The “Augustan period” was one of the many namesgiven to the 18th century English literature.
Among other names,this age was also called “The Age of Reason” and the “Neoclassical Age”. Thisera marks the timeline between the Restoration period and the passing ofAlexander Pope and Jonathan Swift (1744, 1745). Themost prominent writers of this age were, as aforementioned, Dryden and Pope inthe poetry field and J. Swift and J. Addison in respect to prose. This age sawthe rapid growth of the novel and satire.
The literature of the period,particularly during the early years of the 18th century, which iswhat the name most commonly indicates, was in more ways than others soprecisely political. Because people could not yet distinguish a professionalauthor from an amateur one, the authors who wrote novels, plays and even poetrywere on a frequent basis either funded by a politician or were active in thefield of politics. (Okie, 1991). Satire wasthe genre which attracted most of the writers of this time. The satires whichwere published at the time of the Augustan period were, on most occasions, softand wide-ranging commentaries on the human condition and its comical flawedness,but they also frequently criticized certain policies, persons and actions. Eventhe works which were so vigorously nontopical were, in fact, clearly politicalstatements in that century.
Therefore, the readers of the literature from the18th century need to familiarize themselves with the history of thisperiod more than the other readers of most literatures do. This is because theauthors of this period wrote for an informed and knowledgeable audience aboutthe period. Poetry, in all its forms was in a continual dialogue, so eachauthor was reacting, commenting and criticizing the other ones. Certain novelswere written in as a way to criticize other novels. A certain example of thiswould be Henry Fielding’s satire of Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela”. Thus, history and literaturewere connected in a way which was rarely seen at other times. The Augustanliterature can be considered as the literature of the people who were deeplycommitted to building a new type of government, discovering new technologiesand conquering troubling challenges to both their religious and philosophical certainty.For the satiric writing in Britain, the highpointwas the Augustan era, some the masterpieces of this era were “Gulliver’s Travels” by Swift, Alexander Pope’s “Dunciads”, “Moral Essays” and “Horatian Immitations”, and manyothers of thousands of satirical worksby authors such as Jonathan Wild, John Gay and Samuel Johnson which werewritten during the period and were for a large period of time ignored.
A group calledthe “Scriblerians” whichconsisted of Pope, Swift, Gay, and their colleague John Arbuthnot wereconsidered to have had common aims in satire. So until recently, all of thesewriters formed a “school” of satire. After the death of Swift andPope, the “Age of Sensibility” slowly discouraged the often abrasiveand cruel tone of the Augustans, and satire became more gentle and scattered(Jack, 1967