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Title: A History of English Prose Fiction
Author: Tuckerman, Bayard
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A History of English Prose Fiction" ***






The Knickerbocker Press




It is attempted in this volume to trace the gradual progress of English
Prose Fiction from the early romance to the novel of the present day,
in such connection with the social characteristics of the epochs to
which these works respectively belong, as may conduce to a better
comprehension of their nature and significance.

As many of the earlier specimens of English fiction are of a character
or a rarity which makes any acquaintance with them difficult to the
general public, I have endeavored so to describe their style and
contents that the reader may obtain, to some degree, a personal
knowledge of them.

The novels of the nineteenth century are so numerous and so generally
familiar, that, in the chapter devoted to this period, I have sought
rather to point out the great importance which fiction has assumed, and
the variety of forms which it has taken, than to attempt any exhaustive
criticism of individual authors--a task already sufficiently performed
by writers far more able to do it justice.



"_The Benedick._"
NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 1882.



THE ROMANCE OF CHIVALRY ........................................   1






THE PURITANS, "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS" ......................... 102




FIELDING, SMOLLETT ............................................. 134


THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL ........................................... 220


USE AND ABUSE OF FICTION ...................................... 274




In the midst of an age of gloom and anarchy, when Feudalism was slowly
building up a new social organization on the ruins of the Roman Empire,
arose that spirit of chivalry, which, in its connection with the
Christian religion, forms so sharp a division between the sentiments of
ancient and modern times. Following closely on the growth of chivalry
as an institution, there came into being a remarkable species of
fiction, which reflected with great faithfulness the character of the
age, and having formed for three centuries the principal literary
entertainment of the knighthood of Europe, left on the new
civilization, and the new literature which had outgrown and discarded
it, lasting traces of its natural beauty. Into the general fund of
chivalric romance were absorbed the learning and legend of every land.
From the gloomy forests and bleak mountains of the North came dark and
terrible fancies, malignant enchanters, and death-dealing spirits,
supposed to haunt the earth and sea; from Arabia and the East came
gorgeous pictures of palaces built of gold and precious stones, magic
rings which transport the bearer from place to place, love-inspiring
draughts, dragons and fairies; from ancient Greece and Rome came
memories of the heroes and mysteries of mythology, like old coins worn
and disfigured by passing, through ages, from hand to hand, but still
bearing a faint outline of their original character. All this mass of
fiction was floating idly in the imaginations of men, or worked as an
embellishment into the rude numbers of the minstrels, when the mediæval
romancers gathered it up, and interweaving it with the traditions of
Arthur and Charlemagne, produced those strange compositions which are
so entirely the product and repository of the habits, superstitions,
and sympathies of the Middle Ages that they serve to

     "Hold the mirror up to Nature,
      To show Vice its own image, Virtue its own likeness,
      And the very age and body of the times,
      His form and pressure."

The men who wrote, and the men who read these romances, the first
springs of our modern fiction, were influenced by two dominant ideas:
"One religious, which had fashioned the gigantic cathedrals, and swept
the masses from their native soil to hurl them upon the Holy Land; the
other secular, which had built feudal fortresses, and set the man of
courage erect and armed within his own domain."[1] These two ideas were
outwardly expressed in the Roman Church and the Feudal System.

During the anarchy of the Middle Ages, every man was compelled to look
upon war as his natural occupation, if he hoped to preserve life or
property. His land was held as a condition of military service. As long
as there was no effective administration of justice, redress for the
aggrieved lay in the sword alone. A military career had no rival in the
eyes of the ambitious and the noble. There was no learning, no art, to
share with skill in arms, the honors to which a youth aspired. Religion
and love, the most powerful inspirations of his moral life, made force
of arms the merit most worthy of their rewards. The growth of the
people in the mechanical arts took the direction of improving the
instruments of warfare; the increase of refinement and humanity tended
less to diminish war than to make it more civilized, showy, and
glorious. The armies of the Romans seem prosaic when we turn to the
brilliant array of chivalry, to the ranks of steel-clad knights
couching the lance to win fame, the smile of woman, or the reward of
religious devotion;--men to whom war seemed a grand tournament, in
which each combatant, from the king to the poorest knight, was to seek
distinction by his strength and valor. It was through the senses, and
especially through the eye, that the feudal imagination was moved.
Every heart was kindled at the sight of shining armor, horses with
brilliant trappings, gorgeous dress, and martial show. The magnificent
Norman cathedrals struck the mind with devotional awe; the donjons and
towers of the great baronial castles were suggestive of power and
glory. To the impressibility of the senses was added the romantic
spirit of adventure, which kept the knighthood of Europe in a constant
ferment, and for lack of war, burst forth in tournaments, in private
feuds, or in the extravagances of knight-errantry. The feudal system,
growing up to meet the necessities of conquerors living on conquered
territory, and founded on the principle of military service as a
condition of land tenure, made of Europe a vast army. The military
profession was exalted to an importance which crushed all effort of a
more useful or progressive nature; the military class, including all
who possessed land, and did not labor upon it, became an aristocracy
despising peaceful occupations, whose most powerful prejudice was pride
of birth, whose ruling passion was love of war. Under the influence of
this military spirit, intellectual was subordinated to active life; a
condition of ignorance and danger was sustained; an overwhelming
reverence for the supernatural was produced, and there resulted that
predominance of the imagination over the reason of man which forms the
distinctive feature of Romantic Fiction.

While the feudal system formed the framework of society, and, as much
by inspiration as by law, governed the outward actions of men, the
human mind was in complete, and almost universally willing, subjection
to theological influence. The state of war, or of readiness for war,
which was the inevitable accompaniment of feudal tenure, did much to
sustain the state of profound ignorance and consequent superstition in
which the people of mediæval times were plunged, both by preventing the
pursuit of peaceful occupations and the growth of knowledge, and by
increasing the element of danger in life, which always inclines the
human mind to a belief in the supernatural. The same results were
brought about by the character and aims of the Roman Church. The
unswerving purpose of that church was to govern, temporally as well as
spiritually. She sought to supply to men from her own store all the
knowledge which was necessary for their welfare, and that knowledge was
limited to dogmas and beliefs which would strengthen the power of the
priesthood. A strict and absolute acceptance of the truths of
Christianity as she defined them, and a humble obedience to the clergy
were made the sole and necessary conditions of salvation. A questioning
of those truths or a violation of that obedience was a crime before
which murder and license faded into insignificance. The spirit of doubt
and of inquiry which alone leads to knowledge, and through knowledge to
civilization, was repressed by excommunication or in blood. As long as
men continued in a state of helpless ignorance and willing credulity,
the church was a fitting, even a beneficent, mistress and guide. For
centuries she was the sole teacher and the sole external source of
moral elevation. For centuries she alone pointed out the distinction
between right and wrong, the beauty of virtue, and the ugliness of sin.
Whatever there was in life to raise men above their earthly struggles,
their evil passions, and the despair of a hard and dangerous existence,
was supplied by her. The consolations of religion, the ennobling
acquaintance with the character of Christ, and the hope of salvation
through Him were incalculable blessings. Her aid in suppressing
disorder and in establishing a respect for law and government is not to
be overlooked. She presented in her own organization an example of
authority, of system, and of obedience, which, despite many failings
and abuses, was of great value to the world. But there is in human
nature an irrepressible tendency toward growth and progress, and when
this tendency began to show itself in the Middle Ages, it found in the
theological spirit, then personated by the Roman Church, its most
bitter and most powerful enemy. The church, which had hitherto been a
teacher and guide, became the champion of barbarism and the genius of
retrogression. Instead of adapting herself to the growing wants of
mankind, instead of preserving her influence and power by inward
progress proportionate to that which she saw advancing without, she
sought, stationary herself, to keep the world stationary, and to stamp
out in blood the progressive spirit of man. Hence it is that the
blessings of our modern life have been achieved in spite of the Roman
Church, which should have promoted them, and the history of modern
civilization and modern knowledge is in so large a part the history of
emancipation from the tyranny of the theological spirit,--that is, the
clerical opposition to mental and material advancement, both of which
are as necessary to moral advancement as they are to the happiness of
men. This spirit has been the same in every country and in every age,
when the spiritual has exceeded the secular power, and its lamentable
effects may be traced as well in the gloomy Protestant theocracy of
Scotland as in the Catholic Inquisition of Spain. During the period,
however, when the romances of chivalry were principally written and
enjoyed, the convulsions arising from attempts to burst the bonds by
which the minds of men were restrained, had not yet been sensibly felt.
The church was still the controlling intellectual influence. A dark
cloud of ignorance and superstition hung over Europe, to be dispelled
at last by the new growth of learning, and the consequences following
upon it. The best intelligence of the time was confined to the clergy,
who used it skilfully to maintain their authority. By every device they
sought to usurp to themselves the sole power of ministering to popular
wants. Nothing which could strike the mind through the senses was
neglected. They offset tournaments by religious shows and pageantry,
rivalled the attractions of the harp by sacred music, and to wean their
flocks from the half dramatic entertainments of the minstrels, they
invented the Miracle Play and the Mystery. The church forced herself on
the attention of every man without doors or within, by the friars
black or gray who met him at every turn, by the imposing monasteries
which formed a central figure in every landscape, and by the festivals
and processions of priests which made the common occasions for the
assemblage of the people. The constant recurrence of holy days and
fasts called the mind to the consideration of spiritual things, and the
rough superstition of the time was deeply excited when the approach of
death in a household brought the priestly train with lighted tapers,
and the awe-inspiring ceremonies with which the lingering soul was sent
on its way.

The military nature of feudalism explains the predominance of warlike
incidents in romantic fiction, and the character of the Roman Church
gives us an insight into the causes which, in addition to the ignorance
of the time, induced men to refer all remarkable events to supernatural
influence, and prepared their minds for the unquestioning belief in the
fictions which are so important a characteristic of the romances of
chivalry. The low standard of morality also, which is reflected in the
same pages, is due quite as much to the predominance of the dogmatic
over the moral element of Christianity, as to the unrefined and rude
conditions of life.

There is much that is picturesque and brilliant in the times, but much
more that is terrible. The nobles and knights, who lived sword in hand
behind their battlements and massive walls, were the rulers of the
country. Their ungoverned passions and their love of fighting for its
own sake or for that of revenge, were perpetual dangers to internal
peace. There was no power sufficient to keep them in check. The
lawlessness and anarchy caused by the ceaseless quarrels between baron
and baron, found but a feeble remedy in the laws of King or Church. Of
the darkness of the earlier Middle Ages Von Sybel[2] gives a graphic
picture: "Monarchies sank into impotence; petty lawless tyrants
trampled all social order under foot, and all attempts after scientific
instruction and artistic pleasures were as effectually crushed by this
state of general insecurity as the external well-being and material
life of the people. This was a dark and stormy period for Europe,
merciless, arbitrary, and violent. It was a sign of the prevailing
feeling of misery and hopelessness that, when the first thousand years
of our era were drawing to their close, the people in every country in
Europe looked with certainty for the destruction of the world. Some
squandered their wealth in riotous living, others bestowed it, for the
good of their souls, on churches and convents; weeping multitudes lay
day and night about the altars; some looked forward with dread, but
most with secret hope, toward the burning of the earth and the falling
in of heaven." Gradually some order and security succeeded this chaos.
The church exerted all her strength in subduing violence, and the
character of her remedies are illustrative of the evils they were
intended to abate. The truce of God set apart the days between Thursday
and Monday of each week as a time of peace, when private quarrels
should be suspended. The peace of the king forbade the avenging of an
alleged injury until forty days after its commission. The Council of
Clermont ordered that every noble youth on attaining the age of twelve
years should take an oath to defend the oppressed, the widows, and the
orphans.[3] Much superfluous energy was exhausted in the crusades. In
England the growth of the universities and the study and development of
law aided the establishment of social order, while the spread of
commerce and the improvements in husbandry brought with wealth some
refinement and luxury. The baronage wrested from the crown those
liberties which finally became the common property of all. Trade pushed
the inhabitants of the towns into prominence as an important class
whose influence was thrown entirely into the scale of peace and quiet,
on which its prosperity depended. No element of change was more
essential, and none was greater in its civilizing effects than the
development of the chivalric spirit into an institution of which the
laws and customs were observed from England to Sicily. Its influence
worked directly upon the disturbing classes of society. Only time and
the slow march of civilization could calm the restlessness and the
martial spirit of the powerful, but chivalry introduced into warfare
knightly honor and generosity, and into social life a courtesy and
gallantry which formed a strong ally to religion in bringing out the
better sentiments of humanity. At a time when force was greater than
law, when the weak and defenceless were at the mercy of the powerful,
when women were never safe from the attacks of the brutal, a body of
men who were sworn to redress wrongs, to succor the oppressed, and to
protect women and children, could not fail to be highly beneficial and
to win the reverence of mankind. To be a good knight was to be the salt
of the earth. The church gave easy absolution to the champion of the
weak,--the soldier of God. Women smiled upon the cavalier whose
profession was her service, and whose deeds, as well as the glitter of
his arms and the fascination of his martial appearance, flattered her
pride and gratified her imagination.

Yet, in considering the period of chivalry, we must not yield too much
to the attraction of its brilliant show, its high flown sentiments, and
knightly valor. Beneath religion there ever lurked a bigoted
superstition; beneath valor, cruelty; beneath love, mere brutal
passion. The sympathies of the order were much confined to the higher
classes, and there was little feeling for the sufferings of the common
people. The reign of Edward the Third embraces the most brilliant days
of chivalry. About that period is spread a mist of manly gallantry and
feminine charms which conceals the darkness beneath. The Black Prince,
after winning his spurs at Cressy, carried fire and sword among the
peaceful and defenceless inhabitants of Garonne, gratifying a greed of
gain by blood and rapine. The gallant deeds of Sir Walter de Manny, of
Sir John Chandos, the fame of Edward himself, only make darker by
contrast the desolation and suffering by which their glory was
purchased. The poetic illusion inspired by Froissart's chronicles of
knightly deeds and manners is rudely torn when we read Petrarch's
description of France after the battle of Poitiers; "I could not
believe that this was the same France which I had seen so rich and
flourishing. Nothing presented itself to my eyes but a fearful
solitude, land uncultivated, houses in ruins. Even the neighborhood of
Paris showed everywhere the marks of desolation and conflagration. The
streets are deserted, the roads overgrown with weeds, the whole is a
vast solitude."[4]

It is among the Northern conquerors that we must look for the origin of
the spirit of chivalry, which consisted first and chiefly in manly
valor exerted to obtain the favor of woman. Of this there is no trace
in any ancient civilization. Among the barbarous tribes of the North,
physical strength and military prowess were the qualities most
essential in a man, and woman naturally looked upon them as the merit
she most loved, especially as they were needed for her own protection.
But this condition is natural to all barbarous and warlike peoples, and
cannot by itself account for that sentiment which we call chivalric. To
the valor of the Goths were joined an extraordinary reverence and
respect for their women, due, as these feelings always must be, to
feminine chastity. The virtue for which the Northern women were
distinguished elevated them to a position to which the females of other
uncivilized nations never approached. It gave them a large influence in
both public and private affairs, and made them something to be won, not
bought. To obtain his wife the Northern warrior must have deserved her,
he must have given proofs that he was worthy of the woman who had
preserved her chastity inviolate, and for whom love must be mingled
with respect.[5] It is curious to observe how exactly these sentiments,
which existed at so early a period among the Gothic nations, were
continued into feudal times. Take, as one instance, the exclamation of
Regner Lodbrog, the famous Scandinavian chieftain, who about the year
860 rescued a princess from a fortress in which she was unjustly
confined, and received her hand as his reward: "I made to struggle in
the twilight that yellow haired chief, who passed his mornings among
the young maidens and loved to converse with widows. He who aspires to
the love of young virgins ought always to be foremost in the din of
arms!"[6] Compare to this a scene at Calais about the middle of the
fourteenth century. Edward III had just accomplished an adventure of
chivalry. Serving under the banner of Sir Walter de Manny as a common
knight, he had overcome in single combat the redoubted Sir Eustace de
Ribeaumont, who had brought the king twice on his knees during the
course of the battle. Edward that evening entertained all his French
prisoners as well as his own knights at supper, and at the conclusion
of the feast he adjudged the prize of valor for that day's fighting to
Sir Eustace de Ribeaumont, and removing a chaplet of pearls from his
own head, he placed it on that of the French knight, with the
significant words[7]: "Sir Eustace, I present you with this chaplet as
being the best combatant this day, either within or without doors; and
I beg of you to wear it this year for love of me. I know that you are
lively and amorous, and love the company of ladies and damsels;
therefore say wherever you go that I gave it to you." But the chivalry
of the Goths was only the seed of the plant which flourished so
luxuriantly under better conditions in later times. The feudal system
fostered the growth of the sentiment into the institution, as a
palliative to anarchy and as an ornament to life, while the Church,
always eager to absorb enthusiasm and power into her own ranks, adopted
the institution as the Holy Order, and adding religious devotion to the
inspiration of love, directed the energies of chivalry into the work of
civilization, and made the knight the champion of the weak, in addition
to his character as a valiant soldier.

It is difficult in considering a period so remote and so peculiar as
that of chivalry, to fix the limit between the actual and the
imaginary, between the character of the ideals which men placed before
themselves, and the extent to which these ideals were realized. That
the writings of the romancers were exaggerations of actual manners
rather than inventions, is shown by the descriptions of the habits and
inmates of mediæval castles, which form so interesting a portion of
Froissart's chronicles, and give such striking and life like
illustrations of the society which at once inspired and enjoyed the
romances of chivalry. The castle of the Earl of Foix and the Earl
himself would have seemed quite natural in the pages of a romance:
"Ther was none more rejoysed in dedes of armes than the erle dyde: ther
was sene in his hall, chambre, and court, knightes and squyers of
honour going up and downe, and talking of armes and amours; all honour
ther was found, all maner of tidyngs of every realme and countre ther
might be herde, for out of every countree ther was resort, for the
valyantness of this erle." Of "armes and amours" the knights and ladies
loved to talk, and arms and amours formed the burden of the ponderous
tomes which the Earl of Foix caused to be read before him. The
adventures of knights-errant, and their obligation to render aid and
comfort to "all distressed ladies and damsels," have a charming
illustration in the championship of the cause of Isabel, Queen of
Edward the Second of England, by Sir John of Hainault, and the words
used by the latter in undertaking the enterprise were the echo of the
chivalric feeling of the time. As soon as the arrival of Queen Isabel
in Hainault was known, "this Sir John, being at that time very young
and panting for glory, like a knight-errant mounted his horse, and,
accompanied by a few persons, set out from Valenciennes for
Ambreticourt, where he arrived in the evening and paid the Queen every
respect and honour." Notwithstanding the remonstrances and objections
which were raised against his undertaking so perilous an adventure as
the invasion of England, "the gallant knight would not change his
purpose, saying, 'that he could die but once; that the time was in the
will of God; and that all true knights were bound to aid, to the utmost
of their power, all ladies and damsels driven from their kingdoms
comfortless and forlorn.'" To suppose that the romances formed an
accurate reflection of actual life would show an entire ignorance of
their nature; but there can be no doubt that these fictions were the
natural outcome of existing thought and manners; that they were
sufficiently life-like to interest; and that they increased and
intensified the habits and ideas in which they had their origin.

