Augustus Caesar in Augustan England: The Decline of a Classical Norm

Augustus Caesar in Augustan England: The Decline of a Classical Norm

Howard D. Weinbrot
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 288
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    Augustus Caesar in Augustan England: The Decline of a Classical Norm
    Book Description:

    Howard D. Weinbrot challenges the view that the period 1660-1800 is correctly regarded as the "Augustan" age of English literature, a time in which classical Augustan ideals provided a main source of inspiration. Scholars have held that British writers of the Restoration and eighteenth century considered Augustus Caesar to be the model of the wise ruler who enabled political, literary, and moral wisdom to flourish. This book shows on the contrary that classical standards, though often invoked, were often rejected by many informed citizens and writers of the day.

    Anti-Augustan sentiment consolidated by the 1730s, when both Whig and Tory, court and country, viewed Augustus as the enemy of the mixed and balanced constitution that was responsible for British liberty. Professor Weinbrot focuses in particular on literature and its classical backgrounds, reinterpreting major works by Pope and Gibbon.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7170-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Classical Legacy of Augustus Caesar in “Augustan” England
    (pp. 3-48)

    The peace of the augustans died some years ago. unfortunately, the “Augustans” themselves are not only alive, but also the subject of squabbles concerning who they are and how they wrote—whether they lived between 1660 and 1700 or 1700 and 1745; whether they belong to another specified period, or are all the “conservative” and “orthodox” humanists between 1660 and 1800; whether they are essentially pessimistic or optimistic, realistic or unrealistic, gloomy moralists or comic writers. Such vague terminology has obvious pitfalls; but it would be harmless if it were, as one of its recent advocates claims, merely a neutral...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Legacy Improved, Part I. Augustus Praised and Blamed: His Personal Weaknesses and Destruction of Art
    (pp. 49-85)

    The classical legacy of augustus caesar includes some real and some factitious praise, together with abundant blame, both for his actions and for those who approved of them. Eighteenth-century and other “Augustans” who wished to find parallels and happy instruction in the career of the emperor were free to do so and did. One finds partisans of Augustus and numerous remarks in his favor from the Renaissance on. Ben Jonson’sPoetaster(1601), for instance, characterizes Augustus as a model of much that is good in the monarch and the state. Dryden praises Charles II as Augustus inAstraea Redux(1660);...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Legacy Improved, Part II. Augustus in Theory and Practice: Constitutional Balance and Political Activity
    (pp. 86-119)

    The most important objection to augustus was not that he was a butcher, or a torturer, or a pathic, or a lecher, or incestuous, or a legacy-hunter, or a censor, or even a book-burner. Nobody is perfect, as the nation successively ruled by Oliver Cromwell and Charles Stuart no doubt remembered. The dominant objections were to his destruction of the balanced constitution of the Roman Republic, the fatal precedent he set for other rulers, and the establishment of the empire whose slavery and fall were inherent in its creation. Moreover, as either rhetoric, or genuine belief, or both had it,...

  7. CHAPTER 4 “Let Horace blush, and Virgil too”: The Degradation of the Augustan Poets
    (pp. 120-149)

    Thus Alexander Pope proudly writes in his epitaph, as an act of dissociation from the Horatian and Virgilian fawners.¹ That view of the blushing court-poets was a long time in building, and was familiar when Pope used it for possible marmoreal purposes. It was, in fact, a simple inversion of the positive royalist association of court and letters of (roughly) the seventeenth century. Virtually all commentaries on those poets stress their support of Augustus’ reign. As Thomas Hearne says of Virgil, “under the Name ofAeneashe made the Noblest, the most Exquisite and most Compleat Panegyrick uponAugustusthat...

  8. CHAPTER 5 “Juvenal alone never prostitutes his muse”: The Juvenalian Alternative
    (pp. 150-181)

    The eighteenth-century debate regarding the merits of the classical satirists normally reduced itself to a contest between the partisans of Horace and Juvenal. Only Casaubon among the major critics made a sustained case for Persius’ superiority, while most others were content to let him hold the coats as the courtier insinuated and the rhetor declaimed their different ways to the same laurel.¹ Modern students have decided that Horace won during the later years of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth century, and that Juvenal was revived, rehabilitated, or otherwise brought back into fashion some time after mid-century.²...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Pope’s Epistle to Augustus: The Ironic and the Literal
    (pp. 182-217)

    By 1737 many regarded horace and juvenal as being on warring sides—one representing the proper, restrained, supportive satire the administration sought, the other the forthright, outraged, hostile satire the opposition offered. Conviction of the blemished reputation of Augustus, we recall, was something large segments of each group could share, for each was, in theory, committed to the limited monarchy and balanced constitution obnoxious to the Augustan settlement. Seventeen thirty-seven was also a year of rejuvenation for the sputtering opposition cause. Walpole was nearly defeated on the question of the Prince of Wales’ income; the Duke of Argyle pressured him...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: Mutatis Mutandis
    (pp. 218-242)

    At several places in this study i have used continental, largely French, sources to buttress particular points. One could, I believe, write a comparable book on the acceptance and rejection of Augustus in France, the changing attitudes toward the empire and republic, and the consequences for political, historical, and literary works. Some emphases would differ from those in Britain but, with one major exception, the general shape of such response would be similar—Augustanism rises and falls with royalism and absolutism. For example, the power andgloireof Louis XIV made him a splendid reincarnation of Augustus. In 1664 Puget...

  11. Appendix: Two Notes on Pope’s Epistle to Augustus
    (pp. 243-252)
  12. Index
    (pp. 253-270)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)