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Title: English Literature - Its History and Its Significance for the Life of the English Speaking World
Author: Long, William Joseph, 1866-1952
Language: English
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WILLIAM J. LONG, PH.D. (Heidelberg)

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *


This book, which presents the whole splendid history of English literature
from Anglo-Saxon times to the close of the Victorian Era, has three
specific aims. The first is to create or to encourage in every student the
desire to read the best books, and to know literature itself rather than
what has been written about literature. The second is to interpret
literature both personally and historically, that is, to show how a great
book generally reflects not only the author's life and thought but also the
spirit of the age and the ideals of the nation's history. The third aim is
to show, by a study of each successive period, how our literature has
steadily developed from its first simple songs and stories to its present
complexity in prose and poetry.

To carry out these aims we have introduced the following features:

(1) A brief, accurate summary of historical events and social conditions in
each period, and a consideration of the ideals which stirred the whole
nation, as in the days of Elizabeth, before they found expression in

(2) A study of the various literary epochs in turn, showing what each
gained from the epoch preceding, and how each aided in the development of a
national literature.

(3) A readable biography of every important writer, showing how he lived
and worked, how he met success or failure, how he influenced his age, and
how his age influenced him.

(4) A study and analysis of every author's best works, and of many of the
books required for college-entrance examinations.

(5) Selections enough--especially from earlier writers, and from writers
not likely to be found in the home or school library--to indicate the
spirit of each author's work; and directions as to the best works to read,
and where such works may be found in inexpensive editions.

(6) A frank, untechnical discussion of each great writer's work as a whole,
and a critical estimate of his relative place and influence in our

(7) A series of helps to students and teachers at the end of each chapter,
including summaries, selections for reading, bibliographies, a list of
suggestive questions, and a chronological table of important events in the
history and literature of each period.

(8) Throughout this book we have remembered Roger Ascham's suggestion, made
over three centuries ago and still pertinent, that "'tis a poor way to make
a child love study by beginning with the things which he naturally
dislikes." We have laid emphasis upon the delights of literature; we have
treated books not as mere instruments of research--which is the danger in
most of our studies--but rather as instruments of enjoyment and of
inspiration; and by making our study as attractive as possible we have
sought to encourage the student to read widely for himself, to choose the
best books, and to form his own judgment about what our first Anglo-Saxon
writers called "the things worthy to be remembered."

To those who may use this book in their homes or in their class rooms, the
writer ventures to offer one or two friendly suggestions out of his own
experience as a teacher of young people. First, the amount of space here
given to different periods and authors is not an index of the relative
amount of time to be spent upon the different subjects. Thus, to tell the
story of Spenser's life and ideals requires as much space as to tell the
story of Tennyson; but the average class will spend its time more
pleasantly and profitably with the latter poet than with the former.
Second, many authors who are and ought to be included in this history need
not be studied in the class room. A text-book is not a catechism but a
storehouse, in which one finds what he wants, and some good things beside.
Few classes will find time to study Blake or Newman, for instance; but in
nearly every class there will be found one or two students who are
attracted by the mysticism of Blake or by the profound spirituality of
Newman. Such students should be encouraged to follow their own spirits, and
to share with their classmates the joy of their discoveries. And they
should find in their text-book the material for their own study and

A third suggestion relates to the method of teaching literature; and here
it might be well to consider the word of a great poet,--that if you would
know where the ripest cherries are, ask the boys and the blackbirds. It is
surprising how much a young person will get out of the _Merchant of
Venice_, and somehow arrive at Shakespeare's opinion of Shylock and Portia,
if we do not bother him too much with notes and critical directions as to
what he ought to seek and find. Turn a child and a donkey loose in the same
field, and the child heads straight for the beautiful spots where brooks
are running and birds singing, while the donkey turns as naturally to weeds
and thistles. In our study of literature we have perhaps too much sympathy
with the latter, and we even insist that the child come back from his own
quest of the ideal to join us in our critical companionship. In reading
many text-books of late, and in visiting many class rooms, the writer has
received the impression that we lay too much stress on second-hand
criticism, passed down from book to book; and we set our pupils to
searching for figures of speech and elements of style, as if the great
books of the world were subject to chemical analysis. This seems to be a
mistake, for two reasons: first, the average young person has no natural
interest in such matters; and second, he is unable to appreciate them. He
feels unconsciously with Chaucer:

    And as for me, though that my wit be lytë,
    On bookës for to rede I me delytë.

Indeed, many mature persons (including the writer of this history) are
often unable to explain at first the charm or the style of an author who
pleases them; and the more profound the impression made by a book, the more
difficult it is to give expression to our thought and feeling. To read and
enjoy good books is with us, as with Chaucer, the main thing; to analyze
the author's style or explain our own enjoyment seems of secondary and
small importance. However that may be, we state frankly our own conviction
that the detailed study and analysis of a few standard works--which is the
only literary pabulum given to many young people in our schools--bears the
same relation to true literature that theology bears to religion, or
psychology to friendship. One is a more or less unwelcome mental
discipline; the other is the joy of life.

The writer ventures to suggest, therefore, that, since literature is our
subject, we begin and end with good books; and that we stand aside while
the great writers speak their own message to our pupils. In studying each
successive period, let the student begin by reading the best that the age
produced; let him feel in his own way the power and mystery of _Beowulf_,
the broad charity of Shakespeare, the sublimity of Milton, the romantic
enthusiasm of Scott; and then, when his own taste is pleased and satisfied,
a new one will arise,--to know something about the author, the times in
which he lived, and finally of criticism, which, in its simplicity, is the
discovery that the men and women of other ages were very much like
ourselves, loving as we love, bearing the same burdens, and following the
same ideals:

    Lo, with the ancient
    Roots of man's nature
    Twines the eternal
    Passion of song.
    Ever Love fans it;
    Ever Life feeds it;
    Time cannot age it;
    Death cannot slay.

To answer the questions which arise naturally between teacher and pupil
concerning the books that they read, is one object of this volume. It aims
not simply to instruct but also to inspire; to trace the historical
development of English literature, and at the same time to allure its
readers to the best books and the best writers. And from beginning to end
it is written upon the assumption that the first virtue of such a work is
to be accurate, and the second to be interesting.

The author acknowledges, with gratitude and appreciation, his indebtedness
to Professor William Lyon Phelps for the use of his literary map of
England, and to the keen critics, teachers of literature and history, who
have read the proofs of this book, and have improved it by their good


       *       *       *       *       *



The Shell and the Book. Qualities of Literature. Tests of Literature. The
Object in studying Literature. Importance of Literature. Summary of the
Subject. Bibliography.


Our First Poetry. "Beowulf." "Widsith." "Deor's Lament." "The Seafarer."
"The Fight at Finnsburgh." "Waldere." Anglo-Saxon Life. Our First Speech.
Christian Writers. Northumbrian Literature. Bede. Cædmon. Cynewulf. Decline
of Northumbrian Literature. Alfred. Summary. Bibliography. Questions.


The Normans. The Conquest. Literary Ideals of the Normans. Geoffrey of
Monmouth. Work of the French Writers. Layamon's "Brut." Metrical Romances.
The Pearl. Miscellaneous Literature of the Norman Period. Summary.
Bibliography. Questions. Chronology.


History of the Period. Five Writers of the Age. Chaucer. Langland. "Piers
Plowman." John Wyclif. John Mandeville. Summary. Bibliography. Questions.


Political Changes. Literature of the Revival. Wyatt and Surrey. Malory's
"Morte d'Arthur." Summary. Bibliography. Questions. Chronology.


Political Summary. Characteristics of the Elizabethan Age. The Non-Dramatic
Poets. Edmund Spenser. Minor Poets. Thomas Sackville. Philip Sidney. George
Chapman. Michael Drayton. The Origin of the Drama. The Religious Period of
the Drama. Miracle and Mystery Plays. The Moral Period of the Drama. The
Interludes. The Artistic Period of the Drama. Classical Influence upon the
Drama. Shakespeare's Predecessors in the Drama. Christopher Marlowe.
Shakespeare. Decline of the Drama. Shakespeare's Contemporaries and
Successors. Ben Jonson. Beaumont and Fletcher. John Webster. Thomas
Middleton. Thomas Heywood. Thomas Dekker. Massinger, Ford, Shirley. Prose
Writers. Francis Bacon. Richard Hooker. Sidney and Raleigh. John Foxe.
Camden and Knox. Hakluyt and Purchas. Thomas North. Summary. Bibliography.
Questions. Chronology.


The Puritan Movement. Changing Ideals. Literary Characteristics. The
Transition Poets. Samuel Daniel. The Song Writers. The Spenserian Poets.
The Metaphysical Poets. John Donne. George Herbert. The Cavalier Poets.
Thomas Carew. Robert Herrick. Suckling and Lovelace. John Milton. The Prose
Writers. John Bunyan. Robert Burton. Thomas Browne. Thomas Fuller. Jeremy
Taylor. Richard Baxter. Izaak Walton. Summary. Bibliography. Questions.


History of the Period. Literary Characteristics. John Dryden. Samuel
Butler. Hobbes and Locke. Evelyn and Pepys. Summary. Bibliography.
Questions. Chronology.


History of the Period. Literary Characteristics. The Classic Age. Alexander
Pope. Jonathan Swift. Joseph Addison. "The Tatler" and "The Spectator."
Samuel Johnson. Boswell's "Life of Johnson." Later Augustan Writers. Edmund
Burke. Edward Gibbon. The Revival of Romantic Poetry. Thomas Gray. Oliver
Goldsmith. William Cowper. Robert Burns. William Blake. The Minor Poets of
the Romantic Revival. James Thomson. William Collins. George Crabbe. James
Macpherson. Thomas Chatterton. Thomas Percy. The First English Novelists.
Meaning of the Novel. Precursors of the Novel. Discovery of the Modern
Novel. Daniel Defoe. Samuel Richardson. Henry Fielding. Smollett and
Sterne. Summary. Bibliography. Questions. Chronology.


Historical Summary. Literary Characteristics of the Age. The Poets of
Romanticism. William Wordsworth. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Robert Southey.
Walter Scott. Byron. Percy Bysshe Shelley. John Keats. Prose Writers of the
Romantic Period. Charles Lamb. Thomas De Quincey. Jane Austen. Walter
Savage Landor. Summary. Bibliography. Questions. Chronology.


Historical Summary. Literary Characteristics. Poets of the Victorian Age.
Alfred Tennyson. Robert Browning. Minor Poets of the Victorian Age.
Elizabeth Barrett. Rossetti. Morris. Swinburne. Novelists of the Victorian
Age. Charles Dickens. William Makepeace Thackeray. George Eliot. Minor
Novelists of the Victorian Age. Charles Reade. Anthony Trollope. Charlotte
Brontë. Bulwer Lytton. Charles Kingsley. Mrs. Gaskell. Blackmore. Meredith.
Hardy. Stevenson. Essayists of the Victorian Age. Macaulay. Carlyle.
Ruskin. Matthew Arnold. Newman. The Spirit of Modern Literature. Summary.
Bibliography. Questions. Chronology.



       *       *       *       *       *



    Hold the hye wey, and lat thy gost thee lede.
          Chaucer's _Truth_
      On, on, you noblest English, ...
      Follow your spirit.
            Shakespeare's _Henry V_

THE SHELL AND THE BOOK. A child and a man were one day walking on the
seashore when the child found a little shell and held it to his ear.
Suddenly he heard sounds,--strange, low, melodious sounds, as if the shell
were remembering and repeating to itself the murmurs of its ocean home. The
child's face filled with wonder as he listened. Here in the little shell,
apparently, was a voice from another world, and he listened with delight to
its mystery and music. Then came the man, explaining that the child heard
nothing strange; that the pearly curves of the shell simply caught a
multitude of sounds too faint for human ears, and filled the glimmering
hollows with the murmur of innumerable echoes. It was not a new world, but
only the unnoticed harmony of the old that had aroused the child's wonder.

Some such experience as this awaits us when we begin the study of
literature, which has always two aspects, one of simple enjoyment and
appreciation, the other of analysis and exact description. Let a little
song appeal to the ear, or a noble book to the heart, and for the moment,
at least, we discover a new world, a world so different from our own that
it seems a place of dreams and magic. To enter and enjoy this new world, to
love good books for their own sake, is the chief thing; to analyze and
explain them is a less joyous but still an important matter. Behind every
book is a man; behind the man is the race; and behind the race are the
natural and social environments whose influence is unconsciously reflected.
These also we must know, if the book is to speak its whole message. In a
word, we have now reached a point where we wish to understand as well as to
enjoy literature; and the first step, since exact definition is impossible,
is to determine some of its essential qualities.

QUALITIES OF LITERATURE. The first significant thing is the essentially
artistic quality of all literature. All art is the expression of life in
forms of truth and beauty; or rather, it is the reflection of some truth
and beauty which are in the world, but which remain unnoticed until brought
to our attention by some sensitive human soul, just as the delicate curves
of the shell reflect sounds and harmonies too faint to be otherwise
noticed. A hundred men may pass a hayfield and see only the sweaty toil and
the windrows of dried grass; but here is one who pauses by a Roumanian
meadow, where girls are making hay and singing as they work. He looks
deeper, sees truth and beauty where we see only dead grass, and he reflects
what he sees in a little poem in which the hay tells its own story:

      Yesterday's flowers am I,
    And I have drunk my last sweet draught of dew.
    Young maidens came and sang me to my death;
    The moon looks down and sees me in my shroud,
      The shroud of my last dew.
    Yesterday's flowers that are yet in me
    Must needs make way for all to-morrow's flowers.
    The maidens, too, that sang me to my death
    Must even so make way for all the maids
      That are to come.
    And as my soul, so too their soul will be
    Laden with fragrance of the days gone by.
    The maidens that to-morrow come this way
    Will not remember that I once did bloom,
    For they will only see the new-born flowers.
    Yet will my perfume-laden soul bring back,
    As a sweet memory, to women's hearts
        Their days of maidenhood.
    And then they will be sorry that they came
        To sing me to my death;
    And all the butterflies will mourn for me.
        I bear away with me
    The sunshine's dear remembrance, and the low
        Soft murmurs of the spring.
    My breath is sweet as children's prattle is;
    I drank in all the whole earth's fruitfulness,
    To make of it the fragrance of my soul
      That shall outlive my death.[1]

One who reads only that first exquisite line, "Yesterday's flowers am I,"
can never again see hay without recalling the beauty that was hidden from
his eyes until the poet found it.

In the same pleasing, surprising way, all artistic work must be a kind of
revelation. Thus architecture is probably the oldest of the arts; yet we
still have many builders but few architects, that is, men whose work in
wood or stone suggests some hidden truth and beauty to the human senses. So
in literature, which is the art that expresses life in words that appeal to
our own sense of the beautiful, we have many writers but few artists. In
the broadest sense, perhaps, literature means simply the written records of
the race, including all its history and sciences, as well as its poems and
novels; in the narrower sense literature is the artistic record of life,
and most of our writing is excluded from it, just as the mass of our
buildings, mere shelters from storm and from cold, are excluded from
architecture. A history or a work of science may be and sometimes is
literature, but only as we forget the subject-matter and the presentation
of facts in the simple beauty of its expression.

The second quality of literature is its suggestiveness, its appeal to our
emotions and imagination rather than to our intellect. It is not so much
what it says as what it awakens in us that constitutes its charm. When
Milton makes Satan say, "Myself am Hell," he does not state any fact, but
rather opens up in these three tremendous words a whole world of
speculation and imagination. When Faustus in the presence of Helen asks,
"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?" he does not state a
fact or expect an answer. He opens a door through which our imagination
enters a new world, a world of music, love, beauty, heroism,--the whole
splendid world of Greek literature. Such magic is in words. When
Shakespeare describes the young Biron as speaking

        In such apt and gracious words
    That aged ears play truant at his tales,

he has unconsciously given not only an excellent description of himself,
but the measure of all literature, which makes us play truant with the
present world and run away to live awhile in the pleasant realm of fancy.
The province of all art is not to instruct but to delight; and only as
literature delights us, causing each reader to build in his own soul that
"lordly pleasure house" of which Tennyson dreamed in his "Palace of Art,"
is it worthy of its name.

The third characteristic of literature, arising directly from the other
two, is its permanence. The world does not live by bread alone.
Notwithstanding its hurry and bustle and apparent absorption in material
things, it does not willingly let any beautiful thing perish. This is even
more true of its songs than of its painting and sculpture; though
permanence is a quality we should hardly expect in the present deluge of
books and magazines pouring day and night from our presses in the name of
literature. But this problem of too many books is not modern, as we
suppose. It has been a problem ever since Caxton brought the first printing
press from Flanders, four hundred years ago, and in the shadow of
Westminster Abbey opened his little shop and advertised his wares as "good
and chepe." Even earlier, a thousand years before Caxton and his printing
press, the busy scholars of the great library of Alexandria found that the
number of parchments was much too great for them to handle; and now, when
we print more in a week than all the Alexandrian scholars could copy in a
century, it would seem impossible that any production could be permanent;
that any song or story could live to give delight in future ages. But
literature is like a river in flood, which gradually purifies itself in two
ways,--the mud settles to the bottom, and the scum rises to the top. When
we examine the writings that by common consent constitute our literature,
the clear stream purified of its dross, we find at least two more
qualities, which we call the tests of literature, and which determine its

TESTS OF LITERATURE. The first of these is universality, that is, the
appeal to the widest human interests and the simplest human emotions.
Though we speak of national and race literatures, like the Greek or
Teutonic, and though each has certain superficial marks arising out of the
peculiarities of its own people, it is nevertheless true that good
literature knows no nationality, nor any bounds save those of humanity. It
is occupied chiefly with elementary passions and emotions,--love and hate,
joy and sorrow, fear and faith,--which are an essential part of our human
nature; and the more it reflects these emotions the more surely does it
awaken a response in men of every race. Every father must respond to the
parable of the prodigal son; wherever men are heroic, they will acknowledge
the mastery of Homer; wherever a man thinks on the strange phenomenon of
evil in the world, he will find his own thoughts in the Book of Job; in
whatever place men love their children, their hearts must be stirred by the
tragic sorrow of _Oedipus_ and _King Lear_. All these are but shining
examples of the law that only as a book or a little song appeals to
universal human interest does it become permanent.

The second test is a purely personal one, and may be expressed in the
indefinite word "style." It is only in a mechanical sense that style is
"the adequate expression of thought," or "the peculiar manner of expressing
thought," or any other of the definitions that are found in the rhetorics.
In a deeper sense, style is the man, that is, the unconscious expression of
the writer's own personality. It is the very soul of one man reflecting, as
in a glass, the thoughts and feelings of humanity. As no glass is
colorless, but tinges more or less deeply the reflections from its surface,
so no author can interpret human life without unconsciously giving to it
the native hue of his own soul. It is this intensely personal element that
constitutes style. Every permanent book has more or less of these two
elements, the objective and the subjective, the universal and the personal,
the deep thought and feeling of the race reflected and colored by the
writer's own life and experience.

THE OBJECT IN STUDYING LITERATURE. Aside from the pleasure of reading, of
entering into a new world and having our imagination quickened, the study
of literature has one definite object, and that is to know men. Now man is
ever a dual creature; he has an outward and an inner nature; he is not only
a doer of deeds, but a dreamer of dreams; and to know him, the man of any
age, we must search deeper than his history. History records his deeds, his
outward acts largely; but every great act springs from an ideal, and to
understand this we must read his literature, where we find his ideals
recorded. When we read a history of the Anglo-Saxons, for instance, we
learn that they were sea rovers, pirates, explorers, great eaters and
drinkers; and we know something of their hovels and habits, and the lands
which they harried and plundered. All that is interesting; but it does not
tell us what most we want to know about these old ancestors of ours,--not
only what they did, but what they thought and felt; how they looked on life
and death; what they loved, what they feared, and what they reverenced in
God and man. Then we turn from history to the literature which they
themselves produced, and instantly we become acquainted. These hardy people
were not simply fighters and freebooters; they were men like ourselves;
their emotions awaken instant response in the souls of their descendants.
At the words of their gleemen we thrill again to their wild love of freedom
and the open sea; we grow tender at their love of home, and patriotic at
their deathless loyalty to their chief, whom they chose for themselves and
hoisted on their shields in symbol of his leadership. Once more we grow
respectful in the presence of pure womanhood, or melancholy before the
sorrows and problems of life, or humbly confident, looking up to the God
whom they dared to call the Allfather. All these and many more intensely
real emotions pass through our souls as we read the few shining fragments
of verses that the jealous ages have left us.

It is so with any age or people. To understand them we must read not simply
their history, which records their deeds, but their literature, which
records the dreams that made their deeds possible. So Aristotle was
profoundly right when he said that "poetry is more serious and
philosophical than history"; and Goethe, when he explained literature as
"the humanization of the whole world."

IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE. It is a curious and prevalent opinion that
literature, like all art, is a mere play of imagination, pleasing enough,
like a new novel, but without any serious or practical importance. Nothing
could be farther from the truth. Literature preserves the ideals of a
people; and ideals--love, faith, duty, friendship, freedom, reverence--are
the part of human life most worthy of preservation. The Greeks were a
marvelous people; yet of all their mighty works we cherish only a few
ideals,--ideals of beauty in perishable stone, and ideals of truth in
imperishable prose and poetry. It was simply the ideals of the Greeks and
Hebrews and Romans, preserved in their literature, which made them what
they were, and which determined their value to future generations. Our
democracy, the boast of all English-speaking nations, is a dream; not the
doubtful and sometimes disheartening spectacle presented in our legislative
halls, but the lovely and immortal ideal of a free and equal manhood,
preserved as a most precious heritage in every great literature from the
Greeks to the Anglo-Saxons. All our arts, our sciences, even our inventions
are founded squarely upon ideals; for under every invention is still the
dream of _Beowulf_, that man may overcome the forces of nature; and the
foundation of all our sciences and discoveries is the immortal dream that
men "shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

In a word, our whole civilization, our freedom, our progress, our homes,
our religion, rest solidly upon ideals for their foundation. Nothing but an
ideal ever endures upon earth. It is therefore impossible to overestimate
the practical importance of literature, which preserves these ideals from
fathers to sons, while men, cities, governments, civilizations, vanish from
the face of the earth. It is only when we remember this that we appreciate
the action of the devout Mussulman, who picks up and carefully preserves
every scrap of paper on which words are written, because the scrap may
perchance contain the name of Allah, and the ideal is too enormously
important to be neglected or lost.

SUMMARY OF THE SUBJECT. We are now ready, if not to define, at least to
understand a little more clearly the object of our present study.
Literature is the expression of life in words of truth and beauty; it is
the written record of man's spirit, of his thoughts, emotions, aspirations;
it is the history, and the only history, of the human soul. It is
characterized by its artistic, its suggestive, its permanent qualities. Its
two tests are its universal interest and its personal style. Its object,
aside from the delight it gives us, is to know man, that is, the soul of
man rather than his actions; and since it preserves to the race the ideals
upon which all our civilization is founded, it is one of the most important
and delightful subjects that can occupy the human mind.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. (NOTE. Each chapter in this book includes a special
bibliography of historical and literary works, selections for reading,
chronology, etc.; and a general bibliography of texts, helps, and reference
books will be found at the end. The following books, which are among the
best of their kind, are intended to help the student to a better
appreciation of literature and to a better knowledge of literary

_GENERAL WORKS_. Woodberry's Appreciation of Literature (Baker & Taylor
Co.); Gates's Studies in Appreciation (Macmillan); Bates's Talks on the
Study of Literature (Houghton, Mifflin); Worsfold's On the Exercise of
Judgment in Literature (Dent); Harrison's The Choice of Books (Macmillan);
Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies, Part I; Matthew Arnold's Essays in Criticism.

_ESSAYS_. Emerson's Books, in Society and Solitude; Dowden's The
Interpretation of Literature, in Transcripts and Studies (Kegan Paul &
Co.), and The Teaching of English Literature, in New Studies in Literature
(Houghton, Mifflin); The Study of Literature, Essays by Morley, Nicolls,
and L. Stephen, edited by A.F. Blaisdell (Willard Small).

_CRITICISM_. Gayley and Scott's An Introduction to the Methods and
Materials of Literary Criticism (Ginn and Company); Winchester's Principles
of Literary Criticism (Macmillan); Worsfold's Principles of Criticism
(Longmans); Johnson's Elements of Literary Criticism (American Book
Company); Saintsbury's History of Criticism (Dodd, Mead).

_POETRY_. Gummere's Handbook of Poetics (Ginn and Company); Stedman's The
Nature and Elements of Poetry (Houghton, Mifflin); Johnson's The Forms of
English Poetry (American Book Company); Alden's Specimens of English Verse
(Holt); Gummere's The Beginnings of Poetry (Macmillan); Saintsbury's
History of English Prosody (Macmillan).

_THE DRAMA_. Caffin's Appreciation of the Drama (Baker & Taylor Co.).

_THE NOVEL_. Raleigh's The English Novel (Scribner); Hamilton's The
Materials and Methods of Fiction (Baker & Taylor Co.).

       *       *       *       *       *




BEOWULF. Here is the story of Beowulf, the earliest and the greatest epic,
or heroic poem, in our literature. It begins with a prologue, which is not
an essential part of the story, but which we review gladly for the sake of
the splendid poetical conception that produced Scyld, king of the Spear

At a time when the Spear Danes were without a king, a ship came sailing
into their harbor. It was filled with treasures and weapons of war; and in
the midst of these warlike things was a baby sleeping. No man sailed the
ship; it came of itself, bringing the child, whose name was Scyld.

Now Scyld grew and became a mighty warrior, and led the Spear Danes for
many years, and was their king. When his son Beowulf[3] had become strong
and wise enough to rule, then Wyrd (Fate), who speaks but once to any man,
came and stood at hand; and it was time for Scyld to go. This is how they
buried him:

    Then Scyld departed, at word of Wyrd spoken,
    The hero to go to the home of the gods.
    Sadly they bore him to brink of the ocean,
    Comrades, still heeding his word of command.
    There rode in the harbor the prince's ship, ready,
    With prow curving proudly and shining sails set.
    Shipward they bore him, their hero beloved;
    The mighty they laid at the foot of the mast.
    Treasures were there from far and near gathered,
    Byrnies of battle, armor and swords;
    Never a keel sailed out of a harbor
    So splendidly tricked with the trappings of war.
    They heaped on his bosom a hoard of bright jewels
    To fare with him forth on the flood's great breast.
    No less gift they gave than the Unknown provided,
    When alone, as a child, he came in from the mere.
    High o'er his head waved a bright golden standard--
    Now let the waves bear their wealth to the holm.
    Sad-souled they gave back its gift to the ocean,
    Mournful their mood as he sailed out to sea.[4]

"And no man," says the poet, "neither counselor nor hero, can tell who
received that lading."

One of Scyld's descendants was Hrothgar, king of the Danes; and with him
the story of our Beowulf begins. Hrothgar in his old age had built near the
sea a mead hall called Heorot, the most splendid hall in the whole world,
where the king and his thanes gathered nightly to feast and to listen to
the songs of his gleemen. One night, as they were all sleeping, a frightful
monster, Grendel, broke into the hall, killed thirty of the sleeping
warriors, and carried off their bodies to devour them in his lair under the
sea. The appalling visit was speedily repeated, and fear and death reigned
in the great hall. The warriors fought at first; but fled when they
discovered that no weapon could harm the monster. Heorot was left deserted
and silent. For twelve winters Grendel's horrible raids continued, and joy
was changed to mourning among the Spear Danes.

At last the rumor of Grendel crossed over the sea to the land of the Geats,
where a young hero dwelt in the house of his uncle, King Hygelac. Beowulf
was his name, a man of immense strength and courage, and a mighty swimmer
who had developed his powers fighting the "nickers," whales, walruses and
seals, in the icebound northern ocean. When he heard the story, Beowulf was
stirred to go and fight the monster and free the Danes, who were his
father's friends.

With fourteen companions he crosses the sea. There is an excellent bit of
ocean poetry here (ll. 210-224), and we get a vivid idea of the hospitality
of a brave people by following the poet's description of Beowulf's meeting
with King Hrothgar and Queen Wealhtheow, and of the joy and feasting and
story-telling in Heorot. The picture of Wealhtheow passing the mead cup to
the warriors with her own hand is a noble one, and plainly indicates the
reverence paid by these strong men to their wives and mothers. Night comes
on; the fear of Grendel is again upon the Danes, and all withdraw after the
king has warned Beowulf of the frightful danger of sleeping in the hall.
But Beowulf lies down with his warriors, saying proudly that, since weapons
will not avail against the monster, he will grapple with him bare handed
and trust to a warrior's strength.

    Forth from the fens, from the misty moorlands,
    Grendel came gliding--God's wrath[5] he bore--
    Came under clouds, until he saw clearly,
    Glittering with gold plates, the mead hall of men.
    Down fell the door, though fastened with fire bands;
    Open it sprang at the stroke of his paw.
    Swollen with rage burst in the bale-bringer;
    Flamed in his eyes a fierce light, likest fire.[6]

At the sight of men again sleeping in the hall, Grendel laughs in his
heart, thinking of his feast. He seizes the nearest sleeper, crushes his
"bone case" with a bite, tears him limb from limb, and swallows him. Then
he creeps to the couch of Beowulf and stretches out a claw, only to find it
clutched in a grip of steel. A sudden terror strikes the monster's heart.
He roars, struggles, tries to jerk his arm free; but Beowulf leaps to his
feet and grapples his enemy bare handed. To and fro they surge. Tables are
overturned; golden benches ripped from their fastenings; the whole building
quakes, and only its iron bands keep it from falling to pieces. Beowulf's
companions are on their feet now, hacking vainly at the monster with swords
and battle-axes, adding their shouts to the crashing of furniture and the
howling "war song" of Grendel. Outside in the town the Danes stand
shivering at the uproar. Slowly the monster struggles to the door, dragging
Beowulf, whose fingers crack with the strain, but who never relaxes his
first grip. Suddenly a wide wound opens in the monster's side; the sinews
snap; the whole arm is wrenched off at the shoulder; and Grendel escapes
shrieking across the moor, and plunges into the sea to die.

Beowulf first exults in his night's work; then he hangs the huge arm with
its terrible claws from a cross-beam over the king's seat, as one would
hang up a bear's skin after a hunt. At daylight came the Danes; and all day
long, in the intervals of singing, story-telling, speech making, and gift
giving, they return to wonder at the mighty "grip of Grendel" and to
rejoice in Beowulf's victory.

When night falls a great feast is spread in Heorot, and the Danes sleep
once more in the great hall. At midnight comes another monster, a horrible,
half-human creature,[7] mother of Grendel, raging to avenge her offspring.
She thunders at the door; the Danes leap up and grasp their weapons; but
the monster enters, seizes Aeschere, who is friend and adviser of the king,
and rushes away with him over the fens.

The old scenes of sorrow are reviewed in the morning; but Beowulf says

    Sorrow not, wise man. It is better for each
    That his friend he avenge than that he mourn much.
    Each of us shall the end await
    Of worldly life: let him who may gain
    Honor ere death. That is for a warrior,
    When he is dead, afterwards best.
    Arise, kingdom's guardian! Let us quickly go
    To view the track of Grendel's kinsman.
    I promise it thee: he will not escape,
    Nor in earth's bosom, nor in mountain-wood,
    Nor in ocean's depths, go where he will.[8]

Then he girds himself for the new fight and follows the track of the second
enemy across the fens. Here is Hrothgar's description of the place where
live the monsters, "spirits of elsewhere," as he calls them:

                    They inhabit
    The dim land that gives shelter to the wolf,
    The windy headlands, perilous fen paths,
    Where, under mountain mist, the stream flows down
    And floods the ground. Not far hence, but a mile,
    The mere stands, over which hang death-chill groves,
    A wood fast-rooted overshades the flood;
    There every night a ghastly miracle
    Is seen, fire in the water. No man knows,
    Not the most wise, the bottom of that mere.
    The firm-horned heath-stalker, the hart, when pressed,
    Wearied by hounds, and hunted from afar,
    Will rather die of thirst upon its bank
    Than bend his head to it. It is unholy.
    Dark to the clouds its yeasty waves mount up
    When wind stirs hateful tempest, till the air
    Grows dreary, and the heavens pour down tears.[9]

Beowulf plunges into the horrible place, while his companions wait for him
oh the shore. For a long time he sinks through the flood; then, as he
reaches bottom, Grendel's mother rushes out upon him and drags him into a
cave, where sea monsters swarm at him from behind and gnash his armor with
their tusks. The edge of his sword is turned with the mighty blow he deals
the _merewif_; but it harms not the monster. Casting the weapon aside, he
grips her and tries to hurl her down, while her claws and teeth clash upon
his corslet but cannot penetrate the steel rings. She throws her bulk upon
him, crushes him down, draws a short sword and plunges it at him; but again
his splendid byrnie saves him. He is wearied now, and oppressed. Suddenly,
as his eye sweeps the cave, he catches sight of a magic sword, made by the
giants long ago, too heavy for warriors to wield. Struggling up he seizes
the weapon, whirls it and brings down a crashing blow upon the monster's
neck. It smashes through the ring bones; the _merewif_ falls, and the fight
is won.

The cave is full of treasures; but Beowulf heeds them not, for near him
lies Grendel, dead from the wound received the previous night. Again
Beowulf swings the great sword and strikes off his enemy's head; and lo, as
the venomous blood touches the sword blade, the steel melts like ice before
the fire, and only the hilt is left in Beowulf's hand. Taking the hilt and
the head, the hero enters the ocean and mounts up to the shore.

Only his own faithful band were waiting there; for the Danes, seeing the
ocean bubble with fresh blood, thought it was all over with the hero and
had gone home. And there they were, mourning in Heorot, when Beowulf
returned with the monstrous head of Grendel carried on a spear shaft by
four of his stoutest followers.

In the last part of the poem there is another great fight. Beowulf is now
an old man; he has reigned for fifty years, beloved by all his people. He
has overcome every enemy but one, a fire dragon keeping watch over an
enormous treasure hidden among the mountains. One day a wanderer stumbles
upon the enchanted cave and, entering, takes a jeweled cup while the
firedrake sleeps heavily. That same night the dragon, in a frightful rage,
belching forth fire and smoke, rushes down upon the nearest villages,
leaving a trail of death and terror behind him.

Again Beowulf goes forth to champion his people. As he approaches the
dragon's cave, he has a presentiment that death lurks within:

    Sat on the headland there the warrior king;
    Farewell he said to hearth-companions true,
    The gold-friend of the Geats; his mind was sad,
    Death-ready, restless. And Wyrd was drawing nigh,
    Who now must meet and touch the aged man,
    To seek the treasure that his soul had saved
    And separate his body from his life.[10]

There is a flash of illumination, like that which comes to a dying man, in
which his mind runs back over his long life and sees something of profound
meaning in the elemental sorrow moving side by side with magnificent
courage. Then follows the fight with the firedrake, in which Beowulf,
wrapped in fire and smoke, is helped by the heroism of Wiglaf, one of his
companions. The dragon is slain, but the fire has entered Beowulf's lungs
and he knows that Wyrd is at hand. This is his thought, while Wiglaf
removes his battered armor:

    "One deep regret I have: that to a son
    I may not give the armor I have worn,
    To bear it after me. For fifty years
    I ruled these people well, and not a king
    Of those who dwell around me, dared oppress
    Or meet me with his hosts. At home I waited
    For the time that Wyrd controls. Mine own I kept,
    Nor quarrels sought, nor ever falsely swore.
    Now, wounded sore, I wait for joy to come."[11]

He sends Wiglaf into the firedrake's cave, who finds it filled with rare
treasures and, most wonderful of all, a golden banner from which light
proceeds and illumines all the darkness. But Wiglaf cares little for the
treasures; his mind is full of his dying chief. He fills his hands with
costly ornaments and hurries to throw them at his hero's feet. The old man
looks with sorrow at the gold, thanks the "Lord of all" that by death he
has gained more riches for his people, and tells his faithful thane how his
body shall be burned on the Whale ness, or headland:

    "My life is well paid for this hoard; and now
    Care for the people's needs. I may no more
    Be with them. Bid the warriors raise a barrow
    After the burning, on the ness by the sea,
    On Hronesness, which shall rise high and be
    For a remembrance to my people. Seafarers
    Who from afar over the mists of waters
    Drive foamy keels may call it Beowulf's Mount
    Hereafter." Then the hero from his neck
    Put off a golden collar; to his thane,
    To the young warrior, gave it with his helm,
    Armlet and corslet; bade him use them well.
    "Thou art the last Waegmunding of our race,
    For fate has swept my kinsmen all away.
    Earls in their strength are to their Maker gone,
    And I must follow them."[12]

Beowulf was still living when Wiglaf sent a messenger hurriedly to his
people; when they came they found him dead, and the huge dragon dead on the
sand beside him.

    Then the Goth's people reared a mighty pile
    With shields and armour hung, as he had asked,
    And in the midst the warriors laid their lord,
    Lamenting. Then the warriors on the mount
    Kindled a mighty bale fire; the smoke rose
    Black from the Swedish pine, the sound of flame
    Mingled with sound of weeping; ... while smoke
    Spread over heaven. Then upon the hill
    The people of the Weders wrought a mound,
    High, broad, and to be seen far out at sea.
    In ten days they had built and walled it in
    As the wise thought most worthy; placed in it
    Rings, jewels, other treasures from the hoard.
    They left the riches, golden joy of earls,
    In dust, for earth to hold; where yet it lies,
    Useless as ever. Then about the mound
    The warriors rode, and raised a mournful song
    For their dead king; exalted his brave deeds,
    Holding it fit men honour their liege lord,
    Praise him and love him when his soul is fled.
    Thus the [Geat's] people, sharers of his hearth,
    Mourned their chief's fall, praised him, of kings, of men
    The mildest and the kindest, and to all
    His people gentlest, yearning for their praise.[13]

One is tempted to linger over the details of the magnificent ending: the
unselfish heroism of Beowulf, the great prototype of King Alfred; the
generous grief of his people, ignoring gold and jewels in the thought of
the greater treasure they had lost; the memorial mound on the low cliff,
which would cause every returning mariner to steer a straight course to
harbor in the remembrance of his dead hero; and the pure poetry which marks
every noble line. But the epic is great enough and simple enough to speak
for itself. Search the literatures of the world, and you will find no other
such picture of a brave man's death.

Concerning the history of _Beowulf_ a whole library has been written, and
scholars still differ too radically for us to express a positive judgment.
This much, however, is clear,--that there existed, at the time the poem was
composed, various northern legends of Beowa, a half-divine hero, and the
monster Grendel. The latter has been interpreted in various
ways,--sometimes as a bear, and again as the malaria of the marsh lands.
For those interested in symbols the simplest interpretation of these myths
is to regard Beowulf's successive fights with the three dragons as the
overcoming, first, of the overwhelming danger of the sea, which was beaten
back by the dykes; second, the conquering of the sea itself, when men
learned to sail upon it; and third, the conflict with the hostile forces of
nature, which are overcome at last by man's indomitable will and

All this is purely mythical; but there are historical incidents to reckon
with. About the year 520 a certain northern chief, called by the chronicler
Chochilaicus (who is generally identified with the Hygelac of the epic),
led a huge plundering expedition up the Rhine. After a succession of
battles he was overcome by the Franks, but--and now we enter a legendary
region once more--not until a gigantic nephew of Hygelac had performed
heroic feats of valor, and had saved the remnants of the host by a
marvelous feat of swimming. The majority of scholars now hold that these
historical events and personages were celebrated in the epic; but some
still assert that the events which gave a foundation for _Beowulf_ occurred
wholly on English soil, where the poem itself was undoubtedly written.

The rhythm of _Beowulf_ and indeed of all our earliest poetry depended upon
accent and alliteration; that is, the beginning of two or more words in the
same line with the same sound or letter. The lines were made up of two
short halves, separated by a pause. No rime was used; but a musical effect
was produced by giving each half line two strongly accented syllables. Each
full line, therefore, had four accents, three of which (i.e. two in the
first half, and one in the second) usually began with the same sound or
letter. The musical effect was heightened by the harp with which the
gleeman accompanied his singing.. The poetical form will be seen clearly in
the following selection from the wonderfully realistic description of the
fens haunted by Grendel. It will need only one or two readings aloud to
show that many of these strange-looking words are practically the same as
those we still use, though many of the vowel sounds were pronounced
differently by our ancestors.

                              ... Hie dygel lond
    Warigeath, wulf-hleothu,     windige næssas,
      Frecne fen-gelad,      thær fyrgen-stream
    Under næssa genipu     nither gewiteth,
    Flod under foldan.     Nis thæt feor heonon,
    Mil-gemearces,     thaet se mere standeth,
    Ofer thæm hongiath     hrinde bearwas
                     ... They (a) darksome land
    Ward (inhabit), wolf cliffs,     windy nesses,
    Frightful fen paths     where mountain stream
    Under nesses' mists     nether (downward) wanders,
    A flood under earth.     It is not far hence,
    By mile measure,     that the mere stands,
    Over which hang     rimy groves.

WIDSITH. The poem "Widsith," the wide goer or wanderer, is in part, at
least, probably the oldest in our language. The author and the date of its
composition are unknown; but the personal account of the minstrel's life
belongs to the time before the Saxons first came to England.[14] It
expresses the wandering life of the gleeman, who goes forth into the world
to abide here or there, according as he is rewarded for his singing. From
the numerous references to rings and rewards, and from the praise given to
generous givers, it would seem that literature as a paying profession began
very early in our history, and also that the pay was barely sufficient to
hold soul and body together. Of all our modern poets, Goldsmith wandering
over Europe paying for his lodging with his songs is most suggestive of
this first recorded singer of our race. His last lines read:

    Thus wandering, they who shape songs for men
    Pass over many lands, and tell their need,
    And speak their thanks, and ever, south or north,
    Meet someone skilled in songs and free in gifts,
    Who would be raised among his friends to fame
    And do brave deeds till light and life are gone.
    He who has thus wrought himself praise shall have
    A settled glory underneath the stars.[15]

DEOR'S LAMENT. In "Deor" we have another picture of the Saxon scop, or
minstrel, not in glad wandering, but in manly sorrow. It seems that the
scop's living depended entirely upon his power to please his chief, and
that at any time he might be supplanted by a better poet. Deor had this
experience, and comforts himself in a grim way by recalling various
examples of men who have suffered more than himself. The poem is arranged
in strophes, each one telling of some afflicted hero and ending with the
same refrain: _His sorrow passed away; so will mine_. "Deor" is much more
poetic than "Widsith," and is the one perfect lyric[16] of the Anglo-Saxon

    Weland for a woman knew too well exile.
    Strong of soul that earl, sorrow sharp he bore;
    To companionship he had care and weary longing,
    Winter-freezing wretchedness. Woe he found again, again,
    After that Nithhad in a need had laid him--
    Staggering sinew-wounds--sorrow-smitten man!
    _That he overwent; this also may I_.[17]

THE SEAFARER. The wonderful poem of "The Seafarer" seems to be in two
distinct parts. The first shows the hardships of ocean life; but stronger
than hardships is the subtle call of the sea. The second part is an
allegory, in which the troubles of the seaman are symbols of the troubles
of this life, and the call of the ocean is the call in the soul to be up
and away to its true home with God. Whether the last was added by some monk
who saw the allegorical possibilities of the first part, or whether some
sea-loving Christian scop wrote both, is uncertain. Following are a few
selected lines to show the spirit of the poem:

    The hail flew in showers about me; and there I heard only
    The roar of the sea, ice-cold waves, and the song of the swan;
    For pastime the gannets' cry served me; the kittiwakes' chatter
    For laughter of men; and for mead drink the call of the sea mews.
    When storms on the rocky cliffs beat, then the terns, icy-feathered,
    Made answer; full oft the sea eagle forebodingly screamed,
    The eagle with pinions wave-wet....
    The shadows of night became darker, it snowed from the north;
    The world was enchained by the frost; hail fell upon earth;
    'T was the coldest of grain. Yet the thoughts of my heart now are throbbing
    To test the high streams, the salt waves in tumultuous play.
    Desire in my heart ever urges my spirit to wander,
    To seek out the home of the stranger in lands afar off.
      There is no one that dwells upon earth, so exalted in mind,
    But that he has always a longing, a sea-faring passion
    For what the Lord God shall bestow, be it honor or death.
    No heart for the harp has he, nor for acceptance of treasure,
    No pleasure has he in a wife, no delight in the world,
    Nor in aught save the roll of the billows; but always a longing,
    A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea.
      The woodlands are captured by blossoms, the hamlets grow fair,
    Broad meadows are beautiful, earth again bursts into life,
    And all stir the heart of the wanderer eager to journey,
    So he meditates going afar on the pathway of tides.
    The cuckoo, moreover, gives warning with sorrowful note,
    Summer's harbinger sings, and forebodes to the heart bitter sorrow.
      Now my spirit uneasily turns in the heart's narrow chamber,
    Now wanders forth over the tide, o'er the home of the whale,
    To the ends of the earth--and comes back to me.
      Eager and greedy,
    The lone wanderer screams, and resistlessly drives my soul onward,
    Over the whale-path, over the tracts of the sea.[18]

THE FIGHT AT FINNSBURGH AND WALDERE. Two other of our oldest poems well
deserve mention. The "Fight at Finnsburgh" is a fragment of fifty lines,
discovered on the inside of a piece of parchment drawn over the wooden
covers of a book of homilies. It is a magnificent war song, describing with
Homeric power the defense of a hall by Hnæf[19] with sixty warriors,
against the attack of Finn and his army. At midnight, when Hnæf and his men
are sleeping, they are surrounded by an army rushing in with fire and
sword. Hnæf springs to his feet at the first alarm and wakens his warriors
with a call to action that rings like a bugle blast:

    This no eastward dawning is, nor is here a dragon flying,
    Nor of this high hall are the horns a burning;
    But they rush upon us here--now the ravens sing,
    Growling is the gray wolf, grim the war-wood rattles,
    Shield to shaft is answering.[20]

The fight lasts five days, but the fragment ends before we learn the
outcome: The same fight is celebrated by Hrothgar's gleeman at the feast in
Heorot, after the slaying of Grendel.

"Waldere" is a fragment of two leaves, from which we get only a glimpse of
the story of Waldere (Walter of Aquitaine) and his betrothed bride
Hildgund, who were hostages at the court of Attila. They escaped with a
great treasure, and in crossing the mountains were attacked by Gunther and
his warriors, among whom was Walter's former comrade, Hagen. Walter fights
them all and escapes. The same story was written in Latin in the tenth
century, and is also part of the old German _Nibelungenlied_. Though the
saga did not originate with the Anglo-Saxons, their version of it is the
oldest that has come down to us. The chief significance of these "Waldere"
fragments lies in the evidence they afford that our ancestors were familiar
with the legends and poetry of other Germanic peoples.


We have now read some of our earliest records, and have been surprised,
perhaps, that men who are generally described in the histories as savage
fighters and freebooters could produce such excellent poetry. It is the
object of the study of all literature to make us better acquainted with
men,--not simply with their deeds, which is the function of history, but
with the dreams and ideals which underlie all their actions. So a reading
of this early Anglo-Saxon poetry not only makes us acquainted, but also
leads to a profound respect for the men who were our ancestors. Before we
study more of their literature it is well to glance briefly at their life
and language.

THE NAME Originally the name Anglo-Saxon denotes two of the three Germanic
tribes,--Jutes, Angles, and Saxons,--who in the middle of the fifth
century left their homes on the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic to
conquer and colonize distant Britain. Angeln was the home of one tribe, and
the name still clings to the spot whence some of our forefathers sailed on
their momentous voyage. The old Saxon word _angul_ or _ongul_ means a hook,
and the English verb _angle_ is used invariably by Walton and older writers
in the sense of fishing. We may still think, therefore, of the first Angles
as hook-men, possibly because of their fishing, more probably because the
shore where they lived, at the foot of the peninsula of Jutland, was bent
in the shape of a fishhook. The name Saxon from _seax, sax_, a short sword,
means the sword-man, and from the name we may judge something of the temper
of the hardy fighters who preceded the Angles into Britain. The Angles were
the most numerous of the conquering tribes, and from them the new home was
called Anglalond. By gradual changes this became first Englelond and then

More than five hundred years after the landing of these tribes, and while
they called themselves Englishmen, we find the Latin writers of the Middle
Ages speaking of the inhabitants of Britain as _Anglisaxones_,--that is,
Saxons of England,--to distinguish them from the Saxons of the Continent.
In the Latin charters of King Alfred the same name appears; but it is never
seen or heard in his native speech. There he always speaks of his beloved
"Englelond" and of his brave "Englisc" people. In the sixteenth century,
when the old name of Englishmen clung to the new people resulting from the
union of Saxon and Norman, the name Anglo-Saxon was first used in the
national sense by the scholar Camden[21] in his _History of Britain_; and
since then it has been in general use among English writers. In recent
years the name has gained a wider significance, until it is now used to
denote a spirit rather than a nation, the brave, vigorous, enlarging spirit
that characterizes the English-speaking races everywhere, and that has
already put a broad belt of English law and English liberty around the
whole world.

THE LIFE. If the literature of a people springs directly out of its life,
then the stern, barbarous life of our Saxon forefathers would seem, at
first glance, to promise little of good literature. Outwardly their life
was a constant hardship, a perpetual struggle against savage nature and
savage men. Behind them were gloomy forests inhabited by wild beasts and
still wilder men, and peopled in their imagination with dragons and evil
shapes. In front of them, thundering at the very dikes for entrance, was
the treacherous North Sea, with its fogs and storms and ice, but with that
indefinable call of the deep that all men hear who live long beneath its
influence. Here they lived, a big, blond, powerful race, and hunted and
fought and sailed, and drank and feasted when their labor was done. Almost
the first thing we notice about these big, fearless, childish men is that
they love the sea; and because they love it they hear and answer its call:

    ... No delight has he in the world,
    Nor in aught save the roll of the billows; but always a longing,
    A yearning uneasiness, hastens him on to the sea.[22]

As might be expected, this love of the ocean finds expression in all their
poetry. In _Beowulf_ alone there are fifteen names for the sea, from the
_holm_, that is, the horizon sea, the "upmounding," to the _brim_, which is
the ocean flinging its welter of sand and creamy foam upon the beach at
your feet. And the figures used to describe or glorify it--"the swan road,
the whale path, the heaving battle plain"--are almost as numerous. In all
their poetry there is a magnificent sense of lordship over the wild sea
even in its hour of tempest and fury:

    Often it befalls us, on the ocean's highways,
    In the boats our boatmen, when the storm is roaring,
    Leap the billows over, on our stallions of the foam.[23]

THE INNER LIFE. A man's life is more than his work; his dream is ever
greater than his achievement; and literature reflects not so much man's
deed as the spirit which animates him; not the poor thing that he does, but
rather the splendid thing that he ever hopes to do. In no place is this
more evident than in the age we are now studying. Those early sea kings
were a marvelous mixture of savagery and sentiment, of rough living and of
deep feeling, of splendid courage and the deep melancholy of men who know
their limitations and have faced the unanswered problem of death. They were
not simply fearless freebooters who harried every coast in their war
galleys. If that were all, they would have no more history or literature
than the Barbary pirates, of whom the same thing could be said. These
strong fathers of ours were men of profound emotions. In all their fighting
the love of an untarnished glory was uppermost; and under the warrior's
savage exterior was hidden a great love of home and homely virtues, and a
reverence for the one woman to whom he would presently return in triumph.
So when the wolf hunt was over, or the desperate fight was won, these
mighty men would gather in the banquet hall, and lay their weapons aside
where the open fire would flash upon them, and there listen to the songs of
Scop and Gleeman,--men who could put into adequate words the emotions and
aspirations that all men feel but that only a few can ever express:

    Music and song where the heroes sat--
    The glee-wood rang, a song uprose
    When Hrothgar's scop gave the hall good cheer.[24]

It is this great and hidden life of the Anglo-Saxons that finds expression
in all their literature. Briefly, it is summed up in five great
principles,--their love of personal freedom, their responsiveness to
nature, their religion, their reverence for womanhood, and their struggle
for glory as a ruling motive in every noble life.

In reading Anglo-Saxon poetry it is well to remember these five principles,
for they are like the little springs at the head of a great river,--clear,
pure springs of poetry, and out of them the best of our literature has
always flowed. Thus when we read,

    Blast of the tempest--it aids our oars;
    Rolling of thunder--it hurts us not;
    Rush of the hurricane--bending its neck
    To speed us whither our wills are bent,

we realize that these sea rovers had the spirit of kinship with the mighty
life of nature; and kinship with nature invariably expresses itself in
poetry. Again, when we read,

    Now hath the man
    O'ercome his troubles. No pleasure does he lack,
    Nor steeds, nor jewels, nor the joys of mead,
    Nor any treasure that the earth can give,
    O royal woman, if he have but thee,[25]

we know we are dealing with an essentially noble man, not a savage; we are
face to face with that profound reverence for womanhood which inspires the
greater part of all good poetry, and we begin to honor as well as
understand our ancestors. So in the matter of glory or honor; it was,
apparently, not the love of fighting, but rather the love of honor
resulting from fighting well, which animated our forefathers in every
campaign. "He was a man deserving of remembrance" was the highest thing
that could be said of a dead warrior; and "He is a man deserving of praise"
was the highest tribute to the living. The whole secret of Beowulf's mighty
life is summed up in the last line, "Ever yearning for his people's
praise." So every tribe had its scop, or poet, more important than any
warrior, who put the deeds of its heroes into the expressive words that
constitute literature; and every banquet hall had its gleeman, who sang the
scop's poetry in order that the deed and the man might be remembered.
Oriental peoples built monuments to perpetuate the memory of their dead;
but our ancestors made poems, which should live and stir men's souls long
after monuments of brick and stone had crumbled away. It is to this intense
love of glory and the desire to be remembered that we are indebted for
Anglo-Saxon literature.

OUR FIRST SPEECH. Our first recorded speech begins with the songs of
Widsith and Deor, which the Anglo-Saxons may have brought with them when
they first conquered Britain. At first glance these songs in their native
dress look strange as a foreign tongue; but when we examine them carefully
we find many words that have been familiar since childhood. We have seen
this in _Beowulf_; but in prose the resemblance of this old speech to our
own is even more striking. Here, for instance, is a fragment of the simple
story of the conquest of Britain by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors:

Her Hengest and Æsc his sunu gefuhton with Bryttas, on thaere
stowe the is gecweden Creccanford, and thær ofslogon feower thusenda wera.
And tha Bryttas tha forleton Cent-lond, and mid myclum ege flugon to
Lundenbyrig. (At this time Hengest and Aesc, his son, fought against the
Britons at the place which is called Crayford and there slew four thousand
men. And then the Britons forsook Kentland, and with much fear fled to
London town.)[26]

The reader who utters these words aloud a few times will speedily recognize
his own tongue, not simply in the words but also in the whole structure of
the sentences.

From such records we see that our speech is Teutonic in its origin; and
when we examine any Teutonic language we learn that it is only a branch of
the great Aryan or Indo-European family of languages. In life and language,
therefore, we are related first to the Teutonic races, and through them to
all the nations of this Indo-European family, which, starting with enormous
vigor from their original home (probably in central Europe)[27] spread
southward and westward, driving out the native tribes and slowly developing
the mighty civilizations of India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the wilder but
more vigorous life of the Celts and Teutons. In all these
languages--Sanskrit, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Teutonic--we recognize
the same root words for father and mother, for God and man, for the common
needs and the common relations of life; and since words are windows through
which we see the soul of this old people, we find certain ideals of love,
home, faith, heroism, liberty, which seem to have been the very life of our
forefathers, and which were inherited by them from their old heroic and
conquering ancestors. It was on the borders of the North Sea that our
fathers halted for unnumbered centuries on their westward journey, and
slowly developed the national life and language which we now call Anglo-

It is this old vigorous Anglo-Saxon language which forms the basis of our
modern English. If we read a paragraph from any good English book, and then
analyze it, as we would a flower, to see what it contains, we find two
distinct classes of words. The first class, containing simple words
expressing the common things of life, makes up the strong framework of our
language. These words are like the stem and bare branches of a mighty oak,
and if we look them up in the dictionary we find that almost invariably
they come to us from our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. The second and larger class
of words is made up of those that give grace, variety, ornament, to our
speech. They are like the leaves and blossoms of the same tree, and when we
examine their history we find that they come to us from the Celts, Romans,
Normans, and other peoples with whom we have been in contact in the long
years of our development. The most prominent characteristic of our present
language, therefore, is its dual character. Its best qualities--strength,
simplicity, directness--come from Anglo-Saxon sources; its enormous added
wealth of expression, its comprehensiveness, its plastic adaptability to
new conditions and ideas, are largely the result of additions from other
languages, and especially of its gradual absorption of the French language
after the Norman Conquest. It is this dual character, this combination of
native and foreign, of innate and exotic elements, which accounts for the
wealth of our English language and literature. To see it in concrete form,
we should read in succession _Beowulf_ and _Paradise Lost_, the two great
epics which show the root and the flower of our literary development.


The literature of this period falls naturally into two divisions,--pagan
and Christian. The former represents the poetry which the Anglo-Saxons
probably brought with them in the form of oral sagas,--the crude material
out of which literature was slowly developed on English soil; the latter
represents the writings developed under teaching of the monks, after the
old pagan religion had vanished, but while it still retained its hold on
the life and language of the people. In reading our earliest poetry it is
well to remember that all of it was copied by the monks, and seems to have
been more or less altered to give it a religious coloring.

The coming of Christianity meant not simply a new life and leader for
England; it meant also the wealth of a new language. The scop is now
replaced by the literary monk; and that monk, though he lives among common
people and speaks with the English tongue, has behind him all the culture
and literary resources of the Latin language. The effect is seen instantly
in our early prose and poetry.

NORTHUMBRIAN LITERATURE. In general, two great schools of Christian
influence came into England, and speedily put an end to the frightful wars
that had waged continually among the various petty kingdoms of the
Anglo-Saxons. The first of these, under the leadership of Augustine, came
from Rome. It spread in the south and center of England, especially in the
kingdom of Essex. It founded schools and partially educated the rough
people, but it produced no lasting literature. The other, under the
leadership of the saintly Aidan, came from Ireland, which country had been
for centuries a center of religion and education for all western Europe.
The monks of this school labored chiefly in Northumbria, and to their
influence we owe all that is best in Anglo-Saxon literature. It is called
the Northumbrian School; its center was the monasteries and abbeys, such as
Jarrow and Whitby, and its three greatest names are Bede, Cædmon, and

BEDE (673-735)

The Venerable Bede, as he is generally called, our first great scholar and
"the father of our English learning," wrote almost exclusively in Latin,
his last work, the translation of the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon,
having been unfortunately lost. Much to our regret, therefore, his books
and the story of his gentle, heroic life must be excluded from this history
of our literature. His works, over forty in number, covered the whole field
of human knowledge in his day, and were so admirably written that they were
widely copied as text-books, or rather manuscripts, in nearly all the
monastery schools of Europe.

The work most important to us is the _Ecclesiastical History of the English
People_. It is a fascinating history to read even now, with its curious
combination of accurate scholarship and immense credulity. In all strictly
historical matters Bede is a model. Every known authority on the subject,
from Pliny to Gildas, was carefully considered; every learned pilgrim to
Rome was commissioned by Bede to ransack the archives and to make copies of
papal decrees and royal letters; and to these were added the testimony of
abbots who could speak from personal knowledge of events or repeat the
traditions of their several monasteries.

Side by side with this historical exactness are marvelous stories of saints
and missionaries. It was an age of credulity, and miracles were in men's
minds continually. The men of whom he wrote lived lives more wonderful than
any romance, and their courage and gentleness made a tremendous impression
on the rough, warlike people to whom they came with open hands and hearts.
It is the natural way of all primitive peoples to magnify the works of
their heroes, and so deeds of heroism and kindness, which were part of the
daily life of the Irish missionaries, were soon transformed into the
miracles of the saints. Bede believed these things, as all other men did,
and records them with charming simplicity, just as he received them from
bishop or abbot. Notwithstanding its errors, we owe to this work nearly all
our knowledge of the eight centuries of our history following the landing
of Cæsar in Britain.

CÆDMON (Seventh Century)

    Now must we hymn the Master of heaven,
    The might of the Maker, the deeds of the Father,
    The thought of His heart. He, Lord everlasting,
    Established of old the source of all wonders:
    Creator all-holy, He hung the bright heaven,
    A roof high upreared, o'er the children of men;
    The King of mankind then created for mortals
    The world in its beauty, the earth spread beneath them,
    He, Lord everlasting, omnipotent God.[28]

If _Beowulf_ and the fragments of our earliest poetry were brought into
England, then the hymn given above is the first verse of all native English
song that has come down to us, and Cædmon is the first poet to whom we can
give a definite name and date. The words were written about 665 A.D. and
are found copied at the end of a manuscript of Bede's _Ecclesiastical

LIFE OF CæDMON. What little we know of Cædmon, the Anglo-Saxon Milton, as
he is properly called, is taken from Bede's account[29] of the Abbess Hilda
and of her monastery at Whitby. Here is a free and condensed translation of
Bede's story:

There was, in the monastery of the Abbess Hilda, a brother distinguished by
the grace of God, for that he could make poems treating of goodness and
religion. Whatever was translated to him (for he could not read) of Sacred
Scripture he shortly reproduced in poetic form of great sweetness and
beauty. None of all the English poets could equal him, for he learned not
the art of song from men, nor sang by the arts of men. Rather did he
receive all his poetry as a free gift from God, and for this reason he did
never compose poetry of a vain or worldly kind.

Until of mature age he lived as a layman and had never learned any poetry.
Indeed, so ignorant of singing was he that sometimes, at a feast, where it
was the custom that for the pleasure of all each guest should sing in turn,
he would rise from the table when he saw the harp coming to him and go home
ashamed. Now it happened once that he did this thing at a certain
festivity, and went out to the stall to care for the horses, this duty
being assigned to him for that night. As he slept at the usual time, one
stood by him saying: "Cædmon, sing me something." "I cannot sing," he
answered, "and that is why I came hither from the feast." But he who spake
unto him said again, "Cædmon, sing to me." And he said, "What shall I
sing?" and he said, "Sing the beginning of created things." Thereupon
Cædmon began to sing verses that he had never heard before, of this import:
"Now should we praise the power and wisdom of the Creator, the works of the
Father." This is the sense but not the form of the hymn that he sang while

When he awakened, Cædmon remembered the words of the hymn and added to them
many more. In the morning he went to the steward of the monastery lands and
showed him the gift he had received in sleep. The steward brought him to
Hilda, who made him repeat to the monks the hymn he had composed, and all
agreed that the grace of God was upon Cædmon. To test him they expounded to
him a bit of Scripture from the Latin and bade him, if he could, to turn it
into poetry. He went away humbly and returned in the morning with an
excellent poem. Thereupon Hilda received him and his family into the
monastery, made him one of the brethren, and commanded that the whole
course of Bible history be expounded to him. He in turn, reflecting upon
what he had heard, transformed it into most delightful poetry, and by
echoing it back to the monks in more melodious sounds made his teachers his
listeners. In all this his aim was to turn men from wickedness and to help
them to the love and practice of well doing.

[Then follows a brief record of Cædmon's life and an exquisite picture of
his death amidst the brethren.] And so it came to pass [says the simple
record] that as he served God while living in purity of mind and serenity
of spirit, so by a peaceful death he left the world and went to look upon
His face.

CæDMON'S WORKS. The greatest work attributed to Cædmon is the so-called
_Paraphrase_. It is the story of Genesis, Exodus, and a part of Daniel,
told in glowing, poetic language, with a power of insight and imagination
which often raises it from paraphrase into the realm of true poetry. Though
we have Bede's assurance that Cædmon "transformed the whole course of Bible
history into most delightful poetry," no work known certainly to have been
composed by him has come down to us. In the seventeenth century this
Anglo-Saxon _Paraphrase_ was discovered and attributed to Cædmon, and his
name is still associated with it, though it is now almost certain that the
_Paraphrase_ is the work of more than one writer.

Aside from the doubtful question of authorship, even a casual reading of
the poem brings us into the presence of a poet rude indeed, but with a
genius strongly suggestive at times of the matchless Milton. The book opens
with a hymn of praise, and then tells of the fall of Satan and his rebel
angels from heaven, which is familiar to us in Milton's _Paradise Lost_.
Then follows the creation of the world, and the _Paraphrase_ begins to
thrill with the old Anglo-Saxon love of nature.

    Here first the Eternal Father, guard of all,
    Of heaven and earth, raisèd up the firmament,
    The Almighty Lord set firm by His strong power
    This roomy land; grass greened not yet the plain,
    Ocean far spread hid the wan ways in gloom.
    Then was the Spirit gloriously bright
    Of Heaven's Keeper borne over the deep
    Swiftly. The Life-giver, the Angel's Lord,
    Over the ample ground bade come forth Light.
    Quickly the High King's bidding was obeyed,
    Over the waste there shone light's holy ray.
    Then parted He, Lord of triumphant might,
    Shadow from shining, darkness from the light.
    Light, by the Word of God, was first named day.[30]

After recounting the story of Paradise, the Fall, and the Deluge, the
_Paraphrase_ is continued in the Exodus, of which the poet makes a noble
epic, rushing on with the sweep of a Saxon army to battle. A single
selection is given here to show how the poet adapted the story to his

                        Then they saw,
    Forth and forward faring, Pharaoh's war array
    Gliding on, a grove of spears;--glittering the hosts!
    Fluttered there the banners, there the folk the march trod.
    Onwards surged the war, strode the spears along,
    Blickered the broad shields; blew aloud the trumpets....
    Wheeling round in gyres, yelled the fowls of war,
    Of the battle greedy; hoarsely barked the raven,
    Dew upon his feathers, o'er the fallen corpses--
    Swart that chooser of the slain! Sang aloud the wolves
    At eve their horrid song, hoping for the carrion.[31]

Besides the _Paraphrase_ we have a few fragments of the same general
character which are attributed to the school of Cædmon. The longest of
these is _Judith_, in which the story of an apocryphal book of the Old
Testament is done into vigorous poetry. Holofernes is represented as a
savage and cruel Viking, reveling in his mead hall; and when the heroic
Judith cuts off his head with his own sword and throws it down before the
warriors of her people, rousing them to battle and victory, we reach
perhaps the most dramatic and brilliant point of Anglo-Saxon literature.

CYNEWULF (Eighth Century)

Of Cynewulf, greatest of the Anglo-Saxon poets, excepting only the unknown
author of _Beowulf_, we know very little. Indeed, it was not till 1840,
more than a thousand years after his death, that even his name became
known. Though he is the only one of our early poets who signed his works,
the name was never plainly written, but woven into the verses in the form
of secret runes,[32] suggesting a modern charade, but more difficult of
interpretation until one has found the key to the poet's signature.

WORKS OF CYNEWULF. The only signed poems of Cynewulf are _The Christ,
Juliana, The Fates of the Apostles_, and _Elene_. Unsigned poems attributed
to him or his school are _Andreas_, the _Phoenix_, the _Dream of the Rood_,
the _Descent into Hell_, _Guthlac_, the _Wanderer_, and some of the
Riddles. The last are simply literary conundrums in which some well-known
object, like the bow or drinking horn, is described in poetic language, and
the hearer must guess the name. Some of them, like "The Swan"[33] and "The
Storm Spirit," are unusually beautiful.

Of all these works the most characteristic is undoubtedly _The Christ_, a
didactic poem in three parts: the first celebrating the Nativity; the
second, the Ascension; and the third, "Doomsday," telling the torments of
the wicked and the unending joy of the redeemed. Cynewulf takes his
subject-matter partly from the Church liturgy, but more largely from the
homilies of Gregory the Great. The whole is well woven together, and
contains some hymns of great beauty and many passages of intense dramatic
force. Throughout the poem a deep love for Christ and a reverence for the
Virgin Mary are manifest. More than any other poem in any language, _The
Christ_ reflects the spirit of early Latin Christianity.

Here is a fragment comparing life to a sea voyage,--a comparison which
occurs sooner or later to every thoughtful person, and which finds perfect
expression in Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."

    Now 'tis most like as if we fare in ships
    On the ocean flood, over the water cold,
    Driving our vessels through the spacious seas
    With horses of the deep. A perilous way is this
    Of boundless waves, and there are stormy seas
    On which we toss here in this (reeling) world
    O'er the deep paths. Ours was a sorry plight
    Until at last we sailed unto the land,
    Over the troubled main. Help came to us
    That brought us to the haven of salvation,
    God's Spirit-Son, and granted grace to us
    That we might know e'en from the vessel's deck
    Where we must bind with anchorage secure
    Our ocean steeds, old stallions of the waves.

In the two epic poems of _Andreas_ and _Elene_ Cynewulf (if he be the
author) reaches the very summit of his poetical art. _Andreas_, an unsigned
poem, records the story of St. Andrew, who crosses the sea to rescue his
comrade St. Matthew from the cannibals. A young ship-master who sails the
boat turns out to be Christ in disguise, Matthew is set free, and the
savages are converted by a miracle.[34] It is a spirited poem, full of rush
and incident, and the descriptions of the sea are the best in Anglo-Saxon

_Elene_ has for its subject-matter the finding of the true cross. It tells
of Constantine's vision of the Rood, on the eve of battle. After his
victory under the new emblem he sends his mother Helena (Elene) to
Jerusalem in search of the original cross and the nails. The poem, which is
of very uneven quality, might properly be put at the end of Cynewulf's
works. He adds to the poem a personal note, signing his name in runes; and,
if we accept the wonderful "Vision of the Rood" as Cynewulf's work, we
learn how he found the cross at last in his own heart. There is a
suggestion here of the future Sir Launfal and the search for the Holy

DECLINE OF NORTHUMBRIAN LITERATURE. The same northern energy which had
built up learning and literature so rapidly in Northumbria was instrumental
in pulling it down again. Toward the end of the century in which Cynewulf
lived, the Danes swept down on the English coasts and overwhelmed
Northumbria. Monasteries and schools were destroyed; scholars and teachers
alike were put to the sword, and libraries that had been gathered leaf by
leaf with the toil of centuries were scattered to the four winds. So all
true Northumbrian literature perished, with the exception of a few
fragments, and that which we now possess[35] is largely a translation in
the dialect of the West Saxons. This translation was made by Alfred's
scholars, after he had driven back the Danes in an effort to preserve the
ideals and the civilization that had been so hardly won. With the conquest
of Northumbria ends the poetic period of Anglo-Saxon literature. With
Alfred the Great of Wessex our prose literature makes a beginning.

ALFRED (848-901)

    "Every craft and every power soon grows
    old and is passed over and forgotten, if it
    be without wisdom.... This is now to be
    said, that whilst I live I wish to live nobly,
    and after life to leave to the men who come
    after me a memory of good works."[36]

So wrote the great Alfred, looking back over his heroic life. That he lived
nobly none can doubt who reads the history of the greatest of Anglo-Saxon
kings; and his good works include, among others, the education of half a
country, the salvage of a noble native literature, and the creation of the
first English prose.

LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED. For the history of Alfred's times, and details of
the terrific struggle with the Northmen, the reader must be referred to the
histories. The struggle ended with the Treaty of Wedmore, in 878, with the
establishment of Alfred not only as king of Wessex, but as overlord of the
whole northern country. Then the hero laid down his sword, and set himself
as a little child to learn to read and write Latin, so that he might lead
his people in peace as he had led them in war. It is then that Alfred began
to be the heroic figure in literature that he had formerly been in the wars
against the Northmen.

With the same patience and heroism that had marked the long struggle for
freedom, Alfred set himself to the task of educating his people. First he
gave them laws, beginning with the Ten Commandments and ending with the
Golden Rule, and then established courts where laws could be faithfully
administered. Safe from the Danes by land, he created a navy, almost the
first of the English fleets, to drive them from the coast. Then, with peace
and justice established within his borders, he sent to Europe for scholars
and teachers, and set them over schools that he established. Hitherto all
education had been in Latin; now he set himself the task, first, of
teaching every free-born Englishman to read and write his own language, and
second, of translating into English the best books for their instruction.
Every poor scholar was honored at his court and was speedily set to work at
teaching or translating; every wanderer bringing a book or a leaf of
manuscript from the pillaged monasteries of Northumbria was sure of his
reward. In this way the few fragments of native Northumbrian literature,
which we have been studying, were saved to the world. Alfred and his
scholars treasured the rare fragments and copied them in the West-Saxon
dialect. With the exception of Cædmon's Hymn, we have hardly a single leaf
from the great literature of Northumbria in the dialect in which it was
first written.

WORKS OF ALFRED. Aside from his educational work, Alfred is known chiefly
as a translator. After fighting his country's battles, and at a time when
most men were content with military honor, he began to learn Latin, that he
might translate the works that would be most helpful to his people. His
important translations are four in number: Orosius's _Universal History and
Geography_, the leading work in general history for several centuries;
Bede's _History_,[37] the first great historical work written on English
soil; Pope Gregory's _Shepherds' Book_, intended especially for the clergy;
and Boethius's _Consolations of Philosophy_, the favorite philosophical
work of the Middle Ages.

More important than any translation is the _English_ or _Saxon Chronicle_.
This was probably at first a dry record, especially of important births and
deaths in the West-Saxon kingdom. Alfred enlarged this scant record,
beginning the story with Cæsar's conquest. When it touches his own reign
the dry chronicle becomes an interesting and connected story, the oldest
history belonging to any modern nation in its own language. The record of
Alfred's reign, probably by himself, is a splendid bit of writing and shows
clearly his claim to a place in literature as well as in history. The
_Chronicle_ was continued after Alfred's death, and is the best monument of
early English prose that is left to us. Here and there stirring songs are
included in the narrative, like "The Battle of Brunanburh" and "The Battle
of Maldon."[38] The last, entered 991, seventy-five years before the Norman
Conquest, is the swan song of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The _Chronicle_ was
continued for a century after the Norman Conquest, and is extremely
valuable not only as a record of events but as a literary monument showing
the development of our language.

CLOSE OF THE ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD. After Alfred's death there is little to
record, except the loss of the two supreme objects of his heroic struggle,
namely, a national life and a national literature. It was at once the
strength and the weakness of the Saxon that he lived apart as a free man
and never joined efforts willingly with any large body of his fellows. The
tribe was his largest idea of nationality, and, with all our admiration, we
must confess as we first meet him that he has not enough sense of unity to
make a great nation, nor enough culture to produce a great literature. A
few noble political ideals repeated in a score of petty kingdoms, and a few
literary ideals copied but never increased,--that is the summary of his
literary history. For a full century after Alfred literature was
practically at a standstill, having produced the best of which it was
capable, and England waited for the national impulse and for the culture
necessary for a new and greater art. Both of these came speedily, by way of
the sea, in the Norman Conquest.

SUMMARY OF ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD. Our literature begins with songs and stories
of a time when our Teutonic ancestors were living on the borders of the
North Sea. Three tribes of these ancestors, the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons,
conquered Britain in the latter half of the fifth century, and laid the
foundation of the English nation. The first landing was probably by a tribe
of Jutes, under chiefs called by the chronicle Hengist and Horsa. The date
is doubtful; but the year 449 is accepted by most historians.

These old ancestors were hardy warriors and sea rovers, yet were capable of
profound and noble emotions. Their poetry reflects this double nature. Its
subjects were chiefly the sea and the plunging boats, battles, adventure,
brave deeds, the glory of warriors, and the love of home. Accent,
alliteration, and an abrupt break in the middle of each line gave their
poetry a kind of martial rhythm. In general the poetry is earnest and
somber, and pervaded by fatalism and religious feeling. A careful reading
of the few remaining fragments of Anglo-Saxon literature reveals five
striking characteristics: the love of freedom; responsiveness to nature,
especially in her sterner moods; strong religious convictions, and a belief
in Wyrd, or Fate; reverence for womanhood; and a devotion to glory as the
ruling motive in every warrior's life.

In our study we have noted: (1) the great epic or heroic poem _Beowulf_,
and a few fragments of our first poetry, such as "Widsith," "Deor's
Lament," and "The Seafarer." (2) Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon life; the
form of our first speech. (3) The Northumbrian school of writers. Bede, our
first historian, belongs to this school; but all his extant works are in
Latin. The two great poets are Cædmon and Cynewulf. Northumbrian literature
flourished between 650 and 850. In the year 867 Northumbria was conquered
by the Danes, who destroyed the monasteries and the libraries containing
our earliest literature. (4) The beginnings of English prose writing under
Alfred (848-901). Our most important prose work of this age is the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was revised and enlarged by Alfred, and which
was continued for more than two centuries. It is the oldest historical
record known to any European nation in its own tongue.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. _Miscellaneous Poetry_. The Seafarer, Love Letter
(Husband's Message), Battle of Brunanburh, Deor's Lament, Riddles, Exodus,
The Christ, Andreas, Dream of the Rood, extracts in Cook and Tinker's
Translations from Old English Poetry[39] (Ginn and Company); Judith,
translation by A.S. Cook. Good selections are found also in Brooke's
History of Early English Literature, and Morley's English Writers, vols. 1
and 2.

_Beowulf_. J.R.C. Hall's prose translation; Child's Beowulf (Riverside
Literature Series); Morris and Wyatt's The Tale of Beowulf; Earle's The
Deeds of Beowulf; Metrical versions by Garnett, J.L. Hall, Lumsden, etc.

_Prose_. A few paragraphs of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in Manly's English
Prose; translations in Cook and Tinker's Old English Prose.


_HISTORY_. For the facts of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England consult
first a good text-book: Montgomery, pp. 31--57, or Cheyney, pp. 36-84. For
fuller treatment see Green, ch. 1; Traill, vol. 1; Ramsey's Foundations of
England; Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons; Freeman's Old English
History; Allen's Anglo-Saxon England; Cook's Life of Alfred; Asser's Life
of King Alfred, edited by W.H. Stevenson; C. Plummer's Life and Times of
Alfred the Great; E. Dale's National Life and Character in the Mirror of
Early English Literature; Rhys's Celtic Britain.

_LITERATURE. Anglo-Saxon Texts_. Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, and Albion
Series of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English Poetry (Ginn and Company); Belles
Lettres Series of English Classics, sec. 1 (Heath & Co.); J.W. Bright's
Anglo-Saxon Reader; Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer, and Anglo-Saxon Reader.

_General Works_. Jusserand, Ten Brink, Cambridge History, Morley (full
titles and publishers in General Bibliography).

_Special Works_. Brooke's History of Early English Literature; Earle's
Anglo-Saxon Literature; Lewis's Beginnings of English Literature; Arnold's
Celtic Literature (for relations of Saxon and Celt); Longfellow's Poets and
Poetry of Europe; Hall's Old English Idyls; Gayley's Classic Myths, or
Guerber's Myths of the Northlands (for Norse Mythology); Brother Azarias's
Development of Old English Thought.

Beowulf, prose translations by Tinker, Hall, Earle, Morris and Wyatt;
metrical versions by Garnett, J.L. Hall, Lumsden, etc. The Exeter Book (a
collection of Anglo-Saxon texts), edited and translated by Gollancz. The
Christ of Cynewulf, prose translation by Whitman; the same poem, text and
translation, by Gollancz; text by Cook. Cædmon's Paraphrase, text and
translation, by Thorpe. Garnett's Elene, Judith, and other Anglo-Saxon
Poems. Translations of Andreas and the Phoenix, in Gollancz's Exeter Book.
Bede's History, in Temple Classics; the same with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
(one volume) in Bohn's Antiquarian Library.


1. What is the relation of history and literature? Why should both subjects
be studied together? Explain the qualities that characterize all great
literature. Has any text-book in history ever appealed to you as a work of
literature? What literary qualities have you noticed in standard historical
works, such as those of Macaulay, Prescott, Gibbon, Green, Motley, Parkman,
and John Fiske?

2. Why did the Anglo-Saxons come to England? What induced them to remain?
Did any change occur in their ideals, or in their manner of life? Do you
know any social or political institutions which they brought, and which, we
still cherish?

3. From the literature you have read, what do you know about our Anglo-
Saxon ancestors? What virtues did they admire in men? How was woman
regarded? Can you compare the Anglo-Saxon ideal of woman with that of other
nations, the Romans for instance?

4. Tell in your own words the general qualities of Anglo-Saxon poetry. How
did it differ in its metrical form from modern poetry? What passages seem
to you worth learning and remembering? Can you explain why poetry is more
abundant and more interesting than prose in the earliest literature of all

5. Tell the story of _Beowulf_. What appeals to you most in the poem? Why
is it a work for all time, or, as the Anglo-Saxons would say, why is it
worthy to be remembered? Note the permanent quality of literature, and the
ideals and emotions which are emphasized in _Beowulf_. Describe the burials
of Scyld and of Beowulf. Does the poem teach any moral lesson? Explain the
Christian elements in this pagan epic.

6. Name some other of our earliest poems, and describe the one you like
best. How does the sea figure in our first poetry? How is nature regarded?
What poem reveals the life of the scop or poet? How do you account for the
serious character of Anglo-Saxon poetry? Compare the Saxon and the Celt
with regard to the gladsomeness of life as shown in their literature.

7. What useful purpose did poetry serve among our ancestors? What purpose
did the harp serve in reciting their poems? Would the harp add anything to
our modern poetry?

8. What is meant by Northumbrian literature? Who are the great Northumbrian
writers? What besides the Danish conquest caused the decline of
Northumbrian literature?

9. For what is Bede worthy to be remembered? Tell the story of Cædmon, as
recorded in Bede's History. What new element is introduced in Cædmon's
poems? What effect did Christianity have upon Anglo-Saxon literature? Can
you quote any passages from Cædmon to show that Anglo-Saxon character was
not changed but given a new direction? If you have read Milton's _Paradise
Lost_, what resemblances are there between that poem and Cædmon's

10. What are the Cynewulf poems? Describe any that you have read. How do
they compare in spirit and in expression with _Beowulf_? with Cædmon? Read
_The Phoenix_ (which is a translation from the Latin) in Brooke's History
of Early English Literature, or in Gollancz's Exeter Book, or in Cook's
Translations from Old English Poetry, and tell what elements you find to
show that the poem is not of Anglo-Saxon origin. Compare the views of
nature in Beowulf and in the Cynewulf poems.

11. Describe the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. What is its value in our language,
literature, and history? Give an account of Alfred's life and of his work
for literature. How does Anglo-Saxon prose compare in interest with the

  HISTORY                          |  LITERATURE
449(?). Landing of Hengist and     |
        Horsa in Britain           |
477. Landing of South Saxons       |
547. Angles settle Northumbria     | 547. Gildas's History
597. Landing of Augustine and his  |
      monks. Conversion of Kent    |
617. Eadwine, king of Northumbria  |
635-665. Coming of St. Aidan.      |
      Conversion of Northumbria    | 664. Cædmon at Whitby
                                   | 673-735. Bede
                                   | 750 (_cir_.). Cynewulf
                                   |   poems
867. Danes conquer Northumbria     |
871. Alfred, king of Wessex        | 860. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begun
878. Defeat of Danes. Peace of     |
       Wedmore                     |
901. Death of Alfred               | 991. Last known poem of the
                                   |        Anglo-Saxon
                                   |        period, The Battle of
                                   |        Maldon, otherwise called
                                   |        Byrhtnoth's Death
1013-1042. Danish period           |
1016. Cnut, king                   |
1042. Edward the Confessor. Saxon  |
        period restored            |
1049. Westminster Abbey begun      |
1066. Harold, last of Saxon kings. |
        Norman Conquest            |

       *       *       *       *       *




THE NORMANS. The name Norman, which is a softened form of Northman, tells
its own story. The men who bore the name came originally from
Scandinavia,--bands of big, blond, fearless men cruising after plunder and
adventure in their Viking ships, and bringing terror wherever they
appeared. It was these same "Children of Woden" who, under the Danes' raven
flag, had blotted out Northumbrian civilization in the ninth century. Later
the same race of men came plundering along the French coast and conquered
the whole northern country; but here the results were altogether different.
Instead of blotting out a superior civilization, as the Danes had done,
they promptly abandoned their own. Their name of Normandy still clings to
the new home; but all else that was Norse disappeared as the conquerors
intermarried with the native Franks and accepted French ideals and spoke
the French language. So rapidly did they adopt and improve the Roman
civilization of the natives that, from a rude tribe of heathen Vikings,
they had developed within a single century into the most polished and
intellectual people in all Europe. The union of Norse and French (i.e.
Roman-Gallic) blood had here produced a race having the best qualities of
both,--the will power and energy of the one, the eager curiosity and vivid
imagination of the other. When these Norman-French people appeared in
Anglo-Saxon England they brought with them three noteworthy things: a
lively Celtic disposition, a vigorous and progressive Latin civilization,
and a Romance language.[42] We are to think of the conquerors, therefore,
as they thought and spoke of themselves in the Domesday Book and all their
contemporary literature, not as Normans but as _Franci_, that is,

THE CONQUEST. At the battle of Hastings (1066) the power of Harold, last of
the Saxon kings, was broken, and William, duke of Normandy, became master
of England. Of the completion of that stupendous Conquest which began at
Hastings, and which changed the civilization of a whole nation, this is not
the place to speak. We simply point out three great results of the Conquest
which have a direct bearing on our literature. First, notwithstanding
Cæsar's legions and Augustine's monks, the Normans were the first to bring
the culture and the practical ideals of Roman civilization home to the
English people; and this at a critical time, when England had produced her
best, and her own literature and civilization had already begun to decay.
Second, they forced upon England the national idea, that is, a strong,
centralized government to replace the loose authority of a Saxon chief over
his tribesmen. And the world's history shows that without a great
nationality a great literature is impossible. Third, they brought to
England the wealth of a new language and literature, and our English
gradually absorbed both. For three centuries after Hastings French was the
language of the upper classes, of courts and schools and literature; yet so
tenaciously did the common people cling to their own strong speech that in
the end English absorbed almost the whole body of French words and became
the language of the land. It was the welding of Saxon and French into one
speech that produced the wealth of our modern English.

Naturally such momentous changes in a nation were not brought about
suddenly. At first Normans and Saxons lived apart in the relation of
masters and servants, with more or less contempt on one side and hatred on
the other; but in an astonishingly short time these two races were drawn
powerfully together, like two men of different dispositions who are often
led into a steadfast friendship by the attraction of opposite qualities,
each supplying what the other lacks. The _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, which was
continued for a century after Hastings, finds much to praise in the
conquerors; on the other hand the Normans, even before the Conquest, had no
great love for the French nation. After conquering England they began to
regard it as home and speedily developed a new sense of nationality.
Geoffrey's popular _History_,[43] written less than a century after the
Conquest, made conquerors and conquered alike proud of their country by its
stories of heroes who, curiously enough, were neither Norman nor Saxon, but
creations of the native Celts. Thus does literature, whether in a battle
song or a history, often play the chief role in the development of
nationality.[44] Once the mutual distrust was overcome the two races
gradually united, and out of this union of Saxons and Normans came the new
English life and literature.

LITERARY IDEALS OF THE NORMANS. The change in the life of the conquerors
from Norsemen to Normans, from Vikings to Frenchmen, is shown most clearly
in the literature which they brought with them to England. The old Norse
strength and grandeur, the magnificent sagas telling of the tragic
struggles of men and gods, which still stir us profoundly,--these have all
disappeared. In their place is a bright, varied, talkative literature,
which runs to endless verses, and which makes a wonderful romance out of
every subject it touches. The theme may be religion or love or chivalry or
history, the deeds of Alexander or the misdeeds of a monk; but the author's
purpose never varies. He must tell a romantic story and amuse his audience;
and the more wonders and impossibilities he relates, the more surely is he
believed. We are reminded, in reading, of the native Gauls, who would stop
every traveler and compel him to tell a story ere he passed on. There was
more of the Gaul than of the Norseman in the conquerors, and far more of
fancy than of thought or feeling in their literature. If you would see this
in concrete form, read the _Chanson de Roland_, the French national epic
(which the Normans first put into literary form), in contrast with
_Beowulf_, which voices the Saxon's thought and feeling before the profound
mystery of human life. It is not our purpose to discuss the evident merits
or the serious defects of Norman-French literature, but only to point out
two facts which impress the student, namely, that Anglo-Saxon literature
was at one time enormously superior to the French, and that the latter,
with its evident inferiority, absolutely replaced the former. "The fact is
too often ignored," says Professor Schofield,[45] "that before 1066 the
Anglo-Saxons had a body of native literature distinctly superior to any
which the Normans or French could boast at that time; their prose
especially was unparalleled for extent and power in any European
vernacular." Why, then, does this superior literature disappear and for
nearly three centuries French remain supreme, so much so that writers on
English soil, even when they do not use the French language, still
slavishly copy the French models?

To understand this curious phenomenon it is necessary only to remember the
relative conditions of the two races who lived side by side in England. On
the one hand the Anglo-Saxons were a conquered people, and without liberty
a great literature is impossible. The inroads of the Danes and their own
tribal wars had already destroyed much of their writings, and in their new
condition of servitude they could hardly preserve what remained. The
conquering Normans, on the other hand, represented the civilization of
France, which country, during the early Middle Ages, was the literary and
educational center of all Europe. They came to England at a time when the
idea of nationality was dead, when culture had almost vanished, when
Englishmen lived apart in narrow isolation; and they brought with them law,
culture, the prestige of success, and above all the strong impulse to share
in the great world's work and to join in the moving currents of the world's
history. Small wonder, then, that the young Anglo-Saxons felt the
quickening of this new life and turned naturally to the cultured and
progressive Normans as their literary models.


In the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh there is a beautifully illuminated
manuscript, written about 1330, which gives us an excellent picture of the
literature of the Norman period. In examining it we are to remember that
literature was in the hands of the clergy and nobles; that the common
people could not read, and had only a few songs and ballads for their
literary portion. We are to remember also that parchments were scarce and
very expensive, and that a single manuscript often contained all the
reading matter of a castle or a village. Hence this old manuscript is as
suggestive as a modern library. It contains over forty distinct works, the
great bulk of them being romances. There are metrical or verse romances of
French and Celtic and English heroes, like Roland, Arthur and Tristram, and
Bevis of Hampton. There are stories of Alexander, the Greek romance of
"Flores and Blanchefleur," and a collection of Oriental tales called "The
Seven Wise Masters." There are legends of the Virgin and the saints, a
paraphrase of Scripture, a treatise on the seven deadly sins, some Bible
history, a dispute among birds concerning women, a love song or two, a
vision of Purgatory, a vulgar story with a Gallic flavor, a chronicle of
English kings and Norman barons, and a political satire. There are a few
other works, similarly incongruous, crowded together in this typical
manuscript, which now gives mute testimony to the literary taste of the

Obviously it is impossible to classify such a variety. We note simply that
it is mediæval in spirit, and French in style and expression; and that sums
up the age. All the scholarly works of the period, like William of
Malmesbury's _History_, and Anselm's[46] _Cur Deus Homo_, and Roger Bacon's
_Opus Majus_, the beginning of modern experimental science, were written in
Latin; while nearly all other works were written in French, or else were
English copies or translations of French originals. Except for the advanced
student, therefore, they hardly belong to the story of English literature.
We shall note here only one or two marked literary types, like the Riming
Chronicle (or verse history) and the Metrical Romance, and a few writers
whose work has especial significance.

GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH. (d. 1154). Geoffrey's _Historia Regum Britanniae_ is
noteworthy, not as literature, but rather as a source book from which many
later writers drew their literary materials. Among the native Celtic tribes
an immense number of legends, many of them of exquisite beauty, had been
preserved through four successive conquests of Britain. Geoffrey, a Welsh
monk, collected some of these legends and, aided chiefly by his
imagination, wrote a complete history of the Britons. His alleged authority
was an ancient manuscript in the native Welsh tongue containing the lives
and deeds of all their kings, from Brutus, the alleged founder of Britain,
down to the coming of Julius Cæsar.[47] From this Geoffrey wrote his
history, down to the death of Cadwalader in 689.

The "History" is a curious medley of pagan and Christian legends, of
chronicle, comment, and pure invention,--all recorded in minute detail and
with a gravity which makes it clear that Geoffrey had no conscience, or
else was a great joker. As history the whole thing is rubbish; but it was
extraordinarily successful at the time and made all who heard it, whether
Normans or Saxons, proud of their own country. It is interesting to us
because it gave a new direction to the literature of England by showing the
wealth of poetry and romance that lay in its own traditions of Arthur and
his knights. Shakespeare's _King Lear_, Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_, and
Tennyson's _Idylls of the King_ were founded on the work of this monk, who
had the genius to put unwritten Celtic tradition in the enduring form of
Latin prose.

WORK OF THE FRENCH WRITERS. The French literature of the Norman period is
interesting chiefly because of the avidity with which foreign writers
seized upon the native legends and made them popular in England. Until
Geoffrey's preposterous chronicle appeared, these legends had not been used
to any extent as literary material. Indeed, they were scarcely known in
England, though familiar to French and Italian minstrels. Legends of Arthur
and his court were probably first taken to Brittany by Welsh emigrants in
the fifth and sixth centuries. They became immensely popular wherever they
were told, and they were slowly carried by minstrels and story-tellers all
over Europe. That they had never received literary form or recognition was
due to a peculiarity of mediæval literature, which required that every tale
should have some ancient authority behind it. Geoffrey met this demand by
creating an historical manuscript of Welsh history. That was enough for the
age. With Geoffrey and his alleged manuscript to rest upon, the Norman-
French writers were free to use the fascinating stories which had been-for
centuries in the possession of their wandering minstrels. Geoffrey's Latin
history was put into French verse by Gaimar _(c_. 1150) and by Wace (_c_.
1155), and from these French versions the work was first translated into
English. From about 1200 onward Arthur and Guinevere and the matchless band
of Celtic heroes that we meet later (1470) in Malory's _Morte d' Arthur_
became the permanent possession of our literature.

LAYAMON'S BRUT (_c_. 1200). This is the most important of the English
riming chronicles, that is, history related in the form of doggerel verse,
probably because poetry is more easily memorized than prose. We give here a
free rendering of selected lines at the beginning of the poem, which tell
us all we know of Layamon, the first who ever wrote as an Englishman for
Englishmen, including in the term all who loved England and called it home,
no matter where their ancestors were born.

Now there was a priest in the land named Layamon. He was son of Leovenath
--may God be gracious unto him. He dwelt at Ernley, at a noble church on
Severn's bank. He read many books, and it came to his mind to tell the
noble deeds of the English. Then he began to journey far and wide over the
land to procure noble books for authority. He took the English book that
Saint Bede made, another in Latin that Saint Albin made,[48] and a third
book that a French clerk made, named Wace.[49] Layamon laid these works
before him and turned the leaves; lovingly he beheld them. Pen he took, and
wrote on book-skin, and made the three books into one.

The poem begins with the destruction of Troy and the flight of "Æneas the
duke" into Italy. Brutus, a great-grandson of Æneas, gathers his people and
sets out to find a new land in the West. Then follows the founding of the
Briton kingdom, and the last third of the poem, which is over thirty
thousand lines in length, is taken up with the history of Arthur and his
knights. If the _Brut_ had no merits of its own, it would still interest
us, for it marks the first appearance of the Arthurian legends in our own
tongue. A single selection is given here from Arthur's dying speech,
familiar to us in Tennyson's _Morte d'Arthur_. The reader will notice here
two things: first, that though the poem is almost pure Anglo-Saxon,[50] our
first speech has already dropped many inflections and is more easily read
than _Beowulf_; second, that French influence is already at work in
Layamon's rimes and assonances, that is, the harmony resulting from using
the same vowel sound in several successive lines:

    And ich wulle varen to Avalun:  And I will fare to Avalun,
    To vairest alre maidene,        To fairest of all maidens,
    To Argante there quene,         To Argante the queen,
    Alven swithe sceone.            An elf very beautiful.
    And heo seal mine wunden        And she shall my wounds
    Makien alle isunde,             Make all sound;
    Al hal me makien                All whole me make
    Mid haleweiye drenchen.         With healing drinks.
    And seothe ich cumen wulle      And again will I come
    To mine kiueriche               To my kingdom
    And wunien mid Brutten          And dwell with Britons
    Mid muchelere wunne.            With mickle joy.
    Aefne than worden               Even (with) these words
    Ther com of se wenden           There came from the sea
    That wes an sceort bat lithen,  A short little boat gliding,
    Sceoven mid uthen,              Shoved by the waves;
    And twa wimmen ther inne,       And two women therein,
    Wunderliche idihte.             Wondrously attired.
    And heo nomen Arthur anan       And they took Arthur anon
    And an eovste hine vereden      And bore him hurriedly,
    And softe hine adun leiden,     And softly laid him down,
    And forth gunnen lithen.        And forth gan glide.

METRICAL ROMANCES. Love, chivalry, and religion, all pervaded by the spirit
of romance,--these are the three great literary ideals which find
expression in the metrical romances. Read these romances now, with their
knights and fair ladies, their perilous adventures and tender love-making,
their minstrelsy and tournaments and gorgeous cavalcades,--as if humanity
were on parade, and life itself were one tumultuous holiday in the open
air,--and you have an epitome of the whole childish, credulous soul of the
Middle Ages. The Normans first brought this type of romance into England,
and so popular did it become, so thoroughly did it express the romantic
spirit of the time, that it speedily overshadowed all other forms of
literary expression.

Though the metrical romances varied much in form and subject-matter, the
general type remains the same,--a long rambling poem or series of poems
treating of love or knightly adventure or both. Its hero is a knight; its
characters are fair ladies in distress, warriors in armor, giants, dragons,
enchanters, and various enemies of Church and State; and its emphasis is
almost invariably on love, religion, and duty as defined by chivalry. In
the French originals of these romances the lines were a definite length,
the meter exact, and rimes and assonances were both used to give melody. In
England this metrical system came in contact with the uneven lines, the
strong accent and alliteration of the native songs; and it is due to the
gradual union of the two systems, French and Saxon, that our English became
capable of the melody and amazing variety of verse forms which first find
expression in Chaucer's poetry.

In the enormous number of these verse romances we note three main
divisions, according to subject, into the romances (or the so-called
matter) of France, Rome, and Britain.[51] The matter of France deals
largely with the exploits of Charlemagne and his peers, and the chief of
these Carlovingian cycles is the _Chanson de Roland_, the national epic,
which celebrates the heroism of Roland in his last fight against the
Saracens at Ronceval. Originally these romances were called _Chansons de
Geste_; and the name is significant as indicating that the poems were
originally short songs[52] celebrating the deeds _(gesta)_ of well-known
heroes. Later the various songs concerning one hero were gathered together
and the _Geste_ became an epic, like the _Chanson de Roland_, or a kind of
continued ballad story, hardly deserving the name of epic, like the _Geste
of Robin Hood_.[53]

The matter of Rome consisted largely of tales from Greek and Roman sources;
and the two great cycles of these romances deal with the deeds of
Alexander, a favorite hero, and the siege of Troy, with which the Britons
thought they had some historic connection. To these were added a large
number of tales from Oriental sources; and in the exuberant imagination of
the latter we see the influence which the Saracens--those nimble wits who
gave us our first modern sciences and who still reveled in the _Arabian
Nights_--had begun to exercise on the literature of Europe.

To the English reader, at least, the most interesting of the romances are
those which deal with the exploits of Arthur and his Knights of the Round
Table,--the richest storehouse of romance which our literature has ever
found. There were many cycles of Arthurian romances, chief of which are
those of Gawain, Launcelot, Merlin, the Quest of the Holy Grail, and the
Death of Arthur. In preceding sections we have seen how these fascinating
romances were used by Geoffrey and the French writers, and how, through the
French, they found their way into English, appearing first in our speech in
Layamon's _Brut_. The point to remember is that, while the legends are
Celtic in origin, their literary form is due to French poets, who
originated the metrical romance. All our early English romances are either
copies or translations of the French; and this is true not only of the
matter of France and Rome, but of Celtic heroes like Arthur, and English
heroes like Guy of Warwick and Robin Hood.

The most interesting of all Arthurian romances are those of the Gawain
cycle,[54] and of these the story of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_ is
best worth reading, for many reasons. First, though the material is taken
from French sources,[55] the English workmanship is the finest of our early
romances. Second, the unknown author of this romance probably wrote also
"The Pearl," and is the greatest English poet of the Norman period. Third,
the poem itself with its dramatic interest, its vivid descriptions, and its
moral purity, is one of the most delightful old romances in any language.

In form _Sir Gawain_ is an interesting combination of French and Saxon
elements. It is written in an elaborate stanza combining meter and
alliteration. At the end of each stanza is a rimed refrain, called by the
French a "tail rime." We give here a brief outline of the story; but if the
reader desires the poem itself, he is advised to begin with a modern
version, as the original is in the West Midland dialect and is exceedingly
difficult to follow.

On New Year's day, while Arthur and his knights are keeping the Yuletide
feast at Camelot, a gigantic knight in green enters the banquet hall on
horseback and challenges the bravest knight present to an exchange of
blows; that is, he will expose his neck to a blow of his own big battle-ax,
if any knight will agree to abide a blow in return. After some natural
consternation and a fine speech by Arthur, Gawain accepts the challenge,
takes the battle-ax, and with one blow sends the giant's head rolling
through the hall. The Green Knight, who is evidently a terrible magician,
picks up his head and mounts his horse. He holds out his head and the
ghastly lips speak, warning Gawain to be faithful to his promise and to
seek through the world till he finds the Green Chapel. There, on next New
Year's day, the Green Knight will meet him and return the blow.

The second canto of the poem describes Gawain's long journey through the
wilderness on his steed Gringolet, and his adventures with storm and cold,
with, wild beasts and monsters, as he seeks in vain for the Green Chapel.
On Christmas eve, in the midst of a vast forest, he offers a prayer to
"Mary, mildest mother so dear," and is rewarded by sight of a great castle.
He enters and is royally entertained by the host, an aged hero, and by his
wife, who is the most beautiful woman the knight ever beheld. Gawain learns
that he is at last near the Green Chapel, and settles down for a little
comfort after his long quest.

The next canto shows the life in the castle, and describes a curious
compact between the host, who goes hunting daily, and the knight, who
remains in the castle to entertain the young wife. The compact is that at
night each man shall give the other whatever good thing he obtains during
the day. While the host is hunting, the young woman tries in vain to induce
Gawain to make love to her, and ends by giving him a kiss. When the host
returns and gives his guest the game he has killed Gawain returns the kiss.
On the third day, her temptations having twice failed, the lady offers
Gawain a ring, which he refuses; but when she offers a magic green girdle
that will preserve the wearer from death, Gawain, who remembers the giant's
ax so soon to fall on his neck, accepts the girdle as a "jewel for the
jeopardy" and promises the lady to keep the gift secret. Here, then, are
two conflicting compacts. When the host returns and offers his game, Gawain
returns the kiss but says nothing of the green girdle.