The combination of qualities and motives which we are accustomed to
express in the general term of chivalry was the mediæval ideal of
virtue, and as such was in practice inevitably subject to imperfection
and inconsistency. The Roman _virtus_ was simply courage. Chivalry
meant courage and skill in arms, united to gentle birth, to courtesy,
to gallantry, and to a faithful observance of the laws of combat; the
whole inspired by military glory, religious enthusiasm, or devotion to
women. We should admire the greatness and nobility of this ideal,
standing out as it does against a background of lawlessness and
ignorance, rather than complain that in practice its valor often
degenerated into ferocity, its Christianity into narrow bigotry, its
worship of women into license and brutality. Chivalry, supplying a
standard of excellence adapted by its nature to excite the admiration
of men, did much to refine and civilize the rude age in which it arose;
and this result is not belittled by the fact that that standard was
pitched above the possibility of human attainment. Chivalry was the
spontaneous expression of what was best in the time, and gave sentiment
and charm to lives otherwise hard and barren. Its very exaggerations
and grotesqueness illustrate the eagerness with which it was received,
and the greatness of the want which it supplied. This was an ideal,
too, separate and distinct from any that had been known before,
possessing enduring characteristics of greatness and beauty which have
never ceased to command sympathy and admiration. Though changed in
outward form, and appearing under different manifestations, the
chivalry of the Middle Ages is essentially the chivalry of to-day, but
it now exerts a moral and intellectual, instead of a physical force.

The new dignity which woman assumed in connection with the growth of
chivalry was owing considerably to a cause separate from the Northern
sentiment concerning them, and as the position of women is an important
part of the social condition we are now examining, a glance at this
other cause will not be without value or interest. It is indeed
remarkable that in the Middle Ages woman should for the first time have
attained her true rank, and that the highest conception of the female
character which the world had yet known should have been developed in
so rude and ferocious a time. The estimation in which women were held
among Eastern nations was little lower than their position among the
Jews. Where polygamy exists, and where purchase-money is paid to the
father of the bride, women never attain to high appreciation or
respect. Beauty rather than virtue was the ideal of Greece. The women
of that country, living in continual seclusion, deprived alike of
opportunities for attaining culture or exerting influence, became
narrowed in thought and intelligence, and passed their lives in
obscurity under the control of their husbands or sons.[8] Roman history
gives us examples of female excellence and distinction, and represents
women during some periods in a better position than had previously been
known. But the female sex was never accorded among the Romans the
general respect for its peculiar virtues, and the consideration for its
weakness which forms one of the brightest pages of modern civilization.
With the spread of Christianity, there was for centuries no
improvement. The low standard by which the Jews had judged the sex
exerted a strong and an evil influence. The spirit of asceticism,
rapidly gaining ground in the Roman Church, pointed out absolute
chastity in both sexes as the only praiseworthy condition of life, made
marriage only an excusable sin, and recognized in that relationship,
merely its use for the propagation of the species. Views so absurd and
unnatural could not fail in producing the most evil results. Woman came
to be regarded by the church as the origin of all sin, the favorite
medium of the temptations of the Devil, the sanctity and happiness of
marriage were interfered with, and the priesthood, debarred from that
condition, showed themselves not insensible to the charms they so
fiercely denounced, and presented to their flocks demoralizing examples
of profligacy. The Northern invaders brought with them their own ideas
concerning women, rough and crude, but containing the germ of much
good. Being met by Christianity, they embraced it in large numbers,
unreflectingly, at the command of their leaders. But in embracing it
they changed it to suit themselves. Their minds were unfit for the
reception of the dogmas of the church, or for the realization and
worship of an invisible being. They seized on the ideas of Christ, the
Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and worshipped in a great degree their old
gods under the new names. But of the new objects of worship, Mary most
struck their imaginations and won their affection. The meek and
forgiving Christ was unsuited to their fierce and warlike dispositions.
But Mary, the beautiful, the tender, the merciful mother of God became
the object of an enthusiastic adoration, and with the worship of Mary
the position of the whole sex was elevated. The brutish and unnatural
teachings of the Fathers were overridden by the new and noble ideas
which were springing up. Doctrines such as that of the Immaculate
Conception rapidly won ground, and Catholic Mariolatry, taking root in
the fertile soil of Northern chivalry, worked benefits which have
lasted down to our own time, and conferred great blessings upon it.

The purely military character of feudalism impressed itself on the
habits of the time, and moulded domestic life, amusements and education
in strict accordance with it. The castles of the great lords and
knights were "academies of honour" for the children of their dependents
and less wealthy neighbors; the court yards became the scene of martial
exercises, and the presence of noble women within the walls afforded an
opportunity for the cultivation of gentle manners, and for the growth
of that feeling of reverence for the fair sex which was to form so
important an element in the boys' later life. The "gentle damoiseau,"
confided at the age of seven or eight to the care of a knight whose
reputation for prowess and courtesy ensured a good example, learned
modesty and obedience in the performance of menial services, then
considered honorable; in the court-yard of the castle he was
instructed in horsemanship, and in the use of the lance, the bow, and
the sword. In the dangers and hardships of the chase the principal
occupation in time of peace,--he was inured to fatigue, hunger, and
pain; he learned to sound the horn at the different stages of the hunt,
to dress the game when killed, and to carve it on the table.[9] He
waited upon the ladies in their apartments as upon superior beings,
whose service, even the most menial, was an honor. While yet a
damoiseau, and before he had attained the rank of squire, the youth was
expected to choose one girl who should receive his special admiration
and service, in whose name his future knightly deeds should be
performed, who should be his inspiration in battle, the reward of his
valor, and the object of his gallantry. In the loves of Amadis and
Oriana, so famous in romance, we have a simple and charming description
of the first budding of the chivalric sentiment. "Oriana was about ten
years old, the fairest creature that ever was seen; wherefore she was
called the one 'without a peer.' * * * The Child of the Sea (Amadis)
was now twelve years old, but in stature and size he seemed fifteen,
and he served the queen; but now that Oriana was there, the queen gave
her the Child of the Sea, that he should serve her, and Oriana said
that 'it pleased her'; and that word which she said the child kept in
his heart, so that he never lost it from his memory, and in all his
life he was never weary of serving her, and his heart was surrendered
to her; and this love lasted as long as they lasted, for as well as he
loved her did she also love him. But the Child of the Sea, who knew
nothing of her love, thought himself presumptuous to have placed his
thoughts on her, and dared not speak to her; and she, who loved him in
her heart, was careful not to speak more with him than with another;
but their eyes delighted to reveal to the heart what was the thing on
earth that they loved best. And now the time came that he thought he
could take arms if he were knighted; and this he greatly desired,
thinking that he would do such things that, if he lived, his mistress
should esteem him."[10]

Life in a Norman castle was at best hard and comfortless. In summer it
was enlivened by hunting and hawking, by tournaments and pageantry. The
gardens which usually surrounded a castle formed a resource for the
female portion of the inhabitants, who are often represented in the
illuminations of the time as occupied in tending the flowers or in
making garlands. But in winter there were few comforts to lessen the
suffering, and few resources to vary the monotony of life. The passages
in the romances which hail the return of spring, are full of
thankfulness and delight. Chess, dice, and cards, as well as many
frolicsome games, served, with the aid of the minstrels, to afford
amusement. The women had their occupations of spinning, sewing, and
embroidery, while some of the accomplishments they cultivated may be
inferred from the following passage in the folio of old Sir Joshua
Barnes: "And now the ladies themselves, with many noble virgins, were
meditating the various measures their skilful feet were to make, the
pleasant aires their sweet voices should warble, and those soft
divisions their tender fingers should strike on the yielding
strings."[11] Life was lacking in physical comforts, and still more in
refinement. The dining-hall became at night the sleeping place of a
promiscuous crowd of retainers. There was a very imperfect separation
of the sexes at any time. Men and women ate with their fingers, and
threw the refuse of their meal on the table, or amidst the straw on the
floor, to be devoured by the cats and dogs which swarmed about. Read
the directions for ladies' table manners given by Robert de Blois: "If
you eat with another (_i.e._, in the same plate), turn the nicest bits
to him, and do not go picking out the finest and largest for yourself,
which is not courteous. Moreover, no one should eat greedily a choice
bit which is too large or too hot, for fear of choking or burning
herself. * * * Each time you drink wipe your mouth well, that no grease
may go into the wine, which is very unpleasant to the person who drinks
after you. But when you wipe your mouth for drinking, do not wipe your
eyes or nose with the table-cloth, and avoid spilling from your mouth
or greasing your hands too much."[12] The same authority on manners and
etiquette warns ladies against scolding and disputing, against swearing
and getting drunk, and against some other objectionable actions which
betray a great lack of feminine modesty. The "Moral Instructions" of
the Chevalier de la Tour Landry present a picture of coarseness and
immorality among both men and women, which shows how incompatible was
the barrack-like existence of feudal times with the practice of any
sort of self-restraint or purity of life.

Of such a character, then, was the audience which the mediæval
romancers had to please. A class essentially military, ferocious, and
accustomed to shedding blood, yet preserving in their violence a
certain observance of laws of honor and courtesy; setting before
themselves more often an ideal of glory and nobility, than an object of
plunder or conquest; cultivating a consideration and gallantry toward
women, remarkable in view of the necessarily rough and unrefined
circumstances of their life; highly imaginative and adventurous;
rejoicing in brilliancy of dress and show; filling the monotony of
peace by tournaments, martial games, and the entertainments of the

[Footnote 1: Taine: History of Eng. Lit., Van Laun's trans. chap. 3,
pt. ii.]

[Footnote 2: "Hist. of Crusades," p. 11; Sir E. Strachey, Introd. to
"Morte d'Arthur."]

[Footnote 3: Mill's "Chivalry."]

[Footnote 4: Quoted in Green's "Short History of the English People."
p. 224.]

[Footnote 5: Warton's "Hist. of English Poetry," Dissert. i.]

[Footnote 6: Quoted by Warton, "Hist. of Poetry," Dis. i.]

[Footnote 7: Froissart's "Chronicles," v. ii, p. 248, Johnes' Trans.]

[Footnote 8: Lecky's "History of Morals," chap. 5, vol. 2.]

[Footnote 9: Scott's "Essay on Chivalry."]

[Footnote 10: "Amadis of Gaul," Southey's ed. vol. 1, p. 40. This
romance belongs to a late period of romantic fiction, but the passage
cited is a good illustration of mediæval sentiment.]

[Footnote 11: Sir J. Barnes' "History of Edward III."]

[Footnote 12: Wright's "Manners and Sentiments in the Middle Ages,"
p. 276.]


The romances of chivalry sprang to life a logical production of the
times. Their authors seized on the character of a king and a
warrior--their highest conception of greatness, in the persons of
Charlemagne and Arthur. Regardless of anachronism, they represented
their heroes as the centre of a chivalric court, accoutred in the arms,
and practising the customs of later centuries; they created in fact a
new Arthur and a new Charlemagne, adapted to the new times. They
brought to light the almost forgotten characters of antiquity. They
represented Jason and Alexander invested with chivalric attributes and
affected by mediæval superstitions. Hercules, according to them,
performed his labors, not because of the wrath of Juno or the command
of Jove, but, like a true knight-errant, to gain the favor of a
Boeotian princess. Virgil the poet was transformed into Virgil the
enchanter. The chief heroes were surrounded with restless knights,
whose romantic adventures afforded unlimited range to the imagination,
and delighted the chivalric mind. The romancers mingled with their
endless tales of "arms and amours," the superstitions and myths which
occupied the minds of men to the exclusion of all real knowledge and
inquiry. The gloomy and terrible fictions which had adorned the songs
of Northern scalds, the bright and fanciful imagery contained in the
tales of Arabia and the East which the crusaders brought back with them
into Europe, the superstitions of Christianity itself, were given only
a greater influence in the lives of fictitious heroes than they were
supposed to have in those of living men. Perfectly suited to the times,
and in fact born of them, the romances took at once a powerful hold on
the popular imagination. The characters of Arthur, of Launcelot and of
Tristram became the objects of an ardent admiration, and the standards
of excellence to which many strove to attain. The most exaggerated
ideas of chivalry contained in the romances were adopted in actual
life. Knights and ladies took upon themselves adventures and cultivated
manners, which vied in extravagance with those of imaginary beings. The
personality of King Arthur was so intensely realized, that for
centuries it was believed that he would one day return from beyond the
grave to resume his glorious rule. On his tomb were supposed to be
inscribed the words:

      Hic jacet Arthurus rex, quondam rexque futurus.

Henry II visited his legendary grave at Glastonbury, and named his
grandson Arthur. Edward I held a Round Table at Kenilworth. Remarkable
features of nature--rocks, caves, and mounds were associated in the
popular mind with the achievements of Arthur, and many are connected
with them by name at the present day.

But the romances relating to Arthur were far more than the reflection
of passing thoughts and customs destined to perish with the
generations who read them. They embodied the ideals of the English race
six centuries ago, and although appearing in a different form, those
ideals are still our own. The examples presented in romantic fiction of
manly courage, of self-sacrificing devotion, of simplicity of
character, and of chivalric consideration for the weakness of the
female sex, may excite our admiration and sympathy, as well as that of
a fierce and untutored knighthood. These tales were the product of the
English mind in its boyhood, and it is to the youth of our day that
they are best adapted and most attractive; but the rationalism of the
nineteenth century may find in their spirit of simple faith, of
unquestioning belief and trust, much that is beautiful in human life
which modern thought and science have swept away. It is on account of
the enduring character of the ideals, of which the Arthurian legends
were the spontaneous expression, that these works, although contained
in a rude form, without artistic plan or literary merit to give them
permanence, have never wholly passed from the acquaintance of men. The
rude force and beauty of mediæval fiction has been deeply felt by many
of the greatest minds which have contributed to modern literature. To
the perusal of the story of Launcelot and Guenever Dante ascribes the
coming of Paolo and Francesca _al doloroso passo_. While the other
works of Ariosto have fallen into obscurity, his "Orlando Furioso" has
achieved a lasting fame. One of the greatest poems in the German
language, the "Oberon" of Wieland, is almost a reproduction of a
chivalric romance. The reader of Milton is often reminded of

                              Uther's son,
      Begirt with British and Armoric knights.

Spenser transferred romantic fiction into the region of allegory, and
gave to English literature the immortal "Faery Queen." In our own day
the "Idyls" of Tennyson have made the legends of Arthur a part of our
common thought, and the Knights of the Round Table familiar in almost
every household. The romances of chivalry fall naturally into three
general classes: those relating to Charlemagne and his peers; those
relating to classical and mythological heroes; and, finally, the tales
connected with King Arthur. The strong similarity which exists in the
character and incidents of these three classes makes an acquaintance
with one of them sufficient for the purpose of this work. The "Morte
d'Arthur" and the romances of which it forms a compendium will therefore
be chiefly considered, as being the most interesting in their bearing
on English fiction.

In the early part of the twelfth century, Walter Mapes, Archdeacon of
Oxford, while travelling in France, became possessed of a book written
in the British or Armoric language, which treated of the history of
kings of Britain, and was undoubtedly even at that time of considerable
antiquity. Little is known concerning this curious work. It related the
fabulous martial deeds of British kings, of whose existence there is no
previous record, their victories over giants and dragons, and the
various supernatural influences to which they were subject. Hence comes
the story of King Lear and of Jack the Giant-Killer, and here are first
met the characters of King Arthur and the enchanter Merlin. This book
having been translated into Latin by Geoffrey of Monmouth, a
Benedictine monk, at once attained a great popularity and reputation;
and for several centuries was universally accepted as true history. A
number of metrical romances soon appeared to gratify the taste which
Geoffrey's chronicle had excited, and in the first half of the
thirteenth century the same stories began to be written in prose. From
this time until the middle of the fifteenth century most of what we now
call romantic fiction was produced, although many imitations and
translations appeared in England for more than a century afterward. The
exact dates of the different romances and the names of their authors
cannot be positively established, as the early copies were undated, and
the names prefixed to them are believed to be fictitious. During this
period were given to the world, among many others, the romances of
Merlin the Enchanter, of Launcelot du Lac, of Meliadus, of his son
Tristram, of Gyron le Courtoys, of Perceval le Gallois, and, finally,
that of the Saint Gréal, in which the whole body of knights-errant are
represented, probably by some monkish writer, in the search for the
Holy Cup which had held the blood of Christ. At last Sir Thomas Malory,
a London knight, well read in chivalric literature, combined these
tales in the volume he called the "Morte d'Arthur," an excellent
specimen of a chivalric romance, which was printed by Caxton in 1485,
and has since appeared in many editions down to the present day.

The influence of the supernatural appears in the very beginning of the
"Morte d'Arthur," and throughout we trace its controlling effect upon
the incidents of the story. It is by the help of Merlin's magic that
King Uther Pendragon slays the Duke of Cornwall, and assuming the
likeness of his rival, obtains possession of his wife Igraine, "a faire
ladye, and a passing wyse," from which union Arthur is born. On the
death of Uther, when the chief nobles and knights are summoned to
London by the Archbishop of Canterbury to choose a new king, it is
Merlin's art which discovers to them a sword imbedded in a great rock
in the churchyard of St. Paul's bearing the inscription: "Whoso pulleth
this sword out of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all
England"; and it is by the same supernatural aid that the stripling
Arthur, whose birth is unknown, fulfils the task which all had essayed
in vain. By the friendly influence of Merlin, Arthur receives his
famous sword Excalibur from the hands of the Lady of the Lake, with the
scabbard whose wearer can lose no blood; he defeats with great
slaughter the hosts of the eleven kings who dispute his throne; and
obtains in marriage the celebrated Guenever, who brings him in dowry
the Table Round. But Merlin, who could do so much for others, had the
power only to foresee, and not to avert, his own impending fate.
Enamoured of a fickle damsel, who soon tires of his love, the great
enchanter discloses his secrets to her, and with a sad farewell and
final advice to Arthur, he suffers himself to be imprisoned forever in
the rock which his own magic had wrought, by the spell which he had
intrusted to his treacherous mistress. The friendly arts of Merlin are
succeeded by the machinations of the malicious fairy Morgana, and the
watchful care of the the Lady of the Lake. To excite the childlike
wonder of his readers, the romancer turns knights to stone, or makes
them invisible; he introduces enchanted castles, vessels that steer
themselves, and the miraculous properties of the Saint Gréal, Arthur
and Tristram fight with dragons and giants. The loves of Tristram and
Isoud arise from the drinking of an amorous potion. The chastity of
knight and damsel is determined by the magic horn, whose liquor the
innocent drink, but the guilty spill; and by the enchanted garland,
which blooms on the brow of the chaste, but withers on that of the
faithless. Inventions such as these were regarded as facts, or at least
as possible occurrences, by the readers of romantic fiction. Men
believed what they were told, and to doubt, to inquire were
intellectual efforts which they knew not how to make, and which all the
influences of their life opposed their making. There were no fictions
in the romances more improbable than the accounts of foreign parts
brought back by travellers. Sir John of Mandeville was not doubted when
he wrote that he had met with a race of men who had only one eye, and
that in the middle of the forehead, or a people with only one foot and
that one large enough to be used as a parasol. The knight who had
mastered the art of reading looked upon such stories as curious facts.
His religion was a religion of miracles, and, ignorant of natural laws,
he was accustomed to refer any unusual occurrence to the influence of
supernatural beings, a habit of thought which presented an ever-ready
solution to mysteries and problems otherwise inexplicable.

The entire credence accorded to the supernatural features of the
romance gave to it a power and an interest which has now, of course,
disappeared; but the influence of the supernatural upon the work is so
strong, that even the modern reader, wandering with Launcelot and
Tristram in a world of wonders, meets a giant without surprise, and
feels at home in an enchanted castle.

