Studies in the satires of Charles Churchill
McAdams, William Lee
Doctor of Philosophy
The following chapters attempt full scale studies of four of Churchill's important satires. Chapter one surveys Churchill scholarship and criticism of the past twelve years, with emphasis upon those studies and editions which were most helpful to me. Much attention is given to the unpublished doctoral dissertations. Churchill scholarship, scholarship on formal satire as a literary genre, and studies of other satirists are already numerous and multiplying, and I have attempted to understand that close study of Churchill must take other studies into account. Chapter two is a study of Night , Churchill's first political poem. The personality of the speaker, and the central paradoxical moral contrast between day and night, are described as governing the structure of the poem. Chapter three concentrates mostly on Famine's prophecy. Her appearance, personality, and motives are discussed, with considerable background offered for illustration, and the techniques of political persuasion, both those ascribed to Famine and those used by Churchill's speaker, are analyzed in the light of modern studies of the subject. Chapter four describes the motif of the ruin piece which Churchill turns to satiric use in the Duellist, Book II. This ruin piece is an outstanding example of Churchill's accommodation of a personal and reflective poetic motif into his satire, and it indicates that the critics are right who say that Church censures the false and frigid in poetry, not the emotional and introspective as such. I also argue that the Duellist is one of Churchill's finest poems, and that its tetrameter couplets have not been given their due. In Chapter five the Dedication to the Sermons is read as an attack on Warburton, under a cover of irony, delivered to an imagined audience gathered to hear formal praises, or panegyric; the speech is organized according to formulas of classical oratory, with pauses, summaries, recollections, arguments, and rhetorical questions. The first appendix describes the Essay on Woman incident in Parliament, a political persecution which, along with the charges against the North Briton 45, forced Wilkes into exile and later into prison. A privately issued facsimile reprint of the Essay is described. The political battles of Wilkes of course inspired most of Churchill's poetry after the Ghost. Appendix two is a list of poems relating to Churchill which should indicate the range of his influence and popularity in the eighteenth century. The conclusion to the dissertation is somewhat tentative, because not enough close studies have been made for one to be able to revaluate or readjust his reputation. Several reasons, though, are given why Churchill will probably continue to be studied, and why he may be esteemed as a formal satirist.