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date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates epigrams in order to recover elusive practices that widely affected the composition and interpretation of satire in the long eighteenth century. Restoration courtiers were credited with the production of spontaneous satirical epigrams. However, epigrammatic composition was far from being an elite practice: satirical epigrams circulated via oral transmission, in manuscript, in print, and as graffiti. Epigrammatic graffiti and rhyming games offered people from a range of stations opportunities to encounter and compose verses, in the process teaching ways to appreciate inventive rhyme and diction in poetry. Such widespread activities influenced the transmission and reception of works by noted satirists including the Earl of Rochester, Samuel Butler, and Jonathan Swift. These ephemeral practices of wit had a profound influence on the literary history of the period and their effects can be seen in editions of Restoration satire today.

Keywords: epigram, satire, poetry, Restoration, eighteenth century, Earl of Rochester, Jonathan Swift, jest-books, rhyme, graffiti

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