When Arthur is finally established on his throne, the knights of the
Round Table begin their wonderful career of adventure and gallantry.
With them the reader roams over a vague and unreal land called Britain
or Cornwall, in full armor, the ever ready lance in rest. At almost
every turn a knight is met who offers combat, and each detail of the
conflict--the rush of the horses, the breaking of lances, the final
hand-to-hand with swords--is described with a minuteness which only the
military enthusiasm of the Middle Ages could thoroughly appreciate.
Sometimes our hero meets a damsel who tells a tale of wrong, and leads
the knight to champion her cause; again, he encounters some old
companion in arms, breaks a lance upon him by way of friendly
salutation, and wanders with him in search of adventures, inquiring of
a chance peasant or dwarf, of a wrong to be avenged, or a danger to be
incurred. The reader attends tournaments, of which every blow and every
fall are chronicled. He becomes familiar with the respective merits and
prowess of a hundred different champions. He learns the laws of
judicial combat, and the intricate rules of the chivalric code. With
imagination aroused and sympathies excited he enters a life of
alternate combat and love, almost real in the consistency of its
improbability. Three gallant knights, Sir Gawaine, Sir Marhaus, and Sir
Uwaine set out together in search of adventures.

    At the last they cam in to a grete forest that was named the
    countreye and foreste of Arroy and the countrey of straunge
    auentures. In this countrey, said syr Marhaus cam neuer knyghte syn
    it was crystened, but he fonde straunge auentures, and soo they
    rode, and cam in to a depe valey ful of stones, and ther by they
    sawe a fayr streme of water, aboue ther by was the hede of the
    streme, a fayr fontayne, & thre damoysels syttynge therby. And
    thenne they rode to them, and eyther salewed other, and the eldest
    had a garland of gold aboute her hede, and she was thre score
    wynter of age, or more, and her here[13] was whyte under the
    garland. The second damoysel was of thirty wynter of age, with a
    serkelet of gold aboute her hede. The thyrd damoysel was but xv
    year of age, and a garland of floures aboute her hede. When these
    knyghtes had soo beholde them, they asked hem the cause why they
    sat at that fontayne; we be here, sayd the damoysels for thys
    cause, yf we may see ony erraunt knyghtes to teche hem unto
    straunge auentures, and ye be thre knyghtes that seken auentures,
    and we be thre damoysels, and therfore eche one of yow must chose
    one of us. And whan ye haue done soo, we wylle lede yow vnto thre
    hyhe wayes, and there eche of yow shall chese a wey and his
    damoysel wyth hym. And this day twelue monethe ye must mete here
    ageyn and god sende yow your lyues, and ther to ye must plyzte your
    trouthe. This is wel said, sayd Syr Marhaus. * * * Thenne euery
    damoysel took her knyght by the raynes of his brydel, and broughte
    him to the thre wayes, and there was their othe made to mete at the
    fontayne that day twelue moneth and they were lyvynge, and soo they
    kyst and departed, and eueryche knyghte sette his lady behynde

Sir Alysandre le Orphelin holds a piece of ground against all comers. A
damsel called La Belle Alice proclaims at Arthur's court that whoever
overthrows him, shall have herself and all her lands. Many knights
undertake the adventure, but all are defeated by Sir Alysandre.

    And whanne La Beale Alys sawe hym juste soo wel, she thought hym a
    passynge goodly knyght on horsbak. And thenne she lepte out of her
    pauelione, and toke Syr Alisandre by the brydel, and thus she sayd;
    Fayre knyght, I require the of thy knyghthode, shewe me thy vysage.
    I dar wel, sayd Sir Alysander shewe my vysage. And then he put of
    his helme, and she sawe his vysage, she said; O swete Jhesu! the I
    must loue and neuer other. Thenne shewe me your vysage, said he.
    Thenne she unwympeled her vysage. And whanne he saw her, he sayde,
    here haue I fond my loue and my lady. Truly fayre lady, said he, I
    promise yow to be your knyghte, and none other that bereth the lyf.
    Now, gentil knyghte, said she, telle me your name. My name is, said
    he, Alysander le Orphelyn. Now damoysel, telle me your name, said
    he. My name is, said she, Alys la Beale Pilggrym. And whan we be
    more at oure hertes ease both ye and I shalle telle other of what
    blood we be come. Soo there was grete loue betwyxe them. And as
    they thus talked, ther came a knyghte that hyght Harsouse le
    Berbuse, and axed parte of sir Alysanders speres. Thenne Sir
    Alysander encountred with hym, and at the fyrst Sir Alysander smote
    hym ouer his hors croupe.[15]

Sir Tristram is thus welcomed at Arthur's court:

    Thenne Kynge Arthur took Sir Tristram by the hand, and wente to the
    table round. Thenne came Quene Guenever and many ladyes with her,
    and alle the ladyes sayden at one voyce, welcome Sir Tristram,
    welcome, said the damoysels, welcome said knightes, welcome said
    Arthur, for one of the best knyghts and the gentylst of the world,
    and the man of moost worship, for all manner of hunting thou berest
    the pryce, and of all mesures of blowynge thou art the begynninge,
    and of alle the termes of huntynge and haukinge ye are the
    begynner, of all Instrumentes of musyke ye are the best, therefor
    gentyl knyght, said Arthur, ye are welcome to this courte.[16]

The description of the combat between King Arthur and Accolon is
perhaps the most interesting of the kind which the "Morte d'Arthur"
contains. Accolon of Gaul had by the aid of Morgan le Fay obtained
possession of Arthur's enchanted sword and scabbard.[17]

    And thenne they dressyd hem on bothe partyes of the felde, & lete
    their horses renne so fast that eyther smote other in the myddes of
    the shelde, with their speres hede, that bothe hors and man wente
    to the erthe. And thenne they sterte up bothe, and pulled oute
    their swerdys, * * * And so they went egrely to the battaille, and
    gaf many grete strokes, but alweyes Arthurs swerd bote[18] not like
    Accolon's swerd. But for the most party euery stroke that Accolon
    gaf he wounded sore Arthur, that it was merucylle he stode. And
    alweyes his blood fylle from him fast. When Arthur behelde the
    ground so sore bebledde he was desmayed, and thenne he demed
    treason that his swerd was chaunged, for his swerd boote not
    styl[19] as it was wont to do, therefore he dredde hym sore to be
    dede, for euer hym seemed that the swerd in Accolons hand was
    Excalibur, for at euery stroke that Accolon stroke he drewe blood
    on Arthur. Now knyghte, said Accolon unto Arthur, kepe the wel from
    me, but Arthur ansuered not ageyne, and gat hym suche a buffet on
    the helme that he made hym to stoupe nygh fallynge doune to the
    earthe. Thenne Sir Accolon with drewe hym a lytel, and cam on with
    Excalibur on hyghe, and smote Syr Arthur suche a buffet that he
    felle nyhe to the erthe. Thenne were they wroth bothe, and gaf eche
    other many sore strokes, but alweyes Syr Arthur lost so muche blood
    that it was merucille he stode on his feet, but he was so ful of
    knighthode, that knyghtly he endured the payne. And Syr Accolon
    lost not a dele of blood, therefore he waxed passynge lyghte, and
    Syr Arthur was passynge feble, and wende veryly to have dyed, but
    for al that he made countenaunce as though he myghte endure, and
    helde Accolon as shorte as he myght. But Accolon was bolde by cause
    of Excalibur that he waxed passynge hardy. * * * And therewith he
    cam fyersly upon Arthur, and syre Arthur was wrothe for the blood
    that he had lost, and smote Accolon on hyhe upon the helme soo
    myztely that he made hym nyhe to falle to the erthe. And therewith
    Arthurs swerd brast at the crosse and felle in the grasse amonge
    the blood, and the pommel and the sure handels he helde in his
    handes. When syr Arthur sawe that, he was in grete fere to dye, but
    alweyes he helde vp his shelde and lost no ground nor bated no
    chere. Thenne syre Accolon beganne with wordes of treason, and sayd
    knyghte thow arte overcome, and mayste not endure, and also thow
    arte wepenles, and thow hast loste moche of thy blood, and I am ful
    lothe to slee the, therfor yelde the to me as recreaunt. Nay, saide
    syre Arthur I maye not so, for I haue promysed to doo the bataille
    to the vttermost by the feythe of my body whyle me lasteth the lyf,
    and therfor I had leuer to dye with honour than to lyve with shame.
    And yf it were possyble for me to dye an C tymes, I had leuer to
    dye so ofte, than yelde me to the, for though I lacke wepen, I
    shalle lacke no worship. And yf thou slee me wepenles that shalle
    be thy shame. Wel, sayd Accolon, as for the shame I wyl not spare.
    Now kepe the from me, for thow arte but a dede ma. And therwith
    Accolon gaf hym suche a stroke that he felle nyghe to the erthe,
    and wolde haue had Arthur to haue cryed hym mercy. But syre Arthur
    pressed unto Accolon with his sheld and gaf hym with the pomel in
    his hand suche a buffet that he wente thre strydes abak. * * * And
    at the next stroke Syr Accolon stroke hym suche a stroke that by
    the damoysels enchauntement the swerd Excalibur felle oute of
    Accolons hande to the erthe. And therwith alle syre Arthur lyghtely
    lepte to hit, and gate hit in his hand, and forwith al he knewe
    that it was his suerd Excalibur, & sayd thow hast ben from me al to
    long, & moche dommage hast thow done me. * * * And therwith syr
    Arthur russhed on hym with hys myghte, and pulled hym to the erthe,
    and thenne russhed of his helme, and gaf hym suche a buffet on the
    hede that the blood cam oute at his eres, his nose & his mouthe.
    Now wyll I slee the said Arthur. Slee me ye may wel, said Accolon,
    and it please yow, for ye ar the best knyghte that euer I fonde,
    and I see wel that god is with yow.

The knights of the Round Table had much more difficulty in dealing with
one another than in overcoming the most redoubtable giants. Sir
Launcelot arrived at a giant's castle,[20] and "he looked aboute, and
sawe moche peple in dores and wyndowes that sayd fayre knyghte thow art
unhappy. Anone with al cam there vpon hym two grete gyaunts wel armed
al sauf the hedes, with two horryble clubbes in theyr handes. Syre
Launcelot put his sheld afore hym and put the stroke aweye of the one
gyaunt, and with his swerd he clafe his hede a sondre. Whan his felaw
sawe that, he ran awey as he were wood, for fere of the horryble
strokes, & laucelot after hym with al his myzt & smote hym on the
sholder, and clafe hym to the nauel. Thenne Syre Launcelot went in to
the halle, and there came afore hym thre score ladyes and damoysels,
and all kneled unto hym, and thanked God and hym of their
delyveraunce." The horrors of battle as recounted by the romancers lose
much of their painfulness by the enjoyment which the combatants take in
them, and by the facility with which the most terrible wounds are
healed. The mediæval passion for conflict and violence could hardly be
more strikingly illustrated than by the words of the mother of
Tristram, who had just given birth to her son in the midst of a forest,
and being far from human aid, sees that her end is near. "Now lete me
see my lytel child for whome I haue had alle this sorowe. And whan she
sawe hym she said thus, A my lytel sone, thou hast murthered thy moder,
and therfore I suppose, thou that art a murtherer soo yong, thou arte
ful lykely to be a manly man in thyn age."[21]

From the recital of combats we turn to tales of love. The most
interesting of these relate to Launcelot and Guenever, and to Tristram
and Isould. They differ in many respects, and yet share the noteworthy
feature that both the women are already married, and their lovers are
connected by ties of relationship or of great intimacy with the
husbands whom they wrong. Arthur, however, is made to preserve,
throughout the story of his deception, the same dignity and the same
respect which he had always possessed, and in the loyalty of his
character never admits a doubt of his wife's virtue; while King Mark,
the husband of Isould, loses the sympathy of the reader by his
treachery and cowardice, and is always conscious of Isould's
infidelity. Guenever and Launcelot feel the deeper and the nobler
passion, as theirs is inspired solely by each other's merit, while that
of Isould and Tristram is inflamed by an amorous potion. The immorality
of these love stories was not in the Middle Ages the same immorality
which it would be considered at present. The conditions of life were
all opposed to self restraint. The standard of morals was set by the
church, and according to her interpretation of Christianity, continence
was so subsidiary to orthodoxy, that what would now be considered a
crime, was in the Middle Ages an irregularity which need not weigh on
the conscience. Evidence of this is amply supplied by the social
history of the time, and the fact is fully illustrated by the
romances. The authors of these compositions, from their tendency to
idealization, held up to their readers a higher view of virtue in every
respect than was practised in actual life, and in their writings,
conjugal infidelity is of constant occurrence. The fictitious
personages who indulge in licence are but dimly conscious of
wrong-doing, and almost the only evidence of a realization of their
fault is in the Quest of the Saint Gréal, when Launcelot and other
noble knights acknowledge that the attainment of the sacred prize is
not for them as being "sinful men," and the quest is achieved by the
spotless Sir Galahad, who, impersonating the purifying influence of
Christianity, forms the most striking character conceived by the
fertile imagination of the Middle Ages. The virtue of constancy was far
more admired than that of chastity, and it is said of Guenever, whose
sin had brought such calamity upon the Round Table, that "as she was a
true lover, so she had a good end."

Launcelot and Tristram vie with one another in the deeds of chivalry
which they accomplish in honor of their ladies, and the intimacy which
exists between the two knights and their mistresses adds much to the
interest of the story. A fine touch in the loves of Tristram and Isould
is the introduction of Sir Palomides, a valiant knight, almost the
equal of Tristram in prowess, who loves Isould as passionately as his
successful rival, but finds no favor to reward a long career of
devotion. The passions of jealousy and hatred on the one hand, and
knightly courtesy and honor on the other, which alternately sway the
two warriors, and struggle for the mastery in their relations with each
other, form a touching picture, and show that the romancers could
occasionally rise above the description of conflicts to a study of the
heart and character of men.

That our lovers felt a deep and absorbing passion, there can be no
doubt. Sir Dynas, the Seneschal, tells the Queen la Belle Isould that
Sir Tristram is near: "Thenne for very pure joye la Beale Isould
swouned, & whan she myghte speke, she said, gentyl knyghte Seneschall
help that I myghte speke with him, outher my herte will braste." They
meet, and then "to telle the joyes that were between la Beale Isoud and
sire Tristram, there is no tongue can telle it, nor herte thinke it,
nor pen wryte it." When Tristram thought Isoud unfaithful, he "made
grete sorowe in so much that he fell downe of his hors in a swoune, and
in suche sorowe he was in thre dayes and thre nyghtes." When he left
her, Isoud was found "seke in here bedde, makynge the grettest dole
that ever ony erthly woman made." "Sire Alysander beheld his lady Alys
on horsbak as he stood in her pauelione. And thenne was he soo
enamoured upon her that he wyst not whether he were on horsbak or on
foote." Sir Gareth falls in love at first sight: "and euer the more syr
Gareth behelde that lady, the more he loued her, and soo he burned in
loue that he was past himself in his reason, and forth toward nyghte
they wente unto supper, and sire Gareth myghte not ete for his loue was
soo hot that he wyst not wher he was."

The Roman war introduced into the "Morte d'Arthur" is a curious
illustration of the vagueness of the historical groundwork of the
romances of chivalry. The memory of Roman power was still too great to
permit a warrior to achieve greatness without having matched his
strength against that of Rome, and thus we have the singular spectacle
of King Arthur with his adventurous knights, clad in mail, passing
easily through "Almayne" into Italy, conquering giants by the way, and
reducing the Emperor Lucius to dependence.

The story of the Saint Gréal originally formed a distinct romance, but
it was the dull production of some ascetic monk, who thought that the
knights of the Round Table were too much occupied with secular
pursuits, and who found no greater encomium to pass upon Sir Galahad,
than to call him a "maid." But the idea of the Christian knighthood
setting out to seek the Holy Cup was "marvellous and adventurous," and
so well suited to please the mediæval mind that we find this quest
introduced into several of the romances of chivalry, and it appears,
though in an incomplete form, in the "Morte d'Arthur." The adventures
met with by the knighthood are much the same as when they were pursuing
a less lofty object. Sir Galahad occupies the intervals between his
serious occupations with rolling his father Sir Launcelot and other
noble knights into the dust in the usual unsaintly fashion. The
supernatural element is stronger perhaps in the story of the Saint
Gréal than in any other romance, and the monkish inspiration of the
work is everywhere manifest. When Sir Galahad rescues the inmates of
the Castle of Maidens by overthrowing their oppressors, the romancer
points out that the Castle of Maidens "betokeneth the good souls that
were in prison before the incarnation of Jesu Christ." It is here also
that we learn that "Sir Launcelot is come but of the eighth degree from
our Lord Jesu Christ, and Sir Galahad is of the ninth degree from our
Lord Jesu Christ; therefore I dare say that they may be the greatest
gentlemen of the world."

When we have read of the "byrth, lyf and actes of Kyng Arthur, of his
noble knyghtes of the rounde table, theyr mervayllous enquests and
aduentures, th' achyeuyng of the sangréal," we come to the "dolorous
deth and departyng out of this world of them." It is indeed a "pytous
hystory." Long drawn out as the romance is, serious tax though it
sometimes be on the reader's patience, the author succeeds in making us
so familiar with all his heroes, in inspiring us with so deep and
active a sympathy with them, that it is with a real sadness that we
read of the dissensions brought about by the loves of Launcelot and
Guenever, the deserted Round Table, the separation of life-long
companions, and the fraternal war between Sir Launcelot, Sir Gawaine,
and King Arthur. Their love for each other was so strong that it is not
wholly quenched even in the sanguinary struggles which follow, and it
bursts forth in full vigor when death comes upon them in the midst of
their fury. Sir Gawaine is the first to go, using his last strength to
write to Sir Launcelot begging his forgiveness: "I byseche the, Sir
Launcelot, to retorne ageyne vnto this realme, and see my tombe, &
praye some prayer more or lesse for my soule."

    Whan syr Arthur wyst that syre Gawayne was layd so lowe he went
    vnto hym, and there the kyng made sorowe oute of mesure, and took
    sire Gawayne in his armes, and thryes[22] he there swouned. And
    thenne whan he awaked, he sayd, allas Sir Gawayne my sisters sone,
    here now thou lyggest[23], the man in the world that I loued moost,
    and now is my joye gone, for now my neuewe syre Gawayne I will
    discouer me vnto your persone, in syr Launcelot & you I had moost
    my joye and myn affyaunce, & now haue I lost my joye of you bothe,
    wherefor all myn erthely joye is gone from me.[24]

We turn from the death of Sir Gawaine only to witness the mortal blow
dealt to King Arthur; to see his famous sword Excalibur, which he had
borne so nobly and so long, returned to the Lady of the Lake; and the
almost lifeless body of the great king carried away over the water by
the fairy queens, disappearing at last beneath the horizon. Guenever
would seen to have deserved a harder fate than simply to retire to a
nunnery of which she is made the abbess. Sir Launcelot dies a holy man
and a monk, saying masses for the souls of his old companions in arms.
With his death the old glory of the Round Table passes away forever.