The last canto brings our knight to the Green Chapel, after he is
repeatedly warned to turn back in the face of certain death. The Chapel is
a terrible place in the midst of desolation; and as Gawain approaches he
hears a terrifying sound, the grating of steel on stone, where the giant is
sharpening a new battle-ax. The Green Knight appears, and Gawain, true to
his compact, offers his neck for the blow. Twice the ax swings harmlessly;
the third time it falls on his shoulder and wounds him. Whereupon Gawain
jumps for his armor, draws his sword, and warns the giant that the compact
calls for only one blow, and that, if another is offered, he will defend

Then the Green Knight explains things. He is lord of the castle where
Gawain has been entertained for days past. The first two swings of the ax
were harmless because Gawain had been true to his compact and twice
returned the kiss. The last blow had wounded him because he concealed the
gift of the green girdle, which belongs to the Green Knight and was woven
by his wife. Moreover, the whole thing has been arranged by Morgain the
fay-woman (an enemy of Queen Guinevere, who appears often in the Arthurian
romances). Full of shame, Gawain throws back the gift and is ready to atone
for his deception; but the Green Knight thinks he has already atoned, and
presents the green girdle as a free gift. Gawain returns to Arthur's court,
tells the whole story frankly, and ever after that the knights of the Round
Table wear a green girdle in his honor.[56]

THE PEARL. In the same manuscript with "Sir Gawain" are found three other
remarkable poems, written about 1350, and known to us, in order, as "The
Pearl," "Cleanness," and "Patience." The first is the most beautiful, and
received its name from the translator and editor, Richard Morris, in 1864.
"Patience" is a paraphrase of the book of Jonah; "Cleanness" moralizes on
the basis of Bible stories; but "The Pearl" is an intensely human and
realistic picture of a father's grief for his little daughter Margaret, "My
precious perle wythouten spot." It is the saddest of all our early poems.

On the grave of his little one, covered over with flowers, the father pours
out his love and grief till, in the summer stillness, he falls asleep,
while we hear in the sunshine the drowsy hum of insects and the faraway
sound of the reapers' sickles. He dreams there, and the dream grows into a
vision beautiful. His body lies still upon the grave while his spirit goes
to a land, exquisite beyond all words, where he comes suddenly upon a
stream that he cannot cross. As he wanders along the bank, seeking in vain
for a ford, a marvel rises before his eyes, a crystal cliff, and seated
beneath it a little maiden who raises a happy, shining face,--the face of
his little Margaret.

    More then me lyste my drede aros,
    I stod full stylle and dorste not calle;
    Wyth yghen open and mouth ful clos,
    I stod as hende as hawk in halle.

He dares not speak for fear of breaking the spell; but sweet as a lily she
comes down the crystal stream's bank to meet and speak with him, and tell
him of the happy life of heaven and how to live to be worthy of it. In his
joy he listens, forgetting all his grief; then the heart of the man cries
out for its own, and he struggles to cross the stream to join her. In the
struggle the dream vanishes; he wakens to find his eyes wet and his head on
the little mound that marks the spot where his heart is buried.

From the ideals of these three poems, and from peculiarities of style and
meter, it is probable that their author wrote also _Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight_. If so, the unknown author is the one genius of the age whose
poetry of itself has power to interest us, and who stands between Cynewulf
and Chaucer as a worthy follower of the one and forerunner of the other.

to classify the remaining literature of this period, and very little of it
is now read, except by advanced students. Those interested in the
development of "transition" English will find in _the Ancren Riwle_, i.e.
"Rule of the Anchoresses" (_c_. 1225), the most beautiful bit of old
English prose ever written. It is a book of excellent religious advice and
comfort, written for three ladies who wished to live a religious life,
without, however, becoming nuns or entering any religious orders. The
author was Bishop Poore of Salisbury, according to Morton, who first edited
this old classic in 1853. Orm's _Ormulum_, written soon after the _Brut_,
is a paraphrase of the gospel lessons for the year, somewhat after the
manner of Cædmon's _Paraphrase_, but without any of Cædmon's poetic fire
and originality. _Cursor Mundi_ (_c_. 1320) is a very long poem which makes
a kind of metrical romance out of Bible history and shows the whole dealing
of God with man from Creation to Domesday. It is interesting as showing a
parallel to the cycles of miracle plays, which attempt to cover the same
vast ground. They were forming in this age; but we will study them later,
when we try to understand the rise of the drama in England.

Besides these greater works, an enormous number of fables and satires
appeared in this age, copied or translated from the French, like the
metrical romances. The most famous of these are "The Owl and the
Nightingale,"--a long debate between the two birds, one representing the
gay side of life, the other the sterner side of law and morals,--and "Land
of Cockaygne," i.e. "Luxury Land," a keen satire on monks and monastic

While most of the literature of the time was a copy of the French and was
intended only for the upper classes, here and there were singers who made
ballads for the common people; and these, next to the metrical romances,
are the most interesting and significant of all the works of the Norman
period. On account of its obscure origin and its oral transmission, the
ballad is always the most difficult of literary subjects.[58] We make here
only three suggestions, which may well be borne in mind: that ballads were
produced continually in England from Anglo-Saxon times until the
seventeenth century; that for centuries they were the only really popular
literature; and that in the ballads alone one is able to understand the
common people. Read, for instance, the ballads of the "merrie greenwood
men," which gradually collected into the _Geste of Robin Hood_, and you
will understand better, perhaps, than from reading many histories what the
common people of England felt and thought while their lords and masters
were busy with impossible metrical romances.

In these songs speaks the heart of the English folk. There is lawlessness
indeed; but this seems justified by the oppression of the times and by the
barbarous severity of the game laws. An intense hatred of shams and
injustice lurks in every song; but the hatred is saved from bitterness by
the humor with which captives, especially rich churchmen, are solemnly
lectured by the bandits, while they squirm at sight of devilish tortures
prepared before their eyes in order to make them give up their golden
purses; and the scene generally ends in a bit of wild horse-play. There is
fighting enough, and ambush and sudden death lurk at every turn of the
lonely roads; but there is also a rough, honest chivalry for women, and a
generous sharing of plunder with the poor and needy. All literature is but
a dream expressed, and "Robin Hood" is the dream of an ignorant and
oppressed but essentially noble people, struggling and determined to be

Far more poetical than the ballads, and more interesting even than the
romances, are the little lyrics of the period,--those tears and smiles of
long ago that crystallized into poems, to tell us that the hearts of men
are alike in all ages. Of these, the best known are the "Luve Ron" (love
rune or letter) of Thomas de Hales _(c_. 1250); "Springtime" _(c_. 1300),
beginning "Lenten (spring) ys come with luve to toune"; and the melodious
love song "Alysoun," written at the end of the thirteenth century by some
unknown poet who heralds the coming of Chaucer:

    Bytuene Mersh and Averil,
    When spray biginneth to springe
    The lutel foul[59] hath hire wyl
    On hyre lud[60] to synge.
    Ich libbe[61] in love longinge
    For semlokest[62] of all thinge.
    She may me blisse bringe;
    Icham[63] in hire baundoun.[64]
        An hendy hap ichabbe yhent,[65]
        Ichot[66] from hevene it is me sent,
        From alle wymmen mi love is lent[67]
        And lyht[68] on Alysoun.

SUMMARY OF THE NORMAN PERIOD. The Normans were originally a hardy race of
sea rovers inhabiting Scandinavia. In the tenth century they conquered a
part of northern France, which is still called Normandy, and rapidly
adopted French civilization and the French language. Their conquest of
Anglo-Saxon England under William, Duke of Normandy, began with the battle
of Hastings in 1066. The literature which they brought to England is
remarkable for its bright, romantic tales of love and adventure, in marked
contrast with the strength and somberness of Anglo-Saxon poetry. During the
three centuries following Hastings, Normans and Saxons gradually united.
The Anglo-Saxon speech simplified itself by dropping most of its Teutonic
inflections, absorbed eventually a large part of the French vocabulary, and
became our English language. English literature is also a combination of
French and Saxon elements. The three chief effects of the conquest were
_(1)_ the bringing of Roman civilization to England; _(2)_ the growth of
nationality, i.e. a strong centralized government, instead of the loose
union of Saxon tribes; _(3)_ the new language and literature, which were
proclaimed in Chaucer.

At first the new literature was remarkably varied, but of small intrinsic
worth; and very little of it is now read. In our study we have noted: (1)
Geoffrey's History, which is valuable as a source book of literature, since
it contains the native Celtic legends of Arthur. (2) The work of the French
writers, who made the Arthurian legends popular. (3) Riming Chronicles,
i.e. history in doggerel verse, like Layamon's _Brut_. (4) Metrical
Romances, or tales in verse. These were numerous, and of four classes: (a)
the Matter of France, tales centering about Charlemagne and his peers,
chief of which is the Chanson de Roland; (b) Matter of Greece and Rome, an
endless series of fabulous tales about Alexander, and about the Fall of
Troy; (c) Matter of England, stories of Bevis of Hampton, Guy of Warwick,
Robin Hood, etc.; (d) Matter of Britain, tales having for their heroes
Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. The best of these romances is
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (5) Miscellaneous literature,--the Ancren
Riwle, our best piece of early English prose; Orm's Ormulum; Cursor Mundi,
with its suggestive parallel to the Miracle plays; and ballads, like King
Horn and the Robin Hood songs, which were the only poetry of the common

SELECTIONS FOR READING. For advanced students, and as a study of language,
a few selections as given in Manly's English Poetry and in Manly's English
Prose; or selections from the Ormulum, Brut, Ancren Riwle, and King Horn,
etc., in Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English. The ordinary
student will get a better idea of the literature of the period by using the
following: Sir Gawain, modernized by J. L. Weston, in Arthurian Romances
Series (Nutt); The Nun's Rule (Ancren Riwle), modern version by J. Morton,
in King's Classics; Aucassin and Nicolete, translated by A. Lang (Crowell &
Co.); Tristan and Iseult, in Arthurian Romances; Evans's The High History
of the Holy Grail, in Temple Classics; The Pearl, various modern versions
in prose and verse; one of the best is Jewett's metrical version (Crowell &
Co.); The Song of Roland, in King's Classics, and in Riverside Literature
Series; Evans's translation of Geoffrey's History, in Temple Classics;
Guest's The Mabinogion, in Everyman's Library, or S. Lanier's Boy's
Mabinogion (i.e. Welsh fairy tales and romances); Selected Ballads, in
Athenæum Press Series, and in Pocket Classics; Gayley and Flaherty's Poetry
of the People; Bates's A Ballad Book.


_HISTORY. Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 58-86, or Cheyney, pp. 88-144. For
fuller treatment, Green, ch. 2; Traill; Gardiner, etc. Jewett's Story of
the Normans (Stories of the Nations Series); Freeman's Short History of the
Norman Conquest; Hutton's King and Baronage (Oxford Manuals of English

_LITERATURE. General Works_. Jusserand; Ten Brink; Mitchell, vol. I, From
Celt to Tudor; The Cambridge History of English Literature.

_Special Works_. Schofield's English Literature from the Norman Conquest to
Chaucer; Lewis's Beginnings of English Literature; Ker's Epic and Romance;
Saintsbury's The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory; Newell's
King Arthur and the Round Table; Maynadier, The Arthur of the English
Poets; Rhys's Studies in the Arthurian Legends.

_Ballads_. Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads; Gummere's Old
English Ballads (one volume); Hazlitt's Early Popular Poetry of England;
Gayley and Flaherty's Poetry of the People; Percy's Reliques of Ancient
English Poetry, in Everyman's Library.

_Texts, Translations, etc_. Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English;
Morris's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in Early English Text Series;
Madden's Layamon's Brut, text and translation (a standard work, but rare);
The Pearl, text and translation, by Gollancz; the same poem, prose version,
by Osgood, metrical versions by Jewett, Weir Mitchell, and Mead; Geoffrey's
History, translation, in Giles's Six Old English Chronicles (Bohn's
Antiquarian Library); Morley's Early English Prose Romances; Joyce's Old
Celtic Romances; Guest's The Mabinogion; Lanier's Boy's Mabinogion;
Arthurian Romances Series (translations). The Belles Lettres Series, sec. 2
(announced), will contain the texts of a large number of works of this
period, with notes and introductions.

_Language_. Marsh's Lectures on the English Language; Bradley's Making of
English; Lounsbury's History of the English Language; Emerson's Brief
History of the English Language; Greenough and Kittredge's Words and their
Ways in English Speech; Welsh's Development of English Literature and

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. What did the Northmen originally have in common
with the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes? What brought about the remarkable
change from Northmen to Normans? Tell briefly the story of the Norman
Conquest. How did the Conquest affect the life and literature of England?

2. What types of literature were produced after the Conquest? How do they
compare with Anglo-Saxon literature? What works of this period are
considered worthy of a permanent place in our literature?

3. What is meant by the Riming Chronicles? What part did they play in
developing the idea of nationality? What led historians of this period to
write in verse? Describe Geoffrey's History. What was its most valuable
element from the view point of literature?

4. What is Layamon's _Brut?_ Why did Layamon choose this name for his
Chronicle? What special literary interest attaches to the poem?

5. What were the Metrical Romances? What reasons led to the great interest
in three classes of romances, i.e. Matters of France, Rome, and Britain?
What new and important element enters our literature in this type? Read one
of the Metrical Romances in English and comment freely upon it, as to
interest, structure, ideas, and literary quality.

6. Tell the story of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_. What French and
what Saxon elements are found in the poem? Compare it with _Beowulf_ to
show the points of inferiority and superiority. Compare Beowulf's fight
with Grendel or the Fire Drake and Sir Gawain's encounter with the Green
Knight, having in mind (1) the virtues of the hero, (2) the qualities of
the enemy, (3) the methods of warfare, (4) the purpose of the struggle.
Read selections from _The Pearl_ and compare with _Dear's Lament_. What are
the personal and the universal interests in each poem?

7. Tell some typical story from the Mabinogion. Where did the Arthurian
legends originate, and how did they become known to English readers? What
modern writers have used these legends? What fine elements do you find in
them that are not found in Anglo-Saxon poetry?

8. What part did Arthur play in the early history of Britain? How long did
the struggle between Britons and Saxons last? What Celtic names and
elements entered into English language and literature?

9. What is a ballad, and what distinguishes it from other forms of poetry?
Describe the ballad which you like best. Why did the ballad, more than any
other form of literature, appeal to the common people? What modern poems
suggest the old popular ballad? How do these compare in form and subject
matter with the Robin Hood ballads?

  HISTORY                              |  LITERATURE
 912. Northmen settle in Normandy      |
1066. Battle of Hastings. William,     |
      king of England                  |
                                       | 1086. Domesday Book completed
1087. William Rufus                    |
1093. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury |
                                       | 1094(_cir._). Anselem's Cur Deus Homo
1096. First Crusade                    |
1100. Henry I                          |
                                       | 1110. First recorded Miracle play in
                                       |       England (see chapter on the
                                       |       Drama)
1135. Stephen                          |
                                       | 1137(_cir_.). Geoffrey's History
1147. Second Crusade                   |
1154. Henry II                         |
1189. Richard I. Third Crusade         |
1199. John                             |
                                       | 1200 (_cir_.). Layamon's Brut
1215. Magna Charta                     |
1216. Henry III                        |
                                       | 1225 (_cir_.). Ancren Riwle
1230 (_cir._). University of Cambridge |
      chartered                        |
1265. Beginning of House of Commons.   |
      Simon de Montfort                |
                                       | 1267. Roger Bacon's Opus Majus
1272. Edward I                         |
1295. First complete Parliament        |
                                       | 1300-1400. York and Wakefield.
                                       |       Miracle plays
1307. Edward II                        |
                                       | 1320 (_cir_.). Cursor Mundi
1327. Edward III                       |
1338. Beginning of Hundred Years' War  |
      with France                      |
                                       | 1340 (?). Birth of Chaucer
                                       | 1350 (_cir_.). Sir Gawain. The Pearl

       *       *       *       *       *


THE AGE OF CHAUCER (1350-1400)


HISTORY OF THE PERIOD. Two great movements may be noted in the complex life
of England during the fourteenth century. The first is political, and
culminates in the reign of Edward III. It shows the growth of the English
national spirit following the victories of Edward and the Black Prince on
French soil, during the Hundred Years' War. In the rush of this great
national movement, separating England from the political ties of France
and, to a less degree, from ecclesiastical bondage to Rome, the mutual
distrust and jealousy which had divided nobles and commons were momentarily
swept aside by a wave of patriotic enthusiasm. The French language lost its
official prestige, and English became the speech not only of the common
people but of courts and Parliament as well.

The second movement is social; it falls largely within the reign of
Edward's successor, Richard II, and marks the growing discontent with the
contrast between luxury and poverty, between the idle wealthy classes and
the overtaxed peasants. Sometimes this movement is quiet and strong, as
when Wyclif arouses the conscience of England; again it has the portentous
rumble of an approaching tempest, as when John Ball harangues a multitude
of discontented peasants on Black Heath commons, using the famous text:

    When Adam delved and Eve span
    Who was then the gentleman?

and again it breaks out into the violent rebellion of Wat Tyler. All these
things show the same Saxon spirit that had won its freedom in a thousand
years' struggle against foreign enemies, and that now felt itself oppressed
by a social and industrial tyranny in its own midst.

Aside from these two movements, the age was one of unusual stir and
progress. Chivalry, that mediæval institution of mixed good and evil, was
in its Indian summer,--a sentiment rather than a practical system. Trade,
and its resultant wealth and luxury, were increasing enormously. Following
trade, as the Vikings had followed glory, the English began to be a
conquering and colonizing people, like the Anglo-Saxons. The native shed
something of his insularity and became a traveler, going first to view the
places where trade had opened the way, and returning with wider interests
and a larger horizon. Above all, the first dawn of the Renaissance is
heralded in England, as in Spain and Italy, by the appearance of a national

FIVE WRITERS OF THE AGE. The literary movement of the age clearly reflects
the stirring life of the times. There is Langland, voicing the social
discontent, preaching the equality of men and the dignity of labor; Wyclif,
greatest of English religious reformers, giving the Gospel to the people in
their own tongue, and the freedom of the Gospel in unnumbered tracts and
addresses; Gower, the scholar and literary man, criticising this vigorous
life and plainly afraid of its consequences; and Mandeville, the traveler,
romancing about the wonders to be seen abroad. Above all there is
Chaucer,--scholar, traveler, business man, courtier, sharing in all the
stirring life of his times, and reflecting it in literature as no other but
Shakespeare has ever done. Outside of England the greatest literary
influence of the age was that of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, whose
works, then at the summit of their influence in Italy, profoundly affected
the literature of all Europe.

CHAUCER (1340?-1400)

                     'What man artow?' quod he;
    'Thou lokest as thou woldest finde an hare,
    For ever upon the ground I see thee stare.
    Approchë neer, and loke up merily....
    He semeth elvish by his contenaunce.'
                 (The Host's description of Chaucer,
                             Prologue, _Sir Thopas_)

ON READING CHAUCER. The difficulties of reading Chaucer are more apparent
than real, being due largely to obsolete spelling, and there is small
necessity for using any modern versions of the poet's work, which seem to
miss the quiet charm and dry humor of the original. If the reader will
observe the following general rules (which of necessity ignore many
differences in pronunciation of fourteenth-century English), he may, in an
hour or two, learn to read Chaucer almost as easily as Shakespeare: (1) Get
the lilt of the lines, and let the meter itself decide how final syllables
are to be pronounced. Remember that Chaucer is among the most musical of
poets, and that there is melody in nearly every line. If the verse seems
rough, it is because we do not read it correctly. (2) Vowels in Chaucer
have much the same value as in modern German; consonants are practically
the same as in modern English. (3) Pronounce aloud any strange-looking
words. Where the eye fails, the ear will often recognize the meaning. If
eye and ear both fail, then consult the glossary found in every good
edition of the poet's works. (4) Final _e_ is usually sounded (like _a_ in
Virginia) except where the following word begins with a vowel or with _h_.
In the latter case the final syllable of one word and the first of the word
following are run together, as in reading Virgil. At the end of a line the
_e_, if lightly pronounced, adds melody to the verse.[70]

In dealing with Chaucer's masterpiece, the reader is urged to read widely
at first, for the simple pleasure of the stories, and to remember that
poetry and romance are more interesting and important than Middle English.
When we like and appreciate Chaucer--his poetry, his humor, his good
stories, his kind heart---it will be time enough to study his language.

LIFE OF CHAUCER. For our convenience the life of Chaucer is divided into
three periods. The first, of thirty years, includes his youth and early
manhood, in which time he was influenced almost exclusively by French
literary models. The second period, of fifteen years, covers Chaucer's
active life as diplomat and man of affairs; and in this the Italian
influence seems stronger than the French. The third, of fifteen years,
generally known as the English period, is the time of Chaucer's richest
development. He lives at home, observes life closely but kindly, and while
the French influence is still strong, as shown in the _Canterbury Tales_,
he seems to grow more independent of foreign models and is dominated
chiefly by the vigorous life of his own English people.

Chaucer's boyhood was spent in London, on Thames Street near the river,
where the world's commerce was continually coming and going. There he saw
daily the shipman of the _Canterbury Tales_ just home in his good ship
Maudelayne, with the fascination of unknown lands in his clothes and
conversation. Of his education we know nothing, except that he was a great
reader. His father was a wine merchant, purveyor to the royal household,
and from this accidental relation between trade and royalty may have arisen
the fact that at seventeen years Chaucer was made page to the Princess
Elizabeth. This was the beginning of his connection with the brilliant
court, which in the next forty years, under three kings, he was to know so

At nineteen he went with the king on one of the many expeditions of the
Hundred Years' War, and here he saw chivalry and all the pageantry of
mediæval war at the height of their outward splendor. Taken prisoner at the
unsuccessful siege of Rheims, he is said to have been ransomed by money out
of the royal purse. Returning to England, he became after a few years
squire of the royal household, the personal attendant and confidant of the
king. It was during this first period that he married a maid of honor to
the queen. This was probably Philippa Roet, sister to the wife of John of
Gaunt, the famous Duke of Lancaster. From numerous whimsical references in
his early poems, it has been thought that this marriage into a noble family
was not a happy one; but this is purely a matter of supposition or of
doubtful inference.

In 1370 Chaucer was sent abroad on the first of those diplomatic missions
that were to occupy the greater part of the next fifteen years. Two years
later he made his first official visit to Italy, to arrange a commercial
treaty with Genoa, and from this time is noticeable a rapid development in
his literary powers and the prominence of Italian literary influences.
During the intervals between his different missions he filled various
offices at home, chief of which was Comptroller of Customs at the port of
London. An enormous amount of personal labor was involved; but Chaucer
seems to have found time to follow his spirit into the new fields of
Italian literature:

    For whan thy labour doon al is,
    And hast y-maad thy rekeninges,
    In stede of reste and newe thinges,
    Thou gost hoom to thy hous anoon,
    And, also domb as any stoon,
    Thou sittest at another boke
    Til fully daswed is thy loke,
    And livest thus as an hermyte.[71]

In 1386 Chaucer was elected member of Parliament from Kent, and the
distinctly English period of his life and work begins. Though exceedingly
busy in public affairs and as receiver of customs, his heart was still with
his books, from which only nature could win him:

    And as for me, though that my wit be lyte,
    On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
    And to hem yeve I feyth and ful credence,
    And in myn herte have hem in reverence
    So hertely, that ther is game noon
    That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
    But hit be seldom, on the holyday;
    Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
    Is comen, and that I here the foules singe,
    And that the floures ginnen for to springe--
    Farwel my book and my devocioun![72]

In the fourteenth century politics seems to have been, for honest men, a
very uncertain business. Chaucer naturally adhered to the party of John of
Gaunt, and his fortunes rose or fell with those of his leader. From this
time until his death he is up and down on the political ladder; to-day with
money and good prospects, to-morrow in poverty and neglect, writing his
"Complaint to His Empty Purs," which he humorously calls his "saveour doun
in this werlde here." This poem called the king's attention to the poet's
need and increased his pension; but he had but few months to enjoy the
effect of this unusual "Complaint." For he died the next year, 1400, and
was buried with honor in Westminster Abbey. The last period of his life,
though outwardly most troubled, was the most fruitful of all. His "Truth,"
or "Good Counsel," reveals the quiet, beautiful spirit of his life,
unspoiled either by the greed of trade or the trickery of politics:

    Flee fro the prees, and dwelle with sothfastnesse,
    Suffyce unto thy good, though hit be smal;
    For hord[73] hath hate, and climbing tikelnesse,
    Prees[74] hath envye, and wele[75] blent[76] overal;
    Savour no more than thee bihovë shal;
    Werk[77] wel thyself, that other folk canst rede;
    And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede.
    Tempest[78] thee noght al croked to redresse,
    In trust of hir[79] that turneth as a bal:
    Gret reste stant in litel besinesse;
    And eek be war to sporne[80] ageyn an al[81];
    Stryve noght, as doth the crokke with the wal.
    Daunte[82] thyself, that dauntest otheres dede;
    And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede.
    That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnesse,
    The wrastling for this worlde axeth a fal.
    Her nis non hoom, her nis but wildernesse:
    Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stall,
    Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al;
    Hold the hye wey, and lat thy gost thee lede:
    And trouthe shal delivere, hit is no drede.

WORKS OF CHAUCER, FIRST PERIOD. The works of Chaucer are roughly divided
into three classes, corresponding to the three periods of his life. It
should be remembered, however, that it is impossible to fix exact dates for
most of his works. Some of his _Canterbury Tales_ were written earlier than
the English period, and were only grouped with the others in his final

The best known, though not the best, poem of the first period is the
_Romaunt of the Rose_,[83] a translation from the French _Roman de la
Rose_, the most popular poem of the Middle Ages,--a graceful but
exceedingly tiresome allegory of the whole course of love. The Rose growing
in its mystic garden is typical of the lady Beauty. Gathering the Rose
represents the lover's attempt to win his lady's favor; and the different
feelings aroused--Love, Hate, Envy, Jealousy, Idleness, Sweet Looks--are
the allegorical persons of the poet's drama. Chaucer translated this
universal favorite, putting in some original English touches; but of the
present _Romaunt_ only the first seventeen hundred lines are believed to be
Chaucer's own work.

Perhaps the best poem of this period is the "Dethe of Blanche the
Duchesse," better known, as the "Boke of the Duchesse," a poem of
considerable dramatic and emotional power, written after the death of
Blanche, wife of Chaucer's patron, John of Gaunt. Additional poems are the
"Compleynte to Pite," a graceful love poem; the "A B C," a prayer to the
Virgin, translated from the French of a Cistercian monk, its verses
beginning with the successive letters of the alphabet; and a number of what
Chaucer calls "ballads, roundels, and virelays," with which, says his
friend Gower, "the land was filled." The latter were imitations of the
prevailing French love ditties.

SECOND PERIOD. The chief work of the second or Italian period is _Troilus
and Criseyde_, a poem of eight thousand lines. The original story was a
favorite of many authors during the Middle Ages, and Shakespeare makes use
of it in his _Troilus and Cressida_. The immediate source of Chaucer's poem
is Boccaccio's _Il Filostrato,_ "the love-smitten one"; but he uses his
material very freely, to reflect the ideals of his own age and society, and
so gives to the whole story a dramatic force and beauty which it had never
known before.

The "Hous of Fame" is one of Chaucer's unfinished poems, having the rare
combination of lofty thought and simple, homely language, showing the
influence of the great Italian master. In the poem the author is carried
away in a dream by a great eagle from the brittle temple of Venus, in a
sandy wilderness, up to the hall of fame. To this house come all rumors of
earth, as the sparks fly upward. The house stands on a rock of ice

                writen ful of names
    Of folk that hadden grete fames.

Many of these have disappeared as the ice melted; but the older names are
clear as when first written. For many of his ideas Chaucer is indebted to
Dante, Ovid, and Virgil; but the unusual conception and the splendid
workmanship are all his own.

The third great poem of the period is the _Legende of Goode Wimmen_. As he
is resting in the fields among the daisies, he falls asleep and a gay
procession draws near. First comes the love god, leading by the hand
Alcestis, model of all wifely virtues, whose emblem is the daisy; and
behind them follow a troup of glorious women, all of whom have been
faithful in love. They gather about the poet; the god upbraids him for
having translated the _Romance of the Rose_, and for his early poems
reflecting on the vanity and fickleness of women. Alcestis intercedes for
him, and offers pardon if he will atone for his errors by writing a
"glorious legend of good women." Chaucer promises, and as soon as he awakes
sets himself to the task. Nine legends were written, of which "Thisbe" is
perhaps the best. It is probable that Chaucer intended to make this his
masterpiece, devoting many years to stories of famous women who were true
to love; but either because he wearied of his theme, or because the plan of
the _Canterbury Tales_ was growing in his mind, he abandoned the task in
the middle of his ninth legend,--fortunately, perhaps, for the reader will
find the Prologue more interesting than any of the legends.

THIRD PERIOD. Chaucer's masterpiece, the _Canterbury Tales_, one of the
most famous works in all literature, fills the third or English period of
his life. The plan of the work is magnificent: to represent the wide sweep
of English life by gathering a motley company together and letting each
class of society tell its own favorite stories. Though the great work was
never finished, Chaucer succeeded in his purpose so well that in the
_Canterbury Tales_ he has given us a picture of contemporary English life,
its work and play, its deeds and dreams, its fun and sympathy and hearty
joy of living, such as no other single work of literature has ever equaled.

PLAN OF THE CANTERBURY TALES. Opposite old London, at the southern end of
London Bridge, once stood the Tabard Inn of Southwark, a quarter made
famous not only by the _Canterbury Tales_, but also by the first playhouses
where Shakespeare had his training. This Southwark was the point of
departure of all travel to the south of England, especially of those
mediæval pilgrimages to the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. On a
spring evening, at the inspiring time of the year when "longen folk to goon
on pilgrimages," Chaucer alights at the Tabard Inn, and finds it occupied
by a various company of people bent on a pilgrimage. Chance alone had
brought them together; for it was the custom of pilgrims to wait at some
friendly inn until a sufficient company were gathered to make the journey
pleasant and safe from robbers that might be encountered on the way.
Chaucer joins this company, which includes all classes of English society,
from the Oxford scholar to the drunken miller, and accepts gladly their
invitation to go with them on the morrow.

At supper the jovial host of the Tabard Inn suggests that, to enliven the
journey, each of the company shall tell four tales, two going and two
coming, on whatever subject shall suit him best. The host will travel with
them as master of ceremonies, and whoever tells the best story shall be
given a fine supper at the general expense when they all come back
again,--a shrewd bit of business and a fine idea, as the pilgrims all

When they draw lots for the first story the chance falls to the Knight, who
tells one of the best of the _Canterbury Tales_, the chivalric story of
"Palamon and Arcite." Then the tales follow rapidly, each with its prologue
and epilogue, telling how the story came about, and its effects on the
merry company. Interruptions are numerous; the narrative is full of life
and movement, as when the miller gets drunk and insists on telling his tale
out of season, or when they stop at a friendly inn for the night, or when
the poet with sly humor starts his story of "Sir Thopas," in dreary
imitation of the metrical romances of the day, and is roared at by the host
for his "drasty ryming." With Chaucer we laugh at his own expense, and are
ready for the next tale.

From the number of persons in the company, thirty-two in all, it is evident
that Chaucer meditated an immense work of one hundred and twenty-eight
tales, which should cover the whole life of England. Only twenty-four were
written; some of these are incomplete, and others are taken from his
earlier work to fill out the general plan of the _Canterbury Tales_.
Incomplete as they are, they cover a wide range, including stories of love
and chivalry, of saints and legends, travels, adventures, animal fables,
allegory, satires, and the coarse humor of the common people. Though all
but two are written in verse and abound in exquisite poetical touches, they
are stories as well as poems, and Chaucer is to be regarded as our first
short-story teller as well as our first modern poet. The work ends with a
kindly farewell from the poet to his reader, and so "here taketh the makere
of this book his leve."

PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY TALES. In the famous "Prologue" the poet makes
us acquainted with the various characters of his drama. Until Chaucer's day
popular literature had been busy chiefly with the gods and heroes of a
golden age; it had been essentially romantic, and so had never attempted to
study men and women as they are, or to describe them so that the reader
recognizes them, not as ideal heroes, but as his own neighbors. Chaucer not
only attempted this new realistic task, but accomplished it so well that
his characters were instantly recognized as true to life, and they have
since become the permanent possession of our literature. Beowulf and Roland
are ideal heroes, essentially creatures of the imagination; but the merry
host of the Tabard Inn, Madame Eglantyne, the fat monk, the parish priest,
the kindly plowman, the poor scholar with his "bookës black and red,"--all
seem more like personal acquaintances than characters in a book. Says
Dryden: "I see all the pilgrims, their humours, their features and their
very dress, as distinctly as if I had supped with them at the Tabard in
Southwark." Chaucer is the first English writer to bring the atmosphere of
romantic interest about the men and women and the daily work of one's own
world,--which is the aim of nearly all modern literature.

The historian of our literature is tempted to linger over this "Prologue"
and to quote from it passage after passage to show how keenly and yet
kindly our first modern poet observed his fellow-men. The characters, too,
attract one like a good play: the "verray parfit gentil knight" and his
manly son, the modest prioress, model of sweet piety and society manners,
the sporting monk and the fat friar, the discreet man of law, the well-fed
country squire, the sailor just home from sea, the canny doctor, the
lovable parish priest who taught true religion to his flock, but "first he
folwed it himselve"; the coarse but good-hearted Wyf of Bath, the thieving
miller leading the pilgrims to the music of his bagpipe,--all these and
many others from every walk of English life, and all described with a
quiet, kindly humor which seeks instinctively the best in human nature, and
which has an ample garment of charity to cover even its faults and
failings. "Here," indeed, as Dryden says, "is God's plenty." Probably no
keener or kinder critic ever described his fellows; and in this immortal
"Prologue" Chaucer is a model for all those who would put our human life
into writing. The student should read it entire, as an introduction not
only to the poet but to all our modern literature.

THE KNIGHT'S TALE. As a story, "Palamon and Arcite" is, in many respects,
the best of the _Canterbury Tales_, reflecting as it does the ideals of the
time in regard to romantic love and knightly duty. Though its dialogues and
descriptions are somewhat too long and interrupt the story, yet it shows
Chaucer at his best in his dramatic power, his exquisite appreciation of
nature, and his tender yet profound philosophy of living, which could
overlook much of human frailty in the thought that

    Infinite been the sorwes and the teres
    Of oldë folk, and folk of tendre yeres.

The idea of the story was borrowed from Boccaccio; but parts of the
original tale were much older and belonged to the common literary stock of
the Middle Ages. Like Shakespeare, Chaucer took the material for his poems
wherever he found it, and his originality consists in giving to an old
story some present human interest, making it express the life and ideals of
his own age. In this respect the "Knight's Tale" is remarkable. Its names
are those of an ancient civilization, but its characters are men and women
of the English nobility as Chaucer knew them. In consequence the story has
many anachronisms, such as the mediæval tournament before the temple of
Mars; but the reader scarcely notices these things, being absorbed in the
dramatic interest of the narrative.

Briefly, the "Knight's Tale" is the story of two young men, fast friends,
who are found wounded on the battlefield and taken prisoners to Athens.
There from their dungeon window they behold the fair maid Emily; both fall
desperately in love with her, and their friendship turns to strenuous
rivalry. One is pardoned; the other escapes; and then knights, empires,
nature,--the whole universe follows their desperate efforts to win one
small maiden, who prays meanwhile to be delivered from both her bothersome
suitors. As the best of the _Canterbury Tales_ are now easily accessible,
we omit here all quotations. The story must be read entire, with the
Prioress' tale of Hugh of Lincoln, the Clerk's tale of Patient Griselda,
and the Nun's Priest's merry tale of Chanticleer and the Fox, if the reader
would appreciate the variety and charm of our first modern poet and

FORM OF CHAUCER'S POETRY. There are three principal meters to be found in
Chaucer's verse. In the _Canterbury Tales_ he uses lines of ten syllables
and five accents each, and the lines run in couplets:

    His eyen twinkled in his heed aright
    As doon the sterres in the frosty night.

The same musical measure, arranged in seven-line stanzas, but with a
different rime, called the Rime Royal, is found in its most perfect form in

    O blisful light, of whiche the bemes clere
    Adorneth al the thridde hevene faire!
    O sonnes leef, O Joves doughter dere,
    Plesaunce of love, O goodly debonaire,
    In gentil hertes ay redy to repaire!
    O verray cause of hele and of gladnesse,
    Y-heried be thy might and thy goodnesse!
    In hevene and helle, in erthe and salte see
    Is felt thy might, if that I wel descerne;
    As man, brid, best, fish, herbe and grene tree
    Thee fele in tymes with vapour eterne.
    God loveth, and to love wol nought werne;
    And in this world no lyves creature,
    With-outen love, is worth, or may endure.[84]

The third meter is the eight-syllable line with four accents, the lines
riming in couplets, as in the "Boke of the Duchesse":

    Thereto she coude so wel pleye,
    Whan that hir liste, that I dar seye
    That she was lyk to torche bright,
    That every man may take-of light
    Ynough, and hit hath never the lesse.

Besides these principal meters, Chaucer in his short poems used many other
poetical forms modeled after the French, who in the fourteenth century were
cunning workers in every form of verse. Chief among these are the difficult
but exquisite rondel, "Now welcom Somer with thy sonne softe," which closes
the "Parliament of Fowls," and the ballad, "Flee fro the prees," which has
been already quoted. In the "Monk's Tale" there is a melodious measure
which may have furnished the model for Spenser's famous stanza.[85]
Chaucer's poetry is extremely musical and must be judged by the ear rather
than by the eye. To the modern reader the lines appear broken and uneven;
but if one reads them over a few times, he soon catches the perfect swing
of the measure, and finds that he is in the hands of a master whose ear is
delicately sensitive to the smallest accent. There is a lilt in all his
lines which is marvelous when we consider that he is the first to show us
the poetic possibilities of the language. His claim upon our gratitude is
twofold:[86] first, for discovering the music that is in our English
speech; and second, for his influence in fixing the Midland dialect as the
literary language of England.


WILLIAM LANGLAND (1332? ....?)

LIFE. Very little is known of Langland. He was born probably near Malvern,
in Worcestershire, the son of a poor freeman, and in his early life lived
in the fields as a shepherd. Later he went to London with his wife and
children, getting a hungry living as clerk in the church. His real life
meanwhile was that of a seer, a prophet after Isaiah's own heart, if we may
judge by the prophecy which soon found a voice in _Piers Plowman_. In 1399,
after the success of his great work, he was possibly writing another poem
called _Richard the Redeless_, a protest against Richard II; but we are not
certain of the authorship of this poem, which was left unfinished by the
assassination of the king. After 1399 Langland disappears utterly, and the
date of his death is unknown.

PIERS PLOWMAN. "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye
the way of the Lord," might well be written at the beginning of this
remarkable poem. Truth, sincerity, a direct and practical appeal to
conscience, and a vision of right triumphant over wrong,--these are the
elements of all prophecy; and it was undoubtedly these elements in _Piers
Plowman_ that produced such an impression on the people of England. For
centuries literature had been busy in pleasing the upper classes chiefly;
but here at last was a great poem which appealed directly to the common
people, and its success was enormous. The whole poem is traditionally
attributed to Langland; but it is now known to be the work of several
different writers. It first appeared in 1362 as a poem of eighteen hundred
lines, and this may have been Langland's work. In the next thirty years,
during the desperate social conditions which led to Tyler's Rebellion, it
was repeatedly revised and enlarged by different hands till it reached its
final form of about fifteen thousand lines.

The poem as we read it now is in two distinct parts, the first containing
the vision of Piers, the second a series of visions called "The Search for
Dowel, Dobet, Dobest" (do well, better, best). The entire poem is in
strongly accented, alliterative lines, something like _Beowulf_, and its
immense popularity shows that the common people still cherished this easily
memorized form of Saxon poetry. Its tremendous appeal to justice and common
honesty, its clarion call to every man, whether king, priest, noble, or
laborer, to do his Christian duty, takes from it any trace of prejudice or
bigotry with which such works usually abound. Its loyalty to the Church,
while denouncing abuses that had crept into it in that period, was one of
the great influences which led to the Reformation in England. Its two great
principles, the equality of men before God and the dignity of honest labor,
roused a whole nation of freemen. Altogether it is one of the world's great
works, partly because of its national influence, partly because it is the
very best picture we possess of the social life of the fourteenth century:

Briefly, _Piers Plowman_ is an allegory of life. In the first vision, that
of the "Field Full of Folk," the poet lies down on the Malvern Hills on a
May morning, and a vision comes to him in sleep. On the plain beneath him
gather a multitude of folk, a vast crowd expressing the varied life of the
world. All classes and conditions are there; workingmen are toiling that
others may seize all the first fruits of their labor and live high on the
proceeds; and the genius of the throng is Lady Bribery, a powerfully drawn
figure, expressing the corrupt social life of the times.

The next visions are those of the Seven Deadly Sins, allegorical figures,
but powerful as those of _Pilgrim's Progress_, making the allegories of the
_Romaunt of the Rose_ seem like shadows in comparison. These all came to
Piers asking the way to Truth; but Piers is plowing his half acre and
refuses to leave his work and lead them. He sets them all to honest toil as
the best possible remedy for their vices, and preaches the gospel of work
as a preparation for salvation. Throughout the poem Piers bears strong
resemblance to John Baptist preaching to the crowds in the wilderness. The
later visions are proclamations of the moral and spiritual life of man. The
poem grows dramatic in its intensity, rising to its highest power in
Piers's triumph over Death. And then the poet wakes from his vision with
the sound of Easter bells ringing in his ears.

Here are a few lines to illustrate the style and language; but the whole
poem must be read if one is to understand its crude strength and prophetic

    In a somer sesun, whon softe was the sonne,
    I schop[87] me into a shroud, as I a scheep were,
    In habite as an heremite, unholy of werkes,
    Went wyde in this world, wondres to here.
    Bote in a Mayes mornynge, on Malverne hulles,
    Me byfel a ferly,[88] of fairie me thoughte.
    I was wery, forwandred, and went me to reste
    Undur a brod banke, bi a bourne[89] side;
    And as I lay and lened, and loked on the watres,
    I slumbred in a slepyng---hit swyed[90] so murie....

JOHN WYCLIF (1324?-1384)

Wyclif, as a man, is by far the most powerful English figure of the
fourteenth century. The immense influence of his preaching in the native
tongue, and the power of his Lollards to stir the souls of the common folk,
are too well known historically to need repetition. Though a university man
and a profound scholar, he sides with Langland, and his interests are with
the people rather than with the privileged classes, for whom Chaucer
writes. His great work, which earned him his title of "father of English
prose," is the translation of the Bible. Wyclif himself translated the
gospels, and much more of the New Testament; the rest was finished by his
followers, especially by Nicholas of Hereford. These translations were made
from the Latin Vulgate, not from the original Greek and Hebrew, and the
whole work was revised in 1388 by John Purvey, a disciple of Wyclif. It is
impossible to overestimate the influence of this work, both on our English
prose and on the lives of the English people.

Though Wyclif's works are now unread, except by occasional scholars, he
still occupies a very high place in our literature. His translation of the
Bible was slowly copied all over England, and so fixed a national standard
of English prose to replace the various dialects. Portions of this
translation, in the form of favorite passages from Scripture, were copied
by thousands, and for the first time in our history a standard of pure
English was established in the homes of the common people.

As a suggestion of the language of that day, we quote a few familiar
sentences from the Sermon on the Mount, as given in the later version of
Wyclif's Gospel:

And he openyde his mouth, and taughte hem, and seide, Blessid ben pore men
in spirit, for the kyngdom of hevenes is herne.[91] Blessid ben mylde men,
for thei schulen welde[92] the erthe. Blessid ben thei that mornen, for
thei schulen be coumfortid. Blessid ben thei that hungren and thristen
rightwisnesse,[93] for thei schulen be fulfillid. Blessid ben merciful men,
for thei schulen gete merci. Blessid ben thei that ben of clene herte, for
thei schulen se God. Blessid ben pesible men, for thei schulen be
clepid[94] Goddis children. Blessid ben thei that suffren persecusioun for
rightfulnesse, for the kyngdom of hevenes is herne.[95] ...

Eftsoone ye han herd, that it was seid to elde men, Thou schalt not
forswere, but thou schalt yelde[96] thin othis to the Lord. But Y seie[97]
to you, that ye swere not for ony thing;... but be youre worde, yhe, yhe;
nay, nay; and that that is more than these, is of yvel....

Ye han herd that it was seid, Thou schalt love thi neighbore, and hate thin
enemye. But Y seie to you, love ye youre enemyes, do ye wel to hem[98] that
hatiden[99] you, and preye ye for hem that pursuen[100] and sclaundren[101]
you; that ye be the sones of youre Fadir that is in hevenes, that makith
his sunne to rise upon goode and yvele men, and reyneth[102] on just men
and unjuste.... Therefore be ye parfit, as youre hevenli Fadir is parfit.


About the year 1356 there appeared in England an extraordinary book called
the _Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville_, written in excellent
style in the Midland dialect, which was then becoming the literary language
of England. For years this interesting work and its unknown author were
subjects of endless dispute; but it is now fairly certain that this
collection of travelers' tales is simply a compilation from Odoric, Marco
Polo, and various other sources. The original work was probably in French,
which was speedily translated into Latin, then into English and other
languages; and wherever it appeared it became extremely popular, its
marvelous stories of foreign lands being exactly suited to the credulous
spirit of the age.[103] At the present time there are said to be three
hundred copied manuscripts of "Mandeville" in various languages,--more,
probably, than of any other work save the gospels. In the prologue of the
English version the author calls himself John Maundeville and gives an
outline of his wide travels during thirty years; but the name is probably a
"blind," the prologue more or less spurious, and the real compiler is still
to be discovered.

The modern reader may spend an hour or two very pleasantly in this old
wonderland. On its literary side the book is remarkable, though a
translation, as being the first prose work in modern English having a
distinctly literary style and flavor. Otherwise it is a most interesting
commentary on the general culture and credulity of the fourteenth century.

SUMMARY OF THE AGE OF CHAUCER. The fourteenth century is remarkable
historically for the decline of feudalism (organized by the Normans), for
the growth of the English national spirit during the wars with France, for
the prominence of the House of Commons, and for the growing power of the
laboring classes, who had heretofore been in a condition hardly above that
of slavery.

The age produced five writers of note, one of whom, Geoffrey Chaucer, is
one of the greatest of English writers. His poetry is remarkable for its
variety, its story interest, and its wonderful melody. Chaucer's work and
Wyclif's translation of the Bible developed the Midland dialect into the
national language of England.

In our study we have noted: (1) Chaucer, his life and work; his early or
French period, in which he translated "The Romance of the Rose" and wrote
many minor poems; his middle or Italian period, of which the chief poems
are "Troilus and Cressida" and "The Legend of Good Women"; his late or
English period, in which he worked at his masterpiece, the famous
_Canterbury Tales_. (2) Langland, the poet and prophet of social reforms.
His chief work is _Piers Plowman_. (3) Wyclif, the religious reformer, who
first translated the gospels into English, and by his translation fixed a
common standard of English speech. (4) Mandeville, the alleged traveler,
who represents the new English interest in distant lands following the
development of foreign trade. He is famous for _Mandeville's Travels_, a
book which romances about the wonders to be seen abroad. The fifth writer
of the age is Gower, who wrote in three languages, French, Latin, and
English. His chief English work is the _Confessio Amantis_, a long poem
containing one hundred and twelve tales. Of these only the "Knight Florent"
and two or three others are interesting to a modern reader.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. Chaucer's Prologue, the Knight's Tale, Nun's
Priest's Tale, Prioress' Tale, Clerk's Tale. These are found, more or less
complete, in Standard English Classics, King's Classics, Riverside
Literature Series, etc. Skeat's school edition of the Prologue, Knight's
Tale, etc., is especially good, and includes a study of fourteenth-century
English. Miscellaneous poems of Chaucer in Manly's English Poetry or Ward's
English Poets. Piers Plowman, in King's Classics. Mandeville's Travels,
modernized, in English Classics, and in Cassell's National Library.

For the advanced student, and as a study of language, compare selections
from Wyclif, Chaucer's prose work, Mandeville, etc., in Manly's English
Prose, or Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English, or Craik's English
Prose Selections. Selections from Wyclif's Bible in English Classics


_HISTORY. Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 115-149, or Cheyney, pp. 186-263. For
fuller treatment, Green, ch. 5; Traill; Gardiner.

_Special Works_. Hutton's King and Baronage (Oxford Manuals); Jusserand's
Wayfaring Life in the Fourteenth Century; Coulton's Chaucer and his
England; Pauli's Pictures from Old England; Wright's History of Domestic
Manners and Sentiments in England during the Middle Ages; Trevelyan's
England in the Age of Wyclif; Jenks's In the Days of Chaucer; Froissart's
Chronicle, in Everyman's Library; the same, new edition, 1895 (Macmillan);
Lanier's Boys' Froissart (i.e. Froissart's Chronicle of Historical Events,
1325-1400); Newbolt's Stories from Froissart; Bulfinch's Age of Chivalry
may be read in connection with this and the preceding periods.

_LITERATURE. General Works_. Jusserand; Ten Brink; Mitchell; Minto's
Characteristics of English Poets; Courthope's History of English Poetry.

_Chaucer_, (1) Life: by Lounsbury, in Studies in Chaucer, vol. I; by Ward,
in English Men of Letters Series; Pollard's Chaucer Primer. (2) Aids to
study: F.J. Snell's The Age of Chaucer; Lounsbury's Studies in Chaucer (3
vols.); Root's The Poetry of Chaucer; Lowell's Essay, in My Study Windows;
Hammond's Chaucer: a Biographical Manual; Hempl's Chaucer's Pronunciation;
Introductions to school editions of Chaucer, by Skeat, Liddell, and Mather.
(3) Texts and selections: The Oxford Chaucer, 6 vols., edited by Skeat, is
the standard; Skeat's Student's Chaucer; The Globe Chaucer (Macmillan);
Works of Chaucer, edited by Lounsbury (Crowell); Pollard's The Canterbury
Tales, Eversley edition; Skeat's Selections from Chaucer (Clarendon Press);
Chaucer's Prologue, and various tales, in Standard English Classics (Ginn
and Company), and in other school series.

_Minor Writers_. Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English Prose.
Jusserand's Piers Plowman; Skeat's Piers Plowman (text, glossary and
notes); Warren's Piers Plowman in Modern Prose. Arnold's Wyclif's Select
English Works; Sergeant's Wyclif (Heroes of the Nation Series); Le Bas's
Life of John Wyclif. Travels of Sir John Mandeville (modern spelling), in
Library of English Classics; Macaulay's Gower's English Works.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. What are the chief historical events of the
fourteenth century? What social movement is noticeable? What writers
reflect political and social conditions?

2. Tell briefly the story of Chaucer's life. What foreign influences are
noticeable? Name a few poems illustrating his three periods of work. What
qualities have you noticed in his poetry? Why is he called our first
national poet?

3. Give the plan of the _Canterbury Tales_. For what is the Prologue
remarkable? What light does it throw upon English life of the fourteenth
century? Quote or read some passages that have impressed you. Which
character do you like best? Are any of the characters like certain men and
women whom you know? What classes of society are introduced? Is Chaucer's
attitude sympathetic or merely critical?

4. Tell in your own words the tale you like best. Which tale seems truest
to life as you know it? Mention any other poets who tell stories in verse.

5. Quote or read passages which show Chaucer's keenness of observation, his
humor, his kindness in judgment, his delight in nature. What side of human
nature does he emphasize? Make a little comparison between Chaucer and
Shakespeare, having in mind (1) the characters described by both poets, (2)
their knowledge of human nature, (3) the sources of their plots, (4) the
interest of their works.

6. Describe briefly _Piers Plowman_ and its author. Why is the poem called
"the gospel of the poor"? What message does it contain for daily labor?
Does it apply to any modern conditions? Note any resemblance in ideas
between _Piers Plowman_ and such modern works as Carlyle's _Past and
Present_, Kingsley's _Alton Locke_, Morris's _Dream of John Ball_, etc.

7. For what is Wyclif remarkable in literature? How did his work affect our
language? Note resemblances and differences between Wyclif and the

8. What is _Mandeville's Travels_? What light does it throw on the mental
condition of the age? What essential difference do you note between this
book and _Gulliver's Travels_?

  HISTORY                          |  LITERATURE
1327. Edward III                   |
1338. Beginning of Hundred Years'  |
      War with France              |  1340(?). Birth of Chaucer
1347. Capture of Calais            |
1348-1349. Black Death             |  1356. Mandeville's Travels
                                   |  1359. Chaucer in French War
                                   |  1360-1370. Chaucer's early
                                   |     or French period
1373. Winchester College, first    |
      great public school          |  1370-1385. Chaucer's Middle or
                                   |     Italian period
1377. Richard II. Wyclif and the   |
      Lollards begin Reformation   |  1362-1395. Piers Plowman
      in England                   |
1381. Peasant Rebellion. Wat Tyler |  1385-1400. Canterbury Tales
                                   |  1382. First complete Bible in
                                   |     English
1399. Deposition of Richard II.    |  1400. Death of Chaucer
      Henry IV chosen by Parliament|     (Dante's Divina Commedia,
                                   |     _c_. 1310; Petrarch's
                                   |     sonnets and poems, 1325-1374;
                                   |     Boccaccio's tales, _c_.
                                   |     1350.)

       *       *       *       *       *




POLITICAL CHANGES. The century and a half following the death of Chaucer
(1400-1550) is the most volcanic period of English history. The land is
swept by vast changes, inseparable from the rapid accumulation of national
power; but since power is the most dangerous of gifts until men have
learned to control it, these changes seem at first to have no specific aim
or direction. Henry V--whose erratic yet vigorous life, as depicted by
Shakespeare, was typical of the life of his times--first let Europe feel
the might of the new national spirit. To divert that growing and unruly
spirit from rebellion at home, Henry led his army abroad, in the apparently
impossible attempt to gain for himself three things: a French wife, a
French revenue, and the French crown itself. The battle of Agincourt was
fought in 1415, and five years later, by the Treaty of Troyes, France
acknowledged his right to all his outrageous demands.

The uselessness of the terrific struggle on French soil is shown by the
rapidity with which all its results were swept away. When Henry died in
1422, leaving his son heir to the crowns of France and England, a
magnificent recumbent statue with head of pure silver was placed in
Westminster Abbey to commemorate his victories. The silver head was
presently stolen, and the loss is typical of all that he had struggled for.
His son, Henry VI, was but the shadow of a king, a puppet in the hands of
powerful nobles, who seized the power of England and turned it to self-
destruction. Meanwhile all his foreign possessions were won back by the
French under the magic leadership of Joan of Arc. Cade's Rebellion (1450)
and the bloody Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) are names to show how the
energy of England was violently destroying itself, like a great engine that
has lost its balance wheel. The frightful reign of Richard III followed,
which had, however, this redeeming quality, that it marked the end of civil
wars and the self-destruction of feudalism, and made possible a new growth
of English national sentiment under the popular Tudors.

In the long reign of Henry VIII the changes are less violent, but have more
purpose and significance. His age is marked by a steady increase in the
national power at home and abroad, by the entrance of the Reformation "by a
side door," and by the final separation of England from all ecclesiastical
bondage in Parliament's famous Act of Supremacy. In previous reigns
chivalry and the old feudal system had practically been banished; now
monasticism, the third mediæval institution with its mixed evil and good,
received its death-blow in the wholesale suppression of the monasteries and
the removal of abbots from the House of Lords. Notwithstanding the evil
character of the king and the hypocrisy of proclaiming such a creature the
head of any church or the defender of any faith, we acquiesce silently in
Stubb's declaration[105] that "the world owes some of its greatest debts to
men from whose memory the world recoils."

While England during this period was in constant political strife, yet
rising slowly, like the spiral flight of an eagle, to heights of national
greatness, intellectually it moved forward with bewildering rapidity.
Printing was brought to England by Caxton (_c_. 1476), and for the first
time in history it was possible for a book or an idea to reach the whole
nation. Schools and universities were established in place of the old
monasteries; Greek ideas and Greek culture came to England in the
Renaissance, and man's spiritual freedom was proclaimed in the Reformation.
The great names of the period are numerous and significant, but literature
is strangely silent. Probably the very turmoil of the age prevented any
literary development, for literature is one of the arts of peace; it
requires quiet and meditation rather than activity, and the stirring life
of the Renaissance had first to be lived before it could express itself in
the new literature of the Elizabethan period.

THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING. The Revival of Learning denotes, in its broadest
sense, that gradual enlightenment of the human mind after the darkness of
the Middle Ages. The names Renaissance and Humanism, which are often
applied to the same movement, have properly a narrower significance. The
term Renaissance, though used by many writers "to denote the whole
transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world,"[106] is more
correctly applied to the revival of art resulting from the discovery and
imitation of classic models in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Humanism applies to the revival of classic literature, and was so called by
its leaders, following the example of Petrarch, because they held that the
study of the classics, _literae humaniores_,--i.e. the "more human
writings," rather than the old theology,--was the best means of promoting
the largest human interests. We use the term Revival of Learning to cover
the whole movement, whose essence was, according to Lamartine, that "man
discovered himself and the universe," and, according to Taine, that man, so
long blinded, "had suddenly opened his eyes and seen."

We shall understand this better if we remember that in the Middle Ages
man's whole world consisted of the narrow Mediterranean and the nations
that clustered about it; and that this little world seemed bounded by
impassable barriers, as if God had said to their sailors, "Hitherto shalt
thou come, but no farther." Man's mind also was bounded by the same narrow
lines. His culture as measured by the great deductive system of
Scholasticism consisted not in discovery, but rather in accepting certain
principles and traditions established by divine and ecclesiastical
authority as the basis of all truth. These were his Pillars of Hercules,
his mental and spiritual bounds that he must not pass, and within these,
like a child playing with lettered blocks, he proceeded to build his
intellectual system. Only as we remember their limitations can we
appreciate the heroism of these toilers of the Middle Ages, giants in
intellect, yet playing with children's toys; ignorant of the laws and
forces of the universe, while debating the essence and locomotion of
angels; eager to learn, yet forbidden to enter fresh fields in the right of
free exploration and the joy of individual discovery.

The Revival stirred these men as the voyages of Da Gama and Columbus
stirred the mariners of the Mediterranean. First came the sciences and
inventions of the Arabs, making their way slowly against the prejudice of
the authorities, and opening men's eyes to the unexplored realms of nature.
Then came the flood of Greek literature which the new art of printing
carried swiftly to every school in Europe, revealing a new world of poetry
and philosophy. Scholars flocked to the universities, as adventurers to the
new world of America, and there the old authority received a deathblow.
Truth only was authority; to search for truth everywhere, as men sought for
new lands and gold and the fountain of youth,--that was the new spirit
which awoke in Europe with the Revival of Learning.


The hundred and fifty years of the Revival period are singularly destitute
of good literature. Men's minds were too much occupied with religious and
political changes and with the rapid enlargement of the mental horizon to
find time for that peace and leisure which are essential for literary
results. Perhaps, also, the floods of newly discovered classics, which
occupied scholars and the new printing presses alike, were by their very
power and abundance a discouragement of native talent. Roger Ascham
(1515-1568), a famous classical scholar, who published a book called
_Toxophilus_ (School of Shooting) in 1545, expresses in his preface, or
"apology," a very widespread dissatisfaction over the neglect of native
literature when he says, "And as for ye Latin or greke tongue, every thing
is so excellently done in them, that none can do better: In the Englysh
tonge contrary, every thinge in a maner so meanly, both for the matter and
handelynge, that no man can do worse."

On the Continent, also, this new interest in the classics served to check
the growth of native literatures. In Italy especially, for a full century
after the brilliant age of Dante and Petrarch, no great literature was
produced, and the Italian language itself seemed to go backward.[107] The
truth is that these great writers were, like Chaucer, far in advance of
their age, and that the mediæval mind was too narrow, too scantily
furnished with ideas to produce a varied literature. The fifteenth century
was an age of preparation, of learning the beginnings of science, and of
getting acquainted with the great ideals,--the stern law, the profound
philosophy, the suggestive mythology, and the noble poetry of the Greeks
and Romans. So the mind was furnished with ideas for a new literature.

With the exception of Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_ (which is still mediæval in
spirit) the student will find little of interest in the literature of this
period. We give here a brief summary of the men and the books most "worthy
of remembrance"; but for the real literature of the Renaissance one must go
forward a century and a half to the age of Elizabeth.

The two greatest books which appeared in England during this period are
undoubtedly Erasmus's[108] _Praise of Folly_ (_Encomium Moriae_) and More's
_Utopia_, the famous "Kingdom of Nowhere." Both were written in Latin, but
were speedily translated into all European languages. The _Praise of Folly_
is like a song of victory for the New Learning, which had driven away vice,
ignorance, and superstition, the three foes of humanity. It was published
in 1511 after the accession of Henry VIII. Folly is represented as donning
cap and bells and mounting a pulpit, where the vice and cruelty of kings,
the selfishness and ignorance of the clergy, and the foolish standards of
education are satirized without mercy.

More's _Utopia_, published in 1516, is a powerful and original study of
social conditions, unlike anything which had ever appeared in any
literature.[109] In our own day we have seen its influence in Bellamy's
_Looking Backward_, an enormously successful book, which recently set
people to thinking of the unnecessary cruelty of modern social conditions.
More learns from a sailor, one of Amerigo Vespucci's companions, of a
wonderful Kingdom of Nowhere, in which all questions of labor, government,
society, and religion have been easily settled by simple justice and common
sense. In this _Utopia_ we find for the first time, as the foundations of
civilized society, the three great words, Liberty, Fraternity, Equality,
which retained their inspiration through all the violence of the French
Revolution and which are still the unrealized ideal of every free
government. As he hears of this wonderful country More wonders why, after
fifteen centuries of Christianity, his own land is so little civilized; and
as we read the book to-day we ask ourselves the same question. The splendid
dream is still far from being realized; yet it seems as if any nation could
become Utopia in a single generation, so simple and just are the

Greater than either of these books, in its influence upon the common
people, is Tyndale's translation of the New Testament (1525), which fixed a
standard of good English, and at the same time brought that standard not
only to scholars but to the homes of the common people. Tyndale made his
translation from the original Greek, and later translated parts of the Old
Testament from the Hebrew. Much of Tyndale's work was included in Cranmer's
Bible, known also as the Great Bible, in 1539, and was read in every parish
church in England. It was the foundation for the Authorized Version, which
appeared nearly a century later and became the standard for the whole
English-speaking race.

WYATT AND SURREY. In 1557 appeared probably the first printed collection of
miscellaneous English poems, known as _Tottel's Miscellany_. It contained
the work of the so-called courtly makers, or poets, which had hitherto
circulated in manuscript form for the benefit of the court. About half of
these poems were the work of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503?-1542) and of Henry
Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517?-1547). Both together wrote amorous sonnets
modeled after the Italians, introducing a new verse form which, although
very difficult, has been a favorite ever since with our English poets.[110]
Surrey is noted, not for any especial worth or originality of his own
poems, but rather for his translation of two books of Virgil "in strange
meter." The strange meter was the blank verse, which had never before
appeared in English. The chief literary work of these two men, therefore,
is to introduce the sonnet and the blank verse,--one the most dainty, the
other the most flexible and characteristic form of English poetry,--which
in the hands of Shakespeare and Milton were used to make the world's

MALORY'S MORTE D'ARTHUR. The greatest English work of this period, measured
by its effect on subsequent literature, is undoubtedly the _Morte
d'Arthur_, a collection of the Arthurian romances told in simple and vivid
prose. Of Sir Thomas Malory, the author, Caxton[111] in his introduction
says that he was a knight, and completed his work in 1470, fifteen years
before Caxton printed it. The record adds that "he was the servant of Jesu
both by day and night." Beyond that we know little[112] except what may be
inferred from the splendid work itself.

Malory groups the legends about the central idea of the search for the Holy
Grail. Though many of the stories, like Tristram and Isolde, are purely
pagan, Malory treats them all in such a way as to preserve the whole spirit
of mediæval Christianity as it has been preserved in no other work. It was
to Malory rather than to Layamon or to the early French writers that
Shakespeare and his contemporaries turned for their material; and in our
own age he has supplied Tennyson and Matthew Arnold and Swinburne and
Morris with the inspiration for the "Idylls of the King" and the "Death of
Tristram" and the other exquisite poems which center about Arthur and the
knights of his Round Table.

In subject-matter the book belongs to the mediæval age; but Malory himself,
with his desire to preserve the literary monuments of the past, belongs to
the Renaissance; and he deserves our lasting gratitude for attempting to
preserve the legends and poetry of Britain at a time when scholars were
chiefly busy with the classics of Greece and Rome. As the Arthurian legends
are one of the great recurring motives of English literature, Malory's work
should be better known. His stories may be and should be told to every
child as part of his literary inheritance. Then Malory may be read for his
style and his English prose and his expression of the mediæval spirit. And
then the stories may be read again, in Tennyson's "Idylls," to show how
those exquisite old fancies appeal to the minds of our modern poets.

first one of decline from the Age of Chaucer, and then of intellectual
preparation for the Age of Elizabeth. For a century and a half after
Chaucer not a single great English work appeared, and the general standard
of literature was very low. There are three chief causes to account for
this: (1) the long war with France and the civil Wars of the Roses
distracted attention from books and poetry, and destroyed of ruined many
noble English families who had been friends and patrons of literature; (2)
the Reformation in the latter part of the period filled men's minds with
religious questions; (3) the Revival of Learning set scholars and literary
men to an eager study of the classics, rather than to the creation of
native literature. Historically the age is noticeable for its intellectual
progress, for the introduction of printing, for the discovery of America,
for the beginning of the Reformation, and for the growth of political power
among the common people.

In our study we have noted: (1) the Revival of Learning, what it was, and
the significance of the terms Humanism and Renaissance; (2) three
influential literary works,--Erasmus's _Praise of Folly_, More's _Utopia_,
and Tyndale's translation of the New Testament; (3) Wyatt and Surrey, and
the so-called courtly makers or poets; (4) Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_, a
collection of the Arthurian legends in English prose. The Miracle and
Mystery Plays were the most popular form of entertainment in this age; but
we have reserved them for special study in connection with the Rise of the
Drama, in the following chapter.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. Malory's Morte d'Arthur, selections, in Athenaeum
Press Series, etc. (It is interesting to read Tennyson's Passing of Arthur
in connection with Malory's account.) Utopia, in Arber's Reprints, Temple
Classics, King's Classics, etc. Selections from Wyatt, Surrey, etc., in
Manly's English Poetry or Ward's English Poets; Tottel's Miscellany, in
Arber's Reprints. Morris and Skeat's Specimens of Early English, vol. 3,
has good selections from this period.


_HISTORY. Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 150-208, or Cheyney, pp. 264-328.
Greene, ch. 6; Traill; Gardiner; Froude; etc.

_Special Works_. Denton's England in the Fifteenth Century; Flower's The
Century of Sir Thomas More; The Household of Sir Thomas More, in King's
Classics; Green's Town Life in the Fifteenth Century; Field's Introduction
to the Study of the Renaissance; Einstein's The Italian Renaissance in
England; Seebohm's The Oxford Reformers (Erasmus, More, etc.).

_LITERATURE. General Works_. Jusserand; Ten Brink; Minto's Characteristics
of English Poets.

_Special Works_. Saintsbury's Elizabethan Literature; Malory's Morte
d'Arthur, edited by Sommer; the same by Gollancz (Temple Classics);
Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur; More's Utopia, in Temple Classics, King's
Classics, etc.; Roper's Life of Sir Thomas More, in King's Classics, Temple
Classics, etc.; Ascham's Schoolmaster, in Arber's English Reprints; Poems
of Wyatt and Surrey, in English Reprints and Bell's Aldine Poets; Simonds's
Sir Thomas Wyatt and His Poems; Allen's Selections from Erasmus;
Jusserand's Romance of a King's Life (James I of Scotland) contains
extracts and an admirable criticism of the King's Quair.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. The fifteenth century in English literature is
sometimes called "the age of arrest." Can you explain why? What causes
account for the lack of great literature in this period? Why should the
ruin of noble families at this time seriously affect our literature? Can
you recall anything from the Anglo-Saxon period to justify your opinion?

2. What is meant by Humanism? What was the first effect of the study of
Greek and Latin classics upon our literature? What excellent literary
purposes did the classics serve in later periods?

3. What are the chief benefits to literature of the discovery of printing?
What effect on civilization has the multiplication of books?

4. Describe More's _Utopia_. Do you know any modern books like it? Why
should any impractical scheme of progress be still called Utopian?

5. What work of this period had the greatest effect on the English
language? Explain why.

6. What was the chief literary influence exerted by Wyatt and Surrey? Do
you know any later poets who made use of the verse forms which they

7. Which of Malory's stories do you like best? Where did these stories
originate? Have they any historical foundation? What two great elements did
Malory combine in his work? What is the importance of his book to later
English literature? Compare Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" and Malory's
stories with regard to material, expression, and interest. Note the marked
resemblances and differences between the _Morte d'Arthur_ and the
_Nibelungen Lied_.

  HISTORY                           |  LITERATURE
1413. Henry V                       |
1415. Battle of Agincourt           |
1422. Henry VI                      | 1470. Malory's Morte d' Arthur
1428. Siege of Orleans. Joan of Arc | 1474(c). Caxton, at Bruges,
1453. End of Hundred Year's War     |       prints the first book in
1455-1485. War of Roses             |       English, the Recuyell of the
1461. Edward IV                     |       Histories of Troye
1483. Richard III                   | 1477. First book printed in
                                    |       England
1485. Henry VII                     | 1485. Morte d'Arthur printed
                                    |       by Caxton
1492. Columbus discovers America    | 1499. Colet, Erasmus, and More
1509. Henry VIII                    |       bring the New Learning to
                                    |       Oxford
                                    | 1509. Erasmus's Praise of
                                    |       Folly
                                    | 1516. More's Utopia
                                    | 1525. Tydale's New Testament
1534. Act of Supremacy. The         | 1530(c). Introduction of the
      Reformation accomplished      |       sonnet and blank verse by
                                    |       Wyatt and Surrey
                                    | 1539. The Great Bible
1547. Edward VI                     |
1553. Mary                          | 1557. Tottel's Miscellany
1558. Elizabeth                     |

       *       *       *       *       *




POLITICAL SUMMARY. In the Age of Elizabeth all doubt seems to vanish from
English history. After the reigns of Edward and Mary, with defeat and
humiliation abroad and persecutions and rebellion at home, the accession of
a popular sovereign was like the sunrise after a long night, and, in
Milton's words, we suddenly see England, "a noble and puissant nation,
rousing herself, like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible
locks." With the queen's character, a strange mingling of frivolity and
strength which reminds one of that iron image with feet of clay, we have
nothing whatever to do. It is the national life that concerns the literary
student, since even a beginner must notice that any great development of
the national life is invariably associated with a development of the
national literature. It is enough for our purpose, therefore, to point out
two facts: that Elizabeth, with all her vanity and inconsistency, steadily
loved England and England's greatness; and that she inspired all her people
with the unbounded patriotism which exults in Shakespeare, and with the
personal devotion which finds a voice in the _Faery Queen_. Under her
administration the English national life progressed by gigantic leaps
rather than by slow historical process, and English literature reached the
very highest point of its development. It is possible to indicate only a
few general characteristics of this great age which had a direct bearing
upon its literature.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ELIZABETHAN AGE. The most characteristic feature of
the age was the comparative religious tolerance, which was due largely to
the queen's influence. The frightful excesses of the religious war known as
the Thirty Years' War on the Continent found no parallel in England. Upon
her accession Elizabeth found the whole kingdom divided against itself; the
North was largely Catholic, while the southern counties were as strongly
Protestant. Scotland had followed the Reformation in its own intense way,
while Ireland remained true to its old religious traditions, and both
countries were openly rebellious. The court, made up of both parties,
witnessed the rival intrigues of those who sought to gain the royal favor.
It was due partly to the intense absorption of men's minds in religious
questions that the preceding century, though an age of advancing learning,
produced scarcely any literature worthy of the name. Elizabeth favored both
religious parties, and presently the world saw with amazement Catholics and
Protestants acting together as trusted counselors of a great sovereign. The
defeat of the Spanish Armada established the Reformation as a fact in
England, and at the same time united all Englishmen in a magnificent
national enthusiasm. For the first time since the Reformation began, the
fundamental question of religious toleration seemed to be settled, and the
mind of man, freed from religious fears and persecutions, turned with a
great creative impulse to other forms of activity. It is partly from this
new freedom of the mind that the Age of Elizabeth received its great
literary stimulus.

2. It was an age of comparative social contentment, in strong contrast with
the days of Langland. The rapid increase of manufacturing towns gave
employment to thousands who had before been idle and discontented.
Increasing trade brought enormous wealth to England, and this wealth was
shared to this extent, at least, that for the first time some systematic
care for the needy was attempted. Parishes were made responsible for their
own poor, and the wealthy were taxed to support them or give them
employment. The increase of wealth, the improvement in living, the
opportunities for labor, the new social content--these also are factors
which help to account for the new literary activity.

3. It is an age of dreams, of adventure, of unbounded enthusiasm springing
from the new lands of fabulous riches revealed by English explorers. Drake
sails around the world, shaping the mighty course which English colonizers
shall follow through the centuries; and presently the young philosopher
Bacon is saying confidently, "I have taken all knowledge for my province."
The mind must search farther than the eye; with new, rich lands opened to
the sight, the imagination must create new forms to people the new worlds.
Hakluyt's famous _Collection of Voyages_, and _Purchas, His Pilgrimage_,
were even more stimulating to the English imagination than to the English
acquisitiveness. While her explorers search the new world for the Fountain
of Youth, her poets are creating literary works that are young forever.
Marston writes:[114] "Why, man, all their dripping pans are pure gold. The
prisoners they take are fettered in gold; and as for rubies and diamonds,
they goe forth on holydayes and gather 'hem by the seashore to hang on
their children's coates." This comes nearer to being a description of
Shakespeare's poetry than of the Indians in Virginia. Prospero, in _The
Tempest_, with his control over the mighty powers and harmonies of nature,
is only the literary dream of that science which had just begun to grapple
with the forces of the universe. Cabot, Drake, Frobisher, Gilbert, Raleigh,
Willoughby, Hawkins,--a score of explorers reveal a new earth to men's
eyes, and instantly literature creates a new heaven to match it. So dreams
and deeds increase side by side, and the dream is ever greater than the
deed. That is the meaning of literature.

4. To sum up, the Age of Elizabeth was a time of intellectual liberty, of
growing intelligence and comfort among all classes, of unbounded
patriotism, and of peace at home and abroad. For a parallel we must go back
to the Age of Pericles in Athens, or of Augustus in Rome, or go forward a
little to the magnificent court of Louis XIV, when Corneille, Racine, and
Molière brought the drama in France to the point where Marlowe,
Shakespeare, and Jonson had left it in England half a century earlier. Such
an age of great thought and great action, appealing to the eyes as well as
to the imagination and intellect, finds but one adequate literary
expression; neither poetry nor the story can express the whole man,--his
thought, feeling, action, and the resulting character; hence in the Age of
Elizabeth literature turned instinctively to the drama and brought it
rapidly to the highest stage of its development.


EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599)

        "Piers, I have pipéd erst so long with pain
        That all mine oaten reeds been rent and wore,
        And my poor Muse hath spent her sparéd store,
        Yet little good hath got, and much less gain.
        Such pleasaunce makes the grasshopper so poor,
        And ligge so layd[115] when winter doth her strain.
        The dapper ditties that I wont devise,
        To feed youth's fancy, and the flocking fry
        Delghten much--what I the bet forthy?
        They han the pleasure, I a slender prize:
        I beat the bush, the birds to them do fly:
        What good thereof to Cuddie can arise?
        Cuddie, the praise is better than the price,
        The glory eke much greater than the gain:..."
                _Shepherd's Calendar_, October

In these words, with their sorrowful suggestion of Deor, Spenser reveals
his own heart, unconsciously perhaps, as no biographer could possibly do.
His life and work seem to center about three great influences, summed up in
three names: Cambridge, where he grew acquainted with the classics and the
Italian poets; London, where he experienced the glamour and the
disappointment of court life; and Ireland, which steeped him in the beauty
and imagery of old Celtic poetry and first gave him leisure to write his

LIFE. Of Spenser's early life and parentage we know little, except that he
was born in East Smithfield, near the Tower of London, and was poor. His
education began at the Merchant Tailors' School in London and was continued
in Cambridge, where as a poor sizar and fag for wealthy students he earned
a scant living. Here in the glorious world that only a poor scholar knows
how to create for himself he read the classics, made acquaintance with the
great Italian poets, and wrote numberless little poems of his own. Though
Chaucer was his beloved master, his ambition was not to rival the
_Canterbury Tales_, but rather to express the dream of English chivalry,
much as Ariosto had done for Italy in _Orlando Furioso_.

After leaving Cambridge (1576) Spenser went to the north of England, on
some unknown work or quest. Here his chief occupation was to fall in love
and to record his melancholy over the lost Rosalind in the _Shepherd's
Calendar_. Upon his friend Harvey's advice he came to London, bringing his
poems; and here he met Leicester, then at the height of royal favor, and
the latter took him to live at Leicester House. Here he finished the
_Shepherd's Calendar_, and here he met Sidney and all the queen's
favorites. The court was full of intrigues, lying and flattery, and
Spenser's opinion of his own uncomfortable position is best expressed in a
few lines from "Mother Hubbard's Tale":

    Full little knowest thou, that has not tried,
    What hell it is, in suing long to bide:
    To lose good days, that might be better spent;
    To waste long nights in pensive discontent;
           *       *       *       *       *
    To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares;
    To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs;
    To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
    To spend, to give, to want, to be undone.

In 1580, through Leicester's influence, Spenser, who was utterly weary of
his dependent position, was made secretary to Lord Grey, the queen's deputy
in Ireland, and the third period of his life began. He accompanied his
chief through one campaign of savage brutality in putting down an Irish
rebellion, and was given an immense estate with the castle of Kilcolman, in
Munster, which had been confiscated from Earl Desmond, one of the Irish
leaders. His life here, where according to the terms of his grant he must
reside as an English settler, he regarded as lonely exile:

    My luckless lot,
    That banished had myself, like wight forlore,
    Into that waste, where I was quite forgot.

It is interesting to note here a gentle poet's view of the "unhappy
island." After nearly sixteen years' residence he wrote his _View of the
State of Ireland_ (1596),[116] his only prose work, in which he submits a
plan for "pacifying the oppressed and rebellious people." This was to bring
a huge force of cavalry and infantry into the country, give the Irish a
brief time to submit, and after that to hunt them down like wild beasts. He
calculated that cold, famine, and sickness would help the work of the
sword, and that after the rebels had been well hounded for two winters the
following summer would find the country peaceful. This plan, from the poet
of harmony and beauty, was somewhat milder than the usual treatment of a
brave people whose offense was that they loved liberty and religion.
Strange as it may seem, the _View_ was considered most statesmanlike, and
was excellently well received in England.

In Kilcolman, surrounded by great natural beauty, Spenser finished the
first three books of the _Faery Queen_. In 1589 Raleigh visited him, heard
the poem with enthusiasm, hurried the poet off to London, and presented him
to Elizabeth. The first three books met with instant success when published
and were acclaimed as the greatest work in the English language. A yearly
pension of fifty pounds was conferred by Elizabeth, but rarely paid, and
the poet turned back to exile, that is, to Ireland again.

Soon after his return, Spenser fell in love with his beautiful Elizabeth,
an Irish girl; wrote his _Amoretti_, or sonnets, in her honor; and
afterwards represented her, in the _Faery Queen_, as the beautiful woman
dancing among the Graces. In 1594 he married Elizabeth, celebrating his
wedding with his "Epithalamion," one of the most beautiful wedding hymns in
any language.

Spenser's next visit to London was in 1595, when he published "Astrophel,"
an elegy on the death of his friend Sidney, and three more books of the
_Faery Queen_. On this visit he lived again at Leicester House, now
occupied by the new favorite Essex, where he probably met Shakespeare and
the other literary lights of the Elizabethan Age. Soon after his return to
Ireland, Spenser was appointed Sheriff of Cork, a queer office for a poet,
which probably brought about his undoing. The same year Tyrone's Rebellion
broke out in Munster. Kilcolman, the ancient house of Desmond, was one of
the first places attacked by the rebels, and Spenser barely escaped with
his wife and two children. It is supposed that some unfinished parts of the
_Faery Queen_ were burned in the castle.

From the shock of this frightful experience Spenser never recovered. He
returned to England heartbroken, and in the following year (1599) he died
in an inn at Westminster. According to Ben Jonson he died "for want of
bread"; but whether that is a poetic way of saying that he had lost his
property or that he actually died of destitution, will probably never be
known. He was buried beside his master Chaucer in Westminster Abbey, the
poets of that age thronging to his funeral and, according to Camden,
"casting their elegies and the pens that had written them into his tomb."

SPENSER'S WORKS. _The Faery Queen_ is the great work upon which the poet's
fame chiefly rests. The original plan of the poem included twenty-four
books, each of which was to recount the adventure and triumph of a knight
who represented a moral virtue. Spenser's purpose, as indicated in a letter
to Raleigh which introduces the poem, is as follows:

To pourtraict in Arthure, before he was king, the image of a brave Knight,
perfected in the twelve private Morall Vertues, as Aristotle hath devised;
which is the purpose of these first twelve bookes: which if I finde to be
well accepted, I may be perhaps encoraged to frame the other part of
Polliticke Vertues in his person, after that hee came to be king.

Each of the Virtues appears as a knight, fighting his opposing Vice, and
the poem tells the story of the conflicts. It is therefore purely
allegorical, not only in its personified virtues but also in its
representation of life as a struggle between good and evil. In its strong
moral element the poem differs radically from _Orlando Furioso_, upon which
it was modeled. Spenser completed only six books, celebrating Holiness,
Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy. We have also a
fragment of the seventh, treating of Constancy; but the rest of this book
was not written, or else was lost in the fire at Kilcolman. The first three
books are by far the best; and judging by the way the interest lags and the
allegory grows incomprehensible, it is perhaps as well for Spenser's
reputation that the other eighteen books remained a dream.

ARGUMENT OF THE FAERY QUEEN. From the introductory letter we learn that the
hero visits the queen's court in Fairy Land, while she is holding a
twelve-days festival. On each day some distressed person appears
unexpectedly, tells a woful story of dragons, of enchantresses, or of
distressed beauty or virtue, and asks for a champion to right the wrong and
to let the oppressed go free. Sometimes a knight volunteers or begs for the
dangerous mission; again the duty is assigned by the queen; and the
journeys and adventures of these knights are the subjects of the several
books. The first recounts the adventures of the Redcross Knight,
representing Holiness, and the lady Una, representing Religion. Their
contests are symbolical of the world-wide struggle between virtue and faith
on the one hand, and sin and heresy on the other. The second book tells the
story of Sir Guyon, or Temperance; the third, of Britomartis, representing
Chastity; the fourth, fifth, and sixth, of Cambel and Triamond
(Friendship), Artegall (Justice), and Sir Calidore (Courtesy). Spenser's
plan was a very elastic one and he filled up the measure of his narrative
with everything that caught his fancy,--historical events and personages
under allegorical masks, beautiful ladies, chivalrous knights, giants,
monsters, dragons, sirens, enchanters, and adventures enough to stock a
library of fiction. If you read Homer or Virgil, you know his subject in
the first strong line; if you read Cædmon's _Paraphrase_ or Milton's epic,
the introduction gives you the theme; but Spenser's great poem--with the
exception of a single line in the prologue, "Fierce warres and faithfull
loves shall moralize my song"--gives hardly a hint of what is coming.

As to the meaning of the allegorical figures, one is generally in doubt. In
the first three books the shadowy Faery Queen sometimes represents the
glory of God and sometimes Elizabeth, who was naturally flattered by the
parallel. Britomartis is also Elizabeth. The Redcross Knight is Sidney, the
model Englishman. Arthur, who always appears to rescue the oppressed, is
Leicester, which is another outrageous flattery. Una is sometimes religion
and sometimes the Protestant Church; while Duessa represents Mary Queen of
Scots, or general Catholicism. In the last three books Elizabeth appears
again as Mercilla; Henry IV of France as Bourbon; the war in the
Netherlands as the story of Lady Belge; Raleigh as Timias; the earls of
Northumberland and Westmoreland (lovers of Mary or Duessa) as Blandamour
and Paridell; and so on through the wide range of contemporary characters
and events, till the allegory becomes as difficult to follow as the second
part of Goethe's _Faust_.

POETICAL FORM. For the _Faery Queen_ Spenser invented a new verse form,
which has been called since his day the Spenserian stanza. Because of its
rare beauty it has been much used by nearly all our poets in their best
work. The new stanza was an improved form of Ariosto's _ottava rima_ (i.e.
eight-line stanza) and bears a close resemblance to one of Chaucer's most
musical verse forms in the "Monk's Tale." Spenser's stanza is in nine
lines, eight of five feet each and the last of six feet, riming
_ababbcbcc_. A few selections from the first book, which is best worth
reading, are reproduced here to show the style and melody of the verse.

      A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
      Ycladd[117] in mightie armes and silver shielde,
      Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine
      The cruell markes of many a bloody fielde;
      Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
      His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
      As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
      Full iolly[118] knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
    As one for knightly giusts[119] and fierce encounters fitt.
      And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore,
      The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
      For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
      And dead, as living ever, him ador'd:
      Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
      For soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had,
      Right faithfull true he was in deede and word;
      But of his cheere[120] did seeme too solemne sad;
    Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.[121]

This sleepy bit, from the dwelling of Morpheus, invites us to linger:

      And, more to lulle him in his slumber soft,
      A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe,
      And ever-drizling raine upon the loft,
      Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne
      Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swowne.
      No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes,
      As still are wont t'annoy the walled towne,
      Might there be heard: but carelesse Quiet lyes,
      Wrapt in eternal silence farre from enimyes.

The description of Una shows the poet's sense of ideal beauty:

      One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome way,
      From her unhastie beast she did alight;
      And on the grasse her dainty limbs did lay
      In secrete shadow, far from all mens sight;
      From her fayre head her fillet she undight,[122]
      And layd her stole aside; Her angels face,
      As the great eye of heaven, shynéd bright,
      And made a sunshine in the shady place;
    Did never mortall eye behold such heavenly grace.
      It fortunéd, out of the thickest wood
      A ramping lyon rushéd suddeinly,
      Hunting full greedy after salvage blood:
      Soone as the royall Virgin he did spy,
      With gaping mouth at her ran greedily,
      To have at once devourd her tender corse:
      But to the pray whenas he drew more ny,
      His bloody rage aswaged with remorse,[123]
    And, with the sight amazd, forgat his furious forse.
      Instead thereof he kist her wearie feet,
      And lickt her lilly hands with fawning tong;
      As he her wrongéd innocence did weet.[124]
      O how can beautie maister the most strong,
      And simple truth subdue avenging wrong!

MINOR POEMS. Next to his masterpiece, the _Shepherd's Calendar_ (1579) is
the best known of Spenser's poems; though, as his first work, it is below
many others in melody. It consists of twelve pastoral poems, or eclogues,
one for each month of the year. The themes are generally rural life,
nature, love in the fields; and the speakers are shepherds and
shepherdesses. To increase the rustic effect Spenser uses strange forms of
speech and obsolete words, to such an extent that Jonson complained his
works are not English or any other language. Some are melancholy poems on
his lost Rosalind; some are satires on the clergy; one, "The Briar and the
Oak," is an allegory; one flatters Elizabeth, and others are pure fables
touched with the Puritan spirit. They are written in various styles and
meters, and show plainly that Spenser was practicing and preparing himself
for greater work.

Other noteworthy poems are "Mother Hubbard's Tale," a satire on society;
"Astrophel," an elegy on the death of Sidney; _Amoretti_, or sonnets, to
his Elizabeth; the marriage hymn, "Epithalamion," and four "Hymns," on
Love, Beauty, Heavenly Love, and Heavenly Beauty. There are numerous other
poems and collections of poems, but these show the scope of his work and
are best worth reading.

IMPORTANCE OF THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR. The publication of this work, in
1579, by an unknown writer who signed himself modestly "Immerito," marks an
important epoch in our literature. We shall appreciate this better if we
remember the long years during which England had been without a great poet.
Chaucer and Spenser are often studied together as poets of the Renaissance
period, and the idea prevails that they were almost contemporary. In fact,
nearly two centuries passed after Chaucer's death,--years of enormous
political and intellectual development,--and not only did Chaucer have no
successor but our language had changed so rapidly that Englishmen had lost
the ability to read his lines correctly.[125]

This first published work of Spenser is noteworthy in at least four
respects: first, it marks the appearance of the first national poet in two
centuries; second, it shows again the variety and melody of English verse,
which had been largely a tradition since Chaucer; third, it was our first
pastoral, the beginning of a long series of English pastoral compositions
modeled on Spenser, and as such exerted a strong influence on subsequent
literature; and fourth, it marks the real beginning of the outburst of
great Elizabethan poetry.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SPENSER'S POETRY. The five main qualities of Spenser's
poetry are (1) a perfect melody; (2) a rare sense of beauty; (3) a splendid
imagination, which could gather into one poem heroes, knights, ladies,
dwarfs, demons and dragons, classic mythology, stories of chivalry, and the
thronging ideals of the Renaissance,--all passing in gorgeous procession
across an ever-changing and ever-beautiful landscape; (4) a lofty moral
purity and seriousness; (5) a delicate idealism, which could make all
nature and every common thing beautiful. In contrast with these excellent
qualities the reader will probably note the strange appearance of his lines
due to his fondness for obsolete words, like _eyne_ (eyes) and _shend_
(shame), and his tendency to coin others, like _mercify_, to suit his own

It is Spenser's idealism, his love of beauty, and his exquisite melody
which have caused him to be known as "the poets' poet." Nearly all our
subsequent singers acknowledge their delight in him and their indebtedness.
Macaulay alone among critics voices a fault which all who are not poets
quickly feel, namely that, with all Spenser's excellences, he is difficult
to read. The modern man loses himself in the confused allegory of the
_Faery Queen_, skips all but the marked passages, and softly closes the
book in gentle weariness. Even the best of his longer poems, while of
exquisite workmanship and delightfully melodious, generally fail to hold
the reader's attention. The movement is languid; there is little dramatic
interest, and only a suggestion of humor. The very melody of his verses
sometimes grows monotonous, like a Strauss waltz too long continued. We
shall best appreciate Spenser by reading at first only a few well-chosen
selections from the _Faery Queen_ and the _Shepherd's Calendar_, and a few
of the minor poems which exemplify his wonderful melody.

remember that, though Spenser regarded Chaucer as his master, two centuries
intervene between them, and that their writings have almost nothing in
common. We shall appreciate this better by a brief comparison between our
first two modern poets.

Chaucer was a combined poet and man of affairs, with the latter
predominating. Though dealing largely with ancient or mediæval material, he
has a curiously modern way of looking at life. Indeed, he is our only
author preceding Shakespeare with whom we feel thoroughly at home. He threw
aside the outgrown metrical romance, which was practically the only form of
narrative in his day, invented the art of story-telling in verse, and
brought it to a degree of perfection which has probably never since been
equaled. Though a student of the classics, he lived wholly in the present,
studied the men and women of his own time, painted them as they were, but
added always a touch of kindly humor or romance to make them more
interesting. So his mission appears to be simply to amuse himself and his
readers. His mastery of various and melodious verse was marvelous and has
never been surpassed in our language; but the English of his day was
changing rapidly, and in a very few years men were unable to appreciate his
art, so that even to Spenser and Dryden, for example, he seemed deficient
in metrical skill. On this account his influence on our literature has been
much less than we should expect from the quality of his work and from his
position as one of the greatest of English poets.

Like Chaucer, Spenser was a busy man of affairs, but in him the poet and
the scholar always predominates. He writes as the idealist, describing men
not as they are but as he thinks they should be; he has no humor, and his
mission is not to amuse but to reform. Like Chaucer he studies the classics
and contemporary French and Italian writers; but instead of adapting his
material to present-day conditions, he makes poetry, as in his Eclogues for
instance, more artificial even than his foreign models. Where Chaucer looks
about him and describes life as he sees it, Spenser always looks backward
for his inspiration; he lives dreamily in the past, in a realm of purely
imaginary emotions and adventures. His first quality is imagination, not
observation, and he is the first of our poets to create a world of dreams,
fancies, and illusions. His second quality is a wonderful sensitiveness to
beauty, which shows itself not only in his subject-matter but also in the
manner of his poetry. Like Chaucer, he is an almost perfect workman; but in
reading Chaucer we think chiefly of his natural characters or his ideas,
while in reading Spenser we think of the beauty of expression. The
exquisite Spenserian stanza and the rich melody of Spenser's verse have
made him the model of all our modern poets.


Though Spenser is the one great non-dramatic poet of the Elizabethan Age, a
multitude of minor poets demand attention of the student who would
understand the tremendous literary activity of the period. One needs only
to read _The Paradyse of Daynty Devises_ (1576), or _A Gorgeous Gallery of
Gallant Inventions_ (1578), or any other of the miscellaneous collections
to find hundreds of songs, many of them of exquisite workmanship, by poets
whose names now awaken no response. A glance is enough to assure one that
over all England "the sweet spirit of song had arisen, like the first
chirping of birds after a storm." Nearly two hundred poets are recorded in
the short period from 1558 to 1625, and many of them were prolific writers.
In a work like this, we can hardly do more than mention a few of the best
known writers, and spend a moment at least with the works that suggest
Marlowe's description of "infinite riches in a little room." The reader
will note for himself the interesting union of action and thought in these
men, so characteristic of the Elizabethan Age; for most of them were
engaged chiefly in business or war or politics, and literature was to them
a pleasant recreation rather than an absorbing profession.

THOMAS SACKVILLE (1536-1608). Sir Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset and Lord
High Treasurer of England, is generally classed with Wyatt and Surrey among
the predecessors of the Elizabethan Age. In imitation of Dante's _Inferno_,
Sackville formed the design of a great poem called _The Mirror for
Magistrates_. Under guidance of an allegorical personage called Sorrow, he
meets the spirits of all the important actors in English history. The idea
was to follow Lydgate's _Fall of Princes_ and let each character tell his
own story; so that the poem would be a mirror in which present rulers might
see themselves and read this warning: "Who reckless rules right soon may
hope to rue." Sackville finished only the "Induction" and the "Complaint of
the Duke of Buckingham." These are written in the rime royal, and are
marked by strong poetic feeling and expression. Unfortunately Sackville
turned from poetry to politics, and the poem was carried on by two inferior
poets, William Baldwin and George Ferrers.

Sackville wrote also, in connection with Thomas Norton, the first English
tragedy, _Ferrex and Porrex_, called also _Gorboduc_, which will be
considered in the following section on the Rise of the Drama.

PHILIP SIDNEY (1554-1586). Sidney, the ideal gentleman, the Sir Calidore of
Spenser's "Legend of Courtesy," is vastly more interesting as a man than as
a writer, and the student is recommended to read his biography rather than
his books. His life expresses, better than any single literary work, the
two ideals of the age,--personal honor and national greatness.

As a writer he is known by three principal works, all published after his
death, showing how little importance he attached to his own writing, even
while he was encouraging Spenser. The _Arcadia_ is a pastoral romance,
interspersed with eclogues, in which shepherds and shepherdesses sing of
the delights of rural life. Though the work was taken up idly as a summer's
pastime, it became immensely popular and was imitated by a hundred poets.
The _Apologie for Poetrie_ (1595), generally called the _Defense of
Poesie_, appeared in answer to a pamphlet by Stephen Gosson called _The
School of Abuse_ (1579), in which the poetry of the age and its unbridled
pleasure were denounced with Puritan thoroughness and conviction. The
_Apologie_ is one of the first critical essays in English; and though its
style now seems labored and unnatural,--the pernicious result of Euphues
and his school,--it is still one of the best expressions of the place and
meaning of poetry in any language. _Astrophel and Stella_ is a collection
of songs and sonnets addressed to Lady Penelope Devereux, to whom Sidney
had once been betrothed. They abound in exquisite lines and passages,
containing more poetic feeling and expression than the songs of any other
minor writer of the age.

GEORGE CHAPMAN (1559?-1634). Chapman spent his long, quiet life among the
dramatists, and wrote chiefly for the stage. His plays, which were for the
most part merely poems in dialogue, fell far below the high dramatic
standard of his time and are now almost unread. His most famous work is the
metrical translation of the _Iliad_ (1611) and of the _Odyssey_ (1614).
Chapman's _Homer_, though lacking the simplicity and dignity of the
original, has a force and rapidity of movement which makes it superior in
many respects to Pope's more familiar translation. Chapman is remembered
also as the finisher of Marlowe's _Hero and Leander_, in which, apart from
the drama, the Renaissance movement is seen at perhaps its highest point in
English poetry. Out of scores of long poems of the period, _Hero and
Leander_ and the _Faery Queen_ are the only two which are even slightly
known to modern readers.

MICHAEL DRAYTON (1563-1631). Drayton is the most voluminous and, to
antiquarians at least, the most interesting of the minor poets. He is the
Layamon of the Elizabethan Age, and vastly more scholarly than his
predecessor. His chief work is _Polyolbion_, an enormous poem of many
thousand couplets, describing the towns, mountains, and rivers of Britain,
with the interesting legends connected with each. It is an extremely
valuable work and represents a lifetime of study and research. Two other
long works are the _Barons' Wars_ and the _Heroic Epistle of England;_ and
besides these were many minor poems. One of the best of these is the
"Battle of Agincourt," a ballad written in the lively meter which Tennyson
used with some variations in the "Charge of the Light Brigade," and which
shows the old English love of brave deeds and of the songs that stir a
people's heart in memory of noble ancestors.


THE ORIGIN OF THE DRAMA. First the deed, then the story, then the play;
that seems to be the natural development of the drama in its simplest form.
The great deeds of a people are treasured in its literature, and later
generations represent in play or pantomime certain parts of the story which
appeal most powerfully to the imagination. Among primitive races the deeds
of their gods and heroes are often represented at the yearly festivals; and
among children, whose instincts are not yet blunted by artificial habits,
one sees the story that was heard at bedtime repeated next day in vigorous
action, when our boys turn scouts and our girls princesses, precisely as
our first dramatists turned to the old legends and heroes of Britain for
their first stage productions. To act a part seems as natural to humanity
as to tell a story; and originally the drama is but an old story retold to
the eye, a story put into action by living performers, who for the moment
"make believe" or imagine themselves to be the old heroes.

To illustrate the matter simply, there was a great life lived by him who
was called the Christ. Inevitably the life found its way into literature,
and we have the Gospels. Around the life and literature sprang up a great
religion. Its worship was at first simple,--the common prayer, the evening
meal together, the remembered words of the Master, and the closing hymn.
Gradually a ritual was established, which grew more elaborate and
impressive as the centuries went by. Scenes from the Master's life began to
be represented in the churches, especially at Christmas time, when the
story of Christ's birth was made more effective, to the eyes of a people
who could not read, by a babe in a manger surrounded by magi and shepherds,
with a choir of angels chanting the _Gloria in Excelsis_.[126] Other
impressive scenes from the Gospel followed; then the Old Testament was
called upon, until a complete cycle of plays from the Creation to the Final
Judgment was established, and we have the Mysteries and Miracle plays of
the Middle Ages. Out of these came directly the drama of the Elizabethan


1. THE RELIGIOUS PERIOD. In Europe, as in Greece, the drama had a
distinctly religious origin.[127] The first characters were drawn from the
New Testament, and the object of the first plays was to make the church
service more impressive, or to emphasize moral lessons by showing the
reward of the good and the punishment of the evil doer. In the latter days
of the Roman Empire the Church found the stage possessed by frightful
plays, which debased the morals of a people already fallen too low. Reform
seemed impossible; the corrupt drama was driven from the stage, and plays
of every kind were forbidden. But mankind loves a spectacle, and soon the
Church itself provided a substitute for the forbidden plays in the famous
Mysteries and Miracles.

MIRACLE AND MYSTERY PLAYS. In France the name _miracle_ was given to any
play representing the lives of the saints, while the _mystère_ represented
scenes from the life of Christ or stories from the Old Testament associated
with the coming of Messiah. In England this distinction was almost unknown;
the name Miracle was used indiscriminately for all plays having their
origin in the Bible or in the lives of the saints; and the name Mystery, to
distinguish a certain class of plays, was not used until long after the
religious drama had passed away.

The earliest Miracle of which we have any record in England is the _Ludus
de Sancta Katharina_, which was performed in Dunstable about the year
1110.[128] It is not known who wrote the original play of St. Catherine,
but our first version was prepared by Geoffrey of St. Albans, a French
school-teacher of Dunstable. Whether or not the play was given in English
is not known, but it was customary in the earliest plays for the chief
actors to speak in Latin or French, to show their importance, while minor
and comic parts of the same play were given in English.

For four centuries after this first recorded play the Miracles increased
steadily in number and popularity in England. They were given first very
simply and impressively in the churches; then, as the actors increased in
number and the plays in liveliness, they overflowed to the churchyards; but
when fun and hilarity began to predominate even in the most sacred
representations, the scandalized priests forbade plays altogether on church
grounds. By the year 1300 the Miracles were out of ecclesiastical hands and
adopted eagerly by the town guilds; and in the following two centuries we
find the Church preaching against the abuse of the religious drama which it
had itself introduced, and which at first had served a purely religious
purpose.[129] But by this time the Miracles had taken strong hold upon the
English people, and they continued to be immensely popular until, in the
sixteenth century, they were replaced by the Elizabethan drama.

The early Miracle plays of England were divided into two classes: the
first, given at Christmas, included all plays connected with the birth of
Christ; the second, at Easter, included the plays relating to his death and
triumph. By the beginning of the fourteenth century all these plays were,
in various localities, united in single cycles beginning with the Creation
and ending with the Final Judgment. The complete cycle was presented every
spring, beginning on Corpus Christi day; and as the presentation of so many
plays meant a continuous outdoor festival of a week or more, this day was
looked forward to as the happiest of the whole year.

