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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

III. Political and Ecclesiastical Satire

§ 8. The Ghost and Last Will Motives

More imaginative in conception are the visions and ghosts; Hodge’s Vision (1679) is a diatribe on the court; The Battle Royal (1687) is a nonconformist burlesque of papist and parson. The Waking Vision (1681) contains a dialogue in Oldham’s undramatic manner between Shaftesbury and Monmouth. A loquacious phantom appears in most of the type. Thus, in Sir Edmundbury Godfrey’s Ghost, written about 1679, by some whig, whose gift of sardonic wit makes us curious to know his name, the ghost is made to appear to Charles II. Humour, on the other hand, is the special talent of the tory who wrote Tom Thynne’s Ghost in Hudibrastic metre (1682). Hell, at any rate, is under a despot, and the dead whigs have no scope for their energies,

  • For none his boundless power questions,
  • Or makes undutiful suggestions.
  • Charles II himself was called on for ghostly comment after his death. The angry tory who wrote Caesar’s Ghost (c. 1687) begins quite well and impressively with the rise of the royal shade from the tomb, but tails off into the usual scurrilities, this time against the officers of James II’s army at Hounslow heath. The Ghost of King Charles II (? c. 1692) also gives advice, written, possibly, by some disgusted whig, to “the pensive prince, not given to replies,” William III.

    From the ghost to the last will is a natural transition, but, whereas the ghost is almost always tragic, and with good reason, too, according to the authors, the will is sprightly and squiblike, if rather hideous, in its fun. The best, perhaps, is the attack on Shaftesbury in exile, The Last Will and Testament of Anthony K. of Poland (1682). The legacies, some of which are heartlessly enough invented, satirise the legatees as well as the great whig leader himself, and there is no denying the stinging wit of the whole.