Juvenalian satire : Rochester to Johnson



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The importance of Juvenalian satire in the period 1679-1750 is indicated by the critical commentary which frequently ranks it above Horatian satire and by some of the best satires of the period which may be described as Juvenalian. This satire is chiefly characterized by its moral teachings, its sublime eloquence, its pessimism, and its passionate indignation. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, A Satyr against Mankind (1679), expresses pessimism about the human condition with no hope of reforming mankind. John Oldham, Satyrs upon the Jesuits (1681), launches a violent attack lacking irony and humor making it suspect as satire. Jonathan Swift, "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms" (1726), bitterly attacks man in a tone of Horatian reasonableness. Alexander Pope, Epilogue to the Satires (1738), discards Horatian satire for Juvenalian as the only medium strong enough to express his indignation. Samuel Johnson's The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) is eloquent, moral, and dispassionate, perhaps as much tragic sermon as Juvenalian satire. In Swift and Pope the Horatian surface tone of wit and good humor balance the content of Juvenalian indignation. This fusion creates the dynamic vitality and tension of suppressed rage in the best satire of the age.