Probably every important town in England had its own cycle of plays for its
own guilds to perform, but nearly all have been lost. At the present day
only four cycles exist (except in the most fragmentary condition), and
these, though they furnish an interesting commentary on the times, add very
little to our literature. The four cycles are the Chester and York plays,
so called from the towns in which they were given; the Towneley or
Wakefield plays, named for the Towneley family, which for a long time owned
the manuscript; and the Coventry plays, which on doubtful evidence have
been associated with the Grey Friars (Franciscans) of Coventry. The Chester
cycle has 25 plays, the Wakefield 30, the Coventry 42, and the York 48. It
is impossible to fix either the date or the authorship of any of these
plays; we only know certainly that they were in great favor from the
twelfth to the sixteenth century. The York plays are generally considered
to be the best; but those of Wakefield show more humor and variety, and
better workmanship. The former cycle especially shows a certain unity
resulting from its aim to represent the whole of man's life from birth to
death. The same thing is noticeable in _Cursor Mundi_, which, with the York
and Wakefield cycles, belongs to the fourteenth century.

At first the actors as well as the authors of the Miracles were the priests
and their chosen assistants. Later, when The town guilds took up the plays
and each guild became responsible for one or more of the series, the actors
were carefully selected and trained. By four o'clock on the morning of
Corpus Christi all the players had to be in their places in the movable
theaters, which were scattered throughout the town in the squares and open
places. Each of these theaters consisted of a two-story platform, set on
wheels. The lower story was a dressing room for the actors; the upper story
was the stage proper, and was reached by a trapdoor from below. When the
play was over the platform was dragged away, and the next play in the cycle
took its place. So in a single square several plays would be presented in
rapid sequence to the same audience. Meanwhile the first play moved on to
another square, where another audience was waiting to hear it.

Though the plays were distinctly religious in character, there is hardly
one without its humorous element. In the play of Noah, for instance, Noah's
shrewish wife makes fun for the audience by wrangling with her husband. In
the Crucifixion play Herod is a prankish kind of tyrant who leaves the
stage to rant among the audience; so that to "out-herod Herod" became a
common proverb. In all the plays the devil is a favorite character and the
butt of every joke. He also leaves the stage to play pranks or frighten the
wondering children. On the side of the stage was often seen a huge dragon's
head with gaping red jaws, belching forth fire and smoke, out of which
poured a tumultuous troop of devils with clubs and pitchforks and gridirons
to punish the wicked characters and to drag them away at last, howling and
shrieking, into hell-mouth, as the dragon's head was called. So the fear of
hell was ingrained into an ignorant people for four centuries. Alternating
with these horrors were bits of rough horse-play and domestic scenes of
peace and kindliness, representing the life of the English fields and
homes. With these were songs and carols, like that of the Nativity, for

    As I out rode this enderes (last) night,
    Of three jolly shepherds I saw a sight,
    And all about their fold a star shone bright;
         They sang _terli terlow_,
    So merryly the shepherds their pipes can blow.
    Down from heaven, from heaven so high,
    Of angels there came a great companye
    With mirth, and joy, and great solemnitye;
         They sang _terli terlow_,
    So merryly the shepherds their pipes can blow.

Such songs were taken home by the audience and sung for a season, as a
popular tune is now caught from the stage and sung on the streets; and at
times the whole audience would very likely join in the chorus.

After these plays were written according to the general outline of the
Bible stories, no change was tolerated, the audience insisting, like
children at "Punch and Judy," upon seeing the same things year after year.
No originality in plot or treatment was possible, therefore; the only
variety was in new songs and jokes, and in the pranks of the devil.
Childish as such plays seem to us, they are part of the religious
development of all uneducated people. Even now the Persian play of the
"Martyrdom of Ali" is celebrated yearly, and the famous "Passion Play," a
true Miracle, is given every ten years at Oberammergau.

2. THE MORAL PERIOD OF THE DRAMA.[130] The second or moral period of the
drama is shown by the increasing prevalence of the Morality plays. In these
the characters were allegorical personages,--Life, Death, Repentance,
Goodness, Love, Greed, and other virtues and vices. The Moralities may be
regarded, therefore, as the dramatic counterpart of the once popular
allegorical poetry exemplified by the _Romance of the Rose_. It did not
occur to our first, unknown dramatists to portray men and women as they are
until they had first made characters of abstract human qualities.
Nevertheless, the Morality marks a distinct advance over the Miracle in
that it gave free scope to the imagination for new plots and incidents. In
Spain and Portugal these plays, under the name _auto_, were wonderfully
developed by the genius of Calderon and Gil Vicente; but in England the
Morality was a dreary kind of performance, like the allegorical poetry
which preceded it.

To enliven the audience the devil of the Miracle plays was introduced; and
another lively personage called the Vice was the predecessor of our modern
clown and jester. His business was to torment the "virtues" by mischievous
pranks, and especially to make the devil's life a burden by beating him
with a bladder or a wooden sword at every opportunity. The Morality
generally ended in the triumph of virtue, the devil leaping into hell-mouth
with Vice on his back.

The best known of the Moralities is "Everyman," which has recently been
revived in England and America. The subject of the play is the summoning of
every man by Death; and the moral is that nothing can take away the terror
of the inevitable summons but an honest life and the comforts of religion.
In its dramatic unity it suggests the pure Greek drama; there is no change
of time or scene, and the stage is never empty from the beginning to the
end of the performance. Other well-known Moralities are the "Pride of
Life," "Hyckescorner," and "Castell of Perseverance." In the latter, man is
represented as shut up in a castle garrisoned by the virtues and besieged
by the vices.

Like the Miracle plays, most of the old Moralities are of unknown date and
origin. Of the known authors of Moralities, two of the best are John
Skelton, who wrote "Magnificence," and probably also "The Necromancer"; and
Sir David Lindsay (1490-1555), "the poet of the Scotch Reformation," whose
religious business it was to make rulers uncomfortable by telling them
unpleasant truths in the form of poetry. With these men a new element
enters into the Moralities. They satirize or denounce abuses of Church and
State, and introduce living personages thinly disguised as allegories; so
that the stage first becomes a power in shaping events and correcting

THE INTERLUDES. It is impossible to draw any accurate line of distinction
between the Moralities and Interludes. In general we may think of the
latter as dramatic scenes, sometimes given by themselves (usually with
music and singing) at banquets and entertainments where a little fun was
wanted; and again slipped into a Miracle play to enliven the audience after
a solemn scene. Thus on the margin of a page of one of the old Chester
plays we read, "The boye and pigge when the kinges are gone." Certainly
this was no part of the original scene between Herod and the three kings.
So also the quarrel between Noah and his wife is probably a late addition
to an old play. The Interludes originated, undoubtedly, in a sense of
humor; and to John Heywood (1497?-1580?), a favorite retainer and jester at
the court of Mary, is due the credit for raising the Interlude to the
distinct dramatic form known as comedy.

Heywood's Interludes were written between 1520 and 1540. His most famous is
"The Four P's," a contest of wit between a "Pardoner, a Palmer, a Pedlar
and a Poticary." The characters here strongly suggest those of
Chaucer.[131] Another interesting Interlude is called "The Play of the
Weather." In this Jupiter and the gods assemble to listen to complaints
about the weather and to reform abuses. Naturally everybody wants his own
kind of weather. The climax is reached by a boy who announces that a boy's
pleasure consists in two things, catching birds and throwing snowballs, and
begs for the weather to be such that he can always do both. Jupiter decides
that he will do just as he pleases about the weather, and everybody goes
home satisfied.

All these early plays were written, for the most part, in a mingling of
prose and wretched doggerel, and add nothing to our literature. Their great
work was to train actors, to keep alive the dramatic spirit, and to prepare
the way for the true drama.

3. THE ARTISTIC PERIOD OF THE DRAMA. The artistic is the final stage in the
development of the English drama. It differs radically from the other two
in that its chief purpose is not to point a moral but to represent human
life as it is. The artistic drama may have purpose, no less than the
Miracle play, but the motive is always subordinate to the chief end of
representing life itself.

The first true play in English, with a regular plot, divided into acts and
scenes, is probably the comedy, "Ralph Royster Doyster." It was written by
Nicholas Udall, master of Eton, and later of Westminster school, and was
first acted by his schoolboys some time before 1556. The story is that of a
conceited fop in love with a widow, who is already engaged to another man.
The play is an adaptation of the _Miles Gloriosus_, a classic comedy by
Plautus, and the English characters are more or less artificial; but as
furnishing a model of a clear plot and natural dialogue, the influence of
this first comedy, with its mixture of classic and English elements, can
hardly be overestimated.

The next play, "Gammer Gurton's Needle" _(cir_. 1562), is a domestic
comedy, a true bit of English realism, representing the life of the peasant

Gammer Gurton is patching the leather breeches of her man Hodge, when Gib,
the cat, gets into the milk pan. While Gammer chases the cat the family
needle is lost, a veritable calamity in those days. The whole household is
turned upside down, and the neighbors are dragged into the affair. Various
comical situations are brought about by Diccon, a thieving vagabond, who
tells Gammer that her neighbor, Dame Chatte, has taken her needle, and who
then hurries to tell Dame Chatte that she is accused by Gammer of stealing
a favorite rooster. Naturally there is a terrible row when the two irate
old women meet and misunderstand each other. Diccon also drags Doctor Rat,
the curate, into the quarrel by telling him that, if he will but creep into
Dame Chatte's cottage by a hidden way, he will find her using the stolen
needle. Then Diccon secretly warns Dame Chatte that Gammer Gurton's man
Hodge is coming to steal her chickens; and the old woman hides in the dark
passage and cudgels the curate soundly with the door bar. All the parties
are finally brought before the justice, when Hodge suddenly and painfully
finds the lost needle--which is all the while stuck in his leather
breeches--and the scene ends uproariously for both audience and actors.

This first wholly English comedy is full of fun and coarse humor, and is
wonderfully true to the life it represents. It was long attributed to John
Still, afterwards bishop of Bath; but the authorship is now definitely
assigned to William Stevenson.[132] Our earliest edition of the play was
printed in 1575; but a similar play called "Dyccon of Bedlam" was licensed
in 1552, twelve years before Shakespeare's birth.

To show the spirit and the metrical form of the play we give a fragment of
the boy's description of the dullard Hodge trying to light a fire on the
hearth from the cat's eyes, and another fragment of the old drinking song
at the beginning of the second act.

    At last in a dark corner two sparkes he thought he sees
    Which were, indede, nought els but Gyb our cat's two eyes.
    "Puffe!" quod Hodge, thinking therby to have fyre without doubt;
    With that Gyb shut her two eyes, and so the fyre was out.
    And by-and-by them opened, even as they were before;
    With that the sparkes appeared, even as they had done of yore.
    And, even as Hodge blew the fire, as he did thincke,
    Gyb, as she felt the blast, strayght-way began to wyncke,
    Tyll Hodge fell of swering, as came best to his turne,
    The fier was sure bewicht, and therfore wold not burne.
    At last Gyb up the stayers, among the old postes and pinnes,
    And Hodge he hied him after till broke were both his shinnes,
    Cursynge and swering othes, were never of his makyng,
    That Gyb wold fyre the house if that shee were not taken.

        _Fyrste a Songe:_
    _Backe and syde, go bare, go bare;
      Booth foote and hande, go colde;
    But, bellye, God sende thee good ale ynoughe,
      Whether it be newe or olde_!
    I can not eate but lytle meate,
      My stomacke is not good;
    But sure I thinke that I can dryncke
      With him that weares a hood.
    Thoughe I go bare, take ye no care,
      I am nothinge a-colde,
    I stuffe my skyn so full within
      Of ioly good ale and olde.
    _Backe and syde, go bare_, etc.

Our first tragedy, "Gorboduc," was written by Thomas Sackville and Thomas
Norton, and was acted in 1562, only two years before the birth of
Shakespeare. It is remarkable not only as our first tragedy, but as the
first play to be written in blank verse, the latter being most significant,
since it started the drama into the style of verse best suited to the
genius of English playwrights.

The story of "Gorboduc" is taken from the early annals of Britain and
recalls the story used by Shakespeare in _King Lear_. Gorboduc, king of
Britain, divides his kingdom between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. The sons
quarrel, and Porrex, the younger, slays his brother, who is the queen's
favorite. Videna, the queen, slays Porrex in revenge; the people rebel and
slay Videna and Gorboduc; then the nobles kill the rebels, and in turn fall
to fighting each other. The line of Brutus being extinct with the death of
Gorboduc, the country falls into anarchy, with rebels, nobles, and a
Scottish invader all fighting for the right of succession. The curtain
falls upon a scene of bloodshed and utter confusion.

The artistic finish of this first tragedy is marred by the authors' evident
purpose to persuade Elizabeth to marry. It aims to show the danger to which
England is exposed by the uncertainty of succession. Otherwise the plan of
the play follows the classical rule of Seneca. There is very little action
on the stage; bloodshed and battle are announced by a messenger; and the
chorus, of four old men of Britain, sums up the situation with a few moral
observations at the end of each of the first four acts.

CLASSICAL INFLUENCE UPON THE DRAMA. The revival of Latin literature had a
decided influence upon the English drama as it developed from the Miracle
plays. In the fifteenth century English teachers, in order to increase the
interest in Latin, began to let their boys act the plays which they had
read as literature, precisely as our colleges now present Greek or German
plays at the yearly festivals. Seneca was the favorite Latin author, and
all his tragedies were translated into English between 1559 and 1581. This
was the exact period in which the first English playwrights were shaping
their own ideas; but the severe simplicity of the classical drama seemed at
first only to hamper the exuberant English spirit. To understand this, one
has only to compare a tragedy of Seneca or of Euripides with one of
Shakespeare, and see how widely the two masters differ in methods.

In the classic play the so-called dramatic unities of time, place, and
action were strictly observed. Time and place must remain the same; the
play could represent a period of only a few hours, and whatever action was
introduced must take place at the spot where the play began. The
characters, therefore, must remain unchanged throughout; there was no
possibility of the child becoming a man, or of the man's growth with
changing circumstances. As the play was within doors, all vigorous action
was deemed out of place on the stage, and battles and important events were
simply announced by a messenger. The classic drama also drew a sharp line
between tragedy and comedy, all fun being rigorously excluded from serious

The English drama, on the other hand, strove to represent the whole sweep
of life in a single play. The scene changed rapidly; the same actors
appeared now at home, now at court, now on the battlefield; and vigorous
action filled the stage before the eyes of the spectators. The child of one
act appeared as the man of the next, and the imagination of the spectator
was called upon to bridge the gaps from place to place and from year to
year. So the dramatist had free scope to present all life in a single place
and a single hour. Moreover, since the world is always laughing and always
crying at the same moment, tragedy and comedy were presented side by side,
as they are in life itself. As Hamlet sings, after the play that amused the
court but struck the king with deadly fear:

    Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
    The hart ungalled play;
    For some must watch, while some must sleep:
    So runs the world away.

Naturally, with these two ideals struggling to master the English drama,
two schools of writers arose. The University Two Schools Wits, as men of
learning were called, generally of Drama upheld the classical ideal, and
ridiculed the crude-ness of the new English plays. Sackville and Norton
were of this class, and "Gorboduc" was classic in its construction. In the
"Defense of Poesie" Sidney upholds the classics and ridicules the too
ambitious scope of the English drama. Against these were the popular
playwrights, Lyly, Peele, Greene, Marlowe, and many others, who recognized
the English love of action and disregarded the dramatic unities in their
endeavor to present life as it is. In the end the native drama prevailed,
aided by the popular taste which had been trained by four centuries of
Miracles. Our first plays, especially of the romantic type, were extremely
crude and often led to ridiculously extravagant scenes; and here is where
the classic drama exercised an immense influence for good, by insisting
upon beauty of form and definiteness of structure at a time when the
tendency was to satisfy a taste for stage spectacles without regard to

In the year 1574 a royal permit to Lord Leicester's actors allowed them "to
give plays anywhere throughout our realm of England," and this must be
regarded as the beginning of the regular drama. Two years later the first
playhouse, known as "The Theater," was built for these actors by James
Burbage in Finsbury Fields, just north of London. It was in this theater
that Shakespeare probably found employment when he first came to the city.
The success of this venture was immediate, and the next thirty years saw a
score of theatrical companies, at least seven regular theaters, and a dozen
or more inn yards permanently fitted for the giving of plays,--all
established in the city and its immediate suburbs. The growth seems all the
more remarkable when we remember that the London of those days would now be
considered a small city, having (in 1600) only about a hundred thousand

A Dutch traveler, Johannes de Witt, who visited London in 1596, has given
us the only contemporary drawing we possess of the interior of one of these
theaters. They were built of stone and wood, round or octagonal in shape,
and without a roof, being simply an inclosed courtyard. At one side was the
stage, and before it on the bare ground, or pit, stood that large part of
the audience who could afford to pay only an admission fee. The players and
these groundlings were exposed to the weather; those that paid for seats
were in galleries sheltered by a narrow porch-roof projecting inwards from
the encircling walls; while the young nobles and gallants, who came to be
seen and who could afford the extra fee, took seats on the stage itself,
and smoked and chaffed the actors and threw nuts at the groundlings.[133]
The whole idea of these first theaters, according to De Witt, was like that
of the Roman amphitheater; and the resemblance was heightened by the fact
that, when no play was on the boards, the stage might be taken away and the
pit given over to bull and bear baiting.

In all these theaters, probably, the stage consisted of a bare platform,
with a curtain or "traverse" across the middle, separating the front from
the rear stage. On the latter unexpected scenes or characters were
"discovered" by simply drawing the curtain aside. At first little or no
scenery was used, a gilded sign being the only announcement of a change of
scene; and this very lack of scenery led to better acting, since the actors
must be realistic enough to make the audience forget its shabby
surroundings.[134] By Shakespeare's day, however, painted scenery had
appeared, first at university plays, and then in the regular theaters.[135]
In all our first plays female parts were taken by boy actors, who evidently
were more distressing than the crude scenery, for contemporary literature
has many satirical references to their acting,[136] and even the tolerant
Shakespeare writes:

    Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness.

However that may be, the stage was deemed unfit for women, and actresses
were unknown in England until after the Restoration.

SHAKESPEARE'S PREDECESSORS IN THE DRAMA. The English drama as it developed
from the Miracle plays has an interesting history. It began with
schoolmasters, like Udall, who translated and adapted Latin plays for their
boys to act, and who were naturally governed by classic ideals. It was
continued by the choir masters of St. Paul and the Royal and the Queen's
Chapel, whose companies of choir-boy actors were famous in London and
rivaled the players of the regular theaters.[137] These choir masters were
our first stage managers. They began with masques and interludes and the
dramatic presentation of classic myths modeled after the Italians; but some
of them, like Richard Edwards (choir master of the Queen's Chapel in 1561),
soon added farces from English country life and dramatized some of
Chaucer's stories. Finally, the regular playwrights, Kyd, Nash, Lyly,
Peele, Greene, and Marlowe, brought the English drama to the point where
Shakespeare began to experiment upon it.

Each of these playwrights added or emphasized some essential element in the
drama, which appeared later in the work of Shakespeare. Thus John Lyly
(1554?-1606), who is now known chiefly as having developed the pernicious
literary style called euphuism,[138] is one of the most influential of the
early dramatists. His court comedies are remarkable for their witty
dialogue and for being our first plays to aim definitely at unity and
artistic finish. Thomas Kyd's _Spanish Tragedy_ (_c._ 1585) first gives us
the drama, or rather the melodrama, of passion, copied by Marlowe and
Shakespeare. This was the most popular of the early Elizabethan plays; it
was revised again and again, and Ben Jonson is said to have written one
version and to have acted the chief part of Hieronimo.[139] And Robert
Greene (1558?-1592) plays the chief part in the early development of
romantic comedy, and gives us some excellent scenes of English country life
in plays like _Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay_.

Even a brief glance at the life and work of these first playwrights shows
three noteworthy things which have a bearing on Shakespeare's career: (1)
These men were usually actors as well as dramatists. They knew the stage
and the audience, and in writing their plays they remembered not only the
actor's part but also the audience's love for stories and brave spectacles.
"Will it act well, and will it please our audience," were the questions of
chief concern to our early dramatists. (2) Their training began as actors;
then they revised old plays, and finally became independent writers. In
this their work shows an exact parallel with that of Shakespeare. (3) They
often worked together, probably as Shakespeare worked with Marlowe and
Fletcher, either in revising old plays or in creating new ones. They had a
common store of material from which they derived their stories and
characters, hence their frequent repetition of names; and they often
produced two or more plays on the same subject. Much of Shakespeare's work
depends, as we shall see, on previous plays; and even his _Hamlet_ uses the
material of an earlier play of the same name, probably by Kyd, which was
well known to the London stage in 1589, some twelve years before
Shakespeare's great work was written.

All these things are significant, if we are to understand the Elizabethan
drama and the man who brought it to perfection. Shakespeare was not simply
a great genius; he was also a great worker, and he developed in exactly the
same way as did all his fellow craftsmen. And, contrary to the prevalent
opinion, the Elizabethan drama is not a Minerva-like creation, springing
full grown from the head of one man; it is rather an orderly though rapid
development, in which many men bore a part. All our early dramatists are
worthy of study for the part they played in the development of the drama;
but we can here consider only one, the most typical of all, whose best work
is often ranked with that of Shakespeare.


Marlowe is one of the most suggestive figures of the English Renaissance,
and the greatest of Shakespeare's predecessors. The glory of the
Elizabethan drama dates from his _Tamburlaine_ (1587), wherein the whole
restless temper of the age finds expression:

    Nature, that framed us of four elements
    Warring within our breasts for regiment,
    Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds:
    Our souls--whose faculties can comprehend
    The wondrous architecture of the world,
    And measure every wandering planet's course,
    Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
    And always moving as the restless spheres--
    Will us to wear ourselves and never rest.
    _Tamburlaine_, Pt. I, II, vii.

Life. Marlowe was born in Canterbury, only a few months before Shakespeare.
He was the son of a poor shoemaker, but through the kindness of a patron
was educated at the town grammar school and then at Cambridge. When he came
to London (_c._ 1584), his soul was surging with the ideals of the
Renaissance, which later found expression in Faustus, the scholar longing
for unlimited knowledge and for power to grasp the universe. Unfortunately,
Marlowe had also the unbridled passions which mark the early, or Pagan
Renaissance, as Taine calls it, and the conceit of a young man just
entering the realms of knowledge. He became an actor and lived in a
low-tavern atmosphere of excess and wretchedness. In 1587, when but
twenty-three years old, he produced _Tamburlaine_, which brought him
instant recognition. Thereafter, notwithstanding his wretched life, he
holds steadily to a high literary purpose. Though all his plays abound in
violence, no doubt reflecting many of the violent scenes in which he lived,
he develops his "mighty line" and depicts great scenes in magnificent
bursts of poetry, such as the stage had never heard before. In five years,
while Shakespeare was serving his apprenticeship, Marlowe produced all his
great work. Then he was stabbed in a drunken brawl and died wretchedly, as
he had lived. The Epilogue of _Faustus_ might be written across his

    Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
    And burned is Apollo's laurel bough
    That sometime grew within this learnéd man.

MARLOWE'S WORKS. In addition to the poem "Hero and Leander," to which we
have referred,[140] Marlowe is famous for four dramas, now known as the
Marlowesque or one-man type of tragedy, each revolving about one central
personality who is consumed by the lust of power. The first of these is
_Tamburlaine_, the story of Timur the Tartar. Timur begins as a shepherd
chief, who first rebels and then triumphs over the Persian king.
Intoxicated by his success, Timur rushes like a tempest over the whole
East. Seated on his chariot drawn by captive kings, with a caged emperor
before him, he boasts of his power which overrides all things. Then,
afflicted with disease, he raves against the gods and would overthrow them
as he has overthrown earthly rulers. _Tamburlaine_ is an epic rather than a
drama; but one can understand its instant success with a people only half
civilized, fond of military glory, and the instant adoption of its "mighty
line" as the instrument of all dramatic expression.

_Faustus_, the second play, is one of the best of Marlowe's works.[141] The
story is that of a scholar who longs for infinite knowledge, and who turns
from Theology, Philosophy, Medicine, and Law, the four sciences of the
time, to the study of magic, much as a child might turn from jewels to
tinsel and colored paper. In order to learn magic he sells himself to the
devil, on condition that he shall have twenty-four years of absolute power
and knowledge. The play is the story of those twenty-four years. Like
_Tamburlaine_, it is lacking in dramatic construction,[142] but has an
unusual number of passages of rare poetic beauty. Milton's Satan suggests
strongly that the author of _Paradise Lost_ had access to _Faustus_ and
used it, as he may also have used _Tamburlaine_, for the magnificent
panorama displayed by Satan in _Paradise Regained_. For instance, more than
fifty years before Milton's hero says, "Which way I turn is hell, myself am
hell," Marlowe had written:

    _Faust_. How comes it then that thou art out of hell?
    _Mephisto_. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
           *       *       *       *       *
        Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
        In one self place; for where we are is hell,
        And where hell is there must we ever be.

Marlowe's third play is _The Jew of Malta_, a study of the lust for wealth,
which centers about Barabas, a terrible old money lender, strongly
suggestive of Shylock in _The Merchant of Venice_. The first part of the
play is well constructed, showing a decided advance, but the last part is
an accumulation of melodramatic horrors. Barabas is checked in his
murderous career by falling into a boiling caldron which he had prepared
for another, and dies blaspheming, his only regret being that he has not
done more evil in his life.

Marlowe's last play is _Edward II_, a tragic study of a king's weakness and
misery. In point of style and dramatic construction, it is by far the best
of Marlowe's plays, and is a worthy predecessor of Shakespeare's historical

Marlowe is the only dramatist of the time who is ever compared with
Shakespeare.[143] When we remember that he died at twenty-nine, probably
before Shakespeare had produced a single great play, we must wonder what he
might have done had he outlived his wretched youth and become a man. Here
and there his work is remarkable for its splendid imagination, for the
stateliness of its verse, and for its rare bits of poetic beauty; but in
dramatic instinct, in wide knowledge of human life, in humor, in
delineation of woman's character, in the delicate fancy which presents an
Ariel as perfectly as a Macbeth,--in a word, in all that makes a dramatic
genius, Shakespeare stands alone. Marlowe simply prepared the way for the
master who was to follow.

VARIETY OF THE EARLY DRAMA. The thirty years between our first regular
English plays and Shakespeare's first comedy[144] witnessed a development
of the drama which astonishes us both by its rapidity and variety. We shall
better appreciate Shakespeare's work if we glance for a moment at the plays
that preceded him, and note how he covers the whole field and writes almost
every form and variety of the drama known to his age.

First in importance, or at least in popular interest, are the new Chronicle
plays, founded upon historical events and characters. They show the strong
national spirit of the Elizabethan Age, and their popularity was due
largely to the fact that audiences came to the theaters partly to gratify
their awakened national spirit and to get their first knowledge of national
history. Some of the Moralities, like Bayle's _King Johan_ (1538), are
crude Chronicle plays, and the early Robin Hood plays and the first
tragedy, _Gorboduc_, show the same awakened popular interest in English
history. During the reign of Elizabeth the popular Chronicle plays
increased till we have the record of over two hundred and twenty, half of
which are still extant, dealing with almost every important character, real
or legendary, in English history. Of Shakespeare's thirty-seven dramas, ten
are true Chronicle plays of English kings; three are from the legendary
annals of Britain; and three more are from the history of other nations.

Other types of the early drama are less clearly defined, but we may sum
them up under a few general heads: (1) The Domestic Drama began with crude
home scenes introduced into the Miracles and developed in a score of
different ways, from the coarse humor of _Gammer Gurton's Needle_ to the
Comedy of Manners of Jonson and the later dramatists. Shakespeare's _Taming
of the Shrew_ and _Merry Wives of Windsor_ belong to this class. (2) The
so-called Court Comedy is the opposite of the former in that it represented
a different kind of life and was intended for a different audience. It was
marked by elaborate dialogue, by jests, retorts, and endless plays on
words, rather than by action. It was made popular by Lyly's success, and
was imitated in Shakespeare's first or "Lylian" comedies, such as _Love's
Labour's Lost_, and the complicated _Two Gentlemen of Verona_. (3) Romantic
Comedy and Romantic Tragedy suggest the most artistic and finished types of
the drama, which were experimented upon by Peele, Greene, and Marlowe, and
were brought to perfection in _The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet_,
and _The Tempest_. (4) In addition to the above types were several
others,--the Classical Plays, modeled upon Seneca and favored by cultivated
audiences; the Melodrama, favorite of the groundlings, which depended not
on plot or characters but upon a variety of striking scenes and incidents;
and the Tragedy of Blood, always more or less melodramatic, like Kyd's
_Spanish Tragedy_, which grew more blood-and-thundery in Marlowe and
reached a climax of horrors in Shakespeare's _Titus Andronicus_. It is
noteworthy that _Hamlet, Lear_, and _Macbeth_ all belong to this class, but
the developed genius of the author raised them to a height such as the
Tragedy of Blood had never known before.

These varied types are quite enough to show with what doubtful and unguided
experiments our first dramatists were engaged, like men first setting out
in rafts and dugouts on an unknown sea. They are the more interesting when
we remember that Shakespeare tried them all; that he is the only dramatist
whose plays cover the whole range of the drama from its beginning to its
decline. From the stage spectacle he developed the drama of human life; and
instead of the doggerel and bombast of our first plays he gives us the
poetry of _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Midsummer Night's Dream_. In a word,
Shakespeare brought order out of dramatic chaos. In a few short years he
raised the drama from a blundering experiment to a perfection of form and
expression which has never since been rivaled.


One who reads a few of Shakespeare's great plays and then the meager story
of his life is generally filled with a vague wonder. Here is an unknown
country boy, poor and poorly educated according to the standards of his
age, who arrives at the great city of London and goes to work at odd jobs
in a theater. In a year or two he is associated with scholars and
dramatists, the masters of their age, writing plays of kings and clowns, of
gentlemen and heroes and noble women, all of whose lives he seems to know
by intimate association. In a few years more he leads all that brilliant
group of poets and dramatists who have given undying glory to the Age of
Elizabeth. Play after play runs from his pen, mighty dramas of human life
and character following one another so rapidly that good work seems
impossible; yet they stand the test of time, and their poetry is still
unrivaled in any language. For all this great work the author apparently
cares little, since he makes no attempt to collect or preserve his
writings. A thousand scholars have ever since been busy collecting,
identifying, classifying the works which this magnificent workman tossed
aside so carelessly when he abandoned the drama and retired to his native
village. He has a marvelously imaginative and creative mind; but he invents
few, if any, new plots or stories. He simply takes an old play or an old
poem, makes it over quickly, and lo! this old familiar material glows with
the deepest thoughts and the tenderest feelings that ennoble our humanity;
and each new generation of men finds it more wonderful than the last. How
did he do it? That is still an unanswered question and the source of our

There are, in general, two theories to account for Shakespeare. The
romantic school of writers have always held that in him "all came from
within"; that his genius was his sufficient guide; and that to the
overmastering power of his genius alone we owe all his great works.
Practical, unimaginative men, on the other hand, assert that in Shakespeare
"all came from without," and that we must study his environment rather than
his genius, if we are to understand him. He lived in a play-loving age; he
studied the crowds, gave them what they wanted, and simply reflected their
own thoughts and feelings. In reflecting the English crowd about him he
unconsciously reflected all crowds, which are alike in all ages; hence his
continued popularity. And in being guided by public sentiment he was not
singular, but followed the plain path that every good dramatist has always
followed to success.

Probably the truth of the matter is to be found somewhere between these two
extremes. Of his great genius there can be no question; but there are other
things to consider. As we have already noticed, Shakespeare was trained,
like his fellow workmen, first as an actor, second as a reviser of old
plays, and last as an independent dramatist. He worked with other
playwrights and learned their secret. Like them, he studied and followed
the public taste, and his work indicates at least three stages, from his
first somewhat crude experiments to his finished masterpieces. So it would
seem that in Shakespeare we have the result of hard work and of orderly
human development, quite as much as of transcendent genius.

LIFE (1564-1616). Two outward influences were powerful in developing the
genius of Shakespeare,--the little village of Stratford, center of the most
beautiful and romantic district in rural England, and the great city of
London, the center of the world's political activity. In one he learned to
know the natural man in his natural environment; in the other, the social,
the artificial man in the most unnatural of surroundings.

From the register of the little parish church at Stratford-on-Avon we learn
that William Shakespeare was baptized there on the twenty-sixth of April,
1564 (old style). As it was customary to baptize children on the third day
after birth, the twenty-third of April (May 3, according to our present
calendar) is generally accepted as the poet's birthday.

His father, John Shakespeare, was a farmer's son from the neighboring
village of Snitterfield, who came to Stratford about 1551, and began to
prosper as a trader in corn, meat, leather, and other agricultural
products. His mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a prosperous farmer,
descended from an old Warwickshire family of mixed Anglo-Saxon and Norman
blood. In 1559 this married couple sold a piece of land, and the document
is signed, "The marke + of John Shacksper. The marke + of Mary Shacksper";
and from this it has been generally inferred that, like the vast majority
of their countrymen, neither of the poet's parents could read or write.
This was probably true of his mother; but the evidence from Stratford
documents now indicates that his father could write, and that he also
audited the town accounts; though in attesting documents he sometimes made
a mark, leaving his name to be filled in by the one who drew up the

Of Shakespeare's education we know little, except that for a few years he
probably attended the endowed grammar school at Stratford, where he picked
up the "small Latin and less Greek" to which his learned friend Ben Jonson
refers. His real teachers, meanwhile, were the men and women and the
natural influences which surrounded him. Stratford is a charming little
village in beautiful Warwickshire, and near at hand were the Forest of
Arden, the old castles of Warwick and Kenilworth, and the old Roman camps
and military roads, to appeal powerfully to the boy's lively imagination.
Every phase of the natural beauty of this exquisite region is reflected in
Shakespeare's poetry; just as his characters reflect the nobility and the
littleness, the gossip, vices, emotions, prejudices, and traditions of the
people about him.

    I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
    The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
    With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
    Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
    Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste
    Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,
    Told of a many thousand warlike French
    That were embattailed and ranked in Kent.[145]

Such passages suggest not only genius but also a keen, sympathetic
observer, whose eyes see every significant detail. So with the nurse in
_Romeo and Juliet_, whose endless gossip and vulgarity cannot quite hide a
kind heart. She is simply the reflection of some forgotten nurse with whom
Shakespeare had talked by the wayside.

Not only the gossip but also the dreams, the unconscious poetry that sleeps
in the heart of the common people, appeal tremendously to Shakespeare's
imagination and are reflected in his greatest plays. Othello tries to tell
a curt soldier's story of his love; but the account is like a bit of
Mandeville's famous travels, teeming with the fancies that filled men's
heads when the great round world was first brought to their attention by
daring explorers. Here is a bit of folklore, touched by Shakespeare's
exquisite fancy, which shows what one boy listened to before the fire at

                               She comes
    In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
    On the fore-finger of an alderman,
    Drawn with a team of little atomies
    Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
    Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
    The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
    The traces of the smallest spider's web,
    The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
    Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
    Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
           *       *       *       *       *
    Her chariot is an empty hazel nut
    Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
    Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
    And in this state she gallops night by night
    Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
           *       *       *       *       *
    O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
    O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream.[146]

So with Shakespeare's education at the hands of Nature, which came from
keeping his heart as well as his eyes wide open to the beauty of the world.
He speaks of a horse, and we know the fine points of a thoroughbred; he
mentions the duke's hounds, and we hear them clamoring on a fox trail,
their voices matched like bells in the frosty air; he stops for an instant
in the sweep of a tragedy to note a flower, a star, a moonlit bank, a
hilltop touched by the sunrise, and instantly we know what our own hearts
felt but could not quite express when we saw the same thing. Because he
notes and remembers every significant thing in the changing panorama of
earth and sky, no other writer has ever approached him in the perfect
natural setting of his characters.

When Shakespeare was about fourteen years old his father lost his little
property and fell into debt, and the boy probably left school to help
support the family of younger children. What occupation he followed for the
next eight years is a matter of conjecture. From evidence found in his
plays, it is alleged with some show of authority that he was a country
schoolmaster and a lawyer's clerk, the character of Holofernes, in _Love's
Labour's Lost_, being the warrant for one, and Shakespeare's knowledge of
law terms for the other. But if we take such evidence, then Shakespeare
must have been a botanist, because of his knowledge of wild flowers; a
sailor, because he knows the ropes; a courtier, because of his
extraordinary facility in quips and compliments and courtly language; a
clown, because none other is so dull and foolish; a king, because Richard
and Henry are true to life; a woman, because he has sounded the depths of a
woman's feelings; and surely a Roman, because in _Coriolanus_ and _Julius
Cæsar_ he has shown us the Roman spirit better than have the Roman writers
themselves. He was everything, in his imagination, and it is impossible
from a study of his scenes and characters to form a definite opinion as to
his early occupation.

In 1582 Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a peasant
family of Shottery, who was eight years older than her boy husband. From
numerous sarcastic references to marriage made by the characters in his
plays, and from the fact that he soon left his wife and family and went to
London, it is generally alleged that the marriage was a hasty and unhappy
one; but here again the evidence is entirely untrustworthy. In many
Miracles as well as in later plays it was customary to depict the seamy
side of domestic life for the amusement of the crowd; and Shakespeare may
have followed the public taste in this as he did in other things. The
references to love and home and quiet joys in Shakespeare's plays are
enough, if we take such evidence, to establish firmly the opposite
supposition, that his love was a very happy one. And the fact that, after
his enormous success in London, he retired to Stratford to live quietly
with his wife and daughters, tends to the same conclusion.

About the year 1587 Shakespeare left his family and went to London and
joined himself to Burbage's company of players. A persistent tradition says
that he had incurred the anger of Sir Thomas Lucy, first by poaching deer
in that nobleman's park, and then, when haled before a magistrate, by
writing a scurrilous ballad about Sir Thomas, which so aroused the old
gentleman's ire that Shakespeare was obliged to flee the country. An old
record[147] says that the poet "was much given to all unluckiness in
stealing venison and rabbits," the unluckiness probably consisting in
getting caught himself, and not in any lack of luck in catching the
rabbits. The ridicule heaped upon the Lucy family in _Henry IV_ and the
_Merry Wives of Windsor_ gives some weight to this tradition. Nicholas
Rowe, who published the first life of Shakespeare,[148] is the authority
for this story; but there is some reason to doubt whether, at the time when
Shakespeare is said to have poached in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy at
Charlescote, there were any deer or park at the place referred to. The
subject is worthy of some scant attention, if only to show how worthless is
the attempt to construct out of rumor the story of a great life which,
fortunately perhaps, had no contemporary biographer.

Of his life in London from 1587 to 1611, the period of his greatest
literary activity, we know nothing definitely. We can judge only from his
plays, and from these it is evident that he entered into the stirring life
of England's capital with the same perfect sympathy and understanding that
marked him among the plain people of his native Warwickshire. The first
authentic reference to him is in 1592, when Greene's[149] bitter attack
appeared, showing plainly that Shakespeare had in five years assumed an
important position among playwrights. Then appeared the apology of the
publishers of Greene's pamphlet, with their tribute to the poet's sterling
character, and occasional literary references which show that he was known
among his fellows as "the gentle Shakespeare." Ben Jonson says of him: "I
loved the man and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as
any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature." To judge from
only three of his earliest plays[150] it would seem reasonably evident that
in the first five years of his London life he had gained entrance to the
society of gentlemen and scholars, had caught their characteristic
mannerisms and expressions, and so was ready by knowledge and observation
as well as by genius to weave into his dramas the whole stirring life of
the English people. The plays themselves, with the testimony of
contemporaries and his business success, are strong evidence against the
tradition that his life in London was wild and dissolute, like that of the
typical actor and playwright of his time.

Shakespeare's first work may well have been that of a general helper, an
odd-job man, about the theater; but he soon became an actor, and the
records of the old London theaters show that in the next ten years he
gained a prominent place, though there is little reason to believe that he
was counted among the "stars." Within two years he was at work on plays,
and his course here was exactly like that of other playwrights of his time.
He worked with other men, and he revised old plays before writing his own,
and so gained a practical knowledge of his art. _Henry VI _(_c_. 1590-1591)
is an example of this tinkering work, in which, however, his native power
is unmistakably manifest. The three parts of _Henry VI_ (and _Richard III_,
which belongs with them) are a succession of scenes from English Chronicle
history strung together very loosely; and only in the last is there any
definite attempt at unity. That he soon fell under Marlowe's influence is
evident from the atrocities and bombast of _Titus Andronicus_ and _Richard
III_. The former may have been written by both playwrights in
collaboration, or may be one of Marlowe's horrors left unfinished by his
early death and brought to an end by Shakespeare. He soon broke away from
this apprentice work, and then appeared in rapid succession _Love's
Labour's Lost, Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona_, the first
English Chronicle plays,[151] _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, and _Romeo and
Juliet_. This order is more or less conjectural; but the wide variety of
these plays, as well as their unevenness and frequent crudities, marks the
first or experimental stage of Shakespeare's work. It is as if the author
were trying his power, or more likely trying the temper of his audience.
For it must be remembered that to please his audience was probably the
ruling motive of Shakespeare, as of the other early dramatists, during the
most vigorous and prolific period of his career.

Shakespeare's poems, rather than his dramatic work, mark the beginning of
his success. "Venus and Adonis" became immensely popular in London, and its
dedication to the Earl of Southampton brought, according to tradition, a
substantial money gift, which may have laid the foundation for
Shakespeare's business success. He appears to have shrewdly invested his
money, and soon became part owner of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters, in
which his plays were presented by his own companies. His success and
popularity grew amazingly. Within a decade of his unnoticed arrival in
London he was one of the most famous actors and literary men in England.

Following his experimental work there came a succession of wonderful
plays,--_Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Julius Cæsar,
Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra_. The great
tragedies of this period are associated with a period of gloom and sorrow
in the poet's life; but of its cause we have no knowledge. It may have been
this unknown sorrow which turned his thoughts back to Stratford and caused,
apparently, a dissatisfaction with his work and profession; but the latter
is generally attributed to other causes. Actors and playwrights were in his
day generally looked upon with suspicion or contempt; and Shakespeare, even
in the midst of success, seems to have looked forward to the time when he
could retire to Stratford to live the life of a farmer and country
gentleman. His own and his father's families were first released from debt;
then, in 1597, he bought New Place, the finest house in Stratford, and soon
added a tract of farming land to complete his estate. His profession may
have prevented his acquiring the title of "gentleman," or he may have only
followed a custom of the time[152] when he applied for and obtained a coat
of arms for his father, and so indirectly secured the title by inheritance.
His home visits grew more and more frequent till, about the year 1611, he
left London and retired permanently to Stratford.

Though still in the prime of life, Shakespeare soon abandoned his dramatic
work for the comfortable life of a country gentleman. Of his later plays,
_Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Winter's Tale_, and _Pericles_ show a decided
falling off from his previous work, and indicate another period of
experimentation; this time not to test his own powers but to catch the
fickle humor of the public. As is usually the case with a theater-going
people, they soon turned from serious drama to sentimental or more
questionable spectacles; and with Fletcher, who worked with Shakespeare and
succeeded him as the first playwright of London, the decline of the drama
had already begun. In 1609, however, occurred an event which gave
Shakespeare his chance for a farewell to the public. An English ship
disappeared, and all on board were given up for lost. A year later the
sailors returned home, and their arrival created intense excitement. They
had been wrecked on the unknown Bermudas, and had lived there for ten
months, terrified by mysterious noises which they thought came from spirits
and devils. Five different accounts of this fascinating shipwreck were
published, and the Bermudas became known as the "Ile of Divels."
Shakespeare took this story--which caused as much popular interest as that
later shipwreck which gave us _Robinson Crusoe_--and wove it into _The
Tempest_. In the same year (1611) he probably sold his interest in the
Globe and Blackfriars theaters, and his dramatic work was ended. A few
plays were probably left unfinished[153] and were turned over to Fletcher
and other dramatists.

That Shakespeare thought little of his success and had no idea that his
dramas were the greatest that the world ever produced seems evident from
the fact that he made no attempt to collect or publish his works, or even
to save his manuscripts, which were carelessly left to stage managers of
the theaters, and so found their way ultimately to the ragman. After a few
years of quiet life, of which we have less record than of hundreds of
simple country gentlemen of the time, Shakespeare died on the probable
anniversary of his birth, April 23, 1616. He was given a tomb in the
chancel of the parish church, not because of his preëminence in literature,
but because of his interest in the affairs of a country village. And in the
sad irony of fate, the broad stone that covered his tomb--now an object of
veneration to the thousands that yearly visit the little church--was
inscribed as follows:

    Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
    To dig the dust enclosed heare;
    Bleste be the man that spares these stones,
    And curst be he that moves my bones.

This wretched doggerel, over the world's greatest poet, was intended, no
doubt, as a warning to some stupid sexton, lest he should empty the grave
and give the honored place to some amiable gentleman who had given more
tithes to the parish.

WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. At the time of Shakespeare's death twenty-one plays
existed in manuscripts in the various theaters. A few others had already
been printed in quarto form, and the latter are the only publications that
could possibly have met with the poet's own approval. More probably they
were taken down in shorthand by some listener at the play and then
"pirated" by some publisher for his own profit. The first printed
collection of his plays, now called the First Folio (1623), was made by two
actors, Heming and Condell, who asserted that they had access to the papers
of the poet and had made a perfect edition, "in order to keep the memory of
so worthy a friend and fellow alive." This contains thirty-six of the
thirty-seven plays generally attributed to Shakespeare, _Pericles_ being
omitted. This celebrated First Folio was printed from playhouse manuscripts
and from printed quartos containing many notes and changes by individual
actors and stage managers. Moreover, it was full of typographical errors,
though the editors alleged great care and accuracy; and so, though it is
the only authoritative edition we have, it is of little value in
determining the dates, or the classification of the plays as they existed
in Shakespeare's mind.

Notwithstanding this uncertainty, a careful reading of the plays and poems
leaves us with an impression of four different periods of work, probably
corresponding with the growth and experience of the poet's life. These are:
(1) a period of early experimentation. It is marked by youthfulness and
exuberance of imagination, by extravagance of language, and by the frequent
use of rimed couplets with his blank verse. The period dates from his
arrival in London to 1595. Typical works of this first period are his early
poems, _Love's Labour's Lost, Two Gentlemen of Verona_, and _Richard III_.
(2) A period of rapid growth and development, from 1595 to 1600. Such plays
as _The Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It_, and
_Henry IV_, all written in this period, show more careful and artistic
work, better plots, and a marked increase in knowledge of human nature. (3)
A period of gloom and depression, from 1600 to 1607, which marks the full
maturity of his powers. What caused this evident sadness is unknown; but it
is generally attributed to some personal experience, coupled with the
political misfortunes of his friends, Essex and Southampton. The _Sonnets_
with their note of personal disappointment, _Twelfth Night_, which is
Shakespeare's "farewell to mirth," and his great tragedies, _Hamlet, Lear,
Macbeth, Othello_, and _Julius Cæsar_, belong to this period. (4) A period
of restored serenity, of calm after storm, which marked the last years of
the poet's literary work. _The Winter's Tale_ and _The Tempest_ are the
best of his later plays; but they all show a falling off from his previous
work, and indicate a second period of experimentation with the taste of a
fickle public.

To read in succession four plays, taking a typical work from each of the
above periods, is one of the very best ways of getting quickly at the real
life and mind of Shakespeare. Following is a complete list with the
approximate dates of his works, classified according to the above four

First Period, Early Experiment. _Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece_, 1594;
_Titus Andronicus, Henry VI_ (three parts), 1590-1591; _Love's Labour's
Lost_, 1590; _Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona_, 1591-1592;
_Richard-III_, 1593; _Richard II, King John_, 1594-1595.

Second Period, Development. _Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream_,
1595; _Merchant of Venice, Henry IV_ (first part), 1596; _Henry IV_ (second
part), _Merry Wives of Windsor_, 1597; _Much Ado About Nothing_, 1598; _As
You Like It, Henry V_, 1599.

Third Period, Maturity and Gloom. _Sonnets_ (1600-?), _Twelfth Night_,
1600; _Taming of the Shrew, Julius Cæsar, Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida_,
1601-1602; _All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure_, 1603;
_Othello_, 1604; _King Lear_, 1605; _Macbeth_, 1606; _Antony and Cleopatra,
Timon of Athens_, 1607.

Fourth Period, Late Experiment. _Coriolanus, Pericles_, 1608; _Cymbeline_,
1609; _Winter's Tale_, 1610-1611; _The Tempest_, 1611; _Henry VIII_

CLASSIFICATION ACCORDING TO SOURCE. In history, legend, and story,
Shakespeare found the material for nearly all his dramas; and so they are
often divided into three classes, called historical plays, like _Richard
III_ and _Henry V;_ legendary or partly historical plays, like _Macbeth,
King Lear_, and _Julius Cæsar;_ and fictional plays, like _Romeo and
Juliet_ and _The Merchant of Venice_. Shakespeare invented few, if any, of
the plots or stories upon which his dramas are founded, but borrowed them
freely, after the custom of his age, wherever he found them. For his
legendary and historical material he depended, largely on _Holinshed's
Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland_, and on North's translation
of Plutarch's famous _Lives_.

A full half of his plays are fictional, and in these he used the most
popular romances of the day, seeming to depend most on the Italian
story-tellers. Only two or three of his plots, as in _Love's Labour's Lost_
and _Merry Wives of Windsor_, are said to be original, and even these are
doubtful. Occasionally Shakespeare made over an older play, as in _Henry
VI, Comedy of Errors_, and _Hamlet;_ and in one instance at least he seized
upon an incident of shipwreck in which London was greatly interested, and
made out of it the original and fascinating play of _The Tempest_, in much
the same spirit which leads our modern playwrights when they dramatize a
popular novel or a war story to catch the public fancy.

divided into three classes, called tragedies, comedies, and historical
plays. Strictly speaking the drama has but two divisions, tragedy and
comedy, in which are included the many subordinate forms of tragi-comedy,
melodrama, lyric drama (opera), farce, etc. A tragedy is a drama in which
the principal characters are involved in desperate circumstances or led by
overwhelming passions. It is invariably serious and dignified. The movement
is always stately, but grows more and more rapid as it approaches the
climax; and the end is always calamitous, resulting in death or dire
misfortune to the principals. As Chaucer's monk says, before he begins to
"biwayle in maner of tragedie":

    Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie
    Of him that stood in great prosperitee,
    And is y-fallen out of heigh degree
    Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.

A comedy, on the other hand, is a drama in which the characters are placed
in more or less humorous situations. The movement is light and often
mirthful, and the play ends in general good will and happiness. The
historical drama aims to present some historical age or character, and may
be either a comedy or a tragedy. The following list includes the best of
Shakespeare's plays in each of the three classes; but the order indicates
merely the author's personal opinion of the relative merits of the plays in
each class. Thus _Merchant of Venice_ would be the first of the comedies
for the beginner to read, and _Julius Cæsar_ is an excellent introduction
to the historical plays and the tragedies.

Comedies. _Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It,
Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Twelfth Night_.

Tragedies. _Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello_.

Historical Plays. _Julius Cæsar, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V,
Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra_.

DOUBTFUL PLAYS. It is reasonably certain that some of the plays generally
attributed to Shakespeare are partly the work of other dramatists. The
first of these doubtful plays, often called the Pre-Shakespearian Group,
are _Titus Andronicus_ and the first part of _Henry VI_. Shakespeare
probably worked with Marlowe in the two last parts of _Henry VI_ and in
_Richard III_. The three plays, _Taming of the Shrew, Timon_, and
_Pericles_ are only partly Shakespeare's work, but the other authors are
unknown. _Henry VIII_ is the work of Fletcher and Shakespeare, opinion
being divided as to whether Shakespeare helped Fletcher, or whether it was
an unfinished work of Shakespeare which was put into Fletcher's hands for
completion. _Two Noble Kinsmen_ is a play not ordinarily found in editions
of Shakespeare, but it is often placed among his doubtful works. The
greater part of the play is undoubtedly by Fletcher. _Edward III_ is one of
several crude plays published at first anonymously and later attributed to
Shakespeare by publishers who desired to sell their wares. It contains a
few passages that strongly suggest Shakespeare; but the external evidence
is all against his authorship.

SHAKESPEARE'S POEMS. It is generally asserted that, if Shakespeare had
written no plays, his poems alone would have given him a commanding place
in the Elizabethan Age. Nevertheless, in the various histories of our
literature there is apparent a desire to praise and pass over all but the
_Sonnets_ as rapidly as possible; and the reason may be stated frankly. His
two long poems, "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece," contain much
poetic fancy; but it must be said of both that the subjects are unpleasant,
and that they are dragged out to unnecessary length in order to show the
play of youthful imagination. They were extremely popular in Shakespeare's
day, but in comparison with his great dramatic works these poems are now of
minor importance.

Shakespeare's _Sonnets_, one hundred and fifty-four in number, are the only
direct expression of the poet's own feelings that we possess; for his plays
are the most impersonal in all literature. They were published together in
1609; but if they had any unity in Shakespeare's mind, their plan and
purpose are hard to discover. By some critics they are regarded as mere
literary exercises; by others as the expression of some personal grief
during the third period of the poet's literary career. Still others, taking
a hint from the sonnet beginning "Two loves I have, of comfort and
despair," divide them all into two classes, addressed to a man who was
Shakespeare's friend, and to a woman who disdained his love. The reader may
well avoid such classifications and read a few sonnets, like the twenty-
ninth, for instance, and let them speak their own message. A few are
trivial and artificial enough, suggesting the elaborate exercises of a
piano player; but the majority are remarkable for their subtle thought and
exquisite expression. Here and there is one, like that beginning

    When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
    I summon up remembrance of things past,

which will haunt the reader long afterwards, like the remembrance of an old
German melody.

SHAKESPEARE'S PLACE AND INFLUENCE. Shakespeare holds, by general
acclamation, the foremost place in the world's literature, and his
overwhelming greatness renders it difficult to criticise or even to praise
him. Two poets only, Homer and Dante, have been named with him; but each of
these wrote within narrow limits, while Shakespeare's genius included all
the world of nature and of men. In a word, he is the universal poet. To
study nature in his works is like exploring a new and beautiful country; to
study man in his works is like going into a great city, viewing the motley
crowd as one views a great masquerade in which past and present mingle
freely and familiarly, as if the dead were all living again. And the
marvelous thing, in this masquerade of all sorts and conditions of men, is
that Shakespeare lifts the mask from every face, lets us see the man as he
is in his own soul, and shows us in each one some germ of good, some "soul
of goodness" even in things evil. For Shakespeare strikes no uncertain
note, and raises no doubts to add to the burden of your own. Good always
overcomes evil in the long run; and love, faith, work, and duty are the
four elements that in all ages make the world right. To criticise or praise
the genius that creates these men and women is to criticise or praise
humanity itself.

Of his influence in literature it is equally difficult to speak. Goethe
expresses the common literary judgment when he says, "I do not remember
that any book or person or event in my life ever made so great an
impression upon me as the plays of Shakespeare." His influence upon our own
language and thought is beyond calculation. Shakespeare and the King James
Bible are the two great conservators of the English speech; and one who
habitually reads them finds himself possessed of a style and vocabulary
that are beyond criticism. Even those who read no Shakespeare are still
unconsciously guided by him, for his thought and expression have so
pervaded our life and literature that it is impossible, so long as one
speaks the English language, to escape his influence.

    His life was gentle, and the elements
    So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
    And say to all the world, "This was a man!"


DECLINE OF THE DRAMA. It was inevitable that the drama should decline after
Shakespeare, for the simple reason that there was no other great enough to
fill his place. Aside from this, other causes were at work, and the chief
of these was at the very source of the Elizabethan dramas. It must be
remembered that our first playwrights wrote to please their audiences; that
the drama rose in England because of the desire of a patriotic people to
see something of the stirring life of the times reflected on the stage. For
there were no papers or magazines in those days, and people came to the
theaters not only to be amused but to be informed. Like children, they
wanted to see a story acted; and like men, they wanted to know what it
meant. Shakespeare fulfilled their desire. He gave them their story, and
his genius was great enough to show in every play not only their own life
and passions but something of the meaning of all life, and of that eternal
justice which uses the war of human passions for its own great ends. Thus
good and evil mingle freely in his dramas; but the evil is never
attractive, and the good triumphs as inevitably as fate. Though his
language is sometimes coarse, we are to remember that it was the custom of
his age to speak somewhat coarsely, and that in language, as in thought and
feeling, Shakespeare is far above most of his contemporaries.

With his successors all this was changed. The audience itself had gradually
changed, and in place of plain people eager for a story and for
information, we see a larger and larger proportion of those who went to the
play because they had nothing else to do. They wanted amusement only, and
since they had blunted by idleness the desire for simple and wholesome
amusement, they called for something more sensational. Shakespeare's
successors catered to the depraved tastes of this new audience. They lacked
not only Shakespeare's genius, but his broad charity, his moral insight
into life. With the exception of Ben Jonson, they neglected the simple fact
that man in his deepest nature is a moral being, and that only a play which
satisfies the whole nature of man by showing the triumph of the moral law
can ever wholly satisfy an audience or a people. Beaumont and Fletcher,
forgetting the deep meaning of life, strove for effect by increasing the
sensationalism of their plays; Webster reveled in tragedies of blood and
thunder; Massinger and Ford made another step downward, producing evil and
licentious scenes for their own sake, making characters and situations more
immoral till, notwithstanding these dramatists' ability, the stage had
become insincere, frivolous, and bad. Ben Jonson's ode, "Come Leave the
Loathed Stage," is the judgment of a large and honest nature grown weary of
the plays and the players of the time. We read with a sense of relief that
in 1642, only twenty-six years after Shakespeare's death, both houses of
Parliament voted to close the theaters as breeders of lies and immorality.

BEN JONSON (1573?-1637)

Personally Jonson is the most commanding literary figure among the
Elizabethans. For twenty-five years he was the literary dictator of London,
the chief of all the wits that gathered nightly at the old Devil Tavern.
With his great learning, his ability, and his commanding position as poet
laureate, he set himself squarely against his contemporaries and the
romantic tendency of the age. For two things he fought bravely,--to restore
the classic form of the drama, and to keep the stage from its downward
course. Apparently he failed; the romantic school fixed its hold more
strongly than ever; the stage went swiftly to an end as sad as that of the
early dramatists. Nevertheless his influence lived and grew more powerful
till, aided largely by French influence, it resulted in the so-called
classicism of the eighteenth century.

LIFE. Jonson was born at Westminster about the year 1573. His father, an
educated gentleman, had his property confiscated and was himself thrown
into prison by Queen Mary; so we infer the family was of some prominence.
From his mother he received certain strong characteristics, and by a single
short reference in Jonson's works we are led to see the kind of woman she
was. It is while Jonson is telling Drummond of the occasion when he was
thrown into prison, because some passages in the comedy of _Eastward Ho!_
gave offense to King James, and he was in danger of a horrible death, after
having his ears and nose cut off. He tells us how, after his pardon, he was
banqueting with his friends, when his "old mother" came in and showed a
paper full of "lusty strong poison," which she intended to mix with his
drink just before the execution. And to show that she "was no churl," she
intended first to drink of the poison herself. The incident is all the more
suggestive from the fact that Chapman and Marston, one his friend and the
other his enemy, were first cast into prison as the authors of _Eastward
Ho!_ and rough Ben Jonson at once declared that he too had had a small hand
in the writing and went to join them in prison.

Jonson's father came out of prison, having given up his estate, and became
a minister. He died just before the son's birth, and two years later the
mother married a bricklayer of London. The boy was sent to a private
school, and later made his own way to Westminster School, where the
submaster, Camden, struck by the boy's ability, taught and largely
supported him. For a short time he may have studied at the university in
Cambridge; but his stepfather soon set him to learning the bricklayer's
trade. He ran away from this, and went with the English army to fight
Spaniards in the Low Countries. His best known exploit there was to fight a
duel between the lines with one of the enemy's soldiers, while both armies
looked on. Jonson killed his man, and took his arms, and made his way back
to his own lines in a way to delight the old Norman troubadours. He soon
returned to England, and married precipitately when only nineteen or twenty
years old. Five years later we find him employed, like Shakespeare, as
actor and reviser of old plays in the theater. Thereafter his life is a
varied and stormy one. He killed an actor in a duel, and only escaped
hanging by pleading "benefit of clergy";[154] but he lost all his poor
goods and was branded for life on his left thumb. In his first great play,
_Every Man in His Humour_ (1598), Shakespeare acted one of the parts; and
that may have been the beginning of their long friendship. Other plays
followed rapidly. Upon the accession of James, Jonson's masques won him
royal favor, and he was made poet laureate. He now became undoubted leader
of the literary men of his time, though his rough honesty and his hatred of
the literary tendencies of the age made him quarrel with nearly all of
them. In 1616, soon after Shakespeare's retirement, he stopped writing for
the stage and gave himself up to study and serious work. In 1618 he
traveled on foot to Scotland, where he visited Drummond, from whom we have
the scant records of his varied life. His impressions of this journey,
called _Foot Pilgrimage_, were lost in a fire before publication.
Thereafter he produced less, and his work declined in vigor; but spite of
growing poverty and infirmity we notice in his later work, especially in
the unfinished _Sad Shepherd_, a certain mellowness and tender human
sympathy which were lacking in his earlier productions. He died poverty
stricken in 1637. Unlike Shakespeare's, his death was mourned as a national
calamity, and he was buried with all honor in Westminster Abbey. On his
grave was laid a marble slab, on which the words "O rare Ben Jonson" were
his sufficient epitaph.

WORKS OF BEN JONSON. Jonson's work is in strong contrast with that of
Shakespeare and of the later Elizabethan dramatists. Alone he fought
against the romantic tendency of the age, and to restore the classic
standards. Thus the whole action of his drama usually covers only a few
hours, or a single day. He never takes liberties with historical facts, as
Shakespeare does, but is accurate to the smallest detail. His dramas abound
in classical learning, are carefully and logically constructed, and comedy
and tragedy are kept apart, instead of crowding each other as they do in
Shakespeare and in life. In one respect his comedies are worthy of careful
reading,--they are intensely realistic, presenting men and women of the
time exactly as they were. From a few of Jonson's scenes we can
understand--better than from all the plays of Shakespeare--how men talked
and acted during the Age of Elizabeth.

Jonson's first comedy, _Every Man in His Humour_, is a key to all his
dramas. The word "humour" in his age stood for some characteristic whim or
quality of society. Jonson gives to his leading character some prominent
humor, exaggerates it, as the cartoonist enlarges the most characteristic
feature of a face, and so holds it before our attention that all other
qualities are lost sight of; which is the method that Dickens used later in
many of his novels. _Every Man in His Humour_ was the first of three
satires. Its special aim was to ridicule the humors of the city. The
second, _Cynthia's Revels_, satirizes the humors of the court; while the
third, _The Poetaster_, the result of a quarrel with his contemporaries,
was leveled at the false standards of the poets of the age.

The three best known of Jonson's comedies are _Volpone, or the Fox, The
Alchemist_, and _Epicoene, or the Silent Woman. Volpone_ is a keen and
merciless analysis of a man governed by an overwhelming love of money for
its own sake. The first words in the first scene are a key to the whole

        Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!
        Open the shrine that I may see my saint.
            (_Mosca withdraws a curtain and discovers piles of
             gold, plate, jewels, etc._)
        Hail the world's soul, and mine!

Volpone's method of increasing his wealth is to play upon the avarice of
men. He pretends to be at the point of death, and his "suitors," who know
his love of gain and that he has no heirs, endeavor hypocritically to
sweeten his last moments by giving him rich presents, so that he will leave
them all his wealth. The intrigues of these suitors furnish the story of
the play, and show to what infamous depths avarice will lead a man.

_The Alchemist_ is a study of quackery on one side and of gullibility on
the other, founded on the mediæval idea of the philosopher's stone,[155]
and applies as well to the patent medicines and get-rich-quick schemes of
our day as to the peculiar forms of quackery with which Jonson was more
familiar. In plot and artistic construction _The Alchemist_ is an almost
perfect specimen of the best English drama. It has some remarkably good
passages, and is the most readable of Jonson's plays.

_Epicoene, or the Silent Woman_, is a prose comedy exceedingly well
constructed, full of life, abounding in fun and unexpected situations. Here
is a brief outline from which the reader may see of what materials Jonson
made up his comedies.

The chief character is Morose, a rich old codger whose humor is a horror of
noise. He lives in a street so narrow that it will admit no carriages; he
pads the doors; plugs the keyhole; puts mattresses on the stairs. He
dismisses a servant who wears squeaky boots; makes all the rest go about in
thick stockings; and they must answer him by signs, since he cannot bear to
hear anybody but himself talk. He disinherits his poor nephew Eugenie, and,
to make sure that the latter will not get any money out of him, resolves to
marry. His confidant in this delicate matter is Cutbeard the barber, who,
unlike his kind, never speaks unless spoken to, and does not even knick his
scissors as he works. Cutbeard (who is secretly in league with the nephew)
tells him of Epicoene, a rare, silent woman, and Morose is so delighted
with her silence that he resolves to marry her on the spot. Cutbeard
produces a parson with a bad cold, who can speak only in a whisper, to
marry them; and when the parson coughs after the ceremony Morose demands
back five shillings of the fee. To save it the parson coughs more, and is
hurriedly bundled out of the house. The silent woman finds her voice
immediately after the marriage, begins to talk loudly and to make reforms
in the household, driving Morose to distraction. A noisy dinner party from
a neighboring house, with drums and trumpets and a quarreling man and wife,
is skillfully guided in at this moment to celebrate the wedding. Morose
flees for his life, and is found perched like a monkey on a crossbeam in
the attic, with all his nightcaps tied over his ears. He seeks a divorce,
but is driven frantic by the loud arguments of a lawyer and a divine, who
are no other than Cutbeard and a sea captain disguised. When Morose is past
all hope the nephew offers to release him from his wife and her noisy
friends if he will allow him five hundred pounds a year. Morose offers him
anything, everything, to escape his torment, and signs a deed to that
effect. Then comes the surprise of the play when Eugenie whips the wig from
Epicoene and shows a boy in disguise.

It will be seen that the _Silent Woman_, with its rapid action and its
unexpected situations, offers an excellent opportunity for the actors; but
the reading of the play, as of most of Jonson's comedies, is marred by low
intrigues showing a sad state of morals among the upper classes.

Besides these, and many other less known comedies, Jonson wrote two great
tragedies, _Sejanus_ (1603) and _Catiline_ (1611), upon severe classical
lines. After ceasing his work for the stage, Jonson wrote many masques in
honor of James I and of Queen Anne, to be played amid elaborate scenery by
the gentlemen of the court. The best of these are "The Satyr," "The
Penates," "Masque of Blackness," "Masque of Beauty," "Hue and Cry after
Cupid," and "The Masque of Queens." In all his plays Jonson showed a strong
lyric gift, and some of his little poems and songs, like "The Triumph of
Charis," "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes," and "To the Memory of my
Beloved Mother," are now better known than his great dramatic works. A
single volume of prose, called _Timber, or Discoveries made upon Men and
Matter_, is an interesting collection of short essays which are more like
Bacon's than any other work of the age.

BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER. The work of these two men is so closely interwoven
that, though Fletcher outlived Beaumont by nine years and the latter had no
hand in some forty of the plays that bear their joint names, we still class
them together, and only scholars attempt to separate their works so as to
give each writer his due share. Unlike most of the Elizabethan dramatists,
they both came from noble and cultured families and were university
trained. Their work, in strong contrast with Jonson's, is intensely
romantic, and in it all, however coarse or brutal the scene, there is
still, as Emerson pointed out, the subtle "recognition of gentility."

Beaumont (1584-1616) was the brother of Sir John Beaumont of
Leicestershire. From Oxford he came to London to study law, but soon gave
it up to write for the stage. Fletcher (1579-1625) was the son of the
bishop of London, and shows in all his work the influence of his high
social position and of his Cambridge education. The two dramatists met at
the Mermaid tavern under Ben Jonson's leadership and soon became
inseparable friends, living and working together. Tradition has it that
Beaumont supplied the judgment and the solid work of the play, while
Fletcher furnished the high-colored sentiment and the lyric poetry, without
which an Elizabethan play would have been incomplete. Of their joint plays,
the two best known are _Philaster_, whose old theme, like that of
_Cymbeline_ and _Griselda_, is the jealousy of a lover and the faithfulness
of a girl, and _The Maid's Tragedy_. Concerning Fletcher's work the most
interesting literary question is how much did he write of Shakespeare's
_Henry VIII_, and how much did Shakespeare help him in _The Two Noble

JOHN WEBSTER. Of Webster's personal history we know nothing except that he
was well known as a dramatist under James I. His extraordinary powers of
expression rank him with Shakespeare; but his talent seems to have been
largely devoted to the blood-and-thunder play begun by Marlowe. His two
best known plays are _The White Devil_ (pub. 1612) and _The Duchess of
Malfi_ (pub. 1623). The latter, spite of its horrors, ranks him as one of
the greatest masters of English tragedy. It must be remembered that he
sought in this play to reproduce the Italian life of the sixteenth century,
and for this no imaginary horrors are needed. The history of any Italian
court or city in this period furnishes more vice and violence and dishonor
than even the gloomy imagination of Webster could conceive. All the
so-called blood tragedies of the Elizabethan period, from Thomas Kyd's
_Spanish Tragedy_ down, however much they may condemn the brutal taste of
the English audiences, are still only so many search lights thrown upon a
history of horrible darkness.

THOMAS MIDDLETON (1570?-1627). Middleton is best known by two great plays,
_The Changeling_[156] and _Women Beware Women_. In poetry and diction they
are almost worthy at times to rank with Shakespeare's plays; otherwise, in
their sensationalism and unnaturalness they do violence to the moral sense
and are repulsive to the modern reader. Two earlier plays, _A Trick to
catch the Old One_, his best comedy, and _A Fair Quarrel_, his earliest
tragedy, are less mature in thought and expression, but more readable,
because they seem to express Middleton's own idea of the drama rather than
that of the corrupt court and playwrights of his later age.

THOMAS HEYWOOD (1580?-1650?). Heywood's life, of which we know little in
detail, covers the whole period of the Elizabethan drama. To the glory of
that drama he contributed, according to his own statement, the greater
part, at least, of nearly two hundred and twenty plays. It was an enormous
amount of work; but he seems to have been animated by the modern literary
spirit of following the best market and striking while the financial iron
is hot. Naturally good work was impossible, even to genius, under such
circumstances, and few of his plays are now known. The two best, if the
reader would obtain his own idea of Heywood's undoubted ability, are _A
Woman killed with Kindness_, a pathetic story of domestic life, and _The
Fair Maid of the West_, a melodrama with plenty of fighting of the popular

THOMAS DEKKER (1570-?). Dekker is in pleasing contrast with most of the
dramatists of the time. All we know of him must be inferred from his works,
which show a happy and sunny nature, pleasant and good to meet. The reader
will find the best expression of Dekker's personality and erratic genius in
_The Shoemakers' Holiday_, a humorous study of plain working people, and
_Old Fortunatus_, a fairy drama of the wishing hat and no end of money.
Whether intended for children or not, it had the effect of charming the
elders far more than the young people, and the play became immensely

MASSINGER, FORD, SHIRLEY. These three men mark the end of the Elizabethan
drama. Their work, done largely while the struggle was on between the
actors and the corrupt court, on one side, and the Puritans on the other,
shows a deliberate turning away not only from Puritan standards but from
the high ideals of their own art to pander to the corrupt taste of the
upper classes.

Philip Massinger (1584-1640) was a dramatic poet of great natural ability;
but his plots and situations are usually so strained and artificial that
the modern reader finds no interest in them. In his best comedy, _A New Way
to Pay Old Debts_, he achieved great popularity and gave us one figure, Sir
Giles Overreach, which is one of the typical characters of the English
stage. His best plays are _The Great Duke of Florence, The Virgin Martyr_,
and _The Maid of Honour_.

John Ford (1586-1642?) and James Shirley (1596-1666) have left us little of
permanent literary value, and their works are read only by those who wish
to understand the whole rise and fall of the drama. An occasional scene in
Ford's plays is as strong as anything that the Elizabethan Age produced;
but as a whole the plays are unnatural and tiresome. Probably his best play
is _The Broken Heart_ (1633). Shirley was given to imitation of his
predecessors, and his very imitation is characteristic of an age which had
lost its inspiration. A single play, _Hyde Park_, with its frivolous,
realistic dialogue, is sometimes read for its reflection of the fashionable
gossipy talk of the day. Long before Shirley's death the actors said,
"Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone." Parliament voted to close the
theaters, thereby saving the drama from a more inglorious death by


FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)

In Bacon we see one of those complex and contradictory natures which are
the despair of the biographer. If the writer be an admirer of Bacon, he
finds too much that he must excuse or pass over in silence; and if he takes
his stand on the law to condemn the avarice and dishonesty of his subject,
he finds enough moral courage and nobility to make him question the justice
of his own judgment. On the one hand is rugged Ben Jonson's tribute to his
power and ability, and on the other Hallam's summary that he was "a man
who, being intrusted with the highest gifts of Heaven, habitually abused
them for the poorest purposes of earth--hired them out for guineas,
places, and titles in the service of injustice, covetousness, and

Laying aside the opinions of others, and relying only upon the facts of
Bacon's life, we find on the one side the politician, cold, calculating,
selfish, and on the other the literary and scientific man with an
impressive devotion to truth for its own great sake; here a man using
questionable means to advance his own interests, and there a man seeking
with zeal and endless labor to penetrate the secret ways of Nature, with no
other object than to advance the interests of his fellow-men. So, in our
ignorance of the secret motives and springs of the man's life, judgment is
necessarily suspended. Bacon was apparently one of those double natures
that only God is competent to judge, because of the strange mixture of
intellectual strength and moral weakness that is in them.

LIFE. Bacon was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and
of the learned Ann Cook, sister-in-law to Lord Burleigh, greatest of the
queen's statesmen. From these connections, as well as from native gifts, he
was attracted to the court, and as a child was called by Elizabeth her
"Little Lord Keeper." At twelve he went to Cambridge, but left the
university after two years, declaring the whole plan of education to be
radically wrong, and the system of Aristotle, which was the basis of all
philosophy in those days, to be a childish delusion, since in the course of
centuries it had "produced no fruit, but only a jungle of dry and useless
branches." Strange, even for a sophomore of fourteen, thus to condemn the
whole system of the universities; but such was the boy, and the system!
Next year, in order to continue his education, he accompanied the English
ambassador to France, where he is said to have busied himself chiefly with
the practical studies of statistics and diplomacy.

Two years later he was recalled to London by the death of his father.
Without money, and naturally with expensive tastes, he applied to his Uncle
Burleigh for a lucrative position. It was in this application that he used
the expression, so characteristic of the Elizabethan Age, that he "had
taken all knowledge for his province." Burleigh, who misjudged him as a
dreamer and self-seeker, not only refused to help him at the court but
successfully opposed his advancement by Elizabeth. Bacon then took up the
study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1582. That he had not lost his
philosophy in the mazes of the law is shown by his tract, written about
this time, "On the Greatest Birth of Time," which was a plea for his
inductive system of philosophy, reasoning from many facts to one law,
rather than from an assumed law to particular facts, which was the
deductive method that had been in use for centuries. In his famous plea for
progress Bacon demanded three things: the free investigation of nature, the
discovery of facts instead of theories, and the verification of results by
experiment rather than by argument. In our day these are the A, B, C of
science, but in Bacon's time they seemed revolutionary.

As a lawyer he became immediately successful; his knowledge and power of
pleading became widely known, and it was almost at the beginning of his
career that Jonson wrote, "The fear of every one that heard him speak was
that he should make an end." The publication of his _Essays_ added greatly
to his fame; but Bacon was not content. His head was buzzing with huge
schemes,--the pacification of unhappy Ireland, the simplification of
English law, the reform of the church, the study of nature, the
establishment of a new philosophy. Meanwhile, sad to say, he played the
game of politics for his personal advantage. He devoted himself to Essex,
the young and dangerous favorite of the queen, won his friendship, and then
used him skillfully to better his own position. When the earl was tried for
treason it was partly, at least, through Bacon's efforts that he was
convicted and beheaded; and though Bacon claims to have been actuated by a
high sense of justice, we are not convinced that he understood either
justice or friendship in appearing as queen's counsel against the man who
had befriended him. His coldbloodedness and lack of moral sensitiveness
appear even in his essays on "Love" and "Friendship." Indeed, we can
understand his life only upon the theory that his intellectuality left him
cold and dead to the higher sentiments of our humanity.

During Elizabeth's reign Bacon had sought repeatedly for high office, but
had been blocked by Burleigh and perhaps also by the queen's own shrewdness
in judging men. With the advent of James I (1603) Bacon devoted himself to
the new ruler and rose rapidly in favor. He was knighted, and soon
afterwards attained another object of his ambition in marrying a rich wife.
The appearance of his great work, the _Advancement of Learning_, in 1605,
was largely the result of the mental stimulus produced by his change in
fortune. In 1613 he was made attorney-general, and speedily made enemies by
using the office to increase his personal ends. He justified himself in his
course by his devotion to the king's cause, and by the belief that the
higher his position and the more ample his means the more he could do for
science. It was in this year that Bacon wrote his series of _State Papers_,
which show a marvelous grasp of the political tendencies of his age. Had
his advice been followed, it would have certainly averted the struggle
between king and parliament that followed speedily. In 1617 he was
appointed to his father's office, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and the next
year to the high office of Lord Chancellor. With this office he received
the title of Baron Verulam, and later of Viscount St. Alban, which he
affixed with some vanity to his literary work. Two years later appeared his
greatest work, the _Novum Organum_, called after Aristotle's famous

Bacon did not long enjoy his political honors. The storm which had been
long gathering against James's government broke suddenly upon Bacon's head.
When Parliament assembled in 1621 it vented its distrust of James and his
favorite Villiers by striking unexpectedly at their chief adviser. Bacon
was sternly accused of accepting bribes, and the evidence was so great that
he confessed that there was much political corruption abroad in the land,
that he was personally guilty of some of it, and he threw himself upon the
mercy of his judges. Parliament at that time was in no mood for mercy.
Bacon was deprived of his office and was sentenced to pay the enormous fine
of 40,000 pounds, to be imprisoned during the king's pleasure, and
thereafter to be banished forever from Parliament and court. Though the
imprisonment lasted only a few days and the fine was largely remitted,
Bacon's hopes and schemes for political honors were ended; and it is at
this point of appalling adversity that the nobility in the man's nature
asserts itself strongly. If the reader be interested to apply a great man's
philosophy to his own life, he will find the essay, "Of Great Place," most
interesting in this connection.

Bacon now withdrew permanently from public life, and devoted his splendid
ability to literary and scientific work. He completed the _Essays_,
experimented largely, wrote history, scientific articles, and one
scientific novel, and made additions to his _Instauratio Magna_, the great
philosophical work which was never finished. In the spring of 1626, while
driving in a snowstorm, it occurred to him that snow might be used as a
preservative instead of salt. True to his own method of arriving at truth,
he stopped at the first house, bought a fowl, and proceeded to test his
theory. The experiment chilled him, and he died soon after from the effects
of his exposure. As Macaulay wrote, "the great apostle of experimental
philosophy was destined to be its martyr."

WORKS OF BACON. Bacon's philosophic works, _The Advancement of Learning_
and the _Novum Organum_, will be best understood in connection with the
_Instauratio Magna_, or _The Great Institution of True Philosophy_, of
which they were parts. The _Instauratio_ was never completed, but the very
idea of the work was magnificent,--to sweep away the involved philosophy of
the schoolmen and the educational systems of the universities, and to
substitute a single great work which should be a complete education, "a
rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and for the relief of man's
estate." The object of this education was to bring practical results to all
the people, instead of a little selfish culture and much useless
speculation, which, he conceived, were the only products of the

THE INSTAURATIO MAGNA. This was the most ambitious, though it is not the
best known, of Bacon's works. For the insight it gives us into the author's
mind, we note here a brief outline of his subject. It was divided into six
parts, as follows:

1. _Partitiones Scientiarum_. This was to be a classification and summary
of all human knowledge. Philosophy and all speculation must be cast out and
the natural sciences established as the basis of all education. The only
part completed was _The Advancement of Learning_, which served as an

2. _Novum Organum_, or the "new instrument," that is, the use of reason and
experiment instead of the old Aristotelian logic. To find truth one must do
two things: (_a_) get rid of all prejudices or idols, as Bacon called them.
These "idols" are four: "idols of the tribe," that is, prejudices due to
common methods of thought among all races; "idols of the cave or den," that
is, personal peculiarities and prejudices; "idols of the market place," due
to errors of language; and "idols of the theater," which are the unreliable
traditions of men. (_b_) After discarding the above "idols" we must
interrogate nature; must collect facts by means of numerous experiments,
arrange them in order, and then determine the law that underlies them.

It will be seen at a glance that the above is the most important of Bacon's
works. The _Organum_ was to be in several books, only two of which he
completed, and these he wrote and rewrote twelve times until they satisfied

3. _Historic Naturalis et Experimentalis_, the study of all the phenomena
of nature. Of four parts of this work which he completed, one of them at
least, the _Sylva Sylvarum_, is decidedly at variance with his own idea of
fact and experiment. It abounds in fanciful explanations, more worthy of
the poetic than of the scientific mind. Nature is seen to be full of
desires and instincts; the air "thirsts" for light and fragrance; bodies
rise or sink because they have an "appetite" for height or depth; the
qualities of bodies are the result of an "essence," so that when we
discover the essences of gold and silver and diamonds it will be a simple
matter to create as much of them as we may need.

4. _Scala Intellectus_, or "Ladder of the Mind," is the rational
application of the _Organum_ to all problems. By it the mind should ascend
step by step from particular facts and instances to general laws and
abstract principles.

5. _Prodromi_, "Prophecies or Anticipations," is a list of discoveries that
men shall make when they have applied Bacon's methods of study and

6. _Philosophia Secunda_, which was to be a record of practical results of
the new philosophy when the succeeding ages should have applied it

It is impossible to regard even the outline of such a vast work without an
involuntary thrill of admiration for the bold and original mind which
conceived it. "We may," said Bacon, "make no despicable beginnings. The
destinies of the human race must complete the work ... for upon this will
depend not only a speculative good but all the fortunes of mankind and all
their power." There is the unconscious expression of one of the great minds
of the world. Bacon was like one of the architects of the Middle Ages, who
drew his plans for a mighty cathedral, perfect in every detail from the
deep foundation stone to the cross on the highest spire, and who gave over
his plans to the builders, knowing that, in his own lifetime, only one tiny
chapel would be completed; but knowing also that the very beauty of his
plans would appeal to others, and that succeeding ages would finish the
work which he dared to begin.

THE ESSAYS. Bacon's famous _Essays_ is the one work which will interest all
students of our literature. His _Instauratio_ was in Latin, written mostly
by paid helpers from short English abstracts. He regarded Latin as the only
language worthy of a great work; but the world neglected his Latin to seize
upon his English,--marvelous English, terse, pithy, packed with thought, in
an age that used endless circumlocutions. The first ten essays, published
in 1597, were brief notebook jottings of Bacon's observations. Their
success astonished the author, but not till fifteen years later were they
republished and enlarged. Their charm grew upon Bacon himself, and during
his retirement he gave more thought to the wonderful language which he had
at first despised as much as Aristotle's philosophy. In 1612 appeared a
second edition containing thirty-eight essays, and in 1625, the year before
his death, he republished the _Essays_ in their present form, polishing and
enlarging the original ten to fifty-eight, covering a wide variety of
subjects suggested by the life of men around him.

Concerning the best of these essays there are as many opinions as there are
readers, and what one gets out of them depends largely upon his own thought
and intelligence. In this respect they are like that Nature to which Bacon
directed men's thoughts. The whole volume may be read through in an
evening; but after one has read them a dozen times he still finds as many
places to pause and reflect as at the first reading. If one must choose out
of such a storehouse, we would suggest "Studies," "Goodness," "Riches,"
"Atheism," "Unity in Religion," "Adversity," "Friendship," and "Great
Place" as an introduction to Bacon's worldly-wise philosophy.

MISCELLANEOUS WORKS. Other works of Bacon are interesting as a revelation
of the Elizabethan mind, rather than because of any literary value. _The
New Atlantis_ is a kind of scientific novel describing another Utopia as
seen by Bacon. The inhabitants of Atlantis have banished Philosophy and
applied Bacon's method of investigating Nature, using the results to better
their own condition. They have a wonderful civilization, in which many of
our later discoveries--academies of the sciences, observatories, balloons,
submarines, the modification of species, and several others--were
foreshadowed with a strange mixture of cold reason and poetic intuition.
_De Sapientia Veterum_ is a fanciful attempt to show the deep meaning
underlying ancient myths,--a meaning which would have astonished the myth
makers themselves. The _History of Henry VII_ is a calm, dispassionate, and
remarkably accurate history, which makes us regret that Bacon did not do
more historical work. Besides these are metrical versions of certain
Psalms--which are valuable, in view of the controversy anent Shakespeare's
plays, for showing Bacon's utter inability to write poetry--and a large
number of letters and state papers showing the range and power of his

BACON'S PLACE AND WORK. Although Bacon was for the greater part of his life
a busy man of affairs, one cannot read his work without becoming conscious
of two things,--a perennial freshness, which the world insists upon in all
literature that is to endure, and an intellectual power which marks him as
one of the great minds of the world.

Of late the general tendency is to give less and less prominence to his
work in science and philosophy; but criticism of his _Instauratio_, in view
of his lofty aim, is of small consequence. It is true that his "science"
to-day seems woefully inadequate; true also that, though he sought to
discover truth, he thought perhaps to monopolize it, and so looked with the
same suspicion upon Copernicus as upon the philosophers. The practical man
who despises philosophy has simply misunderstood the thing he despises. In
being practical and experimental in a romantic age he was not unique, as is
often alleged, but only expressed the tendency of the English mind in all
ages. Three centuries earlier the monk Roger Bacon did more practical
experimenting than the Elizabethan sage; and the latter's famous "idols"
are strongly suggestive of the former's "Four Sources of Human Ignorance."
Although Bacon did not make any of the scientific discoveries at which he
aimed, yet the whole spirit of his work, especially of _the Organum_, has
strongly influenced science in the direction of accurate observation and of
carefully testing every theory by practical experiment. "He that regardeth
the clouds shall not sow," said a wise writer of old; and Bacon turned
men's thoughts from the heavens above, with which they had been too busy,
to the earth beneath, which they had too much neglected. In an age when men
were busy with romance and philosophy, he insisted that the first object of
education is to make a man familiar with his natural environment; from
books he turned to men, from theory to fact, from philosophy to nature,--
and that is perhaps his greatest contribution to life and literature. Like
Moses upon Pisgah, he stood high enough above his fellows to look out over
a promised land, which his people would inherit, but into which he himself
might never enter.

RICHARD HOOKER (1554?-1600) In strong contrast with Bacon is Richard
Hooker, one of the greatest prose writers of the Elizabethan Age. One must
read the story of his life, an obscure and lowly life animated by a great
spirit, as told by Izaak Walton, to appreciate the full force of this
contrast. Bacon took all knowledge for his province, but mastered no single
part of it. Hooker, taking a single theme, the law and practice of the
English Church, so handled it that no scholar even of the present day would
dream of superseding it or of building upon any other foundation than that
which Hooker laid down. His one great work is _The Laws of Ecclesiastical
Polity_,[158] a theological and argumentative book; but, entirely apart
from its subject, it will be read wherever men desire to hear the power and
stateliness of the English language. Here is a single sentence, remarkable
not only for its perfect form but also for its expression of the reverence
for law which lies at the heart of Anglo-Saxon civilization:

Of law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of
God, her voice the harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do
her homage; the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not
exempted from her power; both angels and men, and creatures of what
condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with
uniform consent admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.

SIDNEY AND RALEIGH. Among the prose writers of this wonderful literary age
there are many others that deserve passing notice, though they fall far
below the standard of Bacon and Hooker. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), who
has already been considered as a poet, is quite as well known by his prose
works, _Arcadia_, a pastoral romance, and the _Defense of Poesie_, one of
our earliest literary essays. Sidney, whom the poet Shelley has eulogized,
represents the whole romantic tendency of his age; while Sir Walter Raleigh
(1552?-1618) represents its adventurous spirit and activity. The life of
Raleigh is an almost incomprehensible mixture of the poet, scholar, and
adventurer; now helping the Huguenots or the struggling Dutch in Europe,
and now leading an expedition into the unmapped wilds of the New World;
busy here with court intrigues, and there with piratical attempts to
capture the gold-laden Spanish galleons; one moment sailing the high seas
in utter freedom, and the next writing history and poetry to solace his
imprisonment. Such a life in itself is a volume far more interesting than
anything that he wrote. He is the restless spirit of the Elizabethan Age

Raleigh's chief prose works are the _Discoverie of Guiana_, a work which
would certainly have been interesting enough had he told simply what he
saw, but which was filled with colonization schemes and visions of an El
Dorado to fill the eyes and ears of the credulous; and the _History of the
World_, written to occupy his prison hours. The history is a wholly
untrustworthy account of events from creation to the downfall of the
Macedonian Empire. It is interesting chiefly for its style, which is simple
and dignified, and for the flashes of wit and poetry that break into the
fantastic combination of miracles, traditions, hearsay, and state records
which he called history. In the conclusion is the famous apostrophe to
Death, which suggests what Raleigh might have done had he lived less
strenuously and written more carefully.

O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise thou hast
persuaded; what none hath dared thou hast done; and whom all the world hath
flattered thou only hast cast out of the world and despised; thou hast
drawn together all the star-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty,
and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words,
_Hic jacet_!

JOHN FOXE (1516-1587). Foxe will be remembered always for his famous _Book
of Martyrs_, a book that our elders gave to us on Sundays when we were
young, thinking it good discipline for us to afflict our souls when we
wanted to be roaming the sunlit fields, or when in our enforced idleness we
would, if our own taste in the matter had been consulted, have made good
shift to be quiet and happy with _Robinson Crusoe_. So we have a gloomy
memory of Foxe, and something of a grievance, which prevent a just
appreciation of his worth.

Foxe had been driven out of England by the Marian persecutions, and in a
wandering but diligent life on the Continent he conceived the idea of
writing a history of the persecutions of the church from the earliest days
to his own. The part relating to England and Scotland was published, in
Latin, in 1559 under a title as sonorous and impressive as the Roman office
for the dead,--_Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum Maximarumque per Europam
Persecutionum Commentarii_. On his return to England Foxe translated this
work, calling it the _Acts and Monuments_; but it soon became known as the
_Book of Martyrs_, and so it will always be called. Foxe's own bitter
experience causes him to write with more heat and indignation than his
saintly theme would warrant, and the "holy tone" sometimes spoils a
narrative that would be impressive in its bare simplicity. Nevertheless the
book has made for itself a secure place in our literature. It is strongest
in its record of humble men, like Rowland Taylor and Thomas Hawkes, whose
sublime heroism, but for this narrative, would have been lost amid the
great names and the great events that fill the Elizabethan Age.

CAMDEN AND KNOX. Two historians, William Camden and John Knox, stand out
prominently among the numerous historical writers of the age. Camden's
_Britannia_ (1586) is a monumental work, which marks the beginning of true
antiquarian research in the field of history; and his _Annals of Queen
Elizabeth_ is worthy of a far higher place than has thus far been given it.
John Knox, the reformer, in his _History of the Reformation in Scotland_,
has some very vivid portraits of his helpers and enemies. The personal and
aggressive elements enter too strongly for a work of history; but the
autobiographical parts show rare literary power. His account of his famous
interview with Mary Queen of Scots is clear-cut as a cameo, and shows the
man's extraordinary power better than a whole volume of biography. Such
scenes make one wish that more of his time had been given to literary work,
rather than to the disputes and troubles of his own Scotch kirk.

HAKLUYT AND PURCHAS. Two editors of this age have made for themselves an
enviable place in our literature. They are Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616) and
Samuel Purchas (1575?-1626). Hakluyt was a clergyman who in the midst of
his little parish set himself to achieve two great patriotic ends,--to
promote the wealth and commerce of his country, and to preserve the memory
of all his countrymen who added to the glory of the realm by their travels
and explorations. To further the first object he concerned himself deeply
with the commercial interests of the East India Company, with Raleigh's
colonizing plans in Virginia, and with a translation of De Soto's travels
in America. To further the second he made himself familiar with books of
voyages in all foreign languages and with the brief reports of explorations
of his own countrymen. His _Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries
of the English Nation_, in three volumes, appeared first in 1589, and a
second edition followed in 1598-1600. The first volume tells of voyages to
the north; the second to India and the East; the third, which is as large
as the other two, to the New World. With the exception of the very first
voyage, that of King Arthur to Iceland in 517, which is founded on a myth,
all the voyages are authentic accounts of the explorers themselves, and are
immensely interesting reading even at the present day. No other book of
travels has so well expressed the spirit and energy of the English race, or
better deserves a place in our literature.

Samuel Purchas, who was also a clergyman, continued the work of Hakluyt,
using many of the latter's unpublished manuscripts and condensing the
records of numerous other voyages. His first famous book, _Purchas, His
Pilgrimage_, appeared in 1613, and was followed by _Hakluytus Posthumus, or
Purchas His Pilgrimes_, in 1625. The very name inclines one to open the
book with pleasure, and when one follows his inclination--which is, after
all, one of the best guides in literature--he is rarely disappointed.
Though it falls far below the standard of Hakluyt, both in accuracy and
literary finish, there is still plenty to make one glad that the book was
written and that he can now comfortably follow Purchas on his pilgrimage.

THOMAS NORTH. Among the translators of the Elizabethan Age Sir Thomas North
(1535?-1601?) is most deserving of notice because of his version of
_Plutarch's Lives_ (1579) from which Shakespeare took the characters and
many of the incidents for three great Roman plays. Thus in North we read:

Cæsar also had Cassius in great jealousy and suspected him much: whereupon
he said on a time to his friends: "What will Cassius do, think ye? I like
not his pale looks." Another time when Cæsar's friends warned him of
Antonius and Dolabella, he answered them again, "I never reckon of them;
but these pale-visaged and carrion lean people, I fear them most," meaning
Brutus and Cassius.

Shakespeare merely touches such a scene with the magic of his genius, and
his Cæsar speaks:

    Let me have men about me that are fat:
    Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights.
    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look:
    He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

A careful reading of North's _Plutarch_ and then of the famous Roman plays
shows to how great an extent Shakespeare was dependent upon his obscure

North's translation, to which we owe so many heroic models in our
literature, was probably made not from Plutarch but from Amyot's excellent
French translation. Nevertheless he reproduces the spirit of the original,
and notwithstanding our modern and more accurate translations, he remains
the most inspiring interpreter of the great biographer whom Emerson calls
"the historian of heroism."

SUMMARY OF THE AGE OF ELIZABETH. This period is generally regarded as the
greatest in the history of our literature. Historically, we note in this
age the tremendous impetus received from the Renaissance, from the
Reformation, and from the exploration of the New World. It was marked by a
strong national spirit, by patriotism, by religious tolerance, by social
content, by intellectual progress, and by unbounded enthusiasm.

Such an age, of thought, feeling, and vigorous action, finds its best
expression in the drama; and the wonderful development of the drama,
culminating in Shakespeare, is the most significant characteristic of the
Elizabethan period. Though the age produced some excellent prose works, it
is essentially an age of poetry; and the poetry is remarkable for its
variety, its freshness, its youthful and romantic feeling. Both the poetry
and the drama were permeated by Italian influence, which was dominant in
English literature from Chaucer to the Restoration. The literature of this
age is often called the literature of the Renaissance, though, as we have
seen, the Renaissance itself began much earlier, and for a century and a
half added very little to our literary possessions.

In our study of this great age we have noted (1) the Non-dramatic Poets,
that is, poets who did not write for the stage. The center of this group is
Edmund Spenser, whose _Shepherd's Calendar_ (1579) marked the appearance of
the first national poet since Chaucer's death in 1400. His most famous work
is _The Faery Queen_. Associated with Spenser are the minor poets, Thomas
Sackville, Michael Drayton, George Chapman, and Philip Sidney. Chapman is
noted for his completion of Marlowe's poem, _Hero and Leander_, and for his
translation of Homer's _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. Sidney, besides his poetry,
wrote his prose romance _Arcadia_, and _The Defense of Poesie_, one of our
earliest critical essays.

(2) The Rise of the Drama in England; the Miracle plays, Moralities, and
Interludes; our first play, "Ralph Royster Doyster"; the first true English
comedy, "Gammer Gurton's Needle," and the first tragedy, "Gorboduc"; the
conflict between classic and native ideals in the English drama.

(3) Shakespeare's Predecessors, Lyly, Kyd, Nash, Peele, Greene, Marlowe;
the types of drama with which they experimented,--the Marlowesque, one-man
type, or tragedy of passion, the popular Chronicle plays, the Domestic
drama, the Court or Lylian comedy, Romantic comedy and tragedy, Classical
plays, and the Melodrama. Marlowe is the greatest of Shakespeare's
predecessors. His four plays are "Tamburlaine," "Faustus," "The Jew of
Malta," and "Edward II."

(4) Shakespeare, his life, work, and influence.

(5) Shakespeare's Successors, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster,
Middleton, Heywood, Dekker; and the rapid decline of the drama. Ben Jonson
is the greatest of this group. His chief comedies are "Every Man in His
Humour," "The Silent Woman," and "The Alchemist"; his two extant tragedies
are "Sejanus" and "Catiline."

(6) The Prose Writers, of whom Bacon is the most notable. His chief
philosophical work is the _Instauratio Magna_ (incomplete), which includes
"The Advancement of Learning" and the "Novum Organum"; but he is known to
literary readers by his famous _Essays_. Minor prose writers are Richard
Hooker, John Foxe, the historians Camden and Knox, the editors Hakluyt and
Purchas, who gave us the stirring records of exploration, and Thomas North,
the translator of Plutarch's _Lives_.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. _Spenser_. Faery Queen, selections in Standard
English Classics; Bk. I, in Riverside Literature Series, etc.; Shepherd's
Calendar, in Cassell's National Library; Selected Poems, in Canterbury
Poets Series; Minor Poems, in Temple Classics; Selections in Manly's
English Poetry, or Ward's English Poets.

_Minor Poets_. Drayton, Sackville, Sidney, Chapman, Selections in Manly or
Ward; Elizabethan songs, in Schelling's Elizabethan Lyrics, and in
Palgrave's Golden Treasury; Chapman's Homer, in Temple Classics.

_The Early Drama_. Play of Noah's Flood, in Manly's Specimens of the
Pre-Shaksperean Drama, or in Pollard's English Miracle Plays, Moralities
and Interludes, or in Belles Lettres Series, sec. 2; L.T. Smith's The York
Miracle Plays.

_Lyly_. Endymion, in Holt's English Readings.

_Marlowe_. Faustus, in Temple Dramatists, or Mermaid Series, or Morley's
Universal Library, or Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets;
Selections in Manly's English Poetry, or Ward's English Poets; Edward II,
in Temple Dramatists, and in Holt's English Readings.

_Shakespeare_. Merchant of Venice, Julius Cæsar, Macbeth, etc., in Standard
English Classics (edited, with notes, with special reference to college-
entrance requirements). Good editions of single plays are numerous and
cheap. Hudson's and Rolfe's and the Arden Shakespeare are suggested as
satisfactory. The Sonnets, edited by Beeching, in Athenæum Press Series.

_Ben Jonson_. The Alchemist, in Canterbury Poets Series, or Morley's
Universal Library; Selections in Manly's English Poetry, or Ward's English
Poets, or Canterbury Poets Series; Selections from Jonson's Masques, in
Evans's English Masques; Timber, edited by Schelling, in Athenæum Press

_Bacon_. Essays, school edition (Ginn and Company); Northup's edition, in
Riverside Literature Series (various other inexpensive editions, in the
Pitt Press, Golden Treasury Series, etc.); Advancement of Learning, Bk. I,
edited by Cook (Ginn and Company). Compare selections from Bacon, Hooker,
Lyly, and Sidney, in Manly's English Prose.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.[159] _HISTORY. Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 208-238; Cheyney,
pp. 330-410; Green, ch. 7; Traill, Macaulay, Froude.

_Special works_. Creighton's The Age of Elizabeth; Hall's Society in the
Elizabethan Age; Winter's Shakespeare's England; Goadby's The England of
Shakespeare; Lee's Stratford on Avon; Harrison's Elizabethan England.

_LITERATURE_. Saintsbury's History of Elizabethan Literature; Whipple's
Literature of the Age of Elizabeth; S. Lee's Great Englishmen of the
Sixteenth Century; Schilling's Elizabethan Lyrics, in Athenæum Press
Series; Vernon Lee's Euphorion.

_Spenser_. Texts, Cambridge, Globe, and Aldine editions; Noel's Selected
Poems of Spenser, in Canterbury Poets; Minor Poems, in Temple Classics;
Arber's Spenser Anthology; Church's Life of Spenser, in English Men of
Letters Series; Lowell's Essay, in Among My Books, or in Literary Essays,
vol. 4; Hazlitt's Chaucer and Spenser, in Lectures on the English Poets;
Dowden's Essay, in Transcripts and Studies.

_The Drama_. Texts, Manly's Specimens of the Pre-Shakesperean Drama, 2
vols., in Athenæum Press Series; Pollard's English Miracle Plays,
Moralities and Interludes; the Temple Dramatists; Morley's Universal
Library; Arber's English Reprints; Mermaid Series, etc.; Thayer's The Best
Elizabethan Plays.

Gayley's Plays of Our Forefathers (Miracles, Moralities, etc.); Bates's The
English Religious Drama; Schelling's The English Chronicle Play; Lowell's
Old English Dramatists; Boas's Shakespeare and his Predecessors; Symonds's
Shakespeare's Predecessors in the English Drama; Schelling's Elizabethan
Drama; Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets; Introduction to Hudson's
Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Characters; Ward's History of English
Dramatic Literature; Dekker's The Gull's Hornbook, in King's Classics.

_Marlowe_. Works, edited by Bullen; chief plays in Temple Dramatists,
Mermaid Series of English Dramatists, Morley's Universal Library, etc.;
Lowell's Old English Dramatists; Symonds's introduction, in Mermaid Series;
Dowden's Essay, in Transcripts and Studies.

