Claude Rawson   Satire and Sentiment, 1660–1830.
Cambridge University Press, 309 pages, $64.95

Distinguished scholar Claude Rawson’s Satire and Sentiment, 1660–1830, amounts to a survey of what might be called social and socially-placing tones of voice in comic English literature of its period. The book, about half of which started life as discrete reviews, aims to hit “stress points, rather than to provide a progressive narrative.” First, Rawson finds in the Restoration grandee Rochester a lordly ease in obscenity lacking in the socially insecure Oldham; he notes, too, that “Rochester, Laforgue, and Eliot, all wrote, while still in their twenties, portraits of men suffering or affecting an elderly sexual debility, though the refined timidities and wilting sadness of Prufrock differ greatly from the thrusting ostentation of [Rochester’s] Disabled Debauchee.”

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