1. When was it?

1660 – late 18th century

2. Who was writing?

John DrydenJonathan Swift
Alexander PopeDaniel Defoe
Samuel JohnsonJames Boswell

3. History

After the execution of Charles I in 1649, England existed as a republic until 1660 when, following the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, political forces brought Charles’s son to the throne. Royalists proclaimed that there had been no gap in the royal line, and Charles II had always been the king. Historically, however, the ‘Interregnum’ (‘between royalty’) has become recognised. 
This was a time of political upheaval, but one that brought benefits to the people. One offshoot of Charles II’s return was the Bill of Rights 1688, legislation which made royalty accountable to the law, not God. Vitally, the bill also put the power of taxation under parliament’s control, a key step towards turning England into a parliamentary democracy, not an absolute monarchy. The bill also granted free elections, freedom of speech, and freedom from cruelty – although not to all.
Despite its internal revolutions, England continued to be a major international force with an expanding empire, making London a global hub. Closer to home, political events brought Scotland and Wales into the United Kingdom.
Lifestyles changed during this time. Traditional farming life became secondary to cities, thanks to international trade, including with the New World colonies. Then, in the 18th century, Europe entered the Age of Enlightenment (also called ‘The Age of Reason’) during which scientific method improved, rational and existential philosophy grew, public debate became acceptable, and industry flourished. Concepts such as tolerance (particularly religious tolerance), constitutional governance, the separation of church and state, egalitarianism, and progress through investigation and debate all came to the fore.
The net result was a fundamental shift in how people thought about themselves, their religion, and their state. Although England had returned to a monarchy, religious and regal control was being questioned, and many institutions had to adapt. The persecutions and purges so popular with previous authorities were slowed to some degree, as ideas and opposition became tools, not death sentences.

4. Traits

With political upheaval and expansion, followed by the Enlightenment, many writers began to be less sycophantic towards royalty or obsessed with God. Some replaced these with satire and cynicism, whilst others began to seek analytical or rational studies of society. While direct criticism of authorities could still be troublesome, it was on the rise, and many writers began to write allegories that ‘punched up’ or ridiculed systems. Politics became as interesting as religion for writing.
Prose, often divided into segments to be published in literary periodicals, began to replace poetry. Similarly, non-fiction or books heavy on social analysis and discussion became the most popular medium. Rather than tell stories, most famous works from this period concentrated on social commentary and debating ideas.
Despite, or perhaps because of, these changes, post-restoration and 18th century literature is often overshadowed by the preceding Elizabethan period and the subsequent Romantics. It is viewed as a time of political, scientific and philosophical growth rather than artistic experimentation and identity. In many ways art took a back seat as other ideas matured.

5. Timeline

6. Examples

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson

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Title: A Dictionary of the English Language
Author: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Published: 1755
Language: English
Genre: Reference; dictionary
Synopsis: A breakthrough in the quality of dictionaries, Johnson’s work was better organised, had better definitions, and quoted better examples than any previous effort. Examples of usage came from the likes of Milton and Shakespeare, and with illustrations and multiple definitions, some entries lasted multiple pages. The book also included a few comical entries expressing Johnson’s opinion (e.g. what Johnson thought of ‘taxman’).

Excerpt from Beginning of Preface:

It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.
Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius, who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other authour may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.
I have, notwithstanding this discouragement, attempted a dictionary of the English language, which, while it was employed in the cultivation of every species of literature, has itself been hitherto neglected, suffered to spread, under the direction of chance, into wild exuberance, resigned to the tyranny of time and fashion, and exposed to the corruptions of ignorance, and caprices of innovation.
When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetick without rules: wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated; choice was to be made out of boundless variety, without any established principle of selection; adulterations were to be detected, without a settled test of purity; and modes of expression, to be rejected or received, without the suffrages of any writers of classical reputation or acknowledged authority.
Having therefore no assistance but from general grammar, I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a dictionary, which, by degrees, I reduced to method, establishing to myself, in the progress of the work, such rules as experience and analogy suggested to me; experience, which practice and observation were continually increasing; and analogy, which, though in some words obscure, was evident in others.

The Rape of the Lock 
by Alexander Pope

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Title: The Rape of the Lock
Author: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Published: 1712
Language: English
Genre: Poetry; satire; mock heroic; narrative poem; burlesque
Plot: The Baron decides to steal some of Belinda’s beautiful hair. Ariel, a sylph, summons her compatriots to protect Belinda and they foil the Baron twice. The third time, however, he is successful. Belinda is angry at losing a bit of her hair, and the people demand the Baron gives the hair back. When he refuses, a battle begins, albeit with songs and wit as the weapons. Eventually Belinda gets to the Baron and demands her hair; he, however, has already turned it into a constellation.
Setting: London
Characters: Belinda; The Baron; Ariel; Umbriel

Excerpt from Canto 5, Lines 141-150:

Then cease, bright Nymph! to mourn the ravish’d Hair
Which adds new Glory to the shining Sphere!
Not all the Tresses that fair Head can boast
Shall draw such Envy as the Lock you lost.
For, after all the Murders of your Eye,
When, after Millions slain, your self shall die;
When those fair Suns shall sett, as sett they must,
And all those Tresses shall be laid in Dust;
This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And mid’st the Stars inscribe Belinda’s Name!