Significant Influences: The 18th century was a period of significant development in British prose, marked by various influential writers and movements. Here are some of the notable influences on British prose during that time:
The Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement emphasising reason, science, and rational thinking. Writers such as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Joseph Addison incorporated Enlightenment ideals into their prose, promoting critical thinking and social commentary.
The Rise of the Novel
The 18th century witnessed the emergence of the novel as a popular literary form. Authors like Daniel Defoe (“Robinson Crusoe”), Samuel Richardson (“Pamela”), and Henry Fielding (“Tom Jones”) pioneered the development of the English novel, influencing subsequent generations of writers.
Satire played a prominent role in 18th-century British prose. Satirists like Jonathan Swift, with works such as “Gulliver’s Travels,” and Alexander Pope, known for his biting and satirical poetry, used humour and wit to criticize societal norms, political corruption, and human folly.
The rise of periodical literature, including newspapers and magazines, gave rise to the popularity of the periodical essay. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, through their publication “The Spectator,” established the form of the periodical essay, addressing various social, moral, and cultural topics in a witty and accessible manner.
Sensibility and Sentimentalism
Another influential trend in 18th-century British prose was the exploration of sensibility and sentimentalism. Writers like Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne depicted heightened emotions and moral sensitivity in their works, focusing on characters’ inner lives and emotional experiences.
The 18th century saw a surge in travel writing as explorers, scientists, and adventurers shared their experiences from different parts of the world. Writers like Captain James Cook, who documented his voyages, and Joseph Banks, who accompanied Cook on his journeys, contributed to developing the travelogue genre.
These are just a few significant influences on British prose in the 18th century. The literary landscape of the time was rich and diverse, reflecting the era’s changing social, intellectual, and cultural climate.