    And whan syr Ector herd suche noyse & lyghte in the quyre of joyous
    Garde, he alyghted and put his hors from hym, and came in to the
    quyre, & there he sawe men synge the seruyse full lamentably. And
    alle they knewe syre Ector, but he knewe not them. Thenne went syr
    Bors to syr Ector, & tolde him how there laye hys broder syr
    Launcelot dede, and then syr Ector threwe his shelde, hys swerde &
    helme from hym. And whan he behelde syr Launcelot's vysage, he
    felle donne in a sowne. And when he awakyd it were harde for any
    tonge to telle the doleful complayntes that he made for his broder.
    A, syr Launcelot, he sayd, thou were head of all Crysten knyztes,
    and now I dare saye, sayd syr Ector, thou syr Launcelot, ther thou
    lyest, that thou were neuer matched of none erthely knyghtes
    handes. And thou were the curtoyste knyghte that ever bare shelde.
    And thou were the truest frend to thy louer that euer bestradde
    hors, & thou were the truest louer of a synfull man that euer loued
    woman. And thou were the kyndest man that euer stroke wyth swerde.
    And thou were the goodelyest persone that euer came among prees of
    knyghtes. And thou were the mekest man & the gentylest that euer
    ete in halle amonge ladyes. And thou were the sternest knyghte to
    thy mortall foo that euer put spere in the reyst. Thenne there was
    wepyng & dolour oute of mesure.[25]

The literary form of the "Morte d'Arthur" admits of description rather
than of criticism. A noble and forcible simplicity of expression
pervades the old Norman French in which the romances of chivalry were
first written, which is well reflected in the English of Sir Thomas
Malory. Of plot there is none. The same vagueness pervades the course
of the narrative, which is characteristic of the historical groundwork,
the geography, and the time of action. Most of the incidents depend on
chance. Life in the Middle Ages was a very serious affair, and in the
romances there was almost no attempt at wit or humor. In the "Morte
d'Arthur," perhaps the only passage which might have raised a laugh among
the early readers of the romance, is that in which King Arthur's fool
Dagonet is clad in Sir Mordred's armor, and in that disguise is made to
chase before him the coward King Mark. The authors of the romances of
chivalry never attempted delineation of character. Their heroes are
good knights or bad knights, and in either case possess only the
particular qualities which would place them in one of these categories.
The female characters are still more slightly drawn, and show no
distinct attributes except beauty and a capacity to love.

In laying down the "Morte d'Arthur," and bidding farewell to the
Middle Ages with their heroes of chivalry, we come to the end of a most
picturesque period of English history,--a period marked by lights and
shadows, rather than by distinct forms. There was ferocity, and there
was courtesy; there was brilliant show and rude coarseness; there were
scenes of blood and scenes of noble chivalry. In the next chapter we
shall notice the tendencies which were at work to replace this state of
society by a better. But to the Middle Ages will always be traced much
that is distinctive of English character, and in the history of fiction
we may fairly allow to the knights of romance the legendary charm and
fascination which hang about their bright helmets in the long vista of
departed years.

[Footnote 13: Hair.]

[Footnote 14: "Morte d'Arthur." Southey's reprint from Caxton's ed.,
1485, chaps. xix and xx. book 4.]

[Footnote 15: "Morte d'Arthur," book 10, chap. xxxix.]

[Footnote 16: Southey's "Morte d'Arthur," vol. 2, p. 11.]

[Footnote 17: "Morte d'Arthur," book 4, chap. ix.]

[Footnote 18: Hit, cut.]

[Footnote 19: Cut not steel.]

[Footnote 20: "Morte d'Arthur," book 6, ch. x.]

[Footnote 21: "Morte d'Arthur," book 8, ch. i.]

[Footnote 22: Thrice.]

[Footnote 23: Liest.]

[Footnote 24: "Morte d'Arthur," book 22, chap. ii.]

[Footnote 25: "Morte d'Arthur," book 22, chap. xiii.]



In the history of English intellectual development between the vague
ignorance of the Middle Ages and the new growth of learning in the
sixteenth century, stands the great figure of Chaucer. The first
English writer possessing dramatic power, he is the first also to unite
with the art of story-telling, the delineation and study of human
character. In his translation of the "Romaunt of the Rose" he belongs
to the Middle Ages,--a period of uncontrolled imagination, of
unsubstantial creations, of external appearances copied without
reflection. In his "Canterbury Tales" he belongs to the present,--when
Reason asserts her authority, gives the stamp of individual reality to
the characters of fiction, and studies the man himself behind his
outward and visible form.

The creations of romantic fiction were unreal beings distinguished by
different names, by the different insignia on their shields, and by the
degree in which they possessed the special qualities which formed the
ideal of mediæval times. The story of their lives was but a series of
adventures, strung together without plan, the overflow of an active but
ungoverned imagination. The pilgrims to the shrine of Canterbury are
men and women, genuine flesh and blood, as thoroughly individual and
distinct as the creations of Shakespeare and of Fielding. They dress,
they talk, each one after his own manner and according to his position
in life, telling a story appropriate to his disposition and suitable to
his experience. The knight, with armor battered in "mortal battailles"
with the Infidel, describes the adventures of Palamon and Arcite, a
tale of chivalry. The lusty young squire, bearing himself well, "in
hope to stonden in his lady grace," tells an Eastern tale of love and
romance. The prioress, "all conscience and tendre herte," relates the
legend of "litel flew of Lincoln," murdered by the Jews for singing his
hymn to the Virgin. The clerk of Oxford, who prefers to wealth and
luxury his "twenty bookes clad in blak or reede," contributes the story
of the patient Griselda.

The "Canterbury Tales" are so familiar that an extended notice of them
here would be superfluous, especially as we are dealing with narratives
in prose form. But in seeking to trace the origin and progress of the
English novel as it is now written, we must record the first appearance
of its special characteristics in the works of Chaucer. Here are first
to be seen real human beings, endowed with human virtues and subject to
human frailties; here fictitious characters are first represented amid
the homely scenes of daily life; here they first become living
realities whose nature and dispositions every one may understand, and
with whose thoughts every one may sympathize. We must notice, also, the
significant fact that of the thirty-two pilgrims who jogged along
together that April day, four were of a military character, eleven
belonged to the clergy, and seventeen were of the common people. A
century before Chaucer's time, when the feudal spirit was still
all-powerful, there were but two classes of men thought worthy of
consideration, the knighthood and the clergy; and in the romances of
chivalry knights and priests exclusively composed the _dramatis
personæ_. But the slow progress of the masses, in whom lies the chief
strength of a nation, becomes visible in Chaucer's time. In the towns
the tradesmen were rising to wealth and consideration. In the country
the yeomanry--the laborers and farmers--were throwing off their
serfdom, and emerging from the chrysalis of obscurity in which they had
long been hidden. At Cressy and Poitiers the English archers disputed
with the knighthood the honors of victory. While Chaucer was planning
the "Canterbury Tales," introducing into his gallery of contemporary
portraits more figures of tradesmen than of knights or priests, the
Peasant Revolt took place; the common people, long trodden in the dust,
rose in defence of their rights as men, and John Ball, the "mad priest
of Kent," asked questions of the yeomen about him which showed how
surely the Middle Ages were becoming a part of the past. "By what right
are they whom we call lords greater folk than we? * * * If we all came
of the same father and mother, of Adam and Eve, how can they say or
prove that they are better than we, if it be not that they make us gain
for them by our toil what they spend in their pride?" * * * "When Adam
delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"[26] As in the history
of Chaucer's time, so in his "Canterbury Tales" we perceive the decline
of feudal and priestly tyranny which had gone hand in hand: the one
keeping up a perpetual state of war and violence; the other limiting
and enfeebling the human intellect, the activity of which could alone
raise mankind out of barbarism.

The passion for war and for a military life which had kept Europe in a
state of constant disturbance during the Middle Ages, which had brought
about the Hundred Years' struggle between England and France, and which
had found its worst issue in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth
century, had, in the sixteenth century largely spent its force. The
pomp and luxury of chivalry had lessened the activity of military
feelings. The expense entailed by chivalric pageantry had diminished
the power of the nobles over their dependents. Many feudal barons were
obliged to sell liberty and privileges to part of their bondsmen to
obtain the wherewithal to maintain the remainder. The gradual growth of
the towns and of trade produced a class which, having all to lose and
nothing to gain by war, threw its influence against disorder. The
advance in the study and practice of law diminished habits of violence
by furnishing legal redress. But the most powerful agent in destroying
the old warlike taste was the invention of gunpowder. In the Middle
Ages the whole male population had been soldiers in spirit and in fact.
But the application of gunpowder to the art of war made it necessary
that men should be especially trained for the military profession. A
limited number were therefore separated from the main body of the
people, who occupied themselves exclusively with military affairs,
while the remainder were left to pursue the hitherto neglected arts of
peace. The love of war and the indifference to human suffering so long
nourished by feudalism could only be thoroughly extinguished by
centuries of gradual progress. The heads of queens and ministers of
state falling from the block attest the strength of these feelings in
Henry the Eighth's time. They were, however, fast losing ground before
the new growth of learning. Their decline is illustrated by the fiction
of the sixteenth century, as their full power was depicted in the early
romances of chivalry.

In the sixteenth century, chivalry as an institution, and even as an
influential ideal had entirely passed away. The specimens of romantic
fiction which were read during the reigns of Henry the Eighth and of
Elizabeth could no longer appeal to an entirely warlike and
superstitious class. They were modified to meet new tastes, and in the
process became superior in literary merit, but inferior in force and
interest. This is especially true of the romances translated from the
Spanish. Amadis of Gaul and Palmerin of England show merits of
narrative sequence and elegance of expression which did not belong to
the earlier romances, of which the "Morte d'Arthur" formed a
compendium. But the chivalry of Amadis and Palmerin was polished,
refined and exaggerated till it became entirely fanciful and lost the
old fire and spirit. In the so-called tales of chivalry produced or
adapted by English writers during this century there is no trace of the
poetry and interest of chivalric sentiments. In "Tom-a-Lincoln," the
Red Rose Knight, the noble King Arthur is represented as an old dotard,
surrounded by knights who bear no resemblance in person or in the
nature of their adventures to their prototypes of romantic fiction.[27]

The ideal character of the yeomanry succeeded to the ideal character
of the knighthood; Robin Hood and his merry companions took the place
in the popular mind which belonged to King Arthur and his knights of
the Table Round. The yeomen of England were imbued with a spirit of
courage and liberty unknown to the same class on the continent of
Europe, and their love of freedom and restless activity of disposition
found a reflection in the person of their hero. Supposed to have lived
in the thirteenth century, his name and achievements have been sung in
countless rhymes and ballads, and have remained dear to the common
people down to the present day. The patron of archery, the embodiment
of the qualities most loved by the people--courage, generosity,
faithfulness, hardihood,--the places he frequented, the well he drank
from, have always retained his name, and his bow, with one of his
arrows, was preserved with veneration as late as the present
century.[28] The ideal of the yeomanry was similar to that of chivalry
in the love of blows fairly given and cheerfully taken, in the love of
fighting for fighting's sake. It was similar in the courtesy which was
always a characteristic of Robin Hood; in the religious devotion which
caused the outlaw to hear three masses every morning before setting out
on his depredations; in the gallantry which restrained him from
molesting any party which contained a woman.[29] But the tales relating
to Robin Hood differ from those of the Round Table in their entire
freedom from affectation and from supernatural machinery. They
breathe, too, an open-air spirit of liberty and enjoyment which was
pleasing and comprehensible to the dullest intellect, and which made
them, in the broadest sense, popular. The good-humored combativeness of
the yeoman sympathized with every beating which Robin Hood received,
and with every beating which he gave. In Robin's enmity to the clergy,
in his injunction to his followers,

     "Thyse byshopppes and thyse archebyshoppes,
      Ye shall them bete and bynde,"

the people applauded resistance to the extortion of the church. In
Robin's defiance of the law and its officers, they applauded resistance
to the tyranny of the higher classes. Waylaying sheriffs and priests,
or shooting the king's deer in Sherwood Forest, the famous outlaw and
his merry men, clad all in green, were the popular heroes. On Robin
Hood's day the whole population turned gaily out to celebrate his
festival, never weary of singing or hearing the ballads which
commemorated his exploits. Robin was a robber, but in times of disorder
highway robbery has always been an honorable occupation, and the
outlaws of Sherwood Forest were reputed to give to the poor what they
took from the rich. Diligent enquiries have been made to ascertain
whether the personage known as Robin Hood had a real existence, but
without positive results. The story of his life is purely legendary,
and the theories in regard to him have never advanced beyond
hypothesis. It is exceedingly probable that such a man lived in the
twelfth or thirteenth century, and that the exploits of other less
prominent popular heroes were connected with his name and absorbed in
his reputation. The noble descent which has often been ascribed to him
is in all likelihood the result of the mediæval idea, that the great
virtues existed only in persons of gentle birth. This very prevalent
opinion is often apparent in the romances of chivalry, where knights of
exceptional valor, who had supposed themselves to be basely descended,
almost invariably turn out to be the long-lost offspring of a famous
and noble person. Like the tales of chivalry, the narratives of Robin
Hood's adventures were sung and recited in metrical form long before
they found their way into prose. The following extract forms a part of
the first chapter of the story called the "Merry Exploits of Robin
Hood," which had a considerable circulation in the sixteenth century.

    "Robin Hood's Delights; or, a gallant combate fought between Robin
    Hood, Little John, and William Scarlock, and three of the keepers
    of the King's deer, in the forest of Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire."

    "On a midsummer's day, in the morning, Robin Hood, being
    accompanied with Little John and William Scarlock, did walk forth
    betimes, and wished that in the way they might meet with some
    adventures that might be worthy of their valour; they had not
    walked long by the forrest side, but behold three of the keepers of
    the king's game appeared, with their forrest-bills in their hands,
    and well appointed with faucheons and bucklers to defend
    themselves. Loe here (saith Robin Hood) according to our wish we
    have met with our mates, and before we part from them we will try
    what mettle they are made off. What, Robin Hood, said one of the
    keepers; I the same, reply'd Robin. Then have at you, said the
    keepers; here are three of us and three of you, we will single out
    ourselves one to one; and bold Robin, I for my part am resolved to
    have a bout with thee. Content, with all my heart, said Robin Hood,
    and Fortune shall determine who shall have the best, the outlaws
    or the keepers; with that they did lay down their coats, which
    were all of Lincoln Green, and fell to it for the space of two
    hours with their brown bills, in which hot exercise Robin Hood,
    Little John and Scarlock had the better, and giving the rangers
    leave to breathe, demanded of them how they liked them; Why! good
    stout blades i'faith, saith the keeper that fought with Robin, we
    commend you. * * * I see that you are stout men, said Robin Hood,
    we will fight no more in this place, but come and go with me to
    Nottingham, (I have silver and gold enough about me) and there we
    will fight it out at the King's Head tavern with good sack and
    claret; and after we are weary we will lay down our arms, and
    become sworn brothers to one another, for I love those men that
    will stand to it, and scorn to turn their backs for the proudest
    Tarmagant of them all. With all our hearts, jolly Robin, said the
    keepers to him; so putting up their swords and on their doublets,
    they went to Nottingham, where for three days space they followed
    the pipes of sack, and butts of claret without intermission, and
    drank themselves good friends."

The story of "George-a-Green," the brave Pindar of Wakefield is very
similar to that of Robin Hood. George was as fond as his more noted
friend of giving and taking hard knocks, and it is his skilful and
judicious use of the quarter-staff in fulfilling the duties of his
office, which gives rise to the incidents of the story. A curious relic
of chivalry appears in the passage where Robin Hood the outlaw, and
George a-Green the pound-keeper, meet to decide with their
quarter-staves the relative merit of their sweethearts.[30]

Of the stories relating to the yeomanry the most important was the
"Pleasant Historic of Thomas of Reading; or, The Sixe Worthie Yeomen of
the West," by Thomas Deloney, a famous ballad-maker of the 16th
century. It is the narrative of the life and fortunes of a worthy
clothier of Henry the First's time, telling how he rose to wealth and
prosperity, and was finally murdered by an innkeeper. There is
interwoven a relation of the unhappy loves of the "faire Margaret,"
daughter of the exiled Earl of Shrewsbury, and of Duke Robert, the
King's brother, which ends in the Duke losing his eyes, and the fair
Margaret being immured in a convent. The story illustrates some curious
old customs, and is written in an unaffected and easy style, which
makes it still very readable. A passage describing the churching feast
of the wife of one of the "Sixe worthie yeomen," makes a natural and
humorous picture of contemporary manners.

    Sutton's wife of Salisbury, which had lately bin deliuered of a
    sonne, against her going to church, prepared great cheare; at what
    time Simon's wife of Southhampton came thither, and so did diuers
    others of the clothiers' wiues, onely to make merry at this
    churching feast: and whilest these dames sate at the table, Crab,
    Weasell and Wren waited on the board, and as the old Prouerbe
    speaketh, Many women, many words, so tell it out at that time; for
    there was such prattling that it passed: some talkt of their
    husbands' frowardnes, some shewed their maids' sluttishnes,
    othersome deciphered the costlines of their garments, some told
    many tales of their neighbours: and to be briefe there was none of
    them but would have talke for a whole day.

    But when Crab, Weazell and Wren saw this, they concluded betwixt
    themselves, that as oft as any of the women had a good bit of meate
    on their trenchers, they offering a cleane one should catch that
    commodity, and so they did; but the women being busie in talke,
    marked it not, till at the last one found leisure to misse her
    meate * * * The women seeing their men so merry, said it was a
    sign there was good ale in the house.[31]

As the decline of disorder and of martial tastes had given men the
opportunity to lead other than military lives, so the decline of the
theological spirit enabled them to attain that diffusion of knowledge
without which there could be no civilization. The Roman clergy, during
many centuries, partly from conscientious motives, and partly to
maintain their own power, had suppressed intellectual and material
advancement, and had kept men in a state of gross ignorance and
superstition. In England the church gradually lost her old influence by
her internal rottenness: she was unable to resist the new growth of
learning which sprung up in the first half of the sixteenth century;
and her power for evil was destroyed by the Reformation. The
superstitions, however, which she had nourished, lingered long after
her power had passed away, and these have given birth to some curious
specimens of fiction. The natural tendency of an ignorant and
superstitious people was to ascribe superior mental ability to
intercourse with Satan, and to imagine that any unusual learning must
be connected with the occult sciences. These ideas are illustrated by
the stories relating to Friar Bacon and to Virgil which were printed
during the sixteenth century, and which embodied the legends regarding
these great men which had passed current for two hundred years. The
same ignorant indifference to useful learning which made Roger Bacon,
the great philosopher of the thirteenth century, "unheard, forgotten,
buried," represented him after his death as a conjurer doing tricks for
the amusement of a king. "The Famous Historie of Frier Bacon," is
written in a clear and simple style, very similar to that of "Thomas of
Reading," and recounts: "How Fryer Bacon made a Brazen Head to speake,
by the which hee would have walled England about with Brasse"; "how
Fryer Bacon by his arte took a towne, when the king had lyen before it
three months, without doing to it any hurt"; with much more of the same
sort. This story would be without interest, were it not for the
introduction of the Friar's servant, one Miles, whose futile attempts
at seconding his master's efforts, and sometimes at imitating them,
occasion some very amusing scenes. Friar Bungay, the famous conjurer of
Edward the Fourth's time, appears as Bacon's assistant.

Virgil was treated in the same way. The age which turned Hercules into
a knight-errant, very consistently represented the poet and philosopher
as a magician. All through the Middle Ages the name of Virgil had been
connected with necromancy. "The authors," says Naudeus,[32] "who have
made mention of the magic of Virgil are so many that they cannot be
examined one after another, without loss of much time." On the title
page of the "Lyfe of Virgilius," we learn that: "This boke treateth of
the lyfe of Virgilius, and of his deth, and many mervayles that he dyd
in hys lyfe tyme by whychcrafte and nygramancye thorowgh the helpe of
the devyls of Hell." Some of the "mervayles" being: "Howe Virgilius
made a lampe that at all tymes brenned"; "howe Virgilius put out all
the fyer of Rome"; "howe Virgilius made in Rome a metall serpente." In
this story of Virgil occurs a curious instance of the appearance of the
same incident in very different works of fiction. The poet being
enamoured of a certain Roman lady, persuaded her to lower a basket from
her window, in which he should enter and be drawn up to her chamber.
The lady assented, but when the basket had ascended half way, she left
her lover to hang there, exposed the next morning to the ridicule of
the populace, for which treachery Virgil takes terrible revenge. This
story of the basket became very popular; it was introduced into a well
known French fabliau[33]; and Bulwer worked it, with slight changes,
into his novel of "Pelham," where Monsieur Margot experiences the same
sad reflections concerning the deceitfulness of woman, which had long
before passed through the mind of Virgil.

