Article published in:The Power of Satire
Edited by Marijke Meijer Drees and Sonja de Leeuw
[Topics in Humor Research 2] 2015
► pp. 175–184
"A bull is a ludicrous jest": fable and the satiric bite in Arbuthnot's John Bull pamphlets
Historians interpret Arbuthnot’s John Bull pamphlets as a satire on the 1712 crisis of the Spanish Succession, and contend that the pamphlets function as satire because they borrow from the genre of fable. This generic borrowing, historians argue, works to attack specific targets – here, the Dutch and the English Whig party. Literary critics, however, in contrast to historians, doubt whether satire’s dependence on other genres functions so straightforwardly. This chapter reads the John Bull pamphlets in the light of recent theory about satire’s rhetorical instability, and demonstrates that Arbuthnot’s imitation of fable works not as a reliable indicator of his political allegiances, but rather as a means to trick and thereby admonish his readership.
Published online: 22 October 2015