The good-natured misanthrope: A study in the satire and sentiment of the eighteenth century
Preston, Thomas R.
Doctor of Philosophy
The rise of sentiment and the man of feeling in the second half of the eighteenth century is usually held responsible for the decline of the satiric spirit that held sway in the first half of the century under such famous names as Swift and Pope. The spirit of satire never really dies, however; when it is denied its usual literary expression in such shapes as the formal verse satire and the prose anatomy, it will ally itself with other forms of literature, even with such forms which, on the surface, are completely opposed to satire. Such an alliance actually occurred between sentiment and satire in the latter half of the age. Its seeds, however, can be found very early in the eighteenth century, so that in reality the alliance was a progression rather than a sudden innovation. One of the chief, and certainly one of the most interesting, forms of this union was the development of the character which I have called the good-natured misanthrope. This sentimental misanthrope represents a blending of the man of feeling and the traditional literary satiric persona, an unusual reconciliation of satiric railing and benevolent action, of speculative misanthropy and actual good deeds. The first two chapters attempt to explain the dilemma of the man of feeling which encouraged such a reconciliation and to relate traditional misanthropy and satire to the change in viewpoint that took place in the eighteenth century. In Chapter II I deal exclusively with the eighteenth century critics of misanthropy and satire, although often they wrote chronologically in the middle of or after the actual literary development of the good-natured misanthrope. Chapters III through V explore the literary use of the character and its implications in the literature of sentiment, particularly of the man of feeling.