The devil himself, or more properly, one of the many devils who
abounded in the sixteenth century, is the hero of the "Historie of
Frier Rush."

The imagination of the peasantry had peopled the woods and dells with
gay and harmless spirits, fairies and imps. These were sometimes
mischievous, but might always be propitiated, and excited in the rural
mind curiosity and amusement rather than fear. But the clergy, who
shared in the popular superstitions, and gave as ready a belief as the
peasantry to the existence of these supernatural beings, were unable
from the nature of their creed to admit the possibility that these
spirits were harmless. To the monks all supernatural creatures were
either angels or devils, and under their influence the imps and fairies
whom the peasants believed to be dancing and playing pranks about them
were turned into demons bent on the destruction of human souls.[34]
Friar Rush was probably at one time a good natured imp like Robin Good
Fellow, but under the influence, of Christian superstition he became
the typical emissary from Satan, who played tricks among men calculated
to set them by the ears, and who sought by various devices, always
amusing, to fit them for residence in his master's dominions.

In the history before us, which is probably only one of many which
circulated concerning the mischievous friar, he obtains admission into
a convent for the purpose of debauching its inmates. Having received
employment as under-cook, he soon finds means to throw his master into
a cauldron of boiling water, and pretending that the cook's death
resulted from an accident, he obtains the chief position in the kitchen
himself. He then provides the convent with such delicious food that the
monks give themselves up entirely to material enjoyment, and finally
reach a condition of degeneracy from which recovery is almost
impossible. Rush, however, is exposed in time to prevent absolute ruin,
and sets out to make up for this failure by good service elsewhere. The
story is described on the title-page as "being full of pleasant mirth
and delight for young people."

The tales of the yeomanry were very popular during the sixteenth
century, and were sold as penny chapbooks for many years. They form an
interesting link in the history of English prose fiction, representing
as they do the first appearance of a popular demand for prose stories,
and the first appearance, except in Chaucer, of other than military or
clerical heroes. They possess an element of reality which separates the
chivalric ideal of the Middle Ages from the pastoral-chivalric ideal of
Elizabeth's time, the latter typified by Sidney's "Arcadia." The tales
relating to the conjurers are quite mediæval in character. They are of
interest only so far as they serve to illustrate the effect of popular
superstition upon the literature of the time.

The New Learning, growing up in the place of war and theology, meant
the dawn of material prosperity, of the rule of law, and of a new
intelligence diffused through the opinions and industries of men. Of
this there is no better exposition than Sir Thomas More's "Utopia."
More was a devout Catholic. He wore a hair shirt next his skin; he
flogged himself; he gave his life for a theological principle. But he
was also a Christian in a wider sense. He appreciated the importance to
men of peace and happiness, as well as of orthodoxy. He sought to
promote, what the clergy sought to destroy, the benefits of
intellectual and material advancement. More was a lawyer, seeing
clearly into the temper of his time, and discerning the new tendencies
which were forming the opinions and influencing the actions of his
countrymen. It was as a lawyer, too, that he was able to do this. As a
soldier, or as the inmate of that Carthusian cell his youth had longed
for, he would have shared the prevailing blindness. For many centuries
all intellectual activity had been occupied with theological
disputes,--how barren it is needless to say; all physical activity had
been occupied in destroying or in protecting life. "There were indeed,"
says Buckle,[35] "many priests and many warriors, many sermons and many
battles. But, on the other hand, there was neither trade, nor commerce,
nor manufactures; there was no science, no literature; the useful arts
were entirely unknown; and even the highest ranks of society were
unacquainted, not only with the most ordinary comforts, but with the
commonest decencies of civilized life." But the New Learning dealt
with secular subjects, and aimed at material welfare. At Antwerp, says

    "Vpon a certayne daye, when I hadde herde the diuine seruice in our
    Ladies Churche, which is the fayrest, the most gorgeous and curious
    churche of buyldyng in all the Citie, and also the most frequented
    of people, and the seruice beynge doone, was readye to go home to
    my lodgynge, I chaunced to espye this foresayde Peter talkynge with
    a certayne Straunger, a man well stricken in age, with a blacke
    sonneburned face, a longe bearde, and a cloke cast homly about his
    shoulders, whome, by his fauoure and apparell furthwith I iudged to
    bee a mariner."[36]

This was the fictitious personage whose travels had led him to the
distant island of Utopia, and who described to Sir Thomas the nature of
its government. Europe for fifteen centuries had been under the control
of the clergy, and what had been the result? Where was the progress?
How much had the barbarism of one century differed from that of the
last? But in Utopia there was no priesthood. Men had a simple faith.
They "were persuaded that it is not in a man's power to believe what he
list," and when they met in public worship it was to hold such services
that all might freely join in them. Religion in Utopia was left to the
individual conscience. War was considered an unmitigated evil, and
never undertaken except in the extremest necessity. The people of
Utopia, therefore, not being exclusively occupied, on the one hand,
with discussing their religion and enforcing it on others, or, on the
other hand, with violating all its teachings, were able to think of
other things. How to make the best laws for the government of the
commonwealth; how to deal with crime, with labor; how to promote the
highest condition of general well-being, as regarded the public health,
public education, the comfort and cleanliness of dwellings;--these were
the questions which the Utopians considered most important, and these
were solved by the exercise of human reason. These were questions, too,
with which the English people found themselves confronted in the
beginning of the sixteenth century, and before that century had passed
away, the results even of a very imperfect solution regarding them were
apparent in every department and in every class of life.

The great mind, the noble character of Sir Thomas More stand out the
best production of his time. The strong religious bias of the man made
it inevitable that he should remain considerably under the influence of
the old theological teachings, but in the intelligent man of the world,
in the large-hearted philanthropist, in the honest patriot, appear the
new and beneficent tendencies which were at work. Like all men who have
been in advance of their time, More was looked upon as a dreamer. A
dreamer he might naturally seem, who, in the beginning of the sixteenth
century, looked for peace, for religious toleration, for justice to the
lower classes. But these dreams were destined to be realized long after
More's headless body had crumbled to dust, by that learning which he
himself so seduously cultivated, and by the decay, too, of some of
those ideas for which he died a martyr's death. The growth of the
universities, the establishment of grammar schools, the impetus given
to all useful occupations during the reign of Henry VIII, were
gradually aiding the advance of that new era in the history of England
which developed so brilliantly under Elizabeth. In her reign the old
warlike spirit had decayed, theology had lost its obstructive power,
and human reason began to bear its legitimate fruits--prosperity and

[Footnote 26: Green's "Short History of the English People," p. 203.]

[Footnote 27: "Tom-a-Lincoln" has been reprinted in W.J. Thorn's
valuable collection of "Early English Prose Romances," where may also
be found a story similar in nature, called "Helyas, Knight of the
Swanne." I do not consider these productions worthy of more extended
notice here, as they possess no interest in themselves, and serve only
to illustrate the degeneracy of the fictions relating to the knighthood
during the 16th century. The compilation called "The Seven Champions of
Christendom", by Richard Johnson, the author of "Tom-a-Lincoln", said
to contain "all the lyes of Christendom in one lye," obtained
considerable popularity and circulation during this period. Dunlop
mentions ("Hist. of Fiction," chap. xiv) the "Ornatus and Artesia", and
"Parismus, Prince of Bohemia," by Emmanuel Ford, and the "Pheander, or
Maiden Knight," by Henry Roberts, belonging in the same class of
composition. An English version of the old tale of Robert the Devil
belongs to this period, and may be found in W.J. Thom's collection.]

[Footnote 28: Ritson's "Robin Hood."]

[Footnote 29: Hunter's "Robin Hood", p. 13.]

[Footnote 30: "George-a-Green," chap. x, Thom's "Early Eng. Prose

[Footnote 31: "Thomas of Reading," chap. 12.]

[Footnote 32: Thom's preface to "Vigilius," "Early Eng. Prose

[Footnote 33: "Lai d'Hippocrate," Le Grand. Thom's Prelude to

[Footnote 34: Wright's "Essays on the Middle Ages," _Essay x_.]

[Footnote 35: Buckle's "Hist. of Civilization," vol. I, p. 147.
Appleton's ed.]

[Footnote 36: "_A fruteful and plesaunt worke of the beste state of a
publyque weale, and of the newe yle called UTOPIA: written in Latin by
SYR THOMAS MORE KNYGHT, and translated into Englysshe by RAPHE ROBYNSON
Citisein and Goldsmythe of London at the procurement and earnest
request of George Tadlowe Citisein and Haberdassher of the same Citie.
Imprinted at London by Abraham Wele, dwelling in Paul's Churcheyarde at
the Sygne of the Lambe, Anno, 1551." Arber's reprint._]




In the rapidity and scope of intellectual and material progress, the
age of Elizabeth is unequaled in English history. The nation seemed to
pass from the darkness of night into a sunshine which would never end.
Freed from the trammels which had hitherto impeded their way, all
classes put on a new vigor, a new enterprise, and a new intelligence,
which brought advancement into every walk of life. The spread of the
Copernican doctrine of the revolutions of the earth, and the relations
of our planet to the solar system gradually drove before it the old
anthropocentric ideas. Men looked into the heavens and saw a new
universe. In the grand scheme of creation there unfolded before them,
they read in spite of themselves the comparative insignificance of
their own world, and an overwhelming blow was dealt at the narrowness
and superstition which had hitherto characterized their thoughts. A new
world, too, was fast becoming known. The circumnavigation of the earth
by Drake, the visits of other Englishmen to the shores of Africa and
America, even to the Arctic seas, awakened a deep and healthful
curiosity. There arose a passion for travelling, for seeing and
studying foreign lands. Those who were forced to remain at home
devoured with eagerness the books of those who wandered abroad. The
effects of this widening of the mental and physical horizon are
observable in the new occupations which absorbed the energies of men,
and in the new social life which all classes were beginning to lead.
Improvements in husbandry doubled the productiveness of the soil, and
greatly enhanced its value. The development of manufactures made
English woolens in demand throughout Europe. In commerce the new spirit
of enterprise was strikingly apparent. Tradesmen and nobles, ministers
of state, Elizabeth herself--all who could, ventured something in the
ships which sailed for America or Africa in the hope of golden cargoes.
The Russia company brought home furs and flax, steel, iron, ropes, and
masts. The Turkey merchants imported the productions of the Levant,
silks and satins, carpets, velvets, and cloth of gold. By the side of
these were laid in London markets, the rice, cotton, spices, and
precious stones of India, and the sugar, rare woods, gold, silver, and
pearls of the New World.[37]

Under the influence of this new enterprise and prosperity, the picture
of social life becomes more pleasing. The English noble succeeded to
the feudal baron, the manor to the fortress. With the coat of mail and
huge two-handed sword passed away the portcullis and the moat. The new
homes of the nobility, erected during Elizabeth's reign, were marked by
a beauty and luxury in keeping with the new ideas of their owners. The
eye still rests with admiration on the numberless gables, the quaint
chimneys, the oriel windows, the fretted parapets of the Tudor
building. Within, the magnificent staircases, the great carved
chimney-pieces, the massive oaken furniture, the costly cabinets, and
elaborate tapestries all attested the new wealth and the new taste of
the occupants. A large chamber of Hardwicke Hall was decorated with a
frieze representing a stag hunt, and beneath that the story of Ulysses
wrought in tapestry.[38] Harrington rejoiced in the number of "goodly
chambers, large gardens and sweet walks" of Elizabeth's palaces. The
"goodly chambers" were filled with cloths of gold and silver, with
satin-covered furniture, and silk coverlids lined with ermine. In the
houses of knights and gentlemen were to be seen a great profusion of
"Turkic worke, pewter, brasse, fine linen, and thereto costlie cupbords
of plate worth five or six hundred or a thousand pounds."[39] The lord
of the manor no longer took his meals with all his retainers in the
great hall, throwing the bones and scraps from his wooden trencher to
his dogs. He withdrew into a separate apartment, and dined with a new
refinement. A hitherto unknown variety of food covered the table,
served on pewter, china, or silver, instead of the primitive trencher.

The bands of retainers who had hung round the castle, living at the
expense of its lord, and ready to follow him in his career of violence,
were gradually being absorbed in useful and industrial pursuits. Among
the yeomanry the general progress was exceedingly noticeable. The
character and worth of this important class were commented upon by
Holinshed.[40] "This sort of people * * * commonlie live wealthilie,
keepe good houses, and travell to get riches. They are also for the
most part farmers to gentlemen, or at the leastwise artificers, and
with grazing, frequenting of markets, and keeping of servants (not
idle servants as the gentlemen doo, but suche as get bothe their owne
and part of their master's living), do come to great welth, in so much
that manie of them are able and doo buie the lands of unthriftie
gentlemen, and often setting their sonnes to the schooles, to the
universities, and to the Ins of the Court, or otherwise leaving them
sufficient lands whereupon they may live without labour, do make them
by those meanes to become gentlemen: these were they that in times past
made all France afraid, and albeit they be not called Master, as
gentlemen are, or Sir, as to knights apperteineth, but only John, and
Thomas, etc., yet have they beene found to have doone verie good
service; and the kings of England in foughten battels, were woont to
remain among them (who were their footmen), as the French kings did
among their horsemen; the prince thereby showing where his chief
strength did consist." This middle class were enjoying a luxury and
comfort undreamt of by their fathers, or indeed by the nobility of
feudal times. Thatched cottages smeared with mud were fast being
succeeded by brick or stone houses, finely plastered, with glass
windows, chairs in place of stools, and tables in place of rough boards
lying loosely on tressles. "Farmers learned also to garnish their
cupboards with plate, their joined beds with tapestrie and silken
hangings, and their tables with carpets and fine naperie, whereby the
wealth of our countrie * * * doth infinitelie appeare."[41] The new
comforts, enumerated by Harrison, presented a striking contrast to the
condition the "old men" had been satisfied with in their "yoong daies,"
"Our fathers (yea, and we ourselves also) have lien full oft upon
straw pallets, on rough mats * * * and a good round log under their
heads instead of a bolster or pillow. If it were so that our fathers,
or the good man of the house, had within eleven years after his
marriage purchased a matteras or flockebed, and thereto a sacke of
chaffe to rest his head upon, he thought himself to be as well lodged
as the lord of the towne." The new comforts were the result, not of
extravagance, but of prosperity. Notwithstanding the rigid economy of
the old times, men "were scearce able to live and paie their rents at
their daies without selling of a cow, or an horse or more, although
they paid but four pounds at the uttermost by the yeare, * * * whereas
in my time," says Harrison, "although peradventure foure pounds of old
rent be improved to fourtie, fiftie, or an hundred poundes, yet will
the farmer as another palme or date tree, thinke his gaines verie small
toward the end of his terme, if he had not six or seven yeares rent
lieing by him, therewith to purchase a new lease, beside a faire
garnish of pewter on his cupboard, with so much in od vessell going
aboute the house, three or four feather beds, so manie coverlids and
carpets of tapestrie, a silver salt, a bowle for wine * * * and a
dozzen of spoones to furnish up the sute."[42] The country gentleman
sitting in his hall, hawk on hand, with his hounds about him, made a
profuse hospitality his chief pride, and out-door sports the resource
of his leisure and conversation. Greek and Latin were gradually making
their way into his store of knowledge, hitherto limited to the romances
and chronicles. But as Ascham complained, there was little sweetness to
flavor his cup of learning. "Masters for the most part so behave
themselves," said Peacham, "that their very name is hatefull to the
scholler, who trembleth at their coming in, rejoyceth at their absence,
and looketh his master (returned) in the face, as his deadly

The amusements of the rural population partook of the character of
material prosperity and material enjoyment which were so prominent in
Elizabeth's reign. There is no sign of the prevailing improvement in
the condition of men more suggestive than the effervescence of spirits
which broke loose on every holiday and at every festival. On the first
day of May "the juvenile part of both sexes are wont to rise a little
after midnight, and walk to some neighboring wood, accompany'd with
music and the blowing of horns, where they break down branches from the
trees and adorn them with nosegays and crowns of flowers. When this
done, they return with their booty homewards about the rising of the
sun, and make their doors and windows to triumph in the flowery
spoil."[44] "But their cheefest jewell they bring from thence is their
Maie poole whiche they bringe home with great veneration, as thus: They
have twentie or fourtie yoke of oxen, every oxe havyng a sweete
nosegaie of flowers, tyed on the tippe of his hornes, and these oxen
drawe home this Maie poole."[45] Games, dances, rude dramatic
performances succeeded each other for hours, interspersed with feasting
and drinking. An extravagant fancy sought expression in the excitement,
of grotesque actions and brilliant costumes. The Morris dancers
executed their curious movements, clad in "gilt leather and silver
paper, and sometimes in coats of white spangled fustian,"[46] or in
"greene, yellow, or some other light wanton collour," bedecked with
"scarfs, ribbons and laces hanged all over with golde ringes, precious
stones and other jewells," and "aboute either legge twentie or fourtie
belles."[47] Robin Hood's Day, Christmas, Twelfth Night, Harvest Home,
Sheepshearing, were all celebrated in turn with a liveliness of spirit,
a vigor of imagination, and a noisy enjoyment of the good things of
life which showed that Merry England had at last succeeded to the gloom
of the Middle Ages.