_Shakespeare_. Good texts are numerous. Furness's Variorum edition is at
present most useful for advanced work. Hudson's revised edition, each play
in a single volume, with notes and introductions, will, when complete, be
one of the very best for students' use.

Raleigh's Shakespeare, in English Men of Letters Series; Lee's Life of
Shakespeare; Hudson's Shakespeare: his Life, Art, and Characters;
Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare; Fleay's
Chronicle History of the Life and Work of Shakespeare; Dowden's
Shakespeare, a Critical Study of his Mind and Art; Shakespeare Primer (same
author); Baker's The Development of Shakespeare as a Dramatist; Lounsbury's
Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist; The Text of Shakespeare (same author);
Wendell's William Shakespeare; Bradley's Shakesperian Tragedy; Hazlitt's
Shakespeare and Milton, in Lectures on the English Poets; Emerson's Essay,
Shakespeare or the Poet; Lowell's Essay, in Among My Books; Lamb's Tales
from Shakespeare; Mrs. Jameson's Shakespeare's Female Characters (called
also Characteristics of Women); Rolfe's Shakespeare the Boy; Brandes's
William Shakespeare; Moulton's Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist; Mabie's
William Shakespeare, Poet, Dramatist, and Man; The Shakespeare Apocrypha,
edited by C. F. T. Brooke; Shakespeare's Holinshed, edited by Stone;
Shakespeare Lexicon, by Schmidt; Concordance, by Bartlett; Grammar, by
Abbott, or by Franz.

_Ben Jonson_. Texts in Mermaid Series, Temple Dramatists, Morley's
Universal Library, etc.; Masques and Entertainments of Ben Jonson, edited
by Morley, in Carisbrooke Library; Timber, edited by Schelling, in Athenæum
Press Series.

_Beaumont, Fletcher, etc_. Plays in Mermaid Series, Temple Dramatists,
etc.; Schelling's Elizabethan Drama; Lowell's Old English Dramatists;
Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets; Fleay's Biographical Chronicle
of the English Drama; Swinburne's Essays, in Essays in Prose and Poetry,
and in Essays and Studies.

_Bacon_. Texts, Essays in Everyman's Library, etc.; Advancement of Learning
in Clarendon Press Series, Library of English Classics, etc.; Church's Life
of Bacon, in English Men of Letters Series; Nichol's Bacon's Life and
Philosophy; Francis Bacon, translated from the German of K. Fischer
(excellent, but rare); Macaulay's Essay on Bacon.

_Minor Prose Writers_. Sidney's Arcadia, edited by Somers; Defense of
Poesy, edited by Cook, in Athenæum Press Series; Arber's Reprints, etc.;
Selections from Sidney's prose and poetry in the Elizabethan Library;
Symonds's Life of Sidney, in English Men of Letters; Bourne's Life of
Sidney, in Heroes of the Nations; Lamb's Essay on Sidney's Sonnets, in
Essays of Elia.

Raleigh's works, published by the Oxford Press; Selections by Grosart, in
Elizabethan Library; Raleigh's Last Fight of the _Revenge_, in Arber's
Reprints; Life of Raleigh, by Edwards and by Gosse. Richard Hooker's works,
edited by Keble, Oxford Press; Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, in Everyman's
Library, and in Morley's Universal Library; Life, in Walton's Lives, in
Morley's Universal Library; Dowden's Essay, in Puritan and Anglican.

Lyly's Euphues, in Arber's Reprints; Endymion, edited by Baker; Campaspe,
in Manly's Pre-Shaksperean Drama.

North's Plutarch's Lives, edited by Wyndham, in Tudor Library; school
edition, by Ginn and Company. Hakluyt's Voyages, in Everyman's Library;
Jones's introduction to Hakluyt's Diverse Voyages; Payne's Voyages of
Elizabethan Seamen; Froude's Essay, in Short Studies on Great Subjects.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. What historical conditions help to account for the
great literature of the Elizabethan age? What are the general
characteristics of Elizabethan literature? What type of literature
prevailed, and why? What work seems to you to express most perfectly the
Elizabethan spirit?

2. Tell briefly the story of Spenser's life. What is the story or argument
of the _Faery Queen_? What is meant by the Spenserian stanza? Read and
comment upon Spenser's "Epithalamion." Why does the "Shepherd's Calendar"
mark a literary epoch? What are the main qualities of Spenser's poetry? Can
you quote or refer to any passages which illustrate these qualities? Why is
he called the poets' poet?

3. For what is Sackville noted? What is the most significant thing about
his "Gorboduc"? Name other minor poets and tell what they wrote.

4. Give an outline of the origin and rise of the drama in England. What is
meant by Miracle and Mystery plays? What purposes did they serve among the
common people? How did they help the drama? What is meant by cycles of
Miracle plays? How did the Moralities differ from the Miracles? What was
the chief purpose of the Interludes? What type of drama did they develop?
Read a typical play, like "Noah's Flood" or "Everyman," and write a brief
analysis of it.

5. What were our first plays in the modern sense? What influence did the
classics exert on the English drama? What is meant by the dramatic unities?
In what important respect did the English differ from the classic drama?

6. Name some of Shakespeare's predecessors in the drama? What types of
drama did they develop? Name some plays of each type. Are any of these
plays still presented on the stage?

7. What are Marlowe's chief plays? What is the central motive in each? Why
are they called one-man plays? What is meant by Marlowe's "mighty line"?
What is the story of "Faustus"? Compare "Faustus" and Goethe's "Faust,"
having in mind the story, the dramatic interest, and the literary value of
each play.

8. Tell briefly the story of Shakespeare's life. What fact in his life most
impressed you? How does Shakespeare sum up the work of all his
predecessors? What are the four periods of his work, and the chief plays of
each? Where did he find his plots? What are his romantic plays? his
chronicle or historical plays? What is the difference between a tragedy and
a comedy? Name some of Shakespeare's best tragedies, comedies, and
historical plays. Which play of Shakespeare's seems to you to give the best
picture of human life? Why is he called the myriad-minded Shakespeare? For
what reasons is he considered the greatest of writers? Can you explain why
Shakespeare's plays are still acted, while other plays of his age are
rarely seen? If you have seen any of Shakespeare's plays on the stage, how
do they compare in interest with a modern play?

9. What are Ben Jonson's chief plays? In what important respects did they
differ from those of Shakespeare? Tell the story of "The Alchemist" or "The
Silent Woman." Name other contemporaries and successors of Shakespeare.
Give some reasons for the preëminence of the Elizabethan drama. What causes
led to its decline?

10. Tell briefly the story of Bacon's life. What is his chief literary
work? his chief educational work? Why is he called a pioneer of modern
science? Can you explain what is meant by the inductive method of learning?
What subjects are considered in Bacon's _Essays_? What is the central idea
of the essay you like best? What are the literary qualities of these
essays? Do they appeal to the intellect or the emotions? What is meant by
the word "essay," and how does Bacon illustrate the definition? Make a
comparison between Bacon's essays and those of some more recent writer,
such as Addison, Lamb, Carlyle, Emerson, or Stevenson, having in mind the
subjects, style, and interest of both essayists.

11. Who are the minor prose writers of the Elizabethan Age? What did they
write? Comment upon any work of theirs which you have read. What is the
literary value of North's Plutarch? What is the chief defect in Elizabethan
prose as a whole? What is meant by euphuism? Explain why Elizabethan poetry
is superior to the prose.

  _Last Half of the Sixteenth and First Half of the Seventeenth Centuries_
  HISTORY                           |  LITERATURE
1558. Elizabeth (_d_. 1603)         | 1559. John Knox in Edinburgh
                                    | 1562(?). Gammer Gurton's      Needle.
                                    |       Gorboduc
                                    | 1564. Birth of Shakespeare
1571. Rise of English Puritans      | 1576. First Theater
1577. Drake's Voyage around the     | 1579. Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar.
      World                         |       Lyly's Euphues. North's Plutarch.
                                    | 1587. Shakespeare in London.  Marlowe's
                                    |       Tamburlaine
1588. Defeat of the Armada          |
                                    | 1590. Spenser's Faery Queen. Sidney's
                                    |       Arcadia
                                    | 1590-1595. Shakespeare's Early Plays
                                    | 1597-1625. Bacon's Essays
                                    | 1598-1614. Chapman's Homer
                                    | 1598. Ben Jonson's Every Man in His
                                    |       Humour
                                    | 1600-1607. Shakespeare's Tragedies
1603. James I (_d_. 1625)           |
1604. Divine Right of Kings         | 1605. Bacon's Advancement of Learning
      proclaimed                    |
1607. Settlement at Jamestown,      | 1608. Birth of Milton
      Virginia                      |
                                    | 1611. Translation (King James Version)
                                    |       of Bible
                                    | 1614. Raleigh's History
                                    | 1616. Death of Shakespeare
1620. Pilgrim Fathers at            | 1620-1642. Shakespeare's successors.
      Plymouth                      |       End of drama
                                    | 1620. Bacon's Novum Organum
                                    | 1622. First regular newspaper, The
                                    |       Weekly News
1625. Charles I                     | 1626. Death of Bacon

       *       *       *       *       *


THE PURITAN AGE (1620-1660)


THE PURITAN MOVEMENT. In its broadest sense the Puritan movement may be
regarded as a second and greater Renaissance, a rebirth of the moral nature
of man following the intellectual awakening of Europe in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. In Italy, whose influence had been uppermost in
Elizabethan literature, the Renaissance had been essentially pagan and
sensuous. It had hardly touched the moral nature of man, and it brought
little relief from the despotism of rulers. One can hardly read the
horrible records of the Medici or the Borgias, or the political
observations of Machiavelli, without marveling at the moral and political
degradation of a cultured nation. In the North, especially among the German
and English peoples, the Renaissance was accompanied by a moral awakening,
and it is precisely that awakening in England, "that greatest moral and
political reform which ever swept over a nation in the short space of half
a century," which is meant by the Puritan movement. We shall understand it
better if we remember that it had two chief objects: the first was personal
righteousness; the second was civil and religious liberty. In other words,
it aimed to make men honest and to make them free.

Such a movement should be cleared of all the misconceptions which have
clung to it since the Restoration, when the very name of Puritan was made
ridiculous by the jeers of the gay courtiers of Charles II. Though the
spirit of the movement was profoundly religious, the Puritans were not a
religious sect; neither was the Puritan a narrow-minded and gloomy
dogmatist, as he is still pictured even in the histories. Pym and Hampden
and Eliot and Milton were Puritans; and in the long struggle for human
liberty there are few names more honored by freemen everywhere. Cromwell
and Thomas Hooker were Puritans; yet Cromwell stood like a rock for
religious tolerance; and Thomas Hooker, in Connecticut, gave to the world
the first written constitution, in which freemen, before electing their
officers, laid down the strict limits of the offices to which they were
elected. That is a Puritan document, and it marks one of the greatest
achievements in the history of government.

From a religious view point Puritanism included all shades of belief. The
name was first given to those who advocated certain changes in the form of
worship of the reformed English Church under Elizabeth; but as the ideal of
liberty rose in men's minds, and opposed to it were the king and his evil
counselors and the band of intolerant churchmen of whom Laud is the great
example, then Puritanism became a great national movement. It included
English churchmen as well as extreme Separatists, Calvinists, Covenanters,
Catholic noblemen,--all bound together in resistance to despotism in Church
and State, and with a passion for liberty and righteousness such as the
world has never since seen. Naturally such a movement had its extremes and
excesses, and it is from a few zealots and fanatics that most of our
misconceptions about the Puritans arise. Life was stern in those days, too
stern perhaps, and the intensity of the struggle against despotism made men
narrow and hard. In the triumph of Puritanism under Cromwell severe laws
were passed, many simple pleasures were forbidden, and an austere standard
of living was forced upon an unwilling people. So the criticism is made
that the wild outbreak of immorality which followed the restoration of
Charles was partly due to the unnatural restrictions of the Puritan era.
The criticism is just; but we must not forget the whole spirit of the
movement. That the Puritan prohibited Maypole dancing and horse racing is
of small consequence beside the fact that he fought for liberty and
justice, that he overthrew despotism and made a man's life and property
safe from the tyranny of rulers. A great river is not judged by the foam on
its surface, and certain austere laws and doctrines which we have ridiculed
are but froth on the surface of the mighty Puritan current that has flowed
steadily, like a river of life, through English and American history since
the Age of Elizabeth.

CHANGING IDEALS. The political upheaval of the period is summed up in the
terrible struggle between the king and Parliament, which resulted in the
death of Charles at the block and the establishment of the Commonwealth
under Cromwell. For centuries the English people had been wonderfully loyal
to their sovereigns; but deeper than their loyalty to kings was the old
Saxon love for personal liberty. At times, as in the days of Alfred and
Elizabeth, the two ideals went hand in hand; but more often they were in
open strife, and a final struggle for supremacy was inevitable. The crisis
came when James I, who had received the right of royalty from an act of
Parliament, began, by the assumption of "divine right," to ignore the
Parliament which had created him. Of the civil war which followed in the
reign of Charles I, and of the triumph of English freedom, it is
unnecessary to write here. The blasphemy of a man's divine right to rule
his fellow-men was ended. Modern England began with the charge of
Cromwell's brigade of Puritans at Naseby.

Religiously the age was one of even greater ferment than that which marked
the beginning of the Reformation. A great ideal, the ideal of a national
church, was pounding to pieces, like a ship in the breakers, and in the
confusion of such an hour the action of the various sects was like that of
frantic passengers, each striving to save his possessions from the wreck.
The Catholic church, as its name implies, has always held true to the ideal
of a united church, a church which, like the great Roman government of the
early centuries, can bring the splendor and authority of Rome to bear upon
the humblest village church to the farthest ends of the earth. For a time
that mighty ideal dazzled the German and English reformers; but the
possibility of a united Protestant church perished with Elizabeth. Then,
instead of the world-wide church which was the ideal of Catholicism, came
the ideal of a purely national Protestantism. This was the ideal of Laud
and the reactionary bishops, no less than of the scholarly Richard Hooker,
of the rugged Scotch Covenanters, and of the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay.
It is intensely interesting to note that Charles called Irish rebels and
Scotch Highlanders to his aid by promising to restore their national
religions; and that the English Puritans, turning to Scotland for help,
entered into the solemn Covenant of 1643, establishing a national
Presbyterianism, whose object was:

To bring the churches of God in the three kingdoms to uniformity in
religion and government, to preserve the rights of Parliament and the
liberties of the Kingdom; ... that we and our posterity may as brethren
live in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to live in the midst of

In this famous Covenant we see the national, the ecclesiastical, and the
personal dream of Puritanism, side by side, in all their grandeur and

Years passed, years of bitter struggle and heartache, before the
impossibility of uniting the various Protestant sects was generally
recognized. The ideal of a national church died hard, and to its death is
due all the religious unrest of the period. Only as we remember the
national ideal, and the struggle which it caused, can we understand the
amazing life and work of Bunyan, or appreciate the heroic spirit of the
American colonists who left home for a wilderness in order to give the new
ideal of a free church in a free state its practical demonstration.

LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS. In literature also the Puritan Age was one of
confusion, due to the breaking up of old ideals. Mediaeval standards of
chivalry, the impossible loves and romances of which Spenser furnished the
types, perished no less surely than the ideal of a national church; and in
the absence of any fixed standard of literary criticism there was nothing
to prevent the exaggeration of the "metaphysical" poets, who are the
literary parallels to religious sects like the Anabaptists. Poetry took new
and startling forms in Donne and Herbert, and prose became as somber as
Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_. The spiritual gloom which sooner or later
fastens upon all the writers of this age, and which is unjustly attributed
to Puritan influence, is due to the breaking up of accepted standards in
government and religion. No people, from the Greeks to those of our own
day, have suffered the loss of old ideals without causing its writers to
cry, "Ichabod! the glory has departed." That is the unconscious tendency of
literary men in all times, who look backward for their golden age; and it
need not concern the student of literature, who, even in the break-up of
cherished institutions, looks for some foregleams of a better light which
is to break upon the world. This so-called gloomy age produced some minor
poems of exquisite workmanship, and one great master of verse whose work
would glorify any age or people,--John Milton, in whom the indomitable
Puritan spirit finds its noblest expression.

There are three main characteristics in which Puritan literature differs
from that of the preceding age: (1) Elizabethan literature, with all its
diversity, had a marked unity in spirit, resulting from the patriotism of
all classes and their devotion to a queen who, with all her faults, sought
first the nation's welfare. Under the Stuarts all this was changed. The
kings were the open enemies of the people; the country was divided by the
struggle for political and religious liberty; and the literature was as
divided in spirit as were the struggling parties. (2) Elizabethan
literature is generally inspiring; it throbs with youth and hope and
vitality. That which follows speaks of age and sadness; even its brightest
hours are followed by gloom, and by the pessimism inseparable from the
passing of old standards. (3) Elizabethan literature is intensely romantic;
the romance springs from the heart of youth, and believes all things, even
the impossible. The great schoolman's _credo_, "I believe because it is
impossible," is a better expression of Elizabethan literature than of
mediæval theology. In the literature of the Puritan period one looks in
vain for romantic ardor. Even in the lyrics and love poems a critical,
intellectual spirit takes its place, and whatever romance asserts itself is
in form rather than in feeling, a fantastic and artificial adornment of
speech rather than the natural utterance of a heart in which sentiment is
so strong and true that poetry is its only expression.


THE TRANSITION POETS. When one attempts to classify the literature of the
first half of the seventeenth century, from the death of Elizabeth (1603)
to the Restoration (1660), he realizes the impossibility of grouping poets
by any accurate standard. The classifications attempted here have small
dependence upon dates or sovereigns, and are suggestive rather than
accurate. Thus Shakespeare and Bacon wrote largely in the reign of James I,
but their work is Elizabethan in spirit; and Bunyan is no less a Puritan
because he happened to write after the Restoration. The name Metaphysical
poets, given by Dr. Johnson, is somewhat suggestive but not descriptive of
the followers of Donne; the name Caroline or Cavalier poets brings to mind
the careless temper of the Royalists who followed King Charles with a
devotion of which he was unworthy; and the name Spenserian poets recalls
the little band of dreamers who clung to Spenser's ideal, even while his
romantic mediæval castle was battered down by Science at the one gate and
Puritanism at the other. At the beginning of this bewildering confusion of
ideals expressed in literature, we note a few writers who are generally
known as Jacobean poets, but whom we have called the Transition poets
because, with the later dramatists, they show clearly the changing
standards of the age.

SAMUEL DANIEL (1562-1619). Daniel, who is often classed with the first
Metaphysical poets, is interesting to us for two reasons,--for his use of
the artificial sonnet, and for his literary desertion of Spenser as a model
for poets. His _Delia_, a cycle of sonnets modeled, perhaps, after Sidney's
_Astrophel and Stella_, helped to fix the custom of celebrating love or
friendship by a series of sonnets, to which some pastoral pseudonym was
affixed. In his sonnets, many of which rank with Shakespeare's, and in his
later poetry, especially the beautiful "Complaint of Rosamond" and his
"Civil Wars," he aimed solely at grace of expression, and became
influential in giving to English poetry a greater individuality and
independence than it had ever known. In matter he set himself squarely
against the mediæval tendency:

    Let others sing of kings and paladines
    In aged accents and untimely words,
    Paint shadows in imaginary lines.

This fling at Spenser and his followers marks the beginning of the modern
and realistic school, which sees in life as it is enough poetic material,
without the invention of allegories and impossible heroines. Daniel's
poetry, which was forgotten soon after his death, has received probably
more homage than it deserves in the praises of Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb,
and Coleridge. The latter says: "Read Daniel, the admirable Daniel. The
style and language are just such as any pure and manly writer of the
present day would use. It seems quite modern in comparison with the style
of Shakespeare."

THE SONG WRITERS. In strong contrast with the above are two distinct
groups, the Song Writers and the Spenserian poets. The close of the reign
of Elizabeth was marked by an outburst of English songs, as remarkable in
its sudden development as the rise of the drama. Two causes contributed to
this result,--the increasing influence of French instead of Italian verse,
and the rapid development of music as an art at the close of the sixteenth
century. The two song writers best worth studying are Thomas Campion
(1567?-1619) and Nicholas Breton (1545?-1626?). Like all the lyric poets of
the age, they are a curious mixture of the Elizabethan and the Puritan
standards. They sing of sacred and profane love with the same zest, and a
careless love song is often found on the same page with a plea for divine

THE SPENSERIAN POETS. Of the Spenserian poets Giles Fletcher and Wither are
best worth studying. Giles Fletcher (1588?-1623) has at times a strong
suggestion of Milton (who was also a follower of Spenser in his early
years) in the noble simplicity and majesty of his lines. His best known
work, "Christ's Victory and Triumph" (1610), was the greatest religious
poem that had appeared in England since "Piers Plowman," and is not an
unworthy predecessor of _Paradise Lost_.

The life of George Wither (1588-1667) covers the whole period of English
history from Elizabeth to the Restoration, and the enormous volume of his
work covers every phase of the literature of two great ages. His life was a
varied one; now as a Royalist leader against the Covenanters, and again
announcing his Puritan convictions, and suffering in prison for his faith.
At his best Wither is a lyric poet of great originality, rising at times to
positive genius; but the bulk of his poetry is intolerably dull. Students
of this period find him interesting as an epitome of the whole age in which
he lived; but the average reader is more inclined to note with interest
that he published in 1623 _Hymns and Songs of the Church_, the first hymn
book that ever appeared in the English language.

THE METAPHYSICAL POETS. This name--which was given by Dr. Johnson in
derision, because of the fantastic form of Donne's poetry--is often applied
to all minor poets of the Puritan Age. We use the term here in a narrower
sense, excluding the followers of Daniel and that later group known as the
Cavalier poets. It includes Donne, Herbert, Waller, Denham, Cowley,
Vaughan, Davenant, Marvell, and Crashaw. The advanced student finds them
all worthy of study, not only for their occasional excellent poetry, but
because of their influence on later literature. Thus Richard Crashaw
(1613?-1649), the Catholic mystic, is interesting because his troubled life
is singularly like Donne's, and his poetry is at times like Herbert's set
on fire.[160] Abraham Cowley (1618-1667), who blossomed young and who, at
twenty-five, was proclaimed the greatest poet in England, is now scarcely
known even by name, but his "Pindaric Odes"[161] set an example which
influenced English poetry throughout the eighteenth century. Henry Vaughan
(1622-1695) is worthy of study because he is in some respects the
forerunner of Wordsworth;[162] and Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), because of
his loyal friendship with Milton, and because his poetry shows the conflict
between the two schools of Spenser and Donne. Edmund Waller (1606-1687)
stands between the Puritan Age and the Restoration. He was the first to use
consistently the "closed" couplet which dominated our poetry for the next
century. By this, and especially by his influence over Dryden, the greatest
figure of the Restoration, he occupies a larger place in our literature
than a reading of his rather tiresome poetry would seem to warrant.

Of all these poets, each of whom has his special claim, we can consider
here only Donne and Herbert, who in different ways are the types of revolt
against earlier forms and standards of poetry. In feeling and imagery both
are poets of a high order, but in style and expression they are the leaders
of the fantastic school whose influence largely dominated poetry during the
half century of the Puritan period.

JOHN DONNE (1573-1631)

LIFE. The briefest outline of Donne's life shows its intense human
interest. He was born in London, the son of a rich iron merchant, at the
time when the merchants of England were creating a new and higher kind of
princes. On his father's side he came from an old Welsh family, and on his
mother's side from the Heywoods and Sir Thomas More's family. Both families
were Catholic, and in his early life persecution was brought near; for his
brother died in prison for harboring a proscribed priest, and his own
education could not be continued in Oxford and Cambridge because of his
religion. Such an experience generally sets a man's religious standards for
life; but presently Donne, as he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, was
investigating the philosophic grounds of all faith. Gradually he left the
church in which he was born, renounced all denominations, and called
himself simply Christian. Meanwhile he wrote poetry and shared his wealth
with needy Catholic relatives. He joined the expedition of Essex for Cadiz
in 1596, and for the Azores in 1597, and on sea and in camp found time to
write poetry. Two of his best poems, "The Storm" and "The Calm," belong to
this period. Next he traveled in Europe for three years, but occupied
himself with study and poetry. Returning home, he became secretary to Lord
Egerton, fell in love with the latter's young niece, Anne More, and married
her; for which cause Donne was cast into prison. Strangely enough his
poetical work at this time is not a song of youthful romance, but "The
Progress of the Soul," a study of transmigration. Years of wandering and
poverty followed, until Sir George More forgave the young lovers and made
an allowance to his daughter. Instead of enjoying his new comforts, Donne
grew more ascetic and intellectual in his tastes. He refused also the
nattering offer of entering the Church of England and of receiving a
comfortable "living." By his "Pseudo Martyr" he attracted the favor of
James I, who persuaded him to be ordained, yet left him without any place
or employment. When his wife died her allowance ceased, and Donne was left
with seven children in extreme poverty. Then he became a preacher, rose
rapidly by sheer intellectual force and genius, and in four years was the
greatest of English preachers and Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
There he "carried some to heaven in holy raptures and led others to amend
their lives," and as he leans over the pulpit with intense earnestness is
likened by Izaak Walton to "an angel leaning from a cloud."

Here is variety enough to epitomize his age, and yet in all his life,
stronger than any impression of outward weal or woe, is the sense of
mystery that surrounds Donne. In all his work one finds a mystery, a hiding
of some deep thing which the world would gladly know and share, and which
is suggested in his haunting little poem, "The Undertaking":

    I have done one braver thing
    Than all the worthies did;
    And yet a braver thence doth spring,
    Which is, to keep that hid.

DONNE'S POETRY. Donne's poetry is so uneven, at times so startling and
fantastic, that few critics would care to recommend it to others. Only a
few will read his works, and they must be left to their own browsing, to
find what pleases them, like deer which, in the midst of plenty, take a
bite here and there and wander on, tasting twenty varieties of food in an
hour's feeding. One who reads much will probably bewail Donne's lack of any
consistent style or literary standard. For instance, Chaucer and Milton are
as different as two poets could well be; yet the work of each is marked by
a distinct and consistent style, and it is the style as much as the matter
which makes the _Tales_ or the _Paradise Lost_ a work for all time. Donne
threw style and all literary standards to the winds; and precisely for this
reason he is forgotten, though his great intellect and his genius had
marked him as one of those who should do things "worthy to be remembered."
While the tendency of literature is to exalt style at the expense of
thought, the world has many men and women who exalt feeling and thought
above expression; and to these Donne is good reading. Browning is of the
same school, and compels attention. While Donne played havoc with
Elizabethan style, he nevertheless influenced our literature in the way of
boldness and originality; and the present tendency is to give him a larger
place, nearer to the few great poets, than he has occupied since Ben Jonson
declared that he was "the first poet of the world in some things," but
likely to perish "for not being understood." For to much of his poetry we
must apply his own satiric verses on another's crudities:

    Infinite work! which doth so far extend
    That none can study it to any end.

GEORGE HERBERT (1593-1633)

"O day most calm, most bright," sang George Herbert, and we may safely take
that single line as expressive of the whole spirit of his writings.
Professor Palmer, whose scholarly edition of this poet's works is a model
for critics and editors, calls Herbert the first in English poetry who
spoke face to face with God. That may be true; but it is interesting to
note that not a poet of the first half of the seventeenth century, not even
the gayest of the Cavaliers, but has written some noble verse of prayer or
aspiration, which expresses the underlying Puritan spirit of his age.
Herbert is the greatest, the most consistent of them all. In all the others
the Puritan struggles against the Cavalier, or the Cavalier breaks loose
from the restraining Puritan; but in Herbert the struggle is past and peace
has come. That his life was not all calm, that the Puritan in him had
struggled desperately before it subdued the pride and idleness of the
Cavalier, is evident to one who reads between his lines:

    I struck the board and cry'd, No more!
         I will abroad.
    What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?
    My lines and life are free, free as the road,
    Loose as the wind.

There speaks the Cavalier of the university and the court; and as one reads
to the end of the little poem, which he calls by the suggestive name of
"The Collar," he may know that he is reading condensed biography.

Those who seek for faults, for strained imagery and fantastic verse forms
in Herbert's poetry, will find them in abundance; but it will better repay
the reader to look for the deep thought and fine feeling that are hidden in
these wonderful religious lyrics, even in those that appear most
artificial. The fact that Herbert's reputation was greater, at times, than
Milton's, and that his poems when published after his death had a large
sale and influence, shows certainly that he appealed to the men of his age;
and his poems will probably be read and appreciated, if only by the few,
just so long as men are strong enough to understand the Puritan's spiritual

LIFE. Herbert's life is so quiet and uneventful that to relate a few
biographical facts can be of little advantage. Only as one reads the whole
story by Izaak Walton can he share the gentle spirit of Herbert's poetry.
He was born at Montgomery Castle,[163] Wales, 1593, of a noble Welsh
family. His university course was brilliant, and after graduation he waited
long years in the vain hope of preferment at court. All his life he had to
battle against disease, and this is undoubtedly the cause of the long delay
before each new step in his course. Not till he was thirty-seven was he
ordained and placed over the little church of Bemerton. How he lived here
among plain people, in "this happy corner of the Lord's field, hoping all
things and blessing all people, asking his own way to Sion and showing
others the way," should be read in Walton. It is a brief life, less than
three years of work before being cut off by consumption, but remarkable for
the single great purpose and the glorious spiritual strength that shine
through physical weakness. Just before his death he gave some manuscripts
to a friend, and his message is worthy of John Bunyan:

Deliver this little book to my dear brother Ferrar, and tell him he shall
find in it a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed
betwixt God and my soul before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my
master, in whose service I have now found perfect freedom. Desire him to
read it; and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any
dejected poor soul, let it be made public; if not, let him burn it, for I
and it are less than the least of God's mercies.

HERBERT'S POEMS. Herbert's chief work, _The Temple_, consists of over one
hundred and fifty short poems suggested by the Church, her holidays and
ceremonials, and the experiences of the Christian life. The first poem,
"The Church Porch," is the longest and, though polished with a care that
foreshadows the classic school, the least poetical. It is a wonderful
collection of condensed sermons, wise precepts, and moral lessons,
suggesting Chaucer's "Good Counsel," Pope's "Essay on Man," and Polonius's
advice to Laertes, in _Hamlet;_ only it is more packed with thought than
any of these. Of truth-speaking he says:

    Dare to be true. Nothing can need a lie;
    A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.

and of calmness in argument:

    Calmness is great advantage: he that lets
    Another chafe may warm him at his fire.

Among the remaining poems of _The Temple_ one of the most suggestive is
"The Pilgrimage." Here in six short stanzas, every line close-packed with
thought, we have the whole of Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_. The poem was
written probably before Bunyan was born, but remembering the wide influence
of Herbert's poetry, it is an interesting question whether Bunyan received
the idea of his immortal work from this "Pilgrimage." Probably the best
known of all his poems is the one called "The Pulley," which generally
appears, however under the name "Rest," or "The Gifts of God."

     When God at first made man,
    Having a glass of blessings standing by,
    Let us, said he, pour on him all we can:
    Let the world's riches, which dispersed lie,
      Contract into a span.
     So strength first made a way;
    Then beauty flowed; then wisdom, honor, pleasure.
    When almost all was out, God made a stay,
    Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
      Rest in the bottom lay.
     For, if I should, said he,
    Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
    He would adore my gifts instead of me,
    And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
      So both should losers be.
     Yet let him keep the rest,
    But keep them with repining restlessness:
    Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
    If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
      May toss him to my breast.

Among the poems which may be read as curiosities of versification, and
which arouse the wrath of the critics against the whole metaphysical
school, are those like "Easter Wings" and "The Altar," which suggest in the
printed form of the poem the thing of which the poet sings. More ingenious
is the poem in which rime is made by cutting off the first letter of a
preceding word, as in the five stanzas of "Paradise ":

    I bless thee, Lord, because I grow
    Among thy trees, which in a row
    To thee both fruit and order ow.

And more ingenious still are odd conceits like the poem "Heaven," in which
Echo, by repeating the last syllable of each line, gives an answer to the
poet's questions.

THE CAVALIER POETS. In the literature of any age there are generally found
two distinct tendencies. The first expresses the dominant spirit of the
times; the second, a secret or an open rebellion. So in this age, side by
side with the serious and rational Puritan, lives the gallant and trivial
Cavalier. The Puritan finds expression in the best poetry of the period,
from Donne to Milton, and in the prose of Baxter and Bunyan; the Cavalier
in a small group of poets,--Herrick, Lovelace, Suckling, and Carew,--who
write songs generally in lighter vein, gay, trivial, often licentious, but
who cannot altogether escape the tremendous seriousness of Puritanism.

THOMAS CAREW (1598?-1639?). Carew may be called the inventor of Cavalier
love poetry, and to him, more than to any other, is due the peculiar
combination of the sensual and the religious which marked most of the minor
poets of the seventeenth century. His poetry is the Spenserian pastoral
stripped of its refinement of feeling and made direct, coarse, vigorous.
His poems, published in 1640, are generally, like his life, trivial or
sensual; but here and there is found one, like the following, which
indicates that with the Metaphysical and Cavalier poets a new and
stimulating force had entered English literature:

    Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
    When June is past, the fading rose,
    For in your beauty's orient deep
    These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.
    Ask me no more where those stars light
    That downwards fall in dead of night,
    For in your eyes they sit, and there
    Fixèd become as in their sphere.
    Ask me no more if east or west
    The phoenix builds her spicy nest,
    For unto you at last she flies,
    And in your fragrant bosom dies.

ROBERT HERRICK (1591-1674). Herrick is the true Cavalier, gay, devil-may-
care in disposition, but by some freak of fate a clergyman of Dean Prior,
in South Devon, a county made famous by him and Blackmore. Here, in a
country parish, he lived discontentedly, longing for the joys of London and
the Mermaid Tavern, his bachelor establishment consisting of an old
housekeeper, a cat, a dog, a goose, a tame lamb, one hen,--for which he
thanked God in poetry because she laid an egg every day,--and a pet pig
that drank beer with Herrick out of a tankard. With admirable good nature,
Herrick made the best of these uncongenial surroundings. He watched with
sympathy the country life about him and caught its spirit in many lyrics, a
few of which, like "Corinna's Maying," "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,"
and "To Daffodils," are among the best known in our language. His poems
cover a wide range, from trivial love songs, pagan in spirit, to hymns of
deep religious feeling. Only the best of his poems should be read; and
these are remarkable for their exquisite sentiment and their graceful,
melodious expression. The rest, since they reflect something of the
coarseness of his audience, may be passed over in silence.

Late in life Herrick published his one book, _Hesperides and Noble Numbers_
(1648). The latter half contains his religious poems, and one has only to
read there the remarkable "Litany" to see how the religious terror that
finds expression in Bunyan's _Grace Abounding_ could master even the most
careless of Cavalier singers.

SUCKLING AND LOVELACE. Sir John Suckling (1609-1642) was one of the most
brilliant wits of the court of Charles I, who wrote poetry as he exercised
a horse or fought a duel, because it was considered a gentleman's
accomplishment in those days. His poems, "struck from his wild life like
sparks from his rapier," are utterly trivial, and, even in his best known
"Ballad Upon a Wedding," rarely rise above mere doggerel. It is only the
romance of his life--his rich, brilliant, careless youth, and his poverty
and suicide in Paris, whither he fled because of his devotion to the
Stuarts--that keeps his name alive in our literature.

In his life and poetry Sir Richard Lovelace (1618-1658) offers a remarkable
parallel to Suckling, and the two are often classed together as perfect
representatives of the followers of King Charles. Lovelace's _Lucasta_, a
volume of love lyrics, is generally on a higher plane than Suckling's work;
and a few of the poems like "To Lucasta," and "To Althea, from Prison,"
deserve the secure place they have won. In the latter occur the oft-quoted

    Stone walls do not a prison make,
      Nor iron bars a cage;
    Minds innocent and quiet take
      That for an hermitage.
    If I have freedom in my love,
      And in my soul am free,
    Angels alone that soar above
      Enjoy such liberty.

JOHN MILTON (1608-1674)

    Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart;
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea--
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
    So didst thou travel on life's common way
    In cheerful godliness: and yet thy heart
    The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
        (From Wordsworth's "Sonnet on Milton")

Shakespeare and Milton are the two figures that tower conspicuously above
the goodly fellowship of men who have made our literature famous. Each is
representative of the age that produced him, and together they form a
suggestive commentary upon the two forces that rule our humanity,--the
force of impulse and the force of a fixed purpose. Shakespeare is the poet
of impulse, of the loves, hates, fears, jealousies, and ambitions that
swayed the men of his age. Milton is the poet of steadfast will and
purpose, who moves like a god amid the fears and hopes and changing
impulses of the world, regarding them as trivial and momentary things that
can never swerve a great soul from its course.

It is well to have some such comparison in mind while studying the
literature of the Elizabethan and the Puritan Age. While Shakespeare and
Ben Jonson and their unequaled company of wits make merry at the Mermaid
Tavern, there is already growing up on the same London street a poet who
shall bring a new force into literature, who shall add to the Renaissance
culture and love of beauty the tremendous moral earnestness of the Puritan.
Such a poet must begin, as the Puritan always began, with his own soul, to
discipline and enlighten it, before expressing its beauty in literature.
"He that would hope to write well hereafter in laudable things," says
Milton, "ought himself to be a true poem; that is, a composition and
pattern of the best and most honorable things." Here is a new proposition
in art which suggests the lofty ideal of Fra Angelico, that before one can
write literature, which is the expression of the ideal, he must first
develop in himself the ideal man. Because Milton is human he must know the
best in humanity; therefore he studies, giving his days to music, art, and
literature, his nights to profound research and meditation. But because he
knows that man is more than mortal he also prays, depending, as he tells
us, on "devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all
utterance and knowledge." Such a poet is already in spirit far beyond the
Renaissance, though he lives in the autumn of its glory and associates with
its literary masters. "There is a spirit in man," says the old Hebrew poet,
"and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding." Here, in a
word, is the secret of Milton's life and writing. Hence his long silences,
years passing without a word; and when he speaks it is like the voice of a
prophet who begins with the sublime announcement, "The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me." Hence his style, producing an impression of sublimity, which
has been marked for wonder by every historian of our literature. His style
was unconsciously sublime because he lived and thought consciously in a
sublime atmosphere.

LIFE OF MILTON. Milton is like an ideal in the soul, like a lofty mountain
on the horizon. We never attain the ideal; we never climb the mountain; but
life would be inexpressibly poorer were either to be taken away.

From childhood Milton's parents set him apart for the attainment of noble
ends, and so left nothing to chance in the matter of training. His father,
John Milton, is said to have turned Puritan while a student at Oxford and
to have been disinherited by his family; whereupon he settled in London and
prospered greatly as a scrivener, that is, a kind of notary. In character
the elder Milton was a rare combination of scholar and business man, a
radical Puritan in politics and religion, yet a musician, whose hymn tunes
are still sung, and a lover of art and literature. The poet's mother was a
woman of refinement and social grace, with a deep interest in religion and
in local charities. So the boy grew up in a home which combined the culture
of the Renaissance with the piety and moral strength of early Puritanism.
He begins, therefore, as the heir of one great age and the prophet of

Apparently the elder Milton shared Bacon's dislike for the educational
methods of the time and so took charge of his son's training, encouraging
his natural tastes, teaching him music, and seeking out a tutor who helped
the boy to what he sought most eagerly, not the grammar and mechanism of
Greek and Latin but rather the stories, the ideals, the poetry that hide in
their incomparable literatures. At twelve years we find the boy already a
scholar in spirit, unable to rest till after midnight because of the joy
with which his study was rewarded. From boyhood two great principles seem
to govern Milton's career: one, the love of beauty, of music, art,
literature, and indeed of every form of human culture; the other, a
steadfast devotion to duty as the highest object in human life.

A brief course at the famous St. Paul's school in London was the prelude to
Milton's entrance to Christ's College, Cambridge. Here again he followed
his natural bent and, like Bacon, found himself often in opposition to the
authorities. Aside from some Latin poems, the most noteworthy song of this
period of Milton's life is his splendid ode, '"On the Morning of Christ's
Nativity," which was begun on Christmas day, 1629. Milton, while deep in
the classics, had yet a greater love for his native literature. Spenser was
for years his master; in his verse we find every evidence of his "loving
study" of Shakespeare, and his last great poems show clearly how he had
been influenced by Fletcher's _Christ's Victory and Triumph_. But it is
significant that this first ode rises higher than anything of the kind
produced in the famous Age of Elizabeth.

While at Cambridge it was the desire of his parents that Milton should take
orders in the Church of England; but the intense love of mental liberty
which stamped the Puritan was too strong within him, and he refused to
consider the "oath of servitude," as he called it, which would mark his
ordination. Throughout his life Milton, though profoundly religious, held
aloof from the strife of sects. In belief, he belonged to the extreme
Puritans, called Separatists, Independents, Congregationalists, of which
our Pilgrim Fathers are the great examples; but he refused to be bound by
any creed or church discipline:

    As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

In this last line of one of his sonnets[164] is found Milton's rejection of
every form of outward religious authority in face of the supreme Puritan
principle, the liberty of the individual soul before God.

A long period of retirement followed Milton's withdrawal from the
university in 1632. At his father's country home in Horton he gave himself
up for six years to solitary reading and study, roaming over the wide
fields of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Italian, and English
literatures, and studying hard at mathematics, science, theology, and
music,--a curious combination. To his love of music we owe the melody of
all his poetry, and we note it in the rhythm and balance which make even
his mighty prose arguments harmonious. In "Lycidas," "L'Allegro," "Il
Penseroso," "Arcades," "Comus," and a few "Sonnets," we have the poetic
results of this retirement at Horton,--few, indeed, but the most perfect of
their kind that our literature has recorded.

Out of solitude, where his talent was perfected, Milton entered the busy
world where his character was to be proved to the utmost. From Horton he
traveled abroad, through France, Switzerland, and Italy, everywhere
received with admiration for his learning and courtesy, winning the
friendship of the exiled Dutch scholar Grotius, in Paris, and of Galileo in
his sad imprisonment in Florence.[165] He was on his way to Greece when
news reached him of the break between king and parliament. With the
practical insight which never deserted him Milton saw clearly the meaning
of the news. His cordial reception in Italy, so chary of praise to anything
not Italian, had reawakened in Milton the old desire to write an epic which
England would "not willingly let die"; but at thought of the conflict for
human freedom all his dreams were flung to the winds. He gave up his
travels and literary ambitions and hurried to England. "For I thought it
base," he says, "to be traveling at my ease for intellectual culture while
my fellow-countrymen at home were fighting for liberty."

Then for nearly twenty years the poet of great achievement and still
greater promise disappears. We hear no more songs, but only the prose
denunciations and arguments which are as remarkable as his poetry. In all
our literature there is nothing more worthy of the Puritan spirit than this
laying aside of personal ambitions in order to join in the struggle for
human liberty. In his best known sonnet, "On His Blindness," which reflects
his grief, not at darkness, but at his abandoned dreams, we catch the
sublime spirit of this renunciation.

Milton's opportunity to serve came in the crisis of 1649. The king had been
sent to the scaffold, paying the penalty of his own treachery, and England
sat shivering at its own deed, like a child or a Russian peasant who in
sudden passion resists unbearable brutality and then is afraid of the
consequences. Two weeks of anxiety, of terror and silence followed; then
appeared Milton's _Tenure of Kings and Magistrates_. To England it was like
the coming of a strong man, not only to protect the child, but to justify
his blow for liberty. Kings no less than people are subject to the eternal
principle of law; the divine right of a people to defend and protect
themselves,--that was the mighty argument which calmed a people's dread and
proclaimed that a new man and a new principle had arisen in England. Milton
was called to be Secretary for Foreign Tongues in the new government; and
for the next few years, until the end of the Commonwealth, there were two
leaders in England, Cromwell the man of action, Milton the man of thought.
It is doubtful to which of the two humanity owes most for its emancipation
from the tyranny of kings and prelates.

Two things of personal interest deserve mention in this period of Milton's
life, his marriage and his blindness. In 1643 he married Mary Powell, a
shallow, pleasure-loving girl, the daughter of a Royalist; and that was the
beginning of sorrows. After a month, tiring of the austere life of a
Puritan household, she abandoned her husband, who, with the same radical
reasoning with which he dealt with affairs of state, promptly repudiated
the marriage. His _Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce_ and his
_Tetrachordon_ are the arguments to justify his position; but they aroused
a storm of protest in England, and they suggest to a modern reader that
Milton was perhaps as much to blame as his wife, and that he had scant
understanding of a woman's nature. When his wife, fearing for her position,
appeared before him in tears, all his ponderous arguments were swept aside
by a generous impulse; and though the marriage was never a happy one,
Milton never again mentioned his wife's desertion. The scene in _Paradise
Lost_, where Eve comes weeping to Adam, seeking peace and pardon, is
probably a reflection of a scene in Milton's own household. His wife died
in 1653, and a few years later he married another, whom we remember for the
sonnet, "Methought I saw my late espoused saint," in which she is
celebrated. She died after fifteen months, and in 1663 he married a third
wife, who helped the blind old man to manage his poor household.

From boyhood the strain on the poet's eyes had grown more and more severe;
but even when his sight was threatened he held steadily to his purpose of
using his pen in the service of his country. During the king's imprisonment
a book appeared called _Eikon Basilike_ (Royal Image), giving a rosy
picture of the king's piety, and condemning the Puritans. The book speedily
became famous and was the source of all Royalist arguments against the
Commonwealth. In 1649 appeared Milton's _Eikonoklastes_ (Image Breaker),
which demolished the flimsy arguments of the _Eikon Basilike_ as a charge
of Cromwell's Ironsides had overwhelmed the king's followers. After the
execution of the king appeared another famous attack upon the Puritans,
_Defensio Regia pro Carlo I_, instigated by Charles II, who was then living
in exile. It was written in Latin by Salmasius, a Dutch professor at
Leyden, and was hailed by the Royalists as an invincible argument. By order
of the Council of State Milton prepared a reply. His eyesight had sadly
failed, and he was warned that any further strain would be disastrous. His
reply was characteristic of the man and the Puritan. As he had once
sacrificed his poetry, so he was now ready, he said, to sacrifice his eyes
also on the altar of English liberty. His magnificent _Defensio pro Populo
Anglicano_ is one of the most masterly controversial works in literature.
The power of the press was already strongly felt in England, and the new
Commonwealth owed its standing partly to Milton's prose, and partly to
Cromwell's policy. The _Defensio_ was the last work that Milton saw.
Blindness fell upon him ere it was finished, and from 1652 until his death
he labored in total darkness.

The last part of Milton's life is a picture of solitary grandeur unequaled
in literary history. With the Restoration all his labors and sacrifices for
humanity were apparently wasted. From his retirement he could hear the
bells and the shouts that welcomed back a vicious monarch, whose first act
was to set his foot upon his people's neck. Milton was immediately marked
for persecution; he remained for months in hiding; he was reduced to
poverty, and his books were burned by the public hangman. His daughters,
upon whom he depended in his blindness, rebelled at the task of reading to
him and recording his thoughts. In the midst of all these sorrows we
understand, in _Samson_, the cry of the blind champion of Israel:

    Now blind, disheartened, shamed, dishonored, quelled,
    To what can I be useful? wherein serve
    My nation, and the work from Heaven imposed?
    But to sit idle on the household hearth,
    A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,
    Or pitied object.

Milton's answer is worthy of his own great life. Without envy or bitterness
he goes back to the early dream of an immortal poem and begins with superb
consciousness of power to dictate his great epic.

_Paradise Lost_ was finished in 1665, after seven years' labor in darkness.
With great difficulty he found a publisher, and for the great work, now the
most honored poem in our literature, he received less than certain verse
makers of our day receive for a little song in one of our popular
magazines. Its success was immediate, though, like all his work, it met
with venomous criticism. Dryden summed up the impression made on thoughtful
minds of his time when he said, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients
too." Thereafter a bit of sunshine came into his darkened home, for the
work stamped him as one of the world's great writers, and from England and
the Continent pilgrims came in increasing numbers to speak their gratitude.

The next year Milton began his _Paradise Regained_. In 1671 appeared his
last important work, _Samson Agonistes_, the most powerful dramatic poem on
the Greek model which our language possesses. The picture of Israel's
mighty champion, blind, alone, afflicted by thoughtless enemies but
preserving a noble ideal to the end, is a fitting close to the life work of
the poet himself. For years he was silent, dreaming who shall say what
dreams in his darkness, and saying cheerfully to his friends, "Still guides
the heavenly vision." He died peacefully in 1674, the most sublime and the
most lonely figure in our literature.

MILTON'S EARLY POETRY.[166] In his early work Milton appears as the
inheritor of all that was best in Elizabethan literature, and his first
work, the ode "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," approaches the
high-water mark of lyric poetry in England. In the next six years, from
1631 to 1637, he wrote but little, scarcely more than two thousand lines,
but these are among the most exquisite and the most perfectly finished in
our language.

"L'Allegro" and "II Penseroso" are twin poems, containing many lines and
short descriptive passages which linger in the mind like strains of music,
and which are known and loved wherever English is spoken. "L'Allegro" (the
joyous or happy man) is like an excursion into the English fields at
sunrise. The air is sweet; birds are singing; a multitude of sights,
sounds, fragrances, fill all the senses; and to this appeal of nature the
soul of man responds by being happy, seeing in every flower and hearing in
every harmony some exquisite symbol of human life. "Il Penseroso" takes us
over the same ground at twilight and at moonrise. The air is still fresh
and fragrant; the symbolism is, if possible, more tenderly beautiful than
before; but the gay mood is gone, though its memory lingers in the
afterglow of the sunset. A quiet thoughtfulness takes the place of the
pure, joyous sensation of the morning, a thoughtfulness which is not sad,
though like all quiet moods it is akin to sadness, and which sounds the
deeps of human emotion in the presence of nature. To quote scattered lines
of either poem is to do injustice to both. They should be read in their
entirety the same day, one at morning, the other at eventide, if one is to
appreciate their beauty and suggestiveness.

The "Masque of Comus" is in many respects the most perfect of Milton's
poems. It was written in 1634 to be performed at Ludlow Castle before the
earl of Bridgewater and his friends. There is a tradition that the earl's
three children had been lost in the woods, and, whether true or not, Milton
takes the simple theme of a person lost, calls in an Attendant Spirit to
protect the wanderer, and out of this, with its natural action and
melodious songs, makes the most exquisite pastoral drama that we possess.
In form it is a masque, like those gorgeous products of the Elizabethan age
of which Ben Jonson was the master. England had borrowed the idea of the
masque from Italy and had used it as the chief entertainment at all
festivals, until it had become to the nobles of England what the miracle
play had been to the common people of a previous generation. Milton, with
his strong Puritan spirit, could not be content with the mere entertainment
of an idle hour. "Comus" has the gorgeous scenic effects, the music and
dancing of other masques; but its moral purpose and its ideal teachings are
unmistakable. "The Triumph of Virtue" would be a better name for this
perfect little masque, for its theme is that virtue and innocence can walk
through any peril of this world without permanent harm. This eternal
triumph of good over evil is proclaimed by the Attendant Spirit who has
protected the innocent in this life and who now disappears from mortal
sight to resume its life of joy:

    Mortals, that would follow me,
    Love Virtue; she alone is free.
    She can teach ye how to climb
    Higher than the sphery chime;
    Or if Virtue feeble were,
    Heaven itself would stoop to her.

While there are undoubted traces of Jonson and John Fletcher in Milton's
"Comus," the poem far surpasses its predecessors in the airy beauty and
melody of its verses.

In the next poem, "Lycidas," a pastoral elegy written in 1637, and the last
of his Horton poems, Milton is no longer the inheritor of the old age, but
the prophet of a new. A college friend, Edward King, had been drowned in
the Irish Sea, and Milton follows the poetic custom of his age by
representing both his friend and himself in the guise of shepherds leading
the pastoral life. Milton also uses all the symbolism of his predecessors,
introducing fauns, satyrs, and sea nymphs; but again the Puritan is not
content with heathen symbolism, and so introduces a new symbol of the
Christian shepherd responsible for the souls of men, whom he likens to
hungry sheep that look up and are not fed. The Puritans and Royalists at
this time were drifting rapidly apart, and Milton uses his new symbolism to
denounce the abuses that had crept into the Church. In any other poet this
moral teaching would hinder the free use of the imagination; but Milton
seems equal to the task of combining high moral purpose with the noblest
poetry. In its exquisite finish and exhaustless imagery "Lycidas" surpasses
most of the poetry of what is often called the pagan Renaissance.

Besides these well-known poems, Milton wrote in this early period a
fragmentary masque called "Arcades"; several Latin poems which, like his
English, are exquisitely finished; and his famous "Sonnets," which brought
this Italian form of verse nearly to the point of perfection. In them he
seldom wrote of love, the usual subject with his predecessors, but of
patriotism, duty, music, and subjects of political interest suggested by
the struggle into which England was drifting. Among these sonnets each
reader must find his own favorites. Those best known and most frequently
quoted are "On His Deceased Wife," "To the Nightingale," "On Reaching the
Age of Twenty-three," "The Massacre in Piedmont," and the two "On His

MILTON'S PROSE. Of Milton's prose works there are many divergent opinions,
ranging from Macaulay's unbounded praise to the condemnation of some of our
modern critics. From a literary view point Milton's prose would be stronger
if less violent, and a modern writer would hardly be excused for using his
language or his methods; but we must remember the times and the methods of
his opponents. In his fiery zeal against injustice the poet is suddenly
dominated by the soldier's spirit. He first musters his facts in
battalions, and charges upon the enemy to crush and overpower without
mercy. For Milton hates injustice and, because it is an enemy of his
people, he cannot and will not spare it. When the victory is won, he exults
in a paean of victory as soul-stirring as the Song of Deborah. He is the
poet again, spite of himself, and his mind fills with magnificent images.
Even with a subject so dull, so barren of the bare possibilities of poetry,
as his "Animadversions upon the Remonstrants' Defense," he breaks out into
an invocation, "Oh, Thou that sittest in light and glory unapproachable,
parent of angels and men," which is like a chapter from the Apocalypse. In
such passages Milton's prose is, as Taine suggests, "an outpouring of
splendors," which suggests the noblest poetry.

On account of their controversial character these prose works are seldom
read, and it is probable that Milton never thought of them as worthy of a
place in literature. Of them all _Areopagitica_ has perhaps the most
permanent interest and is best worth reading. In Milton's time there was a
law forbidding the publication of books until they were indorsed by the
official censor. Needless to say, the censor, holding his office and salary
by favor, was naturally more concerned with the divine right of kings and
bishops than with the delights of literature, and many books were
suppressed for no better reason than that they were displeasing to the
authorities. Milton protested against this, as against every other form of
tyranny, and his _Areopagitica_--so called from the Areopagus or Forum of
Athens, the place of public appeal, and the Mars Hill of St. Paul's
address--is the most famous plea in English for the freedom of the press.

MILTON'S LATER POETRY. Undoubtedly the noblest of Milton's works, written
when he was blind and suffering, are _Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained_,
and _Samson Agonistes_. The first is the greatest, indeed the only
generally acknowledged epic in our literature since _Beowulf;_ the last is
the most perfect specimen of a drama after the Greek method in our

Of the history of the great epic we have some interesting glimpses. In
Cambridge there is preserved a notebook of Milton's containing a list of
nearly one hundred subjects[167] for a great poem, selected while he was a
boy at the university. King Arthur attracted him at first; but his choice
finally settled upon the Fall of Man, and we have four separate outlines
showing Milton's proposed treatment of the subject. These outlines indicate
that he contemplated a mighty drama or miracle play; but whether because of
Puritan antipathy to plays and players, or because of the wretched dramatic
treatment of religious subjects which Milton had witnessed in Italy, he
abandoned the idea of a play and settled on the form of an epic poem; most
fortunately, it must be conceded, for Milton had not the knowledge of men
necessary for a drama. As a study of character _Paradise Lost_ would be a
grievous failure. Adam, the central character, is something of a prig;
while Satan looms up a magnificent figure, entirely different from the
devil of the miracle plays and completely overshadowing the hero both in
interest and in manliness. The other characters, the Almighty, the Son,
Raphael, Michael, the angels and fallen spirits, are merely mouthpieces for
Milton's declamations, without any personal or human interest. Regarded as
a drama, therefore, _Paradise Lost_ could never have been a success; but as
poetry, with its sublime imagery, its harmonious verse, its titanic
background of heaven, hell, and the illimitable void that lies between, it
is unsurpassed in any literature.

In 1658 Milton in his darkness sat down to dictate the work which he had
planned thirty years before. In order to understand the mighty sweep of the
poem it is necessary to sum up the argument of the twelve books, as

Book I opens with a statement of the subject, the Fall of Man, and a noble
invocation for light and divine guidance. Then begins the account of Satan
and the rebel angels, their banishment from heaven, and their plot to
oppose the design of the Almighty by dragging down his children, our first
parents, from their state of innocence. The book closes with a description
of the land of fire and endless pain where the fallen spirits abide, and
the erection of Pandemonium, the palace of Satan. Book II is a description
of the council of evil spirits, of Satan's consent to undertake the
temptation of Adam and Eve, and his journey to the gates of hell, which are
guarded by Sin and Death. Book III transports us to heaven again. God,
foreseeing the fall, sends Raphael to warn Adam and Eve, so that their
disobedience shall be upon their own heads. Then the Son offers himself a
sacrifice, to take away the sin of the coming disobedience of man. At the
end of this book Satan appears in a different scene, meets Uriel, the Angel
of the Sun, inquires from him the way to earth, and takes his journey
thither disguised as an angel of light. Book IV shows us Paradise and the
innocent state of man. An angel guard is set over Eden, and Satan is
arrested while tempting Eve in a dream, but is curiously allowed to go free
again. Book V shows us Eve relating her dream to Adam, and then the morning
prayer and the daily employment of our first parents. Raphael visits them,
is entertained by a banquet (which Eve proposes in order to show him that
all God's gifts are not kept in heaven), and tells them of the revolt of
the fallen spirits. His story is continued in Book VI. In Book VII we read
the story of the creation of the world as Raphael tells it to Adam and Eve.
In Book VIII Adam tells Raphael the story of his own life and of his
meeting with Eve. Book IX is the story of the temptation by Satan,
following the account in Genesis. Book X records the divine judgment upon
Adam and Eve; shows the construction by Sin and Death of a highway through
chaos to the earth, and Satan's return to Pandemonium. Adam and Eve repent
of their disobedience and Satan and his angels are turned into serpents. In
Book XI the Almighty accepts Adam's repentance, but condemns him to be
banished from Paradise, and the archangel Michael is sent to execute the
sentence. At the end of the book, after Eve's feminine grief at the loss of
Paradise, Michael begins a prophetic vision of the destiny of man. Book XII
continues Michael's vision. Adam and Eve are comforted by hearing of the
future redemption of their race. The poem ends as they wander forth out of
Paradise and the door closes behind them.

It will be seen that this is a colossal epic, not of a man or a hero, but
of the whole race of men; and that Milton's characters are such as no human
hand could adequately portray. But the scenes, the splendors of heaven, the
horrors of hell, the serene beauty of Paradise, the sun and planets
suspended between celestial light and gross darkness, are pictured with an
imagination that is almost superhuman. The abiding interest of the poem is
in these colossal pictures, and in the lofty thought and the marvelous
melody with which they are impressed on our minds. The poem is in blank
verse, and not until Milton used it did we learn the infinite variety and
harmony of which it is capable. He played with it, changing its melody and
movement on every page, "as an organist out of a single theme develops an
unending variety of harmony."

Lamartine has described _Paradise Lost_ as the dream of a Puritan fallen
asleep over his Bible, and this suggestive description leads us to the
curious fact that it is the dream, not the theology or the descriptions of
Bible scenes, that chiefly interests us. Thus Milton describes the
separation of earth and water, and there is little or nothing added to the
simplicity and strength of _Genesis_; but the sunset which follows is
Milton's own dream, and instantly we are transported to a land of beauty
and poetry:

    Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray
    Had in her sober livery all things clad;
    Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
    They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
    Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.
    She all night long her amorous descant sung:
    Silence was pleased. Now glowed the firmament
    With living sapphires; Hesperus, that led
    The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,
    Rising in clouded majesty, at length
    Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light,
    And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.

So also Milton's Almighty, considered purely as a literary character, is
unfortunately tinged with the narrow and literal theology of the time. He
is a being enormously egotistic, the despot rather than the servant of the
universe, seated upon a throne with a chorus of angels about him eternally
singing his praises and ministering to a kind of divine vanity. It is not
necessary to search heaven for such a character; the type is too common
upon earth. But in Satan Milton breaks away from crude mediæval
conceptions; he follows the dream again, and gives us a character to admire
and understand:

    "Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"
    Said then the lost Archangel, "this the seat
    That we must change for Heaven?--this mournful gloom
    For that celestial light? Be it so, since He
    Who now is sovran can dispose and bid
    What shall be right: farthest from Him is best,
    Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
    Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
    Where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
    Infernal World! and thou, profoundest Hell,
    Receive thy new possessor--one who brings
    A mind not to be changed by place or time.
    The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
    What matter where, if I be still the same,
    And what I should be, all but less than he
    Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
    We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built
    Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
    Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
    To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
    Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."

In this magnificent heroism Milton has unconsciously immortalized the
Puritan spirit, the same unconquerable spirit that set men to writing poems
and allegories when in prison for the faith, and that sent them over the
stormy sea in a cockleshell to found a free commonwealth in the wilds of

For a modern reader the understanding of _Paradise Lost_ presupposes two
things,--a knowledge of the first chapters of the Scriptures, and of the
general principles of Calvinistic theology; but it is a pity to use the
poem, as has so often been done, to teach a literal acceptance of one or
the other. Of the theology of _Paradise Lost_ the least said the better;
but to the splendor of the Puritan dream and the glorious melody of its
expression no words can do justice. Even a slight acquaintance will make
the reader understand why it ranks with the _Divina Commedia_ of Dante, and
why it is generally accepted by critics as the greatest single poem in our

Soon after the completion of _Paradise Lost_, Thomas Ellwood, a friend of
Milton, asked one day after reading the Paradise manuscript, "But what hast
thou to say of Paradise Found?" It was in response to this suggestion that
Milton wrote the second part of the great epic, known to us as _Paradise
Regained_. The first tells how mankind, in the person of Adam, fell at the
first temptation by Satan and became an outcast from Paradise and from
divine grace; the second shows how mankind, in the person of Christ,
withstands the tempter and is established once more in the divine favor.
Christ's temptation in the wilderness is the theme, and Milton follows the
account in the fourth chapter of Matthew's gospel. Though _Paradise
Regained_ was Milton's favorite, and though it has many passages of noble
thought and splendid imagery equal to the best of _Paradise Lost_, the poem
as a whole falls below the level of the first, and is less interesting to

In _Samson Agonistes_ Milton turns to a more vital and personal theme, and
his genius transfigures the story of Samson, the mighty champion of Israel,
now blind and scorned, working as a slave among the Philistines. The poet's
aim was to present in English a pure tragedy, with all the passion and
restraint which marked the old Greek dramas. That he succeeded where others
failed is due to two causes: first, Milton himself suggests the hero of one
of the Greek tragedies,--his sorrow and affliction give to his noble nature
that touch of melancholy and calm dignity which is in perfect keeping with
his subject. Second, Milton is telling his own story. Like Samson he had
struggled mightily against the enemies of his race; he had taken a wife
from the Philistines and had paid the penalty; he was blind, alone, scorned
by his vain and thoughtless masters. To the essential action of the tragedy
Milton could add, therefore, that touch of intense yet restrained personal
feeling which carries more conviction than any argument. _Samson_ is in
many respects the most convincing of his works. Entirely apart from the
interest of its subject and treatment, one may obtain from it a better idea
of what great tragedy was among the Greeks than from any other work in our

    Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
    Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
    Dispraise or blame,--nothing but well and fair,
    And what may quiet us in a death so noble.


JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688)

As there is but one poet great enough to express the Puritan spirit, so
there is but one commanding prose writer, John Bunyan. Milton was the child
of the Renaissance, inheritor of all its culture, and the most profoundly
educated man of his age. Bunyan was a poor, uneducated tinker. From the
Renaissance he inherited nothing; but from the Reformation he received an
excess of that spiritual independence which had caused the Puritan struggle
for liberty. These two men, representing the extremes of English life in
the seventeenth century, wrote the two works that stand to-day for the
mighty Puritan spirit. One gave us the only epic since _Beowulf_; the other
gave us our only great allegory, which has been read more than any other
book in our language save the Bible.

LIFE OF BUNYAN. Bunyan is an extraordinary figure; we must study him, as
well as his books. Fortunately we have his life story in his own words,
written with the same lovable modesty and sincerity that marked all his
work. Reading that story now, in _Grace Abounding_, we see two great
influences at work in his life. One, from within, was his own vivid
imagination, which saw visions, allegories, parables, revelations, in every
common event. The other, from without, was the spiritual ferment of the
age, the multiplication of strange sects,--Quakers, Free-Willers, Ranters,
Anabaptists, Millenarians,--and the untempered zeal of all classes, like an
engine without a balance wheel, when men were breaking away from authority
and setting up their own religious standards. Bunyan's life is an epitome
of that astonishing religious individualism which marked the close of the
English Reformation.

He was born in the little village of Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628, the son
of a poor tinker. For a little while the boy was sent to school, where he
learned to read and write after a fashion; but he was soon busy in his
father's shop, where, amid the glowing pots and the fire and smoke of his
little forge, he saw vivid pictures of hell and the devils which haunted
him all his life. When he was sixteen years old his father married the
second time, whereupon Bunyan ran away and became a soldier in the
Parliamentary army.

The religious ferment of the age made a tremendous impression on Bunyan's
sensitive imagination. He went to church occasionally, only to find himself
wrapped in terrors and torments by some fiery itinerant preacher; and he
would rush violently away from church to forget his fears by joining in
Sunday sports on the village green. As night came on the sports were
forgotten, but the terrors returned, multiplied like the evil spirits of
the parable. Visions of hell and the demons swarmed in his brain. He would
groan aloud in his remorse, and even years afterwards he bemoans the sins
of his early life. When we look for them fearfully, expecting some shocking
crimes and misdemeanors, we find that they consisted of playing ball on
Sunday and swearing. The latter sin, sad to say, was begun by listening to
his father cursing some obstinate kettle which refused to be tinkered, and
it was perfected in the Parliamentary army. One day his terrible swearing
scared a woman, "a very loose and ungodly wretch," as he tells us, who
reprimanded him for his profanity. The reproach of the poor woman went
straight home, like the voice of a prophet. All his profanity left him; he
hung down his head with shame. "I wished with all my heart," he says, "that
I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak
without this wicked way of swearing." With characteristic vehemence Bunyan
hurls himself upon a promise of Scripture, and instantly the reformation
begins to work in his soul. He casts out the habit, root and branch, and
finds to his astonishment that he can speak more freely and vigorously than
before. Nothing is more characteristic of the man than this sudden seizing
upon a text, which he had doubtless heard many times before, and being
suddenly raised up or cast down by its influence.

With Bunyan's marriage to a good woman the real reformation in his life
began. While still in his teens he married a girl as poor as himself. "We
came together," he says, "as poor as might be, having not so much household
stuff as a dish or spoon between us both." The only dowry which the girl
brought to her new home was two old, threadbare books, _The Plain Man's
Pathway to Heaven_, and _The Practice of Piety_[168] Bunyan read these
books, which instantly gave fire to his imagination. He saw new visions and
dreamed terrible new dreams of lost souls; his attendance at church grew
exemplary; he began slowly and painfully to read the Bible for himself, but
because of his own ignorance and the contradictory interpretations of
Scripture which he heard on every side, he was tossed about like a feather
by all the winds of doctrine.

The record of the next few years is like a nightmare, so terrible is
Bunyan's spiritual struggle. One day he feels himself an outcast; the next
the companion of angels; the third he tries experiments with the Almighty
in order to put his salvation to the proof. As he goes along the road to
Bedford he thinks he will work a miracle, like Gideon with his fleece. He
will say to the little puddles of water in the horses' tracks, "Be ye dry";
and to all the dry tracks he will say, "Be ye puddles." As he is about to
perform the miracle a thought occurs to him: "But go first under yonder
hedge and pray that the Lord will make you able to perform a miracle." He
goes promptly and prays. Then he is afraid of the test, and goes on his way
more troubled than before.

After years of such struggle, chased about between heaven and hell, Bunyan
at last emerges into a saner atmosphere, even as Pilgrim came out of the
horrible Valley of the Shadow. Soon, led by his intense feelings, he
becomes an open-air preacher, and crowds of laborers gather about him on
the village green. They listen in silence to his words; they end in groans
and tears; scores of them amend their sinful lives. For the Anglo-Saxon
people are remarkable for this, that however deeply they are engaged in
business or pleasure, they are still sensitive as barometers to any true
spiritual influence, whether of priest or peasant; they recognize what
Emerson calls the "accent of the Holy Ghost," and in this recognition of
spiritual leadership lies the secret of their democracy. So this village
tinker, with his strength and sincerity, is presently the acknowledged
leader of an immense congregation, and his influence is felt throughout
England. It is a tribute to his power that, after the return of Charles II,
Bunyan was the first to be prohibited from holding public meetings.

Concerning Bunyan's imprisonment in Bedford jail, which followed his
refusal to obey the law prohibiting religious meetings without the
authority of the Established Church, there is a difference of opinion. That
the law was unjust goes without saying; but there was no religious
persecution, as we understand the term. Bunyan was allowed to worship when
and how he pleased; he was simply forbidden to hold public meetings, which
frequently became fierce denunciations of the Established Church and
government. His judges pleaded with Bunyan to conform with the law. He
refused, saying that when the Spirit was upon him he must go up and down
the land, calling on men everywhere to repent. In his refusal we see much
heroism, a little obstinacy, and perhaps something of that desire for
martyrdom which tempts every spiritual leader. That his final sentence to
indefinite imprisonment was a hard blow to Bunyan is beyond question. He
groaned aloud at the thought of his poor family, and especially at the
thought of leaving his little blind daughter:

I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities; the parting was like
pulling the flesh from my bones.... Oh, the thoughts of the hardship I
thought my poor blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces.
Poor child, thought I, what sorrow thou art like to have for thy portion in
this world; thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness,
and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure that the wind should
blow upon thee.[169]

And then, because he thinks always in parables and seeks out most curious
texts of Scripture, he speaks of "the two milch kine that were to carry the
ark of God into another country and leave their calves behind them." Poor
cows, poor Bunyan! Such is the mind of this extraordinary man.

With characteristic diligence Bunyan set to work in prison making shoe
laces, and so earned a living for his family. His imprisonment lasted for
nearly twelve years; but he saw his family frequently, and was for some
time a regular preacher in the Baptist church in Bedford. Occasionally he
even went about late at night, holding the proscribed meetings and
increasing his hold upon the common people. The best result of this
imprisonment was that it gave Bunyan long hours for the working of his
peculiar mind and for study of his two only books, the King James Bible and
Foxe's _Book of Martyrs_. The result of his study and meditation was _The
Pilgrim's Progress_, which was probably written in prison, but which for
some reason he did not publish till long after his release.

The years which followed are the most interesting part of Bunyan's strange
career. The publication of _Pilgrim's Progress_ in 1678 made him the most
popular writer, as he was already the most popular preacher, in England.
Books, tracts, sermons, nearly sixty works in all, came from his pen; and
when one remembers his ignorance, his painfully slow writing, and his
activity as an itinerant preacher, one can only marvel. His evangelistic
journeys carried him often as far as London, and wherever he went crowds
thronged to hear him. Scholars, bishops, statesmen went in secret to listen
among the laborers, and came away wondering and silent. At Southwark the
largest building could not contain the multitude of his hearers; and when
he preached in London, thousands would gather in the cold dusk of the
winter morning, before work began, and listen until he had made an end of
speaking. "Bishop Bunyan" he was soon called on account of his missionary
journeys and his enormous influence.

What we most admire in the midst of all this activity is his perfect mental
balance, his charity and humor in the strife of many sects. He was badgered
for years by petty enemies, and he arouses our enthusiasm by his tolerance,
his self-control, and especially by his sincerity. To the very end he
retained that simple modesty which no success could spoil. Once when he had
preached with unusual power some of his friends waited after the service to
congratulate him, telling him what a "sweet sermon" he had delivered.
"Aye," said Bunyan, "you need not remind me; the devil told me that before
I was out of the pulpit."

For sixteen years this wonderful activity continued without interruption.
Then, one day when riding through a cold storm on a labor of love, to
reconcile a stubborn man with his own stubborn son, he caught a severe cold
and appeared, ill and suffering but rejoicing in his success, at the house
of a friend in Reading. He died there a few days later, and was laid away
in Bunhill Fields burial ground, London, which has been ever since a _campo
santo_ to the faithful.

WORKS OF BUNYAN. The world's literature has three great
allegories,--Spenser's _Faery Queen_, Dante's _Divina Commedia_, and
Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_. The first appeals to poets, the second to
scholars, the third to people of every age and condition. Here is a brief
outline of the famous work:

"As I walked through the wilderness of this world I lighted on a certain
place where was a den [Bedford jail] and laid me down in that place to
sleep; and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream." So the story begins. He sees a
man called Christian setting out with a book in his hand and a great load
on his back from the city of Destruction. Christian has two objects,--to
get rid of his burden, which holds the sins and fears of his life, and to
make his way to the Holy City. At the outset Evangelist finds him weeping
because he knows not where to go, and points him to a wicket gate on a hill
far away. As Christian goes forward his neighbors, friends, wife and
children call to him to come back; but he puts his fingers in his ears,
crying out, "Life, life, eternal life," and so rushes across the plain.

Then begins a journey in ten stages, which is a vivid picture of the
difficulties and triumphs of the Christian life. Every trial, every
difficulty, every experience of joy or sorrow, of peace or temptation, is
put into the form and discourse of a living character. Other allegorists
write in poetry and their characters are shadowy and unreal; but Bunyan
speaks in terse, idiomatic prose, and his characters are living men and
women. There are Mr. Worldly Wiseman, a self-satisfied and dogmatic kind of
man, youthful Ignorance, sweet Piety, courteous Demas, garrulous Talkative,
honest Faithful, and a score of others, who are not at all the bloodless
creatures of the _Romance of the Rose_, but men real enough to stop you on
the road and to hold your attention. Scene after scene follows, in which
are pictured many of our own spiritual experiences. There is the Slough of
Despond, into which we all have fallen, out of which Pliable scrambles on
the hither side and goes back grumbling, but through which Christian
struggles mightily till Helpful stretches him a hand and drags him out on
solid ground and bids him go on his way. Then come Interpreter's house, the
Palace Beautiful, the Lions in the way, the Valley of Humiliation, the hard
fight with the demon Apollyon, the more terrible Valley of the Shadow,
Vanity Fair, and the trial of Faithful. The latter is condemned to death by
a jury made up of Mr. Blindman, Mr. Nogood, Mr. Heady, Mr. Liveloose, Mr.
Hatelight, and others of their kind to whom questions of justice are
committed by the jury system. Most famous is Doubting Castle, where
Christian and Hopeful are thrown into a dungeon by Giant Despair. And then
at last the Delectable Mountains of Youth, the deep river that Christian
must cross, and the city of All Delight and the glorious company of angels
that come singing down the streets. At the very end, when in sight of the
city and while he can hear the welcome with which Christian is greeted,
Ignorance is snatched away to go to his own place; and Bunyan quaintly
observes, "Then I saw that there was a way to hell even from the gates of
heaven as well as from the city of Destruction. So I awoke, and behold it
was a dream!"

Such, in brief, is the story, the great epic of a Puritan's individual
experience in a rough world, just as _Paradise Lost_ was the epic of
mankind as dreamed by the great Puritan who had "fallen asleep over his

The chief fact which confronts the student of literature as he pauses
before this great allegory is that it has been translated into seventy-five
languages and dialects, and has been read more than any other book save one
in the English language.

As for the secret of its popularity, Taine says, "Next to the Bible, the
book most widely read in England is the _Pilgrim's Progress_....
Protestantism is the doctrine of salvation by grace, and no writer has
equaled Bunyan in making this doctrine understood." And this opinion is
echoed by the majority of our literary historians. It is perhaps sufficient
answer to quote the simple fact that _Pilgrim's Progress_ is not
exclusively a Protestant study; it appeals to Christians of every name, and
to Mohammedans and Buddhists in precisely the same way that it appeals to
Christians. When it was translated into the languages of Catholic
countries, like France and Portugal, only one or two incidents were
omitted, and the story was almost as popular there as with English readers.
The secret of its success is probably simple. It is, first of all, not a
procession of shadows repeating the author's declamations, but a real
story, the first extended story in our language. Our Puritan fathers may
have read the story for religious instruction; but all classes of men have
read it because they found in it a true personal experience told with
strength, interest, humor,--in a word, with all the qualities that such a
story should possess. Young people have read it, first, for its intrinsic
worth, because the dramatic interest of the story lured them on to the very
end; and second, because it was their introduction to true allegory. The
child with his imaginative mind--the man also, who has preserved his
simplicity--naturally personifies objects, and takes pleasure in giving
them powers of thinking and speaking like himself. Bunyan was the first
writer to appeal to this pleasant and natural inclination in a way that all
could understand. Add to this the fact that _Pilgrim's Progress_ was the
only book having any story interest in the great majority of English and
American homes for a full century, and we have found the real reason for
its wide reading.

_The Holy War_, published in 1665, is the first important work of Bunyan.
It is a prose _Paradise Lost_, and would undoubtedly be known as a
remarkable allegory were it not overshadowed by its great rival. _Grace
Abounding to the Chief of Sinners_, published in 1666, twelve years before
_Pilgrim's Progress_, is the work from which we obtain the clearest insight
into Bunyan's remarkable life, and to a man with historical or antiquarian
tastes it is still excellent reading. In 1682 appeared _The Life and Death
of Mr. Badman_, a realistic character study which is a precursor of the
modern novel; and in 1684 the second part of _Pilgrim's Progress_, showing
the journey of Christiana and her children to the city of All Delight.
Besides these Bunyan published a multitude of treatises and sermons, all in
the same style,--direct, simple, convincing, expressing every thought and
emotion perfectly in words that even a child can understand. Many of these
are masterpieces, admired by workingmen and scholars alike for their
thought and expression. Take, for instance, "The Heavenly Footman," put it
side by side with the best work of Latimer, and the resemblance in style is
startling. It is difficult to realize that one work came from an ignorant
tinker and the other from a great scholar, both engaged in the same general
work. As Bunyan's one book was the Bible, we have here a suggestion of its
influence in all our prose literature.


The Puritan Period is generally regarded as one destitute of literary
interest; but that was certainly not the result of any lack of books or
writers. Says Burton in his _Anatomy of Melancholy:_

I have ... new books every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole
catalogues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes, opinions, schisms,
heresies, controversies in philosophy and religion. Now come tidings of
weddings, maskings, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, sports, plays;
then again, as in a new-shipped scene, treasons, cheatings, tricks,
robberies, enormous villainies in all kinds, funerals, deaths, new
discoveries, expeditions; now comical, then tragical matters.....

So the record continues, till one rubs his eyes and thinks he must have
picked up by mistake the last literary magazine. And for all these
kaleidoscopic events there were waiting a multitude of writers, ready to
seize the abundant material and turn it to literary account for a tract, an
article, a volume, or an encyclopedia.

If one were to recommend certain of these books as expressive of this age
of outward storm and inward calm, there are three that deserve more than a
passing notice, namely, the _Religio Medici_, _Holy Living_, and _The
Compleat Angler_. The first was written by a busy physician, a supposedly
scientific man at that time; the second by the most learned of English
churchmen; and the third by a simple merchant and fisherman. Strangely
enough, these three great books--the reflections of nature, science, and
revelation--all interpret human life alike and tell the same story of
gentleness, charity, and noble living. If the age had produced only these
three books, we could still be profoundly grateful to it for its inspiring

ROBERT BURTON (1577-1640). Burton is famous chiefly as the author of the
_Anatomy of Melancholy_, one of the most astonishing books in all
literature, which appeared in 1621. Burton was a clergyman of the
Established Church, an incomprehensible genius, given to broodings and
melancholy and to reading of every conceivable kind of literature. Thanks
to his wonderful memory, everything he read was stored up for use or
ornament, till his mind resembled a huge curiosity shop. All his life he
suffered from hypochondria, but curiously traced his malady to the stars
rather than to his own liver. It is related of him that he used to suffer
so from despondency that no help was to be found in medicine or theology;
his only relief was to go down to the river and hear the bargemen swear at
one another.

Burton's _Anatomy_ was begun as a medical treatise on morbidness, arranged
and divided with all the exactness of the schoolmen's demonstration of
doctrines; but it turned out to be an enormous hodgepodge of quotations and
references to authors, known and unknown, living and dead, which seemed to
prove chiefly that "much study is a weariness to the flesh." By some freak
of taste it became instantly popular, and was proclaimed one of the
greatest books in literature. A few scholars still explore it with delight,
as a mine of classic wealth; but the style is hopelessly involved, and to
the ordinary reader most of his numerous references are now as unmeaning as
a hyper-jacobian surface.

SIR THOMAS BROWNE (1605-1682). Browne was a physician who, after much study
and travel, settled down to his profession in Norwich; but even then he
gave far more time to the investigation of natural phenomena than to the
barbarous practices which largely constituted the "art" of medicine in his
day. He was known far and wide as a learned doctor and an honest man, whose
scientific studies had placed him in advance of his age, and whose
religious views were liberal to the point of heresy. With this in mind, it
is interesting to note, as a sign of the times, that this most scientific
doctor was once called to give "expert" testimony in the case of two old
women who were being tried for the capital crime of witchcraft. He
testified under oath that "the fits were natural, but heightened by the
devil's coöperating with the witches, at whose instance he [the alleged
devil] did the villainies."

Browne's great work is the _Religio Medici_, i.e. The Religion of a
Physician (1642), which met with most unusual success. "Hardly ever was a
book published in Britain," says Oldys, a chronicler who wrote nearly a
century later, "that made more noise than the _Religio Medici_." Its
success may be due largely to the fact that, among thousands of religious
works, it was one of the few which saw in nature a profound revelation, and
which treated purely religious subjects in a reverent, kindly, tolerant
way, without ecclesiastical bias. It is still, therefore, excellent
reading; but it is not so much the matter as the manner--the charm, the
gentleness, the remarkable prose style--which has established the book as
one of the classics of our literature.

Two other works of Browne are _Vulgar Errors_ (1646), a curious combination
of scientific and credulous research in the matter of popular superstition,
and _Urn Burial_, a treatise suggested by the discovery of Roman burial
urns at Walsingham. It began as an inquiry into the various methods of
burial, but ended in a dissertation on the vanity of earthly hope and
ambitions. From a literary point of view it is Browne's best work, but is
less read than the _Religio Medici_.

THOMAS FULLER (1608-1661). Fuller was a clergyman and royalist whose lively
style and witty observations would naturally place him with the gay
Caroline poets. His best known works are _The Holy War, The Holy State and
the Profane State, Church History of Britain_, and the _History of the
Worthies of England. The Holy and Profane State_ is chiefly a biographical
record, the first part consisting of numerous historical examples to be
imitated, the second of examples to be avoided. The _Church History_ is not
a scholarly work, notwithstanding its author's undoubted learning, but is a
lively and gossipy account which has at least one virtue, that it
entertains the reader. The _Worthies_, the most widely read of his works,
is a racy account of the important men of England. Fuller traveled
constantly for years, collecting information from out-of-the-way sources
and gaining a minute knowledge of his own country. This, with his
overflowing humor and numerous anecdotes and illustrations, makes lively
and interesting reading. Indeed, we hardly find a dull page in any of his
numerous books.

JEREMY TAYLOR (1613-1667). Taylor was the greatest of the clergymen who
made this period famous, a man who, like Milton, upheld a noble ideal in
storm and calm, and himself lived it nobly. He has been called "the
Shakespeare of divines," and "a kind of Spenser in a cassock," and both
descriptions apply to him very well. His writings, with their exuberant
fancy and their noble diction, belong rather to the Elizabethan than to the
Puritan age.

From the large number of his works two stand out as representative of the
man himself: _The Liberty of Prophesying_ (1646), which Hallam calls the
first plea for tolerance in religion, on a comprehensive basis and on
deep-seated foundations; and _The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living_
(1650). To the latter might be added its companion volume, _Holy Dying_,
published in the following year. _The Holy Living and Dying_, as a single
volume, was for many years read in almost every English cottage. With
Baxter's _Saints' Rest, Pilgrim's Progress_, and the _King James Bible_, it
often constituted the entire library of multitudes of Puritan homes; and as
we read its noble words and breathe its gentle spirit, we cannot help
wishing that our modern libraries were gathered together on the same
thoughtful foundations.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691). This "busiest man of his age" strongly suggests
Bunyan in his life and writings. Like Bunyan, he was poor and uneducated, a
nonconformist minister, exposed continually to insult and persecution; and,
like Bunyan, he threw himself heart and soul into the conflicts of his age,
and became by his public speech a mighty power among the common people.
Unlike Jeremy Taylor, who wrote for the learned, and whose involved
sentences and classical allusions are sometimes hard to follow, Baxter went
straight to his mark, appealing directly to the judgment and feeling of his

The number of his works is almost incredible when one thinks of his busy
life as a preacher and the slowness of manual writing. In all, he left
nearly one hundred and seventy different works, which if collected would
make fifty or sixty volumes. As he wrote chiefly to influence men on the
immediate questions of the day, most of this work has fallen into oblivion.
His two most famous books are _The Saints' Everlasting Rest_ and _A Call to
the Unconverted_, both of which were exceedingly popular, running through
scores of successive editions, and have been widely read in our own

IZAAK WALTON (1593-1683). Walton was a small tradesman of London, who
preferred trout brooks and good reading to the profits of business and the
doubtful joys of a city life; so at fifty years, when he had saved a little
money, he left the city and followed his heart out into the country. He
began his literary work, or rather his recreation, by writing his famous
_Lives_,--kindly and readable appreciations of Donne, Wotton, Hooker,
Herbert, and Sanderson, which stand at the beginning of modern biographical

In 1653 appeared _The Compleat Angler_, which has grown steadily in
appreciation, and which is probably more widely read than any other book on
the subject of fishing. It begins with a conversation between a falconer, a
hunter, and an angler; but the angler soon does most of the talking, as
fishermen sometimes do; the hunter becomes a disciple, and learns by the
easy method of hearing the fisherman discourse about his art. The
conversations, it must be confessed, are often diffuse and pedantic; but
they only make us feel most comfortably sleepy, as one invariably feels
after a good day's fishing. So kindly is the spirit of the angler, so
exquisite his appreciation of the beauty of the earth and sky, that one
returns to the book, as to a favorite trout stream, with the undying
expectation of catching something. Among a thousand books on angling it
stands almost alone in possessing a charming style, and so it will probably
be read as long as men go fishing. Best of all, it leads to a better
appreciation of nature, and it drops little moral lessons into the reader's
mind as gently as one casts a fly to a wary trout; so that one never
suspects his better nature is being angled for. Though we have sometimes
seen anglers catch more than they need, or sneak ahead of brother fishermen
to the best pools, we are glad, for Walton's sake, to overlook such
unaccountable exceptions, and agree with the milkmaid that "we love all
anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men."

SUMMARY OF THE PURITAN PERIOD. The half century between 1625 and 1675 is
called the Puritan period for two reasons: first, because Puritan standards
prevailed for a time in England; and second, because the greatest literary
figure during all these years was the Puritan, John Milton. Historically
the age was one of tremendous conflict. The Puritan struggled for
righteousness and liberty, and because he prevailed, the age is one of
moral and political revolution. In his struggle for liberty the Puritan
overthrew the corrupt monarchy, beheaded Charles I, and established the
Commonwealth under Cromwell. The Commonwealth lasted but a few years, and
the restoration of Charles II in 1660 is often put as the end of the
Puritan period. The age has no distinct limits, but overlaps the
Elizabethan period on one side, and the Restoration period on the other.

The age produced many writers, a few immortal books, and one of the world's
great literary leaders. The literature of the age is extremely diverse in
character, and the diversity is due to the breaking up of the ideals of
political and religious unity. This literature differs from that of the
preceding age in three marked ways: (1) It has no unity of spirit, as in
the days of Elizabeth, resulting from the patriotic enthusiasm of all
classes. (2) In contrast with the hopefulness and vigor of Elizabethan
writings, much of the literature of this period is somber in character; it
saddens rather than inspires us. (3) It has lost the romantic impulse of
youth, and become critical and intellectual; it makes us think, rather than
feel deeply.

In our study we have noted (1) the Transition Poets, of whom Daniel is
chief; (2) the Song Writers, Campion and Breton; (3) the Spenserian Poets,
Wither and Giles Fletcher; (4) the Metaphysical Poets, Donne and Herbert;
(5) the Cavalier Poets, Herrick, Carew, Lovelace, and Suckling; (6) John
Milton, his life, his early or Horton poems, his militant prose, and his
last great poetical works; (7) John Bunyan, his extraordinary life, and his
chief work, _The Pilgrim's Progress;_ (8) the Minor Prose Writers, Burton,
Browne, Fuller, Taylor, Baxter, and Walton. Three books selected from this
group are Browne's _Religio Medici_, Taylor's _Holy Living and Dying_, and
Walton's _Complete Angler_.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. _Milton_. Paradise Lost, books 1-2, L'Allegro, Il
Penseroso, Comus, Lycidas, and selected Sonnets,--all in Standard English
Classics; same poems, more or less complete, in various other series;
Areopagitica and Treatise on Education, selections, in Manly's English
Prose, or Areopagitica in Arber's English Reprints, Clarendon Press Series,
Morley's Universal Library, etc.

_Minor Poets_. Selections from Herrick, edited by Hale, in Athenaeum Press
Series; selections from Herrick, Lovelace, Donne, Herbert, etc., in Manly's
English Poetry, Golden Treasury, Oxford Book of English Verse, etc.;
Vaughan's Silex Scintillans, in Temple Classics, also in the Aldine Series;
Herbert's The Temple, in Everyman's Library, Temple Classics, etc.

_Bunyan_. The Pilgrim's Progress, in Standard English Classics, Pocket
Classics, etc.; Grace Abounding, in Cassell's National Library.

_Minor Prose Writers_. Wentworth's Selections from Jeremy Taylor; Browne's
Religio Medici, Walton's Complete Angler, both in Everyman's Library,
Temple Classics, etc.; selections from Taylor, Browne, and Walton in
Manly's English Prose, also in Garnett's English Prose.


_HISTORY_. _Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 238-257; Cheyney, pp. 431-464;
Green, ch. 8; Traill; Gardiner.

_Special Works_. Wakeling's King and Parliament (Oxford Manuals);
Gardiner's The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Revolution; Tulloch's
English Puritanism and its Leaders; Lives of Cromwell by Harrison, by
Church, and by Morley; Carlyle's Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches.

_LITERATURE_. Saintsbury's Elizabethan Literature (extends to 1660);
Masterman's The Age of Milton; Dowden's Puritan and Anglican.

_Milton_. Texts, Poetical Works, Globe edition, edited by Masson; Cambridge
Poets edition, edited by Moody; English Prose Writings, edited by Morley,
in Carisbrooke Library; also in Bohn's Standard Library.

Masson's Life of John Milton (8 vols.); Life, by Garnett, by Pattison
(English Men of Letters). Raleigh's Milton; Trent's John Milton; Corson's
Introduction to Milton; Brooke's Milton, in Student's Library; Macaulay's
Milton; Lowell's Essays, in Among My Books, and in Latest Literary Essays;
M. Arnold's Essay, in Essays in Criticism; Dowden's Essay, in Puritan and

_Cavalier Poets_. Schelling's Seventeenth Century Lyrics, in Athenaeum
Press Series; Cavalier and Courtier Lyrists, in Canterbury Poets Series;
Gosse's Jacobean Poets; Lovelace, etc., in Library of Old Authors.

_Donne_. Poems, in Muses' Library; Life, in Walton's Lives, in Temple
Classics, and in Morley's Universal Library; Life, by Gosse; Jessup's John
Donne; Dowden's Essay, in New Studies; Stephen's Studies of a Biographer,
vol. 3.

_Herbert_. Palmer's George Herbert; Poems and Prose Selections, edited by
Rhys, in Canterbury Poets; Dowden's Essay, in Puritan and Anglican.

_Bunyan_. Brown's John Bunyan, His Life, Times, and Works; Life, by
Venables, and by Froude (English Men of Letters); Essays by Macaulay, by
Dowden, _supra_, and by Woodberry, in Makers of Literature.

_Jeremy Taylor_. Holy Living, Holy Dying, in Temple Classics, and in Bohn's
Standard Library; Selections, edited by Wentworth; Life, by Heber, and by
Gosse (English Men of Letters); Dowden's Essay, _supra_.

_Thomas Browne_. Works, edited by Wilkin; the same, in Temple Classics, and
in Bohn's Library; Religio Medici, in Everyman's Library; essay by Pater,
in Appreciations; by Dowden, _supra;_ and by L. Stephen, in Hours in a
Library; Life, by Gosse (English Men of Letters).

_Izaak Walton_. Works, in Temple Classics, Cassell's Library, and Morley's
Library; Introduction, in A. Lang's Walton's Complete Angler; Lowell's
Essay, in Latest Literary Essays.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. What is meant by the Puritan period? What were the
objects and the results of the Puritan movement in English history?

2. What are the main characteristics of the literature of this period?
Compare it with Elizabethan literature. How did religion and politics
affect Puritan literature? Can you quote any passages or name any works
which justify your opinion?

3. What is meant by the terms Cavalier poets, Spenserian poets,
Metaphysical poets? Name the chief writers of each group. To whom are we
indebted for our first English hymn book? Would you call this a work of
literature? Why?

4. What are the qualities of Herrick's poetry? What marked contrasts are
found in Herrick and in nearly all the poets of this period?

5. Who was George Herbert? For what purpose did he write? What qualities
are found in his poetry?

6. Tell briefly the story of Milton's life. What are the three periods of
his literary work? What is meant by the Horton poems? Compare "L'Allegro"
and "Il Penseroso." Are there any Puritan ideals in "Comus"? Why is
"Lycidas" often put at the summit of English lyrical poetry? Give the main
idea or argument of _Paradise Lost_. What are the chief qualities of the
poem? Describe in outline _Paradise Regained_ and _Samson Agonistes_. What
personal element entered into the latter? What quality strikes you most
forcibly in Milton's poetry? What occasioned Milton's prose works? Do they
properly belong to literature? Why? Compare Milton and Shakespsare with
regard to (1) knowledge of men, (2) ideals of life, (3) purpose in writing.

7. Tell the story of Bunyan's life. What unusual elements are found in his
life and writings? Give the main argument of _The Pilgrim's Progress_. If
you read the story before studying literature, tell why you liked or
disliked it. Why is it a work for all ages and for all races? What are the
chief qualities of Bunyan's style?

8. Who are the minor prose writers of this age? Name the chief works of
Jeremy Taylor, Thomas Browne, and Izaak Walton. Can you describe from your
own reading any of these works? How does the prose of this age compare in
interest with the poetry? (Milton is, of course, excepted in this

                        _Seventeenth Century_
  HISTORY                        |  LITERATURE
                                 | 1621. Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy
                                 | 1623. Wither's Hymn Book
1625. Charles I                  |
Parliament dissolved             |
1628. Petition of Right          | 1629. Milton's Ode on the Nativity
1630-1640. King rules without    |
Parliament. Puritan migration    |
to New England                   | 1630-1633. Herbert's poems
                                 | 1632-1637. Milton's Horton poems
1640. Long Parliament            |
1642. Civil War begins           | 1642. Browne's Religio Medici
1643. Scotch Covenant            |
1643. Press censorship           | 1644. Milton's Areopagitica
1645. Battle of Naseby;          |
triumph of Puritans              |
1649. Execution of Charles I.    |
Cavalier migration to Virginia   |
1649-1660. Commonwealth          | 1649. Milton's Tenure of Kings
                                 | 1650. Baxter's Saints' Rest.
                                 |       Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living
                                 | 1651. Hobbes's Leviathan
1653-1658. Cromwell, Protector   | 1653. Walton's Complete Angler
1658-1660. Richard Cromwell      |
1660. Restoration of Charles II  | 1663-1694. Dryden's dramas
                                 |        (next chapter)
                                 | 1666. Bunyan's Grace Abounding
                                 | 1667. Paradise Lost
                                 | 1674. Death of Milton
                                 | 1678. Pilgrim's Progress published
                                 |        (written earlier)

       *       *       *       *       *




HISTORY OF THE PERIOD. It seems a curious contradiction, at first glance,
to place the return of Charles II at the beginning of modern England, as
our historians are wont to do; for there was never a time when the progress
of liberty, which history records, was more plainly turned backwards. The
Puritan régime had been too severe; it had repressed too many natural
pleasures. Now, released from restraint, society abandoned the decencies of
life and the reverence for law itself, and plunged into excesses more
unnatural than had been the restraints of Puritanism. The inevitable effect
of excess is disease, and for almost an entire generation following the
Restoration, in 1660, England lay sick of a fever. Socially, politically,
morally, London suggests an Italian city in the days of the Medici; and its
literature, especially its drama, often seems more like the delirium of
illness than the expression of a healthy mind. But even a fever has its
advantages. Whatever impurity is in the blood "is burnt and purged away,"
and a man rises from fever with a new strength and a new idea of the value
of life, like King Hezekiah, who after his sickness and fear of death
resolved to "go softly" all his days. The Restoration was the great crisis
in English history; and that England lived through it was due solely to the
strength and excellence of that Puritanism which she thought she had flung
to the winds when she welcomed back a vicious monarch at Dover. The chief
lesson of the Restoration was this,--that it showed by awful contrast the
necessity of truth and honesty, and of a strong government of free men, for
which the Puritan had stood like a rock in every hour of his rugged
history. Through fever, England came slowly back to health; through gross
corruption in society and in the state England learned that her people were
at heart sober, sincere, religious folk, and that their character was
naturally too strong to follow after pleasure and be satisfied. So
Puritanism suddenly gained all that it had struggled for, and gained it
even in the hour when all seemed lost, when Milton in his sorrow
unconsciously portrayed the government of Charles and his Cabal in that
tremendous scene of the council of the infernal peers in Pandemonium,
plotting the ruin of the world.

Of the king and his followers it is difficult to write temperately. Most of
the dramatic literature of the time is atrocious, and we can understand it
only as we remember the character of the court and society for which it was
written. Unspeakably vile in his private life, the king had no redeeming
patriotism, no sense of responsibility to his country for even his public
acts. He gave high offices to blackguards, stole from the exchequer like a
common thief, played off Catholics and Protestants against each other,
disregarding his pledges to both alike, broke his solemn treaty with the
Dutch and with his own ministers, and betrayed his country for French money
to spend on his own pleasures. It is useless to paint the dishonor of a
court which followed gayly after such a leader. The first Parliament, while
it contained some noble and patriotic members, was dominated by young men
who remembered the excess of Puritan zeal, but forgot the despotism and
injustice which had compelled Puritanism to stand up and assert the manhood
of England. These young politicians vied with the king in passing laws for
the subjugation of Church and State, and in their thirst for revenge upon
all who had been connected with Cromwell's iron government. Once more a
wretched formalism--that perpetual danger to the English Church--came to
the front and exercised authority over the free churches. The House of
Lords was largely increased by the creation of hereditary titles and
estates for ignoble men and shameless women who had flattered the king's
vanity. Even the Bench, that last strong refuge of English justice, was
corrupted by the appointment of judges, like the brutal Jeffreys, whose
aim, like that of their royal master, was to get money and to exercise
power without personal responsibility. Amid all this dishonor the foreign
influence and authority of Cromwell's strong government vanished like
smoke. The valiant little Dutch navy swept the English fleet from the sea,
and only the thunder of Dutch guns in the Thames, under the very windows of
London, awoke the nation to the realization of how low it had fallen.

Two considerations must modify our judgment of this disheartening
spectacle. First, the king and his court are not England. Though our
histories are largely filled with the records of kings and soldiers, of
intrigues and fighting, these no more express the real life of a people
than fever and delirium express a normal manhood. Though king and court and
high society arouse our disgust or pity, records are not wanting to show
that private life in England remained honest and pure even in the worst
days of the Restoration. While London society might be entertained by the
degenerate poetry of Rochester and the dramas of Dryden and Wycherley,
English scholars hailed Milton with delight; and the common people followed
Bunyan and Baxter with their tremendous appeal to righteousness and
liberty. Second, the king, with all his pretensions to divine right,
remained only a figurehead; and the Anglo-Saxon people, when they tire of
one figurehead, have always the will and the power to throw it overboard
and choose a better one. The country was divided into two political
parties: the Whigs, who sought to limit the royal power in the interests of
Parliament and the people; and the Tories, who strove to check the growing
power of the people in the interests of their hereditary rulers. Both
parties, however, were largely devoted to the Anglican Church; and when
James II, after four years of misrule, attempted to establish a national
Catholicism by intrigues which aroused the protest of the Pope[171] as well
as of Parliament, then Whigs and Tories, Catholics and Protestants, united
in England's last great revolution.

The complete and bloodless Revolution of 1688, which called William of
Orange to the throne, was simply the indication of England's restored
health and sanity. It proclaimed that she had not long forgotten, and could
never again forget, the lesson taught her by Puritanism in its hundred
years of struggle and sacrifice. Modern England was firmly established by
the Revolution, which was brought about by the excesses of the Restoration.

LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS. In the literature of the Restoration we note a
sudden breaking away from old standards, just as society broke away from
the restraints of Puritanism. Many of the literary men had been driven out
of England with Charles and his court, or else had followed their patrons
into exile in the days of the Commonwealth. On their return they renounced
old ideals and demanded that English poetry and drama should follow the
style to which they had become accustomed in the gayety of Paris. We read
with astonishment in Pepys's _Diary_ (1660-1669) that he has been to see a
play called _Midsummer Night's Dream_, but that he will never go again to
hear Shakespeare, "for it is the most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I
saw in my life." And again we read in the diary of Evelyn,--another writer
who reflects with wonderful accuracy the life and spirit of the
Restoration,--"I saw _Hamlet_ played; but now the old plays begin to
disgust this refined age, since his Majesty's being so long abroad." Since
Shakespeare and the Elizabethans were no longer interesting, literary men
began to imitate the French writers, with whose works they had just grown
familiar; and here begins the so-called period of French influence, which
shows itself in English literature for the next century, instead of the
Italian influence which had been dominant since Spenser and the

One has only to consider for a moment the French writers of this period,
Pascal, Bossuet, Fénelon, Malherbe, Corneille, Racine, Molière,--all that
brilliant company which makes the reign of Louis XIV the Elizabethan Age of
French literature,--to see how far astray the early writers of the
Restoration went in their wretched imitation. When a man takes another for
his model, he should copy virtues not vices; but unfortunately many English
writers reversed the rule, copying the vices of French comedy without any
of its wit or delicacy or abundant ideas. The poems of Rochester, the plays
of Dryden, Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar, all popular in
their day, are mostly unreadable. Milton's "sons of Belial, flown with
insolence and wine," is a good expression of the vile character of the
court writers and of the London theaters for thirty years following the
Restoration. Such work can never satisfy a people, and when Jeremy
Collier,[172] in 1698, published a vigorous attack upon the evil plays and
the playwrights of the day, all London, tired of the coarseness and
excesses of the Restoration, joined the literary revolution, and the
corrupt drama was driven from the stage.

With the final rejection of the Restoration drama we reach a crisis in the
history of our literature. The old Elizabethan spirit, with its patriotism,
its creative vigor, its love of romance, and the Puritan spirit with its
moral earnestness and individualism, were both things of the past; and at
first there was nothing to take their places. Dryden, the greatest writer
of the age, voiced a general complaint when he said that in his prose and
poetry he was "drawing the outlines" of a new art, but had no teacher to
instruct him. But literature is a progressive art, and soon the writers of
the age developed two marked tendencies of their own,--the tendency to
realism, and the tendency to that preciseness and elegance of expression
which marks our literature for the next hundred years.

In realism--that is, the representation of men exactly as they are, the
expression of the plain, unvarnished truth without regard to ideals or
romance--the tendency was at first thoroughly bad. The early Restoration
writers sought to paint realistic pictures of a corrupt court and society,
and, as we have suggested, they emphasized vices rather than virtues, and
gave us coarse, low plays without interest or moral significance. Like
Hobbes, they saw only the externals of man, his body and appetites, not his
soul and its ideals; and so, like most realists, they resemble a man lost
in the woods, who wanders aimlessly around in circles, seeing the confusing
trees but never the whole forest, and who seldom thinks of climbing the
nearest high hill to get his bearings. Later, however, this tendency to
realism became more wholesome. While it neglected romantic poetry, in which
youth is eternally interested, it led to a keener study of the practical
motives which govern human action.

The second tendency of the age was toward directness and simplicity of
expression, and to this excellent tendency our literature is greatly
indebted. In both the Elizabethan and the Puritan ages the general tendency
of writers was towards extravagance of thought and language. Sentences were
often involved, and loaded with Latin quotations and classical allusions.
The Restoration writers opposed this vigorously. From France they brought
back the tendency to regard established rules for writing, to emphasize
close reasoning rather than romantic fancy, and to use short, clean-cut
sentences without an unnecessary word. We see this French influence in the
Royal Society,[173] which had for one of its objects the reform of English
prose by getting rid of its "swellings of style," and which bound all its
members to use "a close, naked, natural way of speaking ... as near to
mathematical plainness as they can." Dryden accepted this excellent rule
for his prose, and adopted the heroic couplet, as the next best thing, for
the greater part of his poetry. As he tells us himself:

    And this unpolished rugged verse I chose
    As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose.

It is largely due to him that writers developed that formalism of style,
that precise, almost mathematical elegance, miscalled classicism, which
ruled English literature for the next century.[174]

Another thing which the reader will note with interest in Restoration
literature is the adoption of the heroic couplet; that is, two iambic
pentameter lines which rime together, as the most suitable form of poetry.
Waller,[175] who began to use it in 1623, is generally regarded as the
father of the couplet, for he is the first poet to use it consistently in
the bulk of his poetry. Chaucer had used the rimed couplet wonderfully well
in his _Canterbury Tales_, but in Chaucer it is the poetical thought more
than the expression which delights us. With the Restoration writers, form
counts for everything. Waller and Dryden made the couplet the prevailing
literary fashion, and in their hands the couplet becomes "closed"; that is,
each pair of lines must contain a complete thought, stated as precisely as
possible. Thus Waller writes:

    The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
    Lets in new light through chinks that time has made.[176]

That is a kind of aphorism such as Pope made in large quantities in the
following age. It contains a thought, is catchy, quotable, easy to
remember; and the Restoration writers delighted in it. Soon this mechanical
closed couplet, in which the second line was often made first,[177] almost
excluded all other forms of poetry. It was dominant in England for a full
century, and we have grown familiar with it, and somewhat weary of its
monotony, in such famous poems as Pope's "Essay on Man" and Goldsmith's
"Deserted Village." These, however, are essays rather than poems. That even
the couplet is capable of melody and variety is shown in Chaucer's _Tales_
and in Keats's exquisite _Endymion_.

These four things, the tendency to vulgar realism in the drama, a general
formalism which came from following set rules, the development of a simpler
and more direct prose style, and the prevalence of the heroic couplet in
poetry are the main characteristics of Restoration literature. They are all
exemplified in the work of one man, John Dryden.

JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700)

Dryden is the greatest literary figure of the Restoration, and in his work
we have an excellent reflection of both the good and the evil tendencies of
the age in which he lived. If we can think for a moment of literature as a
canal of water, we may appreciate the figure that Dryden is the "lock by
which the waters of English poetry were let down from the mountains of
Shakespeare and Milton to the plain of Pope"; that is, he stands between
two very different ages, and serves as a transition from one to the other.

LIFE. Dryden's life contains so many conflicting elements of greatness and
littleness that the biographer is continually taken away from the facts,
which are his chief concern, to judge motives, which are manifestly outside
his knowledge and business. Judged by his own opinion of himself, as
expressed in the numerous prefaces to his works, Dryden was the soul of
candor, writing with no other master than literature, and with no other
object than to advance the welfare of his age and nation. Judged by his
acts, he was apparently a timeserver, catering to a depraved audience in
his dramas, and dedicating his work with much flattery to those who were
easily cajoled by their vanity into sharing their purse and patronage. In
this, however, he only followed the general custom of the time, and is
above many of his contemporaries.

Dryden was born in the village of Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, in 1631. His
family were prosperous people, who brought him up in the strict Puritan
faith, and sent him first to the famous Westminster school and then to
Cambridge. He made excellent use of his opportunities and studied eagerly,
becoming one of the best educated men of his age, especially in the
classics. Though of remarkable literary taste, he showed little evidence of
literary ability up to the age of thirty. By his training and family
connections he was allied to the Puritan party, and his only well-known
work of this period, the "Heroic Stanzas," was written on the death of

    His grandeur he derived from Heaven alone,
      For he was great ere Fortune made him so;
    And wars, like mists that rise against the sun,
      Made him but greater seem, not greater grow.

In these four lines, taken almost at random from the "Heroic Stanzas," we
have an epitome of the thought, the preciseness, and the polish that mark
all his literary work.

This poem made Dryden well known, and he was in a fair way to become the
new poet of Puritanism when the Restoration made a complete change in his
methods. He had come to London for a literary life, and when the Royalists
were again in power he placed himself promptly on the winning side. His
"Astraea Redux," a poem of welcome to Charles II, and his "Panegyric to his
Sacred Majesty," breathe more devotion to "the old goat," as the king was
known to his courtiers, than had his earlier poems to Puritanism.

In 1667 he became more widely known and popular by his "Annus Mirabilis," a
narrative poem describing the terrors of the great fire in London and some
events of the disgraceful war with Holland; but with the theaters reopened
and nightly filled, the drama offered the most attractive field to one who
made his living by literature; so Dryden turned to the stage and agreed to
furnish three plays yearly for the actors of the King's Theater. For nearly
twenty years, the best of his life, Dryden gave himself up to this
unfortunate work. Both by nature and habit he seems to have been clean in
his personal life; but the stage demanded unclean plays, and Dryden
followed his audience. That he deplored this is evident from some of his
later work, and we have his statement that he wrote only one play, his
best, to please himself. This was _All for Love_, which was written in
blank verse, most of the others being in rimed couplets.

During this time Dryden had become the best known literary man of London,
and was almost as much a dictator to the literary set which gathered in the
taverns and coffeehouses as Ben Jonson had been before him. His work,
meanwhile, was rewarded by large financial returns, and by his being
appointed poet laureate and collector of the port of London. The latter
office, it may be remembered, had once been held by Chaucer.

At fifty years of age, and before Jeremy Collier had driven his dramas from
the stage, Dryden turned from dramatic work to throw himself into the
strife of religion and politics, writing at this period his numerous prose
and poetical treatises. In 1682 appeared his _Religio Laici_ (Religion of a
Layman), defending the Anglican Church against all other sects, especially
the Catholics and Presbyterians; but three years later, when James II came
to the throne with schemes to establish the Roman faith, Dryden turned
Catholic and wrote his most famous religious poem, "The Hind and the
Panther," beginning:

    A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged,
    Fed on the lawns and in the forest ranged;
    Without unspotted, innocent within,
    She feared no danger, for she knew no sin.

This hind is a symbol for the Roman Church; and the Anglicans, as a
panther, are represented as persecuting the faithful. Numerous other
sects--Calvinists, Anabaptists, Quakers--were represented by the wolf,
boar, hare, and other animals, which gave the poet an excellent chance for
exercising his satire. Dryden's enemies made the accusation, often since
repeated, of hypocrisy in thus changing his church; but that he was sincere
in the matter can now hardly be questioned, for he knew how to "suffer for
the faith" and to be true to his religion, even when it meant misjudgment
and loss of fortune. At the Revolution of 1688 he refused allegiance to
William of Orange; he was deprived of all his offices and pensions, and as
an old man was again thrown back on literature as his only means of
livelihood. He went to work with extraordinary courage and energy, writing
plays, poems, prefaces for other men, eulogies for funeral occasions,--
every kind of literary work that men would pay for. His most successful
work at this time was his translations, which resulted in the complete
_Aeneid_ and many selections from Homer, Ovid, and Juvenal, appearing in
English rimed couplets. His most enduring poem, the splendid ode called
"Alexander's Feast," was written in 1697. Three years later he published
his last work, _Fables_, containing poetical paraphrases of the tales of
Boccaccio and Chaucer, and the miscellaneous poems of his last years. Long
prefaces were the fashion in Dryden's day, and his best critical work is
found in his introductions. The preface to the _Fables_ is generally
admired as an example of the new prose style developed by Dryden and his

From the literary view point these last troubled years were the best of
Dryden's life, though they were made bitter by obscurity and by the
criticism of his numerous enemies. He died in 1700 and was buried near
Chaucer in Westminster Abbey.

WORKS OF DRYDEN. The numerous dramatic works of Dryden are best left in
that obscurity into which they have fallen. Now and then they contain a bit
of excellent lyric poetry, and in _All for Love_, another version of
_Antony and Cleopatra_, where he leaves his cherished heroic couplet for
the blank verse of Marlowe and Shakespeare, he shows what he might have
done had he not sold his talents to a depraved audience. On the whole,
reading his plays is like nibbling at a rotting apple; even the good spots
are affected by the decay, and one ends by throwing the whole thing into
the garbage can, where most of the dramatic works of this period belong.

The controversial and satirical poems are on a higher plane; though, it
must be confessed, Dryden's satire often strikes us as cutting and
revengeful, rather than witty. The best known of these, and a masterpiece
of its kind, is "Absalom and Achitophel," which is undoubtedly the most
powerful political satire in our language. Taking the Bible story of David
and Absalom, he uses it to ridicule the Whig party and also to revenge
himself upon his enemies. Charles II appeared as King David; his natural
son, the Duke of Monmouth, who was mixed up in the Rye House Plot, paraded
as Absalom; Shaftesbury was Achitophel, the evil Counselor; and the Duke of
Buckingham was satirized as Zimri. The poem had enormous political
influence, and raised Dryden, in the opinion of his contemporaries, to the
front rank of English poets. Two extracts from the powerful
characterizations of Achitophel and Zimri are given here to show the style
and spirit of the whole work.

    Of these the false Achitophel was first;
    A name to all succeeding ages cursed:
    For close designs and crooked counsels fit;
    Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
    Restless, unfixed in principles and place;
    In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace:
    A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
    Fretted the pygmy body to decay....
    A daring pilot in extremity,
    Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high
    He sought the storms: but for a calm unfit,
    Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
    Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
    And thin partitions do their bounds divide;
    Else why should he, with wealth and honor blest,
    Refuse his age the needful hours of rest?
    Punish a body which he could not please;
    Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease?
    And all to leave what with his toil he won,
    To that unfeathered two-legged thing, a son....
    In friendship false, implacable in hate;
    Resolved to ruin or to rule the state;...
    Then seized with fear, yet still affecting fame,
    Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name.
    So easy still it proves in factious times
    With public zeal to cancel private crimes.
    Some of their chiefs were princes of the land;
    In the first rank of these did Zimri stand,
    A man so various, that he seemed to be
    Not one, but all mankind's epitome:
    Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
    Was everything by starts and nothing long;
    But, in the course of one revolving moon,
    Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon;
    Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
    Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.
    Blest madman, who could every hour employ
    With something new to wish or to enjoy!
    Railing and praising were his usual themes,
    And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
    So over-violent, or over-civil,
    That every man with him was God or devil.

Of the many miscellaneous poems of Dryden, the curious reader will get an
idea of his sustained narrative power from the _Annus Mirabilis_. The best
expression of Dryden's literary genius, however, is found in "Alexander's
Feast," which is his most enduring ode, and one of the best in our

As a prose writer Dryden had a very marked influence on our literature in
shortening his sentences, and especially in writing naturally, without
depending on literary ornamentation to give effect to what he is saying. If
we compare his prose with that of Milton, or Browne, or Jeremy Taylor, we
note that Dryden cares less for style than any of the others, but takes
more pains to state his thought clearly and concisely, as men speak when
they wish to be understood. The classical school, which followed the
Restoration, looked to Dryden as a leader, and to him we owe largely that
tendency to exactness of expression which marks our subsequent prose
writing. With his prose, Dryden rapidly developed his critical ability, and
became the foremost critic[178] of his age. His criticisms, instead of
being published as independent works, were generally used as prefaces or
introductions to his poetry. The best known of these criticisms are the
preface to the _Fables_, "Of Heroic Plays," "Discourse on Satire," and
especially the "Essay of Dramatic Poesy" (1668), which attempts to lay a
foundation for all literary criticism.

DRYDEN'S INFLUENCE ON LITERATURE. Dryden's place among authors is due
partly to his great influence on the succeeding age of classicism. Briefly,
this influence may be summed up by noting the three new elements which he
brought into our literature. These are: (1) the establishment of the heroic
couplet as the fashion for satiric, didactic, and descriptive poetry; (2)
his development of a direct, serviceable prose style such as we still
cultivate; and (3) his development of the art of literary criticism in his
essays and in the numerous prefaces to his poems. This is certainly a large
work for one man to accomplish, and Dryden is worthy of honor, though
comparatively little of what he wrote is now found on our bookshelves.

SAMUEL BUTLER (1612-1680). In marked contrast with Dryden, who devoted his
life to literature and won his success by hard work, is Samuel Butler, who
jumped into fame by a single, careless work, which represents not any
serious intent or effort, but the pastime of an idle hour. We are to
remember that, though the Royalists had triumphed in the Restoration, the
Puritan spirit was not dead, nor even sleeping, and that the Puritan held
steadfastly to his own principles. Against these principles of justice,
truth, and liberty there was no argument, since they expressed the manhood
of England; but many of the Puritan practices were open to ridicule, and
the Royalists, in revenge for their defeat, began to use ridicule without
mercy. During the early years of the Restoration doggerel verses ridiculing
Puritanism, and burlesque,--that is, a ridiculous representation of serious
subjects, or a serious representation of ridiculous subjects,--were the
most popular form of literature with London society. Of all this burlesque
and doggerel the most famous is Butler's _Hudibras_, a work to which we can
trace many of the prejudices that still prevail against Puritanism.

Of Butler himself we know little; he is one of the most obscure figures in
our literature. During the days of Cromwell's Protectorate he was in the
employ of Sir Samuel Luke, a crabbed and extreme type of Puritan nobleman,
and here he collected his material and probably wrote the first part of his
burlesque, which, of course, he did not dare to publish until after the

_Hudibras_ is plainly modeled upon the _Don Quixote_ of Cervantes. It
describes the adventures of a fanatical justice of the peace, Sir Hudibras,
and of his squire, Ralpho, in their endeavor to put down all innocent
pleasures. In Hudibras and Ralpho the two extreme types of the Puritan
party, Presbyterians and Independents, are mercilessly ridiculed. When the
poem first appeared in public, in 1663, after circulating secretly for
years in manuscript, it became at once enormously popular. The king carried
a copy in his pocket, and courtiers vied with each other in quoting its
most scurrilous passages. A second and a third part, continuing the
adventures of Hudibras, were published in 1664 and 1668. At best the work
is a wretched doggerel, but it was clever enough and strikingly original;
and since it expressed the Royalist spirit towards the Puritans, it
speedily found its place in a literature which reflects every phase of
human life. A few odd lines are given here to show the character of the
work, and to introduce the reader to the best known burlesque in our

      He was in logic a great critic,
    Profoundly skilled in analytic;
    He could distinguish, and divide
    A hair 'twixt south and southwest side;
    On either which he would dispute,
    Confute, change hands, and still confute;
    He'd undertake to prove, by force
    Of argument, a man's no horse;
    He'd run in debt by disputation,
    And pay with ratiocination.
    For he was of that stubborn crew
    Of errant saints, whom all men grant
    To be the true Church Militant;
    Such as do build their faith upon
    The holy text of pike and gun;
    Decide all controversies by
    Infallible artillery;
    And prove their doctrine orthodox
    By apostolic blows and knocks;
    Compound for sins they are inclined to,
    By damning those they have no mind to.

HOBBES AND LOCKE. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is one of the writers that
puzzle the historian with a doubt as to whether or not he should be
included in the story of literature. The one book for which he is famous is
called _Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth_
(1651). It is partly political, partly a philosophical book, combining two
central ideas which challenge and startle the attention, namely, that
self-interest is the only guiding power of humanity, and that blind
submission to rulers is the only true basis of government.[179] In a word,
Hobbes reduced human nature to its purely animal aspects, and then asserted
confidently that there was nothing more to study. Certainly, therefore, as
a reflection of the underlying spirit of Charles and his followers it has
no equal in any purely literary work of the time.

John Locke (1632-1704) is famous as the author of a single great
philosophical work, the _Essay concerning Human Understanding_ (1690). This
is a study of the nature of the human mind and of the origin of ideas,
which, far more than the work of Bacon and Hobbes, is the basis upon which
English philosophy has since been built. Aside from their subjects, both
works are models of the new prose, direct, simple, convincing, for which
Dryden and the Royal Society labored. They are known to every student of
philosophy, but are seldom included in a work of literature.[180]

EVELYN AND PEPYS. These two men, John Evelyn (1620-1706) and Samuel Pepys
(1633-1703), are famous as the writers of diaries, in which they jotted
down the daily occurrences of their own lives, without any thought that the
world would ever see or be interested in what they had written.

Evelyn was the author of _Sylva_, the first book on trees and forestry in
English, and _Terra_, which is the first attempt at a scientific study of
agriculture; but the world has lost sight of these two good books, while it
cherishes his diary, which extends over the greater part of his life and
gives us vivid pictures of society in his time, and especially of the
frightful corruption of the royal court.

Pepys began life in a small way as a clerk in a government office, but soon
rose by his diligence and industry to be Secretary of the Admiralty. Here
he was brought into contact with every grade of society, from the king's
ministers to the poor sailors of the fleet. Being inquisitive as a blue
jay, he investigated the rumors and gossip of the court, as well as the
small affairs of his neighbors, and wrote them all down in his diary with
evident interest. But because he chattered most freely, and told his little
book a great many secrets which it were not well for the world to know, he
concealed everything in shorthand,--and here again he was like the blue
jay, which carries off and hides every bright trinket it discovers. The
_Diary_ covers the years from 1660 to 1669, and gossips about everything,
from his own position and duties at the office, his dress and kitchen and
cook and children, to the great political intrigues of office and the
scandals of high society. No other such minute-picture of the daily life of
an age has been written. Yet for a century and a half it remained entirely
unknown, and not until 1825 was Pepys's shorthand deciphered and published.
Since then it has been widely read, and is still one of the most
interesting examples of diary writing that we possess. Following are a few
extracts,[181] covering only a few days in April, 1663, from which one may
infer the minute and interesting character of the work that this clerk,
politician, president of the Royal Society, and general busybody wrote to
please himself:

April 1st. I went to the Temple to my Cozen Roger Pepys, to see and talk
with him a little: who tells me that, with much ado, the Parliament do
agree to throw down Popery; but he says it is with so much spite and
passion, and an endeavor of bringing all Nonconformists into the same
condition, that he is afeard matters will not go so well as he could
wish.... To my office all the afternoon; Lord! how Sir J. Minnes, like a
mad coxcomb, did swear and stamp, swearing that Commissioner Pett hath
still the old heart against the King that ever he had, ... and all the
damnable reproaches in the world, at which I was ashamed, but said little;
but, upon the whole, I find him still a foole, led by the nose with stories
told by Sir W. Batten, whether with or without reason. So, vexed in my mind
to see things ordered so unlike gentlemen, or men of reason, I went home
and to bed.

3d. To White Hall and to Chappell, which being most monstrous full, I could
not go into my pew, but sat among the quire. Dr. Creeton, the Scotchman,
preached a most admirable, good, learned, honest, and most severe sermon,
yet comicall.... He railed bitterly ever and anon against John Calvin and
his brood, the Presbyterians, and against the present terme, now in use, of
"tender consciences." He ripped up Hugh Peters (calling him the execrable
skellum), his preaching and stirring up the mayds of the city to bring in
their bodkins and thimbles. Thence going out of White Hall, I met Captain
Grove, who did give me a letter directed to myself from himself. I
discerned money to be in it, and took it, knowing, as I found it to be, the
proceed of the place I have got him, the taking up of vessels for Tangier.
But I did not open it till I came home to my office, and there I broke it
open, not looking into it till all the money was out, that I might say I
saw no money in the paper, if ever I should be questioned about it. There
was a piece of gold and 4£ in silver.

4th. To my office. Home to dinner, whither by and by comes Roger Pepys,
etc. Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for that my
dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our owne only mayde. We had a
fricasee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton boiled, three carps in a
dish, a great dish of a side of lambe, a dish of roasted pigeons, a dish of
four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a most rare pie), a dish of
anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all things mighty noble and to
my great content.

5th (Lord's day). Up and spent the morning, till the Barber came, in
reading in my chamber part of Osborne's Advice to his Son, which I shall
not never enough admire for sense and language, and being by and by
trimmed, to Church, myself, wife, Ashwell, etc. Home and, while dinner was
prepared, to my office to read over my vows with great affection and to
very good purpose. Then to church again, where a simple bawling young Scot

19th (Easter day). Up and this day put on my close-kneed coloured suit,
which, with new stockings of the colour, with belt and new gilt-handled
sword, is very handsome. To church alone, and after dinner to church again,
where the young Scotchman preaching, I slept all the while. After supper,
fell in discourse of dancing, and I find that Ashwell hath a very fine
carriage, which makes my wife almost ashamed of herself to see herself so
outdone, but to-morrow she begins to learn to dance for a month or two. So
to prayers and to bed. Will being gone, with my leave, to his father's this
day for a day or two, to take physique these holydays.

23d. St. George's day and Coronacion, the King and Court being at Windsor,
at the installing of the King of Denmarke by proxy and the Duke of
Monmouth.... Spent the evening with my father. At cards till late, and
being at supper, my boy being sent for some mustard to a neat's tongue, the
rogue staid half an houre in the streets, it seems at a bonfire, at which I
was very angry, and resolve to beat him to-morrow.

24th. Up betimes, and with my salt eele went down into the parler and there
got my boy and did beat him till I was fain to take breath two or three
times, yet for all I am afeard it will make the boy never the better, he is
grown so hardened in his tricks, which I am sorry for, he being capable of
making a brave man, and is a boy that I and my wife love very well.

SUMMARY OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD. The chief thing to note in England
during the Restoration is the tremendous social reaction from the
restraints of Puritanism, which suggests the wide swing of a pendulum from
one extreme to the other. For a generation many natural pleasures had been
suppressed; now the theaters were reopened, bull and bear baiting revived,
and sports, music, dancing,--a wild delight in the pleasures and vanities
of this world replaced that absorption in "other-worldliness" which
characterized the extreme of Puritanism.

In literature the change is no less marked. From the Elizabethan drama
playwrights turned to coarse, evil scenes, which presently disgusted the
people and were driven from the stage. From romance, writers turned to
realism; from Italian influence with its exuberance of imagination they
turned to France, and learned to repress the emotions, to follow the head
rather than the heart, and to write in a clear, concise, formal style,
according to set rules. Poets turned from the noble blank verse of
Shakespeare and Milton, from the variety and melody which had characterized
English poetry since Chaucer's day, to the monotonous heroic couplet with
its mechanical perfection.

The greatest writer of the age is John Dryden, who established the heroic
couplet as the prevailing verse form in English poetry, and who developed a
new and serviceable prose style suited to the practical needs of the age.
The popular ridicule of Puritanism in burlesque and doggerel is best
exemplified in Butler's _Hudibras_. The realistic tendency, the study of
facts and of men as they are, is shown in the work of the Royal Society, in
the philosophy of Hobbes and Locke, and in the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys,
with their minute pictures of social life. The age was one of transition
from the exuberance and vigor of Renaissance literature to the formality
and polish of the Augustan Age. In strong contrast with the preceding ages,
comparatively little of Restoration literature is familiar to modern

SELECTIONS FOR READING. _Dryden_. Alexander's Feast, Song for St. Cecilia's
Day, selections from Absalom and Achitophel, Religio Laici, Hind and
Panther, Annus Mirabilis,--in Manly's English Poetry, or Ward's English
Poets, or Cassell's National Library; Palamon and Arcite (Dryden's version
of Chaucer's tale), in Standard English Classics, Riverside Literature,
etc.; Dryden's An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, in Manly's, or Garnett's,
English Prose.

_Butler_. Selections from Hudibras, in Manly's English Poetry, Ward's
English Poets, or Morley's Universal Library.

_Pepys_. Selections in Manly's English Prose; the Diary in Everyman's

BIBLIOGRAPHY. _HISTORY_. _Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 257-280; Cheyney, pp.
466-514; Green, ch. 9; Traill; Gardiner; Macaulay.

_Special Works_. Sydney's Social Life in England from the Restoration to
the Revolution; Airy's The English Restoration and Louis XIV; Hale's The
Fall of the Stuarts.

_LITERATURE_. Garnett's The Age of Dryden; Dowden's Puritan and Anglican.

_Dryden_. Poetical Works, with Life, edited by Christie; the same, edited
by Noyes, in Cambridge Poets Series; Life and Works (18 vols.), by Walter
Scott, revised (1893) by Saintsbury; Essays, edited by Ker; Life, by
Saintsbury (English Men of Letters); Macaulay's Essay; Lowell's Essay, in
Among My Books (or in Literary Essays, vol. 3); Dowden's Essay, _supra_.

_Butler_. Hudibras, in Morley's Universal Library; Poetical Works, edited
by Johnson; Dowden's Essay, _supra_.

_Pepys_. Diary in Everyman's Library; the same, edited by Wheatley (8
vols.); Wheatley's Samuel Pepys and the World He Lived In; Stevenson's
Essay, in Familiar Studies of Men and Books.

_The Restoration Drama_. Plays in the Mermaid Series; Hazlitt's Lectures on
the English Comic Writers; Meredith's Essay on Comedy and the Comic Spirit;
Lamb's Essay on the Artificial Comedy; Thackeray's Essay on Congreve, in
English Humorists.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. What marked change in social conditions followed
the Restoration? How are these changes reflected in literature?

2. What are the chief characteristics of Restoration literature? Why is
this period called the Age of French influence? What new tendencies were
introduced? What effect did the Royal Society and the study of science have
upon English prose? What is meant by realism? by formalism?

3. What is meant by the heroic couplet? Explain why it became the
prevailing form of English poetry. What are its good qualities and its
defects? Name some well-known poems which are written in couplets. How do
Dryden's couplets compare with Chaucer's? Can you explain the difference?

4. Give a brief account of Dryden's life. What are his chief poetical
works? For what new object did he use poetry? Is satire a poetical subject?
Why is a poetical satire more effective than a satire in prose? What was
Dryden's contribution to English prose? What influence did he exert on our

5. What is Butler's _Hudibras_? Explain its popularity. Read a passage and
comment upon it, first, as satire; second, as a description of the
Puritans. Is _Hudibras_ poetry? Why?

6. Name the philosophers and political economists of this period. Can you
explain why Hobbes should call his work _Leviathan_? What important
American documents show the influence of Locke?

7. Tell briefly the story of Pepys and his _Diary_. What light does the
latter throw on the life of the age? Is the _Diary_ a work of literature?

                 _Last Half of the Seventeenth Century_
  HISTORY                            |  LITERATURE
1649. Execution of Charles I         |
1649-1660. Commonwealth              | 1651. Hobbes's Leviathan
1660. Restoration of Charles II      | 1660-1669, Pepys's Diary
                                     | 1662. Royal Society founded
                                     | 1663. Butler's Hudibras
1665-1666. Plague and Fire of London |
      War with Holland               |
1667. Dutch fleet in the Thames      | 1667. Milton's Paradise Lost.
                                     |       Dryden's Annus Mirabilis
                                     | 1663-1694. Dryden's dramas
                                     | 1671. Paradise Regained
                                     | 1678. Pilgrim's Progress
                                     |       published
1680. Rise of Whigs and Tories       |
                                     | 1681. Dryden's Absalom and
                                     |       Achitophel
1685. James II                       |
      Monmouth's Rebellion           |
                                     | 1687. Newton's Principia
                                     |       proves the law of
                                     |       gravitation
1688. English Revolution, William of |
      Orange called to throne        |
1689. Bill of Rights. Toleration Act |
                                     | 1690. Locke's Human
                                     |       Understanding
                                     | 1698. Jeremy Collier attacks
                                     |       stage
                                     | 1700. Death of Dryden

       *       *       *       *       *




HISTORY OF THE PERIOD. The Revolution of 1688, which banished the last of
the Stuart kings and called William of Orange to the throne, marks the end
of the long struggle for political freedom in England. Thereafter the
Englishman spent his tremendous energy, which his forbears had largely
spent in fighting for freedom, in endless political discussions and in
efforts to improve his government. In order to bring about reforms, votes
were now necessary; and to get votes the people of England must be
approached with ideas, facts, arguments, information. So the newspaper was
born,[182] and literature in its widest sense, including the book, the
newspaper, and the magazine, became the chief instrument of a nation's

The first half of the eighteenth century is remarkable for the rapid social
development in England. Hitherto men had been more or less governed by the
narrow, isolated standards of the Middle Ages, and when they differed they
fell speedily to blows. Now for the first time they set themselves to the
task of learning the art of living together, while still holding different
opinions. In a single generation nearly two thousand public coffeehouses,
each a center of sociability, sprang up in London alone, and the number of
private clubs is quite as astonishing.[183] This new social life had a
marked effect in polishing men's words and manners. The typical Londoner of
Queen Anne's day was still rude, and a little vulgar in his tastes; the
city was still very filthy, the streets unlighted and infested at night by
bands of rowdies and "Mohawks"; but outwardly men sought to refine their
manners according to prevailing standards; and to be elegant, to have "good
form," was a man's first duty, whether he entered society or wrote
literature. One can hardly read a book or poem of the age without feeling
this superficial elegance. Government still had its opposing Tory and Whig
parties, and the Church was divided into Catholics, Anglicans, and
Dissenters; but the growing social life offset many antagonisms, producing
at least the outward impression of peace and unity. Nearly every writer of
the age busied himself with religion as well as with party politics, the
scientist Newton as sincerely as the churchman Barrow, the philosophical
Locke no less earnestly than the evangelical Wesley; but nearly all
tempered their zeal with moderation, and argued from reason and Scripture,
or used delicate satire upon their opponents, instead of denouncing them as
followers of Satan. There were exceptions, of course_;_ but the general
tendency of the age was toward toleration. Man had found himself in the
long struggle for personal liberty; now he turned to the task of
discovering his neighbor, of finding in Whig and Tory, in Catholic and
Protestant, in Anglican and Dissenter, the same general human
characteristics that he found in himself. This good work was helped,
moreover, by the spread of education and by the growth of the national
spfrit, following the victories of Marlborough on the Continent. In the
midst of heated argument it needed only a word--Gibraltar, Blenheim,
Ramillies, Malplaquet--or a poem of victory written in a garret[184] to
tell a patriotic people that under their many differences they were all
alike Englishmen.

In the latter half of the century the political and social progress is
almost bewildering. The modern form of cabinet government responsible to
Parliament and the people had been established under George I; and in 1757
the cynical and corrupt practices of Walpole, premier of the first Tory
cabinet, were replaced by the more enlightened policies of Pitt. Schools
were established; clubs and coffeehouses increased; books and magazines
multiplied until the press was the greatest visible power in England; the
modern great dailies, the _Chronicle, Post_, and _Times_, began their
career of public education. Religiously, all the churches of England felt
the quickening power of that tremendous spiritual revival known as
Methodism, under the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield. Outside her own
borders three great men--Clive in India, Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham,
Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific--were unfurling the banner
of St. George over the untold wealth of new lands, and spreading the
world-wide empire of the Anglo-Saxons.

LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS. In every preceding age we have noted especially
the poetical works, which constitute, according to Matthew Arnold, the
glory of English literature. Now for the first time we must chronicle the
triumph of English prose. A multitude of practical interests arising from
the new social and political conditions demanded expression, not simply in
books, but more especially in pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers. Poetry
was inadequate for such a task; hence the development of prose, of the
"unfettered word," as Dante calls it,--a development which astonishes us by
its rapidity and excellence. The graceful elegance of Addison's essays, the
terse vigor of Swift's satires, the artistic finish of Fielding's novels,
the sonorous eloquence of Gibbon's history and of Burke's orations,--these
have no parallel in the poetry of the age. Indeed, poetry itself became
prosaic in this respect, that it was used not for creative works of
imagination, but for essays, for satire, for criticism,--for exactly the
same practical ends as was prose. The poetry of the first half of the
century, as typified in the work of Pope, is polished and witty enough, but
artificial; it lacks fire, fine feeling, enthusiasm, the glow of the
Elizabethan Age and the moral earnestness of Puritanism. In a word, it
interests us as a study of life, rather than delights or inspires us by its
appeal to the imagination. The variety and excellence of prose works, and
the development of a serviceable prose style, which had been begun by
Dryden, until it served to express clearly every human interest and
emotion,--these are the chief literary glories of the eighteenth century.

In the literature of the preceding age we noted two marked tendencies,--the
tendency to realism in subject-matter, and the tendency to polish and
refinement of expression. Both these tendencies were continued in the
Augustan Age, and are seen clearly in the poetry of Pope, who brought the
couplet to perfection, and in the prose of Addison. A third tendency is
shown in the prevalence of satire, resulting from the unfortunate union of
politics with literature. We have already noted the power of the press in
this age, and the perpetual strife of political parties. Nearly every
writer of the first half of the century was used and rewarded by Whigs or
Tories for satirizing their enemies and for advancing their special
political interests. Pope was a marked exception, but he nevertheless
followed the prose writers in using satire too largely in his poetry. Now
satire--that is, a literary work which searches out the faults of men or
institutions in order to hold them up to ridicule--is at best a destructive
kind of criticism. A satirist is like a laborer who clears away the ruins
and rubbish of an old house before the architect and builders begin on a
new and beautiful structure. The work may sometimes be necessary, but it
rarely arouses our enthusiasm. While the satires of Pope, Swift, and
Addison are doubtless the best in our language, we hardly place them with
our great literature, which is always constructive in spirit; and we have
the feeling that all these men were capable of better things than they ever

THE CLASSIC AGE. The period we are studying is known to us by various
names. It is often called the Age of Queen Anne; but, unlike Elizabeth,
this "meekly stupid" queen had practically no influence upon our
literature. The name Classic Age is more often heard; but in using it we
should remember clearly these three different ways in which the word
"classic" is applied to literature: (1) the term "classic" refers, in
general, to writers of the highest rank in any nation. As used in our
literature, it was first applied to the works of the great Greek and Roman
writers, like Homer and Virgil; and any English book which followed the
simple and noble method of these writers was said to have a classic style.
Later the term was enlarged to cover the great literary works of other
ancient nations; so that the Bible and the Avestas, as well as the Iliad
and the Aeneid, are called classics. (2) Every national literature has at
least one period in which an unusual number of great writers are producing
books, and this is called the classic period of a nation's literature. Thus
the reign of Augustus is the classic or golden age of Rome; the generation
of Dante is the classic age of Italian literature; the age of Louis XIV is
the French classic age; and the age of Queen Anne is often called the
classic age of England. (3) The word "classic" acquired an entirely
different meaning in the period we are studying; and we shall better
understand this by reference to the preceding ages. The Elizabethan writers
were led by patriotism, by enthusiasm, and, in general, by romantic
emotions. They wrote in a natural style, without regard to rules; and
though they exaggerated and used too many words, their works are delightful
because of their vigor and freshness and fine feeling. In the following age
patriotism had largely disappeared from politics and enthusiasm from
literature. Poets no longer wrote naturally, but artificially, with strange
and fantastic verse forms to give effect, since fine feeling was wanting.
And this is the general character of the poetry of the Puritan Age.[185]
Gradually our writers rebelled against the exaggerations of both the
natural and the fantastic style. They demanded that poetry should follow
exact rules; and in this they were influenced by French writers, especially
by Boileau and Rapin, who insisted on precise methods of writing poetry,
and who professed to have discovered their rules in the classics of Horace
and Aristotle. In our study of the Elizabethan drama we noted the good
influence of the classic movement in insisting upon that beauty of form and
definiteness of expression which characterize the dramas of Greece and
Rome; and in the work of Dryden and his followers we see a revival of
classicism in the effort to make English literature conform to rules
established by the great writers of other nations. At first the results
were excellent, especially in prose; but as the creative vigor of the
Elizabethans was lacking in this age, writing by rule soon developed a kind
of elegant formalism, which suggests the elaborate social code of the time.
Just as a gentleman might not act naturally, but must follow exact rules in
doffing his hat, or addressing a lady, or entering a room, or wearing a
wig, or offering his snuffbox to a friend, so our writers lost
individuality and became formal and artificial. The general tendency of
literature was to look at life critically, to emphasize intellect rather
than imagination, the form rather than the content of a sentence. Writers
strove to repress all emotion and enthusiasm, and to use only precise and
elegant methods of expression. This is what is often meant by the
"classicism" of the ages of Pope and Johnson. It refers to the critical,
intellectual spirit of many writers, to the fine polish of their heroic
couplets or the elegance of their prose, and not to any resemblance which
their work bears to true classic literature. In a word, the classic
movement had become pseudo-classic, i.e. a false or sham classicism; and
the latter term is now often used to designate a considerable part of
eighteenth-century literature.[186] To avoid this critical difficulty we
have adopted the term Augustan Age, a name chosen by the writers
themselves, who saw in Pope, Addison, Swift, Johnson, and Burke the modern
parallels to Horace, Virgil, Cicero, and all that brilliant company who
made Roman literature famous in the days of Augustus.

ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

Pope is in many respects a unique figure. In the first place, he was for a
generation "the poet" of a great nation. To be sure, poetry was limited in
the early eighteenth century; there were few lyrics, little or no love
poetry, no epics, no dramas or songs of nature worth considering; but in
the narrow field of satiric and didactic verse Pope was the undisputed
master. His influence completely dominated the poetry of his age, and many
foreign writers, as well as the majority of English poets, looked to him as
their model. Second, he was a remarkably clear and adequate reflection of
the spirit of the age in which he lived. There is hardly an ideal, a
belief, a doubt, a fashion, a whim of Queen Anne's time, that is not neatly
expressed in his poetry. Third, he was the only important writer of that
age who gave his whole life to letters. Swift was a clergyman and
politician; Addison was secretary of state; other writers depended on
patrons or politics or pensions for fame and a livelihood; but Pope was
independent, and had no profession but literature. And fourth, by the sheer
force of his ambition he won his place, and held it, in spite of religious
prejudice, and in the face of physical and temperamental obstacles that
would have discouraged a stronger man. For Pope was deformed and sickly,
dwarfish in soul and body. He knew little of the world of nature or of the
world of the human heart. He was lacking, apparently, in noble feeling, and
instinctively chose a lie when the truth had manifestly more advantages.
Yet this jealous, peevish, waspish little man became the most famous poet
of his age and the acknowledged leader of English literature. We record the
fact with wonder and admiration; but we do not attempt to explain it.

LIFE. Pope was born in London in 1688, the year of the Revolution. His
parents were both Catholics, who presently removed from London and settled
in Binfield, near Windsor, where the poet's childhood was passed. Partly
because of an unfortunate prejudice against Catholics in the public
schools, partly because of his own weakness and deformity, Pope received
very little school education, but browsed for himself among English books
and picked up a smattering of the classics. Very early he began to write
poetry, and records the fact with his usual vanity:

    As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
    I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

Being debarred by his religion from many desirable employments, he resolved
to make literature his life work; and in this he resembled Dryden, who, he
tells us, was his only master, though much of his work seems to depend on
Boileau, the French poet and critic.[187] When only sixteen years old he
had written his "Pastorals"; a few years later appeared his "Essay on
Criticism," which made him famous. With the publication of the _Rape of the
Lock_, in 1712, Pope's name was known and honored all over England, and
this dwarf of twenty-four years, by the sheer force of his own ambition,
had jumped to the foremost place in English letters. It was soon after this
that Voltaire called him "the best poet of England and, at present, of all
the world,"--which is about as near the truth as Voltaire generally gets in
his numerous universal judgments. For the next twelve years Pope was busy
with poetry, especially with his translations of Homer; and his work was so
successful financially that he bought a villa at Twickenham, on the Thames,
and remained happily independent of wealthy patrons for a livelihood.

Led by his success, Pope returned to London and for a time endeavored to
live the gay and dissolute life which was supposed to be suitable for a
literary genius; but he was utterly unfitted for it, mentally and
physically, and soon retired to Twickenham. There he gave himself up to
poetry, manufactured a little garden more artificial than his verses, and
cultivated his friendship with Martha Blount, with whom for many years he
spent a good part of each day, and who remained faithful to him to the end
of his life. At Twickenham he wrote his _Moral Epistles_ (poetical satires
modeled after Horace) and revenged himself upon all his critics in the
bitter abuse of the _Dunciad_. He died in 1744 and was buried at
Twickenham, his religion preventing him from the honor, which was certainly
his due, of a resting place in Westminster Abbey.

WORKS OF POPE. For convenience we may separate Pope's work into three
groups, corresponding to the early, middle, and later period of his life.
In the first he wrote his "Pastorals," "Windsor Forest," "Messiah," "Essay
on Criticism," "Eloise to Abelard," and the _Rape of the Lock;_ in the
second, his translations of Homer; in the third the _Dunciad_ and the
_Epistles_, the latter containing the famous "Essay on Man" and the
"Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," which is in truth his "Apologia," and in which
alone we see Pope's life from his own view point.

The "Essay on Criticism" sums up the art of poetry as taught first by
Horace, then by Boileau and the eighteenth-century classicists. Though
written in heroic couplets, we hardly consider this as a poem but rather as
a storehouse of critical maxims. "For fools rush in where angels fear to
tread"; "To err is human, to forgive divine"; "A little learning is a
dangerous thing,"--these lines, and many more like them from the same
source, have found their way into our common speech, and are used, without
thinking of the author, whenever we need an apt quotation.

The _Rape of the Lock_ is a masterpiece of its kind, and comes nearer to
being a "creation" than anything else that Pope has written. The occasion
of the famous poem was trivial enough. A fop at the court of Queen Anne,
one Lord Petre, snipped a lock of hair from the abundant curls of a pretty
maid of honor named Arabella Fermor. The young lady resented it, and the
two families were plunged into a quarrel which was the talk of London.
Pope, being appealed to, seized the occasion to construct, not a ballad, as
the Cavaliers would have done, nor an epigram, as French poets love to do,
but a long poem in which all the mannerisms of society are pictured in
minutest detail and satirized with the most delicate wit. The first
edition, consisting of two cantos, was published in 1712; and it is amazing
now to read of the trivial character of London court life at the time when
English soldiers were battling for a great continent in the French and
Indian wars. Its instant success caused Pope to lengthen the poem by three
more cantos; and in order to make a more perfect burlesque of an epic poem,
he introduces gnomes, sprites, sylphs, and salamanders,[188] instead of the
gods of the great epics, with which his readers were familiar. The poem is
modeled after two foreign satires: Boileau's _Le Lutrin_ (reading desk), a
satire on the French clergy, who raised a huge quarrel over the location of
a lectern; and _La Secchia Rapita_ (stolen bucket), a famous Italian satire
on the petty causes of the endless Italian wars. Pope, however, went far
ahead of his masters in style and in delicacy of handling a mock-heroic
theme, and during his lifetime the _Rape of the Lock_ was considered as the
greatest poem of its kind in all literature. The poem is still well worth
reading; for as an expression of the artificial life of the age--of its
cards, parties, toilettes, lapdogs, tea-drinking, snuff-taking, and idle
vanities--it is as perfect in its way as _Tamburlaine_, which reflects the
boundless ambition of the Elizabethans.

The fame of Pope's _Iliad_, which was financially the most successful of
his books, was due to the fact that he interpreted Homer in the elegant,
artificial language of his own age. Not only do his words follow literary
fashions but even the Homeric characters lose their strength and become
fashionable men of the court. So the criticism of the scholar Bentley was
most appropriate when he said, "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must
not call it Homer." Pope translated the entire _Iliad_ and half of the
_Odyssey_; and the latter work was finished by two Cambridge scholars,
Elijah Fenton and William Broome, who imitated the mechanical couplets so
perfectly that it is difficult to distinguish their work from that of the
greatest poet of the age. A single selection is given to show how, in the
nobler passages, even Pope may faintly suggest the elemental grandeur of

    The troops exulting sat in order round,
    And beaming fires illumined all the ground.
    As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
    O'er Heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
    When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
    And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
    Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
    And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole,
    O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
    And tip with silver every mountain's head.

The "Essay" is the best known and the most quoted of all Pope's works.
Except in form it is not poetry, and when one considers it as an essay and
reduces it to plain prose, it is found to consist of numerous literary
ornaments without any very solid structure of thought to rest upon. The
purpose of the essay is, in Pope's words, to "vindicate the ways of God to
Man"; and as there are no unanswered problems in Pope's philosophy, the
vindication is perfectly accomplished in four poetical epistles, concerning
man's relations to the universe, to himself, to society, and to happiness.
The final result is summed up in a few well-known lines:

    All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
    All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
    All discord, harmony not understood;
    All partial evil, universal good:
    And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
    One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

Like the "Essay on Criticism," the poem abounds in quotable lines, such as
the following, which make the entire work well worth reading:

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
    Man never is, but always to be blest.
    Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
    The proper study of Mankind is Man.
    The same ambition can destroy or save,
    And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.
    Honor and shame from no condition rise;
    Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
      Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
    As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
    We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
      Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law,
    Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw:
    Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
    A little louder, but as empty quite:
    Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage,
    And beads and prayer books are the toys of age:
    Pleased with this bauble still, as that before;
    Till tired he sleeps, and Life's poor play is o'er.[189]

_The Dunciad_ (i.e. the "Iliad of the Dunces") began originally as a
controversy concerning Shakespeare, but turned out to be a coarse and
revengeful satire upon all the literary men of the age who had aroused
Pope's anger by their criticism or lack of appreciation of his genius.
Though brilliantly written and immensely popular at one time, its present
effect on the reader is to arouse a sense of pity that a man of such
acknowledged power and position should abuse both by devoting his talents
to personal spite and petty quarrels. Among the rest of his numerous works
the reader will find Pope's estimate of himself best set forth in his
"Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," and it will be well to close our study of this
strange mixture of vanity and greatness with "The Universal Prayer," which
shows at least that Pope had considered, and judged himself, and that all
further judgment is consequently superfluous.

JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)

In each of Marlowe's tragedies we have the picture of a man dominated by a
single passion, the lust of power for its own sake. In each we see that a
powerful man without self-control is like a dangerous instrument in the
hands of a child; and the tragedy ends in the destruction of the man by the
ungoverned power which he possesses. The life of Swift is just such a
living tragedy. He had the power of gaining wealth, like the hero of the
_Jew of Malta_; yet he used it scornfully, and in sad irony left what
remained to him of a large property to found a hospital for lunatics. By
hard work he won enormous literary power, and used it to satirize our
common humanity. He wrested political power from the hands of the Tories,
and used it to insult the very men who had helped him, and who held his
fate in their hands. By his dominant personality he exercised a curious
power over women, and used it brutally to make them feel their inferiority.
Being loved supremely by two good women, he brought sorrow and death to
both, and endless misery to himself. So his power brought always tragedy in
its wake. It is only when we remember his life of struggle and
disappointment and bitterness that we can appreciate the personal quality
in his satire, and perhaps find some sympathy for this greatest genius of
all the Augustan writers.

LIFE. Swift was born in Dublin, of English parents, in 1667. His father
died before he was born; his mother was poor, and Swift, though proud as
Lucifer, was compelled to accept aid from relatives, who gave it
grudgingly. At the Kilkenny school, and especially at Dublin University, he
detested the curriculum, reading only what appealed to his own nature; but,
since a degree was necessary to his success, he was compelled to accept it
as a favor from the examiners, whom he despised in his heart. After
graduation the only position open to him was with a distant relative, Sir
William Temple, who gave him the position of private secretary largely on
account of the unwelcome relationship.

Temple was a statesman and an excellent diplomatist; but he thought himself
to be a great writer as well, and he entered into a literary controversy
concerning the relative merits of the classics and modern literature.
Swift's first notable work, _The Battle of the Books_, written at this time
but not published, is a keen satire upon both parties in the controversy.
The first touch of bitterness shows itself here; for Swift was in a galling
position for a man of his pride, knowing his intellectual superiority to
the man who employed him, and yet being looked upon as a servant and eating
at the servants' table. Thus he spent ten of the best years of his life in
the pretty Moor Park, Surrey, growing more bitter each year and steadily
cursing his fate. Nevertheless he read and studied widely, and, after his
position with Temple grew unbearable, quarreled with his patron, took
orders, and entered the Church of England. Some years later we find him
settled in the little church of Laracor, Ireland,--a country which he
disliked intensely, but whither he went because no other "living" was open
to him.

In Ireland, faithful to his church duties, Swift labored to better the
condition of the unhappy people around him. Never before had the poor of
his parishes been so well cared for; but Swift chafed under his yoke,
growing more and more irritated as he saw small men advanced to large
positions, while he remained unnoticed in a little country church,--largely
because he was too proud and too blunt with those who might have advanced
him. While at Laracor he finished his _Tale of a Tub_, a satire on the
various churches of the day, which was published in London with the _Battle
of the Books_ in 1704. The work brought him into notice as the most
powerful satirist of the age, and he soon gave up his church to enter the
strife of party politics. The cheap pamphlet was then the most powerful
political weapon known; and as Swift had no equal at pamphlet writing, he
soon became a veritable dictator. For several years, especially from 1710
to 1713, Swift was one of the most important figures in London. The Whigs
feared the lash of his satire; the Tories feared to lose his support. He
was courted, flattered, cajoled on every side; but the use he made of his
new power is sad to contemplate. An unbearable arrogance took possession of
him. Lords, statesmen, even ladies were compelled to sue for his favor and
to apologize for every fancied slight to his egoism. It is at this time
that he writes in his _Journal to Stella:_

Mr. Secretary told me the Duke of Buckingham had been talking much about me
and desired my acquaintance. I answered it could not be, for he had not yet
made sufficient advances; then Shrewsbury said he thought the Duke was not
used to make advances. I said I could not help that, for I always expected
advances in proportion to men's quality, and more from a Duke than any
other man.

Writing to the Duchess of Queensberry he says:

I am glad you know your duty; for it has been a known and established rule
above twenty years in England that the first advances have been constantly
made me by all ladies who aspire to my acquaintance, and the greater their
quality the greater were their advances.

When the Tories went out of power Swift's position became uncertain. He
expected and had probably been promised a bishopric in England, with a seat
among the peers of the realm; but the Tories offered him instead the place
of dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. It was galling to a man of
his proud spirit; but after his merciless satire on religion, in _The Tale
of a Tub_, any ecclesiastical position in England was rendered impossible.
Dublin was the best he could get, and he accepted it bitterly, once more
cursing the fate which he had brought upon himself.

With his return to Ireland begins the last act in the tragedy of his life.
His best known literary work, _Gulliver's Travels_, was done here; but the
bitterness of life grew slowly to insanity, and a frightful personal
sorrow, of which he never spoke, reached its climax in the death of Esther
Johnson, a beautiful young woman, who had loved Swift ever since the two
had met in Temple's household, and to whom he had written his _Journal to
Stella_. During the last years of his life a brain disease, of which he had
shown frequent symptoms, fastened its terrible hold upon Swift, and he
became by turns an idiot and a madman. He died in 1745, and when his will
was opened it was found that he had left all his property to found St.
Patrick's Asylum for lunatics and incurables. It stands to-day as the most
suggestive monument of his peculiar genius.

THE WORKS OF SWIFT. From Swift's life one can readily foresee the kind of
literature he will produce. Taken together his works are a monstrous satire
on humanity; and the spirit of that satire is shown clearly in a little
incident of his first days in London. There was in the city at that time a
certain astrologer named Partridge, who duped the public by calculating
nativities from the stars, and by selling a yearly almanac predicting
future events. Swift, who hated all shams, wrote, with a great show of
learning, his famous _Bickerstaff Almanac_, containing "Predictions for the
Year 1708, as Determined by the Unerring Stars." As Swift rarely signed his
name to any literary work, letting it stand or fall on its own merits, his
burlesque appeared over the pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff, a name
afterwards made famous by Steele in _The Tatler_. Among the predictions was
the following:

My first prediction is but a trifle; yet I will mention it to show how
ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns:
it relates to Partridge the almanack maker; I have consulted the star of
his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th
of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise
him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time.

On March 30, the day after the prediction was to be fulfilled, there
appeared in the newspapers a letter from a revenue officer giving the
details of Partridge's death, with the doings of the bailiff and the coffin
maker; and on the following morning appeared an elaborate "Elegy of Mr.
Partridge." When poor Partridge, who suddenly found himself without
customers, published a denial of the burial, Swift answered with an
elaborate "Vindication of Isaac Bickerstaff," in which he proved by
astrological rules that Partridge was dead, and that the man now in his
place was an impostor trying to cheat the heirs out of their inheritance.

This ferocious joke is suggestive of all Swift's satires. Against any case
of hypocrisy or injustice he sets up a remedy of precisely the same kind,
only more atrocious, and defends his plan with such seriousness that the
satire overwhelms the reader with a sense of monstrous falsity. Thus his
solemn "Argument to prove that the Abolishing of Christianity may be
attended with Some Inconveniences" is such a frightful satire upon the
abuses of Christianity by its professed followers that it is impossible for
us to say whether Swift intended to point out needed reforms, or to satisfy
his conscience,[190] or to perpetrate a joke on the Church, as he had done
on poor Partridge. So also with his "Modest Proposal," concerning the
children of Ireland, which sets up the proposition that poor Irish farmers
ought to raise children as dainties, to be eaten, like roast pigs, on the
tables of prosperous Englishmen. In this most characteristic work it is
impossible to find Swift or his motive. The injustice under which Ireland
suffered, her perversity in raising large families to certain poverty, and
the indifference of English politicians to her suffering and protests are
all mercilessly portrayed; but why? That is still the unanswered problem of
Swift's life and writings.

Swift's two greatest satires are his _Tale of a Tub_ and _Gulliver's
Travels_. The _Tale_ began as a grim exposure of the alleged weaknesses of
three principal forms of religious belief, Catholic, Lutheran, and
Calvinist, as opposed to the Anglican; but it ended in a satire upon all
science and philosophy.

Swift explains his whimsical title by the custom of mariners in throwing
out a tub to a whale, in order to occupy the monster's attention and divert
it from an attack upon the ship,--which only proves how little Swift knew
of whales or sailors. But let that pass. His book is a tub thrown out to
the enemies of Church and State to keep them occupied from further attacks
or criticism; and the substance of the argument is that all churches, and
indeed all religion and science and statesmanship, are arrant hypocrisy.
The best known part of the book is the allegory of the old man who died and
left a coat (which is Christian Truth) to each of his three sons, Peter,
Martin, and Jack, with minute directions for its care and use. These three
names stand for Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists; and the way in which
the sons evade their father's will and change the fashion of their garment
is part of the bitter satire upon all religious sects. Though it professes
to defend the Anglican Church, that institution fares perhaps worse than
the others; for nothing is left to her but a thin cloak of custom under
which to hide her alleged hypocrisy.

In _Gulliver's Travels_ the satire grows more unbearable. Strangely enough,
this book, upon which Swift's literary fame generally rests, was not
written from any literary motive, but rather as an outlet for the author's
own bitterness against fate and human society. It is still read with
pleasure, as _Robinson Crusoe_ is read, for the interesting adventures of
the hero; and fortunately those who read it generally overlook its
degrading influence and motive.

_Gulliver's Travels_ records the pretended four voyages of one Lemuel
Gulliver, and his adventures in four astounding countries. The first book
tells of his voyage and shipwreck in Lilliput, where the inhabitants are
about as tall as one's thumb, and all their acts and motives are on the
same dwarfish scale. In the petty quarrels of these dwarfs we are supposed
to see the littleness of humanity. The statesmen who obtain place and favor
by cutting monkey capers on the tight rope before their sovereign, and the
two great parties, the Littleendians and Bigendians, who plunge the country
into civil war over the momentous question of whether an egg should be
broken on its big or on its little end, are satires on the politics of
Swift's own day and generation. The style is simple and convincing; the
surprising situations and adventures are as absorbing as those of Defoe's
masterpiece; and altogether it is the most interesting of Swift's satires.

On the second voyage Gulliver is abandoned in Brobdingnag, where the
inhabitants are giants, and everything is done upon an enormous scale. The
meanness of humanity seems all the more detestable in view of the greatness
of these superior beings. When Gulliver tells about his own people, their
ambitions and wars and conquests, the giants can only wonder that such
great venom could exist in such little insects.

In the third voyage Gulliver continues his adventures in Laputa, and this
is a satire upon all the scientists and philosophers. Laputa is a flying
island, held up in the air by a loadstone; and all the professors of the
famous academy at Lagado are of the same airy constitution. The philosopher
who worked eight years to extract sunshine from cucumbers is typical of
Swift's satiric treatment of all scientific problems. It is in this voyage
that we hear of the Struldbrugs, a ghastly race of men who are doomed to
live upon earth after losing hope and the desire for life. The picture is
all the more terrible in view of the last years of Swift's own life, in
which he was compelled to live on, a burden to himself and his friends.

In these three voyages the evident purpose is to strip off the veil of
habit and custom, with which men deceive themselves, and show the crude
vices of humanity as Swift fancies he sees them. In the fourth voyage the
merciless satire is carried out to its logical conclusion. This brings us
to the land of the Houyhnhnms, in which horses, superior and intelligent
creatures, are the ruling animals. All our interest, however, is centered
on the Yahoos, a frightful race, having the form and appearance of men, but
living in unspeakable degradation.

The _Journal to Stella_, written chiefly in the years 1710-1713 for the
benefit of Esther Johnson, is interesting to us for two reasons. It is,
first, an excellent commentary on contemporary characters and political
events, by one of the most powerful and original minds of the age; and
second, in its love passages and purely personal descriptions it gives us
the best picture we possess of Swift himself at the summit of his power and
influence. As we read now its words of tenderness for the woman who loved
him, and who brought almost the only ray of sunlight into his life, we can
only wonder and be silent. Entirely different are his _Drapier's Letters_,
a model of political harangue and of popular argument, which roused an
unthinking English public and did much benefit to Ireland by preventing the
politicians' plan of debasing the Irish coinage. Swift's poems, though
vigorous and original (like Defoe's, of the same period), are generally
satirical, often coarse, and seldom rise above doggerel. Unlike his friend
Addison, Swift saw, in the growing polish and decency of society, only a
mask for hypocrisy; and he often used his verse to shock the new-born
modesty by pointing out some native ugliness which his diseased mind
discovered under every beautiful exterior.

That Swift is the most original writer of his time, and one of the greatest
masters of English prose, is undeniable. Directness, vigor, simplicity,
mark every page. Among writers of that age he stands almost alone in his
disdain of literary effects. Keeping his object steadily before him, he
drives straight on to the end, with a convincing power that has never been
surpassed in our language. Even in his most grotesque creations, the reader
never loses the sense of reality, of being present as an eyewitness of the
most impossible events, so powerful and convincing is Swift's prose. Defoe
had the same power; but in writing _Robinson Crusoe_, for instance, his
task was comparatively easy, since his hero and his adventures were both
natural; while Swift gives reality to pygmies, giants, and the most
impossible situations, as easily as if he were writing of facts.
Notwithstanding these excellent qualities, the ordinary reader will do well
to confine himself to _Gulliver's Travels_ and a book of well-chosen
selections. For, it must be confessed, the bulk of Swift's work is not
wholesome reading. It is too terribly satiric and destructive; it
emphasizes the faults and failings of humanity; and so runs counter to the
general course of our literature, which from Cynewulf to Tennyson follows
the Ideal, as Merlin followed the Gleam,[191] and is not satisfied till the
hidden beauty of man's soul and the divine purpose of his struggle are

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719)

In the pleasant art of living with one's fellows, Addison is easily a
master. It is due to his perfect expression of that art, of that new social
life which, as we have noted, was characteristic of the Age of Anne, that
Addison occupies such a large place in the history of literature. Of less
power and originality than Swift, he nevertheless wields, and deserves to
wield, a more lasting influence. Swift is the storm, roaring against the
ice and frost of the late spring of English life. Addison is the sunshine,
which melts the ice and dries the mud and makes the earth thrill with light
and hope. Like Swift, he despised shams, but unlike him, he never lost
faith in humanity; and in all his satires there is a gentle kindliness
which makes one think better of his fellow-men, even while he laughs at
their little vanities.

Two things Addison did for our literature which are of inestimable value.
First, he overcame a certain corrupt tendency bequeathed by Restoration
literature. It was the apparent aim of the low drama, and even of much of
the poetry of that age, to make virtue ridiculous and vice attractive.
Addison set himself squarely against this unworthy tendency. To strip off
the mask of vice, to show its ugliness and deformity, but to reveal virtue
in its own native loveliness,--that was Addison's purpose; and he succeeded
so well that never, since his day, has our English literature seriously
followed after false gods. As Macaulay says, "So effectually did he retort
on vice the mockery which had recently been directed against virtue, that
since his time the open violation of decency has always been considered
amongst us a sure mark of a fool." And second, prompted and aided by the
more original genius of his friend Steele, Addison seized upon the new
social life of the clubs and made it the subject of endless pleasant essays
upon types of men and manners. _The Tatler_ and _The Spectator_ are the
beginning of the modern essay; and their studies of human character, as
exemplified in Sir Roger de Coverley, are a preparation for the modern

LIFE. Addison's life, like his writings, is in marked contrast to that of
Swift. He was born in Milston, Wiltshire, in 1672. His father was a
scholarly English clergyman, and all his life Addison followed naturally
the quiet and cultured ways to which he was early accustomed. At the famous
Charterhouse School, in London, and in his university life at Oxford, he
excelled in character and scholarship and became known as a writer of
graceful verses. He had some intention, at one time, of entering the
Church, but was easily persuaded by his friends to take up the government
service instead. Unlike Swift, who abused his political superiors, Addison
took the more tactful way of winning the friendship of men in large places.
His lines to Dryden won that literary leader's instant favor, and one of
his Latin poems, "The Peace of Ryswick" (1697), with its kindly
appreciation of King William's statesmen, brought him into favorable
political notice. It brought him also a pension of three hundred pounds a
year, with a suggestion that he travel abroad and cultivate the art of
diplomacy; which he promptly did to his own great advantage.

From a literary view point the most interesting work of Addison's early
life is his _Account of the Greatest English Poets_ (1693), written while
he was a fellow of Oxford University. One rubs his eyes to find Dryden
lavishly praised, Spenser excused or patronized, while Shakespeare is not
even mentioned. But Addison was writing under Boileau's "classic" rules;
and the poet, like the age, was perhaps too artificial to appreciate
natural genius.

While he was traveling abroad, the death of William and the loss of power
by the Whigs suddenly stopped Addison's pension; necessity brought him
home, and for a time he lived in poverty and obscurity. Then occurred the
battle of Blenheim, and in the effort to find a poet to celebrate the
event, Addison was brought to the Tories' attention. His poem, "The
Campaign," celebrating the victory, took the country by storm. Instead of
making the hero slay his thousands and ten thousands, like the old epic
heroes, Addison had some sense of what is required in a modern general, and
so made Marlborough direct the battle from the outside, comparing him to an
angel riding on the whirlwind:

    'T was then great Marlbro's mighty soul was proved,
    That, in the shock of charging hosts unmoved,
    Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
    Examined all the dreadful scenes of war;
    In peaceful thought the field of death surveyed,
    To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
    Inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
    And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
    So when an angel by divine command
    With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
    (Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,)
    Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
    And, pleased th' Almighty's orders to perform,
    Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

That one doubtful simile made Addison's fortune. Never before or since was
a poet's mechanical work so well rewarded. It was called the finest thing
ever written, and from that day Addison rose steadily in political favor
and office. He became in turn Undersecretary, member of Parliament,
Secretary for Ireland, and finally Secretary of State. Probably no other
literary man, aided by his pen alone, ever rose so rapidly and so high in

The rest of Addison's life was divided between political duties and
literature. His essays for the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_, which we still
cherish, were written between 1709 and 1714; but he won more literary fame
by his classic tragedy _Cato_, which we have almost forgotten. In 1716 he
married a widow, the Countess of Warwick, and went to live at her home, the
famous Holland House. His married life lasted only three years, and was
probably not a happy one. Certainly he never wrote of women except with
gentle satire, and he became more and more a clubman, spending most of his
time in the clubs and coffeehouses of London. Up to this time his life had
been singularly peaceful; but his last years were shadowed by quarrels,
first with Pope, then with Swift, and finally with his lifelong friend
Steele. The first quarrel was on literary grounds, and was largely the
result of Pope's jealousy. The latter's venomous caricature of Addison as
Atticus shows how he took his petty revenge on a great and good man who had
been his friend. The other quarrels with Swift, and especially with his old
friend Steele, were the unfortunate result of political differences, and
show how impossible it is to mingle literary ideals with party politics. He
died serenely in 1719. A brief description from Thackeray's _English
Humorists_ is his best epitaph:

A life prosperous and beautiful, a calm death; an immense fame and
affection afterwards for his happy and spotless name.

WORKS OF ADDISON. The most enduring of Addison's works are his famous
_Essays_, collected from the _Tatler_ and _Spectator._ We have spoken of
him as a master of the art of gentle living, and these essays are a
perpetual inducement to others to know and to practice the same fine art.
To an age of fundamental coarseness and artificiality he came with a
wholesome message of refinement and simplicity, much as Ruskin and Arnold
spoke to a later age of materialism; only Addison's success was greater
than theirs because of his greater knowledge of life and his greater faith
in men. He attacks all the little vanities and all the big vices of his
time, not in Swift's terrible way, which makes us feel hopeless of
humanity, but with a kindly ridicule and gentle humor which takes speedy
improvement for granted. To read Swift's brutal "Letters to a Young Lady,"
and then to read Addison's "Dissection of a Beau's Head" and his
"Dissection of a Coquette's Heart," is to know at once the secret of the
latter's more enduring influence.

Three other results of these delightful essays are worthy of attention:
first, they are the best picture we possess of the new social life of
England, with its many new interests; second, they advanced the art of
literary criticism to a much higher stage than it had ever before reached,
and however much we differ from their judgment and their interpretation of
such a man as Milton, they certainly led Englishmen to a better knowledge
and appreciation of their own literature; and finally, in Ned Softly the
literary dabbler, Will Wimble the poor relation, Sir Andrew Freeport the
merchant, Will Honeycomb the fop, and Sir Roger the country gentleman, they
give us characters that live forever as part of that goodly company which
extends from Chaucer's country parson to Kipling's Mulvaney. Addison and
Steele not only introduced the modern essay, but in such characters as
these they herald the dawn of the modern novel. Of all his essays the best
known and loved are those which introduce us to Sir Roger de Coverley, the
genial dictator of life and manners in the quiet English country.

In style these essays are remarkable as showing the growing perfection of
the English language. Johnson says, "Whoever wishes to attain an English
style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give
his days and nights to the volumes of Addison." And again he says, "Give
nights and days, sir, to the study of Addison if you mean to be a good
writer, or, what is more worth, an honest man." That was good criticism for
its day, and even at the present time critics are agreed that Addison's
_Essays_ are well worth reading once for their own sake, and many times for
their influence in shaping a clear and graceful style of writing.

Addison's poems, which were enormously popular in his day, are now seldom
read. His _Cato_, with its classic unities and lack of dramatic power, must
be regarded as a failure, if we study it as tragedy; but it offers an
excellent example of the rhetoric and fine sentiment which were then
considered the essentials of good writing. The best scene from this tragedy
is in the fifth act, where Cato soliloquizes, with Plato's _Immortality of
the Soul_ open in his hand, and a drawn sword on the table before him:

    It must be so--Plato, thou reason'st well!--
    Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
    This longing after immortality?
    Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
    Of falling into nought? why shrinks the soul
    Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
    'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
    'Tis heaven itself, that points out an hereafter,
    And intimates eternity to man.

Many readers make frequent use of one portion of Addison's poetry without
knowing to whom they are indebted. His devout nature found expression in
many hymns, a few of which are still used and loved in our churches. Many a
congregation thrills, as Thackeray did, to the splendid sweep of his "God
in Nature," beginning, "The spacious firmament on high." Almost as well
known and loved are his "Traveler's Hymn," and his "Continued Help,"
beginning, "When all thy mercies, O my God." The latter hymn--written in a
storm at sea off the Italian coast, when the captain and crew were
demoralized by terror--shows that poetry, especially a good hymn that one
can sing in the same spirit as one would say his prayers, is sometimes the
most practical and helpful thing in the world.

RICHARD STEELE (1672-1729). Steele was in almost every respect the
antithesis of his friend and fellow-worker,--a rollicking, good-hearted,
emotional, lovable Irishman. At the Charterhouse School and at Oxford he
shared everything with Addison, asking nothing but love in return. Unlike
Addison, he studied but little, and left the university to enter the Horse
Guards. He was in turn soldier, captain, poet, playwright, essayist, member
of Parliament, manager of a theater, publisher of a newspaper, and twenty
other things,--all of which he began joyously and then abandoned, sometimes
against his will, as when he was expelled from Parliament, and again
because some other interest of the moment had more attraction. His poems
and plays are now little known; but the reader who searches them out will
find one or two suggestive things about Steele himself. For instance, he
loves children; and he is one of the few writers of his time who show a
sincere and unswerving respect for womanhood. Even more than Addison he
ridicules vice and makes virtue lovely. He is the originator of the
_Tatler_, and joins with Addison in creating the _Spectator_,--the two
periodicals which, in the short space of less than four years, did more to
influence subsequent literature than all other magazines of the century
combined. Moreover, he is the original genius of Sir Roger, and of many
other characters and essays for which Addison usually receives the whole
credit. It is often impossible in the _Tatler_ essays to separate the work
of the two men; but the majority of critics hold that the more original
parts, the characters, the thought, the overflowing kindliness, are largely
Steele's creation; while to Addison fell the work of polishing and
perfecting the essays, and of adding that touch of humor which made them
the most welcome literary visitors that England had ever received.

THE TATLER AND THE SPECTATOR. On account of his talent in writing political
pamphlets, Steele was awarded the position of official gazetteer. While in
this position, and writing for several small newspapers, the idea occurred
to Steele to publish a paper which should contain not only the political
news, but also the gossip of the clubs and coffeehouses, with some light
essays on the life and manners of the age. The immediate result--for Steele
never let an idea remain idle--was the famous _Tatler_, the first number of
which appeared April 12, 1709. It was a small folio sheet, appearing on
post days, three times a week, and it sold for a penny a copy. That it had
a serious purpose is evident from this dedication to the first volume of
collected _Tatler_ essays:

The general purpose of this paper is to expose the false arts of life, to
pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to
recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our

The success of this unheard-of combination of news, gossip, and essay was
instantaneous. Not a club or a coffeehouse in London could afford to be
without it, and over it's pages began the first general interest in
contemporary English life as expressed in literature. Steele at first wrote
the entire paper and signed his essays with the name of Isaac Bickerstaff,
which had been made famous by Swift a few years before. Addison is said to
have soon recognized one of his own remarks to Steele, and the secret of
the Authorship was out. From that time Addison was a regular contributor,
and occasionally other writers added essays on the new social life of

Steele lost his position as gazetteer, and the _Tatler_ was discontinued
after less than two years' life, but not till it won an astonishing
popularity and made ready the way for its successor. Two months later, on
March 1, 1711, appeared the first number of the _Spectator_. In the new
magazine politics and news, as such, were ignored; it was a literary
magazine, pure and simple, and its entire contents consisted of a single
light essay. It was considered a crazy venture at the time, but its instant
success proved that men were eager for some literary expression of the new
social ideals. The following whimsical letter to the editor may serve to
indicate the part played by the _Spectator_ in the daily life of London:

Mr. Spectator,--Your paper is a part of my tea equipage; and my servant
knows my humor so well, that in calling for my breakfast this morning (it
being past my usual hour) she answered, the _Spectator_ was not yet come
in, but the teakettle boiled, and she expected it every moment.

It is in the incomparable _Spectator_ papers that Addison shows himself
most "worthy to be remembered." He contributed the majority of its essays,
and in its first number appears this description of the Spectator, by which
name Addison is now generally known:

There is no place of general resort wherein I do not often make my
appearance; sometimes I am seen thrusting my head into a round of
politicians at Will's [Coffeehouse] and listening with great attention to
the narratives that are made in those little circular audiences. Sometimes
I smoke a pipe at Child's, and, whilst I seem attentive to nothing but _The
Postman_, overhear the conversation of every table in the room. I appear on
Sunday nights at St. James's, and sometimes join the little committee of
politics in the inner room, as one who comes to hear and improve. My face
is likewise very well known at the Grecian, the Cocoa Tree, and in the
theaters both of Drury Lane and the Haymarket. I have been taken for a
merchant upon the Exchange for above these ten years; and sometimes pass
for a Jew in the assembly of stock jobbers at Jonathan's.... Thus I live in
the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species,...
which is the character I intend to preserve in this paper.

The large place which these two little magazines hold in our literature
seems most disproportionate to their short span of days. In the short space
of four years in which Addison and Steele worked together the light essay
was established as one of the most important forms of modern literature,
and the literary magazine won its place as the expression of the social
life of a nation.

SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784)

The reader of Boswell's _Johnson_, after listening to endless grumblings
and watching the clumsy actions of the hero, often finds himself wondering
why he should end his reading with a profound respect for this "old bear"
who is the object of Boswell's groveling attention. Here is a man who was
certainly not the greatest writer of his age, perhaps not even a great
writer at all, but who was nevertheless the dictator of English letters,
and who still looms across the centuries of a magnificent literature as its
most striking and original figure. Here, moreover, is a huge, fat, awkward
man, of vulgar manners and appearance, who monopolizes conversation, argues
violently, abuses everybody, clubs down opposition,--"Madam" (speaking to
his cultivated hostess at table), "talk no more nonsense"; "Sir" (turning
to a distinguished guest), "I perceive you are a vile Whig." While talking
he makes curious animal sounds, "sometimes giving a half whistle, sometimes
clucking like a hen"; and when he has concluded a violent dispute and laid
his opponents low by dogmatism or ridicule, he leans back to "blow out his
breath like a whale" and gulp down numberless cups of hot tea. Yet this
curious dictator of an elegant age was a veritable lion, much sought after
by society; and around him in his own poor house gathered the foremost
artists, scholars, actors, and literary men of London,--all honoring the
man, loving him, and listening to his dogmatism as the Greeks listened to
the voice of their oracle.

What is the secret of this astounding spectacle? If the reader turns
naturally to Johnson's works for an explanation, he will be disappointed.
Reading his verses, we find nothing to delight or inspire us, but rather
gloom and pessimism, with a few moral observations in rimed couplets:

    But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold
    Fall in the general massacre of gold;
    Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
    And crowds with crimes the records of mankind;
    For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
    For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws;
    Wealth heaped on wealth nor truth nor safety buys;
    The dangers gather as the treasures rise.[193]

That is excellent common sense, but it is not poetry; and it is not
necessary to hunt through Johnson's bulky volumes for the information,
since any moralist can give us offhand the same doctrine. As for his
_Rambler_ essays, once so successful, though we marvel at the big words,
the carefully balanced sentences, the classical allusions, one might as
well try to get interested in an old-fashioned, three-hour sermon. We read
a few pages listlessly, yawn, and go to bed.

Since the man's work fails to account for his leadership and influence, we
examine his personality; and here everything is interesting. Because of a
few oft-quoted passages from Boswell's biography, Johnson appears to us as
an eccentric bear, who amuses us by his growlings and clumsy antics. But
there is another Johnson, a brave, patient, kindly, religious soul, who, as
Goldsmith said, had "nothing of the bear but his skin"; a man who battled
like a hero against poverty and pain and melancholy and the awful fear of
death, and who overcame them manfully. "_That trouble passed away; so will
this,_" sang the sorrowing Deor in the first old Anglo-Saxon lyric; and
that expresses the great and suffering spirit of Johnson, who in the face
of enormous obstacles never lost faith in God or in himself. Though he was
a reactionary in politics, upholding the arbitrary power of kings and
opposing the growing liberty of the people, yet his political theories,
like his manners, were no deeper than his skin; for in all London there was
none more kind to the wretched, and none more ready to extend an open hand
to every struggling man and woman who crossed his path. When he passed poor
homeless Arabs sleeping in the streets he would slip a coin into their
hands, in order that they might have a happy awakening; for he himself knew
well what it meant to be hungry. Such was Johnson,--a "mass of genuine
manhood," as Carlyle called him, and as such, men loved and honored

Life of Johnson. Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1709. He
was the son of a small bookseller, a poor man, but intelligent and fond of
literature, as booksellers invariably were in the good days when every town
had its bookshop. From his childhood Johnson had to struggle against
physical deformity and disease and the consequent disinclination to hard
work. He prepared for the university, partly in the schools, but largely by
omnivorous reading in his father's shop, and when he entered Oxford he had
read more classical authors than had most of the graduates. Before
finishing his course he had to leave the university on account of his
poverty, and at once he began his long struggle as a hack writer to earn
his living.

At twenty-five years he married a woman old enough to be his mother,--a
genuine love match, he called it,--and with her dowry of £800 they started
a private school together, which was a dismal failure. Then, without money
or influential friends, he left his home and wife in Lichfield and tramped
to London, accompanied only by David Garrick, afterwards the famous actor,
who had been one of his pupils. Here, led by old associations, Johnson made
himself known to the booksellers, and now and then earned a penny by
writing prefaces, reviews, and translations.

It was a dog's life, indeed, that he led there with his literary brethren.
Many of the writers of the day, who are ridiculed in Pope's heartless
_Dunciad_, having no wealthy patrons to support them, lived largely in the
streets and taverns, sleeping on an ash heap or under a wharf, like rats;
glad of a crust, and happy over a single meal which enabled them to work
for a while without the reminder of hunger. A few favored ones lived in
wretched lodgings in Grub Street, which has since become a synonym for the
fortunes of struggling writers.[195] Often, Johnson tells us, he walked the
streets all night long, in dreary weather, when it was too cold to sleep,
without food or shelter. But he wrote steadily for the booksellers and for
the _Gentleman's Magazine_, and presently he became known in London and
received enough work to earn a bare living.

The works which occasioned this small success were his poem, "London," and
his _Life of the Poet Savage_, a wretched life, at best, which were perhaps
better left without a biographer. But his success was genuine, though
small, and presently the booksellers of London are coming to him to ask him
to write a dictionary of the English language. It was an enormous work,
taking nearly eight years of his time, and long before he had finished it
he had eaten up the money which he received for his labor. In the leisure
intervals of this work he wrote "The Vanity of Human Wishes" and other
poems, and finished his classic tragedy of _Irene_.

Led by the great success of the _Spectator_, Johnson started two magazines,
_The Rambler_ (1750--1752) and _The Idler_ (1758--1760). Later the
_Rambler_ essays were published in book form and ran rapidly through ten
editions; but the financial returns were small, and Johnson spent a large
part of his earnings in charity. When his mother died, in 1759, Johnson,
although one of the best known men in London, had no money, and hurriedly
finished _Rasselas_, his only romance, in order, it is said, to pay for his
mother's burial.

It was not till 1762, when Johnson was fifty-three years old, that his
literary labors were rewarded in the usual way by royalty, and he received
from George III a yearly pension of three hundred pounds. Then began a
little sunshine in his life. With Joshua Reynolds, the artist, he founded
the famous Literary Club, of which Burke, Pitt, Fox, Gibbon, Goldsmith, and
indeed all the great literary men and politicians of the time, were
members. This is the period of Johnson's famous conversations, which were
caught in minutest detail by Boswell and given to the world. His idea of
conversation, as shown in a hundred places in Boswell, is to overcome your
adversary at any cost; to knock him down by arguments, or, when these fail,
by personal ridicule; to dogmatize on every possible question, pronounce a
few oracles, and then desist with the air of victory. Concerning the
philosopher Hume's view of death he says: "Sir, if he really thinks so, his
perceptions are disturbed, he is mad. If he does not think so, he lies."
Exit opposition. There is nothing more to be said. Curiously enough, it is
often the palpable blunders of these monologues that now attract us, as if
we were enjoying a good joke at the dictator's expense. Once a lady asked
him, "Dr. Johnson, why did you define _pastern_ as the knee of a horse?"
"Ignorance, madame, pure ignorance," thundered the great authority.

When seventy years of age, Johnson was visited by several booksellers of
the city, who were about to bring out a new edition of the English poets,
and who wanted Johnson, as the leading literary man of London, to write the
prefaces to the several volumes. The result was his _Lives of the Poets_,
as it is now known, and this is his last literary work. He died in his poor
Fleet Street house, in 1784, and was buried among England's honored poets
in Westminster Abbey.

JOHNSON'S WORKS. "A book," says Dr. Johnson, "should help us either to
enjoy life or to endure it." Judged by this standard, one is puzzled what
to recommend among Johnson's numerous books. The two things which belong
among the things "worthy to be remembered" are his _Dictionary_ and his
_Lives of the Poets_, though both these are valuable, not as literature,
but rather as a study of literature. The _Dictionary_, as the first
ambitious attempt at an English lexicon, is extremely valuable,
notwithstanding the fact that his derivations are often faulty, and that he
frequently exercises his humor or prejudice in his curious definitions. In
defining "oats," for example, as a grain given in England to horses and in
Scotland to the people, he indulges his prejudice against the Scotch, whom
he never understood, just as, in his definition of "pension," he takes
occasion to rap the writers who had flattered their patrons since the days
of Elizabeth; though he afterwards accepted a comfortable pension for
himself. With characteristic honesty he refused to alter his definition in
subsequent editions of the _Dictionary_.

The _Lives of the Poets_ are the simplest and most readable of his literary
works. For ten years before beginning these biographies he had given
himself up to conversation, and the ponderous style of his _Rambler_ essays
here gives way to a lighter and more natural expression. As criticisms they
are often misleading, giving praise to artificial poets, like Cowley and
Pope, and doing scant justice or abundant injustice to nobler poets like
Gray and Milton; and they are not to be compared with those found in Thomas
Warton's _History of English Poetry_, which was published in the same
generation. As biographies, however, they are excellent reading, and we owe
to them some of our best known pictures of the early English poets.

Of Johnson's poems the reader will have enough if he glance over "The
Vanity of Human Wishes." His only story, _Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia_,
is a matter of rhetoric rather than of romance, but is interesting still to
the reader who wants to hear Johnson's personal views of society,
philosophy, and religion. Any one of his _Essays_, like that on "Reading,"
or "The Pernicious Effects of Revery," will be enough to acquaint the
reader with the Johnsonese style, which was once much admired and copied by
orators, but which happily has been replaced by a more natural way of
speaking. Most of his works, it must be confessed, are rather tiresome. It
is not to his books, but rather to the picture of the man himself, as given
by Boswell, that Johnson owes his great place in our literature.


In James Boswell (1740-1795) we have another extraordinary figure,--a
shallow little Scotch barrister, who trots about like a dog at the heels of
his big master, frantic at a caress and groveling at a cuff, and abundantly
contented if only he can be near him and record his oracles. All his life
long Boswell's one ambition seems to have been to shine in the reflected
glory of great men, and his chief task to record their sayings and doings.
When he came to London, at twenty-two years of age, Johnson, then at the
beginning of his great fame, was to this insatiable little glory-seeker
like a Silver Doctor to a hungry trout. He sought an introduction as a man
seeks gold, haunted every place where Johnson declaimed, until in Davies's
bookstore the supreme opportunity came. This is his record of the great

I was much agitated [says Boswell] and recollecting his prejudice against
the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, "Don't tell him
where I come from." "From Scotland," cried Davies roguishly. "Mr. Johnson,"
said I, "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it."... "That,
sir" [cried Johnson], "I find is what a very great many of your countrymen
cannot help." This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down
I felt myself not a little embarrassed, and apprehensive of what might come

Then for several years, with a persistency that no rebuffs could abate, and
with a thick skin that no amount of ridicule could render sensitive, he
follows Johnson; forces his way into the Literary Club, where he is not
welcome, in order to be near his idol; carries him off on a visit to the
Hebrides; talks with him on every possible occasion; and, when he is not
invited to a feast, waits outside the house or tavern in order to walk home
with his master in the thick fog of the early morning. And the moment the
oracle is out of sight and in bed, Boswell patters home to record in detail
all that he has seen and heard. It is to his minute record that we owe our
only perfect picture of a great man; all his vanity as well as his
greatness, his prejudices, superstitions, and even the details of his
personal appearance:

There is the gigantic body, the huge face seamed with the scars of disease,
the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the gray wig with the scorched
foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see
the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see the heavy form
rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the "Why, sir!" and the "What
then, sir?" and the "No, sir!" and the "You don't see your way through the
question, sir!"[196]

To Boswell's record we are indebted also for our knowledge of those famous
conversations, those wordy, knockdown battles, which made Johnson famous in
his time and which still move us to wonder. Here is a specimen
conversation, taken almost at random from a hundred such in Boswell's
incomparable biography. After listening to Johnson's prejudice against
Scotland, and his dogmatic utterances on Voltaire, Robertson, and twenty
others, an unfortunate theorist brings up a recent essay on the possible
future life of brutes, quoting some possible authority from the sacred

Johnson, who did not like to hear anything concerning a future state which
was not authorized by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discouraged this
talk; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an opportunity to
give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So when the poor speculatist,
with a serious, metaphysical, pensive face, addressed him, "But really,
sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know what to think of him";
Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought which beamed in his eye, turned
quickly round and replied, "True, sir; and when we see a very _foolish
fellow_, we don't know what to think of _him_." He then rose up, strided to
the fire, and stood for some time laughing and exulting.

Then the oracle proceeds to talk of scorpions and natural history, denying
facts, and demanding proofs which nobody could possibly furnish:

He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. "That woodcocks," said he,
"fly over the northern countries is proved, because they have been observed
at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A number of them
conglobulate together by flying round and round, and then all in a heap
throw themselves under water and lie in the bed of a river." He told us one
of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glowworm: I am sorry I did
not ask where it was to be found.

Then follows an astonishing array of subjects and opinions. He catalogues
libraries, settles affairs in China, pronounces judgment on men who marry
women superior to themselves, flouts popular liberty, hammers Swift
unmercifully, and adds a few miscellaneous oracles, most of which are about
as reliable as his knowledge of the hibernation of swallows.

When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning I found him highly satisfied
with his colloquial prowess the preceding evening. "Well," said he, "we had
good talk." "Yes, sir" [says I], "you tossed and gored several persons."

Far from resenting this curious mental dictatorship, his auditors never
seem to weary. They hang upon his words, praise him, flatter him, repeat
his judgments all over London the next day, and return in the evening
hungry for more. Whenever the conversation begins to flag, Boswell is like
a woman with a parrot, or like a man with a dancing bear. He must excite
the creature, make him talk or dance for the edification of the company. He
sidles obsequiously towards his hero and, with utter irrelevancy, propounds
a question of theology, a social theory, a fashion of dress or marriage, a
philosophical conundrum: "Do you think, sir, that natural affections are
born with us?" or, "Sir, if you were shut up in a castle and a newborn babe
with you, what would you do?" Then follow more Johnsonian laws, judgments,
oracles; the insatiable audience clusters around him and applauds; while
Boswell listens, with shining face, and presently goes home to write the
wonder down. It is an astonishing spectacle; one does not know whether to
laugh or grieve over it. But we know the man, and the audience, almost as
well as if we had been there; and that, unconsciously, is the superb art of
this matchless biographer.

When Johnson died the opportunity came for which Boswell had been watching
and waiting some twenty years. He would shine in the world now, not by
reflection, but by his own luminosity. He gathered together his endless
notes and records, and began to write his biography; but he did not hurry.
Several biographies of Johnson appeared, in the four years after his death,
without disturbing Boswell's perfect complacency. After seven years' labor
he gave the world his _Life of Johnson_. It is an immortal work; praise is
superfluous; it must be read to be appreciated. Like the Greek sculptors,
the little slave produced a more enduring work than the great master. The
man who reads it will know Johnson as he knows no other man who dwells
across the border; and he will lack sensitiveness, indeed, if he lay down
the work without a greater love and appreciation of all good literature.

LATER AUGUSTAN WRITERS. With Johnson, who succeeded Dryden and Pope in the
chief place of English letters, the classic movement had largely spent its
force; and the latter half of the eighteenth century gives us an imposing
array of writers who differ so widely that it is almost impossible to
classify them. In general, three schools of writers are noticeable: first,
the classicists, who, under Johnson's lead, insisted upon elegance and
regularity of style; second, the romantic poets, like Collins, Gray,
Thomson, and Burns, who revolted from Pope's artificial couplets and wrote
of nature and the human heart[197]; third, the early novelists, like Defoe
and Fielding, who introduced a new type of literature. The romantic poets
and the novelists are reserved for special chapters; and of the other
writers--Berkeley and Hume in philosophy; Robertson, Hume, and Gibbon in
history; Chesterfield and Lady Montagu in letter writing; Adam Smith in
economics; Pitt, Burke, Fox, and a score of lesser writers in politics--we
select only two, Burke and Gibbon, whose works are most typical of the
Augustan, i.e. the elegant, classic style of prose writing.

EDMUND BURKE (1729--1797)

To read all of Burke's collected works, and so to understand him
thoroughly, is something of a task. Few are equal to it. On the other hand,
to read selections here and there, as most of us do, is to get a wrong idea
of the man and to join either in fulsome praise of his brilliant oratory,
or in honest confession that his periods are ponderous and his ideas often
buried under Johnsonian verbiage. Such are the contrasts to be found on
successive pages of Burke's twelve volumes, which cover the enormous range
of the political and economic thought of the age, and which mingle fact and
fancy, philosophy, statistics, and brilliant flights of the imagination, to
a degree never before seen in English literature. For Burke belongs in
spirit to the new romantic school, while in style he is a model for the
formal classicists. We can only glance at the life of this marvelous
Irishman, and then consider his place in our literature.

LIFE. Burke was born in Dublin, the son of an Irish barrister, in 1729.
After his university course in Trinity College he came to London to study
law, but soon gave up the idea to follow literature, which in turn led him
to politics. He had the soul, the imagination of a poet, and the law was
only a clog to his progress. His two first works, _A Vindication of Natural
Society_ and _The Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful_,
brought him political as well as literary recognition, and several small
offices were in turn given to him. When thirty-six years old he was elected
to Parliament as member from Wendover; and for the next thirty years he was
the foremost figure in the House of Commons and the most eloquent orator
which that body has ever known. Pure and incorruptible in his politics as
in his personal life, no more learned or devoted servant of the
Commonwealth ever pleaded for justice and human liberty. He was at the
summit of his influence at the time when the colonies were struggling for
independence; and the fact that he championed their cause in one of his
greatest speeches, "On Conciliation with America," gives him an added
interest in the eyes of American readers. His championship of America is
all the more remarkable from the fact that, in other matters, Burke was far
from liberal. He set himself squarely against the teachings of the romantic
writers, who were enthusiastic over the French Revolution; he denounced the
principles of the Revolutionists, broke with the liberal Whig party to join
the Tories, and was largely instrumental in bringing on the terrible war
with France, which resulted in the downfall of Napoleon.

It is good to remember that, in all the strife and bitterness of party
politics, Burke held steadily to the noblest personal ideals of truth and
honesty; and that in all his work, whether opposing the slave trade, or
pleading for justice for America, or protecting the poor natives of India
from the greed of corporations, or setting himself against the popular
sympathy for France in her desperate struggle, he aimed solely at the
welfare of humanity. When he retired on a pension in 1794, he had won, and
he deserved, the gratitude and affection of the whole nation.

WORKS. There are three distinctly marked periods in Burke's career, and
these correspond closely to the years in which he was busied with the
affairs of America, India, and France successively. The first period was
one of prophecy. He had studied the history and temper of the American
colonies, and he warned England of the disaster which must follow her
persistence in ignoring the American demands, and especially the American
spirit. His great speeches, "On American Taxation" and "On Conciliation
with America," were delivered in 1774 and 1775, preceding the Declaration
of Independence. In this period Burke's labor seemed all in vain; he lost
his cause, and England her greatest colony.

The second period is one of denunciation rather than of prophecy. England
had won India; but when Burke studied the methods of her victory and
understood the soulless way in which millions of poor natives were made to
serve the interests of an English monopoly, his soul rose in revolt, and
again he was the champion of an oppressed people. His two greatest speeches
of this period are "The Nabob of Arcot's Debts" and his tremendous
"Impeachment of Warren Hastings." Again he apparently lost his cause,
though he was still fighting on the side of right. Hastings was acquitted,
and the spoliation of India went on; but the seeds of reform were sown, and
grew and bore fruit long after Burke's labors were ended.

The third period is, curiously enough, one of reaction. Whether because the
horrors of the French Revolution had frightened him with the danger of
popular liberty, or because his own advance in office and power had made
him side unconsciously with the upper classes, is unknown. That he was as
sincere and noble now as in all his previous life is not questioned. He
broke with the liberal Whigs and joined forces with the reactionary Tories.
He opposed the romantic writers, who were on fire with enthusiasm over the
French Revolution, and thundered against the dangers which the
revolutionary spirit must breed, forgetting that it was a revolution which
had made modern England possible. Here, where we must judge him to have
been mistaken in his cause, he succeeded for the first time. It was due
largely to Burke's influence that the growing sympathy for the French
people was checked in England, and war was declared, which ended in the
frightful victories of Trafalgar and Waterloo.

Burke's best known work of this period is his _Reflections on the French
Revolution_, which he polished and revised again Essay on and again before
it was finally printed. This ambitious literary essay, though it met with
remarkable success, is a disappointment to the reader. Though of Celtic
blood, Burke did not understand the French, or the principles for which the
common people were fighting in their own way[198]; and his denunciations
and apostrophes to France suggest a preacher without humor, hammering away
at sinners who are not present in his congregation. The essay has few
illuminating ideas, but a great deal of Johnsonian rhetoric, which make its
periods tiresome, notwithstanding our admiration for the brilliancy of its
author. More significant is one of Burke's first essays, _A Philosophical
Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful_, which
is sometimes read in order to show the contrast in style with Addison's
_Spectator_ essays on the "Pleasures of the Imagination."

Burke's best known speeches, "On Conciliation with America," "American
Taxation," and the "Impeachment of Warren Hastings," are still much studied
in our schools as models of English prose; and this fact tends to give them
an exaggerated literary importance. Viewed purely as literature, they have
faults enough; and the first of these, so characteristic of the Classic
Age, is that they abound in fine rhetoric but lack simplicity.[199] In a
strict sense, these eloquent speeches are not literature, to delight the
reader and to suggest ideas, but studies in rhetoric and in mental
concentration. All this, however, is on the surface. A careful study of any
of these three famous speeches reveals certain admirable qualities which
account for the important place they are given in the study of English.
First, as showing the stateliness and the rhetorical power of our language,
these speeches are almost unrivaled. Second, though Burke speaks in prose,
he is essentially a poet, whose imagery, like that of Milton's prose works,
is more remarkable than that of many of our writers of verse. He speaks in
figures, images, symbols; and the musical cadence of his sentences reflects
the influence of his wide reading of poetry. Not only in figurative
expression, but much more in spirit, he belongs with the poets of the
revival. At times his language is pseudo-classic, reflecting the influence
of Johnson and his school; but his thought is always romantic; he is
governed by ideal rather than by practical interests, and a profound
sympathy for humanity is perhaps his most marked characteristic.

Third, the supreme object of these orations, so different from the majority
of political speeches, is not to win approval or to gain votes, but to
establish the truth. Like our own Lincoln, Burke had a superb faith in the
compelling power of the truth, a faith in men also, who, if the history of
our race means anything, will not willingly follow a lie. The methods of
these two great leaders are strikingly similar in this respect, that each
repeats his idea in many ways, presenting the truth from different view
points, so that it will appeal to men of widely different experiences.
Otherwise the two men are in marked contrast. The uneducated Lincoln speaks
in simple, homely words, draws his illustrations from the farm, and often
adds a humorous story, so apt and "telling" that his hearers can never
forget the point of his argument. The scholarly Burke speaks in ornate,
majestic periods, and searches all history and all literature for his
illustrations. His wealth of imagery and allusions, together with his rare
combination of poetic and logical reasoning, make these orations
remarkable, entirely apart from their subject and purpose.

Fourth (and perhaps most significant of the man and his work), Burke takes
his stand squarely upon the principle of justice. He has studied history,
and he finds that to establish justice, between man and man and between
nation and nation, has been the supreme object of every reformer since the
world began. No small or merely temporary success attracts him; only the
truth will suffice for an argument; and nothing less than justice will ever
settle a question permanently. Such is his platform, simple as the Golden
Rule, unshakable as the moral law. Hence, though he apparently fails of his
immediate desire in each of these three orations, the principle for which
he contends cannot fail. As a modern writer says of Lincoln, "The full,
rich flood of his life through the nation's pulse is yet beating"; and his
words are still potent in shaping the course of English politics in the way
of justice.

EDWARD GIBBON (1737-1794)

To understand Burke or Johnson, one must read a multitude of books and be
wary in his judgment; but with Gibbon the task is comparatively easy, for
one has only to consider two books, his _Memoirs_ and the first volume of
his _History_, to understand the author. In his _Memoirs_ we have an
interesting reflection of Gibbon's own personality,--a man who looks with
satisfaction on the material side of things, who seeks always the easiest
path for himself, and avoids life's difficulties and responsibilities. "I
sighed as a lover; but I obeyed as a son," he says, when, to save his
inheritance, he gave up the woman he loved and came home to enjoy the
paternal loaves and fishes. That is suggestive of the man's whole life. His
_History_, on the other hand, is a remarkable work. It was the first in our
language to be written on scientific principles, and with a solid basis of
fact; and the style is the very climax of that classicism which had ruled
England for an entire century. Its combination of historical fact and
literary style makes _The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ the one
thing of Gibbon's life that is "worthy to be remembered."

GIBBON'S HISTORY. For many years Gibbon had meditated, like Milton, upon an
immortal work, and had tried several historical subjects, only to give them
up idly. In his _Journal_ he tells us how his vague resolutions were
brought to a focus:

It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst
the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers
in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of
the city first started to my mind.

Twelve years later, in 1776, Gibbon published the first volume of _The
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;_ and the enormous success of the work
encouraged him to go on with the other five volumes, which were published
at intervals during the next twelve years. The History begins with the
reign of Trajan, in A.D. 98, and "builds a straight Roman road" through the
confused histories of thirteen centuries, ending with the fall of the
Byzantine Empire in 1453. The scope of the History is enormous. It includes
not only the decline of the Roman Empire, but such movements as the descent
of the northern barbarians, the spread of Christianity, the reorganization
of the European nations, the establishment of the great Eastern Empire, the
rise of Mohammedanism, and the splendor of the Crusades. On the one hand it
lacks philosophical insight, being satisfied with facts without
comprehending the causes; and, as Gibbon seems lacking in ability to
understand spiritual and religious movements, it is utterly inadequate in
its treatment of the tremendous influence of Christianity. On the other
hand, Gibbon's scholarship leaves little to criticise; he read enormously,
sifted his facts out of multitudes of books and records, and then marshaled
them in the imposing array with which we have grown familiar. Moreover, he
is singularly just and discriminating in the use of all documents and
authorities at his command. Hence he has given us the first history in
English that has borne successfully the test of modern research and

The style of the work is as imposing as his great subject. Indeed, with
almost any other subject the sonorous roll of his majestic sentences would
be out of place. While it deserves all the adjectives that have been
applied to it by enthusiastic admirers,--finished, elegant, splendid,
rounded, massive, sonorous, copious, elaborate, ornate, exhaustive,--it
must be confessed, though one whispers the confession, that the style
sometimes obscures our interest in the narrative. As he sifted his facts
from a multitude of sources, so he often hides them again in endless
periods, and one must often sift them out again in order to be quite sure
of even the simple facts. Another drawback is that Gibbon is hopelessly
worldly in his point of view; he loves pageants and crowds rather than
individuals, and he is lacking in enthusiasm and in spiritual insight. The
result is so frankly material at times that one wonders if he is not
reading of forces or machines, rather than of human beings. A little
reading of his History here and there is an excellent thing, leaving one
impressed with the elegant classical style and the scholarship; but a
continued reading is very apt to leave us longing for simplicity, for
naturalness, and, above all, for the glow of enthusiasm which makes the
dead heroes live once more in the written pages.

