A Dedicated Follower of Fashion: The Ahistoric Rake in Restoration Literature



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Perhaps no literary era is more closely associated with a character type than the Restoration with the flamboyant, self-important seducer. From 1660 through the early eighteenth century, the rake fired the popular imagination, starring in comedy and tragedy, poetry and prose. Indifferent to history and politics, he pursued private pleasure in favor of public influence. He desired power, but contented himself with the conquest of individual minds, earning the love of women and the admiration of men. He sought singularity, reluctant to imitate and scorning his imitators. And while he had earlier avatars, he did not become a coherent figure until the early Restoration. This thesis argues that the rake s emergence immediately after the Civil War was no coincidence. In text after text, he allows both religious and secular writers to elide, alter, and recreate the recent past.