The prevailing prosperity and activity were naturally even more
apparent in London than in the rural districts. The city was growing
rapidly, filling up with warehouses and shops, with palaces and
dwellings. The people in general were attracted to it by the growing
trade and industry, and by the theatres, taverns, bear-gardens, and
other places of amusement, the number of which was constantly
increasing. The nobility and gentry sought the splendor of Elizabeth's
court to spend their leisure and their wealth. The middle or commercial
classes of the city, like the corresponding agricultural classes in the
country, were enjoying the fruits of their industry and attaining a
respectable position of their own. The houses and furniture belonging
to them struck a foreigner with astonishment and pleasure[48]; "The
neate cleanlinesse, the exquisite finenesse, the plesaunte and
delightfull furniture in every point for household wonderfully rejoyced
mee; their chambers and parlours, strawed over with sweet herbes,
refreshed mee; their nosegayes finelye intermingled wyth sondry sortes
of fragraunte floures in their bed-chambers and privie roomes, with
comfortable smell cheered me up and entierlye delighted all my senses."
The profusion of expenditure, and the love of show resulting from the
sudden increase of wealth, affected even the apprentices of the city.
The Lord Mayor and Common Council, in 1582, found it necessary to
direct apprentices; "to wear no hat with any silk in or about the
same. To wear no ruffles, cuffs, loose collar, nor other thing than
a ruff at the collar, and that only a yard and a half long. To wear
no doublets * * * enriched with any manner of silver or silke. * * * To
wear no sword, dagger, nor other weapon but a knife; nor a ring, jewel
of gold, nor silver, nor silke in any part of his apparel."[49]

It was, however, at Elizabeth's court, and among the nobility, that the
tendencies of the time were most marked. The literature of this
era--never surpassed in brilliancy and power--was the work of poets and
dramatists. It was the outcome of a poetical and dramatic life. Even
the fiction which belongs to the period was colored by the same
fondness for dramatic incident and poetic treatment. The enthusiasm
which had animated the nobility in their martial life went with them to
the court of Elizabeth. There it showed itself in gallantry, in love of
show, and in a devotion to amusement and to self-cultivation which
internal peace had at length made possible. Men of whom any age might
be proud crowded the scene. Cecil and Walsingham among statesmen, Drake
among discoverers, Bacon and Hooker among thinkers, Raleigh and Sidney
at once among courtiers, soldiers, and scholars. The prevailing
extravagance and variety of dress was simply the outward sign of a love
of whatever was brilliant and new. The fashions of France, of Spain, of
Turkey, even of the Moors contributed to the wardrobe of the English
gallant. "And, as these fashions are diverse, so likewise it is a
world to see the costlinesse and the curiositie: the excesse and the
vanitie: the pomp and the braverie; the change and the varietie: and
finallie the ficklenesse and the follie that is in all degrees:
insomuch that nothing is more constant in England than inconstancie of
attire."[50] Each one aimed at making the best appearance. The long
seams of men's hose were set by a plumb line, and beards were cut to
suit the face, "If a man have a leane and streight face, a Marquess
Ottons cut will make it broad and large; if it be platter-like, a long,
slender beard will make it seeme the narrower." "Some lustie courtiers
also, and gentlemen of courage doo weare either rings of golde, stones,
or pearle in their eares, whereby they imagine the workmanship of God
not to be a little amended."[51] All are familiar with the brilliant
female dress of the time. The enormous starched ruffs of various
colors, the long stomachers stiffened with wire and studded with
jewels, the costly stuffs enriched with gold and silver, made up a
costume which has never been surpassed in extravagance and fanciful

The queen herself set the example of brilliancy of costume, and took
care to be outshone by none. Sir John Harrington relates that "Ladie M.
Howarde was possessede of a rich border, powdered wyth golde and pearle
and a velvet suite belonginge thereto, which moved manie to envye; nor
did it please the queene, who thought it exceeded her owne. One daye
the queene did sende privately, and got the ladie's rich vesture, which
she put on herself, and came forthe the chamber amonge the ladies; the
kirtle and border was far too shorte for her majestie's heigth; and
she asked everyone, 'How they likede her new fancied suit?' At length
she askede the owner herself, 'If it was not made too shorte and ill
becoming?'--which the poor ladie did presentlie consente to. 'Why,
then, if it become not me, as being too shorte, I am minded it shall
never become thee, as being too fine; so it fitteth neither well.' This
sharp rebuke abashed the ladie, and she never adorned her herewith any

It was the fashion to walk in the aisles of St. Paul's Church, which
became a general rendezvous for business or pleasure. A facetious
writer of the time, instructing a young gallant how to procure his
clothes, and to show them off to the best advantage, gives an amusing
picture of the prevailing vanity and foppery. "Bend your course
directly in the middle line, that the whole body of the church may
appear to be yours; where, in view of all you may publish your suit in
what manner you affect most * * * and then you must, as 'twere in anger,
suddenly snatch at the middle of the inside, if it be taffeta at the
least; and so, by that means, your costly lining is betrayed. * * * But
one note, by the way, do I especially woo you to, the neglect of
which makes many of our gallants cheap and ordinary, that by no means
you be seen above four times; but in the fifth make yourself away,
either in some of the semsters' shops, the new tobacco office, or among
the booksellers, where, if you cannot read, exercise your smoke, and
enquire who has writ against this divine weed. * * * After dinner you
may appear again, having translated yourself out of you English cloth
into a light Turkey grogram, if you have that happiness of shifting;
and then be seen for a turn or two to correct your teeth with some
quill or silver instrument, and to cleanse your gums with a wrought
handkerchief; it skills not whether you dined or no; that is best known
to your stomach; or in what place you dined; though it were with cheese
of your own mother's making, in your chamber or study. * * * If, by
chance, you either encounter, or aloof off throw your inquisitive eye
upon any knight or squire, being your familiar, salute him, not by his
name, Sir such a one, or so; but call him Ned, or Jack, etc. This will
set off your estimation with great men; and if, though there be a dozen
companies between you, 'tis the better, he call aloud to you, for that
is most genteel, to know where he shall find you at two o'clock; tell
him at such an ordinary, or such; and be sure to name those that are
dearest, and whither none but your gallants resort."[53]

With all the luxury of furniture and dress, with all the new elegance
and ceremony of court life, there naturally remained much disorder,
violence, and coarseness throughout the social system. Although the
laws concerning the maintenance of order in the streets were strict,
forbidding any one even to "blowe any horne in the night, or whistle
after the hour of nyne of the clock in the night," yet they were not
effectively enforced. A member of the House of Commons described a
Justice of the Peace as an animal, who for half a dozen of chickens
would dispense with a dozen penal laws[54]; and Gilbert Talbot spoke of
two serious street affrays, which he described in a letter to the Earl
of Shrewsbury as "trifling matters."[55] The gallows were kept busy in
town and country. The habits of violence, and the old fondness of the
nobility for fighting out their own quarrels, lingered in the prevalent
custom of duelling. Ladies, and even the queen herself, chastised their
servants with their own hands. On one occasion Elizabeth showed her
dislike of a courtier's coat by spitting upon it, and her habit of
administering physical correction to those who displeased her called
forth the witty remark of Sir John Harrington: "I will not adventure
her Highnesse choller, leste she should collar me also." The first
coach appeared in the streets of London in Elizabeth's time and the
sight of it "put both horse and man into amazement; some said it was a
great crab-shell brought out of China; and some imagined it to be one
of the Pagan temples, in which the Cannibals adored the divell." The
extravagance and luxury of the feasts which were given on great
occasions by the nobility were not attended by a corresponding advance
in the refinement of manners at table. In a banquet given by Lord
Hertford to Elizabeth in the garden of his castle, there were a
thousand dishes carried out by two hundred gentlemen lighted by a
hundred torch-bearers and every dish was of china or silver. But forks
had not yet come into general use, and their place was supplied by
fingers. Elizabeth had two or three forks, very small, and studded with
jewels, but they were intended only for ornament. A divine inveighed
against the impiety of those who objected to touching their meat with
their fingers, and it was only in the seventeenth century that the
custom of eating with forks obtained general acceptance, and ceased to
be considered a mark of foppery.

The co-existence of coarseness and brilliant luxury, so characteristic
of the time, is curiously apparent in the amusements of the city and
the court. The whole people, from Elizabeth to the country boor,
delighted in the savage sports of bull and bear-baiting. In the
gratification received by these exhibitions, appear the remains of the
old bloodthirstiness which had once been only satisfied with the sight
of human suffering. The contrast is striking when we turn to the
masques, the triumphs, and the pageants which were exhibited on great
occasions by the court or by the citizens of London. The awakening of
learning and the new interest in life were expressed in the dramatic
entertainments which mingled the romantic elements of chivalry with the
mythology of ancient Greece, in the rejoicings of men over present
prosperity and welfare. The accounts of the festivities during the
progresses of Elizabeth, so ably collected by Nichol, read like a tale
of fairyland. When the queen visited Kenelworth she was met outside the
gates by sybils reciting a poem of welcome. At the gates the giant
porter feigned anger at the intrusion, but, overcome by the sight of
Elizabeth, laid his club and his keys humbly at her feet. On posts
along the route were placed the offerings of Sylvanus, of Pomona, of
Ceres, of Bacchus, of Neptune, of Mars, and of Phoebus. From Arthur's
court tame the Lady of the Lake, begging the queen to deliver her from
the Knight without Pity. Fawns, satyrs, and nymphs brought their
greetings, while an Echo replied to the addresses of welcome.
Amusements of every variety occupied the succeeding days. Hunting, bear
baiting, fireworks, tilting, Morris dances, a rustic marriage, a fight
between Danes and English, curious aquatic sports,--all succeeded each
other, interspersed with brilliant feasts. Poems founded on the legends
of Arthur, or drawn from the inexhaustible sources of mythology, were
recited in the pauses of festivity, or sung beneath the windows of the
queen. The same readiness of invention and luxuriance of fancy
characterized all the celebrations of the time. The love of the
dramatic which applauded Pyramus and Thisbe in the rural districts,
made actors of the courtiers. When the French commissioners came to
negotiate the marriage of Elizabeth with the Duke of Anjou, they were
entertained with a triumph, in which the Earl of Arundel, Lord Windsor,
Master Philip Sidney, and Master Fulk Grevil, impersonating the four
"foster children of Desire," carried by force of arms the "Fortress of
Beauty," which represented Elizabeth herself.

The age of Elizabeth, although it had worked itself free from the
intellectual sloth of the Middle Ages, although it was familiarizing
itself with an almost unknown world abroad, and creating a new world at
home, yet had inherited with little qualification the violence, the
cruelty, and the unbridled passions of the centuries which had gone
before. All this variety of life was expressed in the drama, which, as
a reflection of contemporary thought and manners, was to Elizabeth's
time what the novel is to our own. Before the end of this reign there
were eighteen theatres in London, all crowded with audiences which
embraced every class of the people,--from the noble and court gallant
who played cards on the stage, to the workmen and apprentices who
fought and bandied coarse jests in the pit. The names of Marlowe, of
Shakespeare, of Johnson, are sufficient to remind us of the grandeur to
which the Elizabethan drama attained, under the influence of prosperity
at home, victory abroad, and the quickening of the national
intelligence which followed the revival of learning. But while the
stage reflected all that was most noble, it reflected also all that
was most base in human nature. Ecclesiastical discipline had been laid
aside, and the unrestrained passions of men, which in actual life found
vent in violence and debauchery, were gratified by the dramatic
representation of the worst crimes and most vitiated tastes. The
Puritans brought about reformation and self-restraint, by enforcing a
new code of morals all the more rigid from the looseness which on every
side they found to combat. In closing the theatres, they were actuated,
in Mr. Green's words, by the hatred "of God-fearing men against the
foulest depravity presented in a poetic and attractive form."[56]

While the drama reflected alike the good and the bad, all the finer
aspirations of the time found expression in poetry. Spenser, Sackville,
Drayton, Donne, Hall, the two Fletchers, are but leaders in a band of
more than two hundred, who made this period unrivalled in the annals of
English poetry. It was a time of unexampled prosperity, of an enlarged
freedom, of an active intelligence, when men were eagerly seeking for
whatever was novel and brilliant; when translations without number of
the classical writers and contemporary foreign works were welcomed
alike with the "costly attire of the new cut, the Dutch hat, the French
hose, the Spanish rapier, the Italian hilt." "It is a world to see how
Englishmen desire to hear finer speech than the language will allow, to
eat finer bread than is made of wheat, or wear finer cloth than is made
of wool." Such are the words in which John Lyly, the Euphuist,
characterized his own time, and they were the words of one who
expressed in his own writings the tendency to fanciful exaggeration,
which was so strong among the men about him.

[Footnote 37: Froude's "History of England," vol. 8, p. 429.]

[Footnote 38: Stone, "Chronicles of Fashion."]

[Footnote 39: Holinshed, vol. I, p. 315; Drake's "Shakespeare and his
Times", vol. 1, p. 72.]

[Footnote 40: Holinshed, vol. I, p. 275; Drake's "Shakespeare", vol. 1,
p. 99.]

[Footnote 41: Harrison's "Description"; Drake's "Shakespeare," vol. 1,
p. 101.]

[Footnote 42: Drake's "Shakespeare and his Times," vol. 1, p. 101.]

[Footnote 43: Henry Peacham, "Compleat Gentleman," 1624.]

[Footnote 44: Bourne; Drake's "Shakespeare," vol. 1, p. 153.]

[Footnote 45: Stubbes, "Anatomie of Abuses," p. 168.]

[Footnote 46: Douce, "Illustrations of Shakespeare."]

[Footnote 47: Stubbes; Drake's "Shakespeare," vol. 1, ch. vi.]

[Footnote 48: Laevinius Lemnius; Drake, vol. 2, p. 113.]

[Footnote 49: Nichol's "Progresses of Elizabeth," vol. 2, p. 391.]

[Footnote 50: Harrison: Drake's "Shakespeare and his Times," vol. 2, p.

[Footnote 51: Harrison's "Description of England"; Holinshed, vol. I,
pp. 289-90; Drake's "Shakespeare and his Times" vol. 2, pp. 88, 89.]

[Footnote 52: "Nugæ Antique", Drake's "Shakespeare and his Times," vol.
2, p. 90.]

[Footnote 53: "The Gull's Horn Book"; Drake's "Shakespeare and his
Times", vol. 2, p. 184.]

[Footnote 54: Lodge's "Illustrations."]

[Footnote 55: _Idem._]

[Footnote 56: Green, "Short History of the English People," p. 429.]


It is to the drama that we must look for the most complete literary
expression of the social condition of the period. The student of
history must regret, indeed, that the realistic novel, with its study
of human thoughts and motives, with its illustration of manners and
customs, so valuable in a reconstruction of the past, should have been
delayed till the end of the seventeenth century. But though there be
regret, there cannot be surprise. The reigns of Elizabeth and the
Stuarts cover the period of court life; when men lived in public, and
sought their intellectual entertainment in crowds at a theatre, as now,
in a time of citizen-life, they seek it in private, by the
study-lamp.[57] In a dramatic age the creations of the imagination will
be placed behind the footlights, and in a period of quiet and
reflection they will be placed between the covers of a book. In the age
of Elizabeth the writers of fiction neither studied the characters and
manners of the men about them, nor aimed at any reflection of actual
life. But their tales and romances were the natural fruit of their
intellectual condition, and form an interesting if not a valuable
portion of English fiction. In them are reflected the happiness, the
poetry, the love of novelty, and the ideality of the time. The stirring
incidents of chivalric romance were no longer in vogue, and the subject
became an idealized love. But the most striking feature of Elizabethan
fiction is the great importance attached to style. The writer cared
more to excite admiration by the turn of his phrases and the ornaments
of his language, than to interest his reader by plot or incident.

In 1579 John Lyly published his curious romance, "Euphues, the Anatomy
of Wit," a work which attained a great popularity, and made the word
Euphuism an abstract term in the language to express the ornate and
antithetical style of which this book is the most marked example. In
Lyly's own day it was said by Edward Blount that the nation was "in his
debt for a new English which hee taught them." Since then, the verdict
of posterity has been that Lyly corrupted the public taste, and
introduced an affected and overloaded manner of writing which had a
mischievous influence upon literature. A careful examination of Lyly's
work, and of the condition of the English language in the last quarter
of the sixteenth century, will not sustain either of these views. The
Euphuistic style was not of Lyly's invention. He acquired it from the
men about him, and merely gave it, through his writings, a distinct
character and individuality. In a letter of Elizabeth to her brother
Edward VI, long-before "Euphues" was written, occurs the following
passage: "Like as a shipman in stormy wether plukes down the sails
tarrying for bettar winde, so did I, most noble kinge, in my
unfortunate chanche a Thursday pluk downe the hie sailes of my joy and
comforte, and do trust one day that as troublesome waves have repulsed
me backwarde, so a gentil winde will bringe me forwarde to my
haven."[58] This is a moderate specimen of the ornate and exaggerated
language which was following the new acquisitions of learning and
intelligence, just as extravagance in dress and food was following the
new prosperity and wealth. Men wished to crowd their learning and
cultivation into every thing they said or wrote. As the language was
not yet settled by good prose writers, the more affected a style, the
more numerous its similes, and far-fetched its allusions, the more
ingenious and admirable it was considered to be. There resulted a
sacrifice of clearness and simplicity to a strained elegance. Still, in
the Euphuistic style, tedious and grotesque as it often is, appear the
first serious efforts, among English prose writers, to attain a better
mode of expression. The results which followed the absence of a
standard written language at home were strengthened by the general
acquaintance with foreign literature. Italy in the sixteenth century
was the leading intellectual nation, and the example of the refined and
over-polished manner of writing there prevalent had much to do with the
growth in England of a fondness for affected mannerisms and fancied
ornaments of language. The new ideas in regard to poetry and
versification which Wyat and Surrey had brought from Italy, were but
the beginning of an extensive Italian influence. It was not without
reason that Ascham inveighed against "the enchantments of Circe brought
out of Italy to mar men's manners in England." Italian works were
translated and circulated in great numbers in England, and among these
the most popular were the gay and amorous productions of the story

Born in Kent in 1554, John Lyly studied at Magdalen College, Oxford,
and received the degree of Master of Arts. Not a very diligent
scholar, he disliked the "crabbed studies" of logic and philosophy,
"his genie being naturally bent to the pleasant paths of poetry," but
he was reputed at the University as afterward at Elizabeth's court, "a
rare poet, witty, comical, and facetious." During his life in London he
produced a number of plays and poems which have given his name a not
inconsiderable place in the list of Elizabethan poets and dramatists.
He is now best known, where known at all, by his prose work "Euphues,"
which was so much admired at Elizabeth's court, that all the ladies
knew his phrases by heart, and to "parley Euphuism" was a sign of
breeding. For many years Lyly lingered about the court waiting for a
promised position to reward his labors and support his declining years.
But in vain. "A thousand hopes," he complained, "but all nothing; a
hundred promises, but yet nothing." Lyly died in 1606, leaving, as he
said, but three legacies; "Patience to my creditors, Melancholie
without measure to my friends, and Beggarie without shame to my

The deeper meaning of Lyly's work, which lies beneath the surface of
his similes and antitheses, has escaped almost all his critics.[60] It
is suggested by the title, "Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit." In the
"Schoolmaster," Ascham explained how Socrates had described the anatomy
of wit in a child, and the first essential quality mentioned by
Socrates, and that most fully discussed by Ascham was Euphuês which
may be translated of good natural parts, as well of the body as the
mind. Euphues, then, as well in the story in which he figures, as
afterward in the essays or which he is the supposed author, is the
model of a young man at once attractive in appearance, and possessing
the mental qualities most calculated to please. While the story is
meant to attract readers, the essays and digressions introduced into
the work are intended to inculcate the methods of education which Lyly
taught in common with Ascham. It was, however, the manner rather than
the matter which gave to "Euphues" its prominence and popularity. The
story is but a slender thread. Euphues and Philautus are two young
gentlemen of Naples, bound together by the closest ties of friendship.
Philautus is deeply enamored of a lady named Lucilla, to whom in an
unfortunate moment he presents Euphues. The meeting is at supper, and
the conversation turns on the question "often disputed, but never
determined, whether the qualities of the minde, or the composition of
the man, cause women most to lyke, or whether beautie or wit move men
most to love." Euphues shows so much ingenuity in the discussion of
this interesting subject that Lucilla transfers her affections to him.
Upon this the two friends quarrel and exchange letters of mutual
recrimination couched in the most elaborate language. Philautus writes:

    Although hereto Euphues, I have shrined thee in my heart for
    a trustie friende, I will shunne thee hereafter as a trothless
    foe. * * * Dost thou not know yat a perfect friend should be lyke
    the Glazeworme, which shineth most bright in the darke? or lyke the
    pure Frankencense which smelleth most sweet when it is in the fire?
    or at the leaste not unlike to the damaske Rose which is sweeter in
    the still than on the stalke? But thou, Euphues, dost rather
    resemble the Swallow, which in the summer creepeth under the eues
    of euery house, and in the winter leaveth nothing but durt behinde
    hir; or the humble Bee, which hauing sucked hunny out of the fayre
    flower, doth leaue it and loath it; or the Spider which in the
    finest web doth hang the fayrest Fly.

To these bitter reproaches Euphues replies that "Love knoweth no
Lawes," and in support of the proposition cites as many cases from
mythology as he can remember. The faithless Lucilla, however, soon
treats Euphues as she had before treated Philautus, and marries a third
lover whom they both despise. The friends are then once more united,
and lament in each other's arms the folly of Lucilla. A second part of
the work appeared in the following year, in which Euphues and Philautus
are represented on a visit to England. Philautus marries, and Euphues,
after eulogizing the English government, Elizabeth, and all her court,
retires forever "to the bottom of the mountain Silexedra."

