Juvenalian and Horatian Satire

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody\'s
face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it
meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it." Jonathan Swift
(1667-1745), Anglo-Irish satirist. The Battle of the Books, Preface (written
1697; published 1704).


Satire is known as the literary style which makes light of a subject,
diminishing its importance by placing it in an amusing or scornful light. Unlike
comedy, satire attempts to create humor by deriding its topic, as opposed to a
topic that evokes laughter in itself. Satires attempt to give us a more humorous
look at attitudes, advances, states of affairs, and in some cases ( as in
Jonathan Swift\'s A Modest Proposal ) the entire human race. The least offensive
form of satire is Horatian satire, the style used by Addison and Steele in their
essays. A much more abrasive style is Juvenalian satire, as used by Jonathan
Swift in the aforementioned essay A Modest Proposal. To better understand satire
as a whole, and Horatian and Juvenalian satire in particular, these essays can
provide for further comprehension than a simple definition of the style alone.
Horatian satire is noted for its more pleasant and amusing nature.
Unlike Juvenalian satire, it serves to make us laugh at human folly as opposed
to holding our failures up for needling. In Steele\'s essay The Spectator\'s Club,
a pub gathering is used to point out the quirks of the fictitious Sir Robert de
Coverly and his friends. Roger de Coverly is an absolute character. His failure
in an amorous pursuit have left him in the past, which is shown through his
manner of dress, along with his somewhat dubious honor of justice of the quorum.
This position entails such trying duties as explaining Acts to the commoners.
Also present is a lawyer who is more versed in "Aristotle and Cognius" than in
"Littleton and Coke"(Norton, 2193), indicative of lawyers more interested in
sounding learned than being capable of practicing actual law. Near him, a
wealthy merchant whose concerns lie mainly in the wealth of England and himself,
and who views the ocean as his marketplace. Captain Sentry is an old military
man well practiced in the art of false modesty, a trait he detests in others.
Also there is a clergyman who is so frail that he would sooner wait until the
Lord sees fit to smite him than get on with the business of leading his
life.(Norton, 2192-2195). All of these characters present traits present in all
humans, but their presentation in such a silly and hypocritical context makes
them humorous. In this way, Steele points out the reader\'s faults in an
acceptable fashion.
Addison\'s Sir Roger at Church is a humorous account of Sir Roger de
Coverly and the members of his parish. He gives books to his poorly read
parishioners, "will suffer no one to sleep in [church] besides himself" (Norton
2196), lengthens the Psalms, and pronounces his Amens repeatedly. At one point
he stands and warns "one John Matthews to mind what he is about"(Norton, 2196),
and stop tapping his heels lest he disturb the congregation. The irony here, of
course, is that Sir Roger has caused an even greater disturbance by standing and
calling attention to this poor man (Norton, 2195-2197). An obvious poke at
overly zealous churchgoers and clergymen, this work makes light of the entire
situation. By doing so, readers find their own faults in a more humorous medium,
rather than being affronted by a scathing attack.
The Juvenalian satirist approaches his work in a more serious manner and
uses dignified language to attack erroneous thinking or vice. In this way
Juvenalian satire evokes feelings of contempt, shock, and righteous indignation
in the mind of the reader. It is this form of satire used by Jonathan Swift in A
Modest Proposal. The irony is at once very subtle and very simple; Swift\'s
proposal is not at all modest. In order to ease the economic burden of his
countrymen, he proposes to eat surplus children in the populace, thereby
creating a new food market and reducing overpopulation. He even suggest to sell
these people by poundage. He uses stern logic to earn the reader\'s approval even
before the reader knows of that which he is approving. This is done by taking
the standpoint of a concerned humanitarian and patriot, when in fact his
proposal is rather ghastly and inhumane. By ignoring the obvious immorality of
his plan and speaking out of sheer benevolence, Swift