Arguments of Augustan Wit by Professor John Sitter

By Professor John Sitter

Comedian and satiric literature from the 1670s to the 1740s is characterised by means of the allusive and elusive observe play of Augustan wit. The arguments of Augustan wit exhibit preoccupations with the metaphorical measurement of language so distrusted via Locke and others who observed it as essentially against the rational mode of judgement. John Sitter makes a not easy declare for the significance of wit within the writings of Dryden, Rochester, previous, Berkeley, homosexual, Pope and rapid, as an analytic mode in addition to considered one of stylistic sophistication. He argues that wit - usually seemed through smooth critics as a old fashioned type of verbal cleverness - in truth bargains to literary thought a legacy corrective of Romantic and neo-Romantic idealizations of mind's eye. This examine goals instantly to stress the ancient specificity of Augustan writing, and to deliver its arguments into discussion with these of our time.

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As any reader of the poetry will also recall, however, not all of Pope's characters suffer from an excess of mind. Even without taking into account the hero or herds of the dunces, several Popean figures are dull plodders who lumber on from stage to stage. What the "slow" and the "quick" have in common is their participation in a narrative they do not understand. (Ironically, the Dunciad's chief dunces come closest to knowing what they are about and to enjoying their compulsions. ) The more representative or typical a character's role, the more conspicuous the absence of insight.

Like varying winds, by other passions tost, This drives them constant to a certain coast. Let pow'r or knowledge, gold or glory, please, Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease; Thro' life 'tis followed, ev'n at life's expense... (II. 13 The verb impels is crucial; one senses Pope carefully avoiding compels here, as in the Epistle to Cobham (cf. "The same adust complexion has impell'd / Charles to the Convent, Philip to the Field" [lines 59-60]), but the verbal distinction was possibly even finer in Pope's day than ours.

For Johnson there are no comedies that end in death. Locke's account of the will is in one way close to the orthodox view and in another perhaps bleaker. 21 This more than occasional conformity to established doctrine is no doubt part of what made Locke as comfortably acceptable as he was. (I do not mean to undervalue Locke's rigor or overestimate his acceptance. ) 22 But even those eager to find faith confirmed by the newer philosophy might find it disquieting that an inquiry beginning with the spirited rejection of innate ideas and innate principles should lead to an affirmation of innate weakness.

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