The educational essays dispersed throughout the book display a good
sense which even Lyly's style cannot conceal. Ascham and Lyly were
alone in deprecating the excessive use of the rod, and in so doing were
far in advance of the age. Cruelty seems to have been a common
characteristic of the school-teacher. "I knew one," said Peacham, "who
in winter would ordinarily in a cold morning whip his boyes over for no
other purpose than to get himself a heat; another beat them for
swearing, and all the time he swears himself with horrible oathes that
he would forgive any fault save that. * * * Yet these are they that
oftentimes have our hopefull gentry under their charge and tuition, to
bring them (up) in science and civility."[61]

The style which proved so attractive to Elizabeth's courtiers had
three principal characteristics, which the reader will perceive in the
extracts hereafter to be given--a pedantic exhibition of learning, an
excess of similes drawn from natural history, usually untrue to nature,
and a habit of antithesis, which, by constant repetition becomes
exceedingly wearisome. Euphues, wishing to convince his listeners of
the inferiority of outward to inward perfection, pursues the following

    The foule Toade hath a fayre stone in his head, the fine golde is
    found in the filthy earth; the sweet kernell lyeth in the hard
    shell; vertue is harboured in the heart of him that most men
    esteeme misshappen. Contrarywise, if we respect more the outward
    shape, then the inward habit, good God, into how many mischiefs do
    wee fall? into what blindnesse are we ledde? Due we not commonly
    see that in painted pottes is hidden the deadlyest poyson? that in
    the greenest grasse is ye greatest serpent? in the cleerest water
    the vgliest Toade? Doth not experience teach vs, that in the most
    curious sepulcher are enclosed rotten bones? That the Cypresse tree
    beareth a faire leafe, but no fruite? That the Estridge carrieth
    faire feathers, but ranke flesh? How frantick are those louers
    which are carried away with the gaye glistering of the fine face?

    "In the coldest flint," says Lucilla, "there is hot fire, the Bee
    that hath hunny in hir mouth, hath a sting in hir tayle; the tree
    that beareth the sweetest fruite, hath a sower sap; yea, the wordes
    of men though they seeme smooth as oyle: yet their heartes are as
    crooked as the stalke of luie."

Lyly's antithetical style is well illustrated by the following passage,
in which he means to be particularly serious and impressive:

    If I should talke in words of those things which I haue to conferre
    with thee in writings, certes thou would blush for shame, and I
    weepe for sorrowe: neither could my tongue vtter yat with patience,
    which my hand can scarse write with modesty, neither could thy ears
    heare that without glowing, which thine eyes can hardly vewe
    without griefe. Ah, Alcius, I cannot tell whether I should most
    lament in thee thy want of learning, or thy wanton lyvinge, in the
    on thou art inferiour to all men, in the other superiour to al
    beasts. Insomuch as who seeth thy dul wit, and marketh thy froward
    will, may well say that he neuer saw smacke of learning in thy
    dooings, nor sparke of relygion in thy life. Thou onely vauntest of
    thy gentry: truely thou wast made a gentleman before thou knewest
    what honesty meant, and no more hast thou to boast of thy stocke,
    than he, who being left rich by his father, dyeth a beggar by his
    folly. Nobilitie began in thine auncestors and endeth in thee, and
    the generositie that they gayned by vertue, thou hast blotted with

The popularity of "Euphues" excited much imitation, and its influence
is strongly marked in the works of Robert Greene. Born in Norfolk in
1560, Greene studied at Cambridge and received the degree of Master of
Arts. After wasting his property in Italy and Spain, he returned to
London to earn his bread by the pen. As a pamphleteer, as a poet, and
especially as a dramatist, Greene achieved a considerable reputation.
But his improvident habits and a life of constant debauchery brought
his career to a close, amidst poverty and remorse, at the early age of
thirty-two. He died in a drunken brawl, leaving in his works the
evidence of talents and qualities which the degradation of his life had
failed to destroy.

Greene's "Arcadia" was published in 1587, and bears in its fanciful
title of "Camilla's Alarum to Slumber Euphues," the evidence of its
inspiration. Even among pastorals the improbability of this story is
surpassing. Damocles, king of Arcadia, banished his daughter with her
husband and son. Sephestia, the daughter, arrived in a part of Arcadia
entirely inhabited by shepherds. There she becomes a shepherdess under
the name of Samela, and meets her husband, Maximus, who is already
tending sheep in the same neighborhood with the name of Melicertus.
Strange to say, Sephestia fails to recognize her husband, and receives
his addresses as a favored lover. Soon after, Pleusidippus, Sephestia's
son, is stolen by pirates, and adopted by the king of Thessaly, in
whose court he grows up. The fame of Sephestia's beauty reaches her
father and her son, who, ignorant of the relationship in consequence of
Sephestia's change of name, both set out to woo the celebrated
shepherdess. The repulsive scene of the same woman being the object at
once of the passion of her father and her son is ended by Damocles
carrying off Sephestia to his own court, where he proposes to execute
Maximus as his successful rival, and Sephestia for her obstinate
refusal of his addresses. The Delphian oracle, however, interposes in
time by declaring the identity of Sephestia, and the story terminates
as usual in weddings and reconciliations.

The conventional shepherd's life is well described in the "Arcadia,"
and the pastoral tone is skilfully maintained. The language, however,
is confessedly euphuistic, as may be seen by the author's comment on a
speech of Samela:

    Samela made this reply, because she had heard him so superfine, as
    if Ephebus had learned him to refine his mother's tongue; wherefore
    though he had done it of an ink horn desire to be eloquent, and
    Melicertus thinking Samela had learned with Lucilla in Athens to
    anatomize wit, and speak none but similes, imagined she smoothed
    her talk to be thought like Sappho, Phaon's paramour.

The following passage could hardly be distinguished from the writings
of Lyly:

    I had thought, Menaphon, that he which weareth the bay leaf had
    been free from lightning, and the eagle's pen a preservative
    against thunder; that labour had been enemy to love, and the
    eschewing of idleness an antidote against fancy; but I see by
    proof, there is no adamant so hard, but the blood of a goat will
    make soft, no fort so well defended, but strong battery will entry,
    nor any heart so pliant to restless labours, but enchantments of
    love will overcome.

Melicertus addresses Samela, whom he finds feeding her flocks, in the
following terms:

    Mistress of all eyes that glance but at the excellence of your
    perfection, sovereign of all such as Venus hath allowed for lovers,
    Oenone's over-match, Arcadia's comet, Beauty's second comfort,
    all hail! Seeing you sit like Juno when she first watched her white
    heifer on the Lincen downs, as bright as silver Phoebe mounted on
    the high top of the ruddy element, I was, by a strange attractive
    force, drawn, as the adamant draws this iron, or the jet the straw,
    to visit your sweet self in the shade, and afford you such company
    as a poor swain may yield without offense; which, if you shall
    vouch to deign of, I shall be as glad of such accepted service, as
    Paris was first of his best beloved paramour.

Another of Samela's lovers, despairing of success, "became sick for
anger, and spent whole ecologues in anguish."

Greene's story of "Pandosto," of "Dorastus and Fawnia," which attained
a great popularity, and went through at least fourteen editions, is
well known as the foundation of Shakespeare's "Winter's Tale."
Shakespeare has followed Greene in the material points of the story,
even so far as to make Bohemia a maritime country. But the genius of
the dramatist is manifest in the miraculous and happy ending which he
substitutes for the unlawful love and inconsistent suicide of Pandosto
in the work of Greene. Shakespeare borrowed from the text, as well as
from the plot of the novelist. The lines,

                        The gods themselves,
      Humbling their deities to love, have taken
      The shapes of beasts upon them: Jupiter
      Became a bull, and bellowed: the green Neptune
      A ram, and bleated; and the fire robed god,
      Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,
      As I seem now,

are evidently a reproduction of the soliloquy of Dorastus:

    And yet Dorastus, shame not at thy shepheard's weede: The heavenly
    Godes have sometime earthly thoughts: Neptune became a ram, Jupiter
    a bull, Apollo a shepheard; they Gods, and yet in love; and thou a
    man appointed to love.[63]

The story of "Philomela," "penned to approve women's chastity," is the
best of Greene's tales, and approaches more closely the modern novel
than any work of the time. It is related with much less than the usual
prolixity, and contains two characters of distinct individuality. The
scene is placed in Venice, partly in consequence of the Italian origin
of the story, and partly, it would seem, because writers of fiction
imagined that the further distant they could represent their incidents
to have occurred, the more interest and probability would attach to
them. Philippo Medici possessed a wife Philomela, renowned, "not for
her beauty, though Italy afforded none so fair--not for her dowry,
though she were the only daughter of the Duke of Milan--but for the
admirable honours of her mind, which were so many and matchless, that
virtue seemed to have planted there the paradise of her perfection."
Philippo was so prone to jealousy, that he suspected even this paragon,
and worked himself into a belief in her infidelity by such euphuisms as
these: "The greener the Alisander leaves be, the more bitter is the
sap, and the salamander is the most warm when he lieth furthest from
the fire," therefore "women are most heart-hollow, when they are most
lip-holy." Inflamed by this reasoning, he induced a friend, one
Lutesio, to attempt his wife's virtue, enjoining him to bring immediate
information in case of any evidence of success. Lutesio, after some
misgivings, undertook the task, and under the influence of Philomela's
beauty, found it a very agreeable one. His most elaborate discourses on
love in the abstract were met by Philomela with replies fully as long
and fully as lofty, but when he made the conversation personal, and
declared his attitude to be that of a lover, he was met with a virtuous
indignation which fully bore out the reputation of Philomela. Even this
conclusive test did not satisfy the jealous mind of the wretched
Philippo. Having hired two slaves to swear in court to his wife's
infidelity, he procured her banishment to Palermo. By the efforts of
the Duke of Milan, this infamous proceeding was finally exposed, and
Philippo, overcome by remorse, set out in search of Philomela. At
Palermo, he accused himself, in a fit of despair, of a murder which had
been committed in that city. But while the trial was in progress,
Philomela, in order to shield her husband, appeared in court and
proclaimed herself guilty of the crime. The innocence of both was
discovered. Philippo, as he deserved, died immediately in an "ecstacy,"
and Philomela "returned home to Venice, and there lived the desolate
widow of Philippo Medici all her life; which constant chastity made her
so famous, that in her life she was honoured as the paragon of virtue,
and after her death, solemnly, and with wonderful honour, entombed in
St. Mark's Church, and her fame holden canonized until this day in

The character of Philomela possesses strong traits of feminine virtue
and wifely fidelity. Philippo has little distinctiveness except in his
extreme susceptibility to jealousy--a fault which was exaggerated by
the author to set off the opposite qualities of Philomela. The story
has no little merit in regard to the construction and sequence of the
narrative, and holds up to admiration a high moral excellence. But its
interest is seriously impaired by the same defect which marks all the
fiction of the time. Philomela is almost the only tale which makes any
pretence to being a description of actual life, or which deals with
possible incidents. Yet the language, although it has some elegance, is
so affectedly formal, that all sense of reality is destroyed. When
Philippo's treachery to his wife is discovered, and he himself is
plunged in remorse, it is in such words as these that he speaks of his
exposure: "There is nothing so secret but the date of days will reveal;
that as oil, though it moist, quencheth not fire, so time, though ever
so long, is no sure covert for sin; but as a spark raked up in cinders
will at last begin to glow and manifest a flame, so treachery hidden in
silence will burst forth and cry for revenge."[64]

A prose idyl is the term which best describes the courtly and pastoral
character of Lodge's "Rosalynde," the last work of fiction of any
importance which distinctly bears the impress of euphuism. Published in
1590, the ten editions through which it passed during the next fifty
years are sufficient evidence of its popularity. It is probably the
only work of fiction of Elizabeth's time which could be read through at
the present day without impatience, and its story and personages are
well known to all through their reproduction in Shakespeare's "As You
Like it." The author of "Rosalynde" was a man of very varied talents
and experience. The son, it is believed, of a Lord Mayor of London, he
graduated at Trinity College, Oxford, and followed successively the
professions of an actor, soldier, lawyer, and physician. In the
intervals of these occupations, he found time to join in two
privateering expeditions to the Pacific, and to publish a number of
literary productions, of which the most successful were dramas and
poems. He is thought to have died of the plague in 1625.

"ROSALYNDE. EUPHUES' GOLDEN LEGACIE: _Found after his death in his
cell at Silexedra, Bequeathed to Philantus' sonnes nursed up with their
Father in England. Fetched from the Canaries by T.L., Gent._" Such is
the fanciful title of the story which Shakespeare transformed into "As
You Like it." In the comedy, the characters of Touchstone, Audrey, and
Jacques are added, but otherwise the dramatist has followed his
original quite closely. He made use, not infrequently, of the language
as well as the incidents of Lodge, which in itself is sufficient
praise. "Rosalynde," is, indeed, a charming tale, containing agreeable
and well drawn characters, dramatic incidents, and written in an
elevated strain of dignity and purity. Occasionally, the influence of
"Euphues" is manifest:--"Unhappy Saladyne, whom folly hath led to these
misfortunes, and wanton desires wrapt within the laborinth of these
calamities. Are not the heavens doomers of men's deedes? And holdes not
God a ballance in his fist, to reward with favour and revenge with
justice? Oh, Saladyne, the faults of thy youth, as they were fond, so
were they foule; and not onely discovering little nourture, but
blemishing the excellence of nature."

A more natural and attractive passage is the discussion between
Rosalynde and Alinda,[65] regarding their escape from court.

    Rosalynde began to comfort her, and after shee had wept a fewe kind
    teares in the bosome of her Alinda, she gave her heartie thankes,
    and then they sat them downe to consult how they should travel.
    Alinda grieved at nothing but they might have no man in their
    company; saying it would be their greatest prejudice in that two
    women went wandering without either guide or attendant. "Tush
    (quoth Rosalynde), art thou a woman and hast not a sodeine shift to
    prevent a misfortune? I, thou seest, am of a tall stature, and
    would very wel become the person and apparel of a Page: thou shalt
    bee my mistresse, and I wil play the man so properly, that (trust
    me) in what company so ever I come I will not be discovered: I wil
    buy me a suite, and have my Rapier very handsomely at my side, and
    if any knave offer wrong, your Page wil shew him the poynt of his

Shakespeare has followed this scene very closely in "As You Like It."

      _Ros._ Alas, what danger will it be to us,
      Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
      Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.

      _Cel._ I'll put myself in poor and mean attire,
      And with a kind of umber smirch my face;
      The like do you; so shall we pass along
      And never stir assailants

      _Ros._              Were it not better,
      Because that I am more than common tall,
      That I did suit me all points like a man?
      A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh.
      A boar spear in my hand; and in my heart,
      Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will,--
      We'll have a swashing and a martial outside.
      As many other mannish cowards have
      That do outface it with their semblances.[66]

The most brilliant and characteristic work of fiction belonging to the
Elizabethan era composed by a man who was himself regarded by his
contemporaries as the embodiment of all the qualities they most loved
and admired. During the three hundred years which have elapsed since
the death of Sir Philip Sidney, the same enthusiastic praise has
accompanied the mention of his name. Sir William Temple, writing in a
critical time, and when the effect of Sidney's personal character need
no longer have biassed a literary judgment, pronounced Sir Philip to be
"the greatest poet and the noblest genius of any that have left
writings behind them."[67] Such were the words of a man of genius, who
was acquainted with the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Spenser.
While all admirers of Sidney must regret a praise of his literary
abilities so exaggerated and mistaken, the eulogies which have been
lavished upon his personal character have never been thought to surpass
the worth of their object. Sir Philip Sidney, in the short life
allotted to him, had added to his personal beauty and amiable
disposition all that was most fitted to win the admiration of his time.
His rare accomplishments, his chivalrous manners and unusual powers of
conversation made him so great a favorite at court, that it was the
pride of Elizabeth to call him "her Philip." A considerable knowledge
of military affairs, and a fearless gallantry in battle, combined, with
Sidney's genial disposition, to win for him the universal affection of
the army. The violence of the Middle Ages lingers in Sir Philip's angry
words to his father's secretary: "Mr. Molyneux, if ever I know you to
do so much as read any letter I write to my father, without his
commandment or my consent, I will thrust my dagger into you. And trust
to it, for I speak it in earnest." But the spirit of generosity and
self-sacrifice, which we are also accustomed to associate with mediæval
knighthood, was realized in the famous scene on the battle-field before
Zutphen. With good natural talents and an untiring industry, Sir
Philip acquired a knowledge of science, of languages, and of
literature, which gave him a reputation abroad as well as at home. The
learned Languet relinquished his regular duties without prospect of
pecuniary reward "to be a nurse of knowledge to this hopeful young
gentleman."[68] The regrets of the universities at Sidney's death
filled three volumes with academic eulogies. But a better testimony
than these volumes to the general admiration for Sidney's talents, and
to his position as a patron of literature, is to be found in the
beautiful lines in which Spenser lamented his benefactor, and in two
sentences by poor Tom Nash[69], who knew but too well the value of what
he and his fellow-laborers had lost: "Gentle Sir Philip Sidney, thou
knewest what belonged to a scholar; thou knewest what pains, what toil,
what travel conduct to perfection; well could'st thou give every virtue
his encouragement, every art his due, every writer his desert, cause
none more virtuous, witty, or learned than thyself. But thou art dead
in thy grave, and has left too few successors of thy glory, too few to
cherish the sons of the Muses, or water those budding hopes with their
plenty, which thy bounty erst planted." The public manifestations of
grief at Sidney's death, and the rivalry of two nations for the
possession of his remains, seem to have proceeded rather from the fame
of his personal virtues than from the accomplishment of great
achievements. It was recorded on the tomb of the learned Dr. Thornton
that he had been "the tutor of Sir Philip Sidney," and Lord Brooke
caused the inscription to be placed over his own grave: "Fulke
Greville, servant to Queen Elizabeth, counsellor to King James, and
friend to Sir Philip Sidney."

The work of a man who belonged so thoroughly to his own time, and who
united in himself talents and virtues so remarkable could hardly fail
to be of historical interest. Such is the value now belonging to the
"Arcadia"--a work unrivalled in its own day, and deserving the
admiration of the present, but which has been left behind in the great
advance of English prose fiction. In the courtly pages of the "Arcadia"
are brilliantly reflected the lofty strain of sentiment characteristic
of Elizabeth's time, and the chivalry, the refinement, and the
impetuosity of if its noble author. "Heere have you now," wrote Sir
Philip to his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, "most deare, and most
worthy to be most deare Ladie, this idle worke of mine. * * * Youre
deare self can best witnesse the manner, being done in loose sheetes of
paper, most of it in your presence, the rest by sheetes sent unto you,
as fast as they were done." It would be tedious to the reader to
receive a detailed description of the story which extends through the
four hundred and eighty pages of Sidney's folio. The plot turns on the
fulfilment of a Delphian prophecy, in fear of which Basilius, king of
Arcadia, retires to a forest with his wife and two daughters. One
daughter, Philoclea, lives with her father Basilius, and the other,
Pamela, is confided to the care of Dametas, a country fellow, in the
service of Basilius, who lives close by with his wife. Pyrocles, prince
of Macedon, and Musidorus, prince of Thessaly, are wrecked on the coast
of Arcadia, where they soon become enamored of the two daughters of
Basilius. To the better attainment of their ends, Pyrocles obtains
admittance to the house of Basilius in the disguise of an Amazon, and
Musidorus enters the service of Dametas in the character of a shepherd.
The story which is unrolled in the remainder of the work relates the
extraordinary occurrences which are necessary to the fulfilment of the
Delphian prophecy, together with the intrigues and adventures of the
young lovers. Shipwrecks, attacks by pirates, rescues, journeys through
Arcadia among poetic shepherds, a war with the Helots, through forests
and carving sonnets on trees,--such are the scenes which succeed each
other with unending variety. On the arrival of Pyrocles and Musidorus
in Arcadia, the reader is introduced to that ideal land, never more
happily described than by Sidney's pen[70]:

    The third day after, in the time that the Morning did strow roses
    and violets in the heavenly floore against the comming of the
    sunne, the Nightingales, (striving one with the other which could
    in most daintie varietie recount their wrong caused sorrow,) made
    them put off their sleepe, and rising from under a tree, (which
    that night had bin their pavillion,) they went on their journey,
    which by and by welcomed Musidorus eies (wearied with the wasted
    soile of Laconia) with delightfull prospects. There were hills
    which garnished their proud heights with stately trees: humble
    vallies, whose base estate seemed comforted with the refreshing of
    silver rivers: medowes, enameled with all sorts of eie pleasing
    flowers; thickets, which being lined with most pleasant shade, were
    witnessed so too, by the cheerfull disposition of manie well tuned
    birds: each pasture stored with sheep feeding with sober securitie,
    while the prettie lambes with bleating oratorie craved the dammes
    comfort: here a shepheards boy piping, as though he should never be
    old: there a young shepheardesse knitting, and withall singing, and
    it seemed that her voice comforted her hands to worke, and her
    hands kept time to her voice's musick. As for the houses of the
    country, (for manie houses came under their eye,) they were all
    scattered, no two being one by th' other, and yet not so farre off
    as that it barred mutuall succour: a shew, as it were, of an
    accompanable solitarinesse, and of a civill wildeness.

