British Prose 18th century Movements: BA English Notes Sem 4

British Prose 18th century Movements: The 18th century in British prose was marked by several influential literary movements that shaped the course of English literature. Here are some of the notable movements:

Augustan Age/Neoclassicism

The Augustan Age, named after the Roman emperor Augustus, refers to the period in the early 18th century when writers aimed to emulate the literary style and values of ancient Greece and Rome. This movement, known as Neoclassicism, emphasized reason, order, balance, and restraint in prose. Prominent writers of this movement include Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Joseph Addison.

The Rise of the Novel

The 18th century witnessed the emergence and growth of the novel as a dominant literary form. Novelists such as Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding pioneered the development of the English novel, focusing on character development, realistic narratives, and social commentary. Their works laid the foundation for developing the novel as a significant literary genre.


Towards the end of the 18th century, the Romantic movement began challenging the rational and ordered approach of the Augustan Age. Romantic prose emphasized individualism, imagination, emotion, and a connection to nature. Influential writers of this movement include William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Mary Shelley.


Satire was a prevalent literary form in 18th-century British prose. Satirists such as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and John Dryden used wit, irony, and humour to critique their time’s social, political, and moral issues. Their satirical works had a significant impact on the development of British prose.


Sentimentalism was a literary movement that focused on portraying characters’ emotions and moral sensitivity. Writers like Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne explored their protagonists’ inner lives, often eliciting readers’ sympathy and empathy. Sentiment, sensibility, and moral dilemmas characterized their works.

Travel Writing

The 18th century saw a surge in travel writing as explorers, scientists, and adventurers shared their experiences and observations from different parts of the world. These travel accounts gave readers insights into other cultures, geographies, and societies. Notable travel writers of the time include Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks.

These movements and literary trends in 18th-century British prose reflect the time’s changing intellectual, social, and cultural landscape, and their influence can still be seen in literature today.