The English Enlightement begins roughly at the beginning of the 18th.century.The men of the Enlightement were intellectuals belonging to the democratic strata of English society (middle class) and they were against serfdom.They fought for its alolishment and against the evils of feudal society in the economic and social fields,for the interests of the lower class, especially of the peasants who at that time were not yet completely free, and they advocated also the spreading of education, self-determination and liberty.
We might divide this movement into two groups;
1. One group supported the existing social order in partial reforms.This moderate wing of the movement had representative writers as:Alexander Pope,Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison , Richard Steele and Samuel Richardson.
2. The second group-more radical one-believed that they should fight for the democratization of the government , for the interests of the peasants and handicraftsmen.The most important representatives of this radical wing were:Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
The dominant characteristic of this movement was the realism, but a different kind of realism from that which existed during the Renaissance, that was a poetic realism.The men of the Renaissance described titanic figures(Shakespeare:Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Lear;Marlowe:Tamberlaine,Faustus)and they were rather unconcerned with everyday life.On the other hand, the realism of the Enlightenement was essentially a prose realism.These writers focused their attention on the problems of everyday life, but they described the extremely prosaic realities that they saw around them because the realities of bourgeois society didn''t constitute an adequate material for poetry.