This judgment, however, must not obscure the fact that the book had a
remarkably large sale; and that this, of itself, is an evidence that
multitudes of readers found it not only erudite, but readable and


      The old order changeth, yielding place to new;
      And God fulfills Himself in many ways,
      Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
                     Tennyson's "The Passing of Arthur."

THE MEANING OF ROMANTICISM. While Dryden, Pope, and Johnson were
successively the dictators of English letters, and while, under their
leadership, the heroic couplet became the fashion of poetry, and literature
in general became satiric or critical in spirit, and formal in expression,
a new romantic movement quietly made its appearance. Thomson's _The
Seasons_ (1730) was the first noteworthy poem of the romantic revival; and
the poems and the poets increased steadily in number and importance till,
in the age of Wordsworth and Scott, the spirit of Romanticism dominated our
literature more completely than Classicism had ever done. This romantic
movement--which Victor Hugo calls "liberalism in literature"--is simply the
expression of life as seen by imagination, rather than by prosaic "common
sense," which was the central doctrine of English philosophy in the
eighteenth century. It has six prominent characteristics which distinguish
it from the so-called classic literature which we have just studied:

1. The romantic movement was marked, and is always marked, by a strong
reaction and protest against the bondage of rule and custom, which, in
science and theology, as well as in literature, generally tend to fetter
the free human spirit.

2. Romanticism returned to nature and to plain humanity for its material,
and so is in marked contrast to Classicism, which had confined itself
largely to the clubs and drawing-rooms, and to the social and political
life of London. Thomson's _Seasons_, whatever its defects, was a revelation
of the natural wealth and beauty which, for nearly a century, had been
hardly noticed by the great writers of England.

3. It brought again the dream of a golden age[200] in which the stern
realities of life were forgotten and the ideals of youth were established
as the only permanent realities. "For the dreamer lives forever, but the
toiler dies in a day," expresses, perhaps, only the wild fancy of a modern
poet; but, when we think of it seriously, the dreams and ideals of a people
are cherished possessions long after their stone monuments have crumbled
away and their battles are forgotten. The romantic movement emphasized
these eternal ideals of youth, and appealed to the human heart as the
classic elegance of Dryden and Pope could never do.

4. Romanticism was marked by intense human sympathy, and by a consequent
understanding of the human heart. Not to intellect or to science does the
heart unlock its treasures, but rather to the touch of a sympathetic
nature; and things that are hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed
unto children. Pope had no appreciable humanity; Swift's work is a
frightful satire; Addison delighted polite society, but had no message for
plain people; while even Johnson, with all his kindness, had no feeling for
men in the mass, but supported Sir Robert Walpole in his policy of letting
evils alone until forced by a revolution to take notice of humanity's
appeal. With the romantic revival all this was changed. While Howard was
working heroically for prison reform, and Wilberforce for the liberation of
the slaves, Gray wrote his "short and simple annals of the poor," and
Goldsmith his _Deserted Village_, and Cowper sang,

                     My ear is pained,
    My soul is sick with every day's report
    Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled.
    There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
    It does not feel for man.[201]

This sympathy for the poor, and this cry against oppression, grew stronger
and stronger till it culminated in "Bobby" Burns, who, more than any other
writer in any language, is the poet of the unlettered human heart.

5. The romantic movement was the expression of individual genius rather
than of established rules. In consequence, the literature of the revival is
as varied as the characters and moods of the different writers. When we
read Pope, for instance, we have a general impression of sameness, as if
all his polished poems were made in the same machine; but in the work of
the best romanticists there is endless variety. To read them is like
passing through a new village, meeting a score of different human types,
and finding in each one something to love or to remember. Nature and the
heart of man are as new as if we had never studied them. Hence, in reading
the romanticists, who went to these sources for their material, we are
seldom wearied but often surprised; and the surprise is like that of the
sunrise, or the sea, which always offers some new beauty and stirs us
deeply, as if we had never seen it before.

6. The romantic movement, while it followed its own genius, was not
altogether unguided. Strictly speaking, there is no new movement either in
history or in literature; each grows out of some good thing which has
preceded it, and looks back with reverence to past masters. Spenser,
Shakespeare, and Milton were the inspiration of the romantic revival; and
we can hardly read a poem of the early romanticists without finding a
suggestion of the influence of one of these great leaders.[202]

There are various other characteristics of Romanticism, but these six--the
protest against the bondage of rules, the return to nature and the human
heart, the interest in old sagas and mediæval romances as suggestive of a
heroic age, the sympathy for the toilers of the world, the emphasis upon
individual genius, and the return to Milton and the Elizabethans, instead
of to Pope and Dryden, for literary models--are the most noticeable and
the most interesting. Remembering them, we shall better appreciate the work
of the following writers who, in varying degree, illustrate the revival of
romantic poetry in the eighteenth century.

THOMAS GRAY (1716-1771)

    The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
    The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea;
    The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
    Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.

So begins "the best known poem in the English language," a poem full of the
gentle melancholy which marks all early romantic poetry. It should be read
entire, as a perfect model of its kind. Not even Milton's "Il Penseroso,"
which it strongly suggests, excels it in beauty and suggestiveness.

LIFE OF GRAY. The author of the famous "Elegy" is the most scholarly and
well-balanced of all the early romantic poets. In his youth he was a
weakling, the only one of twelve children who survived infancy; and his
unhappy childhood, the tyranny of his father, and the separation from his
loved mother, gave to his whole life the stamp of melancholy which is
noticeable in all his poems. At the famous Eton school and again at
Cambridge, he seems to have followed his own scholarly tastes rather than
the curriculum, and was shocked, like Gibbon, at the general idleness and
aimlessness of university life. One happy result of his school life was his
friendship for Horace Walpole, who took him abroad for a three years' tour
of the Continent.

No better index of the essential difference between the classical and the
new romantic school can be imagined than that which is revealed in the
letters of Gray and Addison, as they record their impressions of foreign
travel. Thus, when Addison crossed the Alps, some twenty-five years before,
in good weather, he wrote: "A very troublesome journey.... You cannot
imagine how I am pleased with the sight of a plain." Gray crossed the Alps
in the beginning of winter, "wrapped in muffs, hoods and masks of beaver,
fur boots, and bearskins," but wrote ecstatically, "Not a precipice, not a
torrent, not a cliff but is pregnant with religion and poetry."

On his return to England, Gray lived for a short time at Stoke Poges, where
he wrote his "Ode on Eton," and probably sketched his "Elegy," which,
however, was not finished till 1750, eight years later. During the latter
years of his shy and scholarly life he was Professor of Modern History and
Languages at Cambridge, without any troublesome work of lecturing to
students. Here he gave himself up to study and to poetry, varying his work
by "prowlings" among the manuscripts of the new British Museum, and by his
"Lilliputian" travels in England and Scotland. He died in his rooms at
Pembroke College in 1771, and was buried in the little churchyard of Stoke

WORKS OF GRAY. Gray's _Letters_, published in 1775, are excellent reading,
and his _Journal_ is still a model of natural description; but it is to a
single small volume of poems that he owes his fame and his place in
literature. These poems divide themselves naturally into three periods, in
which we may trace the progress of Gray's emancipation from the classic
rules which had so long governed English literature. In the first period he
wrote several minor poems, of which the best are his "Hymn to Adversity"
and the odes "To Spring" and "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College." These
early poems reveal two suggestive things: first, the appearance of that
melancholy which characterizes all the poetry of the period; and second,
the study of nature, not for its own beauty or truth, but rather as a
suitable background for the play of human emotions.

The second period shows the same tendencies more strongly developed. The
"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1750), the most perfect poem of
the age, belongs to this period. To read Milton's "Il Penseroso" and Gray's
"Elegy" is to see the beginning and the perfection of that "literature of
melancholy" which largely occupied English poets for more than a century.
Two other well-known poems of this second period are the Pindaric odes,
"The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard." The first is strongly suggestive of
Dryden's "Alexander's Feast," but shows Milton's influence in a greater
melody and variety of expression. "The Bard" is, in every way, more
romantic and original. An old minstrel, the last of the Welsh singers,
halts King Edward and his army in a wild mountain pass, and with fine
poetic frenzy prophesies the terror and desolation which must ever follow
the tyrant. From its first line, "Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!" to the
end, when the old bard plunges from his lofty crag and disappears in the
river's flood, the poem thrills with the fire of an ancient and noble race
of men. It breaks absolutely with the classical school and proclaims a
literary declaration of independence.

In the third period Gray turns momentarily from his Welsh material and
reveals a new field of romantic interest in two Norse poems, "The Fatal
Sisters" and "The Descent of Odin" (1761). Gray translated his material
from the Latin, and though these two poems lack much of the elemental
strength and grandeur of the Norse sagas, they are remarkable for calling
attention to the unused wealth of literary material that was hidden in
Northern mythologv. To Gray and to Percy (who published his _Northern
Antiquities_ in 1770) is due in large measure the profound interest in the
old Norse sagas which has continued to our own day.

Taken together, Gray's works form a most interesting commentary on the
varied life of the eighteenth century. He was a scholar, familiar with all
the intellectual interests of his age, and his work has much of the
precision and polish of the classical school; but he shares also the
reawakened interest in nature, in common man, and in mediæval culture, and
his work is generally romantic both in style and in spirit. The same
conflict between the classic and romantic schools, and the triumph of
Romanticism, is shown clearly in the most versatile of Gray's
contemporaries, Oliver Goldsmith.


Because _The Deserted Village_ is one of the most familiar poems in our
language, Goldsmith is generally given a high place among the poets of the
romantic dawn. But the _Village_, when we read it carefully, turns out to
be a rimed essay in the style of Pope's famous _Essay on Man_; it owes its
popularity to the sympathetic memories which it awakens, rather than to its
poetic excellence. It is as a prose writer that Goldsmith excels. He is an
essayist, with Addison's fine polish but with more sympathy for human life;
he is a dramatist, one of the very few who have ever written a comedy that
can keep its popularity unchanged while a century rolls over its head; but
greater, perhaps, than the poet and essayist and dramatist is Goldsmith the
novelist, who set himself to the important work of purifying the early
novel of its brutal and indecent tendencies, and who has given us, in _The
Vicar of Wakefield_, one of the most enduring characters in English
fiction. In his manner, especially in his poetry, Goldsmith was too much
influenced by his friend Johnson and the classicists; but in his matter, in
his sympathy for nature and human life, he belongs unmistakably to the new
romantic school. Altogether he is the most versatile, the most charming,
the most inconsistent, and the most lovable genius of all the literary men
who made famous the age of Johnson.

LIFE. Goldsmith's career is that of an irresponsible, unbalanced genius,
which would make one despair if the man himself did not remain so lovable
in all his inconsistencies. He was born in the village of Pallas, Ireland,
the son of a poor Irish curate whose noble character is portrayed in Dr.
Primrose, of _The Vicar of Wakefield_, and in the country parson of _The
Deserted Village_. After an unsatisfactory course in various schools, where
he was regarded as hopelessly stupid, Goldsmith entered Trinity College,
Dublin, as a sizar, i.e. a student who pays with labor for his tuition. By
his escapades he was brought into disfavor with the authorities, but that
troubled him little. He was also wretchedly poor, which troubled him less;
for when he earned a few shillings by writing ballads for street singers,
his money went oftener to idle beggars than to the paying of his honest
debts. After three years of university life he ran away, in dime-novel
fashion, and nearly starved to death before he was found and brought back
in disgrace. Then he worked a little, and obtained his degree in 1749.

Strange that such an idle and irresponsible youth should have been urged by
his family to take holy orders; but such was the fact. For two years more
Goldsmith labored with theology, only to be rejected when he presented
himself as a candidate for the ministry. He tried teaching, and failed.
Then his fancy turned to America, and, provided with money and a good
horse, he started off for Cork, where he was to embark for the New World.
He loafed along the pleasant Irish ways, missed his ship, and presently
turned up cheerfully amongst his relatives, minus all his money, and riding
a sorry nag called Fiddleback, for which he had traded his own on the
way.[203] He borrowed fifty pounds more, and started for London to study
law, but speedily lost his money at cards, and again appeared, amiable and
irresponsible as ever, among his despairing relatives. The next year they
sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine. Here for a couple of years he
became popular as a singer of songs and a teller of tales, to whom medicine
was only a troublesome affliction. Suddenly the _Wanderlust_ seized him and
he started abroad, ostensibly to complete his medical education, but in
reality to wander like a cheerful beggar over Europe, singing and playing
his flute for food and lodging. He may have studied a little at Leyden and
at Padua, but that was only incidental. After a year or more of vagabondage
he returned to London with an alleged medical degree, said to have been
obtained at Louvain or Padua.

The next few years are a pitiful struggle to make a living as tutor,
apothecary's assistant, comedian, usher in a country school, and finally as
a physician in Southwark. Gradually he drifted into literature, and lived
from hand to mouth by doing hack work for the London booksellers. Some of
his essays and his _Citizen of the World_ (1760-1761) brought him to the
attention of Johnson, who looked him up, was attracted first by his poverty
and then by his genius, and presently declared him to be "one of the first
men we now have as an author." Johnson's friendship proved invaluable, and
presently Goldsmith found himself a member of the exclusive Literary Club.
He promptly justified Johnson's confidence by publishing _The Traveller_
(1764), which was hailed as one of the finest poems of the century. Money
now came to him liberally, with orders from the booksellers; he took new
quarters in Fleet Street and furnished them gorgeously; but he had an
inordinate vanity for bright-colored clothes, and faster than he earned
money he spent it on velvet cloaks and in indiscriminate charity. For a
time he resumed his practice as a physician, but his fine clothes did not
bring patients, as he expected; and presently he turned to writing again,
to pay his debts to the booksellers. He produced several superficial and
grossly inaccurate schoolbooks,--like his _Animated Nature_ and his
histories of England, Greece, and Rome,--which brought him bread and more
fine clothes, and his _Vicar of Wakefield, The Deserted Village_, and _She
Stoops to Conquer_, which brought him undying fame.

After meeting with Johnson, Goldsmith became the object of Boswell's magpie
curiosity; and to Boswell's _Life of Johnson_ we are indebted for many of
the details of Goldsmith's life,--his homeliness, his awkward ways, his
drolleries and absurdities, which made him alternately the butt and the wit
of the famous Literary Club. Boswell disliked Goldsmith, and so draws an
unflattering Portrait, but even this does not disguise the contagious good
humor which made men love him. When in his forty-seventh year, he fell sick
of a fever, and with childish confidence turned to a quack medicine to cure
himself. He died in 1774, and Johnson placed a tablet, with a sonorous
Latin epitaph, in Westminster Abbey, though Goldsmith was buried elsewhere.
"Let not his frailties be remembered; he was a very great man," said
Johnson; and the literary world--which, like that old dictator, is kind
enough at heart, though often rough in its methods--is glad to accept and
record the verdict.

WORKS OF GOLDSMITH. Of Goldsmith's early essays and his later school
histories little need be said. They have settled into their own place, far
out of sight of the ordinary reader. Perhaps the most interesting of these
is a series of letters for the _Public Ledger_ (afterwards published as
_The Citizen of the World_), written from the view point of an alleged
Chinese traveler, and giving the latter's comments on English
civilization.[204] The following five works are those upon which
Goldsmith's fame chiefly rests:

_The Traveller_ (1764) made Goldsmith's reputation among his
contemporaries, but is now seldom read, except by students who would
understand how Goldsmith was, at one time, dominated by Johnson and his
pseudo-classic ideals. It is a long poem, in rimed couplets, giving a
survey and criticism of the social life of various countries in Europe, and
reflects many of Goldsmith's own wanderings and impressions.

_The Deserted Village_ (1770), though written in the same mechanical style,
is so permeated with honest human sympathy, and voices so perfectly the
revolt of the individual man against institutions, that a multitude of
common people heard it gladly, without consulting the critics as to whether
they should call it good poetry. Notwithstanding its faults, to which
Matthew Arnold has called sufficient attention, it has become one of our
best known poems, though we cannot help wishing that the monotony of its
couplets had been broken by some of the Irish folk songs and ballads that
charmed street audiences in Dublin, and that brought Goldsmith a welcome
from the French peasants wherever he stopped to sing. In the village parson
and the schoolmaster, Goldsmith has increased Chaucer's list by two lovable
characters that will endure as long as the English language. The criticism
that the picture of prosperous "Sweet Auburn" never applied to any village
in Ireland is just, no doubt, but it is outside the question. Goldsmith was
a hopeless dreamer, bound to see everything, as he saw his debts and his
gay clothes, in a purely idealistic way.

_The Good-Natured Man_ and _She Stoops to Conquer_ are Goldsmith's two
comedies. The former, a comedy of character, though it has some laughable
scenes and one laughable character, Croaker, met with failure on the stage,
and has never been revived with any success. The latter, a comedy of
intrigue, is one of the few plays that has never lost its popularity. Its
lively, bustling scenes, and its pleasantly absurd characters, Marlowe, the
Hardcastles, and Tony Lumpkin, still hold the attention of modern theater
goers; and nearly every amateur dramatic club sooner or later places _She
Stoops to Conquer_ on its list of attractions.

_The Vicar of Wakefield_ is Goldsmith's only novel, and the first in any
language that gives to home life an enduring romantic interest. However
much we admire the beginnings of the English novel, to which we shall
presently refer, we are nevertheless shocked by its frequent brutalities
and indecencies. Goldsmith like Steele, had the Irish reverence for pure
womanhood, and this reverence made him shun as a pest the vulgarity and
coarseness in which contemporary novelists, like Smollett and Sterne,
seemed to delight. So he did for the novel what Addison and Steele had done
for the satire and the essay; he refined and elevated it, making it worthy
of the old Anglo-Saxon ideals which are our best literary heritage.

Briefly, _The Vicar of Wakefield_ is the story of a simple English
clergyman, Dr. Primrose, and his family, who pass from happiness through
great tribulation. Misfortunes, which are said never to come singly, appear
in this case in flocks; but through poverty, sorrow, imprisonment, and the
unspeakable loss of his daughters, the Vicar's faith in God and man emerges
triumphant. To the very end he is like one of the old martyrs, who sings
_Alleluia_ while the lions roar about him and his children in the arena.
Goldsmith's optimism, it must be confessed, is here stretched to the
breaking point. The reader is sometimes offered fine Johnsonian phrases
where he would naturally expect homely and vigorous language; and he is
continually haunted by the suspicion that, even in this best of all
possible worlds, the Vicar's clouds of affliction were somewhat too easily
converted into showers of blessing; yet he is forced to read on, and at the
end he confesses gladly that Goldsmith has succeeded in making a most
interesting story out of material that, in other hands, would have
developed either a burlesque or a brutal tragedy. Laying aside all romantic
passion, intrigue, and adventure, upon which other novelists depended,
Goldsmith, in this simple story of common life, has accomplished three
noteworthy results: he has made human fatherhood almost a divine thing; he
has glorified the moral sentiments which cluster about the family life as
the center of civilization; and he has given us, in Dr. Primrose, a
striking and enduring figure, which seems more like a personal acquaintance
than a character in a book.

WILLIAM COWPER (1731--1800)

In Cowper we have another interesting poet, who, like Gray and Goldsmith,
shows the struggle between romantic and classic ideals. In his first volume
of poems, Cowper is more hampered by literary fashions than was Goldsmith
in his _Traveller_ and his _Deserted Village_. In his second period,
however, Cowper uses blank verse freely; and his delight in nature and in
homely characters, like the teamster and the mail carrier of _The Task_,
shows that his classicism is being rapidly thawed out by romantic feeling.
In his later work, especially his immortal "John Gilpin," Cowper flings
fashions aside, gives Pegasus the reins, takes to the open road, and so
proves himself a worthy predecessor of Burns, who is the most spontaneous
and the most interesting of all the early romanticists.

LIFE. Cowper's life is a pathetic story of a shy and timid genius, who
found the world of men too rough, and who withdrew to nature like a wounded
animal. He was born at Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, in 1731, the son
of an English clergyman. He was a delicate, sensitive child, whose early
life was saddened by the death of his mother and by his neglect at home. At
six years he was sent away to a boys' school, where he was terrified by
young barbarians who made his life miserable. There was one atrocious bully
into whose face Cowper could never look; he recognized his enemy by his
shoe buckles, and shivered at his approach. The fierce invectives of his
"Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools" (1784), shows how these school
experiences had affected his mind and health. For twelve years he studied
law, but at the approach of a public examination for an office he was so
terrified that he attempted suicide. The experience unsettled his reason,
and the next twelve months were spent in an asylum at St. Alban's. The
death of his father, in 1756, had brought the poet a small patrimony, which
placed him above the necessity of struggling, like Goldsmith, for his daily
bread. Upon his recovery he boarded for years at the house of the Unwins,
cultured people who recognized the genius hidden in this shy and melancholy
yet quaintly humorous man. Mrs. Unwin, in particular, cared for him as a
son; and whatever happiness he experienced in his poor life was the result
of the devotion of this good woman, who is the "Mary" of all his poems.

A second attack of insanity was brought on by Cowper's morbid interest in
religion, influenced, perhaps, by the untempered zeal of one John Newton, a
curate, with whom Cowper worked in the small parish of Olney, and with whom
he compiled the famous Olney Hymns. The rest of his life, between intervals
of melancholia or insanity, was spent in gardening, in the care of his
numerous pets, and in writing his poems, his translation of Homer, and his
charming letters. His two best known poems were suggested by a lively and
cultivated widow, Lady Austen, who told him the story of John Gilpin and
called for a ballad on the subject. She also urged him to write a long poem
in blank verse; and when he demanded a subject, she whimsically suggested
the sofa, which was a new article of furniture at that time. Cowper
immediately wrote "The Sofa," and, influenced by the poetic possibilities
that lie in unexpected places, he added to this poem from time to time, and
called his completed work _The Task_. This was published in 1785, and the
author was instantly recognized as one of the chief poets of his age. The
last years of his life were a long battle with insanity, until death
mercifully ended the struggle in 1800. His last poem, "The Castaway," is a
cry of despair, in which, under guise of a man washed overboard in a storm,
he describes himself perishing in the sight of friends who are powerless to

COWPER'S WORKS. Cowper's first volume of poems, containing "The Progress of
Error," "Truth," "Table Talk," etc., is interesting chiefly as showing how
the poet was bound by the classical rules of his age. These poems are
dreary, on the whole, but a certain gentleness, and especially a vein of
pure humor, occasionally rewards the reader. For Cowper was a humorist, and
only the constant shadow of insanity kept him from becoming famous in that
line alone.

_The Task_, written in blank verse, and published in 1785, is Cowper's
longest poem. Used as we are to the natural poetry of Wordsworth and
Tennyson, it is hard for us to appreciate the striking originality of this
work. Much of it is conventional and "wooden," to be sure, like much of
Wordsworth's poetry; but when, after reading the rimed essays and the
artificial couplets of Johnson's age, we turn suddenly to Cowper's
description of homely scenes, of woods and brooks, of plowmen and teamsters
and the letter carrier on his rounds, we realize that we are at the dawn of
a better day in poetry:

    He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
    With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks:
    News from all nations lumbering at his back.
    True to his charge, the close-packed load behind,
    Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
    Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
    And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on.
    He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
    Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
    Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
    To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
    Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
    Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
    With tears that trickled down the writer's cheeks
    Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
    Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
    Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
    His horse and him, unconscious of them all.

Cowper's most laborious work, the translation of Homer in blank verse, was
published in 1791. Its stately, Milton-like movement, and its better
rendering of the Greek, make this translation far superior to Pope's
artificial couplets. It is also better, in many respects, than Chapman's
more famous and more fanciful rendering; but for some reason it was not
successful, and has never received the recognition which it deserves.
Entirely different in spirit are the poet's numerous hymns, which were
published in the Olney Collection in 1779 and which are still used in our
churches. It is only necessary to mention a few first lines--"God moves in
a mysterious way," "Oh, for a closer walk with God," "Sometimes a light
surprises"--to show how his gentle and devout spirit has left its impress
upon thousands who now hardly know his name. With Cowper's charming
_Letters_, published in 1803, we reach the end of his important works, and
the student who enjoys reading letters will find that these rank among the
best of their kind. It is not, however, for his ambitious works that Cowper
is remembered, but rather for his minor poems, which have found their own
way into so many homes. Among these, the one that brings quickest response
from hearts that understand is his little poem, "On the Receipt of My
Mother's Picture." beginning with the striking line, "Oh, that those lips
had language." Another, called "Alexander Selkirk," beginning, "I am
monarch of all I survey," suggests how Selkirk's experiences as a castaway
(which gave Defoe his inspiration for _Robinson Crusoe_) affected the
poet's timid nature and imagination. Last and most famous of all is his
immortal "John Gilpin." Cowper was in a terrible fit of melancholy when
Lady Austen told him the story, which proved to be better than medicine,
for all night long chuckles and suppressed laughter were heard in the
poet's bedroom. Next morning at breakfast he recited the ballad that had
afforded its author so much delight in the making. The student should read
it, even if he reads nothing else by Cowper; and he will be lacking in
humor or appreciation if he is not ready to echo heartily the last stanza:

    Now let us sing, Long live the King,
    And Gilpin, long live he!
    And when he next doth ride abroad
    May I be there to see.

ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796)

After a century and more of Classicism, we noted with interest the work of
three men, Gray, Goldsmith, and Cowper, whose poetry, like the chorus of
awakening birds, suggests the dawn of another day. Two other poets of the
same age suggest the sunrise. The first is the plowman Burns, who speaks
straight from the heart to the primitive emotions of the race; the second
is the mystic Blake, who only half understands his own thoughts, and whose
words stir a sensitive nature as music does, or the moon in midheaven,
rousing in the soul those vague desires and aspirations which ordinarily
sleep, and which can never be expressed because they have no names. Blake
lived his shy, mystic, spiritual life in the crowded city, and his message
is to the few who can understand. Burns lived his sad, toilsome, erring
life in the open air, with the sun and the rain, and his songs touch all
the world. The latter's poetry, so far as it has a philosophy, rests upon
two principles which the classic school never understood,--that common
people are at heart romantic and lovers of the ideal, and that simple human
emotions furnish the elements of true poetry. Largely because he follows
these two principles, Burns is probably the greatest song writer of the
world. His poetic creed may be summed up in one of his own stanzas:

    Give me ae spark o' Nature's fire,
    That's a' the learning I desire;
    Then, though I trudge thro' dub an' mire
           At pleugh or cart,
    My Muse, though hamely in attire,
           May touch the heart.

LIFE.[205] Burns's life is "a life of fragments," as Carlyle called it; and
the different fragments are as unlike as the noble "Cotter's Saturday
Night" and the rant and riot of "The Jolly Beggars." The details of this
sad and disjointed life were better, perhaps, forgotten. We call attention
only to the facts which help us to understand the man and his poetry.

Burns was born in a clay cottage at Alloway, Scotland, in the bleak winter
of 1759. His father was an excellent type of the Scotch peasant of those
days,--a poor, honest, God-fearing man, who toiled from dawn till dark to
wrest a living for his family from the stubborn soil. His tall figure was
bent with unceasing labor; his hair was thin and gray, and in his eyes was
the careworn, hunted look of a peasant driven by poverty and unpaid rents
from one poor farm to another. The family often fasted of necessity, and
lived in solitude to avoid the temptation of spending their hard-earned
money. The children went barefoot and bareheaded in all weathers, and
shared the parents' toil and their anxiety over the rents. At thirteen
Bobby, the eldest, was doing a peasant's full day's labor; at sixteen he
was chief laborer on his father's farm; and he describes the life as "the
cheerless gloom of a hermit, and the unceasing moil of a galley slave." In
1784 the father, after a lifetime of toil, was saved from a debtor's prison
by consumption and death. To rescue something from the wreck of the home,
and to win a poor chance of bread for the family, the two older boys set up
a claim for arrears of wages that had never been paid. With the small sum
allowed them, they buried their father, took another farm, Mossgiel, in
Mauchline, and began again the long struggle with poverty.

Such, in outline, is Burns's own story of his early life, taken mostly from
his letters. There is another and more pleasing side to the picture, of
which we have glimpses in his poems and in his Common-place Book. Here we
see the boy at school; for like most Scotch peasants, the father gave his
boys the best education he possibly could. We see him following the plow,
not like a slave, but like a free man, crooning over an old Scotch song and
making a better one to match the melody. We see him stop the plow to listen
to what the wind is saying, or turn aside lest he disturb the birds at
their singing and nest making. At supper we see the family about the table,
happy notwithstanding their scant fare, each child with a spoon in one hand
and a book in the other. We hear Betty Davidson reciting, from her great
store, some heroic ballad that fired the young hearts to enthusiasm and
made them forget the day's toil. And in "The Cotter's Saturday Night" we
have a glimpse of Scotch peasant life that makes us almost reverence these
heroic men and women, who kept their faith and their self-respect in the
face of poverty, and whose hearts, under their rough exteriors, were tender
and true as steel.

A most unfortunate change in Burns's life began when he left the farm, at
seventeen, and went to Kirkoswald to study surveying. The town was the
haunt of smugglers, rough-living, hard-drinking men; and Burns speedily
found his way into those scenes of "riot and roaring dissipation" which
were his bane ever afterwards. For a little while he studied diligently,
but one day, while taking the altitude of the sun, he saw a pretty girl in
the neighboring garden, and love put trigonometry to flight. Soon he gave
up his work and wandered back to the farm and poverty again.

When twenty-seven years of age Burns first attracted literary attention,
and in the same moment sprang to the first place in Scottish letters. In
despair over his poverty and personal habits, he resolved to emigrate to
Jamaica, and gathered together a few of his early poems, hoping to sell
them for enough to pay the expenses of his journey. The result was the
famous Kilmarnock edition of Burns, published in 1786, for which he was
offered twenty pounds. It is said that he even bought his ticket, and on
the night before the ship sailed wrote his "Farewell to Scotland,"
beginning, "The gloomy night is gathering fast," which he intended to be
his last song on Scottish soil.

In the morning he changed his mind, led partly by some dim foreshadowing of
the result of his literary adventure; for the little book took all Scotland
by storm. Not only scholars and literary men, but "even plowboys and maid
servants," says a contemporary, eagerly spent their hard-earned shillings
for the new book. Instead of going to Jamaica, the young poet hurried to
Edinburgh to arrange for another edition of his work. His journey was a
constant ovation, and in the capital he was welcomed and feasted by the
best of Scottish society. This inexpected triumph lasted only one winter.
Burns's fondness for taverns and riotous living shocked his cultured
entertainers, and when he returned to Edinburgh next winter, after a
pleasure jaunt through the Highlands, he received scant attention. He left
the city in anger and disappointment, and went back to the soil where he
was more at home.

The last few years of Burns's life are a sad tragedy, and we pass over them
hurriedly. He bought the farm Ellisland, Dumfriesshire, and married the
faithful Jean Armour, in 1788, That he could write of her,

    I see her in the dewy flowers,
    I see her sweet and fair;
    I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
    I hear her charm the air:
    There's not a bonie flower that springs
    By fountain, shaw, or green;
    There's not a bonie bird that sings,
    But minds me o' my Jean,

is enough for us to remember. The next year he was appointed exciseman,
i.e. collector of liquor revenues, and the small salary, with the return
from his poems, would have been sufficient to keep his family in modest
comfort, had he but kept away from taverns. For a few years his life of
alternate toil and dissipation was occasionally illumined by his splendid
lyric genius, and he produced many songs--"Bonnie Doon," "My Love's like a
Red, Red Rose," "Auld Lang Syne," "Highland Mary," and the soul-stirring
"Scots wha hae," composed while galloping over the moor in a storm--which
have made the name of Burns known wherever the English language is spoken,
and honored wherever Scotchmen gather together. He died miserably in 1796,
when only thirty-seven years old. His last letter was an appeal to a friend
for money to stave off the bailiff, and one of his last poems a tribute to
Jessie Lewars, a kind lassie who helped to care for him in his illness.
This last exquisite lyric, "O wert thou in the cauld blast," set to
Mendelssohn's music, is one of our best known songs, though its history is
seldom suspected by those who sing it.

THE POETRY OF BURNS. The publication of the Kilmarnock Burns, with the
title _Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect_ (1786), marks an epoch in the
history of English Literature, like the publication of Spenser's
_Shepherd's Calendar_. After a century of cold and formal poetry, relieved
only by the romanticism of Gray and Cowper, these fresh inspired songs went
straight to the heart, like the music of returning birds in springtime. It
was a little volume, but a great book; and we think of Marlowe's line,
"Infinite riches in a little room," in connection with it. Such poems as
"The Cotter's Saturday Night," "To a Mouse," "To Mountain Daisy," "Man was
Made To Mourn," "The Twa Dogs," "Address to the Deil," and "Halloween,"
suggest that the whole spirit of the romantic revival is embodied in this
obscure plowman. Love, humor, pathos, the response to nature,--all the
poetic qualities that touch the human heart are here; and the heart was
touched as it had not been since the days of Elizabeth. If the reader will
note again the six characteristics of the romantic movement, and then read
six poems of Burns, he will see at once how perfectly this one man
expresses the new idea. Or take a single suggestion,--

    Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
    Ae farewell, and then forever!
    Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
    Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
    Who shall say that Fortune grieves him
    While the star of hope she leaves him?
    Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me;
    Dark despair around benights me.
    I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
    Naething could resist my Nancy;
    But to see her was to love her;
    Love but her, and love forever.
    Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
    Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
    Never met--or never parted--
    We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

The "essence of a thousand love tales" is in that one little song. Because
he embodies the new spirit of romanticism, critics give him a high place in
the history of our literature; and because his songs go straight to the
heart, he is the poet of common men.

Of Burns's many songs for music little need be said. They have found their
way into the hearts of a whole people, and there they speak for themselves.
They range from the exquisite "O wert thou in the cauld blast," to the
tremendous appeal to Scottish patriotism in "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace
bled," which, Carlyle said, should be sung with the throat of the
whirlwind. Many of these songs were composed in his best days, when
following the plow or resting after his work, while the music of some old
Scotch song was ringing in his head. It is largely because he thought of
music while he composed that so many of his poems have the singing quality,
suggesting a melody as we read them.

Among his poems of nature, "To a Mouse" and "To a Mountain Daisy" are
unquestionably the best, suggesting the poetical possibilities that daily
pass unnoticed under our feet. These two poems are as near as Burns ever
comes to appreciating nature for its own sake. The majority of his poems,
like "Winter" and "Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon," regard nature in the
same way that Gray regarded it, as a background for the play of human

Of his poems of emotion there is an immense number. It is a curious fact
that the world is always laughing and crying at the same moment; and we can
hardly read a page of Burns without finding this natural juxtaposition of
smiles and tears. It is noteworthy also that all strong emotions, when
expressed naturally, lend themselves to poetry; and Burns, more than any
other writer, has an astonishing faculty of describing his own emotions
with vividness and simplicity, so that they appeal instantly to our own.
One cannot read, "I love my Jean," for instance, without being in love with
some idealized woman; or "To Mary in Heaven," without sharing the personal
grief of one who has loved and lost.

Besides the songs of nature and of human emotion, Burns has given us a
large number of poems for which no general title can be given. Noteworthy
among these are "A man's a man for a' that," which voices the new romantic
estimate of humanity; "The Vision," from which we get a strong impression
of Burns's early ideals; the "Epistle to a Young Friend," from which,
rather than from his satires, we learn Burns's personal views of religion
and honor; the "Address to the Unco Guid," which is the poet's plea for
mercy in judgment; and "A Bard's Epitaph," which, as a summary of his own
life, might well be written at the end of his poems. "Halloween," a picture
of rustic merrymaking, and "The Twa Dogs" a contrast between the rich and
poor, are generally classed among the poet's best works; but one unfamiliar
with the Scotch dialect will find them rather difficult.

Of Burns's longer poems the two best worth reading are "The Cotter's
Saturday Night" and "Tam o' Shanter,"--the one giving the most perfect
picture we possess of a noble poverty; the other being the most lively and
the least objectionable of his humorous works. It would be difficult to
find elsewhere such a combination of the grewsome and the ridiculous as is
packed up in "Tam o' Shanter." With the exception of these two, the longer
poems add little to the author's fame or to our own enjoyment. It is better
for the beginner to read Burns's exquisite songs and gladly to recognize
his place in the hearts of a people, and forget the rest, since they only
sadden us and obscure the poet's better nature.

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827)

    Piping down the valleys wild,
      Piping songs of pleasant glee,
    On a cloud I saw a child,
      And he laughing said to me:
    "Pipe a song about a lamb;"
      So I piped with merry cheer.
    "Piper, pipe that song again;"
      So I piped:, he wept to hear.
    "Piper, sit thee down and write
      In a book, that all may read;"
    So he vanished from my sight,
      And I plucked a hollow reed,
    And I made a rural pen,
      And I stained the water clear,
    And I wrote my happy songs
      Every child may joy to hear.[206]

Of all the romantic poets of the eighteenth century, Blake is the most
independent and the most original. In his earliest work, written when he
was scarcely more than a child, he seems to go back to the Elizabethan song
writers for his models; but for the greater part of his life he was the
poet of inspiration alone, following no man's lead, and obeying no voice
but that which he heard in his own mystic soul. Though the most
extraordinary literary genius of his age, he had practically no influence
upon it. Indeed, we hardly yet understand this poet of pure fancy, this
mystic this transcendental madman, who remained to the end of his busy life
an incomprehensible child.

LIFE. Blake, the son of a London tradesman, was a strange, imaginative
child, whose soul was more at home with brooks and flowers and fairies than
with the crowd of the city streets. Beyond learning to read and write, he
received education; but he began, at ten years, to copy prints and to write
verses. He also began a long course of art study, which resulted in his
publishing his own books, adorned with marginal engravings colored by
hand,--an unusual setting, worthy of the strong artistic sense that shows
itself in many of his early verses. As a child he had visions of God and
the angels looking in at his window; and as a man he thought he received
visits from the souls of the great dead, Moses, Virgil, Homer, Dante,
Milton,--"majestic shadows, gray but luminous," he calls them. He seems
never to have asked himself the question how far these visions were pure
illusions, but believed and trusted them implicitly. To him all nature was
a vast spiritual symbolism, wherein he saw elves, fairies, devils,
angels,--all looking at him in friendship or enmity through the eyes of
flowers and stars:

    With the blue sky spread over with wings,
      And the mild sun that mounts and sings;
    With trees and fields full of fairy elves,
      And little devils who fight for themselves;
    With angels planted in hawthorne bowers,
      And God himself in the passing hours.

And this curious, pantheistic conception of nature was not a matter of
creed, but the very essence of Blake's life. Strangely enough, he made no
attempt to found a new religious cult, but followed his own way, singing
cheerfully, working patiently, in the face of discouragement and failure.
That writers of far less genius were exalted to favor, while he remained
poor and obscure, does not seem to have troubled him in the least. For over
forty years he labored diligently at book engraving, guided in his art by
Michael Angelo. but inventing his own curious designs, at which we still
wonder. The illustrations for Young's "Night Thoughts," for Blair's
"Grave," and the "Inventions to the Book of Job," show the peculiarity of
Blake's mind quite as clearly as his poems. While he worked at his trade he
flung off--for he never seemed to compose--disjointed visions and
incomprehensible rhapsodies, with an occasional little gem that still sets
our hearts to singing:

    Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
      Who countest the steps of the sun;
    Seeking after that sweet golden clime
      Where the traveller's journey is done;
    Where the youth pined away with desire,
      And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
    Rise from their graves, and aspire
      Where my sunflower wishes to go!

That is a curious flower to find growing in the London street; but it
suggests Blake's own life, which was outwardly busy and quiet, but inwardly
full of adventure and excitement. His last huge prophetic works, like
_Jerusalem_ and _Milton_ (1804), were dictated to him, he declares, by
supernatural means, and even against his own will. They are only half
intelligible, but here and there one sees flashes of the same poetic beauty
that marks his little poems. Critics generally dismiss Blake with the word
"madman"; but that is only an evasion. At best, he is the writer of
exquisite lyrics; at worst, he is mad only "north-northwest," like Hamlet;
and the puzzle is to find the method in his madness. The most amazing thing
about him is the perfectly sane and cheerful way in which he moved through
poverty and obscurity, flinging out exquisite poems or senseless
rhapsodies, as a child might play with gems or straws or sunbeams
indifferently. He was a gentle, kindly, most unworldly little man, with
extraordinary eyes, which seem even in the lifeless portraits to reflect
some unusual hypnotic power. He died obscurely, smiling at a vision of
Paradise, in 1827. That was nearly a century ago, yet he still remains one
of the most incomprehensible figures in our literature.

WORKS OF BLAKE. The _Poetical Sketches_, published in 1783, is a collection
of Blake's earliest poetry, much of it written in boyhood. It contains much
crude and incoherent work, but also a few lyrics of striking originality.
Two later and better known volumes are _Songs of Innocence_ and _Songs of
Experience_, reflecting two widely different views of the human soul. As in
all his works, there is an abundance of apparently worthless stuff in these
songs; but, in the language of miners, it is all "pay dirt"; it shows
gleams of golden grains that await our sifting, and now and then we find a
nugget unexpectedly:

    My lord was like a flower upon the brows
    Of lusty May; ah life as frail as flower!
    My lord was like a star in highest heaven
    Drawn down to earth by spells and wickedness;
    My lord was like the opening eye of day;
    But he is darkened; like the summer moon
    Clouded; fall'n like the stately tree, cut down;
    The breath of heaven dwelt among his leaves.

On account of the chaotic character of most of Blake's work, it is well to
begin our reading with a short book of selections, containing the best
songs of these three little volumes. Swinburne calls Blake the only poet of
"supreme and simple poetic genius" of the eighteenth century, the one man
of that age fit, on all accounts, to rank with the old great masters.[207]
The praise is doubtless extravagant, and the criticism somewhat
intemperate; but when we have read "The Evening Star," "Memory," "Night,"
"Love," "To the Muses," "Spring," "Summer," "The Tiger," "The Lamb," "The
Clod and the Pebble," we may possibly share Swinburne's enthusiasm.
Certainly, in these three volumes we have some of the most perfect and the
most original songs in our language.

Of Blake's longer poems, his titanic prophecies and apocalyptic splendors,
it is impossible to write justly in such a brief work as this. Outwardly
they suggest a huge chaff pile, and the scattered grains of wheat hardly
warrant the labor of winnowing. The curious reader will get an idea of
Blake's amazing mysticism by dipping into any of the works of his middle
life,--_Urizen, Gates of Paradise, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, America,
The French Revolution_, or _The Vision of the Daughters of Albion_. His
latest works, like _Jerusalem_ and _Milton_, are too obscure to have any
literary value. To read any of these works casually is to call the author a
madman; to study them, remembering Blake's songs and his genius, is to
quote softly his own answer to the child who asked about the land of

    "O what land is the land of dreams,
    What are its mountains and what are its streams?
    --O father, I saw my mother there,
    Among the lilies by waters fair."
    "Dear child, I also by pleasant streams
    Have wandered all night in the land of dreams;
    But though calm and warm the waters wide,
    I could not get to the other side."


We have chosen the five preceding poets, Gray, Goldsmith, Cowper, Burns,
and Blake, as the most typical and the most interesting of the writers who
proclaimed the dawn of Romanticism in the eighteenth century. With them we
associate a group of minor writers, whose works were immensely popular in
their own day. The ordinary reader will pass them by, but to the student
they are all significant as expressions of very different phases of the
romantic revival.

JAMES THOMSON (1700-1748). Thomson belongs among the pioneers of
Romanticism. Like Gray and Goldsmith, he wavered between Pseudo-classic and
the new romantic ideals, and for this reason, if for no other, his early
work is interesting, like the uncertainty of a child who hesitates whether
to creep safely on all fours or risk a fall by walking. He is "worthy to be
remembered" for three poems,--"Rule Britannia," which is still one of the
national songs of England _The Castle of Indolence_, and _The Seasons_. The
dreamy and romantic _Castle_ (1748), occupied by enchanter Indolence and
his willing captives in the land of Drowsyhed, is purely Spenserian in its
imagery, and is written in the Spenserian stanza. _The Seasons_ (1726-
1730), written in blank verse, describes the sights and sounds of the
changing year and the poet's own feelings in the presence of nature. These
two poems, though rather dull to a modern reader, were significant of the
early romantic revival in three ways: they abandoned the prevailing heroic
couplet; they went back to the Elizabethans, instead of to Pope, for their
models; and they called attention to the long-neglected life of nature as a
subject for poetry.

WILLIAM COLLINS (1721-1759). Collins, the friend and disciple of Thomson,
was of a delicate, nervous temperament, like Cowper; and over him also
brooded the awful shadow of insanity. His first work, _Oriental Eclogues_
(1742), is romantic in feeling, but is written in the prevailing mechanical
couplets. All his later work is romantic in both thought and expression.
His "Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands" (1750) is an
interesting event in the romantic revival, for it introduced a new world,
of witches, pygmies, fairies, and mediæval kings, for the imagination to
play in. Collins's best known poems are the odes "To Simplicity," "To
Fear," "To the Passions," the little unnamed lyric beginning "How sleep the
brave," and the exquisite "Ode to Evening." In reading the latter, one is
scarcely aware that the lines are so delicately balanced that they have no
need of rime to accentuate their melody.

GEORGE CRABBE (1754-1832). Crabbe is an interesting combination of realism
and romanticism, his work of depicting common life being, at times, vaguely
suggestive of Fielding's novels. _The Village_ (1783), a poem without a
rival as a picture of the workingmen of his age, is sometimes like Fielding
in its coarse vigor, and again like Dryden in its precise versification.
The poem was not successful at first, and Crabbe abandoned his literary
dreams. For over twenty years he settled down as a clergyman in a country
parish, observing keenly the common life about him. Then he published more
poems, exactly like _The Village_, which immediately brought him fame and
money. They brought him also the friendship of Walter Scott, who, like
others, regarded Crabbe as one of the first poets of the age. These later
poems, _The Parish Register_ (1807), _The Borough_ (1810), _Tales in Verse_
(1812), and _Tales of the Hall_ (1819), are in the same strain. They are
written in couplets; they are reflections of nature and of country life;
they contain much that is sordid and dull, but are nevertheless real
pictures of real men and women, just as Crabbe saw them, and as such they
are still interesting. Goldsmith and Burns had idealized the poor, and we
admire them for their sympathy and insight. It remained for Crabbe to show
that in wretched fishing villages, in the lives of hardworking men and
women, children, laborers, smugglers, paupers,--all sorts and conditions
of common men,--there is abundant romantic without exaggerating or
idealizing their vices and virtues.

JAMES MACPHERSON (1736-1796). In Macpherson we have an unusual figure, who
catered to the new romantic interest in the old epic heroes, and won
immense though momentary fame, by a series of literary forgeries.
Macpherson was a Scotch schoolmaster, an educated man, but evidently not
over-tender of conscience, whose imagination had been stirred by certain
old poems which he may have heard in Gaelic among the Highlanders. In 1760
he published his _Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands_,
and alleged that his work was but a translation of Gaelic manuscripts.
Whether the work of itself would have attracted attention is doubtful; but
the fact that an abundance of literary material might be awaiting discovery
led to an interest such as now attends the opening of an Egyptian tomb, and
a subscription was promptly raised in Edinburgh to send Macpherson through
the Highlands to collect more "manuscripts." The result was the epic
_Fingal_ (1762), "that lank and lamentable counterfeit of poetry," as
Swinburne calls it, which the author professed to have translated from the
Gaelic of the poet Ossian. Its success was astonishing, and Macpherson
followed it up with _Temora_ (1763), another epic in the same strain. In
both these works Macpherson succeeds in giving an air of primal grandeur to
his heroes; the characters are big and shadowy; the imagery is at times
magnificent; the language is a kind of chanting, bombastic prose:

Now Fingal arose in his might and thrice he reared his voice. Cromla
answered around, and the sons of the desert stood still. They bent their
red faces to earth, ashamed at the presence of Fingal. He came like a cloud
of rain in the days of the sun, when slow it rolls on the hill, and fields
expect the shower. Swaran beheld the terrible king of Morven, and stopped
in the midst of his course. Dark he leaned on his spear rolling his red
eyes around. Silent and tall he seemed as an oak on the banks of Lubar,
which had its branches blasted of old by the lightning of heaven. His
thousands pour around the hero, and the darkness of battle gathers on the

The publication of this gloomy, imaginative work produced a literary storm.
A few critics, led by Dr. Johnson, demanded to see the original
manuscripts, and when Macpherson refused to produce them,[209] the Ossianic
poems were branded as a forgery; nevertheless they had enormous success.
Macpherson was honored as a literary explorer; he was given an official
position, carrying a salary for life; and at his death, in 1796, he was
buried in Westminster Abbey. Blake, Burns, and indeed most of the poets of
the age were influenced by this sham poetry. Even the scholarly Gray was
deceived and delighted with "Ossian"; and men as far apart as Goethe and
Napoleon praised it immoderately.

THOMAS CHATTERTON (1752-1770). This "marvelous boy," to whom Keats
dedicated his "Endymion," and who is celebrated in Shelley's "Adonais," is
one of the saddest and most interesting figures of the romantic revival.
During his childhood he haunted the old church of St. Mary Redcliffe, in
Bristol, where he was fascinated by the mediæval air of the place, and
especially by one old chest, known as Canynge's coffer, containing musty
documents which had been preserved for three hundred years. With strange,
uncanny intentness the child pored over these relics of the past, copying
them instead of his writing book, until he could imitate not only the
spelling and language but even the handwriting of the original. Soon after
the "Ossian" forgeries appeared, Chatterton began to produce documents,
apparently very old, containing mediæval poems, legends, and family
histories, centering around two characters,--Thomas Rowley, priest and
poet, and William Canynge, merchant of Bristol in the days of Henry VI. It
seems incredible that the whole design of these mediæval romances should
have been worked out by a child of eleven, and that he could reproduce the
style and the writing of Caxton's day so well that the printers were
deceived; but such is the fact. More and more _Rowley Papers_, as they were
called, were produced by Chatterton,--apparently from the archives of the
old church; in reality from his own imagination,--delighting a large circle
of readers, and deceiving all but Gray and a few scholars who recognized
the occasional misuse of fifteenth-century English words. All this work was
carefully finished, and bore the unmistakable stamp of literary genius.
Reading now his "Ælla," or the "Ballad of Charite," or the long poem in
ballad style called "Bristowe Tragedie," it is hard to realize that it is a
boy's work. At seventeen years of age Chatterton went for a literary career
to London, where he soon afterwards took poison and killed himself in a fit
of childish despondency, brought on by poverty and hunger.

THOMAS PERCY (1729-1811). To Percy, bishop of the Irish church, in Dromore,
we are indebted for the first attempt at a systematic collection of the
folk songs and ballads which are counted among the treasures of a nation's
literature.[210] In 1765 he published, in three volumes, his famous
_Reliques of Ancient English Poetry_. The most valuable part of this work
is the remarkable collection of old English and Scottish Ballads, such as
"Chevy Chase," the "Nut Brown Mayde," "Children of the Wood," "Battle of
Otterburn," and many more, which but for his labor might easily have
perished. We have now much better and more reliable editions of these same
ballads; for Percy garbled his materials, adding and subtracting freely,
and even inventing a few ballads of his own. Two motives probably
influenced him in this. First, the different versions of the same ballad
varied greatly; and Percy, in changing them to suit himself, took the same
liberty as had many other writers in dealing with the same material.
Second; Percy was under the influence of Johnson and his school, and
thought it necessary to add a few elegant ballads "to atone for the
rudeness of the more obsolete poems." That sounds queer now, used as we are
to exactness in dealing with historical and literary material; but it
expresses the general spirit of the age in which he lived.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, Percy's _Reliques_ marks an epoch in the
history of Romanticism, and it is difficult to measure its influence on the
whole romantic movement. Scott says of it, "The first time I could scrape a
few shillings together, I bought myself a copy of these beloved volumes;
nor do I believe I ever read a book half so frequently, or with half the
enthusiasm." Scott's own poetry is strongly modeled upon these early
ballads, and his _Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_ is due chiefly to the
influence of Percy's work.

Besides the _Reliques_, Percy has given us another good work in his
_Northern Antiquities_ (1770) translated from the French of Mallet's
_History of Denmark_. This also was of immense influence, since it
introduced to English readers a new and fascinating mythology, more rugged
and primitive than that of the Greeks; and we are still, in music as in
letters, under the spell of Thor and Odin, of Frea and the Valkyr maidens,
and of that stupendous drama of passion and tragedy which ended in the
"Twilight of the Gods." The literary world owes a debt of gratitude to
Percy, who wrote nothing of importance himself, but who, by collecting and
translating the works of other men, did much to hasten the triumph of
Romanticism in the nineteenth century.


The chief literary phenomena of the complex eighteenth century are the
reign of so-called Classicism, the revival of romantic poetry, and the
discovery of the modern novel. Of these three, the last is probably the
most important. Aside from the fact that the novel is the most modern, and
at present the most widely read and influential type of literature, we have
a certain pride in regarding it as England's original contribution to the
world of letters. Other great types of literature, like the epic, the
romance, and the drama, were first produced by other nations; but the idea
of the modern novel seems to have been worked out largely on English
soil;[211] and in the number and the fine quality of her novelists, England
has hardly been rivaled by any other nation. Before we study the writers
who developed this new type of literature, it is well to consider briefly
its meaning and history.

MEANING OF THE NOVEL. Probably the most significant remark made by the
ordinary reader concerning a work of fiction takes the form of a question:
Is it a good story? For the reader of to-day is much like the child and the
primitive man in this respect, that he must be attracted and held by the
story element of a narrative before he learns to appreciate its style or
moral significance. The story element is therefore essential to the novel;
but where the story originates is impossible to say. As well might we seek
for the origin of the race; for wherever primitive men are found, there we
see them gathering eagerly about the story-teller. In the halls of our
Saxon ancestors the scop and the tale-bringer were ever the most welcome
guests; and in the bark wigwams of the American Indians the man who told
the legends of Hiawatha had an audience quite as attentive as that which
gathered at the Greek festivals to hear the story of Ulysses's wanderings.
To man's instinct or innate love for a story we are indebted for all our
literature; and the novel must in some degree satisfy this instinct, or
fail of appreciation.

The second question which we ask concerning a work of fiction is, How far
does the element of imagination enter into it? For upon the element of
imagination depends, largely, our classification of works of fiction into
novels, romances, and mere adventure stories. The divisions here are as
indefinite as the border land between childhood and youth, between instinct
and reason; but there are certain principles to guide us. We note, in the
development of any normal child, that there comes a time when for his
stories he desires knights, giants, elves, fairies, witches, magic, and
marvelous adventures which have no basis in experience. He tells
extraordinary tales about himself, which may be only the vague remembrances
of a dream or the creations of a dawning imagination,--both of which are as
real to him as any other part of life. When we say that such a child
"romances," we give exactly the right name to it; for this sudden interest
in extraordinary beings and events marks the development of the human
imagination,--running riot at first, because it is not guided by reason,
which is a later development,--and to satisfy this new interest the
romance[212] was invented. The romance is, originally, a work of fiction in
which the imagination is given full play without being limited by facts or
probabilities. It deals with extraordinary events, with heroes whose powers
are exaggerated, and often adds the element of superhuman or supernatural
characters. It is impossible to draw the line where romance ends; but this
element of excessive imagination and of impossible heroes and incidents is
its distinguishing mark in every literature.

Where the novel begins it is likewise impossible to say; but again we have
a suggestion in the experience of every reader. There comes a time,
naturally and inevitably, in the life of every youth when the romance no
longer enthralls him. He lives in a world of facts; gets acquainted with
men and women, some good, some bad, but all human; and he demands that
literature shall express life as he knows it by experience. This is the
stage of the awakened intellect, and in our stories the intellect as well
as the imagination must now be satisfied. At the beginning of this stage we
delight in _Robinson Crusoe;_ we read eagerly a multitude of adventure
narratives and a few so-called historical novels; but in each case we must
be lured by a story, must find heroes and "moving accidents by flood and
field" to appeal to our imagination; and though the hero and the adventure
may be exaggerated, they must both be natural and within the bounds of
probability. Gradually the element of adventure or surprising incident
grows less and less important, as we learn that true life is not
adventurous, but a plain, heroic matter of work and duty, and the daily
choice between good and evil. Life is the most real thing in the world
now,--not the life of kings, or heroes, or superhuman creatures, but the
individual life with its struggles and temptations and triumphs or
failures, like our own; and any work that faithfully represents life
becomes interesting. So we drop the adventure story and turn to the novel.
For the novel is a work of fiction in which the imagination and the
intellect combine to express life in the form of a story and the
imagination is always directed and controlled by the intellect. It is
interested chiefly, not in romance or adventure, but in men and women as
they are; it aims to show the motives and influences which govern human
life, and the effects of personal choice upon character and destiny. Such
is the true novel,[213] and as such it opens a wider and more interesting
field than any other type of literature.

PRECURSORS OF THE NOVEL. Before the novel could reach its modern stage, of
a more or less sincere attempt to express human life and character, it had
to pass through several centuries of almost imperceptible development.
Among the early precursors of the novel we must place a collection of tales
known as the Greek Romances, dating from the second to the sixth centuries.
These are imaginative and delightful stories of ideal love and marvelous
adventure,[214] which profoundly affected romance writing for the next
thousand years. A second group of predecessors is found in the Italian and
Spanish pastoral romances, which were inspired by the _Eclogues_ of Virgil.
These were extremely popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and
their influence is seen later in Sidney's _Arcadia_, which is the best of
this type in English.

The third and most influential group of predecessors of the novel is made
up of the romances of chivalry, such as are found in Malory's _Morte
d'Arthur_. It is noticeable, in reading these beautiful old romances in
different languages, that each nation changes them somewhat, so as to make
them more expressive of national traits and ideals. In a word, the old
romance tends inevitably towards realism, especially in England, where the
excessive imagination is curbed and the heroes become more human. In
Malory, in the unknown author of _Sir Gawain and the Green Knight_, and
especially in Chaucer, we see the effect of the practical English mind in
giving these old romances a more natural setting, and in making the heroes
suggest, though faintly, the men and women of their own day. The
_Canterbury Tales_, with their story interest and their characters
delightfully true to nature, have in them the suggestion, at least, of a
connected story whose chief aim is to reflect life as it is.

In the Elizabethan Age the idea of the novel grows more definite. In
Sidney's _Arcadia_ (1580), a romance of chivalry, the pastoral setting at
least is generally true to nature; our credulity is not taxed, as in the
old romances, by the continual appearance of magic or miracles; and the
characters, though idealized till they become tiresome, occasionally give
the impression of being real men and women. In Bacon's _The New Atlantis_
(1627) we have the story of the discovery by mariners of an unknown
country, inhabited by a superior race of men, more civilized than
ourselves,--an idea which had been used by More in his _Utopia_ in 1516.
These two books are neither romances nor novels, in the strict sense, but
studies of social institutions. They use the connected story as a means of
teaching moral lessons, and of bringing about needed reforms; and this
valuable suggestion has been adopted by many of our modern writers in the
so-called problem novels and novels of purpose.

Nearer to the true novel is Lodge's romantic story of _Rosalynde_, which
was used by Shakespeare in _As You Like It_. This was modeled upon the
Italian novella, or short story, which became very popular in England
during the Elizabethan Age. In the same age we have introduced into England
the Spanish picaresque novel (from _picaro_, a knave or rascal), which at
first was a kind of burlesque on the mediæval romance, and which took for
its hero some low scoundrel or outcast, instead of a knight, and followed
him through a long career of scandals and villainies. One of the earliest
types of this picaresque novel in English is Nash's _The Unfortunate
Traveller, or the Life of Jack Wilton_ (1594), which is also a forerunner
of the historical novel, since its action takes place during that gorgeous
interview between Henry VIII and the king of France on the Field of the
Cloth of Gold. In all these short stories and picaresque novels the
emphasis was laid not so much on life and character as on the adventures of
the hero; and the interest consisted largely in wondering what would happen
next, and how the plot would end. The same method is employed in all trashy
novels and it is especially the bane of many modern story-writers. This
excessive interest in adventures or incidents for their own sake, and not
for their effect on character, is what distinguishes the modern adventure
story from the true novel.

In the Puritan Age we approach still nearer to the modern novel, especially
in the work of Bunyan; and as the Puritan always laid emphasis on
character, stories appeared having a definite moral purpose. Bunyan's _The
Pilgrim's Progress_ (1678) differs from the _Faery Queen_, and from all
other mediæval allegories, in this important respect,--that the characters,
far from being bloodless abstractions, are but thinly disguised men and
women. Indeed, many a modern man, reading the story of the Christian;--has
found in it the reflection of his own life and experience. In _The Life and
Death of Mr. Badman_ (1682) we have another and even more realistic study
of a man as he was in Bunyan's day. These two striking figures, Christian
and Mr. Badman, belong among the great characters of English fiction.
Bunyan's good work,--his keen insight, his delineation of character, and
his emphasis upon the moral effects of individual action,--was carried on
by Addison and Steele some thirty years later. The character of Sir Roger
de Coverley is a real reflection of English country life in the eighteenth
century; and with Steele's domestic sketches in _The Tatler, The
Spectator_, and _The Guardian_ (1709-1713), we definitely cross the border
land that lies outside of romance, and enter the region of character study
where the novel has its beginning.

THE DISCOVERY OF THE MODERN NOVEL. Notwithstanding this long history of
fiction, to which we have called attention, it is safe to say that, until
the publication of Richardson's _Pamela_ in 1740, no true novel had
appeared in any literature. By a true novel we mean simply a work of
fiction which relates the story of a plain human life, under stress of
emotion, which depends for its interest not on incident or adventure, but
on its truth to nature. A number of English novelists--Goldsmith,
Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne--all seem to have seized upon the
idea of reflecting life as it is, in the form of a story, and to have
developed it simultaneously. The result was an extraordinary awakening of
interest, especially among people who had never before been greatly
concerned with literature. We are to remember that, in previous periods,
the number of readers was comparatively small; and that, with the exception
of a few writers like Langland and Bunyan, authors wrote largely for the
upper classes. In the eighteenth century the spread of education and the
appearance of newspapers and magazines led to an immense increase in the
number of readers; and at the same time the middle-class people assumed a
foremost place in English life and history. These new readers and this new,
powerful middle class had no classic tradition to hamper them. They cared
little for the opinions of Dr. Johnson and the famous Literary Club; and,
so far as they read fiction at all, they apparently took little interest in
the exaggerated romances, of impossible heroes and the picaresque stories
of intrigue and villainy which had interested the upper classes. Some new
type of literature was demanded, this new type must express the new ideal
of the eighteenth century, namely, the value and the importance of the
individual life. So the novel was born, expressing, though in a different
way, exactly the same ideals of personality and of the dignity of common
life which were later proclaimed in the American and in the French
Revolution, and were welcomed with rejoicing by the poets of the romantic
revival. To tell men, not about knights or kings or types of heroes, but
about themselves in the guise of plain men and women, about their own
thoughts and motives and struggles, and the results of actions upon their
own characters,--this was the purpose of our first novelists. The eagerness
with which their chapters were read in England, and the rapidity with which
their work was copied abroad, show how powerfully the new discovery
appealed to readers everywhere.

Before we consider the work of these writers who first developed the modern
novel, we must glance at the work of a pioneer, Daniel Defoe, whom we place
among the early novelists for the simple reason that we do not know how
else to classify him.

DANIEL DEFOE (1661(?)-1731)

To Defoe is often given the credit for the discovery of the modern novel;
but whether or not he deserves that honor is an open question. Even a
casual reading of _Robinson Crusoe_ (1719), which generally heads the list
of modern fiction, shows that this exciting tale is largely an adventure
story, rather than the study of human character which Defoe probably
intended it to be. Young people still read it as they might a dime novel,
skipping its moralizing passages and hurrying on to more adventures; but
they seldom appreciate the excellent mature reasons which banish the dime
novel to a secret place in the haymow, while _Crusoe_ hangs proudly on the
Christmas tree or holds an honored place on the family bookshelf. Defoe's
_Apparition of Mrs. Veal, Memoirs of a Cavalier_, and _Journal of the
Plague Year_ are such mixtures of fact, fiction, and credulity that they
defy classification; while other so-called "novels," like _Captain
Singleton, Moll Flanders_, and _Roxana_, are but, little better than
picaresque stories, with a deal of unnatural moralizing and repentance
added for puritanical effect. In _Crusoe_, Defoe brought the realistic
adventure story to a very high stage of its development; but his works
hardly deserve, to be classed as true novels, which must subordinate
incident to the faithful portrayal of human life and character.

LIFE. Defoe was the son of a London butcher named Foe, and kept his family
name until he was forty years of age, when he added the aristocratic prefix
with which we have grown familiar. The events of his busy seventy years of
life, in which he passed through all extremes, from poverty to wealth, from
prosperous brickmaker to starveling journalist, from Newgate prison to
immense popularity and royal favor, are obscure enough in details; but four
facts stand out clearly, which help the reader to understand the character
of his work. First, Defoe was a jack-at-all-trades, as well as a writer;
his interest was largely with the working classes, and notwithstanding many
questionable practices, he seems to have had some continued purpose of
educating and uplifting the common people. This partially accounts for the
enormous popularity of his works, and for the fact that they were
criticised by literary men as being "fit only for the kitchen." Second, he
was a radical Nonconformist in religion, and was intended by his father for
the independent ministry. The Puritan zeal for reform possessed him, and he
tried to do by his pen what Wesley was doing by his preaching, without,
however, having any great measure of the latter's sincerity or singleness
of purpose. This zeal for reform marks all his numerous works, and accounts
for the moralizing to be found everywhere. Third, Defoe was a journalist
and pamphleteer, with a reporter's eye for the picturesque and a newspaper
man's instinct for making a "good story." He wrote an immense number of
pamphlets, poems, and magazine articles; conducted several papers,--one of
the most popular, the _Review_, being issued from prison,--and the fact
that they often blew hot and cold upon the same question was hardly
noticed. Indeed, so extraordinarily interesting and plausible were Defoe's
articles that he generally managed to keep employed by the party in power,
whether Whig or Tory. This long journalistic career, lasting half a
century, accounts for his direct, simple, narrative style, which holds us
even now by its intense reality. To Defoe's genius we are also indebted for
two discoveries, the "interview" and the leading editorial, both of which
are still in daily use in our best newspapers.

The fourth fact to remember is that Defoe knew prison life; and thereby
hangs a tale. In 1702 Defoe published a remarkable pamphlet called "The
Shortest Way with the Dissenters," supporting the claims of the free
churches against the "High Fliers," i.e. Tories and Anglicans. In a vein of
grim humor which recalls Swift's "Modest Proposal," Defoe advocated hanging
all dissenting ministers, and sending all members of the free churches into
exile; and so ferociously realistic was the satire that both Dissenters and
Tories took the author literally. Defoe was tried, found guilty of
seditious libel, and sentenced to be fined, to stand three days in the
pillory, and to be imprisoned. Hardly had the sentence been pronounced when
Defoe wrote his "Hymn to the Pillory,"--

    Hail hieroglyphic state machine,
    Contrived to punish fancy in,--

a set of doggerel verses ridiculing his prosecutors, which Defoe, with a
keen eye for advertising, scattered all over London. Crowds flocked to
cheer him in the pillory; and seeing that Defoe was making popularity out
of persecution, his enemies bundled him off to Newgate prison. He turned
this experience also to account by publishing a popular newspaper, and by
getting acquainted with rogues, pirates, smugglers, and miscellaneous
outcasts, each one with a "good story" to be used later. After his release
from prison, in 1704, he turned his knowledge of criminals to further
account, and entered the government employ as a kind of spy or secret-
service agent. His prison experience, and the further knowledge of
criminals gained in over twenty years as a spy, accounts for his numerous
stories of thieves and pirates, _Jonathan Wild_ and _Captain Avery_, and
also for his later novels, which deal almost exclusively with villains and

When Defoe was nearly sixty years of age he turned to fiction and wrote the
great work by which he is remembered. _Robinson Crusoe_ was an instant
success, and the author became famous all over Europe. Other stories
followed rapidly, and Defoe earned money enough to retire to Newington and
live in comfort; but not idly, for his activity in producing fiction is
rivaled only by that of Walter Scott. Thus, in 1720 appeared _Captain
Singleton, Duncan Campbell_, and _Memoirs of a Cavalier_; in 1722, _Colonel
Jack, Moll Flanders_, and the amazingly realistic _Journal of the Plague
Year_. So the list grows with astonishing rapidity, ending with the
_History of the Devil_ in 1726.

In the latter year Defoe's secret connection with the government became
known, and a great howl of indignation rose against him in the public
print, destroying in an hour the popularity which he had gained by a
lifetime of intrigue and labor. He fled from his home to London, where he
died obscurely, in 1731, while hiding from real or imaginary enemies.

WORKS OF DEFOE. At the head of the list stands _Robinson Crusoe_ (1719-
1720), one of the few books in any literature which has held its popularity
undiminished for nearly two centuries. The story is based upon the
experiences of Alexander Selkirk, or Selcraig, who had been marooned in the
island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, and who had lived there
in solitude for five years. On his return to England in 1709, Selkirk's
experiences became known, and Steele published an account of them in _The
Englishman_, without, however, attracting any wide attention. That Defoe
used Selkirk's story is practically certain; but with his usual duplicity
he claimed to have written _Crusoe_ in 1708, a year before Selkirk's
return. However that may be, the story itself is real enough to have come
straight from a sailor's logbook. Defoe, as shown in his _Journal of the
Plague Year_ and his _Memoirs of a Cavalier_, had the art of describing
things he had never seen with the accuracy of an eyewitness.

The charm of the story is its intense reality, in the succession of
thoughts, feelings, incidents, which every reader recognizes to be
absolutely true to life. At first glance it would seem that one man on a
desert island could not possibly furnish the material for a long story; but
as we read we realize with amazement that every slightest thought and
action--the saving of the cargo of the shipwrecked vessel, the preparation
for defense against imaginary foes, the intense agitation over the
discovery of a footprint in the sand--is a record of what the reader
himself would do and feel if he were alone in such a place. Defoe's long
and varied experience now stood him in good stead; in fact, he "was the
only man of letters in his time who might have been thrown on a desert
island without finding himself at a loss what to do;"[215] and he puts
himself so perfectly in his hero's place that he repeats his blunders as
well as his triumphs. Thus, what reader ever followed Defoe's hero through
weary, feverish months of building a huge boat, which was too big to be
launched by one man, without recalling some boy who spent many stormy days
in shed or cellar building a boat or dog house, and who, when the thing was
painted and finished, found it a foot wider than the door, and had to knock
it to pieces? This absolute naturalness characterizes the whole story. It
is a study of the human will also,--of patience, fortitude, and the
indomitable Saxon spirit overcoming all obstacles; and it was this element
which made Rousseau recommend _Robinson Crusoe_ as a better treatise on
education than anything which Aristotle or the moderns had ever written.
And this suggests the most significant thing about Defoe's masterpiece,
namely, that the hero represents the whole of human society, doing with his
own hands all the things which, by the division of labor and the demands of
modern civilization, are now done by many different workers. He is
therefore the type of the whole civilized race of men.

In the remaining works of Defoe, more than two hundred in number, there is
an astonishing variety; but all are marked by the same simple, narrative
style, and the same intense realism. The best known of these are the
_Journal of the Plague Year_, in which the horrors of a frightful plague
are minutely recorded; the _Memoirs of a Cavalier_, so realistic that
Chatham quoted it as history in Parliament; and several picaresque novels,
like _Captain Singleton, Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders_, and _Roxana_. The
last work is by some critics given a very high place in realistic fiction,
but like the other three, and like Defoe's minor narratives of Jack
Sheppard and Cartouche, it is a disagreeable study of vice, ending with a
forced and unnatural repentance.


To Richardson belongs the credit of writing the first modern novel. He was
the son of a London joiner, who, for economy's sake, resided in some
unknown town in Derbyshire, where Samuel was born in 1689. The boy received
very little education, but he had a natural talent for writing letters, and
even as a boy we find him frequently employed by working girls to write
their love letters for them. This early experience, together with his
fondness for the society of "his dearest ladies" rather than of men, gave
him that intimate knowledge of the hearts of sentimental and uneducated
women which is manifest in all his work. Moreover, he was a keen observer
of manners, and his surprisingly accurate descriptions often compel us to
listen, even when he is most tedious. At seventeen years of age he went to
London and learned the printer's trade, which he followed to the end of his
life. When fifty years of age he had a small reputation as a writer of
elegant epistles, and this reputation led certain publishers to approach
him with a proposal that he write a series of _Familiar Letters_, which
could be used as models by people unused to writing. Richardson gladly
accepted the proposal, and had the happy inspiration to make these letters
tell the connected story of a girl's life. Defoe had told an adventure
story of human life on a desert island, but Richardson would tell the story
of a girl's inner life in the midst of English neighbors. That sounds
simple enough now, but it marked an epoch in the history of literature.
Like every other great and simple discovery, it makes us wonder why some
one had not thought of it before.

RICHARDSON'S NOVELS. The result of Richardson's inspiration was _Pamela, or
Virtue Rewarded_, an endless series of letters[216] telling of the trials,
tribulations, and the final happy marriage of a too sweet young maiden,
published in four volumes extending over the years 1740 and 1741. Its chief
fame lies in the fact that it is our first novel in the modern sense. Aside
from this important fact, and viewed solely as a novel, it is sentimental,
grandiloquent, and wearisome. Its success at the time was enormous, and
Richardson began another series of letters (he could tell a story in no
other way) which occupied his leisure hours for the next six years. The
result was _Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady_, published in eight
volumes in 1747-1748. This was another, and somewhat better, sentimental
novel; and it was received with immense enthusiasm. Of all Richardson's
heroines Clarissa is the most human. In her doubts and scruples of
conscience, and especially in her bitter grief and humiliation, she is a
real woman, in marked contrast with the mechanical hero, Lovelace, who
simply illustrates the author's inability to portray a man's character. The
dramatic element in this novel is strong, and is increased by means of the
letters, which enable the reader to keep close to the characters of the
story and to see life from their different view points. Macaulay, who was
deeply impressed by _Clarissa_, is said to have made the remark that, were
the novel lost, he could restore almost the whole of it from memory.

Richardson now turned from his middle-class heroines, and in five or six
years completed another series of letters, in which he attempted to tell
the story of a man and an aristocrat. The result was _Sir Charles
Grandison_ (1754), a novel in seven volumes, whose hero was intended to be
a model of aristocratic manners and virtues for the middle-class people,
who largely constituted the novelist's readers. For Richardson, who began
in _Pamela_ with the purpose of teaching his hearers how to write, ended
with the deliberate purpose of teaching them how to live; and in most of
his work his chief object was, in his own words, to inculcate virtue and
good deportment. His novels, therefore, suffer as much from his purpose as
from his own limitations. Notwithstanding his tedious moralizing and his
other defects, Richardson in these three books gave something entirely new
to the literary world, and the world appreciated the gift. This was the
story of human life, told from within, and depending for its interest not
on incident or adventure, but on its truth to human nature. Reading his
work is, on the whole, like examining the antiquated model of a stern-wheel
steamer; it is interesting for its undeveloped possibilities rather than
for its achievement.

HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754)

LIFE. Judged by his ability alone, Fielding was the greatest of this new
group of novel writers, and one of the most artistic that our literature
has produced. He was born in East Stour, Dorsetshire, in 1707. In contrast
with Richardson, he was well educated, having spent several years at the
famous Eton school, and taken a degree in letters at the University of
Leyden in 1728. Moreover, he had a deeper knowledge of life, gained from
his own varied and sometimes riotous experience. For several years after
returning from Leyden he gained a precarious living by writing plays,
farces, and buffoneries for the stage. In 1735 he married an admirable
woman, of whom we have glimpses in two of his characters, Amelia, and
Sophia Western, and lived extravagantly on her little fortune at East
Stour. Having used up all his money, he returned to London and studied law,
gaining his living by occasional plays and by newspaper work. For ten
years, or more, little is definitely known of him, save that he published
his first novel, _Joseph Andrews_, in 1742, and that he was made justice of
the peace for Westminster in 1748. The remaining years of his life, in
which his best novels were written, were not given to literature, but
rather to his duties as magistrate, and especially to breaking up the gangs
of thieves and cutthroats which infested the streets of London after
nightfall. He died in Lisbon, whither he had gone for his health, in 1754,
and lies buried there in the English cemetery. The pathetic account of this
last journey, together with an inkling of the generosity and
kind-heartedness of the man, notwithstanding the scandals and
irregularities of his life, are found in his last work, the _Journal of a
Voyage to Lisbon_.

FIELDING'S WORK. Fielding's first novel, _Joseph Andrews_ (1742), was
inspired by the success of _Pamela_, and began as a burlesque of the false
sentimentality and the conventional virtues of Richardson's heroine. He
took for his hero the alleged brother of Pamela, who was exposed to the
same kind of temptations, but who, instead of being rewarded for his
virtue, was unceremoniously turned out of doors by his mistress. There the
burlesque ends; the hero takes to the open road, and Fielding forgets all
about Pamela in telling the adventures of Joseph and his companion, Parson
Adams. Unlike Richardson, who has no humor, who minces words, and
moralizes, and dotes on the sentimental woes of his heroines, Fielding is
direct, vigorous, hilarious, and coarse to the point of vulgarity. He is
full of animal spirits, and he tells the story of a vagabond life, not for
the sake of moralizing, like Richardson, or for emphasizing a forced
repentance, like Defoe, but simply because it interests him, and his only
concern is "to laugh men out of their follies." So his story, though it
abounds in unpleasant incidents, generally leaves the reader with the
strong impression of reality.

Fielding's later novels are _Jonathan Wild_, the story of a rogue, which
suggests Defoe's narrative; _The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling_ (1749),
his best work; and _Amelia_ (1751), the story of a good wife in contrast
with an unworthy husband. His strength in all these works is in the
vigorous but coarse figures, like those of Jan Steen's pictures, which fill
most of his pages; his weakness is in lack of taste, and in barrenness of
imagination or invention, which leads him to repeat his plots and incidents
with slight variations. In all his work sincerity is perhaps the most
marked characteristic. Fielding likes virile men, just as they are, good
and bad, but detests shams of every sort. His satire has none of Swift's
bitterness, but is subtle as that of Chaucer, and good-natured as that of
Steele. He never moralizes, though some of his powerfully drawn scenes
suggest a deeper moral lesson than anything in Defoe or Richardson; and he
never judges even the worst of his characters without remembering his own
frailty and tempering justice with mercy. On the whole, though much of his
work is perhaps in bad taste and is too coarse for pleasant or profitable
reading, Fielding must be regarded as an artist, a very great artist, in
realistic fiction; and the advanced student who reads him will probably
concur in the judgment of a modern critic that, by giving us genuine
pictures of men and women of his own age, without moralizing over their
vices and virtues, he became the real founder of the modern novel.


Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) apparently tried to carry on Fielding's work;
but he lacked Fielding's genius, as well as his humor and inherent
kindness, and so crowded his pages with the horrors and brutalities which
are sometimes mistaken for realism. Smollett was a physician, of eccentric
manners and ferocious instincts, who developed his unnatural peculiarities
by going as a surgeon on a battleship, where he seems to have picked up all
the evils of the navy and of the medical profession to use later in his

His three best known works are _Roderick Random_ (1748), a series of
adventures related by the hero; _Peregrine Pickle_ (1751) in which he
reflects with brutal directness the worst of his experiences at sea; and
_Humphrey Clinker_ (1771), his last work, recounting the mild adventures of
a Welsh family in a journey through England and Scotland. This last alone
can be generally read without arousing the readers profound disgust.
Without any particular ability, he models his novels on _Don Quixote_, and
the result is simply a series of coarse adventures which are characteristic
of the picaresque novel of his age. Were it not for the fact that he
unconsciously imitates Jonson's _Every Man in His Humour_, he would hardly
be named among our writers of fiction; but in seizing upon some grotesque
habit or peculiarity and making a character out of it--such as Commodore
Trunnion in _Peregrine Pickle_, Matthew Bramble in _Humphrey Clinker_, and
Bowling in _Roderick Random_--he laid the foundation for that exaggeration
in portraying human eccentricities which finds a climax in Dickens's

Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768) has been compared to a "little bronze satyr of
antiquity in whose hollow body exquisite odors were stored." That is true,
so far as the satyr is concerned; for a more weazened, unlovely personality
would be hard to find. The only question in the comparison is in regard to
the character of the odors, and that is a matter of taste. In his work he
is the reverse of Smollett, the latter being given over to coarse
vulgarities, which are often mistaken for realism; the former to whims and
vagaries and sentimental tears, which frequently only disguise a sneer at
human grief and pity.

The two books by which Sterne is remembered are _Tristram Shandy_ and _A
Sentimental Journey through France and Italy_. These are termed novels for
the simple reason that we know not what else to call them. The former was
begun, in his own words, "with no real idea of how it was to turn out"; its
nine volumes, published at intervals from 1760 to 1767, proceeded in the
most aimless way, recording the experiences of the eccentric Shandy family;
and the book was never finished. Its strength lies chiefly in its brilliant
style, the most remarkable of the age, and in its odd characters, like
Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, which, with all their eccentricities, are so
humanized by the author's genius that they belong among the great
"creations" of our literature. The _Sentimental Journey_ is a curious
combination of fiction, sketches of travel, miscellaneous essays on odd
subjects,--all marked by the same brilliancy of style, and all stamped with
Sterne's false attitude towards everything in life. Many of its best
passages were either adapted or taken bodily from Burton, Rabelais, and a
score of other writers; so that, in reading Sterne, one is never quite sure
how much is his own work, though the mark of his grotesque genius is on
every page.

THE FIRST NOVELISTS AND THEIR WORK. With the publication of Goldsmith's
_Vicar of Wakefield_ in 1766 the first series of English novels came to a
suitable close. Of this work, with its abundance of homely sentiment
clustering about the family life as the most sacred of Anglo-Saxon
institutions, we have already spoken[217] If we except _Robinson Crusoe_,
as an adventure story, the _Vicar of Wakefield_ is the only novel of the
period which can be freely recommended to all readers, as giving an
excellent idea of the new literary type, which was perhaps more remarkable
for its promise than for its achievement. In the short space of twenty-five
years there suddenly appeared and flourished a new form of literature,
which influenced all Europe for nearly a century, and which still furnishes
the largest part of our literary enjoyment. Each successive novelist
brought some new element to the work, as when Fielding supplied animal
vigor and humor to Richardson's analysis of a human heart, and Sterne added
brilliancy, and Goldsmith emphasized purity and the honest domestic
sentiments which are still the greatest ruling force among men. So these
early workers were like men engaged in carving a perfect cameo from the
reverse side. One works the profile, another the eyes, a third the mouth
and the fine lines of character; and not till the work is finished, and the
cameo turned, do we see the complete human face and read its meaning. Such,
in a parable, is the story of the English novel.

SUMMARY OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. The period we are studying is included
between the English Revolution of 1688 and the beginning of the French
Revolution of 1789. Historically, the period begins in a remarkable way by
the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1689. This famous bill was the third
and final step in the establishment of constitutional government, the first
step being the Great Charter (1215), and the second the Petition of Right
(1628). The modern form of cabinet government was established in the reign
of George I (1714-1727). The foreign prestige of England was strengthened
by the victories of Marlborough on the Continent, in the War of the Spanish
Succession; and the bounds of empire were enormously increased by Clive in
India, by Cook in Australia and the islands of the Pacific, and by English
victories over the French in Canada and the Mississippi Valley, during the
Seven Years', or French and Indian, Wars. Politically, the country was
divided into Whigs and Tories: the former seeking greater liberty for the
people; the latter upholding the king against popular government. The
continued strife between these two political parties had a direct (and
generally a harmful) influence on literature, as many of the great writers
were used by the Whig or Tory party to advance its own interests and to
satirize its enemies. Notwithstanding this perpetual strife of parties, the
age is remarkable for the rapid social development, which soon expressed
itself in literature. Clubs and coffeehouses multiplied, and the social
life of these clubs resulted in better manners, in a general feeling of
toleration, and especially in a kind of superficial elegance which shows
itself in most of the prose and poetry of the period. On the other hand,
the moral standard of the nation was very low; bands of rowdies infested
the city streets after nightfall; bribery and corruption were the rule in
politics; and drunkenness was frightfully prevalent among all classes.
Swift's degraded race of Yahoos is a reflection of the degradation to be
seen in multitudes of London saloons. This low standard of morals
emphasizes the importance of the great Methodist revival under Whitefield
and Wesley, which began in the second quarter of the eighteenth century.

The literature of the century is remarkably complex, but we may classify it
all under three general heads,--the Reign of so-called Classicism, the
Revival of Romantic Poetry, and the Beginning of the Modern Novel. The
first half of the century, especially, is an age of prose, owing largely to
the fact that the practical and social interests of the age demanded
expression. Modern newspapers, like the _Chronicle, Post_, and _Times_, and
literary magazines, like the _Tatler_ and _Spectator_, which began in this
age, greatly influenced the development of a serviceable prose style. The
poetry of the first half of the century, as typified in Pope, was polished,
unimaginative, formal; and the closed couplet was in general use,
supplanting all other forms of verse. Both prose and poetry were too
frequently satiric, and satire does not tend to produce a high type of
literature. These tendencies in poetry were modified, in the latter part of
the century, by the revival of romantic poetry.

In our study we have noted: (1) the Augustan or Classic Age; the meaning of
Classicism; the life and work of Alexander Pope, the greatest poet of the
age; of Jonathan Swift, the satirist; of Joseph Addison, the essayist; of
Richard Steele, who was the original genius of the _Tatler_ and the
_Spectator_; of Samuel Johnson, who for nearly half a century was the
dictator of English letters; of James Boswell, who gave us the immortal
_Life of Johnson_; of Edmund Burke, the greatest of English orators; and of
Edward Gibbon, the historian, famous for his _Decline and Fall of the Roman

(2) The Revival of Romantic Poetry; the meaning of Romanticism; the life
and work of Thomas Gray; of Oliver Goldsmith, famous as poet, dramatist,
and novelist; of William Cowper; of Robert Burns, the greatest of Scottish
poets; of William Blake, the mystic; and the minor poets of the early
romantic movement,--James Thomson, William Collins, George Crabbe, James
Macpherson, author of the Ossian poems, Thomas Chatterton, the boy who
originated the Rowley Papers, and Thomas Percy, whose work for literature
was to collect the old ballads, which he called the _Reliques of Ancient
English Poetry_, and to translate the stories of Norse mythology in his
_Northern Antiquities_.

(3) The First English Novelists; the meaning and history of the modern
novel; the life and work of Daniel Defoe, author of _Robinson Crusoe_, who
is hardly to be called a novelist, but whom we placed among the pioneers;
and the novels of Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Goldsmith.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English Prose
(Ginn and Company) are two excellent volumes containing selections from all
authors studied. Ward's English Poets (4 vols.), Craik's English Prose
Selections (5 vols.), and Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to
Victoria are useful for supplementary reading. All important works should
be read entire, in one of the following inexpensive editions, published for
school use. (For titles and publishers, see General Bibliography at end of
this book.)

_Pope_. Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, edited by Parrott, in Standard
English Classics. Various other school editions of the Essay on Man, and
Rape of the Lock, in Riverside Literature Series, Pocket Classics, etc.;
Pope's Iliad, I, VI, XXII, XXIV, in Standard English Classics, etc.
Selections from Pope, edited by Reed, in Holt's English Readings.

_Swift_. Gulliver's Travels, school edition by Ginn and Company; also in
Temple Classics, etc. Selections from Swift, edited by Winchester, in
Athenaeum Press (announced); the same, edited by Craik, in Clarendon Press;
the same, edited by Prescott, in Holt's English Readings. Battle of the
Books, in King's Classics, Bohn's Library, etc.

_Addison and Steele_. Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, in Standard English
Classics, Riverside Literature, etc.; Selections from Addison, edited by
Wendell and Greenough, and Selections from Steele, edited by Carpenter,
both in Athenaeum Press; various other selections, in Golden Treasury
Series, Camelot Series, Holt's English Readings, etc.

_Johnson_. Lives of the Poets, in Cassell's National Library; Selected
Essays, edited by G.B. Hill (Dent); Selections, in Little Masterpieces
Series; Rasselas, in Holt's English Readings, and in Morley's Universal

_Boswell_. Life of Johnson (2 vols.), in Everyman's Library; the same (3
vols.), in Library of English Classics; also in Temple Classics, and Bohn's

_Burke_. American Taxation, Conciliation with America, Letter to a Noble
Lord, in Standard English Classics; various speeches, in Pocket Classics,
Riverside Literature Series, etc.; Selections, edited by B. Perry (Holt);
Speeches on America (Heath, etc.).

_Gibbon_. The Student's Gibbon, abridged (Murray); Memoirs, edited by
Emerson, in Athenaeum Press.

_Gray_. Selections, edited by W.L. Phelps, in Athenaeum Press; Selections
from Gray and Cowper, in Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature, etc.;
Gray's Elegy, in Selections from Five English Poets (Ginn and Company).

_Goldsmith_. Deserted Village, in Standard English Classics, etc.; Vicar of
Wakefield, in Standard English Classics, Everyman's Library, King's
Classics, etc.; She Stoops to Conquer, in Pocket Classics, Belles Lettres
Series, etc.

_Cowper_. Selections, edited by Murray, in Athenaeum Press; Selections, in
Cassell's National Library, Canterbury Poets, etc.; The Task, in Temple

_Burns_. Representative Poems, with Carlyle's Essay on Burns, edited by
C.L. Hanson, in Standard English Classics; Selections, in Pocket Classics,
Riverside Literature, etc.

_Blake_. Poems, edited by W.B. Yeats, in Muses' Library; Selections, in
Canterbury Poets, etc.

_Minor Poets_. Thomson, Collins, Crabbe, etc. Selections, in Manly's
English Poetry. Thomson's The Seasons, and Castle of Indolence, in Modern
Classics; the same poems in Clarendon Press, and in Temple Classics;
Selections from Thomson, in Cassell's National Library. Chatterton's poems,
in Canterbury Poets. Macpherson's Ossian, in Canterbury Poets. Percy's
Reliques, in Everyman's Library, Chandos Classics, Bohn's Library, etc.
More recent and reliable collections of popular ballads, for school use,
are Gummere's Old English Ballads, in Athenaeum Press; The Ballad Book,
edited by Allingham, in Goldern Treasury Series; Gayley and Flaherty's
Poetry of the People (Ginn and Company), etc. See Bibliography on p. 64.

_Defoe_. Robinson Crusoe, school edition, by Ginn and Company; the same in
Pocket Classics, etc.; Journal of the Plague Year, edited by Hurlbut (Ginn
and Company); the same, in Everyman's Library, etc.; Essay on Projects, in
Cassell's National Library.

_The Novelists_. Manly's English Prose; Craik's English Prose Selections,
vol. 4; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (see above); Selected Essays of
Fielding, edited by Gerould, in Athenæum Press.


_HISTORY_. _Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 280-322; Cheyney, pp. 516-574.
_General Works_, Greene, ch. 9, sec. 7, to ch. 10, sec. 4; Traill,
Gardiner, Macaulay, etc. _Special Works_, Lecky's History of England in the
Eighteenth Century, vols. 1-3; Morris's The Age of Queen Anne and the Early
Hanoverians (Epochs of Modern History); Seeley's The Expansion of England;
Macaulay's Clive, and Chatham; Thackeray's The Four Georges, and the
English Humorists; Ashton's Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne; Susan
Hale's Men and Manners of the Eighteenth Century; Sydney's England and the
English in the Eighteenth Century.

_LITERATURE. General Works_. The Cambridge Literature, Taine, Saintsbury,
etc. _Special Works_. Perry's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century;
L. Stephen's English Literature in the Eighteenth Century; Seccombe's The
Age of Johnson; Dennis's The Age of Pope; Gosse's History of English
Literature in the Eighteenth Century; Whitwell's Some Eighteenth Century
Men of Letters (Cowper, Sterne, Fielding, Goldsmith, Gray, Johnson, and
Boswell); Johnson's Eighteenth Century Letters and Letter Writers;
Williams's English Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth Century;
Minto's Manual of English Prose Writers; Clark's Study of English Prose
Writers; Bourne's English Newspapers; J.B. Williams's A History of English
Journalism; L. Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth

_The Romantic Revival_. W.L. Phelps's The Beginnings of the English
Romantic Movement; Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century.

_The Novel_. Raleigh's The English Novel; Simonds's An Introduction to the
Study of English Fiction; Cross's The Development of the English Novel;
Jusserand's The English Novel in the Time of Shakespeare; Stoddard's The
Evolution of the English Novel; Warren's The History of the English Novel
previous to the Seventeenth Century; Masson's British Novelists and their
Styles; S. Lanier's The English Novel; Hamilton's the Materials and Methods
of Fiction; Perry's A Study of Prose Fiction.

_Pope_. Texts: Works in Globe Edition, edited by A.W. Ward; in Cambridge
Poets, edited by H.W. Boynton; Satires and Epistles, in Clarendon Press;
Letters, in English Letters and Letter Writers of the Eighteenth Century,
edited by H. Williams (Bell). Life: by Courthope; by L. Stephen (English
Men of Letters Series); by Ward, in Globe Edition; by Johnson, in Lives of
the Poets (Cassell's National Library, etc.). Criticism: Essays, by L.
Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Lowell, in My Study Windows; by De
Quincey, in Biographical Essays, and in Essays on the Poets; by Thackeray,
in English Humorists; by Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. Warton's
Genius and Writings of Pope (interesting chiefly from the historical view
point, as the first definite and extended attack on Pope's writings).

_Swift_. Texts: Works, 19 vols., ed. by Walter Scott (Edinburgh, 1814-
1824); best edition of prose works is edited by T. Scott, with introduction
by Lecky, 12 vols. (Bonn's Library); Selections, edited by Winchester (Ginn
and Company); also in Camelot Series, Carisbrooke Library, etc., Journal to
Stella, (Dutton, also Putnam); Letters, in Eighteenth Century Letters and
Letter Writers, ed. by T.B. Johnson. Life: by L. Stephen (English Men of
Letters); by Collins; by Craik; by J. Forster; by Macaulay; by Walter
Scott; by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by Thackeray,
in English Humorists; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes; by
Masson, in the Three Devils and Other Essays.

_Addison_. Texts: Works, in Bohn's British Classics; Selections, in
Athenaeum Press, etc. Life: by Lucy Aiken; by Courthope (English Men of
Letters); by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Criticism: Essays, by
Macaulay; by Thackeray.

_Steele_. Texts: Selections, edited by Carpenter in Athenaeum Press (Ginn
and Company); various other Selections published by Putnam, Bangs, in
Camelot Series, etc.; Plays, edited by Aitken, in Mermaid Series. Life: by
Aitken; by A. Dobson (English Worthies Series). Criticism: Essays by
Thackeray; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

_Johnson_. Texts: Works, edited by Walesby, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1825); the
same, edited by G.B. Hill, in Clarendon Press. Essays, edited by G.B. Hill
(Dent); the same, in Camelot series; Rasselas, various school editions, by
Ginn and Company, Holt, etc.; Selections from Lives of the Poets, with
Macaulay's Life of Johnson, edited by Matthew Arnold (Macmillan). Life:
Boswell's Life of Johnson, in Everyman's Library, Temple Classics, Library
of English Classics, etc.; by L. Stephen (English Men of Letters); by
Grant. Criticism: G.B. Hill's Dr. Johnson, his Friends and Critics; Essays,
by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Macaulay, Birrell, etc.

_Boswell_. Texts: Life of Johnson, edited by G.B. Hill (London, 1874);
various other editions (see above). Life: by Fitzgerald (London, 1891);
Roger's Boswelliana (London, 1874). Whitfield's Some Eighteenth Century Men
of Letters.

_Burke_. Texts: Works, 12 vols. (Boston, 1871); reprinted, 6 vols., in
Bohn's Library; Selected Works, edited by Payne, in Clarendon Press; On the
Sublime and Beautiful, in Temple Classics. For various speeches, see
Selections for Reading, above. Life: by Prior; by Morley (English Men of
Letters). Criticism: Essay, by Birrell, in Obiter Dicta. See also Dowden's
French Revolution and English Literature, and Woodrow Wilson's Mere

_Gibbon_. Texts: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by Bury, 7
vols. (London, 1896-1900); various other editions; The Student's Gibbon,
abridged (Murray); Memoirs, edited by Emerson, in Athenaeum Press (Ginn and
Company). Life: by Morison (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by
Birrell, in Collected Essays and Res Judicatae; by Stephen, in Studies of a
Biographer; by Robertson, in Pioneer Humanists; by Frederick Harrison, in
Ruskin and Other Literary Estimates; by Bagehot, in Literary Studies; by
Sainte-Beuve, in English Portraits. See also Anton's Masters in History.

_Sheridan_. Texts: Speeches, 5 vols. (London, 1816); Plays, edited by W.F.
Rae (London, 1902); the same, edited by R. Dircks, in Camelot Series; Major
Dramas, in Athenaeum Press; Plays also in Morley's Universal Library,
Macmillan's English Classics, etc. Life: by Rae; by M. Oliphant (English
Men of Letters); by L. Sanders (Great Writers).

_Gray_. Texts: Works, edited by Gosse (Macmillan); Poems, in Routledge's
Pocket Library, Chandos Classics, etc.; Selections, in Athenaeum Press,
etc.; Letters, edited by D.C. Tovey (Bohn). Life: by Gosse (English Men of
Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Lowell, in Latest Literary Essays; by M.
Arnold, in Essays in Criticism; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by A.
Dobson, in Eighteenth Century Vignettes.

_Goldsmith_. Texts: edited by Masson, Globe edition; Works, edited by Aiken
and Tuckerman (Crowell); the same, edited by A. Dobson (Dent); Morley's
Universal Library; Arber's The Goldsmith Anthology (Frowde). See also
Selections for Reading, above. Life: by Washington Irving; by A. Dobson
(Great Writer's Series); by Black (English Men of Letters); by J. Forster;
by Prior. Criticism: Essays, by Macaulay; by Thackeray; by De Quincey; by
A. Dobson, in Miscellanies.

_Cowper_. Texts: Works, Globe and Aldine editions; also in Chandos
Classics; Selections, in Athenasum Press, Canterbury Poets, etc. The
Correspondence of William Cowper, edited by T. Wright, 4 vols. (Dodd, Mead
& Company). Life: by Goldwin Smith (English Men of Letters); by Wright; by
Southey. Criticism: Essays, by L. Stephen; by Bagehot; by Sainte-Beuve; by
Birrell; by Stopford Brooke; by A. Dobson (see above). See also Woodberry's
Makers of Literature.

_Burns_. Texts: Works, Cambridge Poets Edition (containing Henley's Study
of Burns), Globe and Aldine editions, Clarendon Press, Canterbury Poets,
etc.; Selections, in Athenaeum Press, etc.; Letters, in Camelot Series.
Life: by Cunningham; by Henley; by Setoun; by Blackie (Great Writers); by
Shairp (English Men of Letters). Criticism: Essays, by Carlyle; by R.L.
Stevenson, in Familiar Studies; by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English
Poets; by Stopford Brooke, in Theology in the English Poets; by J. Forster,
in Great Teachers.

_Blake_. Texts: Poems, Aldine edition; also in Canterbury Poets; Complete
Works, edited by Ellis and Yeats (London, 1893); Selections, edited by W.B.
Yeats, in the Muses' Library (Dutton); Letters, with Life by F. Tatham,
edited by A.G.B. Russell (Scribner's, 1896). Life: by Gilchrist; by Story;
by Symons. Criticism: Swinburne's William Blake, a Critical Study; Ellis's
The Real Blake (McClure, 1907); Elizabeth Cary's The Art of William Blake
(Moffat, Yard & Company, 1907). Essay, by A.C. Benson, in Essays.

_Thomson_. Texts: Works, Aldine edition; The Seasons, and Castle of
Indolence, in Clarendon Press, etc. Life: by Bayne; by G.B. Macaulay
(English Men of Letters). Essay, by Hazlitt, in Lectures on the English

_Collins_. Works, edited by Bronson, in Athenaeum Press; also in Aldine
edition. Life: by Johnson, in Lives of the Poets. Essay, by Swinburne, in
Miscellanies. See also Beers's English Romanticism in the Eighteenth

_Crabbe_. Works, with memoir by his son, G. Crabbe, 8 vols. (London,
1834-1835); Poems, edited by A.W. Ward, 3 vols., in Cambridge English
Classics (Cambridge, 1905); Selections, in Temple Classics, Canterbury
Poets, etc. Life: by Kebbel (Great Writers); by Ainger (English Men of
Letters). Essays, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by Woodberry, in
Makers of Literature; by Saintsbury, in Essays in English Literature; by
Courthope, in Ward's English Poets; by Edward Fitzgerald, in Miscellanies;
by Hazlitt, in Spirit of the Age.

_Macpherson_. Texts: Ossian, in Canterbury Poets; Poems, translated by
Macpherson, edited by Todd (London, 1888). Life and Letters, edited by
Saunders (London, 1894). Criticism: J.S. Smart's James Macpherson (Nutt,
1905). See also Beers's English Romanticism. For relation of Macpherson's
work to the original Ossian, see Dean of Lismore's Book, edited by
MacLauchlan (Edinburgh, 1862); also Poems of Ossian, translated by Clerk
(Edinburgh, 1870).

_Chatterton_. Works, edited by Skeat (London, 1875); Poems, in Canterbury
Poets. Life: by Russell; by Wilson; Masson's Chatterton, a Biography.
Criticism: C.E. Russell's Thomas Chatterton (Moffatt, Yard & Company);
Essays, by Watts-Dunton, in Ward's English Poets; by Masson, in Essays
Biographical and Critical. See also Beers's English Romanticism.

_Percy_. Reliques, edited by Wheatley (London, 1891); the same, in
Everyman's Library, Chandos Classics, etc. Essay, by J.W. Hales, Revival of
Ballad Poetry, in Folia Literaria. See also Beers's English Romanticism,
etc. (Special works, above.)

_Defoe_. Texts: Romances and Narratives, edited by Aitken (Dent); Poems and
Pamphlets, in Arber's English Garner, vol. 8; school editions of Robinson
Crusoe, and Journal of the Plague Year (Ginn and Company, etc.); Captain
Singleton, and Memoirs of a Cavalier, in Everyman's Library; Early
Writings, in Carisbrooke Library (Routledge). Life: by W. Lee; by Minto
(English Men of Letters); by Wright; also in Westminster Biographies
(Small, Maynard). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library.

