Humor and satire anthologies

While we’re asking for book recommendations, I was wondering if anyone out there could offer advice on textbooks for a course in 18th-century humor and satire. I’m offering just such a course next semester, broken into three units—Restoration comedy, Augustan satire, and the comic novel—that brings together stage comedy, satiric verse (including imitations), essays, and fiction. When making up the reading list, however, I could find no alternative to ordering a (literally) huge set of texts for my students, including the individual Major Works of Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Johnson for the second unit alone. I consulted Jack Lynch’s Augustan Satire Bibliography, but it appears that the anthologies he lists are out of print.

I’m now considering making up my own enormous reader. But, to be honest, I’d rather not.



12 responses to “Humor and satire anthologies

  1. I recommend The Oxford Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. It has Dryden, Pope, Swift, Congreve, Gay, Boswell, Johnson, et al.

  2. David Mazella

    Hi Gena,

    Can you give us an idea of what authors and works you’re considering, or the kind of chronological range you’re working with here?

    Frankly, besides one of the old, big anthologies like Tillotson/Fussell’s 18c English Literature, I don’t know of many multi-genre anthologies of satire and comedy. Ideas, anyone?


  3. To give you an idea of the kind of selection I want to offer, here are my notes for a reading list so far (just ideas, but all possibilities I’d like at my disposal):

    Rochester: The Imperfect Enjoyment, The Disabled Debauchee, A Ramble Through St. James’s Park, On King Charles, A Satyr Against Mankind

    Behn: On the Death of Rochester, The Disappointment

    Wycherley: The Country Wife

    Etherege: The Man of Mode

    Defoe: The True-Born Englishman

    Pope: Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock, Epistles, Dunciad, Imitations of Horace

    Swift: the scatological poems, Progress of Beauty, Journal of a Modern Lady, Furniture of a Woman’s Mind, Description of a City Shower, Verses on the Death of Dr Swift, Tale of a Tub/Battle of the Books (along with Temple’s Ancient and Modern Learning), A Modest Proposal, Gulliver’s Travels

    Elizabeth Thomas, Metamorphosis of the Town, etc.

    Mary Wortley Montagu’s response to Swift

    Johnson: London, Vanity of Human Wishes, select Prefaces to the English Poets

    Selections of the Spectator, the Tatler, the Rambler

    (I realize I’ve left out Dryden, among other indispensable items. Like I said, this is a work in progress!)

    Those are notes for units one and two. The third will be a novel, likely Joseph Andrews — I want to posit the comic novel as a confluence of earlier satiric genres, but also a way of domesticating satire and reconciling it with the emergent trends of sentimentalism and novelistic sensibility.

  4. David Mazella

    This looks a lot like the selections I use in my grad presem, which covers both the restoration and 18c stuff. I generally do a lot of xeroxes (which I hope at some point to convert to PDFs), but I’m thinking now that switching selections is easier when moving to a new anthology.

    Laura would know this far better than me, but I’d think you could cover the plays with most of the standard restoration comedy anthologies–McMillin’s Norton has all of these, doesn’t it?

    The newish anthologies (along with the Oxford, I’d look at Gerrard’s poetry anthology) or the DeMaria or Stuart Sherman/ rest/18c segment of Longman’s multivolume anthology of British lit would have most of the poetry and satire, I’d think.

    Resign yourself to a certain amount of xeroxing, if you’re teaching non-canonical stuff, though if your institution subscribes to databases like Chadwyck-Healey or the big ticket full text ones, then you can fill in things that way.

    Any other ideas, anyone?


  5. Laura Rosenthal

    The Longman (ed Stuart Sherman) includes *The Country Wife* and actually has most of your other texts as well (but not all). *Man of Mode* is in a Nebraska paperback, so you could get most of your course reading with the Longman, a separate edition of MM, and a little xeroxing or PDFing. For the Spectator/Tatler, I love Erin Mackie’s *The Commerce of Everyday Life,* although the Longman has some of this as well and it depends how much you are going to use. The Norton includes Gulliver but the Longman does not; however, one semester my collegue ordered the Longman and I think they “bundled” it with Gulliver for no extra charge (presumably to compete with the Norton). I’m sure there’s a TOC of the Longman available online. For its plays, the Norton has Way of the World and I think Beggar’s Opera as well.

  6. Laura Rosenthal

    A great advantage of McMillan’s Norton edition, however, is that it includes some of the contemporary controversies over what comedy should be, which I have found to be very engaging to students.

  7. David Mazella

    Hey Laura,

    I’ve always used the McMillin, largely because of those materials, but would you recommend any other anthologies of Restoration comedy and/or Restoration and 18c drama?

    My situation, which is probably not rare, is that I’ve never taught a stand-alone Rest/18c drama course, but tend to teach the drama alongside other genres. So the Broadview, for example, which looks interesting, doesn’t seem quite right for that purpose.


  8. Laura Rosenthal

    I’m in the opposite situation in that I’ve always been at institutions where the period is taught by genre. I use the Broadview because it has so many plays that I can teach different ones each time, although I miss being able to use *Conquest of Granada* and *The West Indian,* which are in Nettleson, Case, and Stone but not in the Broadview. The McMillan is probably the best one for your purposes. THe main drawback is that it is only comedy and some of the tragedies from our period teach surprisingly well. The Broadview also comes in a concise edition, which might be good in an 18th-century survey course and give you some more choices.

  9. David Mazella


    Does the Broadview, concise or otherwise, contain the kinds of contextual materials that McMillin does?

    And what tragedies teach well? I’m assuming you’re talking about restoration stuff, but what surprised you when you tested it out on students?


  10. Thanks for the suggestions—this is a very helpful discussion. I’m still surprised that there’s no anthology of 18th-c satire & humor, though. Does anyone know if there’s one in the works somewhere?

  11. Laura Rosenthal

    The Broadview has no contextual material at all, so you have to provide it yourself if you want it. The tragedies I have taught are: Conquest of Granada, Indian Queen, Indian Emperor, London Merchant, Cato, The Fair Penitent and others I’m sure. It surprises me how much students respond to them since tragedy is usually not considered the strength of the period and I’ve never seen or even heard of any of them being produced.

  12. I always use the Cadwick Healy “literature online” database to supplement anthologies–especially for plays and poetry. The database has almost everything–though it won’t have supporting notes–and after some practice students grow accustomed to the use of some electronic texts.