18th Century Literature

In many ways the Enlightenment never ended. The secular commitment to rationalism (the idea that human reason is the primary, or the only, path to truth) has persisted, and while it may have manifested itself in seemingly irrational ways, even relativists and postmodernists are rationalists. Relativism, in fact, is one of the best-known offspring of Enlightenment rationalism; moral and religious authority began to devolve from any Divine source and centered on the now-deified human reason, meaning that right and wrong became human constructs, not absolute truths revealed from on high.

We've been wallowing in the muck of meaninglessness ever since. A lot of historians claim the Enlightenment began in the 17th century, but its roots were much deeper—during the Renaissance thinkers began formulating the ideas that would become rationalism, and even further back the Greek philosophers used observation and conjecture (not divine authority) as their basis for acquiring knowledge. It can't be disputed, however, that the 18th century was the flourishing period of Enlightenment thought.

This is the time period in which the modern world began to take shape. It's hard to say who it all started with (Descartes is usually a front-runner for that distinction), but Rousseau became the poster-child of the movement with his theories of man as a "noble savage," best left in his natural condition and ultimately corrupted by civilization, and the corollary (and, as any child can see, completely incompatible) idea that it is the State and Education which can save mankind from his culture-induced wickedness and ignorance.

Lack of knowledge, therefore, was seen as the source of mankind's ills. It was not intelligence that would solve the problem, however, but mere acquisition of information. So a bunch of Frenchmen, intoxicated by this concept, set about compiling a compendium of all knowledge lodged in the collective human consciousness. They called it the Encyclopedia, though they could just as accurately have called it the Internet. Yes, you read that correctly: the intention of the Encyclopedists was to put all of human knowledge in one place.

Who would be influenced by these guys? you may well ask. Pretty much everybody. Human Reason was lifted above Divine Revelation, and the age of godlessness was inaugurated. Literature of the period took a serious turn for the irreverent and/or highly abstruse, though Practicality was everywhere touted as the primary aim of true intellectuals. Satire became a preferred model for intelligent fiction, with men like Voltaire, Henry Fielding, and Tobias Smollett leading the way.

On the political front, fairly well-known works began to surface, among them Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the Constitution of the United States of America, and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. The world has never recovered. The proposition that man is capable of governing himself at first produced a highly-functional republic in the newly-formed United States, while simultaneously laying the foundation for the current attitude which privileges "democracy" above all else and relegates republicanism to a less-evolved status in our nation's growth.

It wasn't all bad. Brilliance often accompanies shoddy thinking (or antichristian thinking, as the case may be), and while many of the Enlightenment authors were way off-base from a Christian perspective, their books and poems and essays make great reading. Voltaire wrought a lot of damage on the West's intellectual tradition, but it's pretty hard to argue that Candide is the work of anyone less than a genius. Ben Franklin, Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, Alexander Pope—mostly off-base, but some of the best writers the world has ever known.

