During a fairly nebulous period in Britain between the reigns of William and Mary and George II, something of an information age took root. The era is marked by a tremendous spike in literacy and readership, and a coeval rise in... [more]
During a fairly nebulous period in Britain between the reigns of William and Mary and George II, something of an information age took root. The era is marked by a tremendous spike in literacy and readership, and a coeval rise in production also took place; new kinds and methods of publication – among them chapbooks and broadsheets – were receiving wider audiences and becoming increasingly profitable. Similarly, new literary niche genres were budding and thriving buoyantly, and, much as the internet today has allowed for a proliferation of new, un-sponsored writers to find venues for expression, so too did the collusion of rising literacy and advancements in publishing lead to an unprecedented increase in literary voices.
Coming to prominence in the late-19th-early-18th centuries and continuing through mid-century, this period coincides with, and is often collided with, the Age of Reason, wherein an inchoate Enlightenment was taking its philosophical baby steps. The virulent political unrest, commingled with and often exacerbated by advance of the political state – the two-party system, between the Tories and the Whigs, began during Queen Anne’s reign at the beginning of the 18th century –, led to tremendous interest in political literature, and gave opportunity to an outburst of satire; therefore, much of the most memorable works of this period – among them Alexander Pope’s "Dunciad" or Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” – may seem somewhat opaque to those unaware of the political, cultural, or social circumstances in which these texts arose. Melodrama in theatre and an advancement of late-Metaphysical concerns in poetry are also notable literary features of the period.
The term is likely a reference to George II’s penchant for being compared to Augustus Caesar; and his hubris was not entirely ill-founded: his reign did see an extraordinary rise in literary output and artistic expression, much like that of Augustus.