Summer Seminar 2022

The theme of next year's Summer Seminar will be Augustan England, which we are defining as the period between The "Glorious" Revolution of 1688 and the death of King George I.  These were the years of William III and Good Queen Anne, the Duke of Marlborough's victories and also the age that saw the emergence of two distinct political parties and ideologies.

More significantly for our seminar, it was one of the great ages of English literature Addison was creating the English essay and Defoe was passing off the fictions of  Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, but above all it was the age of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift and their friends, especially John Gay, whose Beggars Opera remains a classic of English comedy and inspired the Marxist rip-off, The Three Penny Opera.

We have not fully worked out the reading list, but student will certainly wish to go over some history of the period.  I am not recommending the quite readable works of the acknowledged story master of the period, G.M. Trevelyan, who is is as partisan as he is able.  A briefer, fairer, and. more readable account can be got from the relevant volumes of Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.  Churchill's most important history,  the  multi-volume biography in praise of his ancestor the first Duke of Marlborough, is not for the faint of heart or readers with a short attention span.

We shall certainly be taking up Swift, both Gulliver's Travels and The Tale of a Tub.  His "Battle of the Books" will be taken up in treatments of the war between the ancients and the moderns.  Pope's imitations of Horace and parts of The Dunciad and the Essay on Man will also be discussed, both because of their intrinsic merits and because of the light they shed on the age 's infatuation with Augustan Rome.  Dryden's Aeneid also belongs to our periods, and some parts may be taken up an a talk illustrating the development of English verse.

John Gay's "The Beggars Opera" can be read, but it is also possible rent the 1953  film, produced by and starring Laurence Olivier, with fine performances by Hugh Griffith and Stanley Holloway.  The play--a satire on the political powers that ruled England--was so offensive that a sequel was not able to be performed.  Gay's 'opera" will not be the only musical topic, since we are promised a lecture on early 18th century English music.

Frank Brownlow, E. Christian Kopff, and Charles Yost have agreed to join me in giving lectures.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

7 Responses

  1. Robert Reavis says:

    Whigs won but would be spinning in their graves to see what they unleashed

  2. Michael Strenk says:

    This sounds likely an excellent seminar and of great interest to me. I can’t promise to attend in person but I will certainly purchase the download.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    A few days ago I read a funny poem by Swift on why man is NOT a rational animal–and why the beasts are better for lacking human reason.

  4. Michael Strenk says:

    Could you possibly post the above-mentioned poem by Swift? My only exposure to Swift’s poetry thus far came through the several poems in Robert Penn Warren’s and Albert Erskine’s Six Centuries of Great Poetry which I am currently reading. I’d be willing to bet that the title served to sell a lot of copies to 70’s era lotharios looking for great pick-up lines. They must have been very disappointed to find virtue on every page, even Rochester’s work which did protest too much.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    You can find the text of “The Logicians Refuted” at:

  6. Michael Strenk says:

    Thank you. I like this much better than Darwin and his descendants. I’ve heard clergy speak of God creating the lower beasts to show us a mirror of our better and worse characteristics, which can also reflect in the beast our own treatment of other creatures.

  7. Jacob Johnson says:

    I’ve just read the chapter of Churchill’s Marlborough about Europe during the reign of Charles II and found it an excellent summary of information I’ve always had difficulty putting together. The crude, uninformed impression I have often gotten of the historical writing about English politics of this time period, is that it commonly features seemingly cagey and uncomfortable overtones, which ,to my thinking, is a great sign to investigate.