Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Dryden > Political and Ecclesiastical Satire > Satirical Narratives and Dialogues
  Prose Satires: The Rehearsal Transpros’d Low Literary Quality of these Satires as a Whole  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

III. Political and Ecclesiastical Satire.

§ 15. Satirical Narratives and Dialogues.


A favourite form of prose, as of poetic, satire was the narrative. Cabala (1663) is a fine example. Here, we are given delightful sham minutes of meetings held by the leading nonconformists in 1662. Sardonic and malicious as it is, it includes burlesque of great talent, as when the “well-affected” minister is described as one “who indeed complieth with the public injunction of the Church, yet professeth they are a burthen and a grief to him.” It has a distinct affinity with a much later composition, which, however, is by a whig and directed against the Jacobites, A true and impartial Narrative of the Dissenters’ New Plot (1690), where the extreme high church view of English history since the reformation is parodied in a brilliant, unscrupulous fashion. The gay, triumphant irony and solemn banter of the piece only set off to better advantage the serious argument which is implied and, at last, earnestly stated.   38
  The List of goods for sale is a very slight thing compared to elaborate productions like the above, but it gave opportunity for skilful thrusts and lasted throughout the period. Books were the objects most frequently described, but other items appear, as in the Advertisement of a Sale of choice Goods, which dates from about 1670. One lot consists of “Two rich Royal Camlet Clokes, faced with the Protestant Religion, very little the worse for wearing, valued at 4l. to advance half a Crown at each bidding”; which must have amused Charles II, if not his brother.   39
  The dialogue was a favourite form for polemic in the party newspapers. It appears in A Pleasant Battle between two Lap-dogs of the Utopian Court (1681), where Nell Gwynn’s dog, following the example of his mistress, wins the day against the duchess of Portsmouth’s. So, too, there are several characters, like that written by Oldham, but none worth special notice, save that the railing style gives place to a more polished invective. Another form, the parable, was in favour under William III. It was a kind of prolonged fable, where personages of the day appear as various birds and beasts. Thus, in the nonconformist whig Parable of the Three Jackdaws (1696), which, perhaps, is identical with that of The Magpies by Bradshaw,  10  the eagle stands for Charles II, the falcon for Monmouth, archbishop Sancroft is called a “metropolitical Magpye” and the dissenters are styled “blackbirds and nightingales.”   40
  Along with these distinct genres there were printed some satires hard to classify, pretended documents, sham letters and so forth. The Humble Address of the Atheists (1688) to James II, a whig concoction, is superior to most of its fellows, although it has but scanty merit. Some way below it rank the mock whig Letter from Amsterdam to a Friend in England (1678) and Father La Chaise’s Project for the Extirpation of Heretics (1688), in which the opponents of the two factions decorated what they imagined were the designs of whig or papist with products of a lurid fancy.   41

Note 10. Cf. Dunton, J., The Life and Errors of J. D., vol. I, p. 182. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Prose Satires: The Rehearsal Transpros’d Low Literary Quality of these Satires as a Whole  
 
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