Defoe wrote realistic stories of stale incidents told as actual events. His Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Mole of Flanders (1722) resemble novels, but they lack the coherent plot characteristic of that genre.

Many writers consider Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) to be the first true English novel. However, the book is preachy, and its style is somewhat sleazy. By contrast, the novels of Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett focus on biting humour and satire.

Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) is perhaps the most famous comic novel in the English language. Critics regard Humphrey Clinker’s Voyage (1771) as Smollett’s best novel. Lawrence Sterne was one of the great novelists of the period, for his novel Tristram Shandy (1760-1767) has almost no story but is full of delightful jokes and puns.

The development of the novel is considered one of the great achievements of English literature. The novel’s roots can be found in the books of Daniel Defoe. Samuel Johnson examined the work of fifty-two poets in Lives of the English Poets (1779-1781). He also worked hard to establish criticism as a form of literature. Johnson also wrote articles – long and short. Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth were the first famous poets of English Romantic poetry. Together they wrote a volume of poetry called Lyrical Ballads.

Despite the prosperity of the Victorian era in economics, society and politics, factory and farm workers lived in extreme poverty. This prompted Benjamin Disraeli, one of the most famous prime ministers of this period, to describe England as a country of two nations, one rich and the other poor.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, some scientific theories seemed to challenge religious teachings. Augustan writers dealt with the contrast between the wealth of the middle and upper classes and the miserable condition of the poor. They also began to analyse the weakening of faith in traditional values in the late nineteenth century.

Famous Literary Men of the Augustan Age

The Augustan age is full of great poets, dramatists, writers, and journalists. Here are some of the most famous among them:

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744 CE) is a famous English poet from the eighteenth century. In May 1709, Pope published Country Poetry in Part VI of Tonson’s Poetical Miscellaneous. This brought Bob instant fame, followed by an Essay on Criticism published in May 1711, which was well received.

Around 1711 Pope became friends with several conservative writers, such as John Gay, Jonathan Swift, and John Arbuthnot, who together formed the Scribblerus Club. The club aimed to satirise ignorance and pedantry in the fictional form of the scholar Martinus Skriblers. He also had friendships with Whig writers Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. The Woods of Windsor was published in March 1713 with success.

Pope’s following poem, “The Abduction of a Lock of Hair”, was first published in 1712, and a revised version was published in 1714. This is considered one of her most famous poems because it was the model for a heroic epic and was written as a satire on the social rivalries between Arabella Fermor (Belinda in the poem) and Lord Petre, who stole a lock of her hair without her consent. Pope dealt with the characters in his poem in an epic style. When the baron steals her lock of hair, and she tries to get it back, the hair flies in the air and turns into a star.

Bob contributed to the play by Addison Cato as well as writing for The Guardian and The Spectator. Around this time, he began work on translating the Iliad, which was an arduous process—publication began in 1715 and was not finished until 1720.

In 1714, the political situation began to worsen after the death of Queen Anne and the succession dispute between the House of Hanover and the Jacobite movement, which led to the outbreak of the Jacobite rebellion in 1715. Although it was expected that Pope, as a Catholic, would support the Jacobites, due to their religious and political affiliations, according to the researcher Maynard Mack, there is no clear position on the issue. These events led to a decline in Tory fortunes, and Pope’s friend, Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, fled to France.

Edmund Waller

Edmund Waller (3 March 1606 – 21 October 1687) was a famous English poet and politician who was a Member of Parliament for quite a long period of time and one of the longest-serving members of the English House of Commons.

The son of a wealthy lawyer with extensive estates in Buckinghamshire, Waller entered Parliament in 1624. However, he took little part in the political struggles in the run-up to the First English Civil War in 1642. Unlike his relatives William and Harders Waller, he sympathised with the royalists and was accused in 1643 of organising a conspiracy to seize London for Charles I. it is said that he had to pay a hefty bribe in order to escape the death penalty, while many conspirators, including his brother-in-law Nathaniel Tomkins, were executed.

After his sentence was softened to negation, he lived in a quiet exile in France and Switzerland until he was allowed home in 1651 by Oliver Cromwell, a distant relative who returned to Parliament after the restoration of Charles II in 1660. Known as a pleasing and entertaining orator, he held several minor offices. He essentially quit politics because of the death of his wife in 1677. He eventually died of oedema in October 1687.

Best remembered now is his poem “Sung (Go, Pretty Rose)”, Waller’s earliest writing dates from the late 1630s, commemorating events in the 1620s, including a piece on Charles’ escape from a shipwreck in Santander in 1625. It was one of the early attempts at the form used by English poets some two centuries ago, written in heroic couplets. His poetry was admired among others by John Dryden, while he was a close friend of Thomas Hobbes and John Evelyn.

When he died, Waller was considered a great English poet. Still, his reputation declined over the next century, and one saw him as “a king sparrow, a proper republican groom and mercenary”. He is now seen as a minor composer whose primary importance was developing a form adapted and improved by later poets such as Alexander Pope.

Richard Steele

Sir Richard Still (bap. 12 March 1672 – 1 September 1729) was a Welsh Irish writer, playwright, journalist, and politician remembered as co-founder with his friend Joseph Addison of The Spectator.

Steele is one of the most charismatic figures of his time, and much of his writing reflects his personality. A passionate, impulsive, affectionate and romantic person, it was much easier for him to collect money than to save it, and his career can be seen in part due to his constant attempts to keep away from his debts.