We encourage the study of 18th century literature be approached with caution. The old Christian humanism of the Renaissance was replaced with a new creature called secular humanism, and the effects were chaotic and largely destructive. Still, this is literature that can't be ignored, especially not by any Christian who really wants to understand exactly what's going on in the world these days. It's also pretty fun, and while the Enlightenment philosophy poses clear dangers, it also motivated many writers to show what fine form man is capable of.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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137 Items found Print
American Poetry
by David S. Shields
from Library of America
for 11th-Adult
in Poetry Anthologies (Location: POET-ANTH)
$20.00 (1 in stock)
Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
Signet Classics
by Patrick Henry & John DeWitt
from Signet Classics
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$7.61 $4.00 (1 in stock)
Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
by Patrick Henry & John DeWitt
from Dover Publications
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.10
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Dover Thrift Editions
by Benjamin Franklin
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$5.10
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
from International Collectors Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin, illustrated by William Sharp, with an introduction by Carl Van Doren
from Easton Press
for 10th-Adult
in Leather Bound Collectible Books (Location: VIN-LEA)
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
from Barnes & Noble
for 10th-Adult
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Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
from Walter J. Black, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in Walter J. Black Classics Club (Location: VIN-LITWJB)
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
World's Greatest Literature
by Benjamin Franklin
from Spencer Press
for 9th-Adult
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Beginnings of Modern Science
by Holmes Boynton, editor
from Walter J. Black, Inc.
for 11th-Adult
in Walter J. Black Classics Club (Location: VIN-LITWJB)
$3.20 (1 in stock)
Ben Franklin: America's Original Entrepreneur
by Benjamin Franklin, illustrated by William Sharp, with an introduction by Carl Van Doren
from Entrepreneur Press
for 10th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$6.40 (1 in stock)
Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanacks
by Benjamin Franklin, illustrated by Norman Rockwell
1979 Edition from Bonanza Books
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings
Signet Classics
by Benjamin Franklin
Reprint from Signet Classics
Autobiography for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.06
Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763
by Frederick A. Pottle
1st edition from McGraw-Hill
for 9th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Bounty Mutiny
Penguin Classics
by William Bligh & Edward Christian
from Penguin Classics
Historical Non-fiction for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Candide
by Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, translated by Richard Aldington and illustrated by Sylvain Sauvage
from Nonesuch Press
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Candide
by Voltaire
from Dover Publications
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Candide
by Voltaire
from Penguin Books
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$14.45
Candide, Zadig and Selected Stories
by Voltaire
from Signet Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$3.50
Common Sense
Dover Thrift Editions
by Thomas Paine
from Dover Publications
Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$3.40
Common Sense
Dover Thrift Editions
by Thomas Paine
from Living Book Press
Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Confessions
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
from Penguin Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$11.05
Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Constitution of the United States of America
by Founding Fathers
from Applewood Books
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$8.46
Constitution of the United States of America with the Declaration of Independence
by Founding Fathers
from Fall River Press
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History
Dover Thrift Editions
by John Grafton, editor
from Dover Publications
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$3.40 $2.00 (1 in stock)
Declaration of Independence with Short Biographies of its Signers
by Thomas Jefferson
from Applewood Books
Primary Source Documents for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
by Edward Gibbon
from Modern Library
Historical Non-Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Early American Abolitionists
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Dover Philosophical Classics
by David Hume
from Dover Publications
for Adult
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Essay on Man and Other Poems
Dover Thrift Editions
by Alexander Pope
from Dover Publications
for Adult
in Poetry (Location: POET-GEN)
$3.40
Essential American
by Jackie Gingrich Cushman
from Regnery Publishing, Inc.
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$15.00
Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Tyndale House
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Faust
by Goethe
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Federalist Papers
Signet Classics
by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay
from Signet Classics
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$6.76
Federalist Papers
Dover Thrift series
by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay
from Dover Publications
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.95
Federalist Papers
Signet Classics
by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay
from Racehorse
American Political Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$3.60 (1 in stock)
Freedom of the Will
by Jonathan Edwards
from Dover Publications
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$8.46
Goethe's Faust
by Goethe, Walter Kaufmann (translator)
from Anchor Books
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$11.01
Great American Short Stories
by Wallace & Mary Stegner, editors
from Dell Publishing
Realistic Fiction for 9th-12th grade
in Short Stories (Location: LIT-ANTH)
$7.64
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift
from Everyman's Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift
from Oxford University
Satire/Social Commentary for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$6.76
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift
from Dover Publications
for 7th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.10
Gulliver's Travels
Macmillan Classics
by Jonathan Swift, retold by Padraic Colum and illustrated by Willy Pogany
from Macmillan
for 7th-10th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
by Johnathan Swift
from International Collectors Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Jon Corbino
from Doubleday & Company
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
Calla Editions
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Arthur Rackham
from Dover Publications
for 8th-12th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Warren Chappell
from Oxford University
Satire/Social Commentary for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$7.20 (2 in stock)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Arthur Rackham
from Gramercy Books
for 8th-12th grade
