Restoration Verse Satire as Life-Writing: Reading Nell Gwyn

January 26, 2017, 8.15 a.m.

An der Universität 5

Room U5/02.22

Dr. Julia Lajta-Novak, M.A. (Universität Wien)

Restoration Verse Satire as Life-Writing: Reading Nell Gwyn

Nell Gwyn (16501687), one of the very early theatre actresses on the Restoration stage and long-term mistress to King Charles II, has today become a popular cultural icon, revered for her wit and good-naturedness. The image of Gwyn that emerges from Restoration verse satires, by contrast, is considerably more critical of the kings actress-mistress. Verse satires were a popular means of commenting on and ridiculing, often anonymously, prominent figures and current affairs in the late 17th century. The Restoration period saw a surge in misogynist satires, and the king’s mistresses certainly proved a popular target, inspiring some outrageous texts that are revealing of the cultural climate and social norms of their time. In this lecture we will read some of the numerous satires in which Gwyn features, treating them as biographical texts and comparing them with other types of poetry from the period so as to shed light on the purposes of satire as a form of biographical storytelling.