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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century


Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein

What did eighteenth-century men and women think about when they contemplated the future? What was hidden in the «dark bosom of futurity», as Richardson’s Pamela calls it? Do all types of literature that supply a critique of the present conjure up an idealized past or a vision of a better future? Predictions and prophecies – not only astrological but also political ones, utopian models, theological concepts like predestination, progress in the sciences, and, last but not least, life-after-death, both in the form of secular fame and the immortal soul, are among the topics addressed by the essays collected in this volume.


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“SUPPOSE ME DEAD; AND THEN SUPPOSE ...”: SWIFT IN LIVELY ANTICIPATION Allan Ingram, Northumbria University Like much of his writing after 1714, Swift’s poem Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, which was written between 1731 and 1732, looks to the past, even though, as its title implies, its nominal focus is on a future event, the death of the poet. Demonstrating the validity of certain of the maxims of Rochefoucauld, Swift argues from his own case, and own motivations and reactions, the truth of the assertion: “In all Distresses of our Friends “We first consult our private Ends, “While Nature kindly bent to ease us, “Points out some Circumstance to please us.” (ll. 7-10)1 In exactly the same way, he writes, in his own responses to his friends’ success- es, he wishes they were brought down, even more than he would his foes. In POPE, I cannot read a Line, But with a Sigh, I wish it mine: When he can in one Couplet fix More Sense than I can do in Six: It gives me such a jealous Fit, I cry, Pox take him, and his Wit. (ll. 47-52) “To all my Foes, dear Fortune, send,” he concludes, “[t]hy Gifts, but never to my Friend” (ll. 67-8). When he looks to the future, though, and to his own slow but sure demise, it is in fact with increasing reference to the past that he orientates the matter of the poem. Certainly, part of that ‘past’ is still...

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