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The Patriot Opposition to WalpolePolitics, Poetry, and National Myth, 1725-1742$
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Christine Gerrard

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198129820

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198129820.001.0001

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Patriots and Patriotism

Patriots and Patriotism

(p.2) (p.3) 1 Patriots and Patriotism
The Patriot Opposition to Walpole

Christine Gerrard

Oxford University Press

This book deals with patriotism, politics, and poetry in the age of Robert Walpole. It is especially concerned with the activities and writings of the dissident, or ‘Patriot’ Whigs, Walpole's most vigorous critics in parliament and the press in the years after 1725. It explores the broader currents of national feeling enshrined in the Patriots' distinct brand of oppositional poetry and drama: a body of literature which played a vital role in shaping the way in which poets (and, indeed, less elevated mortals) from the 1740s onwards conceived of themselves as uniquely British. It was James Thomson, one such poet, who produced ‘Rule, Britannia’ for his royal masque, Alfred, written for Frederick, Prince of Wales, the Patriots' political figurehead. When Alfred's venerable British Bard, ancient and blind, first stepped across an open-air stage to Arne's swelling tune and spoke those memorable lines one warm night in August 1740, Britain was basking in Admiral Vernon's recent victory at Porto Bello. National pride was at its height, and ‘Rule, Britannia’, which began life as a potent piece of opposition propaganda, soon became the unofficial national anthem.

Keywords:   Robert Walpole, patriotism, politics, oppositional poetry, Britain, Patriot Whigs, James Thomson, poets, opposition propaganda

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