William Congreve

William Congreve (1670–1729 CE) was the most brilliant person who witnessed English literature in a genre of comedy called the comedy of behaviour. A comedy of this kind depicts people’s behaviour as it is in their home life and does not attempt to ridicule vice and people’s heedlessness and foolishness in the way they behave. The comedy of behaviour is everything, and there is no consideration for what the novel suggests in the souls of the spectators of vice or virtue.

As the king and his entourage were surrounded by sons of high families such as these, and the heroine of the novel is characterised by her great vitality and grace, as the light and graceful woman was better among the theatregoers at that time – the king’s court and their followers – than the virtuous woman, and the subject of the novel is usually that the dissolute wife ignores her husband, father or guardian, whatever it is.

This is the comedy of behaviour, which in the era of the return of the monarchy meant the depiction of reality, in which Congreve excelled and excelled.

Congreve was born in a country near Leeds in 1670 CE, and his father was an officer in the army, but his son William had hardly seen the light until he was appointed to a new position in Ireland, so he moved to it accompanied by his family, and there William received his education as a colleague of the famous writer Swift (the author of Travels Gulliver).

The Age of Enlightenment

In England, Augustan literature was directly related to the Augustan style of landscape design. These connections are most evident in the work of Alexander Pope. The best remaining examples of neoclassical English gardens are Chiswick Palace, Stow Palace and Stourhead Palace. The Enlightenment was the intellectual movement that caused the eighteenth century to be called the Age of Enlightenment.

The promotion of the doctrine of logic and reason by the philosophers of the Enlightenment led to the rejection of the religious doctrine that was considered the origin of intolerance and the disappearance of the concept that God was to rule the entire world through nature in atheistic concepts of the universe. The thinkers of this era promoted research in nature, scientific and technological development, education, and the dissemination of all kinds of knowledge through the scientific encyclopedia.


Art became more accessible and less expensive, and literature was addressed to a larger audience as if it were a social machine. The increase in the number of readers, especially among the bourgeoisie, led to considering the writer as if he were a professional, and they considered writing their primary or secondary reference on which they relied. The three thinkers Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau, presented their principles, as France was the first to reject the Baroque models.

It also featured Pierre Bayle, Denis Diderot, Georges de Buffon, and Champlain de Mariboux. The adventure novel was embraced by the UK, while Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding were highlighted, along with poets John Dryden and Alexander Pope.

From the novel, he moved on to writing essays, a generalised type of ideas par excellence and gave modern classical literature a critique of customs and traditions, stressing the importance of education, the role of women and the pleasures of life. In Spain, the Benedictine monk (the monk who teaches businessmen the art of a happy life), Benito Jerónimo Viejo, Casper Melchor de Khovianos and Jose Cadalso emerged. He highlighted the importance of myth, novel and poetry, which are usually represented by animals, as it presents moral teachings.


The myth was distinguished by its educational nature and its criticism of shortcomings, defects, and personal habits, and its reuse of creative improvements such as diagnosis and embodiment. Relationships are considered the most adapted to the assumptions and necessities of modern classics, as it is a simple form into which nature enters. Many authors of tales, such as Félix Maria de Samaniego and Thomas de Ariat in Spain and the Frenchman Gian de la Fontaine, emerged.

In Spain, there was a continuity of the Baroque in poetry, with many poets such as Diego de Torres and Piaruel, Quebecó as their idols, Gabriel Albarez de Toledo and Eugenio Gerardo Lobo. In the second half of the seventeenth century, modern classical poetry emerged, where the dominant topics were scientific and philosophical topics or issues related to anachronism and pastoralism, and sometimes characterised by superstitions.

Nicholas Fernández de Murcín, author of The Art of Whores, banned by the Inquisition, emerged as it could inspire the whims of Goya, Juan Melendez Blades and José Cadalso, from the Salamanca School, The Tales of Iriarte and Samanijo in Madrid from the Seville School, where José Marchena and Felix José Reynoso also featured and Jose Maria Blanco and Alberto Lista.

It also had a strong influence on the Baroque in Spanish theatre, especially during the first half of the eighteenth century, with composers such as Antonio de Zamora or José de Canizares. The Spanish theatre faced several changes, such as the official threat to the representation of religious plays, the re-emergence of the popular humorous taste, and the transition from the old amphitheatres to theatres so that they became suitable workplaces for a new concept of theatre.

At the end of the first half of the eighteenth century, Spanish playwrights began to follow French models such as Nicolas Boileau and Louis Racine, renewing the aristocratic aesthetic and the Horacenas. The theatrical work should be credible, consistent with the work units of space and time, and have an educational and ethical approach.

He appeared brilliantly in the tragedy Nicolas Fernandez de Moratín, Jose Cadalso, Ignacio Lopez de Ayala and Vicente García de la Huerta. Farce is one of the most popular genres, as confirmed by Antonio de Zamora, Ramon de la Cruz and Ignacio Gonzalez del Castillo.

There appeared in a particularly brilliant way the character of Leandro Fernandez de Moratin, the creator of the so-called Mauritanian comedy and examples of it (the new comedy or coffee, the consent of the girls that ridiculed the vices and customs prevailing at the time, using theatre as a means to make customs moral. Among the followers, this approach is also taken by Manuel Breton de Los Herreros and Ventura de la Vega.

If you enjoyed this content why not dive into some more historical eras – check out these articles: Vikings History, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egyptians – The First Woman Pharaoh, Greek Mythology – Medusa, Native American History. Victorian Era, Ibn Khaldun or Celts

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