_Richardson_. Works: edited by L. Stephen (London, 1883); edited by
Philips, with life (New York, 1901); Correspondence, edited by A. Barbauld,
6 vols. (London, 1804). Life: by Thomson; by A. Dobson. Essays, by L.
Stephen, in Hours in a Library; by A. Dobson, in Eighteenth Century

_Fielding_. Works: Temple Edition, edited by Saintsbury (Dent); Selected
Essays, in Athenaeum Press; Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, in Cassell's
National Library. Life: by Dobson (English Men of Letters); Lawrence's Life
and Times of Fielding. Essays, by Lowell; by Thackeray; by L. Stephen; by
A. Dobson (see above); by G.B. Smith, in Poets and Novelists.

_Smollett_. Works, edited by Saintsbury (London, 1895); Works, edited by
Henley (Scribner). Life: by Hannah (Great Writers); by Smeaton; by
Chambers. Essays, by Thackeray; by Henley; by Dobson, in Eighteenth Century

_Sterne_. Works: edited by Saintsbury (Dent); Tristram Shandy, and A
Sentimental Journey, in Temple Classics, Morley's Universal Library, etc.
Life: by Fitzgerald; by Traill (English Men of Letters); Life and Times, by
W.L. Cross (Macmillan). Essays, by Thackeray; by Bagehot, in Literary

_Horace Walpole_. Texts: Castle of Otranto, in King's Classics, Cassell's
National Library, etc. Letters, edited by C.D. Yonge. Morley's Walpole, in
Twelve English Statesmen (Macmillan). Essay, by L. Stephen, in Hours in a
Library. See also Beers's English Romanticism.

_Frances Burney_ (Madame d'Arblay). Texts: Evelina, in Temple Classics, 2
vols. (Macmillan). Diary and Letters, edited by S.C. Woolsey. Seeley's
Fanny Burney and her Friends. Essay, by Macaulay.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. 1. Describe briefly the social development of the
eighteenth century. What effect did this have on literature? What accounts
for the prevalence of prose? What influence did the first newspapers exert
on life and literature? How do the readers of this age compare with those
of the Age of Elizabeth?

2. How do you explain the fact that satire was largely used in both prose
and poetry? Name the principal satires of the age. What is the chief object
of satire? of literature? How do the two objects conflict?

3. What is the meaning of the term "classicism," as applied to the
literature of this age? Did the classicism of Johnson, for instance, have
any relation to classic literature in its true sense? Why is this period
called the Augustan Age? Why was Shakespeare not regarded by this age as a
classical writer?

4. _Pope_. In what respect is Pope a unique writer? Tell briefly the story
of his life. What are his principal works? How does he reflect the critical
spirit of his age? What are the chief characteristics of his poetry? What
do you find to copy in his style? What is lacking in his poetry? Compare
his subjects with those of Burns of Tennyson or Milton, for instance. How
would Chaucer or Burns tell the story of the Rape of the Lock? What
similarity do you find between Pope's poetry and Addison's prose?

5. _Swift_. What is the general character of Swift's work? Name his chief
satires. What is there to copy in his style? Does he ever strive for
ornament or effect in writing? Compare Swift's _Gulliver's Travels_ with
Defoe's _Robinson Crusoe_, in style, purpose of writing, and interest. What
resemblances do you find in these two contemporary writers? Can you explain
the continued popularity of _Gulliver's Travels_?

6. _Addison and Steele_. What great work did Addison and Steele do for
literature? Make a brief comparison between these two men, having in mind
their purpose, humor, knowledge of life, and human sympathy, as shown, for
instance, in No. 112 and No. 2 of the Spectator Essays. Compare their humor
with that of Swift. How is their work a preparation for the novel?

7. _Johnson_. For what is Dr. Johnson famous in literature? Can you explain
his great influence? Compare his style with that of Swift or Defoe. What
are the remarkable elements in Boswell's _Life of Johnson_? Write a
description of an imaginary meeting of Johnson, Goldsmith, and Boswell in a

8. _Burke_. For what is Burke remarkable? What great objects influenced him
in the three periods of his life? Why has he been called a romantic poet
who speaks in prose? Compare his use of imagery with that of other writers
of the period. What is there to copy and what is there to avoid in his
style? Can you trace the influence of Burke's American speeches on later
English politics? What similarities do you find between Burke and Milton,
as revealed in their prose works?

9. _Gibbon_. For what is Gibbon "worthy to be remembered"? Why does he mark
an epoch in historical writing? What is meant by the scientific method of
writing history? Compare Gibbon's style with that of Johnson. Contrast it
with that of Swift, and also with that of some modern historian, Parkman,
for example.

10. What is meant by the term "romanticism?" What are its chief
characteristics? How does it differ from classicism? Illustrate the meaning
from the work of Gray, Cowper, or Burns. Can you explain the prevalence of
melancholy in romanticism?

11. _Gray_. What are the chief works of Gray? Can you explain the continued
popularity of his "Elegy"? What romantic elements are found in his poetry?
What resemblances and what differences do you find in the works of Gray and
of Goldsmith?

12. _Goldsmith_. Tell the story of Goldsmith's life. What are his chief
works? Show from _The Deserted Village_ the romantic and the so-called
classic elements in his work. What great work did he do for the early
novel, in _The Vicar of Wakefield_? Can you explain the popularity of _She
Stoops to Conquer_? Name some of Goldsmith's characters who have found a
permanent place in our literature. What personal reminiscences have you
noted in _The Traveller_, _The Deserted Village_, and _She Stoops to

13. _Cowper_. Describe Cowper's _The Task_. How does it show the romantic
spirit? Give passages from "John Gilpin" to illustrate Cowper's humor.

14. _Burns_. Tell the story of Burns's life. Some one has said, "The
measure of a man's sin is the difference between what he is and what he
might be." Comment upon this, with reference to Burns. What is the general
character of his poetry? Why is he called the poet of common men? What
subjects does he choose for his poetry? Compare him, in this respect, with
Pope. What elements in the poet's character are revealed in such poems as
"To a Mouse" and "To a Mountain Daisy"? How do Burns and Gray regard
nature? What poems show his sympathy with the French Revolution, and with
democracy? Read "The Cotter's Saturday Night," and explain its enduring
interest. Can you explain the secret of Burns's great popularity?

15. _Blake_. What are the characteristics of Blake's poetry? Can you
explain why Blake, though the greatest poetic genius of the age, is so
little appreciated?

16. _Percy_. In what respect did Percy's _Reliques_ influence the romantic
movement? What are the defects in his collection of ballads? Can you
explain why such a crude poem as "Chevy Chase" should be popular with an
age that delighted in Pope's "Essay on Man"?

17. _Macpherson_. What is meant by Macpherson's "Ossian"? Can you account
for the remarkable success of the Ossianic forgeries?

18. _Chatterton_. Tell the story of Chatterton and the Rowley Poems. Read
Chatterton's "Bristowe Tragedie," and compare it, in style and interest,
with the old ballads, like "The Battle of Otterburn" or "The Hunting of the
Cheviot" (all in Manly's _English Poetry_).

19. _The First Novelists_. What is meant by the modern novel? How does it
differ from the early romance and from the adventure story? What are some
of the precursors of the novel? What was the purpose of stories modeled
after _Don Quixote_? What is the significance of _Pamela_? What elements
did Fielding add to the novel? What good work did Goldsmith's _Vicar of
Wakefield_ accomplish? Compare Goldsmith, in this respect, with Steele and

            _End of Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Century_
  HISTORY                           |  LITERATURE
1689. William and Mary              | 1683-1719. Defoe's early writings
      Bill of Rights.               |
      Toleration Act                |
                                    | 1695. Press made free
1700(?) Beginning of London clubs   |
1702. Anne (d. 1714)                |
      War of Spanish Succession     |
                                    | 1702. First daily newspaper
1704. Battle of Blenheim            | 1704. Addison's The Campaign
                                    |       Swift's Tale of a Tub
1707. Union of England and Scotland |
                                    | 1709. The Tatler
                                    |       Johnson born (d. 1784)
                                    | 1710-1713. Swift in London. Journal
                                    |       to Stella
                                    | 1711. The Spectator
                                    | 1712. Pope's Rape of the Lock
1714. George I (d. 1727)            |
                                    | 1719. Robinson Crusoe
1721. Cabinet government, Walpole   |
      first prime minister          |
                                    | 1726. Gulliver's Travels
                                    | 1726-1730. Thomson's The Seasons
1727. George II (d. 1760)           |
                                    | 1732-1734. Essay on Man
1738. Rise of Methodism             |
                                    | 1740. Richardson's Pamela
1740. War of Austrian Succession    |
                                    | 1742. Fielding's Joesph Andrews
1746. Jacobite Rebellion            |
                                    | 1749. Fielding's Tom Jones
                                    | 1750-1752. Johnson's The Rambler
1750-1757. Conquest of India        | 1751. Gray's Elegy
                                    | 1755. Johnson's Dictionary
1756. War with France               |
1759. Wolf at Quebec                |
1760. George III (d. 1820)          | 1760-1767. Sterne's Tristram Shandy
                                    | 1764. Johnson's Literary Club
1765. Stamp Act                     | 1765. Percy's Reliques
                                    | 1766. Goldsmith's Vicar of
                                    |       Wakefield
                                    | 1770. Goldsmith's Deserted Village
                                    | 1771. Beginning of great newspapers
1773. Boston Tea Party              |
1774. Howard's prison reforms       | 1774-1775. Burke's American speeches
1775. American Revolution           | 1776-1788. Gibbon's Rome
1776. Declaration of Independence   | 1779. Cowper's Olney Hymns
                                    | 1779-81. Johnson's Lives of the Poets
1783. Treaty of Paris               | 1783. Blake's Poetical Sketches
                                    | 1785. Cowper's The Task
                                    |       The London Times
1786. Trial of Warren Hastings      |
                                    | 1786. Burns's first poems (the
                                    |       Kilmarnock Burns)
                                    |       Burke's Warren Hastings
1789-1799. French Revolution        |
                                    | 1790. Burke's French Revolution
                                    | 1791. Boswell's Life of Johnson
1793. War with France               |

       *       *       *       *       *




The first half of the nineteenth century records the triumph of Romanticism
in literature and of democracy in government; and the two movements are so
closely associated, in so many nations and in so many periods of history,
that one must wonder if there be not some relation of cause and effect
between them. Just as we understand the tremendous energizing influence of
Puritanism in the matter of English liberty by remembering that the common
people had begun to read, and that their book was the Bible, so we may
understand this age of popular government by remembering that the chief
subject of romantic literature was the essential nobleness of common men
and the value of the individual. As we read now that brief portion of
history which lies between the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the
English Reform Bill of 1832, we are in the presence of such mighty
political upheavals that "the age of revolution" is the only name by which
we can adequately characterize it. Its great historic movements become
intelligible only when we read what was written in this period; for the
French Revolution and the American commonwealth, as well as the
establishment of a true democracy in England by the Reform Bill, were the
inevitable results of ideas which literature had spread rapidly through the
civilized world. Liberty is fundamentally an ideal; and that
ideal--beautiful, inspiring, compelling, as a loved banner in the wind--was
kept steadily before men's minds by a multitude of books and pamphlets as
far apart as Burns's _Poems_ and Thomas Paine's _Rights of Man_,--all read
eagerly by the common people, all proclaiming the dignity of common life,
and all uttering the same passionate cry against every form of class or
caste oppression.

First the dream, the ideal in some human soul; then the written word which
proclaims it, and impresses other minds with its truth and beauty; then the
united and determined effort of men to make the dream a reality,--that
seems to be a fair estimate of the part that literature plays, even in our
political progress.

HISTORICAL SUMMARY. The period we are considering begins in the latter half
of the reign of George III and ends with the accession of Victoria in 1837.
When on a foggy morning in November, 1783, King George entered the House of
Lords and in a trembling voice recognized the independence of the United
States of America, he unconsciously proclaimed the triumph of that free
government by free men which had been the ideal of English literature for
more than a thousand years; though it was not till 1832, when the Reform
Bill became the law of the land, that England herself learned the lesson
taught her by America, and became the democracy of which her writers had
always dreamed.

The half century between these two events is one of great turmoil, yet of
steady advance in every department of English life. The storm center of the
political unrest was the French Revolution, that frightful uprising which
proclaimed the natural rights of man and the abolition of class
distinctions. Its effect on the whole civilized world is beyond
computation. Patriotic clubs and societies multiplied in England, all
asserting the doctrine of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the watchwords of
the Revolution. Young England, led by Pitt the younger, hailed the new
French republic and offered it friendship; old England, which pardons no
revolutions but her own, looked with horror on the turmoil in France and,
misled by Burke and the nobles of the realm, forced the two nations into
war. Even Pitt saw a blessing in this at first; because the sudden zeal for
fighting a foreign nation--which by some horrible perversion is generally
called patriotism--might turn men's thoughts from their own to their
neighbors' affairs, and so prevent a threatened revolution at home.

The causes of this threatened revolution were not political but economic.
By her invention in steel and machinery, and by her monopoly of the
carrying trade, England had become the workshop of the world. Her wealth
had increased beyond her wildest dreams; but the unequal distribution of
that wealth was a spectacle to make angels weep. The invention of machinery
at first threw thousands of skilled hand workers out of employment; in
order to protect a few agriculturists, heavy duties were imposed on corn
and wheat, and bread rose to famine prices just when laboring men had the
least money to pay for it. There followed a curious spectacle. While
England increased in wealth, and spent vast sums to support her army and
subsidize her allies in Europe, and while nobles, landowners,
manufacturers, and merchants lived in increasing luxury, a multitude of
skilled laborers were clamoring for work. Fathers sent their wives and
little children into the mines and factories, where sixteen hours' labor
would hardly pay for the daily bread; and in every large city were riotous
mobs made up chiefly of hungry men and women. It was this unbearable
economic condition, and not any political theory, as Burke supposed, which
occasioned the danger of another English revolution.

It is only when we remember these conditions that we can understand two
books, Adam Smith's _Wealth of Nations_ and Thomas Paine's _Rights of Man_,
which can hardly be considered as literature, but which exercised an
enormous influence in England. Smith was a Scottish thinker, who wrote to
uphold the doctrine that labor is the only source of a nation's wealth, and
that any attempt to force labor into unnatural channels, or to prevent it
by protective duties from freely obtaining the raw materials for its
industry, is unjust and destructive. Paine was a curious combination of
Jekyll and Hyde, shallow and untrustworthy personally, but with a
passionate devotion to popular liberty. His _Rights of Man_ published in
London in 1791, was like one of Burns's lyric outcries against institutions
which oppressed humanity. Coming so soon after the destruction of the
Bastille, it added fuel to the flames kindled in England by the French
Revolution. The author was driven out of the country, on the curious ground
that he endangered the English constitution, but not until his book had
gained a wide sale and influence.

All these dangers, real and imaginary, passed away when England turned from
the affairs of France to remedy her own economic conditions. The long
Continental war came to an end with Napoleon's overthrow at Waterloo, in
1815; and England, having gained enormously in prestige abroad, now turned
to the work of reform at home. The destruction of the African slave trade;
the mitigation of horribly unjust laws, which included poor debtors and
petty criminals in the same class; the prevention of child labor; the
freedom of the press; the extension of manhood suffrage; the abolition of
restrictions against Catholics in Parliament; the establishment of hundreds
of popular schools, under the leadership of Andrew Bell and Joseph
Lancaster,--these are but a few of the reforms which mark the progress of
civilization in a single half century. When England, in 1833, proclaimed
the emancipation of all slaves in all her colonies, she unconsciously
proclaimed her final emancipation from barbarism.

LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AGE. It is intensely interesting to note
how literature at first reflected the political turmoil of the age; and
then, when the turmoil was over and England began her mighty work of
reform, how literature suddenly developed a new creative spirit, which
shows itself in the poetry of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats,
and in the prose of Scott, Jane Austen, Lamb, and De Quincey,--a wonderful
group of writers, whose patriotic enthusiasm suggests the Elizabethan days,
and whose genius has caused their age to be known as the second creative
period of our literature. Thus in the early days, when old institutions
seemed crumbling with the Bastille, Coleridge and Southey formed their
youthful scheme of a "Pantisocracy on the banks of the Susquehanna,"--an
ideal commonwealth, in which the principles of More's _Utopia_ should be
put in practice. Even Wordsworth, fired with political enthusiasm, could

    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven.

The essence of Romanticism was, it must be remembered, that literature must
reflect all that is spontaneous and unaffected in nature and in man, and be
free to follow its own fancy in its own way. We have already noted this
characteristic in the work of the Elizabethan dramatists, who followed
their own genius in opposition to all the laws of the critics. In Coleridge
we see this independence expressed in "Kubla Khan" and "The Ancient
Mariner," two dream pictures, one of the populous Orient, the other of the
lonely sea. In Wordsworth this literary independence led him inward to the
heart of common things. Following his own instinct, as Shakespeare does, he

    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

And so, more than any other writer of the age, he invests the common life
of nature, and the souls of common men and women, with glorious
significance. These two poets, Coleridge and Wordsworth, best represent the
romantic genius of the age in which they lived, though Scott had a greater
literary reputation, and Byron and Shelley had larger audiences.

The second characteristic of this age is that it is emphatically an age of
poetry. The previous century, with its practical outlook on life, was
largely one of prose; but now, as in the Elizabethan Age, the young
enthusiasts turned as naturally to poetry as a happy man to singing. The
glory of the age is in the poetry of Scott, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron,
Shelley, Keats, Moore, and Southey. Of its prose works, those of Scott
alone have attained a very wide reading, though the essays of Charles Lamb
and the novels of Jane Austen have slowly won for their authors a secure
place in the history of our literature. Coleridge and Southey (who with
Wordsworth form the trio of so-called Lake Poets) wrote far more prose than
poetry; and Southey's prose is much better than his verse. It was
characteristic of the spirit of this age, so different from our own, that
Southey could say that, in order to earn money, he wrote in verse "what
would otherwise have been better written in prose."

It was during this period that woman assumed, for the first time, an
important place in our literature. Probably the chief reason for this
interesting phenomenon lies in the fact that woman was for the first time
given some slight chance of education, of entering into the intellectual
life of the race; and as is always the case when woman is given anything
like a fair opportunity she responded magnificently. A secondary reason may
be found in the nature of the age itself, which was intensely emotional.
The French Revolution stirred all Europe to its depths, and during the
following half century every great movement in literature, as in politics
and religion, was characterized by strong emotion; which is all the more
noticeable by contrast with the cold, formal, satiric spirit of the early
eighteenth century. As woman is naturally more emotional than man, it may
well be that the spirit of this emotional age attracted her, and gave her
the opportunity to express herself in literature.

As all strong emotions tend to extremes, the age produced a new type of
novel which seems rather hysterical now, but which in its own day delighted
multitudes of readers whose nerves were somewhat excited, and who reveled
in "bogey" stories of supernatural terror. Mrs. Anne Radcliffe (1764-1823)
was one of the most successful writers of this school of exaggerated
romance. Her novels, with their azure-eyed heroines, haunted castles,
trapdoors, bandits, abductions, rescues in the nick of time, and a general
medley of overwrought joys and horrors,[219] were immensely popular, not
only with the crowd of novel readers, but also with men of unquestioned
literary genius, like Scott and Byron.

In marked contrast to these extravagant stories is the enduring work of
Jane Austen, with her charming descriptions of everyday life, and of Maria
Edgeworth, whose wonderful pictures of Irish life suggested to Walter Scott
the idea of writing his Scottish romances. Two other women who attained a
more or less lasting fame were Hannah More, poet, dramatist, and novelist,
and Jane Porter, whose _Scottish Chiefs_ and _Thaddeus of Warsaw_ are still
in demand in our libraries. Beside these were Fanny Burney (Madame
D'Arblay) and several other writers whose works, in the early part of the
nineteenth century, raised woman to the high place in literature which she
has ever since maintained.

In this age literary criticism became firmly established by the appearance
of such magazines as the _Edinburgh Review_ (18O2), _The Quarterly Review_
(1808), _Blackwood's Magazine_ (1817), the _Westminster Review_ (1824),
_The Spectator_ (1828), _The Athenæum_ (1828), and _Fraser's Magazine_
(1830). These magazines, edited by such men as Francis Jeffrey, John Wilson
(who is known to us as Christopher North), and John Gibson Lockhart, who
gave us the _Life of Scott_, exercised an immense influence on all
subsequent literature. At first their criticisms were largely destructive,
as when Jeffrey hammered Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron most unmercifully;
and Lockhart could find no good in either Keats or Tennyson; but with added
wisdom, criticism assumed its true function of construction. And when these
magazines began to seek and to publish the works of unknown writers, like
Hazlitt, Lamb, and Leigh Hunt, they discovered the chief mission of the
modern magazine, which is to give every writer of ability the opportunity
to make his work known to the world.



It was in 1797 that the new romantic movement in our literature assumed
definite form. Wordsworth and Coleridge retired to the Quantock Hills,
Somerset, and there formed the deliberate purpose to make literature
"adapted to interest mankind permanently," which, they declared, classic
poetry could never do. Helping the two poets was Wordsworth's sister
Dorothy, with a woman's love for flowers and all beautiful things; and a
woman's divine sympathy for human life even in its lowliest forms. Though a
silent partner, she furnished perhaps the largest share of the inspiration
which resulted in the famous _Lyrical Ballads_ of 1798. In their
partnership Coleridge was to take up the "supernatural, or at least
romantic"; while Wordsworth was "to give the charm of novelty to things of
everyday ... by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom
and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us."
The whole spirit of their work is reflected in two poems of this remarkable
little volume, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which is Coleridge's
masterpiece, and "Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," which
expresses Wordsworth's poetical creed, and which is one of the noblest and
most significant of our poems. That the _Lyrical Ballads_ attracted no
attention,[220] and was practically ignored by a public that would soon go
into raptures over Byron's _Childe Harold_ and _Don Juan_, is of small
consequence. Many men will hurry a mile to see skyrockets, who never notice
Orion and the Pleiades from their own doorstep. Had Wordsworth and
Coleridge written only this one little book, they would still be among the
representative writers of an age that proclaimed the final triumph of

LIFE OF WORDSWORTH. To understand the life of him who, in Tennyson's words,
"uttered nothing base," it is well to read first _The Prelude_, which
records the impressions made upon Wordsworth's mind from his earliest
recollection until his full manhood, in 1805, when the poem was
completed.[221] Outwardly his long and uneventful life divides itself
naturally into four periods: (1) his childhood and youth, in the Cumberland
Hills, from 1770 to 1787; (2) a period of uncertainty, of storm and stress,
including his university life at Cambridge, his travels abroad, and his
revolutionary experience, from 1787 to 1797; (3) a short but significant
period of finding himself and his work, from 1797 to 1799; (4) a long
period of retirement in the northern lake region, where he was born, and
where for a full half century he lived so close to nature that her
influence is reflected in all his poetry. When one has outlined these four
periods he has told almost all that can be told of a life which is marked,
not by events, but largely by spiritual experiences.

Wordsworth was born in 1770 at Cockermouth, Cumberland, where the Derwent,

          Fairest of all rivers, loved
    To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,
    And from his alder shades and rocky falls,
    And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
    That flowed along my dreams.

It is almost a shock to one who knows Wordsworth only by his calm and noble
poetry to read that he was of a moody and violent temper, and that his
mother despaired of him alone among her five children. She died when he was
but eight years old, but not till she had exerted an influence which lasted
all his life, so that he could remember her as "the heart of all our
learnings and our loves." The father died some six years later, and the
orphan was taken in charge by relatives, who sent him to school at
Hawkshead, in the beautiful lake region. Here, apparently, the unroofed
school of nature attracted him more than the discipline of the classics,
and he learned more eagerly from the flowers and hills and stars than from
his books; but one must read Wordsworth's own record, in _The Prelude_, to
appreciate this. Three things in this poem must impress even the casual
reader: first, Wordsworth loves to be alone, and is never lonely, with
nature; second, like every other child who spends much time alone in the
woods and fields, he feels the presence of some living spirit, real though
unseen, and companionable though silent; third, his impressions are exactly
like our own, and delightfully familiar. When he tells of the long summer
day spent in swimming, basking in the sun, and questing over the hills; or
of the winter night when, on his skates, he chased the reflection of a star
in the black ice; or of his exploring the lake in a boat, and getting
suddenly frightened when the world grew big and strange,--in all this he is
simply recalling a multitude of our own vague, happy memories of childhood.
He goes out into the woods at night to tend his woodcock snares; he runs
across another boy's snares, follows them, finds a woodcock caught, takes
it, hurries away through the night. And then,

    I heard among the solitary hills
    Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
    Of undistinguishable motion.

That is like a mental photograph. Any boy who has come home through the
woods at night will recognize it instantly. Again he tells as of going
bird's-nesting on the cliffs:

            Oh, when I have hung
    Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
    And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
    But ill-sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
    Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
    Shouldering the naked crag,--oh, at that time,
    While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
    With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
    Blow through my ear! The sky seemed not a sky
    Of earth,--and with what motion moved the clouds!

No man can read such records without finding his own boyhood again, and his
own abounding joy of life, in the poet's early impressions.

The second period of Wordsworth's life begins with his university course at
Cambridge, in 1787. In the third book of _The Prelude_ we find a
dispassionate account of student life, with its trivial occupations, its
pleasures and general aimlessness. Wordsworth proved to be a very ordinary
scholar, following his own genius rather than the curriculum, and looking
forward more eagerly to his vacation among the hills than to his
examinations. Perhaps the most interesting thing in his life at Cambridge
was his fellowship with the young political enthusiasts, whose spirit is
expressed in his remarkable poem on the French Revolution,--a poem which is
better than a volume of history to show the hopes and ambitions that
stirred all Europe in the first days of that mighty upheaval. Wordsworth
made two trips to France, in 1790 and 1791, seeing things chiefly through
the rosy spectacles of the young Oxford Republicans. On his second visit he
joined the Girondists, or the moderate Republicans, and only the decision
of his relatives, who cut off his allowance and hurried him back to
England, prevented his going headlong to the guillotine with the leaders of
his party. Two things rapidly cooled Wordsworth's revolutionary enthusiasm,
and ended the only dramatic interest of his placid life. One was the
excesses of the Revolution itself, and especially the execution of Louis
XVI; the other was the rise of Napoleon, and the slavish adulation accorded
by France to this most vulgar and dangerous of tyrants. His coolness soon
grew to disgust and opposition, as shown by his subsequent poems; and this
brought upon him the censure of Shelley, Byron, and other extremists,
though it gained the friendship of Scott, who from the first had no
sympathy with the Revolution or with the young English enthusiasts.

Of the decisive period of Wordsworth's life, when he was living with his
sister Dorothy and with Coleridge at Alfoxden, we have already spoken. The
importance of this decision to give himself to poetry is evident when we
remember that, at thirty years of age, he was without money or any definite
aim or occupation in life. He considered the law, but confessed he had no
sympathy for its contradictory precepts and practices; he considered the
ministry, but though strongly inclined to the Church, he felt himself not
good enough for the sacred office; once he had wanted to be a soldier and
serve his country, but had wavered at the prospect of dying of disease in a
foreign land and throwing away his life without glory or profit to anybody.
An apparent accident, which looks more to us like a special Providence,
determined his course. He had taken care of a young friend, Raisley
Calvert, who died of consumption and left Wordsworth heir to a few hundred
pounds, and to the request that he should give his life to poetry. It was
this unexpected gift which enabled Wordsworth to retire from the world and
follow his genius. All his life he was poor, and lived in an atmosphere of
plain living and high thinking. His poetry brought him almost nothing in
the way of money rewards, and it was only by a series of happy accidents
that he was enabled to continue his work. One of these accidents was that
he became a Tory, and soon accepted the office of a distributor of stamps,
and was later appointed poet laureate by the government,--which occasioned
Browning's famous but ill-considered poem of "The Lost Leader":

    Just for a handful of silver he left us,
    Just for a riband to stick in his coat.

The last half century of Wordsworth's life, in which he retired to his
beloved lake district and lived successively at Grasmere and Rydal Mount,
remind one strongly of Browning's long struggle for literary recognition.
It was marked by the same steadfast purpose, the same trusted ideal, the
same continuous work, and the same tardy recognition by the public. His
poetry was mercilessly ridiculed by nearly all the magazine critics, who
seized upon the worst of his work as a standard of judgment; and book after
book of poems appeared without meeting any success save the approval of a
few loyal friends. Without doubt or impatience he continued his work,
trusting to the future to recognize and approve it. His attitude here
reminds one strongly of the poor old soldier whom he met in the hills,[222]
who refused to beg or to mention his long service or the neglect of his
country, saying with noble simplicity,

      My trust is in the God of Heaven
    And in the eye of him who passes me.

Such work and patience are certain of their reward, and long before
Wordsworth's death he felt the warm sunshine of general approval. The wave
of popular enthusiasm for Scott and Byron passed by, as their limitations
were recognized; and Wordsworth was hailed by critics as the first living
poet, and one of the greatest that England had ever produced. On the death
of Southey (1843) he was made poet laureate, against his own inclination.
The late excessive praise left him quite as unmoved as the first excessive
neglect. The steady decline in the quality of his work is due not, as might
be expected, to self-satisfaction at success, but rather to his intense
conservatism, to his living too much alone and failing to test his work by
the standards and judgment of other literary men. He died tranquilly in
1850, at the age of eighty years, and was buried in the churchyard at

Such is the brief outward record of the world's greatest interpreter of
nature's message; and only one who is acquainted with both nature and the
poet can realize how inadequate is any biography; for the best thing about
Wordsworth must always remain unsaid. It is a comfort to know that his
life, noble, sincere, "heroically happy," never contradicted his message.
Poetry was his life; his soul was in all his work; and only by reading what
he has written can we understand the man.

THE POETRY OF WORDSWORTH. There is often a sense of disappointment when one
reads Wordsworth for the first time; and this leads us to speak first of
two difficulties which may easily prevent a just appreciation of the poet's
worth. The first difficulty is in the reader, who is often puzzled by
Wordsworth's absolute simplicity. We are so used to stage effects in
poetry, that beauty unadorned is apt to escape our notice,--like
Wordsworth's "Lucy":

    A violet by a mossy stone,
      Half hidden from the eye;
    Fair as a star, when only one
      Is shining in the sky.

Wordsworth set himself to the task of freeing poetry from all its
"conceits," of speaking the language of simple truth, and of portraying man
and nature as they are; and in this good work we are apt to miss the
beauty, the passion, the intensity, that hide themselves under his simplest
lines. The second difficulty is in the poet, not in the reader. It must be
confessed that Wordsworth is not always melodious; that he is seldom
graceful, and only occasionally inspired. When he is inspired, few poets
can be compared with him; at other times the bulk of his verse is so wooden
and prosy that we wonder how a poet could have written it. Moreover he is
absolutely without humor, and so he often fails to see the small step that
separates the sublime from the ridiculous. In no other way can we explain
"The Idiot Boy," or pardon the serious absurdity of "Peter Bell" and his
grieving jackass.

On account of these difficulties it is well to avoid at first the longer
works and begin with a good book of selections.[223] When we read these
exquisite shorter poems, with their noble lines that live forever in our
memory, we realize that Wordsworth is the greatest poet of nature that our
literature has produced. If we go further, and study the poems that impress
us, we shall find four remarkable characteristics: (1) Wordsworth is
sensitive as a barometer to every subtle change in the world about him. In
_The Prelude_ he compares himself to an æolian harp, which answers with
harmony to every touch of the wind; and the figure is strikingly accurate,
as well as interesting, for there is hardly a sight or a sound, from a
violet to a mountain and from a bird note to the thunder of the cataract,
that is not reflected in some beautiful way in Wordsworth's poetry.

(2) Of all the poets who have written of nature there is none that compares
with him in the truthfulness of his representation. Burns, like Gray, is
apt to read his own emotions into natural objects, so that there is more of
the poet than of nature even in his mouse and mountain daisy; but
Wordsworth gives you the bird and the flower, the wind and the tree and the
river, just as they are, and is content to let them speak their own

(3) No other poet ever found such abundant beauty in the common world. He
had not only sight, but insight, that is, he not only sees clearly and
describes accurately, but penetrates to the heart of things and always
finds some exquisite meaning that is not written on the surface. It is idle
to specify or to quote lines on flowers or stars, on snow or vapor. Nothing
is ugly or commonplace in his world; on the contrary, there is hardly one
natural phenomenon which he has not glorified by pointing out some beauty
that was hidden from our eyes.

(4) It is the _life_ of nature which is everywhere recognized; not mere
growth and cell changes, but sentient, personal life; and the recognition
of this personality in nature characterizes all the world's great poetry.
In his childhood Wordsworth regarded natural objects, the streams, the
hills, the flowers, even the winds, as his companions; and with his mature
belief that all nature is the reflection of the living God, it was
inevitable that his poetry should thrill with the sense of a Spirit that
"rolls through all things." Cowper, Burns, Keats, Tennyson,--all these
poets give you the outward aspects of nature in varying degrees; but
Wordsworth gives you her very life, and the impression of some personal
living spirit that meets and accompanies the man who goes alone through the
woods and fields. We shall hardly find, even in the philosophy of Leibnitz,
or in the nature myths of our Indians, any such impression of living nature
as this poet awakens in us. And that suggests another delightful
characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, namely, that he seems to awaken
rather than create an impression; he stirs our memory deeply, so that in
reading him we live once more in the vague, beautiful wonderland of our own

Such is the philosophy of Wordsworth's nature poetry. If we search now for
his philosophy of human life, we shall find four more doctrines, which rest
upon his basal conception that man is not apart from nature, but is the
very "life of her life." (1) In childhood man is sensitive as a wind harp
to all natural influences; he is an epitome of the gladness and beauty of
the world. Wordsworth explains this gladness and this sensitiveness to
nature by the doctrine that the child comes straight from the Creator of

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
        And cometh from afar:
      Not in entire forgetfulness
      And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
      From God, who is our home.

In this exquisite ode, which he calls "Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807), Wordsworth sums up his philosophy
of childhood; and he may possibly be indebted here to the poet Vaughan,
who, more than a century before, had proclaimed in "The Retreat" the same
doctrine. This kinship with nature and with God, which glorifies childhood,
ought to extend through a man's whole life and ennoble it. This is the
teaching of "Tintern Abbey," in which the best part of our life is shown to
be the result of natural influences. According to Wordsworth, society and
the crowded unnatural life of cities tend to weaken and pervert humanity;
and a return to natural and simple living is the only remedy for human

(2) The natural instincts and pleasures of childhood are the true standards
of a man's happiness in this life. All artificial pleasures soon grow
tiresome. The natural pleasures, which a man so easily neglects in his
work, are the chief means by which we may expect permanent and increasing
joy. In "Tintern Abbey," "The Rainbow," "Ode to Duty," and "Intimations of
Immortality" we see this plain teaching; but we can hardly read one of
Wordsworth's pages without finding it slipped in unobtrusively, like the
fragrance of a wild flower.

(3) The _truth_ of humanity, that is, the common life which labors and loves
and shares the general heritage of smiles and tears, is the only subject of
permanent literary interest. Burns and the early poets of the Revival began
the good work of showing the romantic interest of common life; and
Wordsworth continued it in "Michael," "The Solitary Reaper," "To a Highland
Girl," "Stepping Westward," _The Excursion_, and a score of lesser poems.
Joy and sorrow, not of princes or heroes, but "in widest commonalty
spread," are his themes; and the hidden purpose of many of his poems is to
show that the keynote of all life is happiness,--not an occasional thing,
the result of chance or circumstance, but a heroic thing, to be won, as one
would win any other success, by work and patience.

(4) To this natural philosophy of man Wordsworth adds a mystic element, the
result of his own belief that in every natural object there is a reflection
of the living God. Nature is everywhere transfused and illumined by Spirit;
man also is a reflection of the divine Spirit; and we shall never
understand the emotions roused by a flower or a sunset until we learn that
nature appeals through the eye of man to his inner spirit. In a word,
nature must be "spiritually discerned." In "Tintern Abbey" the spiritual
appeal of nature is expressed in almost every line; but the mystic
conception of man is seen more clearly in "Intimations of Immortality,"
which Emerson calls "the high-water mark of poetry in the nineteenth
century." In this last splendid ode Wordsworth adds to his spiritual
interpretation of nature and man the alluring doctrine of preëxistence,
which has appealed so powerfully to Hindoo and Greek in turn, and which
makes of human life a continuous, immortal thing, without end or beginning.

Wordsworth's longer poems, since they contain much that is prosy and
uninteresting, may well be left till after we have read the odes, sonnets,
and short descriptive poems that have made him famous. As showing a certain
heroic cast of Wordsworth's mind, it is interesting to learn that the
greater part of his work, including _The Prelude_ and _The Excursion_, was
intended for a place in a single great poem, to be called _The Recluse_,
which should treat of nature, man, and society. _The Prelude_, treating of
the growth of a poet's mind, was to introduce the work. The _Home at
Grasmere_, which is the first book of _The Recluse_, was not published till
1888, long after the poet's death. _The Excursion_ (1814) is the second
book of _The Recluse_; and the third was never completed, though Wordsworth
intended to include most of his shorter poems in this third part, and so
make an immense personal epic of a poet's life and work. It is perhaps just
as well that the work remained unfinished. The best of his work appeared in
the _Lyrical Ballads_ (1798) and in the sonnets, odes, and lyrics of the
next ten years; though "The Duddon Sonnets" (1820), "To a Skylark" (1825),
and "Yarrow Revisited" (1831) show that he retained till past sixty much of
his youthful enthusiasm. In his later years, however, he perhaps wrote too
much; his poetry, like his prose, becomes dull and unimaginative; and we
miss the flashes of insight, the tender memories of childhood, and the
recurrence of noble lines--each one a poem--that constitutes the surprise
and the delight of reading Wordsworth.

    The outward shows of sky and earth,
      Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
    And impulses of deeper birth
      Have come to him in solitude.
    In common things that round us lie
      Some random truths he can impart--
    The harvest of a quiet eye
      That broods and sleeps on his own heart.


    A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear,
      A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
    Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
      In word, or sigh, or tear.

In the wonderful "Ode to Dejection," from which the above fragment is
taken, we have a single strong impression of Coleridge's whole life,--a
sad, broken, tragic life, in marked contrast with the peaceful existence of
his friend Wordsworth. For himself, during the greater part of his life,
the poet had only grief and remorse as his portion; but for everybody else,
for the audiences that were charmed by the brilliancy of his literary
lectures, for the friends who gathered about him to be inspired by his
ideals and conversation, and for all his readers who found unending delight
in the little volume which holds his poetry, he had and still has a
cheering message, full of beauty and hope and inspiration. Such is
Coleridge, a man of grief who makes the world glad.

LIFE. In 1772 there lived in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, a queer little
man, the Rev. John Coleridge, vicar of the parish church and master of the
local grammar school. In the former capacity he preached profound sermons,
quoting to open-mouthed rustics long passages from the Hebrew, which he
told them was the very tongue of the Holy Ghost. In the latter capacity he
wrote for his boys a new Latin grammar, to mitigate some of the
difficulties of traversing that terrible jungle by means of ingenious
bypaths and short cuts. For instance, when his boys found the ablative a
somewhat difficult case to understand, he told them to think of it as the
_quale-quare-quidditive_ case, which of course makes its meaning perfectly
clear. In both these capacities the elder Coleridge was a sincere man,
gentle and kindly, whose memory was "like a religion" to his sons and
daughters. In that same year was born Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the youngest
of thirteen children. He was an extraordinarily precocious child, who could
read at three years of age, and who, before he was five, had read the Bible
and the Arabian Nights, and could remember an astonishing amount from both
books. From three to six he attended a "dame" school; and from six till
nine (when his father died and left the family destitute) he was in his
father's school, learning the classics, reading an enormous quantity of
English books, avoiding novels, and delighting in cumbrous theological and
metaphysical treatises. At ten he was sent to the Charity School of
Christ's Hospital, London, where he met Charles Lamb, who records his
impression of the place and of Coleridge in one of his famous essays.[224]
Coleridge seems to have remained in this school for seven or eight years
without visiting his home,--a poor, neglected boy, whose comforts and
entertainments were all within himself. Just as, when a little child, he
used to wander over the fields with a stick in his hand, slashing the tops
from weeds and thistles, and thinking himself to be the mighty champion of
Christendom against the infidels, so now he would lie on the roof of the
school, forgetting the play of his fellows and the roar of the London
streets, watching the white clouds drifting over and following them in
spirit into all sorts of romantic adventures.

At nineteen this hopeless dreamer, who had read more books than an old
professor, entered Cambridge as a charity student. He remained for nearly
three years, then ran away because of a trifling debt and enlisted in the
Dragoons, where he served several months before he was discovered and
brought back to the university. He left in 1794 without taking his degree;
and presently we find him with the youthful Southey,--a kindred spirit, who
had been fired to wild enthusiasm by the French Revolution,--founding his
famous Pantisocracy for the regeneration of human society. "The Fall of
Robespierre," a poem composed by the two enthusiasts, is full of the new
revolutionary spirit. The Pantisocracy, on the banks of the Susquehanna,
was to be an ideal community, in which the citizens combined farming and
literature; and work was to be limited to two hours each day. Moreover,
each member of the community was to marry a good woman, and take her with
him. The two poets obeyed the latter injunction first, marrying two
sisters, and then found that they had no money to pay even their traveling
expenses to the new Utopia.

During all the rest of his career a tragic weakness of will takes
possession of Coleridge, making it impossible for him, with all his genius
and learning, to hold himself steadily to any one work or purpose. He
studied in Germany; worked as a private secretary, till the drudgery wore
upon his free spirit; then he went to Rome and remained for two years, lost
in study. Later he started _The Friend_, a paper devoted to truth and
liberty; lectured on poetry and the fine arts to enraptured audiences in
London, until his frequent failures to meet his engagements scattered his
hearers; was offered an excellent position and a half interest (amounting
to some £2000) in the _Morning Post_ and _The Courier_, but declined it,
saying "that I would not give up the country and the lazy reading of old
folios for two thousand times two thousand pounds,--in short, that beyond
£350 a year I considered money a real evil." His family, meanwhile, was
almost entirely neglected; he lived apart, following his own way, and the
wife and children were left in charge of his friend Southey. Needing money,
he was on the point of becoming a Unitarian minister, when a small pension
from two friends enabled him to live for a few years without regular

A terrible shadow in Coleridge's life was the apparent cause of most of his
dejection. In early life he suffered from neuralgia, and to ease the pain
began to use opiates. The result on such a temperament was almost
inevitable. He became a slave to the drug habit; his naturally weak will
lost all its directing and sustaining force, until, after fifteen years of
pain and struggle and despair, he gave up and put himself in charge of a
physician, one Mr. Gillman, of Highgate. Carlyle, who visited him at this
time, calls him "a king of men," but records that "he gave you the idea of
a life that had been full of sufferings, a life heavy-laden,
half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of manifold physical and
other bewilderment."

The shadow is dark indeed; but there are gleams of sunshine that
occasionally break through the clouds. One of these is his association with
Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, in the Quantock hills, out of which came
the famous _Lyrical Ballads_ of 1798. Another was his loyal devotion to
poetry for its own sake. With the exception of his tragedy _Remorse_, which
through Byron's influence was accepted at Drury Lane Theater, and for which
he was paid £400, he received almost nothing for his poetry. Indeed, he
seems not to have desired it; for he says: "Poetry has been to me its own
exceeding great reward; it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied
and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it has given me
the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that
meets and surrounds me." One can better understand his exquisite verse
after such a declaration. A third ray of sunlight came from the admiration
of his contemporaries; for though he wrote comparatively little, he was by
his talents and learning a leader among literary men, and his conversations
were as eagerly listened to as were those of Dr. Johnson. Wordsworth says
of him that, though other men of the age had done some wonderful things,
Coleridge was the only wonderful man he had ever known. Of his lectures on
literature a contemporary says: "His words seem to flow as from a person
repeating with grace and energy some delightful poem." And of his
conversation it is recorded: "Throughout a long-drawn summer's day would
this man talk to you in low, equable but clear and musical tones,
concerning things human and divine; marshalling all history, harmonizing
all experiment, probing the depths of your consciousness, and revealing
visions of glory and terror to the imagination."

The last bright ray of sunlight comes from Coleridge's own soul, from the
gentle, kindly nature which made men love and respect him in spite of his
weaknesses, and which caused Lamb to speak of him humorously as "an
archangel a little damaged." The universal law of suffering seems to be
that it refines and softens humanity; and Coleridge was no exception to the
law. In his poetry we find a note of human sympathy, more tender and
profound than can be found in Wordsworth or, indeed, in any other of the
great English poets. Even in his later poems, when he has lost his first
inspiration and something of the splendid imaginative power that makes his
work equal to the best of Blake's, we find a soul tender, triumphant,
quiet, "in the stillness of a great peace." He died in 1834, and was buried
in Highgate Church. The last stanza of the boatman's song, in _Remorse_,
serves better to express the world's judgment than any epitaph:

    Hark! the cadence dies away
    On the quiet moon-lit sea;
    The boatmen rest their oars and say,
      _Miserere Domini!_

WORKS OF COLERIDGE. The works of Coleridge naturally divide themselves into
three classes,--the poetic, the critical, and the philosophical,
corresponding to the early, the middle, and the later periods of his
career. Of his poetry Stopford Brooke well says: "All that he did
excellently might be bound up in twenty pages, but it should be bound in
pure gold." His early poems show the influence of Gray and Blake,
especially of the latter. When Coleridge begins his "Day Dream" with the
line, "My eyes make pictures when they're shut," we recall instantly
Blake's haunting _Songs of Innocence_. But there is this difference between
the two poets,--in Blake we have only a dreamer; in Coleridge we have the
rare combination of the dreamer and the profound scholar. The quality of
this early poetry, with its strong suggestion of Blake, may be seen in such
poems as "A Day Dream," "The Devil's Thoughts," "The Suicide's Argument,"
and "The Wanderings of Cain." His later poems, wherein we see his
imagination bridled by thought and study, but still running very freely,
may best be appreciated in "Kubla Khan," "Christabel," and "The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner." It is difficult to criticise such poems; one can only
read them and wonder at their melody, and at the vague suggestions which
they conjure up in the mind. "Kubla Khan" is a fragment, painting a
gorgeous Oriental dream picture, such as one might see in an October
sunset. The whole poem came to Coleridge one morning when he had fallen
asleep over Purchas, and upon awakening he began to write hastily,

    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.

He was interrupted after fifty-four lines were written, and he never
finished the poem.

"Christabel" is also a fragment, which seems to have been planned as the
story of a pure young girl who fell under the spell of a sorcerer, in the
shape of the woman Geraldine. It is full of a strange melody, and contains
many passages of exquisite poetry; but it trembles with a strange, unknown
horror, and so suggests the supernatural terrors of the popular hysterical
novels, to which we have referred. On this account it is not wholesome
reading; though one flies in the face of Swinburne and of other critics by
venturing to suggest such a thing.

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is Coleridge's chief contribution to the
_Lyrical Ballads_ of 1798, and is one of the world's masterpieces. Though
it introduces the reader to a supernatural realm, with a phantom ship, a
crew of dead men, the overhanging curse of the albatross, the polar spirit,
and the magic breeze, it nevertheless manages to create a sense of absolute
reality concerning these manifest absurdities. All the mechanisms of the
poem, its meter, rime, and melody are perfect; and some of its descriptions
of the lonely sea have never been equaled. Perhaps we should say
suggestions, rather than descriptions; for Coleridge never describes
things, but makes a suggestion, always brief and always exactly right, and
our own imagination instantly supplies the details. It is useless to quote
fragments; one must read the entire poem, if he reads nothing else of the
romantic school of poetry.

Among Coleridge's shorter poems there is a wide variety, and each reader
must be left largely to follow his own taste. The beginner will do well to
read a few of the early poems, to which we have referred, and then try the
"Ode to France," "Youth and Age," "Dejection," "Love Poems," "Fears in
Solitude," "Religious Musings," "Work Without Hope," and the glorious "Hymn
Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni." One exquisite little poem from the
Latin, "The Virgin's Cradle Hymn," and his version of Schiller's
_Wallenstein_, show Coleridge's remarkable power as a translator. The
latter is one of the best poetical translations in our literature.

Of Coleridge's prose works, the _Biographia, Literaria, or Sketches of My
Literary Life and Opinions_ (1817), his collected _Lectures on Shakespeare_
(1849), and _Aids to Reflection_ (1825) are the most interesting from a
literary view point. The first is an explanation and criticism of
Wordsworth's theory of poetry, and contains more sound sense and
illuminating ideas on the general subject of poetry than any other book in
our language. The _Lectures_, as refreshing as a west wind in midsummer,
are remarkable for their attempt to sweep away the arbitrary rules which
for two centuries had stood in the way of literary criticism of
Shakespeare, in order to study the works themselves. No finer analysis and
appreciation of the master's genius has ever been written. In his
philosophical work Coleridge introduced the idealistic philosophy of
Germany into England. He set himself in line with Berkeley, and squarely
against Bentham, Malthus, Mill, and all the materialistic tendencies which
were and still are the bane of English philosophy. The _Aids to Reflection_
is Coleridge's most profound work, but is more interesting to the student
of religion and philosophy than to the readers of literature.

ROBERT SOUTHEY (1774-1843)

Closely associated with Wordsworth and Coleridge is Robert Southey; and the
three, on account of their residence in the northern lake district, were
referred to contemptuously as the "Lakers" by the Scottish magazine
reviewers. Southey holds his place in this group more by personal
association than by his literary gifts. He was born at Bristol, in 1774;
studied at Westminster School, and at Oxford, where he found himself in
perpetual conflict with the authorities on account of his independent
views. He finally left the university and joined Coleridge in his scheme of
a Pantisocracy. For more than fifty years he labored steadily at
literature, refusing to consider any other occupation. He considered
himself seriously as one of the greatest writers of the day, and a reading
of his ballads--which connected him at once with the romantic school--leads
us to think that, had he written less, he might possibly have justified his
own opinion of himself. Unfortunately he could not wait for inspiration,
being obliged to support not only his own family but also, in large
measure, that of his friend Coleridge.

Southey gradually surrounded himself with one of the most extensive
libraries in England, and set himself to the task of of writing something
every working day. The results of his industry were one hundred and nine
volumes, besides some hundred and fifty articles for the magazines, most of
which are now utterly forgotten. His most ambitious poems are _Thalaba_, a
tale of Arabian enchantment; _The Curse of Kehama_, a medley of Hindoo
mythology; _Madoc_, a legend of a Welsh prince who discovered the western
world; and _Roderick_, a tale of the last of the Goths. All these, and many
more, although containing some excellent passages, are on the whole
exaggerated and unreal, both in manner and in matter. Southey wrote far
better prose than poetry, and his admirable _Life of Nelson_ is still often
read. Besides these are his _Lives of British Admirals_, his lives of
Cowper and Wesley, and his histories of Brazil and of the Peninsular War.

Southey was made Poet Laureate in 1813, and was the first to raise that
office from the low estate into which it had fallen since the death of
Dryden. The opening lines of Thalaba, beginning,

    How beautiful is night!
    A dewy freshness fills the silent air,

are still sometimes quoted; and a few of his best known short poems, like
"The Scholar," "Auld Cloots," "The Well of St. Keyne," "The Inchcape Rock,"
and "Lodore," will repay the curious reader. The beauty of Southey's
character, his patience and helpfulness, make him a worthy associate of the
two greater poets with whom he is generally named.

WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832)

We have already called attention to two significant movements of the
eighteenth century, which we must for a moment recall if we are to
appreciate Scott, not simply as a delightful teller of tales, but as a
tremendous force in modern literature. The first is the triumph of romantic
poetry in Wordsworth and Coleridge; the second is the success of our first
English novelists, and the popularization of literature by taking it from
the control of a few patrons and critics and putting it into the hands of
the people as one of the forces which mold our modern life. Scott is an
epitome of both these movements. The poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge was
read by a select few, but Scott's _Marmion_ and _Lady of the Lake_ aroused
a whole nation to enthusiasm, and for the first time romantic poetry became
really popular. So also the novel had been content to paint men and women
of the present, until the wonderful series of Waverley novels appeared,
when suddenly, by the magic of this "Wizard of the North," all history
seemed changed. The past, which had hitherto appeared as a dreary region of
dead heroes, became alive again, and filled with a multitude of men and
women who had the surprising charm of reality. It is of small consequence
that Scott's poetry and prose are both faulty; that his poems are read
chiefly for the story, rather than for their poetic excellence; and that
much of the evident crudity and barbarism of the Middle Ages is ignored or
forgotten in Scott's writings. By their vigor, their freshness, their rapid
action, and their breezy, out-of-door atmosphere, Scott's novels attracted
thousands of readers who else had known nothing of the delights of
literature. He is, therefore, the greatest known factor in establishing and
in popularizing that romantic element in prose and poetry which has been
for a hundred years the chief characteristic of our literature.

LIFE. Scott was born in Edinburgh, on August 15, 1771. On both his mother's
and father's side he was descended from old Border families, distinguished
more for their feuds and fighting than for their intellectual attainments.
His father was a barrister, a just man, who often lost clients by advising
them to be, first of all, honest in their lawsuits. His mother was a woman
of character and education, strongly imaginative, a teller of tales which
stirred young Walter's enthusiasm by revealing the past as a world of
living heroes.

As a child, Scott was lame and delicate, and was therefore sent away from
the city to be with his grandmother in the open country at Sandy Knowe, in
Roxburghshire, near the Tweed. This grandmother was a perfect treasure-
house of legends concerning the old Border feuds. From her wonderful tales
Scott developed that intense love of Scottish history and tradition which
characterizes all his work.

By the time he was eight years old, when he returned to Edinburgh, Scott's
tastes were fixed for life. At the high school he was a fair scholar, but
without enthusiasm, being more interested in Border stories than in the
text-books. He remained at school only six or seven years, and then entered
his father's office to study law, at the same time attending lectures at
the university. He kept this up for some six years without developing any
interest in his profession, not even when he passed his examinations and
was admitted to the Bar, in 1792. After nineteen years of desultory work,
in which he showed far more zeal in gathering Highland legends than in
gaining clients, he had won two small legal offices which gave him enough
income to support him comfortably. His home, meanwhile, was at Ashestiel on
the Tweed, where all his best poetry was written.

Scott's literary work began with the translation from the German of
Bürger's romantic ballad of _Lenore_ (1796) and of Goethe's _Götz von
Berlichingen_ (1799); but there was romance enough in his own loved
Highlands, and in 1802-1803 appeared three volumes of his _Minstrelsy of
the Scottish Border_, which he had been collecting for many years. In 1805,
when Scott was 34 years old, appeared his first original work, _The Lay of
the Last Minstrel_. Its success was immediate, and when _Marmion_ (1808)
and _The Lady of the Lake_ (1810) aroused Scotland and England to intense
enthusiasm, and brought unexpected fame to the author,--without in the
least spoiling his honest and lovable nature,--Scott gladly resolved to
abandon the law, in which he had won scant success, and give himself wholly
to literature. Unfortunately, however, in order to increase his earnings,
he entered secretly into partnership with the firms of Constable and the
brothers Ballantyne, as printer-publishers,--a sad mistake, indeed, and the
cause of that tragedy which closed the life of Scotland's greatest writer.

The year 1811 is remarkable for two things in Scott's life. In this year he
seems to have realized that, notwithstanding the success of his poems, he
had not yet "found himself"; that he was not a poetic genius, like Burns;
that in his first three poems he had practically exhausted his material,
though he still continued to write verse; and that, if he was to keep his
popularity, he must find some other work. The fact that, only a year later,
Byron suddenly became the popular favorite, shows how correctly Scott had
judged himself and the reading public, which was even more fickle than
usual in this emotional age. In that same year, 1811, Scott bought the
estate of Abbotsford, on the Tweed, with which place his name is forever
associated. Here he began to spend large sums, and to dispense the generous
hospitality of a Scotch laird, of which he had been dreaming for years. In
1820 he was made a baronet; and his new title of Sir Walter came nearer to
turning his honest head than had all his literary success. His business
partnership was kept secret, and during all the years when the Waverley
novels were the most popular books in the world, their authorship remained
unknown; for Scott deemed it beneath the dignity of his title to earn money
by business or literature, and sought to give the impression that the
enormous sums spent at Abbotsford in improving the estate and in
entertaining lavishly were part of the dignity of the position and came
from ancestral sources.

It was the success of Byron's _Childe Harold_, and the comparative failure
of Scott's later poems, _Rokeby_, _The Bridal of Triermain_, and _The Lord
of the Isles_, which led our author into the new field, where he was to be
without a rival. Rummaging through a cabinet one day in search of some
fishing tackle, Scott found the manuscript of a story which he had begun
and laid aside nine years before. He read this old story eagerly, as if it
had been another's work; finished it within three weeks, and published it
without signing his name. The success of this first novel, _Waverley_
(1814), was immediate and unexpected. Its great sales and the general
chorus of praise for its unknown author were without precedent; and when
_Guy Mannering, The Antiquary, Black Dwarf, Old Mortality, Rob Roy_, and
_The Heart of Midlothian_ appeared within the next four years, England's
delight and wonder knew no bounds. Not only at home, but also on the
Continent, large numbers of these fresh and fascinating stories were sold
as fast as they could be printed.

During the seventeen years which followed the appearance of _Waverley_,
Scott wrote on an average nearly two novels per year, creating an unusual
number of characters and illustrating many periods of Scotch, English, and
French history, from the time of the Crusades to the fall of the Stuarts.
In addition to these historical novels, he wrote _Tales of a Grandfather,
Demonology and Witchcraft_, biographies of Dryden and of Swift, the _Life
of Napoleon_, in nine volumes, and a large number of articles for the
reviews and magazines. It was an extraordinary amount of literary work, but
it was not quite so rapid and spontaneous as it seemed. He had been very
diligent in looking up old records, and we must remember that, in nearly
all his poems and novels, Scott was drawing upon a fund of legend,
tradition, history, and poetry, which he had been gathering for forty
years, and which his memory enabled him to produce at will with almost the
accuracy of an encyclopedia.

For the first six years Scott held himself to Scottish history, giving us
in nine remarkable novels the whole of Scotland, its heroism, its superb
faith and enthusiasm, and especially its clannish loyalty to its hereditary
chiefs; giving us also all parties and characters, from Covenanters to
Royalists, and from kings to beggars. After reading these nine volumes we
know Scotland and Scotchmen as we can know them in no other way. In 1819 he
turned abruptly from Scotland, and in _Ivanhoe_, the most popular of his
works, showed what a mine of neglected wealth lay just beneath the surface
of English history. It is hard to realize now, as we read its rapid,
melodramatic action, its vivid portrayal of Saxon and Norman character, and
all its picturesque details, that it was written rapidly, at a time when
the author was suffering from disease and could hardly repress an
occasional groan from finding its way into the rapid dictation. It stands
to-day as the best example of the author's own theory that the will of a
man is enough to hold him steadily, against all obstacles, to the task of
"doing what he has a mind to do." _Kenilworth, Nigel, Peveril_, and
_Woodstock_, all written in the next few years, show his grasp of the
romantic side of English annals; _Count Robert_ and _The Talisman_ show his
enthusiasm for the heroic side of the Crusaders' nature; and _Quentin
Durward_ and _Anne of Geierstein_ suggest another mine of romance which he
discovered in French history.

For twenty years Scott labored steadily at literature, with the double
object of giving what was in him, and of earning large sums to support the
lavish display which he deemed essential to a laird of Scotland. In 1826,
while he was blithely at work on _Woodstock_, the crash came. Not even the
vast earnings of all these popular novels could longer keep the wretched
business of Ballantyne on its feet, and the firm failed, after years of
mismanagement. Though a silent partner, Scott assumed full responsibility,
and at fifty-five years of age, sick, suffering, and with all his best work
behind him, he found himself facing a debt of over half a million dollars.
The firm could easily have compromised with its creditors; but Scott
refused to hear of bankruptcy laws under which he could have taken refuge.
He assumed the entire debt as a personal one, and set resolutely to work to
pay every penny. Times were indeed changed in England when, instead of a
literary genius starving until some wealthy patron gave him a pension, this
man, aided by his pen alone, could confidently begin to earn that enormous
amount of money. And this is one of the unnoticed results of the
popularization of literature. Without a doubt Scott would have accomplished
the task, had he been granted only a few years of health. He still lived at
Abbotsford, which he had offered to his creditors, but which they
generously refused to accept; and in two years, by miscellaneous work, had
paid some two hundred thousand dollars of his debt, nearly half of this sum
coming from his _Life of Napoleon_. A new edition of the Waverley novels
appeared, which was very successful financially, and Scott had every reason
to hope that he would soon face the world owing no man a penny, when he
suddenly broke under the strain. In 1830 occurred a stroke of paralysis
from which he never fully recovered; though after a little time he was
again at work, dictating with splendid patience and resolution. He writes
in his diary at this time: "The blow is a stunning one, I suppose, for I
scarcely feel it. It is singular, but it comes with as little surprise as
if I had a remedy ready, yet God knows I am at sea in the dark, and the
vessel leaky."

It is good to remember that governments are not always ungrateful, and to
record that, when it became known that a voyage to Italy might improve
Scott's health, the British government promptly placed a naval vessel at
the disposal of a man who had led no armies to the slaughter, but had only
given pleasure to multitudes of peaceable men and women by his stories. He
visited Malta, Naples, and Rome; but in his heart he longed for Scotland,
and turned homeward after a few months of exile. The river Tweed, the
Scotch hills, the trees of Abbotsford, the joyous clamor of his dogs,
brought forth the first exclamation of delight which had passed Scott's
lips since he sailed away. He died in September of the same year, 1832, and
was buried with his ancestors in the old Dryburgh Abbey.

WORKS OF SCOTT. Scott's work is of a kind which the critic gladly passes
over, leaving each reader to his own joyous and uninstructed opinion. From
a literary view point the works are faulty enough, if one is looking for
faults; but it is well to remember that they were intended to give delight,
and that they rarely fail of their object. When one has read the stirring
_Marmion_ or the more enduring _Lady of the Lake_, felt the heroism of the
Crusaders in _The Talisman_, the picturesqueness of chivalry in _Ivanhoe_,
the nobleness of soul of a Scotch peasant girl in _The Heart of
Midlothian_, and the quality of Scotch faith in _Old Mortality_, then his
own opinion of Scott's genius will be of more value than all the criticisms
that have ever been written.

At the outset we must confess frankly that Scott's poetry is not artistic,
in the highest sense, and that it lacks the deeply imaginative and
suggestive qualities which make a poem the noblest and most enduring work
of humanity. We read it now, not for its poetic excellence, but for its
absorbing story interest. Even so, it serves an admirable purpose.
_Marmion_ and _The Lady of the Lake_, which are often the first long poems
read by the beginner in literature, almost invariably lead to a deeper
interest in the subject; and many readers owe to these poems an
introduction to the delights of poetry. They are an excellent beginning,
therefore, for young readers, since they are almost certain to hold the
attention, and to lead indirectly to an interest in other and better poems.
Aside from this, Scott's poetry is marked by vigor and youthful abandon;
its interest lies in its vivid pictures, its heroic characters, and
especially in its rapid action and succession of adventures, which hold and
delight us still, as they held and delighted the first wondering readers.
And one finds here and there terse descriptions, or snatches of song and
ballad, like the "Boat Song" and "Lochinvar," which are among the best
known in our literature.

In his novels Scott plainly wrote too rapidly and too much. While a genius
of the first magnitude, the definition of genius as "the infinite capacity
for taking pains" hardly belongs to him. For details of life and history,
for finely drawn characters, and for tracing the logical consequences of
human action, he has usually no inclination. He sketches a character
roughly, plunges him into the midst of stirring incidents, and the action
of the story carries us on breathlessly to the end. So his stories are
largely adventure stories, at the best; and it is this element of adventure
and glorious action, rather than the study of character, which makes Scott
a perennial favorite of the young. The same element of excitement is what
causes mature readers to turn from Scott to better novelists, who have more
power to delineate human character, and to create, or discover, a romantic
interest in the incidents of everyday life rather than in stirring

Notwithstanding these limitations, it is well--especially in these days,
when we hear that Scott is outgrown--to emphasize four noteworthy things
that he accomplished.

(1) He created the historical novel[226]; and all novelists of the last
century who draw upon history for their characters and events are followers
of Scott and acknowledge his mastery.

(2) His novels are on a vast scale, covering a very wide range of action,
and are concerned with public rather than with private interests. So, with
the exception of _The Bride of Lammermoor_, the love story in his novels is
generally pale and feeble; but the strife and passions of big parties are
magnificently portrayed. A glance over even the titles of his novels shows
how the heroic side of history for over six hundred years finds expression
in his pages; and all the parties of these six centuries--Crusaders,
Covenanters, Cavaliers, Roundheads, Papists, Jews, Gypsies, Rebels--start
into life again, and fight or give a reason for the faith that is in them.
No other novelist in England, and only Balzac in France, approaches Scott
in the scope of his narratives.

(3) Scott was the first novelist in any language to make the scene an
essential element in the action. He knew Scotland, and loved it; and there
is hardly an event in any of his Scottish novels in which we do not breathe
the very atmosphere of the place, and feel the presence of its moors and
mountains. The place, morever, is usually so well chosen and described that
the action seems almost to be the result of natural environment. Perhaps
the most striking illustration of this harmony between scene and incident
is found in _Old Mortality_, where Morton approaches the cave of the old
Covenanter, and where the spiritual terror inspired by the fanatic's
struggle with imaginary fiends is paralleled by the physical terror of a
gulf and a roaring flood spanned by a slippery tree trunk. A second
illustration of the same harmony of scene and incident is found in the
meeting of the arms and ideals of the East and West, when the two champions
fight in the burning desert, and then eat bread together in the cool shade
of the oasis, as described in the opening chapter of _The Talisman_. A
third illustration is found in that fascinating love scene, where Ivanhoe
lies wounded, raging at his helplessness, while the gentle Rebecca
alternately hides and reveals her love as she describes the terrific
assault on the castle, which goes on beneath her window. His thoughts are
all on the fight; hers on the man she loves; and both are natural, and both
are exactly what we expect under the circumstances. These are but striking
examples of the fact that, in all his work, Scott tries to preserve perfect
harmony between the scene and the action.

(4) Scott's chief claim to greatness lies in the fact that he was the first
novelist to recreate the past; that he changed our whole conception of
history by making it to be, not a record of dry facts, but a stage on which
living men and women played their parts. Carlyle's criticism is here most
pertinent: "These historical novels have taught this truth ... unknown to
writers of history: that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled
by living men, not by protocols, state papers, controversies, and
abstractions of men." Not only the pages of history, but all the hills and
vales of his beloved Scotland are filled with living characters,--lords and
ladies, soldiers, pirates, gypsies, preachers, schoolmasters, clansmen,
bailiffs, dependents,--all Scotland is here before our eyes, in the reality
of life itself. It is astonishing, with his large numbers of characters,
that Scott never repeats himself. Naturally he is most at home in Scotland,
and with humble people. Scott's own romantic interest in feudalism caused
him to make his lords altogether too lordly; his aristocratic maidens are
usually bloodless, conventional, exasperating creatures, who talk like
books and pose like figures in an old tapestry. But when he describes
characters like Jeanie Deans, in _The Heart of Midlothian_, and the old
clansman, Evan Dhu, in _Waverley_, we know the very soul of Scotch
womanhood and manhood.

Perhaps one thing more should be said, or rather repeated, of Scott's
enduring work. He is always sane, wholesome, manly, inspiring. We know the
essential nobility of human life better, and we are better men and women
ourselves, because of what he has written.


There are two distinct sides to Byron and his poetry, one good, the other
bad; and those who write about him generally describe one side or the other
in superlatives. Thus one critic speaks of his "splendid and imperishable
excellence of sincerity and strength"; another of his "gaudy charlatanry,
blare of brass, and big bow-wowishness." As both critics are fundamentally
right, we shall not here attempt to reconcile their differences, which
arise from viewing one side of the man's nature and poetry to the exclusion
of the other. Before his exile from England, in 1816, the general
impression made by Byron is that of a man who leads an irregular life,
poses as a romantic hero, makes himself out much worse than he really is,
and takes delight in shocking not only the conventions but the ideals of
English society. His poetry of this first period is generally, though not
always, shallow and insincere in thought, and declamatory or bombastic in
expression. After his exile, and his meeting with Shelley in Italy, we note
a gradual improvement, due partly to Shelley's influence and partly to his
own mature thought and experience. We have the impression now of a
disillusioned man who recognizes his true character, and who, though
cynical and pessimistic, is at least honest in his unhappy outlook on
society. His poetry of this period is generally less shallow and
rhetorical, and though he still parades his feelings in public, he often
surprises us by being manly and sincere. Thus in the third canto of _Childe
Harold_, written just after his exile, he says:

    In my youth's summer I did sing of one,
    The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;

and as we read on to the end of the splendid fourth canto--with its poetic
feeling for nature, and its stirring rhythm that grips and holds the reader
like martial music--we lay down the book with profound regret that this
gifted man should have devoted so much of his talent to describing trivial
or unwholesome intrigues and posing as the hero of his own verses. The real
tragedy of Byron's life is that he died just as he was beginning to find

LIFE. Byron was born in London in 1788, the year preceding the French
Revolution. We shall understand him better, and judge him more charitably,
if we remember the tainted stock from which he sprang. His father was a
dissipated spendthrift of unspeakable morals; his mother was a Scotch
heiress, passionate and unbalanced. The father deserted his wife after
squandering her fortune; and the boy was brought up by the mother who
"alternately petted and abused" him. In his eleventh year the death of a
granduncle left him heir to Newstead Abbey and to the baronial title of one
of the oldest houses in England. He was singularly handsome; and a lameness
resulting from a deformed foot lent a suggestion of pathos to his make-up.
All this, with his social position, his pseudo-heroic poetry, and his
dissipated life,--over which he contrived to throw a veil of romantic
secrecy,--made him a magnet of attraction to many thoughtless young men and
foolish women, who made the downhill path both easy and rapid to one whose
inclinations led him in that direction. Naturally he was generous, and
easily led by affection. He is, therefore, largely a victim of his own
weakness and of unfortunate surroundings.

At school at Harrow, and in the university at Cambridge, Byron led an
unbalanced life, and was more given to certain sports from which he was not
debarred by lameness, than to books and study. His school life, like his
infancy, is sadly marked by vanity, violence, and rebellion against every
form of authority; yet it was not without its hours of nobility and
generosity. Scott describes him as "a man of real goodness of heart, and
the kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown away by his foolish
contempt of public opinion." While at Cambridge, Byron published his first
volume of poems, _Hours of Idleness_, in 1807. A severe criticism of the
volume in the _Edinburgh Review_ wounded Byron's vanity, and threw him into
a violent passion, the result of which was the now famous satire called
_English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_, in which not only his enemies, but
also Scott, Wordsworth, and nearly all the literary men of his day, were
satirized in heroic couplets after the manner of Pope's _Dunciad_. It is
only just to say that he afterwards made friends with Scott and with others
whom he had abused without provocation; and it is interesting to note, in
view of his own romantic poetry, that he denounced all masters of romance
and accepted the artificial standards of Pope and Dryden. His two favorite
books were the Old Testament and a volume of Pope's poetry. Of the latter
he says, "His is the greatest name in poetry ... all the rest are

In 1809 Byron, when only twenty-one years of age, started on a tour of
Europe and the Orient. The poetic results of this trip were the first two
cantos of _Childe Harold's Pilgrimage_, with their famous descriptions of
romantic scenery. The work made him instantly popular, and his fame
overshadowed Scott's completely. As he says himself, "I awoke one morning
to find myself famous," and presently he styles himself "the grand Napoleon
of the realms of rhyme." The worst element in Byron at this time was his
insincerity, his continual posing as the hero of his poetry. His best works
were translated, and his fame spread almost as rapidly on the Continent as
in England. Even Goethe was deceived, and declared that a man so wonderful
in character had never before appeared in literature, and would never
appear again. Now that the tinsel has worn off, and we can judge the man
and his work dispassionately, we see how easily even the critics of the age
were governed by romantic impulses.

The adulation of Byron lasted only a few years in England. In 1815 he
married Miss Milbanke, an English heiress, who abruptly left him a year
later. With womanly reserve she kept silence; but the public was not slow
to imagine plenty of reasons for the separation. This, together with the
fact that men had begun to penetrate the veil of romantic secrecy with
which Byron surrounded himself and found a rather brassy idol beneath,
turned the tide of public opinion against him. He left England under a
cloud of distrust and disappointment, in 1816, and never returned. Eight
years were spent abroad, largely in Italy, where he was associated with
Shelley until the latter's tragic death in 1822. His house was ever the
meeting place for Revolutionists and malcontents calling themselves
patriots, whom he trusted too greatly, and with whom he shared his money
most generously. Curiously enough, while he trusted men too easily, he had
no faith in human society or government, and wrote in 1817: "I have
simplified my politics to an utter detestation of all existing
governments." During his exile he finished _Childe Harold, The Prisoner of
Chillon_, his dramas _Cain_ and _Manfred_, and numerous other works, in
some of which, as in _Don Juan_, he delighted in revenging himself upon his
countrymen by holding up to ridicule all that they held most sacred.

In 1824 Byron went to Greece to give himself and a large part of his
fortune to help that country in its struggle for liberty against the Turks.
How far he was led by his desire for posing as a hero, and how far by a
certain vigorous Viking spirit that was certainly in him, will never be
known. The Greeks welcomed him and made him a leader, and for a few months
he found himself in the midst of a wretched squabble of lies, selfishness,
insincerity, cowardice, and intrigue, instead of the heroic struggle for
liberty which he had anticipated. He died of fever, in Missolonghi, in
1824. One of his last poems, written there on his thirty-sixth birthday, a
few months before he died, expresses his own view of his disappointing

    My days are in the yellow leaf,
    The flowers and fruits of love are gone:
    The worm, the canker, and the grief
        Are mine alone.

WORKS OF BYRON. In reading Byron it is well to remember that he was a
disappointed and embittered man, not only in his personal life, but also in
his expectation of a general transformation of human society. As he pours
out his own feelings, chiefly, in his poetry, he is the most expressive
writer of his age in voicing the discontent of a multitude of Europeans who
were disappointed at the failure of the French Revolution to produce an
entirely new form of government and society.

One who wishes to understand the whole scope of Byron's genius and poetry
will do well to begin with his first work, _Hours of Idleness_, written
when he was a young man at the university. There is very little poetry in
the volume, only a striking facility in rime, brightened by the devil-may-
care spirit of the Cavalier poets; but as a revelation of the man himself
it is remarkable. In a vain and sophomoric preface he declares that poetry
is to him an idle experiment, and that this is his first and last attempt
to amuse himself in that line. Curiously enough, as he starts for Greece on
his last, fatal journey, he again ridicules literature, and says that the
poet is a "mere babbler." It is this despising of the art which alone makes
him famous that occasions our deepest disappointment. Even in his
magnificent passages, in a glowing description of nature or of a Hindoo
woman's exquisite love, his work is frequently marred by a wretched pun, or
by some cheap buffoonery, which ruins our first splendid impression of his

Byron's later volumes, _Manfred_ and _Cain_, the one a curious, and perhaps
unconscious, parody of _Faust_, the other of _Paradise Lost_, are his two
best known dramatic works. Aside from the question of their poetic value,
they are interesting as voicing Byron's excessive individualism and his
rebellion against society. The best known and the most readable of Byron's
works _Mazeppa, The Prisoner of Chillon_, and _Childe Harold's Pilgrimage_.
The first two cantos of _Childe Harold_ (1812) are perhaps more frequently
read than any other work of the same author, partly because of their
melodious verse, partly because of their descriptions of places along the
lines of European travel; but the last two cantos (1816-1818) written after
his exile from England, have more sincerity, and are in every way better
expressions of Byron's mature genius. Scattered through all his works one
finds magnificent descriptions of natural scenery, and exquisite lyrics of
love and despair; but they are mixed with such a deal of bombast and
rhetoric, together with much that is unwholesome, that the beginner will do
well to confine himself to a small volume of well-chosen selections.[227]

Byron is often compared with Scott, as having given to us Europe and the
Orient, just as Scott gave us Scotland and its people; but while there is a
certain resemblance in the swing and dash of the verses, the resemblance is
all on the surface, and the underlying difference between the two poets is
as great as that between Thackeray and Bulwer-Lytton. Scott knew his
country well,--its hills and valleys which are interesting as the abode of
living and lovable men and women. Byron pretended to know the secret,
unwholesome side of Europe, which generally hides itself in the dark; but
instead of giving us a variety of living men, he never gets away from his
own unbalanced and egotistical self. All his characters, in _Cain, Manfred,
The Corsair, The Giaour, Childe Harold, Don Juan_, are tiresome repetitions
of himself,--a vain, disappointed, cynical man, who finds no good in life
or love or anything. Naturally, with such a disposition, he is entirely
incapable of portraying a true woman. To nature alone, especially in her
magnificent moods, Byron remains faithful; and his portrayal of the night
and the storm and the ocean in _Childe Harold_ are unsurpassed in our


    Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
      What if my leaves are falling like its own!
    The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
      Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
    Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce,
      My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

In this fragment, from the "Ode to the West Wind," we have a suggestion of
Shelley's own spirit, as reflected in all his poetry. The very spirit of
nature, which appeals to us in the wind and the cloud, the sunset and the
moonrise, seems to have possessed him, at times, and made him a chosen
instrument of melody. At such times he is a true poet, and his work is
unrivaled. At other times, unfortunately, Shelley joins with Byron in
voicing a vain rebellion against society. His poetry, like his life,
divides itself into two distinct moods. In one he is the violent reformer,
seeking to overthrow our present institutions and to hurry the millennium
out of its slow walk into a gallop. Out of this mood come most of his
longer poems, like _Queen Mab, Revolt of Islam, Hellas_, and _The Witch of
Atlas_, which are somewhat violent diatribes against government, priests,
marriage, religion, even God as men supposed him to be. In a different
mood, which finds expression _Alastor, Adonais_, and his wonderful lyrics,
Shelley is like a wanderer following a vague, beautiful vision, forever sad
and forever unsatisfied. In the latter mood he appeals profoundly to all
men who have known what it is to follow after an unattainable ideal.

SHELLEY'S LIFE. There are three classes of men who see visions, and all
three are represented in our literature. The first is the mere dreamer,
like Blake, who stumbles through a world of reality without noticing it,
and is happy in his visions. The second is the seer, the prophet, like
Langland, or Wyclif, who sees a vision and quietly goes to work, in ways
that men understand, to make the present world a little more like the ideal
one which he sees in his vision. The third, who appears in many forms,--as
visionary, enthusiast, radical, anarchist, revolutionary, call him what you
will,--sees a vision and straightway begins to tear down all human
institutions, which have been built up by the slow toil of centuries,
simply because they seem to stand in the way of his dream. To the latter
class belongs Shelley, a man perpetually at war with the present world, a
martyr and exile, simply because of his inability to sympathize with men
and society as they are, and because of his own mistaken judgment as to the
value and purpose of a vision.

Shelley was born in Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, in 1792. On both his
father's and his mother's side he was descended from noble old families,
famous in the political and literary history of England. From childhood he
lived, like Blake, in a world of fancy, so real that certain imaginary
dragons and headless creatures of the neighboring wood kept him and his
sisters in a state of fearful expectancy. He learned rapidly, absorbed the
classics as if by intuition, and, dissatisfied with ordinary processes of
learning, seems to have sought, like Faustus, the acquaintance of spirits,
as shown in his "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty":

    While yet a boy, I sought for ghosts, and sped
      Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
      And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
    Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.

Shelley's first public school, kept by a hard-headed Scotch master, with
its floggings and its general brutality, seemed to him like a combination
of hell and prison; and his active rebellion against existing institutions
was well under way when, at twelve years of age, he entered the famous
preparatory school at Eton. He was a delicate, nervous, marvelously
sensitive boy, of great physical beauty; and, like Cowper, he suffered
torments at the hands of his rough schoolfellows. Unlike Cowper, he was
positive, resentful, and brave to the point of rashness; soul and body rose
up against tyranny; and he promptly organized a rebellion against the
brutal fagging system. "Mad Shelley" the boys called him, and they chivied
him like dogs around a little coon that fights and cries defiance to the
end. One finds what he seeks in this world, and it is not strange that
Shelley, after his Eton experiences, found causes for rebellion in all
existing forms of human society, and that he left school "to war among
mankind," as he says of himself in the _Revolt of Islam_. His university
days are but a repetition of his earlier experiences. While a student at
Oxford he read some scraps of Hume's philosophy, and immediately published
a pamphlet called "The Necessity of Atheism." It was a crude, foolish piece
of work, and Shelley distributed it by post to every one to whom it might
give offense. Naturally this brought on a conflict with the authorities,
but Shelley would not listen to reason or make any explanation, and was
expelled from the university in 1811.

Shelley's marriage was even more unfortunate. While living in London, on a
generous sister's pocket money, a certain young schoolgirl, Harriet
Westbrook, was attracted by Shelley's crude revolutionary doctrines. She
promptly left school, as her own personal part in the general rebellion,
and refused to return or even to listen to her parents upon the subject.
Having been taught by Shelley, she threw herself upon his protection; and
this unbalanced couple were presently married, as they said, "in deference
to anarch custom." The two infants had already proclaimed a rebellion
against the institution of marriage, for which they proposed to substitute
the doctrine of elective affinity. For two years they wandered about
England, Ireland, and Wales, living on a small allowance from Shelley's
father, who had disinherited his son because of his ill-considered
marriage. The pair soon separated, and two years later Shelley, having
formed a strong friendship with one Godwin,--a leader of young enthusiasts
and a preacher of anarchy,--presently showed his belief in Godwin's
theories by eloping with his daughter Mary. It is a sad story, and the
details were perhaps better forgotten. We should remember that in Shelley
we are dealing with a tragic blend of high-mindedness and light-headedness.
Byron wrote of him, "The most gentle, the most amiable, and the least
worldly-minded person I ever met!"

Led partly by the general hostility against him, and partly by his own
delicate health, Shelley went to Italy in 1818, and never returned to
England. After wandering over Italy he finally settled in Pisa, beloved of
so many English poets,--beautiful, sleepy Pisa, where one looks out of his
window on the main street at the busiest hour of the day, and the only
living thing in sight is a donkey, dozing lazily, with his head in the
shade and his body in the sunshine. Here his best poetry was written, and
here he found comfort in the friendship of Byron, Hunt, and Trelawney, who
are forever associated with Shelley's Italian life. He still remained
hostile to English social institutions; but life is a good teacher, and
that Shelley dimly recognized the error of his rebellion is shown in the
increasing sadness of his later poems:

    O world, O life, O time!
    On whose last steps I climb,
      Trembling at that where I had stood before;
    When will return the glory of your prime?
      No more--oh, never more!
    Out of the day and night
    A joy has taken flight;
      Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,
    Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
      No more--oh, never more!

In 1822, when only thirty years of age, Shelley was drowned while sailing
in a small boat off the Italian coast. His body was washed ashore several
days later, and was cremated, near Viareggio, by his friends, Byron, Hunt,
and Trelawney. His ashes might, with all reverence, have been given to the
winds that he loved and that were a symbol of his restless spirit; instead,
they found a resting place near the grave of Keats, in the English cemetery
at Rome. One rarely visits the spot now without finding English and
American visitors standing in silence before the significant inscription,
_Cor Cordium_.

WORKS OF SHELLEY. As a lyric poet, Shelley is one of the supreme geniuses
of our literature; and the reader will do well to begin with the poems
which show him at his very best. "The Cloud," "To a Skylark," "Ode to the
West Wind," "To Night,"--poems like these must surely set the reader to
searching among Shelley's miscellaneous works, to find for himself the
things "worthy to be remembered."

In reading Shelley's longer poems one must remember that there are in this
poet two distinct men: one, the wanderer, seeking ideal beauty and forever
unsatisfied; the other, the unbalanced reformer, seeking the overthrow of
present institutions and the establishment of universal happiness.
_Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude_ (1816) is by far the best expression
of Shelley's greater mood. Here we see him wandering restlessly through the
vast silences of nature, in search of a loved dream-maiden who shall
satisfy his love of beauty. Here Shelley is the poet of the moonrise, and
of the tender exquisite fancies that can never be expressed. The charm of
the poem lies in its succession of dreamlike pictures; but it gives
absolutely no impressions of reality. It was written when Shelley, after
his long struggle, had begun to realize that the world was too strong for
him. _Alastor_ is therefore the poet's confession, not simply of failure,
but of undying hope in some better thing that is to come.

_Prometheus Unbound_ (1818-1820), a lyrical drama, is the best work of
Shelley's revolutionary enthusiasm, and the most characteristic of all his
poems. Shelley's philosophy (if one may dignify a hopeless dream by such a
name) was a curious aftergrowth of the French Revolution, namely, that it
is only the existing tyranny of State, Church, and society which keeps man
from growth into perfect happiness. Naturally Shelley forgot, like many
other enthusiasts, that Church and State and social laws were not imposed
upon man from without, but were created by himself to minister to his
necessities. In Shelley's poem the hero, Prometheus, represents mankind
itself,--a just and noble humanity, chained and tortured by Jove, who is
here the personification of human institutions.[228] In due time Demogorgon
(which is Shelley's name for Necessity) overthrows the tyrant Jove and
releases Prometheus (Mankind), who is presently united to Asia, the spirit
of love and goodness in nature, while the earth and the moon join in a
wedding song, and everything gives promise that they shall live together
happy ever afterwards.

Shelley here looks forward, not back, to the Golden Age, and is the prophet
of science and evolution. If we compare his Titan with similar characters
in _Faust_ and _Cain_, we shall find this interesting difference,--that
while Goethe's Titan is cultured and self-reliant, and Byron's stoic and
hopeless, Shelley's hero is patient under torture, seeing help and hope
beyond his suffering. And he marries Love that the earth may be peopled
with superior beings who shall substitute brotherly love for the present
laws and conventions of society. Such is his philosophy; but the beginner
will read this poem, not chiefly for its thought, but for its youthful
enthusiasm, for its marvelous imagery, and especially for its ethereal
music. Perhaps we should add here that _Prometheus_ is, and probably always
will be, a poem for the chosen few who can appreciate its peculiar
spiritlike beauty. In its purely pagan conception of the world, it
suggests, by contrast, Milton's Christian philosophy in _Paradise

Shelley's revolutionary works, _Queen Mab_ (1813), _The Revolt of Islam_
(1818), _Hellas_ (1821), and _The Witch of Atlas_ (1820), are to be judged
in much the same way as is _Prometheus Unbound_. They are largely
invectives against religion, marriage, kingcraft, and priestcraft, most
impractical when considered as schemes for reform, but abounding in
passages of exquisite beauty, for which alone they are worth reading. In
the drama called _The Cenci_ (1819), which is founded upon a morbid Italian
story, Shelley for the first and only time descends to reality. The
heroine, Beatrice, driven to desperation by the monstrous wickedness of her
father, kills him and suffers the death penalty in consequence. She is the
only one of Shelley's characters who seems to us entirely human.

Far different in character is _Epipsychidion_ (1821), a rhapsody
celebrating Platonic love, the most impalpable, and so one of the most
characteristic, of all Shelley's works. It was inspired by a beautiful
Italian girl, Emilia Viviani, who was put into a cloister against her will,
and in whom Shelley imagined he found his long-sought ideal of womanhood.
With this should be read _Adonais_ (1821), the best known of all Shelley's
longer poems. _Adonais_ is a wonderful threnody, or a song of grief, over
the death of the poet Keats. Even in his grief Shelley still preserves a
sense of unreality, and calls in many shadowy allegorical figures,--Sad
Spring, Weeping Hours, Glooms, Splendors, Destinies,--all uniting in
bewailing the loss of a loved one. The whole poem is a succession of dream
pictures, exquisitely beautiful, such as only Shelley could imagine; and it
holds its place with Milton's _Lycidas_ and Tennyson's _In Memoriam_ as one
of the three greatest elegies in our language.

In his interpretation of nature Shelley suggests Wordsworth, both by
resemblance and by contrast. To both poets all natural objects are symbols
of truth; both regard nature as permeated by the great spiritual life which
animates all things; but while Wordsworth finds a spirit of thought, and so
of communion between nature and the soul of man, Shelley finds a spirit of
love, which exists chiefly for its own delight; and so "The Cloud," "The
Skylark," and "The West Wind," three of the most beautiful poems in our
language, have no definite message for humanity. In his "Hymn to
Intellectual Beauty" Shelley is most like Wordsworth; but in his "Sensitive
Plant," with its fine symbolism and imagery, he is like nobody in the world
but himself. Comparison is sometimes an excellent thing; and if we compare
Shelley's exquisite "Lament," beginning "O world, O life, O time," with
Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality," we shall perhaps understand both
poets better. Both poems recall many happy memories of youth; both express
a very real mood of a moment; but while the beauty of one merely saddens
and disheartens us, the beauty of the other inspires us with something of
the poet's own faith and hopefulness. In a word, Wordsworth found and
Shelley lost himself in nature.

JOHN KEATS (1795-1821)

Keats was not only the last but also the most perfect of the Romanticists.
While Scott was merely telling stories, and Wordsworth reforming poetry or
upholding the moral law, and Shelley advocating impossible reforms, and
Byron voicing his own egoism and the political discontent of the times,
Keats lived apart from men and from all political measures, worshiping
beauty like a devotee, perfectly content to write what was in his own
heart, or to reflect some splendor of the natural world as he saw or
dreamed it to be. He had, moreover, the novel idea that poetry exists for
its own sake, and suffers loss by being devoted to philosophy or politics
or, indeed, to any cause, however great or small. As he says in "Lamia":

                ... Do not all charms fly
    At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
    There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
    We know her woof, her texture; she is given
    In the dull catalogue of common things.
    Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
    Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
    Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine--
    Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
    The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

Partly because of this high ideal of poetry, partly because he studied and
unconsciously imitated the Greek classics and the best works of the
Elizabethans, Keats's last little volume of poetry is unequaled by the work
of any of his contemporaries. When we remember that all his work was
published in three short years, from 1817 to 1820, and that he died when
only twenty-five years old, we must judge him to be the most promising
figure of the early nineteenth century, and one of the most remarkable in
the history of literature.

LIFE. Keats's life of devotion to beauty and to poetry is all the more
remarkable in view of his lowly origin. He was the son of a hostler and
stable keeper, and was born in the stable of the Swan and Hoop Inn, London,
in 1795. One has only to read the rough stable scenes from our first
novelists, or even from Dickens, to understand how little there was in such
an atmosphere to develop poetic gifts. Before Keats was fifteen years old
both parents died, and he was placed with his brothers and sisters in
charge of guardians. Their first act seems to have been to take Keats from
school at Enfield, and to bind him as an apprentice to a surgeon at
Edmonton. For five years he served his apprenticeship, and for two years
more he was surgeon's helper in the hospitals; but though skillful enough
to win approval, he disliked his work, and his thoughts were on other
things. "The other day, during a lecture," he said to a friend, "there came
a sunbeam into the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in
the ray; and I was off with them to Oberon and fairyland." A copy of
Spenser's _Faery Queen_, which had been given him by Charles Cowden Clark,
was the prime cause of his abstraction. He abandoned his profession in
1817, and early in the same year published his first volume of _Poems_. It
was modest enough in spirit, as was also his second volume, _Endymion_
(1818); but that did not prevent brutal attacks upon the author and his
work by the self-constituted critics of _Blackwood's Magazine_ and the
_Quarterly_. It is often alleged that the poet's spirit and ambition were
broken by these attacks;[229] but Keats was a man of strong character, and
instead of quarreling with his reviewers, or being crushed by their
criticism, he went quietly to work with the idea of producing poetry that
should live forever. As Matthew Arnold says, Keats "had flint and iron in
him"; and in his next volume he accomplished his own purpose and silenced
unfriendly criticism.

For the three years during which Keats wrote his poetry he lived chiefly in
London and in Hampstead, but wandered at times over England and Scotland,
living for brief spaces in the Isle of Wight, in Devonshire, and in the
Lake district, seeking to recover his own health, and especially to restore
that of his brother. His illness began with a severe cold, but soon
developed into consumption; and added to this sorrow was another,--his love
for Fannie Brawne, to whom he was engaged, but whom he could not marry on
account of his poverty and growing illness. When we remember all this
personal grief and the harsh criticism of literary men, the last small
volume, _Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems_ (1820), is
most significant, as showing not only Keats's wonderful poetic gifts, but
also his beautiful and indomitable spirit. Shelley, struck by the beauty
and promise of "Hyperion," sent a generous invitation to the author to come
to Pisa and live with him; but Keats refused, having little sympathy with
Shelley's revolt against society. The invitation had this effect, however,
that it turned Keats's thoughts to Italy, whither he soon went in the
effort to save his life. He settled in Rome with his friend Severn, the
artist, but died soon after his arrival, in February, 1821. His grave, in
the Protestant cemetery at Rome, is still an object of pilgrimage to
thousands of tourists; for among all our poets there is hardly another
whose heroic life and tragic death have so appealed to the hearts of poets
and young enthusiasts.

THE WORK OF KEATS. "None but the master shall praise us; and none but the
master shall blame" might well be written on the fly leaf of every volume
of Keats's poetry; for never was there a poet more devoted to his ideal,
entirely independent of success or failure. In strong contrast with his
contemporary, Byron, who professed to despise the art that made him famous,
Keats lived for poetry alone, and, as Lowell pointed out, a virtue went out
of him into everything he wrote. In all his work we have the impression of
this intense loyalty to his art; we have the impression also of a profound
dissatisfaction that the deed falls so far short of the splendid dream.
Thus after reading Chapman's translation of Homer he writes:

    Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific--and all his men
    Looked at each other with a wild surmise--
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

In this striking sonnet we have a suggestion of Keats's high ideal, and of
his sadness because of his own ignorance, when he published his first
little volume of poems in 1817. He knew no Greek; yet Greek literature
absorbed and fascinated him, as he saw its broken and imperfect reflection
in an English translation. Like Shakespeare, who also was but poorly
educated in the schools, he had a marvelous faculty of discerning the real
spirit of the classics,--a faculty denied to many great scholars, and to
most of the "classic" writers of the preceding century,--and so he set
himself to the task of reflecting in modern English the spirit of the old

The imperfect results of this attempt are seen in his next volume,
_Endymion_, which is the story of a young shepherd beloved by a moon
goddess. The poem begins with the striking lines:

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
    Its loveliness increases; it will never
    Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
    A bower quiet for us; and a sleep
    Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing,

which well illustrate the spirit of Keats's later work, with its perfect
finish and melody. It has many quotable lines and passages, and its "Hymn
to Pan" should be read in connection with Wordsworth's famous sonnet
beginning, "The world is too much with us." The poem gives splendid
promise, but as a whole it is rather chaotic, with too much ornament and
too little design, like a modern house. That Keats felt this defect
strongly is evident from his modest preface, wherein he speaks of
_Endymion_, not as a deed accomplished, but only as an unsuccessful attempt
to suggest the underlying beauty of Greek mythology.

Keats's third and last volume, _Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and
Other Poems_ (1820), is the one with which the reader should begin his
acquaintance with this master of English verse. It has only two subjects,
Greek mythology and mediæval romance. "Hyperion" is a magnificent fragment,
suggesting the first arch of a cathedral that was never finished. Its theme
is the overthrow of the Titans by the young sun-god Apollo. Realizing his
own immaturity and lack of knowledge, Keats laid aside this work, and only
the pleadings of his publisher induced him to print the fragment with his
completed poems.

Throughout this last volume, and especially in "Hyperion," the influence of
Milton is apparent, while Spenser is more frequently suggested in reading

Of the longer poems in the volume, "Lamia" is the most suggestive. It is
the story of a beautiful enchantress, who turns from a serpent into a
glorious woman and fills every human sense with delight, until, as a result
of the foolish philosophy of old Apollonius, she vanishes forever from her
lover's sight. "The Eve of St. Agnes," the most perfect of Keats's mediæval
poems, is not a story after the manner of the metrical romances, but rather
a vivid painting of a romantic mood, such as comes to all men, at times, to
glorify a workaday world. Like all the work of Keats and Shelley, it has an
element of unreality; and when we read at the end,

    And they are gone; aye, ages long ago
    These lovers fled away into the storm,

it is as if we were waking from a dream,--which is the only possible ending
to all of Keats's Greek and mediæval fancies. We are to remember, however,
that no beautiful thing, though it be intangible as a dream, can enter a
man's life and leave him quite the same afterwards. Keats's own word is
here suggestive. "The imagination," he said, "may be likened to Adam's
dream; he awoke and found it true."

It is by his short poems that Keats is known to the majority of present-day
readers. Among these exquisite shorter poems we mention only the four odes,
"On a Grecian Urn," "To a Nightingale," "To Autumn," and "To Psyche." These
are like an invitation to a feast; one who reads them will hardly be
satisfied until he knows more of such delightful poetry. Those who study
only the "Ode to a Nightingale" may find four things,--a love of sensuous
beauty, a touch of pessimism, a purely pagan conception of nature, and a
strong individualism,--which are characteristic of this last of the
romantic poets.

As Wordsworth's work is too often marred by the moralizer, and Byron's by
the demagogue, and Shelley's by the reformer, so Keats's work suffers by
the opposite extreme of aloofness from every human interest; so much so,
that he is often accused of being indifferent to humanity. His work is also
criticised as being too effeminate for ordinary readers. Three things
should be remembered in this connection. First, that Keats sought to
express beauty for its own sake; that beauty is as essential to normal
humanity as is government or law; and that the higher man climbs in
civilization the more imperative becomes his need of beauty as a reward for
his labors. Second, that Keats's letters are as much an indication of the
man as is his poetry; and in his letters, with their human sympathy, their
eager interest in social problems, their humor, and their keen insight into
life, there is no trace of effeminacy, but rather every indication of a
strong and noble manhood. The third thing to remember is that all Keats's
work was done in three or four years, with small preparation, and that,
dying at twenty-five, he left us a body of poetry which will always be one
of our most cherished possessions. He is often compared with "the marvelous
boy" Chatterton, whom he greatly admired, and to whose memory he dedicated
his _Endymion_; but though both died young, Chatterton was but a child,
while Keats was in all respects a man. It is idle to prophesy what he might
have done, had he been granted a Tennyson's long life and scholarly
training. At twenty five his work was as mature as was Tennyson's at fifty,
though the maturity suggests the too rapid growth of a tropical plant which
under the warm rains and the flood of sunlight leaps into life, grows,
blooms in a day, and dies.

As we have stated, Keats's work was bitterly and unjustly condemned by the
critics of his day. He belonged to what was derisively called the cockney
school of poetry, of which Leigh Hunt was chief, and Proctor and Beddoes
were fellow-workmen. Not even from Wordsworth and Byron, who were ready
enough to recommend far less gifted writers, did Keats receive the
slightest encouragement. Like young Lochinvar, "he rode all unarmed and he
rode all alone." Shelley, with his sincerity and generosity, was the first
to recognize the young genius, and in his noble _Adonais_--written, alas,
like most of our tributes, when the subject of our praise is dead--he spoke
the first true word of appreciation, and placed Keats, where he
unquestionably belongs, among our greatest poets. The fame denied him in
his sad life was granted freely after his death. Most fitly does he close
the list of poets of the romantic revival, because in many respects he was
the best workman of them all. He seems to have studied words more carefully
than did his contemporaries, and so his poetic expression, or the harmony
of word and thought, is generally more perfect than theirs. More than any
other he lived for poetry, as the noblest of the arts. More than any other
he emphasized beauty, because to him, as shown by his "Grecian Urn," beauty
and truth were one and inseparable. And he enriched the whole romantic
movement by adding to its interest in common life the spirit, rather than
the letter, of the classics and of Elizabethan poetry. For these reasons
Keats is, like Spenser, a poet's poet; his work profoundly influenced
Tennyson and, indeed, most of the poets of the present era.


Aside from the splendid work of the novel writers--Walter Scott, whom we
have considered, and Jane Austen, to whom we shall presently return--the
early nineteenth century is remarkable for the development of a new and
valuable type of critical prose writing. If we except the isolated work of
Dryden and of Addison, it is safe to say that literary criticism, in its
modern sense, was hardly known in England until about the year 1825. Such
criticism as existed seems to us now to have been largely the result of
personal opinion or prejudice. Indeed we could hardly expect anything else
before some systematic study of our literature as a whole had been
attempted. In one age a poem was called good or bad according as it
followed or ran counter to so-called classic rules; in another we have the
dogmatism of Dr. Johnson; in a third the personal judgment of Lockhart and
the editors of the _Edinburgh Review_ and the _Quarterly_, who so violently
abused Keats and the Lake poets in the name of criticism. Early in the
nineteenth century there arose a new school of criticism which was guided
by knowledge of literature, on the one hand, and by what one might call the
fear of God on the other. The latter element showed itself in a profound
human sympathy,--the essence of the romantic movement,--and its importance
was summed up by De Quincey when he said, "Not to sympathize is not to
understand." These new critics, with abundant reverence for past masters,
could still lay aside the dogmatism and prejudice which marked Johnson and
the magazine editors, and read sympathetically the work of a new author,
with the sole idea of finding what he had contributed, or tried to
contribute, to the magnificent total of our literature. Coleridge, Hunt,
Hazlitt, Lamb, and De Quincey were the leaders in this new and immensely
important development; and we must not forget the importance of the new
periodicals, like the _Londen Magazine,_ founded in 1820, in which Lamb, De
Quincey, and Carlyle found their first real encouragement.

Of Coleridge's _Biographica Literaria_ and his _Lectures on Shakespeare_ we
have already spoken. Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) wrote continuously for more
than thirty years, as editor and essayist; and his chief object seems to
have been to make good literature known and appreciated. William Hazlitt
(1778-1830), in a long series of lectures and essays, treated all reading
as a kind of romantic journey into new and pleasant countries. To his work
largely, with that of Lamb, was due the new interest in Elizabethan
literature, which so strongly influenced Keats's last and best volume of
poetry. For those interested in the art of criticism, and in the
appreciation of literature, both Hunt and Hazlitt will well repay study;
but we must pass over their work to consider the larger literary interest
of Lamb and De Quincey, who were not simply critics of other men's labor,
but who also produced some delightful work of their own, which the world
has carefully put away among the "things worthy to be remembered."

