restricted access Sir Robert Walpole’s Poets: The Use of Literature as Pro-Government Propaganda, 1721–1742 by Tone Sundt Urstad (review)
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184 does not treat in sufficient depth two of her texts, The Dunciad and Fable of the Bees. In most other respects, Transforming the Word is an illuminating and valuable study. Taylor Corse Arizona State University TONE SUNDT URSTAD. Sir Robert Walpole ’s Poets: The Use of Literature as Pro-Government Propaganda, 1721– 1742. Newark: Delaware, 1999. Pp. 297. $45. George de Forest Lord and his fellow editors of Poems on Affairs of State made few efforts to link their volumes to the history of political thought after the Restoration , although Steven Zwicker and a few others realized this synthesis. However , much remains to be done, especially in the age of Walpole and the early Hanoverians , which follows the POAS cutoff date of 1714. In fact, several studies superior to this (and not cited here) offer useful analyses. Ms. Urstad studies the poetry of what we might call ‘‘the Court Whigs,’’ that is the Robinocrats under the sobriquetladen Walpole. Reed Browning and Jock Gunn have greatly enhanced the bland Namierite verdict that the men in power were richer in purloinedsharesandplaces than they were in ideas. Indeed, of all the political actors of the period, those in the Opposition have dominated scholarly interest , partly because their cries against ‘‘corruption’’ and ‘‘influence’’ resonated with historians seeking the origins of modern liberty and accountable government . This study of poetry and political power furnishes a number of excellent insights on the period. Best of these are in six chapters that survey thewaysinwhich the government hired pens, printers, publishers , and sellers, all supervised and directed by Walpole. No detail was left to chance: the composition and format, as well as the timing of publication, were carefully gauged to ensure that the right note was struck; the poor and unlettered were given verse and jaunty ballads, while the beau monde could choose a number of newspapers, from the Hyp Doctor to the excellent Daily Gazetteer. Their conduits thus established, government pens set about defending places and pensions, and, of course, Walpole himself , whom one writer depicted as England ’s savior: ‘‘Beneath thy Care, bless’d with the Sweets of Peace, / The Muse shall flourish, and each Art increase ; / Faction shall droop, Disloyalty lie dead, / And Commerceonceagainuprear her Head.’’ Other aspects of polemical verse considered here are the varying depictions of Walpole, the monarchy,and the ‘‘patriot’’Opposition (here the author follows Christine Gerrard’s valuable study). Walpole’s Poets lends insight into what those in power numbered among the political virtues. Peace and plenty, a full treasury, victorious armies, and a splendid capital were the marks of anemerging Imperial power, and who cared if a measure of vice was included in the benefit? Yet there was more to the question than smug affirmations of England’s power, and it is at this point that the balance between literary criticism and historicalfact tilts against the author. Indeed, this study of ‘‘propaganda’’ falls victim to its sources, and at times is merely a catalogue of puffs and insults. Not once is the basic political problem of the period addressed , namely, how writers dealt with political units, such as the Ministry or the Opposition, or with political concepts, such as opinion, faction, or influence, all of which were new to the political lexi- 185 con. The age of Walpole represented the nadir of the idea that ‘‘estates’’ comprehended the realm. With Walpole came new circumstances and therefore a need to consider the implications of a developing political structure. Pity those implications are not explored here. Charles W. A. Prior Queen’s University at Kingston Miscellanies in Prose and Verse by Pope, Swift and Gay, 4 volumes, ed. Alexander Pettit. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002. Multiple pagination in each volume . $475. Few volumes of eighteenth-centuryliterature contain more good things than Miscellanies. To read the Table of Contents is to take a tour through the best satire of the century, most of it by Swift, but amply sprinkled with important piecesby others;herewefind,intheiroriginalreader -friendly type-size with ample margins , and on high quality paper, ‘‘Abolishing Christianity,’’‘‘Tritical Essay,’’the ‘‘Bickerstaff Papers,’’ ‘‘The History of John Bull,’’ ‘‘Meditation upon a Broomstick ,’’ ‘‘Memoirs of P.P., Clerk of This Parish,’’ ‘‘Stradling...