Parliament and Crown, Whigs and Tories--

Poets who lived through the Civil Wars, when the Protestant-dominated Parliament defeated Charles I's mostly Catholic supporters, often are known as Puritans and Royalists (or, less formally, Roundheads and Cavaliers) depending upon which side of the conflict they preferred. Later poets are known as Restoration (Charles II and James II) writers, especially if they participated in the court culture or wrote for the theatre, but anyone who wrote during the reign of Charles II might be called a Restoration poet if s/he had no strong political sympathies with the Puritan reformers. However, at the same time, imprisoned or powerless Puritans like Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress) and Milton (Paradise Lost) were doing their greatest work writing in isolation, while despising the "corrupt" Europeanized court that would support writers poets like Rochester and dramatists like Congreve. This divided culture continued into the eighteenth century with the emergence of two parties named, somewhat arbitrarily, Whigs and Tories for their alliance with city or court interests, though in any one year these parties (like Republicans and Democrats) might support things quite different from those values.

The Whigs were Parliamentary supporters whose wealth and interests were among the landed gentry (non-noble) religious liberals and city merchants. They gradually tended to be identified with emerging industrial centers in the cities and came to support social reform and governmental innovation. Their descendants are the modern Liberal Party. The Tories were conservative royalist aristocrats and staunch anti-Catholic, Anglican gentry whose wealth was in titled land and hereditary incomes. Tories most often backed conservation of tradition and protection of trade. Their descendants are the modern Conservative Party.