The Character of John Locke in the Eighteenth Century
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In a popular article for History Today (2004), Mark Goldie sketches how John Locke was portrayed and received in the British and American contexts as an “icon” for liberty from the time of his death in 1704 to the present. This thesis builds on his work, offering a detailed analysis of the receptions and portrayals of John Locke’s ‘character’ at thirty-year intervals: 1704, 1734, 1763, and 1794. I begin with a discussion of Samuel Johnson’s definition of “character” in his Dictionary (1755-56), and how he uses that representation definition to sketch out the lives of Milton and Pope in Lives of the English Poets (1780-81). From here, I discuss Locke as an “under-labourer” and the religious controversy about his religious that began after he died in 1704. I then discuss how Locke was memorialized as a correct reasoner in the grotto constructed by Queen Caroline at Richmond Park, and how he was depicted in the poetry contest held in 1734 to celebrate its completion. Next, I discuss how Locke was portrayed as an English reformer in 1764, with the publication of Richard Hurd’s Dialogues on the Uses of Foreign Travel. I conclude with a discussion of how, by the end of the eighteenth century, Locke’s character was used as a moral exemplar in both moral and political literature, including by John Adams, who would become the second president of the United States.
Jean Le Clerc
The Gentleman's Magazine
Dezort, Steven Michael (2017). The Character of John Locke in the Eighteenth Century. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from