Stuart Debauchery in Restoration Satire
The Restoration Era, 1660-1688, has long borne a reputation as an exceptionally debauched period of English history. That reputation is however a caricature, amplified from a handful of recognizable features. That rhetoric of debauchery originates in the Restoration's own discourse, constructed as a language for opposing the rising French-style absolutism of the late Stuart kings, Charles II and James II. When Charles II was restored in 1660, enthusiastic panegyrists returned to the official
... to the official aesthetics of his father Charles I, who had formulated power as abundance through pastoral, mythological, and utopian art. Oppositional satirists in the Restoration subverted that language of cornucopian abundance to represent Charles II and his court as instead excessive, diseased, and predatory. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9, Williamite satirists and secret historians continued to wield these themes against the exiled Jacobites. Gradually, the political facets of Stuart excess dulled, but the caricature of the debauched Restoration survived in eighteenth-century state poem collections and historiography. The authors most emphasized in this study are John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Andrew Marvell. Works by John Milton, John Dryden, Edmund Waller, King Charles I, and Gilbert Burnet also receive sustained attention.