CHARLES LAMB (1775-1834)

In Lamb and Wordsworth we have two widely different views of the romantic
movement; one shows the influence of nature and solitude, the other of
society. Lamb was a lifelong friend of Coleridge, and an admirer and
defender of the poetic creed of Wordsworth; but while the latter lived
apart from men, content with nature and with reading an occasional moral
lesson to society, Lamb was born and lived in the midst of the London
streets. The city crowd, with its pleasures and occupations, its endless
little comedies and tragedies, alone interested him. According to his own
account, when he paused in the crowded street tears would spring to his
eyes,--tears of pure pleasure at the abundance of so much good life; and
when he wrote, he simply interpreted that crowded human life of joy and
sorrow, as Wordsworth interpreted the woods and waters, without any desire
to change or to reform them. He has given us the best pictures we possess
of Coleridge, Hazlitt, Landor, Hood, Cowden Clarke, and many more of the
interesting men and women of his age; and it is due to his insight and
sympathy that the life of those far-off days seems almost as real to us as
if we ourselves remembered it. Of all our English essayists he is the most
lovable; partly because of his delicate, old-fashioned style and humor, but
more because of that cheery and heroic struggle against misfortune which
shines like a subdued light in all his writings.

LIFE. In the very heart of London there is a curious, old-fashioned place
known as the Temple,--an enormous, rambling, apparently forgotten
structure, dusty and still, in the midst of the endless roar of the city
streets. Originally it was a chapter house of the Knights Templars, and so
suggests to us the spirit of the Crusades and of the Middle Ages; but now
the building is given over almost entirely to the offices and lodgings of
London lawyers. It is this queer old place which, more than all others, is
associated with the name of Charles Lamb. "I was born," he says, "and
passed the first seven years of my life in the Temple. Its gardens, its
halls, its fountain, its river... these are my oldest recollections." He
was the son of a poor clerk, or rather servant, of one of the barristers,
and was the youngest of seven children, only three of whom survived
infancy. Of these three, John, the elder, was apparently a selfish
creature, who took no part in the heroic struggle of his brother and
sister. At seven years, Charles was sent to the famous "Bluecoat" charity
school of Christ's Hospital. Here he remained seven years; and here he
formed his lifelong friendship for another poor, neglected boy, whom the
world remembers as Coleridge.[230]

When only fourteen years old, Lamb left the charity school and was soon at
work as a clerk in the South Sea House. Two years later he became a clerk
in the famous India House, where he worked steadily for thirty-three years,
with the exception of six weeks, in the winter of 1795-1796, spent within
the walls of an asylum. In 1796 Lamb's sister Mary, who was as talented and
remarkable as Lamb himself, went violently insane and killed her own
mother. For a long time after this appalling tragedy she was in an asylum
at Hoxton; then Lamb, in 1797, brought her to his own little house, and for
the remainder of his life cared for her with a tenderness and devotion
which furnishes one of the most beautiful pages in our literary history. At
times the malady would return to Mary, giving sure warning of its terrible
approach; and then brother and sister might be seen walking silently, hand
in hand, to the gates of the asylum, their cheeks wet with tears. One must
remember this, as well as Lamb's humble lodgings and the drudgery of his
daily work in the-big commercial house, if he would appreciate the pathos
of "The Old Familiar Faces," or the heroism which shines through the most
human and the most delightful essays in our language.

When Lamb was fifty years of age the East India Company, led partly by his
literary fame following his first _Essays of Elia_, and partly by his
thirty-three years of faithful service, granted him a comfortable pension;
and happy as a boy turned loose from school he left India House forever to
give himself up to literary work.[231] He wrote to Wordsworth, in April,
1825, "I came home _forever_ on Tuesday of last week--it was like passing
from life into eternity." Curiously enough Lamb seems to lose power after
his release from drudgery, and his last essays, published in 1833, lack
something of the grace and charm of his earlier work. He died at Edmonton
in 1834; and his gifted sister Mary sank rapidly into the gulf from which
his strength and gentleness had so long held her back. No literary man was
ever more loved and honored by a rare circle of friends; and all who knew
him bear witness to the simplicity and goodness which any reader may find
for himself between the lines of his essays.

WORKS. The works of Lamb divide themselves naturally into three periods.
First, there are his early literary efforts, including the poems signed "C.
L." in Coleridge's _Poems on Various Subjects_ (1796); his romance
_Rosamund Gray_ (1798); his poetical drama _John Woodvil_ (1802); and
various other immature works in prose and poetry. This period comes to an
end in 1803, when he gave up his newspaper work, especially the
contribution of six jokes, puns, and squibs daily to the _Morning Post_ at
sixpence apiece. The second period was given largely to literary criticism;
and the _Tales from Shakespeare_ (1807)--written by Charles and Mary Lamb,
the former reproducing the tragedies, and the latter the comedies--may be
regarded as his first successful literary venture. The book was written
primarily for children; but so thoroughly had brother and sister steeped
themselves in the literature of the Elizabethan period that young and old
alike were delighted with this new version of Shakespeare's stories, and
the _Tales_ are still regarded as the best of their kind in our literature.
In 1808 appeared his _Specimens of English Dramatic Poets Contemporary with
Shakespeare_. This carried out the splendid critical work of Coleridge, and
was the most noticeable influence in developing the poetic qualities of
Keats, as shown in his last volume.

The third period includes Lamb's criticisms of life, which are gathered
together in his _Essays of Elia_ (1823), and his _Last Essays of Elia_,
which were published ten years later. These famous essays began in 1820
with the appearance of the new _London Magazine_[232] and were continued
for many years, such subjects as the "Dissertation on Roast Pig," "Old
China," "Praise of Chimney Sweepers," "Imperfect Sympathies," "A Chapter on
Ears," "Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist," "Mackery End," "Grace Before
Meat," "Dream Children," and many others being chosen apparently at random,
but all leading to a delightful interpretation of the life of London, as it
appeared to a quiet little man who walked unnoticed through its crowded
streets. In the first and last essays which we have mentioned,
"Dissertation on Roast Pig" and "Dream Children," we have the extremes of
Lamb's humor and pathos.

The style of all these essays is gentle, old-fashioned, irresistibly
attractive. Lamb was especially fond of old writers and borrowed
unconsciously from the style of Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_ and from
Browne's _Religio Medici_ and from the early English dramatists. But this
style had become a part of Lamb by long reading, and he was apparently
unable to express his new thought without using their old quaint
expressions. Though these essays are all criticisms or appreciations of the
life of his age, they are all intensely personal. In other words, they are
an excellent picture of Lamb and of humanity. Without a trace of vanity or
self-assertion, Lamb begins with himself, with some purely personal mood or
experience, and from this he leads the reader to see life and literature as
he saw it. It is this wonderful combination of personal and universal
interests, together with Lamb's rare old style and quaint humor, which make
the essays remarkable. They continue the best tradition of Addison and
Steele, our first great essayists; but their sympathies are broader and
deeper, and their humor more delicious than any which preceded them.

THOMAS DE QUINCY (1785-1859)

In De Quincey the romantic element is even more strongly developed than in
Lamb, not only in his critical work, but also in his erratic and
imaginative life. He was profoundly educated, even more so than Coleridge,
and was one of the keenest intellects of the age; yet his wonderful
intellect seems always subordinate to his passion for dreaming. Like Lamb,
he was a friend and associate of the Lake poets, making his headquarters in
Wordsworth's old cottage at Grasmere for nearly twenty years. Here the
resemblance ceases, and a marked contrast begins. As a man, Lamb is the
most human and lovable of all our essayists; while De Quincey is the most
uncanny and incomprehensible. Lamb's modest works breathe the two essential
qualities of sympathy and humor; the greater number of De Quincey's essays,
while possessing more or less of both these qualities, are characterized
chiefly by their brilliant style. Life, as seen through De Quincey's eyes,
is nebulous and chaotic, and there is a suspicion of the fabulous in all
that he wrote. Even in _The Revolt of the Tartars_ the romantic element is
uppermost, and in much of De Quincey's prose the element of unreality is
more noticeable than in Shelley's poetry. Of his subject-matter, his facts,
ideas, and criticisms, we are generally suspicious; but of his style,
sometimes stately and sometimes headlong, now gorgeous as an Oriental
dream, now musical as Keats's _Endymion_, and always, even in the most
violent contrasts, showing a harmony between the idea and the expression
such as no other English writer, with the possible exception of Newman, has
ever rivaled,--say what you will of the marvelous brilliancy of De
Quincey's style, you have still only half expressed the truth. It is the
style alone which makes these essays immortal.

LIFE. De Quincey was born in Manchester in 1785. In neither his father, who
was a prosperous merchant, nor his mother, who was a quiet, unsympathetic
woman, do we see any suggestion of the son's almost uncanny genius. As a
child he was given to dreams, more vivid and intense but less beautiful
than those of the young Blake to whom he bears a strong resemblance. In the
grammar school at Bath he displayed astonishing ability, and acquired Greek
and Latin with a rapidity that frightened his slow tutors. At fifteen he
not only read Greek, but spoke it fluently; and one of his astounded
teachers remarked, "That boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you
or I could address an English one." From the grammar school at Manchester,
whither he was sent in 1800, he soon ran away, finding the instruction far
below his abilities, and the rough life absolutely intolerable to his
sensitive nature. An uncle, just home from India, interceded for the boy
lest he be sent back to the school, which he hated; and with an allowance
of a guinea a week he started a career of vagrancy, much like that of
Goldsmith, living on the open hills, in the huts of shepherds and charcoal
burners, in the tents of gypsies, wherever fancy led him. His fear of the
Manchester school finally led him to run away to London, where, without
money or friends, his life was even more extraordinary than his gypsy
wanderings. The details of this vagrancy are best learned in his
_Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_, where we meet not simply the facts
of his life, but also the confusion of dreams and fancies in the midst of
which he wandered like a man lost on the mountains, with storm clouds under
his feet hiding the familiar earth. After a year of vagrancy and starvation
he was found by his family and allowed to go to Oxford, where his career
was marked by the most brilliant and erratic scholarship. When ready for a
degree, in 1807, he passed his written tests successfully, but felt a
sudden terror at the thought of the oral examination and disappeared from
the university, never to return.

It was in Oxford that De Quincey began the use of opium; to relieve the
pains of neuralgia, and the habit increased until he was an almost hopeless
slave to the drug. Only his extraordinary will power enabled him to break
away from the habit, after some thirty years of misery. Some peculiarity of
his delicate constitution enabled De Quincey to take enormous quantities of
opium, enough to kill several ordinary men; and it was largely opium,
working upon a sensitive imagination, which produced his gorgeous dreams,
broken by intervals of weakness and profound depression. For twenty years
he resided at Grasmere in the companionship of the Lake poets; and here,
led by the loss of his small fortune, he began to write, with the idea of
supporting his family. In 1821 he published his first famous work, the
_Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_, and for nearly forty years
afterwards he wrote industriously, contributing to various magazines an
astonishing number of essays on a great variety of subjects. Without
thought of literary fame, he contributed these articles anonymously; but
fortunately, in 1853, he began to collect his own works, and the last of
fourteen volumes was published just after his death.

In 1830, led by his connection with _Blackwood's Magazine_, to which he was
the chief contributor, De Quincey removed with his family to Edinburgh,
where his erratic genius and his singularly childlike ways produced enough
amusing anecdotes to fill a volume. He would take a room in some place
unknown to his friends and family; would live in it for a few years, until
he had filled it, even to the bath tub, with books and with his own chaotic
manuscripts, allowing no one to enter or disturb his den; and then, when
the place became too crowded, he would lock the door and go away and take
another lodging, where he repeated the same extraordinary performance. He
died in Edinburgh in 1859. Like Lamb, he was a small, boyish figure,
gentle, and elaborately courteous. Though excessively shy, and escaping as
often as possible to solitude, he was nevertheless fond of society, and his
wide knowledge and vivid imagination made his conversations almost as
prized as those of his friend Coleridge.

WORKS. De Quincey's works may be divided into two general classes. The
first includes his numerous critical articles, and the second his
autobiographical sketches. All his works, it must be remembered, were
contributed to various magazines, and were hastily collected just before
his death. Hence the general impression of chaos which we get from reading

From a literary view point the most illuminating of De Quincey's critical
works is his. _Literary Reminiscences_. This contains brilliant
appreciations of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, Shelley, Keats, Hazlitt, and
Landor, as well as some interesting studies of the literary figures of the
age preceding. Among the best of his brilliant critical essays are _On the
Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth_ (1823), which is admirably suited to show
the man's critical genius, and _Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts_
(1827), which reveals his grotesque humor Other suggestive critical works,
if one must choose among such a multitude, are his _Letters to a Young Man_
(1823), _Joan of Arc_ (1847), _The Revolt of the Tartars_ (1840), and _The
English Mail-Coach_ (1849). In the last-named essay the "Dream Fugue" is
one of the most imaginative of all his curious works.

Of De Quincey's autobiographical sketches the best known is his
_Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_ (1821). This is only partly a
record of opium dreams, and its chief interest lies in glimpses it gives us
of De Quincey's own life and wanderings. This should be followed by
_Suspiria de Profundis_ (1845), which is chiefly a record of gloomy and
terrible dreams produced by opiates. The most interesting parts of his
_Suspiria_, showing De Quincey's marvelous insight into dreams, are those
in which we are brought face to face with the strange feminine creations
"Levana," "Madonna," "Our Lady of Sighs," and "Our Lady of Darkness." A
series of nearly thirty articles which he collected in 1853, called
_Autobiographic Sketches_, completes the revelation of the author's own
life. Among his miscellaneous works may be mentioned, in order to show his
wide range of subjects, _Klosterheim_, a novel, _Logic of Political
Economy_, the _Essays on Style and Rhetoric, Philosophy of Herodotus_, and
his articles on Goethe, Pope, Schiller, and Shakespeare which he
contributed to the _Encyclopedia Britannica_.

De Quincey's style is a revelation of the beauty of the English language,
and it profoundly influenced Ruskin and other prose writers of the
Victorian Age. It has two chief faults,--diffuseness, which continually
leads De Quincey away from his object, and triviality, which often makes
him halt in the midst of a marvelous paragraph to make some light jest or
witticism that has some humor but no mirth in it. Notwithstanding these
faults, De Quincey's prose is still among the few supreme examples of style
in our language. Though he was profoundly influenced by the seventeenth-
century writers, he attempted definitely to create a new style which should
combine the best elements of prose and poetry. In consequence, his prose
works are often, like those of Milton, more imaginative and melodious than
much of our poetry. He has been well called "the psychologist of style,"
and as such his works will never be popular; but to the few who can
appreciate him he will always be an inspiration to better writing. One has
a deeper respect for our English language and literature after reading him.

SECONDARY WRITERS OF ROMANTICISM. One has only to glance back over the
authors we have been studying--Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron,
Shelley, Keats, Scott, Lamb, De Quincey--to realize the great change which
swept over the life and literature of England in a single half century,
under two influences which we now know as the French Revolution in history
and the Romantic Movement in literature. In life men had rebelled against
the too strict authority of state and society; in literature they rebelled
even more vigorously against the bonds of classicism, which had sternly
repressed a writer's ambition to follow his own ideals and to express them
in his own way. Naturally such an age of revolution was essentially
poetic,--only the Elizabethan Age surpasses it in this respect,--and it
produced a large number of minor writers, who followed more or less closely
the example of its great leaders. Among novelists we have Jane Austen,
Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Porter, and Susan Ferrier,--all
women, be it noted; among the poets, Campbell, Moore, Hogg ("the Ettrick
Shepherd"), Mrs. Hemans, Heber, Keble, Hood, and "Ingoldsby" (Richard
Barham); and among miscellaneous writers, Sidney Smith, "Christopher North"
(John Wilson), Chalmers, Lockhart, Leigh Hunt, Hazlitt, Hallam, and Landor.
Here is an astonishing variety of writers, and to consider all their claims
to remembrance would of itself require a volume. Though these are generally
classed as secondary writers, much of their work has claims to popularity,
and some of it to permanence. Moore's _Irish Melodies_, Campbell's lyrics,
Keble's _Christian Year_, and Jane Porter's _Thaddeus of Warsaw_ and
_Scottish Chiefs_ have still a multitude of readers, where Keats, Lamb, and
De Quincey are prized only by the cultured few; and Hallam's historical and
critical works are perhaps better known than those of Gibbon, who
nevertheless occupies a larger place in our literature. Among all these
writers we choose only two, Jane Austen and Walter Savage Landor, whose
works indicate a period of transition from the Romantic to the Victorian

JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817)

We have so lately rediscovered the charm and genius of this gifted young
woman that she seems to be a novelist of yesterday, rather than the
contemporary of Wordsworth and Coleridge; and few even of her readers
realize that she did for the English novel precisely what the Lake poets
did for English poetry,--she refined and simplified it, making it a true
reflection of English life. Like the Lake poets, she met with scanty
encouragement in her own generation. Her greatest novel, _Pride and
Prejudice_, was finished in 1797, a year before the appearance of the
famous _Lyrical Ballads_ of Wordsworth and Coleridge; but while the latter
book was published and found a few appreciative readers, the manuscript of
this wonderful novel went begging for sixteen years before it found a
publisher. As Wordsworth began with the deliberate purpose of making poetry
natural and truthful, so Miss Austen appears to have begun writing with the
idea of presenting the life of English country society exactly as it was,
in opposition to the romantic extravagance of Mrs. Radcliffe and her
school. But there was this difference,--that Miss Austen had in large
measure the saving gift of humor, which Wordsworth sadly lacked. Maria
Edgeworth, at the same time, set a sane and excellent example in her tales
of Irish life, _The Absentee_ and _Castle Rackrent;_ and Miss Austen
followed up the advantage with at least six works, which have grown
steadily in value until we place them gladly in the first rank of our
novels of common life. It is not simply for her exquisite charm, therefore,
that we admire her, but also for her influence in bringing our novels back
to their true place as an expression of human life. It is due partly, at
least, to her influence that a multitude of readers were ready to
appreciate Mrs. Gaskell's _Cranford_, and the powerful and enduring work of
George Eliot.

LIFE. Jane Austen's life gives little opportunity for the biographer,
unless, perchance, he has something of her own power to show the beauty and
charm of commonplace things. She was the seventh child of Rev. George
Austen, rector of Steventon, and was born in the parsonage of the village
in 1775. With her sisters she was educated at home, and passed her life
very quietly, cheerfully, in the doing of small domestic duties, to which
love lent the magic lamp that makes all things beautiful. She began to
write at an early age, and seems to have done her work on a little table in
the family sitting room, in the midst of the family life. When a visitor
entered, she would throw a paper or a piece of sewing over her work, and
she modestly refused to be known as the author of novels which we now count
among our treasured possessions. With the publishers she had little
success. _Pride and Prejudice_ went begging, as we have said, for sixteen
years; and _Northanger Abbey_ (1798) was sold for a trivial sum to a
publisher, who laid it aside and forgot it, until the appearance and
moderate success of _Sense and Sensibility_ in 1811. Then, after keeping
the manuscript some fifteen years, he sold it back to the family, who found
another publisher.

An anonymous article in the _Quarterly Review_, following the appearance of
_Emma_ in 1815, full of generous appreciation of the charm of the new
writer, was the beginning of Jane Austen's fame; and it is only within a
few years that we have learned that the friendly and discerning critic was
Walter Scott. He continued to be her admirer until her early death; but
these two, the greatest writers of fiction in their age, were never brought
together. Both were home-loving people, and Miss Austen especially was
averse to publicity and popularity. She died, quietly as she had lived, at
Winchester, in 1817, and was buried in the cathedral. She was a bright,
attractive little woman, whose sunny qualities are unconsciously reflected
in all her books.

WORKS. Very few English writers ever had so narrow a field of work as Jane
Austen. Like the French novelists, whose success seems to lie in choosing
the tiny field that they know best, her works have an exquisite perfection
that is lacking in most of our writers of fiction. With the exception of an
occasional visit to the watering place of Bath, her whole life was spent in
small country parishes, whose simple country people became the characters
of her novels. Her brothers were in the navy, and so naval officers furnish
the only exciting elements in her stories; but even these alleged heroes
lay aside their imposing martial ways and act like themselves and other
people. Such was her literary field, in which the chief duties were of the
household, the chief pleasures in country gatherings, and the chief
interests in matrimony. Life, with its mighty interests, its passions,
ambitions, and tragic struggles, swept by like a great river; while the
secluded interests of a country parish went round and round quietly, like
an eddy behind a sheltering rock. We can easily understand, therefore, the
limitations of Jane Austen; but within her own field she is unequaled. Her
characters are absolutely true to life, and all her work has the perfection
of a delicate miniature painting. The most widely read of her novels is
_Pride and Prejudice;_ but three others, _Sense and Sensibility, Emma_, and
_Mansfield Park_, have slowly won their way to the front rank of fiction.
From a literary view point _Northanger Abbey_ is perhaps the best; for in
it we find that touch of humor and delicate satire with which this gentle
little woman combated the grotesque popular novels of the _Udolpho_ type.
Reading any of these works, one is inclined to accept the hearty
indorsement of Sir Walter Scott: "That young lady has a talent for
describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life
which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big bowwow strain I
can do myself, like any now going; but the exquisite touch which renders
ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of
the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a
gifted creature died so early!"


While Hazlitt, Lamb, De Quincey, and other romantic critics went back to
early English literature for their inspiration, Landor shows a reaction
from the prevailing Romanticism by his imitation of the ancient classic
writers. His life was an extraordinary one and, like his work, abounded in
sharp contrasts. On the one hand, there are his egoism, his unncontrollable
anger, his perpetual lawsuits, and the last sad tragedy with his children,
which suggests _King Lear_ and his daughters; on the other hand there is
his steady devotion to the classics and to the cultivation of the deep
wisdom of the ancients, which suggests Pindar and Cicero. In his works we
find the wild extravagance of _Gebir_, followed by the superb classic style
and charm of _Pericles and Aspasia_. Such was Landor, a man of high ideals,
perpetually at war with himself and the world.

LIFE. Lander's stormy life covers the whole period from Wordsworth's
childhood to the middle of the Victorian Era. He was the son of a
physician, and was born at Warwick, in 1775. From his mother he inherited a
fortune; but it was soon scattered by large expenditures and law quarrels;
and in his old age, refused help by his own children, only Browning's
generosity kept Landor from actual want. At Rugby, and at Oxford, his
extreme Republicanism brought him into constant trouble; and his fitting
out a band of volunteers to assist the Spaniards against Napoleon, in 1808,
allies him with Byron and his Quixotic followers. The resemblance to Byron
is even more strikingly shown in the poem _Gebir_, published in 1798, a
year made famous by the _Lyrical Ballads_ of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

A remarkable change in Lander's life is noticeable in 1821, when, at
forty-six years of age, after having lost his magnificent estate of
Llanthony Abbey, in Glamorganshire, and after a stormy experience in Como,
he settled down for a time at Fiesole near Florence. To this period of calm
after storm we owe the classical prose works for which he is famous. The
calm, like that at the center of a whirlwind, lasted but a short time, and
Landor, leaving his family in great anger, returned to Bath, where he lived
alone for more than twenty years. Then, in order to escape a libel suit,
the choleric old man fled back to Italy. He died at Florence, in 1864. The
spirit of his whole life may be inferred from the defiant farewell which he
flung to it:

    I strove with none, for none was worth my strife;
       Nature I loved, and next to Nature Art;
    I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
       It sinks, and I am ready to depart.

WORKS. Landor's reaction from Romanticism is all the more remarkable in
view of his early efforts, such as _Gebir_, a wildly romantic poem, which
rivals any work of Byron or Shelley in its extravagance. Notwithstanding
its occasional beautiful and suggestive lines, the work was not and never
has been successful; and the same may be said of all his poetical works.
His first collection of poems was published in 1795, his last a full half
century later, in 1846. In the latter volume, _The Hellenics_,--which
included some translations of his earlier Latin poems, called _Idyllia
Heroica,--_one has only to read "The Hamadryad," and compare it with the
lyrics of the first volume, in order to realize the astonishing literary
vigor of a man who published two volumes, a half century apart, without any
appreciable diminution of poetical feeling. In all these poems one is
impressed by the striking and original figures of speech which Landor uses
to emphasize his meaning.

It is by his prose works, largely, that Landor has won a place in our
literature; partly because of their intrinsic worth, their penetrating
thought, and severe classic style; and partly because of their profound
influence upon the writers of the present age. The most noted of his prose
works are his six volumes of _Imaginary Conversations_ (1824-1846). For
these conversations Landor brings together, sometimes in groups, sometimes
in couples, well-known characters, or rather shadows, from the four corners
of the earth and from the remotest ages of recorded history. Thus Diogenes
talks with Plato, Æsop with a young slave girl in Egypt, Henry VIII with
Anne Boleyn in prison, Dante with Beatrice, Leofric with Lady Godiva,--all
these and many others, from Epictetus to Cromwell, are brought together and
speak of life and love and death, each from his own view point.
Occasionally, as in the meeting of Henry and Anne Boleyn, the situation is
tense and dramatic; but as a rule the characters simply meet and converse
in the same quiet strain, which becomes, after much reading, somewhat
monotonous. On the other hand, one who reads the _Imaginary Conversations_
is lifted at once into a calm and noble atmosphere which braces and
inspires him, making him forget petty things, like a view from a hilltop.
By its combination of lofty thought and severely classic style the book has
won, and deserves, a very high place among our literary records.

The same criticism applies to _Pericles and Aspasia_, which is a series of
imaginary letters, telling the experiences of Aspasia, a young lady from
Asia Minor, who visits Athens at the summit of its fame and glory, in the
great age of Pericles. This is, in our judgment, the best worth reading of
all Landor's works. One gets from it not only Landor's classic style,
but--what is well worth while--a better picture of Greece in the days of
its greatness than can be obtained from many historical volumes.

SUMMARY OF THE AGE OF ROMANTICISM. This period extends from the war with
the colonies, following the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, to the
accession of Victoria in 1837, both limits being very indefinite, as will
be seen by a glance at the Chronology following. During the first part of
the period especially, England was in a continual turmoil, produced by
political and economic agitation at home, and by the long wars that covered
two continents and the wide sea between them. The mighty changes resulting
from these two causes have given this period the name of the Age of
Revolution. The storm center of all the turmoil at home and abroad was the
French Revolution, which had a profound influence on the life and
literature of all Europe. On the Continent the overthrow of Napoleon at
Waterloo (1815) apparently checked the progress of liberty, which had
started with the French Revolution,[233] but in England the case was
reversed. The agitation for popular liberty, which at one time threatened a
revolution, went steadily forward till it resulted in the final triumph of
democracy, in the Reform Bill of 1832, and in a number of exceedingly
important reforms, such as the extension of manhood suffrage, the removal
of the last unjust restrictions against Catholics, the establishment of a
national system of schools, followed by a rapid increase in popular
education, and the abolition of slavery in all English colonies (1833). To
this we must add the changes produced by the discovery of steam and the
invention of machinery, which rapidly changed England from an agricultural
to a manufacturing nation, introduced the factory system, and caused this
period to be known as the Age of Industrial Revolution.

The literature of the age is largely poetical in form, and almost entirely
romantic in spirit. For, as we have noted, the triumph of democracy in
government is generally accompanied by the triumph of romanticism in
literature. At first the literature, as shown especially in the early work
of Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley, reflected the turmoil of the age and the
wild hopes of an ideal democracy occasioned by the French Revolution. Later
the extravagant enthusiasm subsided, and English writers produced so much
excellent literature that the age is often called the Second Creative
period, the first being the Age of Elizabeth. The six chief characteristics
of the age are: the prevalence of romantic poetry; the creation of the
historical novel by Scott; the first appearance of women novelists, such as
Mrs. Anne Radcliffe, Jane Porter, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen; the
development of literary criticism, in the work of Lamb, De Quincey,
Coleridge, and Hazlitt; the practical and economic bent of philosophy, as
shown in the work of Malthus, James Mill, and Adam Smith; and the
establishment of great literary magazines, like the _Edinburgh Review_, the
_Quarterly_, _Blackwood's_, and the _Athenaeum_.

In our study we have noted (1) the Poets of Romanticism: the importance of
the _Lyrical Ballads_ of 1798; the life and work of Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Scott, Byron, Shelley, and Keats; (2) the Prose Writers: the novels of
Scott; the development of literary criticism; the life and work of the
essayists, Lamb, De Quincey, Landor, and of the novelist Jane Austen.

SELECTIONS FOR READING. Manly's English Poetry and Manly's English Prose
(each one vol.) contain good selections from all authors studied. Ward's
English Poets (4 vols.), Craik's English Prose Selections (5 vols.),
Braithwaite's The Book of Georgian Verse, Page's British Poets of the
Nineteenth Century, and Garnett's English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria,
may also be used to advantage. Important works, however, should be read
entire in one of the inexpensive school editions given below. (Full titles
and publishers may be found in the General Bibliography at the end of this

_Wordsworth_. Intimations of Immortality, Tintern Abbey, best lyrics and
sonnets, in Selections, edited by Dowden (Athenaeum Press Series);
selections and short poems, edited by M. Arnold, in Golden Treasury Series;
Selections, also in Everyman's Library, Riverside Literature Series,
Cassell's National Library, etc.

_Coleridge_. Ancient Mariner, edited by L. R. Gibbs, in Standard English
Classics; same poem, in Pocket Classics, Eclectic English Classics, etc.;
Poems, edited by J. M. Hart, in Athenæum Press (announced, 1909);
Selections, Golden Book of Coleridge, in Everyman's Library; Selections
from Coleridge and Campbell, in Riverside Literature; Prose Selections
(Ginn and Company, also Holt); Lectures on Shakespeare, in Everyman's
Library, Bohn's Standard Library, etc.

_Scott_. Lady of the Lake, Marmion, Ivanhoe, The Talisman, Guy Mannering,
Quentin Durward. Numerous inexpensive editions of Scott's best poems and
novels in Standard English Classics, Pocket Classics, Cassell's National
Library, Eclectic English Classics, Everyman's Library, etc.; thus, Lady of
the Lake, edited by Edwin Ginn, and Ivanhoe, edited by W. D. Lewis, both in
Standard English Classics; Marmion, edited by G. B. Acton, and The
Talisman, edited by F. Treudly, in Pocket Classics, etc.

_Byron_. Mazeppa and The Prisoner of Chillon, edited by S. M. Tucker, in
Standard English Classics; short poems, Selections from Childe Harold,
etc., in Canterbury Poets, Riverside Literature, Holt's English Readings,
Pocket Classics, etc.

_Shelley_. To a Cloud, To a Skylark, West Wind, Sensitive Plant, Adonais,
etc., all in Selections from Shelley, edited by Alexander, in Athenæum
Press Series; Selections, edited by Woodberry, in Belles Lettres Series;
Selections, also in Pocket Classics, Heath's English Classics, Golden
Treasury Series, etc.

_Keats_. Ode on a Grecian Urn, Eve of St. Agnes, Hyperion, Lamia, To a
Nightingale, etc., in Selections from Keats, in Athenæum Press; Selections
also in Muses' Library, Riverside Literature, Golden Treasury Series, etc.

_Lamb_. Essays: Dream Children, Old China, Dissertation on Roast Pig, etc.,
edited by Wauchope, in Standard English Classics; various essays also in
Camelot Series, Temple Classics, Everyman's Library, etc. Tales from
Shakespeare, in Home and School Library (Ginn and Company); also in
Riverside Literature, Pocket Classics, Golden Treasury, etc.

_De Quincey_. The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc, in Standard English
Classics, etc.; Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, in Temple Classics,
Morley's Universal Library, Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics, etc.;
Selections, edited by M. H. Turk, in Athenæum Press; Selections, edited by
B. Perry (Holt).

_Landor_. Selections, edited by W. Clymer, in Athenæum Press; Pericles and
Aspasia, in Camelot Series; Imaginary Conversations, selected (Ginn and
Company); the same, 2 vols., in Dutton's Universal Library; selected poems,
in Canterbury Poets; selections, prose and verse, in Golden Treasury

_Jane Austen_. Pride and Prejudice, in Everyman's Library, Pocket Classics,


_HISTORY. Text-book_, Montgomery, pp. 323-357; Cheyney, 576-632. _General
Works_. Green, X, 2-4, Traill, Gardiner, Macaulay, etc. _Special Works_.
Cheyney's Industrial and Social History of England; Warner's Landmarks of
English Industrial History; Hassall's Making of the British Empire;
Macaulay's William Pitt; Trevelyan's Early Life of Charles James Fox;
Morley's Edmund Burke; Morris's Age of Queen Anne and the Early

_LITERATURE. General Works._ Mitchell, Courthope, Garnett and Gosse, Taine
(see General Bibliography). _Special Works_. Beers's English Romanticism in
the Nineteenth Century; A. Symons's The Romantic Movement in English
Poetry; Dowden's The French Revolution and English Literature, also Studies
in Literature, 1789-1877; Hancock's The French Revolution and the English
Poets; Herford's The Age of Wordsworth (Handbooks of English Literature);
Mrs. Oliphant's Literary History of England in the End of the Eighteenth
and Beginning of the Nineteenth Centuries; Saintsbury's History of
Nineteenth Century Literature; Masson's Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and
Other Essays; Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, vols. 1-3;
Gates's Studies and Appreciations; S. Brooke's Studies in Poetry;
Rawnsley's Literary Associations of the English Lakes (2 vols.).

_Wordsworth_. Texts: Globe, Aldine, Cambridge editions, etc.; Poetical and
Prose Works, with Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal, edited by Knight, Eversley
Edition (London and New York, 1896); Letters of the Wordsworth Family,
edited by Knight, 3 vols. (Ginn and Company); Poetical Selections, edited
by Dowden, in Athenaeum Press; various other selections, in Golden
Treasury, etc.; Prose Selections, edited by Gayley (Ginn and Company).
Life: Memoirs, 2 vols., by Christopher Wordsworth; by Knight, 3 vols.; by
Myers (English Men of Letters); by Elizabeth Wordsworth; Early Life (a
Study of the Prelude) by E. Legouis, translated by J. Matthews; Raleigh's
Wordsworth; N.C. Smith's Wordsworth's Literary Criticism; Rannie's
Wordsworth and His Circle. Criticism: Herford's The Age of Wordsworth;
Masson's Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats; Magnus's Primer of Wordsworth;
Wilson's Helps to the Study of Arnold's Wordsworth; Essays, by Lowell, in
Among My Books; by M. Arnold, in Essays in Criticism; by Hutton, in
Literary Essays; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library, and in Studies of a
Biographer; by Bagehot, in Literary Studies; by Hazlitt, in The Spirit of
the Age; by Pater, in Appreciations; by De Quincey, in Essays on the Poets;
by Fields, in Yesterdays with Authors; by Shairp, in Studies in Poetry and
Philosophy. See also Knight's Through the Wordsworth Country, and
Rawnsley's Literary Associations of the English Lakes.

_Coleridge_. Texts: Complete Works, edited by Shedd, 7 vols. (New York
1884); Poems, Globe, Aldine, and Cambridge editions, in Athenaeum Press
(announced, 1909), Muses' Library, Canterbury Poets, etc.; Biographia
Literaria, in Everyman's Library; the same, in Clarendon Press; Prose
Selections, Lectures on Shakespeare, etc. (see Selections for Reading,
above); Letters, edited by E.H. Coleridge (London, 1895). Life: by J.D.
Campbell; by Traill (English Men of Letters); by Dykes; by Hall Caine
(Great Writers Series); see also Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, and
Lamb's essay, Christ's Hospital, in Essays of Elia. Criticism: Brandl's
Coleridge and the English Romantic Movement. Essays, by Shairp, in Studies
in Poetry and Philosophy; by Woodberry, in Makers of Literature; by J.
Forster, in Great Teachers; by Dowden, in New Studies; by Swinburne, in
Essays and Studies; by Brooke, in Theology in the English Poets; by
Saintsbury, in Essays in English Literature; by Lowell in Democracy and
Other Essays; by Hazlitt, and by Pater (see Wordsworth, above). See also
Beers's English Romanticism; Carlyle's chapter on Coleridge, in Life of
John Sterling.

_Southey_. Texts: Poems, edited by Dowden (Macmillan); Poetical Works
(Crowell); Selections in Canterbury Poets; Life of Nelson, in Everyman's
Library, Temple Classics, Morley's Universal Library, etc. Life: by Dowden
(English Men of Letters). Essays, by L. Stephen, in Studies of a
Biographer; by Hazlitt and Saintsbury (see above).

_Scott_. Texts: Numerous good editions of novels and poems. For single
works, see Selections for Reading, above. Life: by Lockhart, 5 vols.
(several editions; best by Pollard, 1900); by Hutton (English Men of
Letters); by A. Lang, in Literary Lives; by C. D. Yonge (Great Writers); by
Hudson; by Saintsbury (Famous Scots Series). Criticism: Essays, by
Stevenson, Gossip on Romance, in Memories and Portraits; by Shairp, in
Aspects of Poetry; by Swinburne, in Studies in Prose and Poetry; by
Carlyle, in Miscellaneous Essays; by Hazlitt, Bagehot, L. Stephen, Brooke,
and Saintsbury (see Coleridge and Wordsworth, above).

_Byron_. Texts: Complete Works, Globe, Cambridge Poets, and Oxford
editions; Selections, edited by M. Arnold, in Golden Treasury (see also
Selections for Reading, above); Letters and Journals of Byron, edited by
Moore (unreliable). Life: by Noel (Great Writers); by Nichol (English Men
of Letters); The Real Lord Byron, by J. C. Jeaffreson; Trelawny's
Recollections of Shelley and Byron. Criticism: Hunt's Lord Byron and His
Contemporaries; Essays, by Morley, Macaulay, Hazlitt, Swinburne, and M.

_Shelley_. Texts: Centenary Edition, edited by Woodberry, 4 vols.; Globe
and Cambridge Poets editions; Essays and Letters, in Camelot Series (see
Selections for Reading, above). Life: by Symonds (English Men of Letters);
by Dowden, 2 vols.; by Sharp (Great Writers); by T. J. Hogg, 2 vols.; by W.
M. Rossetti. Criticism: Salt's A Shelley Primer; Essays, by Dowden, in
Transcripts and Studies; by M. Arnold, Woodberry, Bagehot, Forster, L.
Stephen, Brooke, De Quincey, and Hutton (see Coleridge and Wordsworth,

_Keats_. Texts: Complete Works, edited by Forman, 4 vols. (London, 1883);
Cambridge Poets Edition, with Letters, edited by H. E. Scudder (Houghton,
Mifflin); Aldine Edition, with Life, edited by Lord Houghton (Macmillan);
Selected Poems, with introduction and notes by Arlo Bates (Ginn and
Company); Poems, also in Everyman's Library, Muses' Library, Golden
Treasury, etc.; Letters, edited by S. Colvin, in Eversley Edition. Life: by
Forman, in Complete Works; by Colvin (English Men of Letters); by W. M.
Rossetti (Great Writers); by A. E. Hancock. Criticism: H. C. Shelley's
Keats and His Circle; Masson's Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and Other
Essays; Essays, by M. Arnold, in Essays in Criticism, also in Ward's
English Poets, vol. 4; by Hudson, in Studies in Interpretation; by Lowell,
in Among My Books, or Literary Essays, vol. 2; by Brooke, De Quincey, and
Swinburne (above).

_Lamb_. Texts: Complete Works and Letters, edited by E. V. Lucas, 7 vols.
(Putnam); the same, edited by Ainger, 6 vols. (London, 1883-1888); Essays
of Elia, in Standard English Classics, etc. (see Selections for Reading);
Dramatic Essays, edited by B. Matthews (Dodd, Mead); Specimens of English
Dramatic Poets, in Bohn's Library. Life: by E. V. Lucas, 2 vols.; by Ainger
(English Men of Letters); by Barry Cornwall; Talfourd's Memoirs of Charles
Lamb. Criticism: Essays, by De Quincey, in Biographical Essays; by F.
Harrison, in Tennyson, Ruskin, Mill, and Other Literary Estimates; by
Pater, and Woodberry (see Wordsworth and Coleridge, above). See also
Fitzgerald's Charles Lamb, his Friends, his Haunts, and his Books.

_De Quincey_. Texts: Collected Writings, edited by Masson, 14 vols.
(London, 1889-1891); Confessions of an Opium-Eater, etc. (see Selections
for Reading). Life: by Masson (English Men of Letters); Life and Writings,
by H. A. Page, 2 vols.; Hogg's De Quincey and his Friends; Findlay's
Personal Recollections of De Quincey; see also De Quincey's
Autobiographical Sketches, and Confessions. Criticism: Essays, by
Saintsbury, in Essays in English Literature; by Masson, in Wordsworth,
Shelley, Keats, and Other Essays; by L. Stephen, in Hours in a Library. See
also Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature.

_Landor_. Texts: Works, with Life by Forster, 8 vols. (London, 1876);
Works, edited by Crump (London, 1897); Letters, etc., edited by Wheeler
(London, 1897 and 1899); Imaginary Conversations, etc. (see Selections for
Reading). Life: by Colvin (English Men of Letters); by Forster. Criticism:
Essays, by De Quincey, Woodberry, L. Stephen, Saintsbury, Swinburne,
Dow-den (see above). See also Stedman's Victorian Poets.

_Jane Austen_. Texts: Works, edited by R. B. Johnson (Dent); various other
editions of novels; Letters, edited by Woolsey (Roberts). Life: Austen-
Leigh's Memoir of Jane Austen; Hill's Jane Austen, her Home and her
Friends; Mitton's Jane Austen and her Times. Life, by Goldwin Smith; by
Maiden (Famous Women Series); by O. F. Adams. Criticism: Pollock's Jane
Austen; Pellew's Jane Austen's Novels; A. A. Jack's Essay on the Novel as
Illustrated by Scott and Miss Austen; H. H. Bonnell's Charlotte Brontë,
George Eliot, and Jane Austen; Essay, by Howells, in Heroines of Fiction.

_Maria Edgeworth_. Texts: Tales and Novels, New Langford Edition, 10 vols.
(London, 1893) various editions of novels (Dent, etc.); The Absentee, and
Castle Rackrent, in Morley's Universal Library. Life: by Helen Zimmerman;
Memoir, by Hare.

_Mrs. Anne Radclife_. Romances, with introduction by Scott, in Ballantynes'
Novelists Library (London, 1824); various editions of Udolpho, etc.;
Saintsbury's Tales of Mystery, vol. i. See Beers's English Romanticism.

_Moore_. Poetical Works, in Canterbury Poets, Chandos Classics, etc.;
Selected poems, in Golden Treasury; Gunning's Thomas Moore, Poet and
Patriot; Symington's Life and Works of Moore. Essay, by Saintsbury.

_Campbell_. Poems, Aldine edition; Selections, in Golden Treasury. Life, by

_Hazlitt_. Texts: Works, edited by Henley, 12 vols. (London, 1902);
Selected Essays, in Temple Classics, Camelot Series, etc. Life: by Birrell
(English Men of Letters); Memoirs, by W. C. Hazlitt. Essays, by Saintsbury;
by L. Stephen.

_Leigh Hunt_. Texts: Selected essays, in Camelot Series, also in Cavendish
Library (Warne); Stories from the Italian Poets (Putnam). Life: by
Monkhouse (Great Writers). Essays, by Macaulay; by Saintsbury; by Hazlitt.
See also Mrs. Field's A Shelf of Old Books.

SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS. (NOTE. In a period like the Age of Romanticism, the
poems and essays chosen for special study vary so widely that only a few
general questions on the selections for reading are attempted.)

1. Why is this period of Romanticism (1789-1837) called the Age of
Revolution? Give some reasons for the influence of the French Revolution on
English literature, and illustrate from poems or essays which you have
read. Explain the difference between Classicism and Romanticism. Which of
these two types of literature do you prefer?

2. What are the general characteristics of the literature of this period?
What two opposing tendencies are illustrated in the novels of Scott and
Jane Austen? in the poetry of Byron and Wordsworth?

3. _Wordsworth_. Tell briefly the story of Wordsworth's life, and name some
of his best poems. Why do the _Lyrical Ballads_ (1798) mark an important
literary epoch? Read carefully, and make an analysis of the "Intimations of
Immortality"; of "Tintern Abbey." Can you explain what political conditions
are referred to in Wordsworth's "Sonnet on Milton"? in his "French
Revolution"? Does he attempt to paint a picture in his sonnet on
Westminster Bridge, or has he some other object in view? What is the
central teaching of the "Ode to Duty"? Compare Wordsworth's two Skylark
poems with Shelley's. Make a brief comparison between Wordsworth's sonnets
and those of Shakespeare and of Milton, having in mind the thought, the
melody, the view of nature, and the imagery of the three poets. Quote from
Wordsworth's poems to show his belief that nature is conscious; to show the
influence of nature on man; to show his interest in children; his
sensitiveness to sounds; to illustrate the chastening influence of sorrow.
Make a brief comparison between the characters of Wordsworth's "Michael"
and of Burns's "The Cotter's Saturday Night." Compare Wordsworth's point of
view and method, in the three poems "To a Daisy," with Burns's view, as
expressed in his famous lines on the same subject.

4. _Coleridge_. What are the general characteristics of Coleridge's life?
What explains the profound sympathy for humanity that is reflected in his
poems? For what, beside his poems, is he remarkable? Can you quote any
passages from his poetry which show, the influence of Wordsworth? What are
the characters in "The Ancient Mariner"? In what respect is this poem
romantic? Give your own reasons for its popularity. Does the thought or the
style of this poem impress you? If you have read any of the _Lectures on
Shakespeare_, explain why Coleridge's work is called romantic criticism.

5. _Scott_. Tell the story of Scott's life, and name his chief poems and
novels. Do you recall any passage from his poetry which suggests his own
heroism? Why was he called "the wizard of the North"? What is the general
character of his poetry? Compare _Marmion_ with one of the old ballads,
having in mind the characters, the dramatic interest of the story, and the
style of writing. In what sense is he the creator of the historical novel?
Upon what does he depend to hold the reader's attention? Compare him, in
this respect, with Jane Austen. Which of his characters impress you as
being the most lifelike? Name any novels of the present day which copy
Scott or show his influence. Read _Ivanhoe_ and the _Lady of the Lake_;
make a brief analysis of each work, having in mind the style, the plot, the
dramatic interest, the use of adventure, and the truth to nature of the
different characters.

6. _Byron_. Why is Byron called the revolutionary poet? (Illustrate, if
possible, from his poetry.) What is the general character of his work? In
what kind of poetry does he excel? (Quote from _Childe Harold_ to
illustrate your opinion.) Describe the typical Byronic hero. Can you
explain his great popularity at first, and his subsequent loss of
influence? Why is he still popular on the Continent? Do you find more of
thought or of emotion in his poetry? Compare him, in this respect, with
Shelley; with Wordsworth. Which is the more brilliant writer, Byron or
Wordsworth? Which has the more humor? Which has the healthier mind? Which
has the higher ideal of poetry? Which is the more inspiring and helpful? Is
it fair to say that Byron's quality is power, not charm?

7. _Shelley_. What are the chief characteristics of Shelley's poetry? Is it
most remarkable for its thought, form, or imagery? What poems show the
influence of the French Revolution? What subjects are considered in "Lines
written among the Euganean Hills"? What does Shelley try to teach in "The
Sensitive Plant"? Compare Shelley's view of nature, as reflected in "The
Cloud" or "The West Wind," with Wordsworth's view, as reflected in "The
Prelude," "Tintern Abbey," "Daffodils," etc. To what class of poems does
"Adonais" belong? What is the subject of the poem? Name others of the same
class. How does Shelley describe himself in this poem? Compare Shelley's
"Adonais" and Milton's "Lycidas" with regard to the view of life after
death as expressed in the poems. What kinds of scenes does Shelley like
best to describe? Compare his characters with those of Wordsworth; of
Byron. Do you recall any poems in which he writes of ordinary people or of
ordinary experiences?

8. _Keats_. What is the essence of Keats's poetical creed, as expressed in
the "Ode on a Grecian Urn"? What are the remarkable elements in his life
and work? What striking difference do you find between his early poems and
those of Shelley and Byron? What are the chief subjects of his verse? What
poems show the influence of the classics? of Elizabethan literature? Can
you explain why his work has been called literary poetry? Keats and Shelley
are generally classed together. What similarities do you find in their
poems? Give some reasons why Keats introduces the old Bedesman in "The Eve
of Saint Agnes." Name some of the literary friends mentioned in Keats's

Compare Keats's characters with those of Wordsworth; of Byron. Does Keats
ever remind you of Spenser? In what respects? Is your personal preference
for Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, or Keats? Why?

9. _Lamb_. Tell briefly the story of Lamb's life and name his principal
works. Why is he called the most human of essayists? His friends called him
"the last of the Elizabethans." Why? What is the general character of the
_Essays of Elia_? How is the personality of Lamb shown in all these essays?
Cite any passages showing Lamb's skill in portraying people. Make a brief
comparison between Lamb and Addison, having in mind the subjects treated,
the style, the humor, and the interest of both essayists. Which do you
prefer, and why?

10. _De Quincey_. What are the general characteristics of De Quincey's
essays? Explain why he is called the psychologist of style. What accounts
for a certain unreal element in all his work. Read a passage from _The
English Mail-Coach_, or from _Joan of Arc_, or from _Levana, Our Lady of
Sorrows_, and comment freely upon it, with regard to style, ideas,
interest, and the impression of reality or unreality which it leaves.

11. _Landor_. In what respect does Landor show a reaction from Romanticism?
What qualities make Landor's poems stand out so clearly in the memory? Why,
for instance, do you think Lamb was so haunted by "Rose Aylmer"? Quote from
Landor's poems to illustrate his tenderness, his sensitiveness to beauty,
his power of awakening emotion, his delicacy of characterization. Do you
find the same qualities in his prose? Can you explain why much of his prose
seems like a translation from the Greek? Compare a passage from the
_Imaginary Conversations_ with a passage from Gibbon or Johnson, to show
the difference between the classic and the pseudo-classic style. Compare
one of Landor's characters, in _Imaginary Conversations_, with the same
character in history.

12. _Jane Austen_. How does Jane Austen show a reaction from Romanticism?
What important work did she do for the novel? To what kind of fiction was
her work opposed? In what does the charm of her novels consist? Make a
brief comparison between Jane Austen and Scott (as illustrated in _Pride
and Prejudice_ and _Ivanhoe_), having in mind the subject, the characters,
the manner of treatment, and the interest of both narratives. Do Jane
Austen's characters have to be explained by the author, or do they explain
themselves? Which method calls for the greater literary skill? What does
Jane Austen say about Mrs. Radcliffe, in _Northanger Abbey_? Does she make
any other observations on eighteenth-century novelists?

      _End of the Eighteenth and Beginning of the Nineteenth Century_
  HISTORY                            |  LITERATURE
1760-1820. George III                |
                                     | 1770-1850. Wordsworth
                                     | 1771-1832. Scott
1789-1799. French Revolution         |
                                     | 1796-1816. Jane Austen's novels
                                     | 1798. Lyrical Balads of Wordsworth
                                     |       and Coleridge
1800. Union of Great Britain and     |
      Ireland                        |
1802. Colonization of Australia      | 1802. Scotts Minstrelsy of the Scottish
                                     |       Border
1805. Battle of Trafalgar            | 1805-1817. Scotts poems
                                     | 1807. Wordsworth's Intimations of
1807. Abolition of slave trade       |       Immortality. Lamb's Tales
                                     |       from Shakespeare
1808-1814. Peninsular War            |
                                     | 1809-1818. Byron's Childe Harold
1812. Second war with United States  | 1810-1813. Coleridge's Lectures on
                                     |       Shakespeare
1814. Congress of Vienna             | 1814-1831. Waverley Novels
1815. Battle of Waterloo             |
                                     | 1816. Shelley's Alastor
                                     | 1817. Coleridge's Biographia Literaria
                                     | 1817-1820. Keats's poems
                                     | 1818-1820. Shelley's Prometheus
1819. First Atlantic steamship       |
1820. George IV (_d_. 1830)          | 1820. Wordsworth's Duddon Sonnets
                                     | 1820-1833. Lamb's Essays of Elia
                                     | 1821. De Quincey's Confessions
                                     | 1824-1846. Landor's Imaginary
                                     |       Conversations.
1826. First Temperance Society       |
1829. Catholic Emancipation Bill     |
1830. William IV (_d_. 1837)         | 1830. Tennyson's first poems
      First railway                  |
                                     | 1831. Scott's last novel
1832. Reform Bill                    |
1833. Emancipation of slaves         | 1833. Carlyle's Sartor Resartus
                                     |       Browning's Pauline
1834. System of national education   |
1837. Victoria (_d_. 1901)           |
                                     | 1853-1861. De Quincey's Collected
                                     |       Essays

       *       *       *       *       *




When Victoria became queen, in 1837, English literature seemed to have
entered upon a period of lean years, in marked contrast with the poetic
fruitfulness of the romantic age which we have just studied. Coleridge,
Shelley, Keats, Byron, and Scott had passed away, and it seemed as if there
were no writers in England to fill their places. Wordsworth had written, in

    Like clouds that rake, the mountain summits,
      Or waves that own no curbing hand,
    How fast has brother followed brother,
      From sunshine to the sunless land!

In these lines is reflected the sorrowful spirit of a literary man of the
early nineteenth century who remembered the glory that had passed away from
the earth. But the leanness of these first years is more apparent than
real. Keats and Shelley were dead, it is true, but already there had
appeared three disciples of these poets who were destined to be far more
widely, read than were their masters. Tennyson had been publishing poetry
since 1827, his first poems appearing almost simultaneously with the last
work of Byron, Shelley, and Keats; but it was not until 1842, with the
publication of his collected poems, in two volumes, that England recognized
in him one of her great literary leaders. So also Elizabeth Barrett had
been writing since 1820, but not till twenty years later did her poems
become deservedly popular; and Browning had published his _Pauline_ in
1833, but it was not until 1846, when he published the last of the series
called _Bells and Pomegranates_, that the reading public began to
appreciate his power and originality. Moreover, even as romanticism seemed
passing away, a group of great prose writers--Dickens, Thackeray, Carlyle,
and Ruskin--had already begun to proclaim the literary glory of a new age,
which now seems to rank only just below the Elizabethan and the Romantic

HISTORICAL SUMMARY. Amid the multitude of social and political forces of
this great age, four things stand out clearly. First, the long struggle of
the Anglo-Saxons for personal liberty is definitely settled, and democracy
becomes the established order of the day. The king, who appeared in an age
of popular weakness and ignorance, and the peers, who came with the Normans
in triumph, are both stripped of their power and left as figureheads of a
past civilization. The last vestige of personal government and of the
divine right of rulers disappears; the House of Commons becomes the ruling
power in England; and a series of new reform bills rapidly extend the
suffrage, until the whole body of English people choose for themselves the
men who shall represent them.

Second, because it is an age of democracy, it is an age of popular
education, of religious tolerance, of growing brotherhood, and of profound
social unrest. The slaves had been freed in 1833; but in the middle of the
century England awoke to the fact that slaves are not necessarily negroes,
stolen in Africa to be sold like cattle in the market place, but that
multitudes of men, women, and little children in the mines and factories
were victims of a more terrible industrial and social slavery. To free
these slaves also, the unwilling victims of our unnatural competitive
methods, has been the growing purpose of the Victorian Age until the
present day.

Third, because it is an age of democracy and education, it is an age of
comparative peace. England begins to think less of the pomp and false
glitter of fighting, and more of its moral evils, as the nation realizes
that it is the common people who bear the burden and the sorrow and the
poverty of war, while the privileged classes reap most of the financial and
political rewards. Moreover, with the growth of trade and of friendly
foreign relations, it becomes evident that the social equality for which
England was contending at home belongs to the whole race of men; that
brotherhood is universal, not insular; that a question of justice is never
settled by fighting; and that war is generally unmitigated horror and
barbarism. Tennyson, who came of age when the great Reform Bill occupied
attention, expresses the ideals of the Liberals of his day who proposed to
spread the gospel of peace,

    Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furled
    In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world.

Fourth, the Victorian Age is especially remarkable because of its rapid
progress in all the arts and sciences and in mechanical inventions. A
glance at any record of the industrial achievements of the nineteenth
century will show how vast they are, and it is unnecessary to repeat here
the list of the inventions, from spinning looms to steamboats, and from
matches to electric lights. All these material things, as well as the
growth of education, have their influence upon the life of a people, and it
is inevitable that they should react upon its prose and poetry; though as
yet we are too much absorbed in our sciences and mechanics to determine
accurately their influence upon literature. When these new things shall by
long use have became familiar as country roads, or have been replaced by
newer and better things, then they also will have their associations and
memories, and a poem on the railroads may be as suggestive as Wordsworth's
sonnet on Westminster Bridge; and the busy, practical workingmen who to-day
throng our streets and factories may seem, to a future and greater age, as
quaint and poetical as to us seem the slow toilers of the Middle Ages.

LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS. When one is interested enough to trace the
genealogy of Victoria he finds, to his surprise, that in her veins flowed
the blood both of William the Conqueror and of Cerdic, the first Saxon king
of England; and this seems to be symbolic of the literature of her age,
which embraces the whole realm of Saxon and Norman life,--the strength and
ideals of the one, and the culture and refinement of the other. The
romantic revival had done its work, and England entered upon a new free
period, in which every form of literature, from pure romance to gross
realism, struggled for expression. At this day it is obviously impossible
to judge the age as a whole; but we are getting far enough away from the
early half of it to notice certain definite characteristics. First, though
the age produced many poets, and two who deserve to rank among the
greatest, nevertheless this is emphatically an age of prose. And since the
number of readers has increased a thousandfold with the spread of popular
education, it is the age of the newspaper, the magazine, and the modern
novel,--the first two being the story of the world's daily life, and the
last our pleasantest form of literary entertainment, as well as our most
successful method of presenting modern problems and modern ideals. The
novel in this age fills a place which the drama held in the days of
Elizabeth; and never before, in any age or language, has the novel appeared
in such numbers and in such perfection.

[Moral Purpose] The second marked characteristic of the age is that
literature, both in prose and in poetry, seems to depart from the purely
artistic standard, of art for art's sake, and to be actuated by a definite
moral purpose Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Ruskin,--who and what were these
men if not the teachers of England, not vaguely but definitely, with superb
faith in their message, and with the conscious moral purpose to uplift and
to instruct? Even the novel breaks away from Scott's romantic influence,
and first studies life as it is, and then points out what life may and
ought to be. Whether we read the fun and sentiment of Dickens, the social
miniatures of Thackeray, or the psychological studies of George Eliot, we
find in almost every case a definite purpose to sweep away error and to
reveal the underlying truth of human life. So the novel sought to do for
society in this age precisely what Lyell and Darwin sought to do for
science, that is, to find the truth, and to show how it might be used to
uplift humanity. Perhaps for this reason the Victorian Age is emphatically
an age of realism rather than of romance,--not the realism of Zola and
Ibsen, but a deeper realism which strives to tell the whole truth, showing
moral and physical diseases as they are, but holding up health and hope as
the normal conditions of humanity.

It is somewhat customary to speak of this age as an age of doubt and
pessimism, following the new conception of man and of the universe which
was formulated by science under the name of involution. It is spoken of
also as a prosaic age, lacking in great ideals. Both these criticisms seem
to be the result of judging a large thing when we are too close to it to
get its true proportions, just as Cologne Cathedral, one of the world's
most perfect structures, seems to be a shapeless pile of stone when we
stand too close beneath its mighty walls and buttresses. Tennyson's
immature work, like that of the minor poets, is sometimes in a doubtful or
despairing strain; but his _In Memoriam_ is like the rainbow after storm;
and Browning seems better to express the spirit of his age in the strong,
manly faith of "Rabbi Ben Ezra," and in the courageous optimism of all his
poetry. Stedman's _Victorian Anthology_ is, on the whole, a most inspiring
book of poetry. It would be hard to collect more varied cheer from any age.
And the great essayists, like Macaulay, Carlyle, Ruskin, and the great
novelists, like Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, generally leave us with a
larger charity and with a deeper faith in our humanity.

So also the judgment that this age is too practical for great ideals may be
only a description of the husk that hides a very full ear of corn. It is
well to remember that Spenser and Sidney judged their own age (which we now
consider to be the greatest in our literary history) to be altogether given
over to materialism, and to be incapable of literary greatness. Just as
time has made us smile at their blindness, so the next century may correct
our judgment of this as a material age, and looking upon the enormous
growth of charity and brotherhood among us, and at the literature which
expresses our faith in men, may judge the Victorian Age to be, on the
whole, the noblest and most inspiring in the history of the world.



    O young Mariner,
    You from the haven
    Under the sea-cliff,
    You that are watching
    The gray Magician
    With eyes of wonder,
    _I_ am Merlin,
    And _I_ am dying,
    _I_ am Merlin
    Who follow The Gleam.
      .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    O young Mariner,
    Down to the haven
    Call your companions,
    Launch your vessel,
    And crowd your canvas,
    And, ere it vanishes
    Over the margin,
    After it, follow it,
    Follow The Gleam.

One who reads this haunting poem of "Merlin and The Gleam" finds in it a
suggestion of the spirit of the poet's whole life,--his devotion to the
ideal as expressed in poetry, his early romantic impressions, his
struggles, doubts, triumphs, and his thrilling message to his race.
Throughout the entire Victorian period Tennyson stood at the summit of
poetry in England. Not in vain was he appointed laureate at the death of
Wordsworth, in 1850; for, almost alone among those who have held the
office, he felt the importance of his place, and filled and honored it. For
nearly half a century Tennyson was not only a man and a poet; he was a
voice, the voice of a whole people, expressing in exquisite melody their
doubts and their faith, their griefs and their triumphs. In the wonderful
variety of his verse he suggests all the qualities of England's greatest
poets. The dreaminess of Spenser, the majesty of Milton, the natural
simplicity of Wordsworth, the fantasy of Blake and Coleridge, the melody of
Keats and Shelley, the narrative vigor of Scott and Byron,--all these
striking qualities are evident on successive pages of Tennyson's poetry.
The only thing lacking is the dramatic power of the Elizabethans. In
reflecting the restless spirit of this progressive age Tennyson is as
remarkable as Pope was in voicing the artificiality of the early eighteenth
century. As a poet, therefore, who expresses not so much a personal as a
national spirit, he is probably the most representative literary man of the
Victorian era.

LIFE. Tennyson's life is a remarkable one in this respect, that from
beginning to end he seems to have been dominated by a single impulse, the
impulse of poetry. He had no large or remarkable experiences, no wild oats
to sow, no great successes or reverses, no business cares or public
offices. For sixty-six years, from the appearance of the _Poems by Two
Brothers_, in 1827, until his death in 1892, he studied and practiced his
art continually and exclusively. Only Browning, his fellow-worker,
resembles him in this; but the differences in the two men are world-wide.
Tennyson was naturally shy, retiring, indifferent to men, hating noise and
publicity, loving to be alone with nature, like Wordsworth. Browning was
sociable, delighting in applause, in society, in travel, in the noise and
bustle of the big world.

Tennyson was born in the rectory of Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1809. The
sweet influences of his early natural surroundings can be better understood
from his early poems than from any biography. He was one of the twelve
children of the Rev. George Clayton Tennyson, a scholarly clergyman, and
his wife Elizabeth Fytche, a gentle, lovable woman, "not learned, save in
gracious household ways," to whom the poet pays a son's loyal tribute near
the close of _The Princess_. It is interesting to note that most of these
children were poetically inclined, and that two of the brothers, Charles
and Frederick, gave far greater promise than did Alfred.

When seven years old the boy went to his grandmother's house at Louth, in
order to attend a famous grammar school at that place. Not even a man's
memory, which generally makes light of hardship and glorifies early
experiences, could ever soften Tennyson's hatred of school life. His
complaint was not so much at the roughness of the boys, which had so
frightened Cowper, as at the brutality of the teachers, who put over the
school door a wretched Latin inscription translating Solomon's barbarous
advice about the rod and the child. In these psychologic days, when the
child is more important than the curriculum, and when we teach girls and
boys rather than Latin and arithmetic, we read with wonder Carlyle's
description of his own schoolmaster, evidently a type of his kind, who
"knew of the human soul thus much, that it had a faculty called memory, and
could be acted on through the muscular integument by appliance of birch
rods." After four years of most unsatisfactory school life, Tennyson
returned home, and was fitted for the university by his scholarly father.
With his brothers he wrote many verses, and his first efforts appeared in a
little volume called _Poems by Two Brothers_, in 1827. The next year he
entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became the center of a
brilliant circle of friends, chief of whom was the young poet Arthur Henry

At the university Tennyson soon became known for his poetical ability, and
two years after his entrance he gained the prize of the Chancellor's Medal
for a poem called "Timbuctoo," the subject, needless to say, being chosen
by the chancellor. Soon after winning this honor Tennyson published his
first signed work, called _Poems Chiefly Lyrical_ (1830), which, though it
seems somewhat crude and disappointing to us now, nevertheless contained
the germ of all his later poetry. One of the most noticeable things in this
volume is the influence which Byron evidently exerted over the poet in his
early days; and it was perhaps due largely to the same romantic influence
that Tennyson and his friend Hallam presently sailed away to Spain, with
the idea of joining the army of insurgents against King Ferdinand.
Considered purely as a revolutionary venture, this was something of a
fiasco, suggesting the noble Duke of York and his ten thousand men,--"he
marched them up a hill, one day; and he marched them down again." From a
literary view point, however, the experience was not without its value. The
deep impression which the wild beauty of the Pyrenees made upon the young
poet's mind is reflected clearly in the poem "Oenone."

In 1831 Tennyson left the university without taking his degree. The reasons
for this step are not clear; but the family was poor, and poverty may have
played a large part in his determination. His father died a few months
later; but, by a generous arrangement with the new rector, the family
retained the rectory at Somersby, and here, for nearly six years, Tennyson
lived in a retirement which strongly suggests Milton at Horton. He read and
studied widely, cultivated an intimate acquaintance with nature, thought
deeply on the problems suggested by the Reform Bill which was then
agitating England, and during his leisure hours wrote poetry. The first
fruits of this retirement appeared, late in 1832, in a wonderful little
volume bearing the simple name _Poems_. As the work of a youth only
twenty-three, this book is remarkable for the variety and melody of its
verse. Among its treasures we still read with delight "The Lotos Eaters,"
"Palace of Art," "A Dream of Fair Women," "The Miller's Daughter,"
"Oenone," and "The Lady of Shalott"; but the critics of the _Quarterly_,
who had brutally condemned his earlier work, were again unmercifully
severe. The effect of this harsh criticism upon a sensitive nature was most
unfortunate; and when his friend Hallam died, in 1833, Tennyson was plunged
into a period of gloom and sorrow. The sorrow may be read in the exquisite
little poem beginning, "Break, break, break, On thy cold gray stones, O
Sea!" which was his first published elegy for his friend; and the
depressing influence of the harsh and unjust criticism is suggested in
"Merlin and The Gleam," which the reader will understand only after he has
read Tennyson's biography.

For nearly ten years after Hallam's death Tennyson published nothing, and
his movements are hard to trace as the family went here and there, seeking
peace and a home in various parts of England. But though silent, he
continued to write poetry, and it was in these sad wandering days that he
began his immortal _In Memoriam_ and his _Idylls of the King_. In 1842 his
friends persuaded him to give his work to the world, and with some
hesitation he published his _Poems_. The success of this work was almost
instantaneous, and we can appreciate the favor with which it was received
when we read the noble blank verse of "Ulysses" and "Morte d'Arthur," the
perfect little song of grief for Hallam which we have already mentioned,
and the exquisite idyls like "Dora" and "The Gardener's Daughter," which
aroused even Wordsworth's enthusiasm and brought from him a letter saying
that he had been trying all his life to write such an English pastoral as
"Dora" and had failed. From this time forward Tennyson, with increasing
confidence in himself and his message, steadily maintained his place as the
best known and best loved poet in England.

The year 1850 was a happy one for Tennyson. He was appointed poet laureate,
to succeed Wordsworth; and he married Emily Sellwood,

    Her whose gentle will has changed my fate
      And made my life a perfumed altar flame,

whom he had loved for thirteen years, but whom his poverty had prevented
him from marrying. The year is made further remarkable by the publication
of _In Memoriam_, probably the most enduring of his poems, upon which he
had worked at intervals for sixteen years. Three years later, with the
money that his work now brought him, he leased the house Farringford, in
the Isle of Wight, and settled in the first permanent home he had known
since he left the rectory at Somersby.

For the remaining forty years of his life he lived, like Wordsworth, "in
the stillness of a great peace," writing steadily, and enjoying the
friendship of a large number of people, some distinguished, some obscure,
from the kindly and sympathetic Victoria to the servants on his own farm.
All of these he called with equal sincerity his friends, and to each one he
was the same man, simple, strong, kindly, and noble. Carlyle describes him
as "a fine, large-featured, dim-eyed, bronze-colored, shaggy-headed man,
... most restful, brotherly, solid-hearted." Loving solitude and hating
publicity as he did, the numerous tourists from both sides of the ocean,
who sought him out in his retreat and insisted upon seeing him, made his
life at times intolerable. Influenced partly by the desire to escape such
popularity, he bought land and built for himself a new house, Aldworth, in
Surrey, though he made his home in Farringford for the greater part of the

His labor during these years and his marvelous freshness and youthfulness
of feeling are best understood by a glance at the contents of his complete
works. Inferior poems, like _The Princess_, which was written in the first
flush of his success, and his dramas, which were written against the advice
of his best friends, may easily be criticised; but the bulk of his verse
shows an astonishing originality and vigor to the very end. He died very
quietly at Aldworth, with his family about him in the moonlight, and beside
him a volume of Shakespeare, open at the dirge in _Cymbeline:_

    Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
      Nor the furious winter's rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
      Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.

The strong and noble spirit of his life is reflected in one of his best
known poems, "Crossing the Bar," which was written in his eighty-first
year, and which he desired should be placed at the end of his collected

    Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
    And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,
    But such a tide as, moving, seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
    When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.
    Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;
    For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.

WORKS. At the outset of our study of Tennyson's works it may be well to
record two things, by way of suggestion. First, Tennyson's poetry is not so
much to be studied as to be read and appreciated; he is a poet to have open
on one's table, and to enjoy as one enjoys his daily exercise. And second,
we should by all means begin to get acquainted with Tennyson in the days of
our youth. Unlike Browning, who is generally appreciated by more mature
minds, Tennyson is for enjoyment, for inspiration, rather than for
instruction. Only youth can fully appreciate him; and youth, unfortunately,
except in a few rare, beautiful cases, is something which does not dwell
with us long after our school days. The secret of poetry, especially of
Tennyson's poetry, is to be eternally young, and, like Adam in Paradise, to
find every morning a new world, fresh, wonderful, inspiring, as if just
from the hands of God.

Except by the student, eager to understand the whoje range of poetry in
this age, Tennyson's earlier poems and his later dramas may well be
omitted. Opinions vary about both; but the general judgment seems to be
that the earlier poems show too much of Byron's influence, and their
crudeness suffers by comparison with the exquisitely finished work of
Tennyson's middle life. Of dramatic works he wrote seven, his great
ambition being to present a large part of the history of England in a
series of dramas. _Becket_ was one of the best of these works and met with
considerable favor on the stage; but, like all the others, it indicates
that Tennyson lacked the dramatic power and the humor necessary for a
successful playwright.

Among the remaining poems there is such a wide variety that every reader
must be left largely to follow his own delightful choice.[235] Of the
_Poems_ of 1842 we have already mentioned those best worth reading. _The
Princess, a Medley_ (1847), a long poem of over three thousand lines of
blank verse, is Tennyson's answer to the question of woman's rights and
woman's sphere, which was then, as in our own day, strongly agitating the
public mind. In this poem a baby finally solves the problem which
philosophers have pondered ever since men began to think connectedly about
human society. A few exquisite songs, like "Tears, Idle Tears," "Bugle
Song," and "Sweet and Low," form the most delightful part of this poem,
which in general is hardly up to the standard of the poet's later work.
_Maud_ (1855) is what is called in literature a monodrama, telling the
story of a lover who passes from morbidness to ecstasy, then to anger and
murder, followed by insanity and recovery. This was Tennyson's favorite,
and among his friends he read aloud from it more than from any other poem.
Perhaps if we could hear Tennyson read it, we should appreciate it better;
but, on the whole, it seems overwrought and melodramatic. Even its lyrics,
like "Come into the Garden, Maud," which make this work a favorite with
young lovers, are characterized by "prettiness" rather than by beauty or

Perhaps the most loved of all Tennyson's works is _In Memoriam_, which, on
account of both its theme and its exquisite workmanship, is "one of the few
immortal names that were not born to die." The immediate occasion of this
remarkable poem was Tennyson's profound personal grief at the death of his
friend Hallam. As he wrote lyric after lyric, inspired by this sad subject,
the poet's grief became less personal, and the greater grief of humanity
mourning for its dead and questioning its immortality took possession of
him. Gradually the poem became an expression, first, of universal doubt,
and then of universal faith, a faith which rests ultimately not on reason
or philosophy but on the soul's instinct for immortality. The immortality
of human love is the theme of the poem, which is made up of over one
hundred different lyrics. The movement takes us through three years, rising
slowly from poignant sorrow and doubt to a calm peace and hope, and ending
with a noble hymn of courage and faith,--a modest courage and a humble
faith, love-inspired,--which will be a favorite as long as saddened men
turn to literature for consolation. Though Darwin's greatest books had not
yet been written, science had already overturned many old conceptions of
life; and Tennyson, who lived apart and thought deeply on all the problems
of his day, gave this poem to the world as his own answer to the doubts and
questionings of men. This universal human interest, together with its
exquisite form and melody, makes the poem, in popular favor at least, the
supreme threnody, or elegiac poem, of our literature; though Milton's
_Lycidas_ is, from the critical view point, undoubtedly a more artistic

_The Idylls of the King_ ranks among the greatest of Tennyson's later
works. Its general subject is the Celtic legends of King Arthur and his
knights of the Round Table, and the chief source of its material is
Malory's _Morte d'Arthur_. Here, in this mass of beautiful legends, is
certainly the subject of a great national epic; yet after four hundred
years, during which many poets have used the material, the great epic is
still unwritten. Milton and Spenser, as we have already noted, considered
this material carefully; and Milton alone, of all English writers, had
perhaps the power to use it in a great epic. Tennyson began to use these
legends in his _Morte d'Arthur_ (1842); but the epic idea probably occurred
to him later, in 1856, when he began "Geraint and Enid," and he added the
stories of "Vivien," "Elaine," "Guinevere," and other heroes and heroines
at intervals, until "Balin," the last of the _Idylls_, appeared in 1885.
Later these works were gathered together and arranged with an attempt at
unity. The result is in no sense an epic poem, but rather a series of
single poems loosely connected by a thread of interest in Arthur, the
central personage, and in his unsuccessful attempt to found an ideal

Entirely different in spirit is another collection of poems called _English
Idyls,_[236] which began in the _Poems_ of 1842, and which Tennyson
intended should reflect the ideals of widely different types of English
life. Of these varied poems, "Dora," "The Gardener's Daughter," "Ulysses,"
"Locksley Hall" and "Sir Galahad" are the best; but all are worthy of
study. One of the most famous of this series is "Enoch Arden" (1864), in
which Tennyson turns from mediæval knights, from lords, heroes, and fair
ladies, to find the material for true poetry among the lowly people that
make up the bulk of English life. Its rare melody, its sympathy for common
life, and its revelation of the beauty and heroism which hide in humble men
and women everywhere, made this work an instant favorite. Judged by its
sales alone, it was the most popular of his works during the poet's

Tennyson's later volumes, like the _Ballads_ (1880) and _Demeter_ (1889),
should not be overlooked, since they contain some of his best work. The
former contains stirring war songs, like "The Defence of Lucknow," and
pictures of wild passionate grief, like "Rizpah"; the latter is notable for
"Romney's Remorse," a wonderful piece of work; "Merlin and The Gleam,"
which expresses the poet's lifelong ideal; and several exquisite little
songs, like "The Throstle," and "The Oak," which show how marvelously the
aged poet retained his youthful freshness and inspiration. Here certainly
is variety enough to give us long years of literary enjoyment; and we need
hardly mention miscellaneous poems, like "The Brook" and "The Charge of the
Light Brigade," which are known to every schoolboy; and "Wages" and "The
Higher Pantheism," which should be read by every man who thinks about the
old, old problem of life and death.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TENNYSON'S POETRY. If we attempt to sum up the quality
of Tennyson, as shown in all these works, the task is a difficult one; but
three things stand out more or less plainly. First, Tennyson is essentially
the artist. No other in his age studied the art of poetry so constantly or
with such singleness of purpose; and only Swinburne rivals him in melody
and the perfect finish of his verse. Second, like all the great writers of
his age, he is emphatically a teacher, often a leader. In the preceding
age, as the result of the turmoil produced by the French Revolution,
lawlessness was more or less common, and individuality was the rule in
literature. Tennyson's theme, so characteristic of his age, is the reign of
order,--of law in the physical world, producing evolution, and of law in
the spiritual world, working out the perfect man. _In Memoriam, Idylls of
the King, The Princess_,-here are three widely different poems; yet the
theme of each, so far as poetry is a kind of spiritual philosophy and
weighs its words before it utters them, is the orderly development of law
in the natural and in the spiritual world.

This certainly is a new doctrine in poetry, but the message does not end
here. Law implies a source, a method, an object. Tennyson, after facing his
doubts honestly and manfully, finds law even in the sorrows and losses of
humanity. He gives this law an infinite and personal source, and finds the
supreme purpose of all law to be a revelation of divine love. All earthly
love, therefore, becomes an image of the heavenly. What first perhaps
attracted readers to Tennyson, as to Shakespeare, was the character of his
women,--pure, gentle, refined beings, whom we must revere as our Anglo-
Saxon forefathers revered the women they loved. Like Browning, the poet had
loved one good woman supremely, and her love made clear the meaning of all
life. The message goes one step farther. Because law and love are in the
world, faith is the only reasonable attitude toward life and death, even
though we understand them not. Such, in a few words, seems to be Tennyson's
whole message and philosophy.

If we attempt now to fix Tennyson's permanent place in literature, as the
result of his life and work, we must apply to him the same test that we
applied to Milton and Wordsworth, and, indeed, to all our great poets, and
ask with the German critics, "What new thing has he said to the world or
even to his own country?" The answer is, frankly, that we do not yet know
surely; that we are still too near Tennyson to judge him impersonally. This
much, however, is clear. In a marvelously complex age, and amid a hundred
great men, he was regarded as a leader. For a full half century he was the
voice of England, loved and honored as a man and a poet, not simply by a
few discerning critics, but by a whole people that do not easily give their
allegiance to any one man. And that, for the present, is Tennyson's
sufficient eulogy.


    How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ
    All the heart and the soul and the senses for ever in joy!

In this new song of David, from Browning's _Saul_, we have a suggestion of
the astonishing vigor and hope that characterize all the works of Browning,
the one poet of the age who, after thirty years of continuous work, was
finally recognized and placed beside Tennyson, and whom future ages may
judge to be a greater poet,--perhaps, even, the greatest in our literature
since Shakespeare.

The chief difficulty in reading Browning is the obscurity of his style,
which the critics of half a century ago held up to ridicule. Their attitude
towards the poet's early work may be inferred from Tennyson's humorous
criticism of _Sordello_. It may be remembered that the first line of this
obscure poem is, "Who will may hear Sordello's story told"; and that the
last line is, "Who would has heard Sordello's story told." Tennyson
remarked that these were the only lines in the whole poem that he
understood, and that they were evidently both lies. If we attempt to
explain this obscurity, which puzzled Tennyson and many less friendly
critics, we find that it has many sources. First, the poet's thought is
often obscure, or else so extremely subtle that language expresses it

    Thoughts hardly to be packed
    Into a narrow act,
    Fancies that broke through language and escaped.

Second, Browning is led from one thing to another by his own mental
associations, and forgets that the reader's associations may be of an
entirely different kind. Third, Browning is careless in his English, and
frequently clips his speech, giving us a series of ejaculations. As we do
not quite understand his processes of thought, we must stop between the
ejaculations to trace out the connections. Fourth, Browning's, allusions
are often far-fetched, referring to some odd scrap of information which he
has picked up in his wide reading, and the ordinary reader finds it
difficult to trace and understand them. Finally, Browning wrote too much
and revised too Little. The time which he should have given to making one
thought clear was used in expressing other thoughts that flitted through
his head like a flock of swallows. His field was the individual soul, never
exactly alike in any two men, and he sought to express the hidden motives
and principles which govern individual action. In this field he is like a
miner delving underground, sending up masses of mingled earth and ore; and
the reader must sift all this material to separate the gold from the dross.

Here, certainly, are sufficient reasons for Browning's obscurity; and we
must add the word that the fault seems unpardonable, for the simple reason
that Browning shows himself capable, at times, of writing directly,
melodiously, and with noble simplicity.

So much for the faults, which must be faced and overlooked before one finds
the treasure that is hidden in Browning's poetry. Of all the poets in our
literature, no other is so completely, so consciously, so magnificently a
teacher of men. He feels his mission of faith and courage in a world of
doubt and timidity. For thirty years he faced indifference or ridicule,
working bravely and cheerfully the while, until he made the world recognize
and follow him. The spirit of his whole life is well expressed in his
_Paracelsus_, written when he was only twenty-two years old:

    I see my way as birds their trackless way.
    I shall arrive,--what time, what circuit first,
    I ask not; but unless God send his hail
    Or blinding fire-balls, sleet or stifling snow,
    In some time, his good time, I shall arrive;
    He guides me and the bird. In his good time.

He is not, like so many others, an entertaining poet. One cannot read him
after dinner, or when settled in a comfortable easy-chair. One must sit up,
and think, and be alert when he reads Browning. If we accept these
conditions, we shall probably find that Browning is the most stimulating
poet in our language. His influence upon our life is positive and
tremendous. His strength, his joy of life, his robust faith, and his
invincible optimism enter into us, making us different and better men after
reading him. And perhaps the best thing he can say of Browning is that his
thought is slowly but surely taking possession of all well-educated men and

LIFE. Browning's father was outwardly a business man, a clerk for fifty
years in the Bank of England; inwardly he was an interesting combination of
the scholar and the artist, with the best tastes of both. His mother was a
sensitive, musical woman, evidently very lovely in character, the daughter
of a German shipowner and merchant who had settled in Scotland. She was of
Celtic descent, and Carlyle describes her as the true type of a Scottish
gentlewoman. From his neck down, Browning was the typical Briton,--short,
stocky, large-chested, robust; but even in the lifeless portrait his face
changes as we view it from different angles. Now it is like an English
business man, now like a German scientist, and now it has a curious
suggestion of Uncle Remus,--these being, no doubt, so many different
reflections of his mixed and unremembered ancestors.

He was born in Camberwell, on the outskirts of London, in 1812. From his
home and from his first school, at Peckham, he could see London; and the
city lights by night and the smoky chimneys by day had the same powerful
fascination for the child that the woods and fields and the beautiful
country had for his friend Tennyson. His schooling was short and desultory,
his education being attended to by private tutors and by his father, who
left the boy largely to follow his own inclination. Like the young Milton,
Browning was fond of music, and in many of his poems, especially in "Abt
Vogler" and "A Toccata of Galuppi's," he interprets the musical temperament
better, perhaps, than any other writer in our literature. But unlike
Milton, through whose poetry there runs a great melody, music seems to have
had no consistent effect upon his verse, which is often so jarring that one
must wonder how a musical ear could have endured it.

Like Tennyson, this boy found his work very early, and for fifty years
hardly a week passed that he did not write poetry. He began at six to
produce verses, in imitation of Byron; but fortunately this early work has
been lost. Then he fell under the influence of Shelley, and his first known
work, _Pauline_ (1833), must be considered as a tribute to Shelley and his
poetry. Tennyson's earliest work, _Poems by Two Brothers_, had been
published and well paid for, five years before; but Browning could find no
publisher who would even consider _Pauline_, and the work was published by
means of money furnished by an indulgent relative. This poem received scant
notice from the reviewers, who had pounced like hawks on a dovecote upon
Tennyson's first two modest volumes. Two years later appeared _Paracelsus_,
and then his tragedy _Strafford_ was put upon the stage; but not till
_Sordello_ was published, in 1840, did he attract attention enough to be
denounced for the obscurity and vagaries of his style. Six years later, in
1846, he suddenly became famous, not because he finished in that year his
_Bells and Pomegranates_ (which is Browning's symbolic name for "poetry and
thought" or "singing and sermonizing"), but because he eloped with the best
known literary woman in England, Elizabeth Barrett, whose fame was for many
years, both before and after her marriage, much greater than Browning's,
and who was at first considered superior to Tennyson. Thereafter, until his
own work compelled attention, he was known chiefly as the man who married
Elizabeth Barrett. For years this lady had been an almost helpless invalid,
and it seemed a quixotic thing when Browning, having failed to gain her
family's consent to the marriage, carried her off romantically. Love and
Italy proved better than her physicians, and for fifteen years Browning and
his wife lived an ideally happy life in Pisa and in Florence. The exquisite
romance of their love is preserved in Mrs. Browning's _Sonnets from the
Portuguese_, and in the volume of _Letters_ recently published,--wonderful
letters, but so tender and intimate that it seems almost a sacrilege for
inquisitive eyes to read them.

Mrs. Browning died in Florence in 1861. The loss seemed at first too much
to bear, and Browning fled with his son to England. For the remainder of
his life he lived alternately in London and in various parts of Italy,
especially at the Palazzo Rezzonico, in Venice, which is now an object of
pilgrimage to almost every tourist who visits the beautiful city. Wherever
he went he mingled with men and women, sociable, well dressed, courteous,
loving crowds and popular applause, the very reverse of his friend
Tennyson. His earlier work had been much better appreciated in America than
in England; but with the publication of _The Ring and the Book_, in 1868,
he was at last recognized by his countrymen as one of the greatest of
English poets. He died in Venice, on December 12, 1889, the same day that
saw the publication of his last work, _Asolando_. Though Italy offered him
an honored resting place, England claimed him for her own, and he lies
buried beside Tennyson in Westminster Abbey. The spirit of his whole life
is magnificently expressed in his own lines, in the Epilogue of his last

    One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward,
        Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, tho' right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
        Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
                     Sleep to wake.

WORKS. A glance at even the titles which Browning gave to his best known
volumes--_Dramatic Lyrics_ (1842), _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (1845),
_Men and Women_ (1853), _Dramatis Persona_ (1864)--will suggest how strong
the dramatic element is in all his work. Indeed, all his poems may be
divided into three classes,--pure dramas, like _Strafford_ and _A Blot in
the 'Scutcheon_; dramatic narratives, like _Pippa Passes_, which are
dramatic in form, but were not meant to be acted; and dramatic lyrics, like
_The Last Ride Together_, which are short poems expressing some strong
personal emotion, or describing some dramatic episode in human life, and in
which the hero himself generally tells the story.

Though Browning is often compared with Shakespeare, the reader will
understand that he has very little of Shakespeare's dramatic talent. He
cannot bring a group of people together and let the actions and words of
his characters show us the comedy and tragedy of human life. Neither can
the author be disinterested, satisfied, as Shakespeare was, with life
itself, without drawing any moral conclusions. Browning has always a moral
ready, and insists upon giving us his own views of life, which Shakespeare
never does. His dramatic power lies in depicting what he himself calls the
history of a soul. Sometimes, as in _Paracelsus_, he endeavors to trace the
progress of the human spirit. More often he takes some dramatic moment in
life, some crisis in the ceaseless struggle between good and evil, and
describes with wonderful insight the hero's own thoughts and feelings; but
he almost invariably tells us how, at such and such a point, the good or
the evil in his hero must inevitably have triumphed. And generally, as in
"My Last Duchess," the speaker adds a word here and there, aside from the
story, which unconsciously shows the kind of man he is. It is this power of
revealing the soul from within that causes Browning to fascinate those who
study him long enough. His range is enormous, and brings all sorts and
conditions of men under analysis. The musician in "Abt Vogler," the artist
in "Andrea del Sarto," the early Christian in "A Death in the Desert," the
Arab horseman in "Muteykeh," the sailor in "Herve Kiel," the mediæval
knight in "Childe Roland," the Hebrew in "Saul," the Greek in "Balaustion's
Adventure," the monster in "Caliban," the immortal dead in "Karshish,"--all
these and a hundred more histories of the soul show Browning's marvelous
versatility. It is this great range of sympathy with many different types
of life that constitutes Browning's chief likeness to Shakespeare, though
otherwise there is no comparison between the two men.

If we separate all these dramatic poems into three main periods,--the
early, from 1833 to 1841; the middle, from 1841 to 1868; and the late, from
1868 to 1889,--the work of the beginner will be much more easily
designated. Of his early soul studies, _Pauline_ (1833), _Paracelsus_
(1835), and _Sordello_ (1840), little need be said here, except perhaps
this: that if we begin with these works, we shall probably never read
anything else by Browning. And that were a pity. It is better to leave
these obscure works until his better poems have so attracted us to Browning
that we will cheerfully endure his worst faults for the sake of his
undoubted virtues. The same criticism applies, though in less degree, to
his first drama, _Strafford_ (1837), which belongs to the early period of
his work.

The merciless criticism which greeted _Sordello_ had a wholesome effect on
Browning, as is shown in the better work of his second period. Moreover,
his new power was developing rapidly, as may be seen by comparing the eight
numbers of his famous _Bells and Pomegranates_ series (1841-1846) with his
earlier work. Thus, the first number of this wonderful series, published in
1841, contains _Pippa Passes_, which is, on the whole, the most perfect of
his longer poems; and another number contains _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon_,
which is the most readable of his dramas. Even a beginner must be thrilled
by the beauty and the power of these two works. Two other noteworthy dramas
of the period are _Colombe's Birthday_ (1844) and _In a Balcony_ (1855),
which, however, met with scant appreciation on the stage, having too much
subtle analysis and too little action to satisfy the public. Nearly all his
best lyrics, dramas, and dramatic poems belong to this middle period of
labor; and when _The Ring and the Book_ appeared, in 1868, he had given to
the world the noblest expression of his poetic genius.

In the third period, beginning when Browning was nearly sixty years old, he
wrote even more industriously than before, and published on an average
nearly a volume of poetry a year. Such volumes as _Fifine at the Fair, Red
Cotton Night-Cap Country, The Inn Album, Jocoseria_, and many others, show
how Browning gains steadily in the power of revealing the hidden springs of
human action; but he often rambles most tiresomely, and in general his work
loses in sustained interest. It is perhaps significant that most of his
best work was done under Mrs. Browning's influence.

WHAT TO READ. Of the short miscellaneous poems there is such an unusual
variety that one must hesitate a little in suggesting this or that to the
beginner's attention. "My Star," "Evelyn Hope," "Wanting is--What?" "Home
Thoughts from Abroad," "Meeting at Night," "One Word More" (an exquisite
tribute to his dead wife), "Prospice" (Look Forward); songs from _Pippa
Passes;_ various love poems like "By the Fireside" and "The Last Ride
Together"; the inimitable "Pied Piper," and the ballads like "Hervé Riel"
and "How They Brought the Good News,"--these are a mere suggestion,
expressing only the writer's personal preference; but a glance at the
contents of Browning's volumes will reveal scores of other poems, which
another writer might recommend as being better in themselves or more
characteristic of Browning.[237]

Among Browning's dramatic soul studies there is also a very wide choice.
"Andrea del Sarto" is one of the best, revealing as it does the strength
and the weakness of "the perfect painter," whose love for a soulless woman
with a pretty face saddens his life and hampers his best work. Next in
importance to "Andrea" stands "An Epistle," reciting the experiences of
Karshish, an Arab physician, which is one of the best examples of
Browning's peculiar method of presenting the truth. The half-scoffing,
half-earnest, and wholly bewildered state of this Oriental scientist's mind
is clearly indicated between the lines of his letter to his old master. His
description of Lazarus, whom he meets by chance, and of the state of mind
of one who, having seen the glories of immortality, must live again in the
midst of the jumble of trivial and stupendous things which constitute our
life, forms one of the most original and suggestive poems in our
literature. "My Last Duchess" is a short but very keen analysis of the soul
of a selfish man, who reveals his character unconsciously by his words of
praise concerning his dead wife's picture. In "The Bishop Orders his Tomb"
we have another extraordinarily interesting revelation of the mind of a
vain and worldly man, this time a churchman, whose words tell you far more
than he dreams about his own character. "Abt Vogler," undoubtedly one of
Browning's finest poems, is the study of a musician's soul. "Muléykeh"
gives us the soul of an Arab, vain and proud of his fast horse, which was
never beaten in a race. A rival steals the horse and rides away upon her
back; but, used as she is to her master's touch, she will not show her best
pace to the stranger. Muléykeh rides up furiously; but instead of striking
the thief from his saddle, he boasts about his peerless mare, saying that
if a certain spot on her neck were touched with the rein, she could never
be overtaken. Instantly the robber touches the spot, and the mare answers
with a burst of speed that makes pursuit hopeless. Muléykeh has lost his
mare; but he has kept his pride in the unbeaten one, and is satisfied.
"Rabbi Ben Ezra," which refuses analysis, and which must be read entire to
be appreciated, is perhaps the most quoted of all Browning's works, and
contains the best expression of his own faith in life, both here and
hereafter. All these wonderful poems are, again, merely a suggestion. They
indicate simply the works to which one reader turns when he feels mentally
vigorous enough to pick up Browning. Another list of soul studies, citing
"A Toccata of Galuppi's," "A Grammarian's Funeral," "Fra Lippo Lippi,"
"Saul," "Cleon," "A Death in the Desert," and "Soliloquy of the Spanish
Cloister," might, in another's judgment, be more interesting and

[Pippa Passes] Among Browning's longer poems there are two, at least, that
well deserve our study. _Pippa Passes_, aside from its rare poetical
qualities, is a study of unconscious influence. The idea of the poem was
suggested to Browning while listening to a gypsy girl singing in the woods
near his home; but he transfers the scene of the action to the little
mountain town of Asolo, in Italy. Pippa is a little silk weaver, who goes
out in the morning to enjoy her one holiday of the whole year. As she
thinks of her own happiness she is vaguely wishing that she might share it,
and do some good. Then, with her childish imagination, she begins to weave
a little romance in which she shares in the happiness of the four greatest
and happiest people in Asolo. It never occurs to her that perhaps there is
more of misery than of happiness in the four great ones of whom she dreams;
and so she goes on her way singing,

    The year's at the spring
    And day's at the morn;
    Morning's at seven;
    The hillside's dew-pearled;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn:
    God's in his heaven--
    All's right with the world!

Fate wills it that the words and music of her little songs should come to
the ears of four different groups of people at the moment when they are
facing the greatest crises of their lives, and turn the scale from evil to
good. But Pippa knows nothing of this. She enjoys her holiday, and goes to
bed still singing, entirely ignorant of the good she has done in the world.
With one exception, it is the most perfect of all Browning's works. At best
it is not easy, nor merely entertaining reading; but it richly repays
whatever hours we spend in studying it.

_The Ring and the Book_ is Browning's masterpiece. It is an immense poem,
twice as long as _Paradise Lost_, and longer by some two thousand lines
than the _Iliad;_ and before we begin the undoubted task of reading it, we
must understand that there is no interesting story or dramatic development
to carry us along. In the beginning we have an outline of the story, such
as it is--a horrible story of Count Guido's murder of his beautiful young
wife; and Browning tells us in detail just when and how he found a book
containing the record of the crime and the trial. There the story element
ends, and the symbolism of the book begins. The title of the poem is
explained by the habit of the old Etruscan goldsmiths who, in making one of
their elaborately chased rings, would mix the pure gold with an alloy, in
order to harden it. When the ring was finished, acid was poured upon it;
and the acid ate out the alloy, leaving the beautiful design in pure gold.
Browning purposes to follow the same plan with his literary material, which
consists simply of the evidence given at the trial of Guido in Rome, in
1698. He intends to mix a poet's fancy with the crude facts, and create a
beautiful and artistic work.

The result of Browning's purpose is a series of monologues, in which the
same story is retold nine different times by the different actors in the
drama. The count, the young wife, the suspected priest, the lawyers, the
Pope who presides at the trial,--each tells the story, and each
unconsciously reveals the depths of his own nature in the recital. The most
interesting of the characters are Guido, the husband, who changes from bold
defiance to abject fear; Caponsacchi, the young priest, who aids the wife
in her flight from her brutal husband, and is unjustly accused of false
motives; Pompilia, the young wife, one of the noblest characters in
literature, fit in all respects to rank with Shakespeare's great heroines;
and the Pope, a splendid figure, the strongest of all Browning's masculine
characters. When we have read the story, as told by these four different
actors, we have the best of the poet's work, and of the most original poem
in our language.

BROWNING'S PLACE AND MESSAGE. Browning's place in our literature will be
better appreciated by comparison with his friend Tennyson, whom we have
just studied. In one respect, at least, these poets are in perfect accord.
Each finds in love the supreme purpose and meaning of life. In other
respects, especially in their methods of approaching the truth, the two men
are the exact opposites. Tennyson is first the artist and then the teacher;
but with Browning the message is always the important thing, and he is
careless, too careless, of the form in which it is expressed. Again,
Tennyson is under the influence of the romantic revival, and chooses his
subjects daintily; but "all's fish" that comes to Browning's net. He takes
comely and ugly subjects with equal pleasure, and aims to show that truth
lies hidden in both the evil and the good. This contrast is all the more
striking when we remember that Browning's essentially scientific attitude
was taken by a man who refused to study science. Tennyson, whose work is
always artistic, never studied art, but was devoted to the sciences; while
Browning, whose work is seldom artistic in form, thought that art was the
most suitable subject for a man's study.

The two poets differ even more widely in their respective messages.
Tennyson's message reflects the growing order of the age, and is summed up
in the word "law." in his view, the individual will must be suppressed; the
self must always be subordinate. His resignation is at times almost
Oriental in its fatalism, and occasionally it suggests Schopenhauer in its
mixture of fate and pessimism. Browning's message, on the other hand, is
the triumph of the individual will over all obstacles; the self is not
subordinate but supreme. There is nothing Oriental, nothing doubtful,
nothing pessimistic in the whole range of his poetry. His is the voice of
the Anglo-Saxon, standing up in the face of all obstacles and saying, "I
can and I will." He is, therefore, far more radically English than is
Tennyson; and it may be for this reason that he is the more studied, and
that, while youth delights in Tennyson, manhood is better satisfied with
Browning. Because of his invincible will and optimism, Browning is at
present regarded as the poet who has spoken the strongest word of faith to
an age of doubt. His energy, his cheerful courage, his faith in life and in
the development that awaits us beyond the portals of death, are like a
bugle-call to good living. This sums up his present influence upon the
minds of those who have learned to appreciate him. Of the future we can
only say that, both at home and abroad, he seems to be gaining steadily in
appreciation as the years go by.


ELIZABETH BARRETT. Among the minor poets of the past century Elizabeth
Barrett (Mrs. Browning) occupies perhaps the highest place in popular
favor. She was born at Coxhoe Hall, near Durham, in 1806; but her childhood
and early youth were spent in Herefordshire, among the Malvern Hills made
famous by _Piers Plowman_. In 1835 the Barrett family moved to London,
where Elizabeth gained a literary reputation by the publication of _The
Seraphim and Other Poems_ (1838). Then illness and the shock caused by the
tragic death of her brother, in 1840, placed her frail life in danger, and
for six years she was confined to her own room. The innate strength and
beauty of her spirit here showed itself strongly in her daily study, her
poetry, and especially in her interest in the social problems which sooner
or later occupied all the Victorian writers. "My mind to me a kingdom is"
might well have been written over the door of the room where this delicate
invalid worked and suffered in loneliness and in silence.

In 1844 Miss Barrett published her _Poems_, which, though somewhat
impulsive and overwrought, met with remarkable public favor. Such poems as
"The Cry of the Children," which voices the protest of humanity against
child labor, appealed tremendously to the readers of the age, and this
young woman's fame as a poet temporarily overshadowed that of Tennyson and
Browning. Indeed, as late as 1850, when Wordsworth died, she was seriously
considered for the position of poet laureate, which was finally given to
Tennyson. A reference to Browning, in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," is
supposed to have first led the poet to write to Miss Barrett in 1845. Soon
afterwards he visited the invalid; they fell in love almost at first sight,
and the following year, against the wishes of her father,--who was
evidently a selfish old tyrant,--Browning carried her off and married her.
The exquisite romance of their love is reflected in Mrs. Browning's
_Sonnets from the Portuguese_ (1850). This is a noble and inspiring book of
love poems; and Stedman regards the opening sonnet, "I thought once how
Theocritus had sung," as equal to any in our language.

For fifteen years the Brownings lived an ideally happy life at Pisa, and at
Casa Guidi, Florence, sharing the same poetical ambitions. And love was the
greatest thing in the world,--

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
    I love thee to the level of everyday's
    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise;
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith;
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints--I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

Mrs. Browning entered with whole-souled enthusiasm into the aspirations of
Italy in its struggle against the tyranny of Austria; and her _Casa Guidi
Windows_ (1851) is a combination of poetry and politics, both, it must be
confessed, a little too emotional. In 1856 she published _Aurora Leigh_, a
novel in verse, having for its hero a young social reformer, and for its
heroine a young woman, poetical and enthusiastic, who strongly suggests
Elizabeth Barrett herself. It emphasizes in verse precisely the same moral
and social ideals which Dickens and George Eliot were proclaiming in all
their novels. Her last two volumes were _Poems before Congress_ (1860), and
_Last Poems_, published after her death. She died suddenly in 1861 and was
buried in Florence. Browning's famous line, "O lyric love, half angel and
half bird," may well apply to her frail life and aerial spirit.

ROSSETTI. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), the son of an exiled Italian
painter and scholar, was distinguished both as a painter and as a poet. He
was a leader in the Pre-Raphaelite movement[238] and published in the first
numbers of _The Germ_ his "Hand and Soul," a delicate prose study, and his
famous "The Blessed Damozel," beginning,

    The blessed damozel leaned out
      From the gold bar of Heaven;
    Her eyes were deeper than the depth
      Of waters stilled at even;
    She had three lilies in her hand,
      And the stars in her hair were seven.

These two early works, especially "The Blessed Damozel," with its
simplicity and exquisite spiritual quality, are characteristic of the
ideals of the Pre-Raphaelites.

In 1860, after a long engagement, Rossetti married Elizabeth Siddal, a
delicate, beautiful English girl, whom he has immortalized both in his
pictures and in his poetry. She died two years later, and Rossetti never
entirely recovered from the shock. At her burial he plac