What did it mean to be a 'Patriot' during the Walpole administration? This is the first full-length study of the so-called Patriot opposition to Walpole which reached its height during the clamour for war against Spain at the turn of the 1730s. The book examines the interrelationship between patriotism, politics, and poetry in the period 1724-1742. Christine Gerrard investigates the growing Patriot opposition during the Walpolian oligarchy, and asks whether a broad credo united all of Walpole's political opponents, or whether there was a distinction between Whig and Tory Patriots. The role of Frederick Prince of Wales as the campaign's cultural and political figurehead (Bolingbroke's visionary 'Patriot King') is discussed, as are the poetry and drama of such authors as James Thomson, Alexander Pope, and the young Samuel Johnson, who were all drawn to the heady idealism of the young Boy Patriots. Thomson's Rule Britannia and Johnson's London exploit the appeal to British history so central to the emotive propaganda of the Patriot campaign.
Drawing on the literature, prints, architecture, and statuary of the 1730s, Christine Gerrard also discusses two of the decade's most powerful romantic patriotic myths - Gothic liberty, and Elizabethan greatness - and reveals that in its nationalistic emphasis upon Nordic and Celtic traditions, the figure of the ancient British Druid, and native 'bards', Patriot literature anticipates the 'Gothic' strain emerging in the poetry of Gray, Collins, and the Wartons only a few years later.