Monday, June 1, 2009

1700 to 1799: Amelia to Rasselas

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Henry Fielding. British. 1751. Novel. Amelia. Long suffering, wronged wife of Captain Booth who is unfaithful to her, in debt and imprisoned. She forgives.

Encyclopedistes. French. 1751/80. Encyclopedia. Methodical Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades. Spirit of inquiry. Combats superstition, the supernatural, religious authority, intolerance, persecution, the unequal distribution of wealth, fiscal privileges and abuses of justice. Latest scientific discoveries, reforms in government, education, and commerce. Articles on the mechanical trades. Unsuccessfully suppressed. Cross references. Ridiculed contradictions accepted in theological discussion circles.

Voltaire. French. 1752. Tale. Micromegas. Satire on the philosophies of Descartes, Leibnitz and Malabranche. The insignificance of mankind in the universe.

Samuel Johnson. British. 1755. Dictionary. Dictionary of the English Language. Standard dictionary until Noah Webster’s. Refused Lord Chesterfield’s belated offer of patronage.

Samuel Johnson. British. 1759. Romance. History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. Escapes from Paradise to learn that the intellectual lives of the real world do not provide happiness. Like Voltaire’s Candide, an attack on the optimism of the time.

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