What are critical views of John Dryden, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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John Dryden, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson are all described as "Augustan" writers, meaning that although they were British eighteenth-century writers, their work was heavily influenced by Latin writers who lived in the time of Augustus Caesar, including Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, on whom they self-consciously modeled their style.

Contemporary critics especially admire this period as the great age of English satire. Pope is considered the master of the use of the heroic couplet for satiric verse. Johnson is admired primarily for his prose style. The period marks the development of the essay, in either verse or prose, as a form and the rise of a periodical literature aimed at a bourgeois, as opposed to aristocratic audience.

Many critics are particularly interested in studying the role of these and other eighteenth-century writers in the history of authorship, in particular in the way they represented developments in the profession of authorship enabled by the 1709 copyright act. 

Another common theoretical approach to the period is New Historicist, and looks at these writers in relation to the social and political changes following upon the English Restoration, the expansion of the British Empire, and the rise of the middle class and continuing spread of vernacular literacy.

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