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Gulliver's Travels
Penguin Classics
by Jonathan Swift
from Penguin Classics
Satire/Social Commentary for 9th-Adult
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Gulliver's Travels
Windermere Series 3
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Milo Winter
from Rand McNally
for 10th-Adult
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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
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Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Thomas Morten
from Franklin Library
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Victor Candell & R.G. Mossa
from Garden City Books
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by R. M. Powers
from World Publishing Company
for 7th-10th grade
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Gulliver's Travels
by Johnathan Swift, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
from Welbeck Editions
for 10th-Adult
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
Gulliver's Travels
Windermere Readers #15
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Milo Winter
1954 Edition from Rand McNally
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
$7.20 (2 in stock)
Gulliver's Travels
Windermere Series 1
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Milo Winter
from Rand McNally
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
Windermere Series 2
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Milo Winter
from Rand McNally
for 10th-Adult
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Gulliver's Travels
Windermere Series 4
by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Milo Winter
from Rand McNally
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift
from HarperCollins
Satire/Social Commentary for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Gulliver's Travels (abridged)
by Jonathan Swift, Illustrated by Jo Polseno
Abridged from Grosset & Dunlap
for 6th-9th grade
in Companion Library (Location: VIN-FIC)
Gulliver's Travels (Adapted)
by Jonathan Swift, adapted by Sarel Eimerl and illustrated by Maraja
from Golden Press
for 7th-10th grade
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
History of Rasselas
by Samuel Johnson
from Oxford University
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$7.61
History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
by Samuel Johnson
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.91
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Penguin Classics
by Edward Gibbon
from Penguin Putnam
Historical Non-Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
History of Tom Jones
by Henry Fielding
from International Collectors Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
by Olaudah Equiano
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$12.75
Johnson's Dictionary: A Modern Selection
by Samuel Johnson
from Pantheon Books
for 10th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions
by Jonathan Edwards
from P&R Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$4.24
Letters of John Newton
by John Newton
1976 reprint from Banner of Truth Trust
for Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$2.40 (1 in stock)
Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
Rainbow Classics
by Daniel Defoe, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
from World Publishing Company
for 10th-Adult
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Life and Diary of David Brainerd
by David Brainerd
from Baker Books
Biography for 10th-Adult
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$14.45
Life and Diary of David Brainerd
by David Brainerd
from Moody Press
Biography for 10th-Adult
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
$24.00 (1 in stock)
Life and Letters of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
from E.M. Hale and Company
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Lord Chesterfield's Letters
by Philip Dormer Stanhope (Lord Chesterfield)
from Oxford University
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$7.20 (1 in stock)
Major Works of William Wordsworth
by William Wordsworth
from Oxford University
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: POET-GEN)
$16.11
Method of Grace
by George Whitefield
from Curiosmith
for 9th-Adult
in Justification & Sanctification (Location: XTH-JUS)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works
by Jonathan Swift
from Dover Publications
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$2.55
Moll Flanders
Signet Classics
by Daniel Defoe
from Signet Classics
Realistic Fiction for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.06
Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws
by Charles de Montesquieu
from Cambridge University
for 11th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Mysteries of Udolpho
by Ann Radcliffe
from Oxford University
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$11.86
Natural History of Selborne
by Gilbert White, edited by Richard Mabey
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
On Politics and Education
Walter J. Black Classics Club
by John Locke
from Walter J. Black, Inc.
for 10th-Adult
in Walter J. Black Classics Club (Location: VIN-LITWJB)
On the Social Contract
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
from Dover Publications
Philosophy for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.10 $2.40 (1 in stock)
Poor Richard's Almanack
by Benjamin Franklin
from Peter Pauper Press
for 7th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$9.31 $5.60 (1 in stock)
Poor Richard's Almanack
by Benjamin Franklin
from Hallmark Publications
for 7th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Poor Richard's Almanacks
International Collector's Library
by Benjamin Franklin
from International Collectors Library
for 9th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Practical View of Christianity
by William Wilberforce
from Hendrickson Publishers
Religion/Philosophy for 11th-Adult
in Hendrickson Christian Classics (Location: XCL-DEV)
$12.95 $6.00 (2 in stock)
Real Christianity
by William Wilberforce, abridged and edited by James M. Houston
from Multnomah Press
for Adult
in Practical Christian Living (Location: XCL-PRAC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Reflections on the Revolution in France
Penguin Classics
by Edmund Burke
from Penguin Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$11.90 $5.60 (1 in stock)
Reflections on the Revolution in France
by Edmund Burke
from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Rights of Man
by Thomas Paine
from Living Book Press
for 10th grade-adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
Rights of Man, Common Sense
by Thomas Paine
from Oxford University
for 10th grade-adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$10.16
Robinson Crusoe
Signet Classics
by Daniel Defoe
from Signet Classics
Realistic Adventure Novel for 8th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$5.06
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Oxford University
for 8th-12th grade
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$6.76
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Penguin Putnam
for 10th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$8.50
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Dover Publications
for 8th-Adult
in 18th Century Literature (Location: LIT5-18)
$9.35
Robinson Crusoe
Sterling Classics
by Daniel Defoe, illustrated by Scott McKowen
from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 10th-Adult
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Doubleday & Company
for 9th-Adult
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
12