Amid such scenes dwell Basilius and his wife, whose two daughters are
described by Sidney in language unsurpassed for delicacy and charm.

    Of these two are brought to the world two daughters, so beyond
    measure excellent in all the gifts allotted to reasonable
    creatures, that we may thinke they were borne to shew, that nature
    is no stepmother to that sexe, how much so ever some men (sharp
    witted onely in evill speaking) have sought to disgrace them. The
    elder is named Pamela, by many men not deemed inferiour to her
    sister: for my part, when I marked them both, me thought there was,
    (if at least such perfections may receive the word of more,) more
    sweetness in Philoclea, but more majestie in Pamela: mee thought
    love plaied in Philoclea's eies, & threatened in Pamela's; me
    thought Philoclea's beautie only perswaded, but so perswaded that
    all hearts must yield; Pamela's beautie used violence, and such
    violence as no heart could resist. And it seems that such
    proportion is betweene their mindes; Philoclea so bashfull, as
    though her excellencies had stolne into her before she was aware,
    so humble, that she will put all pride out of countenance; in
    summe, such proceeding as will stirre hope, but teach hope good
    maners. Pamela of high thoughts, who avoids not pride with not
    knowing her excellencies, but by my making that one of her
    excellencies to be void of pride: her mother's wisdome, greatnesse,
    nobilitie, but (if I can guesse aright) knit with a more constant

The description of an envious man in the second book,[72] which
suggested to Sir Richard Steele his essay in the nineteenth number of
the _Spectator_, is another good example of Sidney's ability in
delineating character. The passage in which Musidorus is represented
showing off the paces of his horse,[73] a subject especially adapted to
excite the best effort of the author, is a very remarkable effort of
descriptive power, for the insertion of which, unfortunately, space is
wanting here. Sidney might have quoted his description of Pamela
sewing, to justify his belief that "It is not rhyming and versing that
maketh poesy":

    Pamela, who that day having wearied her selfe with reading, * * * was
    working upon a purse certaine roses and lillies. * * * The flowers
    shee had wrought caried such life in them, that the cunningest
    painter might have learned of her needle: which, with so pretty a
    manner, made his careers to & fro through the cloth, as if the needle
    it selfe would haue been loth to haue gone fromward such a mistresse,
    but that it hoped to returne thitherward very quickly againe; the
    cloth looking with many eyes vpon her, and louingly embracing the
    wounds she gaue it: the sheares also were at hand to behead the silke
    that was growne too short. And if at any time shee put her mouth to
    bite it off, it seemed, that where she had beene long in making of
    a rose with her hands, she would in an instant make roses with her
    lips; as the lillies seemed to haue their whitenesse rather of the
    hand that made them, than of the matter whereof they were made;
    & that they grew there by the suns of her eyes, and were refreshed
    by the most * * * comfortable ayre, which an unawares sigh might
    bestow upon them.[74]

Charles I. passed many hours of his prison life in reading the
"Arcadia," and Milton[75] accused him of stealing a prayer of Pamela
to insert in the "Eikon Basilike": "And that in no serious book, but
the vain amatorious poem of Sir Philip Sidney's 'Arcadia'; a book in
that kind, full of worth and wit, but among religious thoughts and
duties not worthy to be named: nor to be read at any time without good
caution, much less in time of trouble and affliction to be a
Christian's prayerbook." This prayer is in itself so beautiful, coming
from the lips of Pamela, and the greater part of it suits so perfectly
the unhappy circumstances of King Charles, that at the risk of unduly
multiplying our extracts from the "Arcadia," it will be inserted

    And therewith kneeling downe, euen where shee stood, she thus said:
    O All-seeing Light, and eternall Life of all things, to whom
    nothing is either so great, that it may resist; or so small, that
    it is condemned: looke vpon my misery with thine eye of mercie, and
    let thine infinite power vouchsafe to limite out some proportion of
    deliuerance vnto me, as to thee shall seeme most conuenient. Let
    not injurie, O Lord, triumph ouer me, and let my faults by thy hand
    bee corrected, and make not mine vnjust enemy the minister of thy
    justice. But yet, my God, if in thy wisdome this be the aptest
    chastisement for my vnexcusable folly: if this low bondage be
    fittest to my ouerhigh desires: if the pride of my not inough
    humble heart be thus to be broken, O Lord I yeeld vnto thy will,
    and joyfully embrace what sorrow thou will haue mee suffer. Onely
    thus much let me craue of thee, (let my crauing, O Lord, be
    accepted of thee, since euen that proceeds from thee,) let me
    craue, euen by the noblest title, which in my greatest affliction I
    may give myself, that I am thy creature, and by thy goodness (which
    is thyselfe) that thou wilt suffer some beame of thy Majestie so to
    shine into my minde, that it may still depend confidently on thee.
    Let calamitie be the exercise, but not the ouerthrow or my vertue;
    let their power preuaile, but preuaile not to destruction; let my
    greatnesse be their pray; let my paine bee the sweetnesse of there
    reuenge: let them, (if so it seeme good vnto thee) vexe me with
    more and more punishment. But, O Lord, let neuer their wickednesse
    haue such a hand, but that I may cary a pure minde in a pure body.
    (And pausing a while.) And O most gracious Lord, (said she) what
    euer become of me, preserve the vertuous Musidorus.[76]

The "Arcadia" combines the elements of both the chivalric and the
pastoral romance. Sidney's familiarity with the legends of Arthur,
together with his own gallantry and love of adventure, peculiarly
adapted him to describe martial scenes. But the chivalry of Sir Philip
is not more apparent where he describes the shock of arms than where,
with such exquisite delicacy, he writes of women. The student of
English fiction would fain linger long over the pages which describe
the loves of Pamela and Philoclea. For when these pages are laid aside,
it is long before he may again meet with the poetry, the manly and
womanly sentiment, and the pure yet stirring passion which adorn the
romance of Elizabeth's Philip. Three centuries have passed away since
the "Arcadia" was written, and we who live at the end of this period
not unjustly congratulate ourselves on our superior civilization and
refinement. And yet in all this time we have arrived of no higher
conception of feminine virtue or chivalrous manhood than is to be found
in this sixteenth-century romance, and during one half of these three
hundred years there was to be seen so little trace of such a
conception, whether in life or in literature, that the word love seemed
to have lost its nobler meaning and to stand for no more than animal
desire. There is not in English fiction a more charming picture of
feminine modesty than that of Pamela hiding her love for Musidorus.

    How delightfull soeuer it was, my delight might well bee in my
    soule, but it neuer wente to looke out of the window to doe him any
    comforte. But how much more I found reason to like him, the more I
    set all the strength of my minde to conceale it. * * * Full often
    hath my breast swollen with keeping my sighes imprisoned: full
    often have the teares I draue back from mine eyes turned back to
    drowne my heart. But, alas, what did that helpe poore Dorus?[77]

Hardly less beautiful is the gradual yielding, through pity, of
Pamela's maidenly heart.

    This last dayes danger having made Pamela's loue discerne what a
    losse it should haue suffered if Dorus had beene destroyed, bred
    such tendernesse of kindnesse in her toward him, that she could no
    longer keepe loue from looking out through her eyes, and going
    forth in her words; whom before as a close prisoner, shee had to
    her heart onely committed: so as finding not onely by his speeches
    and letters, but by the pitifull oration of a languishing behaviour,
    and the easily deciphered character of a sorrowfull face, that
    despaire began now to threaten him destruction, she grew content
    both to pitie him, and let him see shee pitied him. * * * by making
    her owne beautifull beames to thaw away the former ycinesse of her

That portion of the "Arcadia" which relates to pastoral life owes its
origin to Spanish and Portuguese works. But there were not wanting to
Sidney's experience actual examples of that peaceful existence to
which, in troubled times, men have so often turned as a pleasing
contrast to their own cares, and dangers. The shepherds of the Sussex
Downs, pursuing through centuries their simple vocation, unheeded by
the world, untouched by revolution or civil war, tended their sheep
with little thought or knowledge of the world beyond the downs, and
presented to the poet a picture of calm content, in pleasing contrast
to the active or terrible incidents which more frequently made up the
sum both of romance and of actual life. The shepherds of the "Arcadia"
make even less pretence to reality than the martial heroes. They are
usually poets and musicians; speaking in courtly phrases, and occupied
with amorous adventures, they serve sometimes to relieve, and sometimes
to heighten, the more stirring scenes.

A third element in the "Arcadia" is the comic, and with this, as might
be expected from the rather crude ideas of humor prevalent in the
sixteenth century, Sidney met with indifferent success. The wit depends
on the ugliness, the perversity, and the clownish character of Dametas,
his wife, and their daughter Mopsa. It partakes of the nature of the
practical joke, and though it no doubt amused the courtiers of
Elizabeth, is too clumsy for a more cultivated taste. But although
Sidney's comic scenes may no longer amuse, it must be said that they
are free from the low coarseness and ribaldry which have furnished
merriment to times which pretended to a much higher standard of wit and
education than his own. An interesting contrast may be made between a
comic passage of the "Arcadia,"[79] representing a fight between two
cowards, and perhaps the only scene in the "Morte d'Arthur" of
humorous intent,[80]--that in which King Mark is ignominiously put to
flight by Arthur's court fool disguised in the armor of a knight.

In the history of English literature, Sir Philip Sidney's romance will
always have a prominent place as the first specimen of a fine prose
style. The affectations and mannerisms which are its chief defect were
due to the unsettled condition of the language, and to the influence of
foreign works, which the general love of learning had made familiar to
cultivated Englishmen. The position of the "Arcadia" in fiction is
established by the exquisite descriptions of nature and the life-like
sketches of character which will often reward the patient reader. That
prolixity, which more than any other cause has made the work obsolete,
and, as a whole, unreadable, was a recommendation rather than an
objection at the time of publication. The "Arcadia," standing almost
alone in the department of fiction, and far superior to its few
competitors, took the place of a small circulating library. A spirit of
lofty ideality pervades the work of Sir Philip Sidney, which is
expressive of the aspirations of his time. In the fictions of that age
is to be seen a constant attempt, not always successful, to dignify
life, to exalt the beautiful, and to conceal or condemn the base.
Everyday life was not tempting to the writer, because it contained too
much that was repulsive. The story teller and the poet painted amid
unreal scenes that happiness and virtue which they thought more easily
to be conceived in an ideal land of knights and shepherds, than amidst
the cares and dangers of their own existence.[81]

[Footnote 57: Paine's "History of English Literature," book iii, ch. 1.]

[Footnote 58: Nichol's "Progresses," vol. I, p. 3.]

[Footnote 59: The Italian tales were issued in various collections,
such as Painter's "Palace of Pleasure," Whetstone's "Heptameron," the
"Histories" of Goulard and Grimstone. One of the best of these
collections is "Westward for Smelts," by Kinde Kit of Kingstone, circa
1603, reprinted by the Percy Society. It is on the same plan as
Boccaccio's "Decamerone," except that the story-tellers are fish-wives
going up the Thames in a boat. Imitations of the Italian tales may be
found in Hazlitt's "Shakespeare's Library," notably "Romeo and
Julietta." Most of these are modernized versions of old tales. I may
here add, as undeserving further mention, such stories as "Jacke of
Dover's Quest of Inquirie," 1601, Percy Soc.; "A Search for Money," by
William Rowley, dramatist, 1609, Percy Soc.; and "The Man in the Moone,
or the English Fortune-Teller," 1609, Percy Soc.]

[Footnote 60: The most comprehensive remarks on Lyly and "Euphues" are
to be found in the _London Quarterly Review_ for April, 1801, and are
due to Mr. Henry Morley.]

[Footnote 61: Henry Peacham, "Compleat Gentleman." See Drake's
"Shakespeare and his Times."]

[Footnote 62: Shakespeare ridiculed the affectations of contemporary
language in "Love's Labour Lost." Among the characters of Ben Jonson
are some good Euphuists. In "Every Man out of his Humour," Fallace says
(act v, sc. x), "O, Master Brisk, as 'tis said in Euphues, Hard is the
choice, when one is compelled, either by silence to die with grief, or
by speaking to live with shame." In "The Monastery," a novel which the
author himself considered a failure, Sir Walter Scott represented a
Euphuist. But the language of Sir Piercie Shafton is entirely devoid of
the characteristics of Euphuism, and gives a very false impression
concerning it. (See introduction to "The Monastery.") Compare passages
quoted in the text with one in chap. xiv ("Monastery") beginning: "Ah,
that I had with me my Anatomy of Wit." Also _passim_.]

[Footnote 63: The lines quoted from the "Winter's Tale" are in act iv,
sc. 3. For Greene's words see "Dorastus and Fawnia," in Hazlitt's
"Shakespeare's Library," part I, vol. 4, p. 62. The resemblance between
the two passages is pointed out by Dunlop ("History of Fiction," p.
404). Collier in his introduction to "Dorastus and Fawnia" denied this
obligation of Shakespeare to Greene. But he was evidently led into this
error by liking the following passage, instead of the one quoted in the
text, for the foundation of Shakespeare's lines: "The gods above
disdaine not to love women beneathe. Phoebus liked Sibilla: Jupiter Io;
and why not I, then Fawnia?"]

[Footnote 64: Another of Greene's tales, possessing much the same
merits and the same defects as those already mentioned is "Never too

[Footnote 65: Shakespeare's Celia.]

[Footnote 66: Act I, sc. 3.]

[Footnote 67: "Miscellanea," part ii, essay iv.]

[Footnote 68: Gray's "Life of Sidney," p. 8.]

[Footnote 69: "Pierce Penniless."]

[Footnote 70: Folio, 1622. p. 6.]

[Footnote 71: Folio, 1622, p. 10.]

[Footnote 72: Folio, p. 130.]

[Footnote 73: Folio, p. 115.]

[Footnote 74: Folio, p. 260.]

[Footnote 75: See an "Answer in 'Eikon Basilike,'" Milton's Works,
Symmons' ed., v. 2, p. 408.]

[Footnote 76: Folio, p. 248.]

[Footnote 77: Folio, p. 116.]

[Footnote 78: Folio, p. 231.]

[Footnote 79: Book iii.]

[Footnote 80: "Morte d'Arthur," book x, chap. 12.]

[Footnote 81: A Scotchman named Barclay published a partly political
and partly heroic volume called "Argenis" in 1621. It was much
commended by Cowper the poet, but being written in Latin, is hardly to
be included in English fiction. See Dunlop, chap. x. Francis Godwin
wrote a curious story about 1602, called "The Man in the Moon," in
which is described the journey of one Domingo Gonzales to that planet.
Dunlop ("Hist. of Fiction") thought Domingo to be the real author. See
chapter xiii. This romance is chiefly remarkable for its scientific
speculations, and the adoption by the author of the Copernican theory.
It was translated into French, and imitated by Cyrano de Bergerac, who
in his turn was imitated by Swift in Brobdignag. See Hallam, "Lit. of
Europe," vol 3, p. 393.]




The renaissance of learning, with its delight in a sense of existence,
its enjoyment of a new life, a newly acquired knowledge, and a
quickened intelligence, was gradually supplanted by that renaissance of
religion which followed the general introduction of the Bible among the
English people. Weary of the oppression of the clergy, weary of giving
an often ruinous obedience to the tyranny of men whose lives gave them
no claim to control the conduct of others, the early Puritan found in
the Bible the knowledge of God and the means of grace which he
despaired of obtaining from the priest. The Bible became in reality
_The Book_. It was the one volume possessed and read by the people at
large. The classical authors, the volumes of translations issued in
Elizabeth's time, the productions, even, of English genius had been
familiar only to the upper and best-educated classes. The great body of
the people were without books, and the Bible became their one literary
resource, and the sole teacher of the conditions by which salvation
could be attained. It was seized upon with extraordinary avidity and
enthusiasm. Old men learned to read, that they might study it for
themselves. Crowds gathered in churches and private houses to hear it
read aloud. A good reader became a public benefactor. Alike in manor
and in cottage, the family gathered at night to listen with awe-struck
interest to the solemn words whose grandeur was not yet lessened by
familiarity. As we quote, often unconsciously, from a hundred different
authors, the Puritans quoted from their one book.[82] Some, like
Bunyan, at first preferred the historical chapters. But the Bible soon
came to have a far more powerful and absorbing interest than any of a
literary nature. There men looked for their sentence of eternal life or
eternal torment. There they sought the solution of the question: "What
shall I do to be saved?" And they sought it with all the fervor of
conscientious men who realized, as we cannot realize, the doctrine of
eternal damnation. To understand the influence of the Bible, we must
remember how completely men believed in a personal God, ruling England
then, as He had ruled Israel of old; and in a devil who stalked through
the world luring men to their perdition. The Bible was studied with a
fearful eagerness for the way to please the one and to escape the
other. Looked upon as the word of God, pointing out the only means of
salvation, men placed themselves, through the Bible, in direct
communication with the Deity, and, casting aside the authority of a
church, acknowledged responsibility to Him alone. The difficulty of
interpreting obscure portions of the Scriptures drove many to frenzy
and despair. A hopeful or consoling passage was hailed with joy. "Happy
are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "Lo," wrote Tyndale,
"here God hath made a covenant wyth us, to mercy full unto us, yf we
wyll be mercy full one to another."

Thus two ideas became paramount: the idea of God, and the idea of
conscience. God was thought of as a judge who will reward His chosen
servants by eternal happiness, but who will deliver those who do not
know Him, or those who sin against His laws, to Satan and everlasting
fire; a God to please whom is the first object of this life, as no
pleasure and no pain here can compare with the pleasure or pain to
come. This conception of the Deity still survives among us, but it is
not realized with the intensity of men who feel the hand of God in
every incident of their lives, who fancy that the Devil in person is
among them, and who distinctly hear his tempting words. Conscience, the
guide who pointed out the path of rectitude, became strict and
self-searching, ever looking inwardly, and judging harshly, magnifying,
through the greatness of its ideal of virtue, every failing into a
crime. The natural result of these ideas seething in a brain which had
little other food was Puritanism: the subordination of all other
interests of life to the attainment of a spiritual condition acceptable
in the sight of God. Following this aim with feverish intentness, and
tortured by a conscience of extreme tenderness, the Puritans naturally
cast aside the pleasures of this life as likely to interfere with the
attainment of future happiness, and as worthless compared to it. It was
no time for gaiety and trifling when the horrors of hell were staring
them in the face.

There is extant a life-like picture of a London housewife, which can
teach us much regarding the spirit of Puritanism.[83] "She was very
loving and obedient to her parents, loving and kind to her husband,
very tender-hearted to her children, loving all that were godly, much
misliking the wicked and profane. She was a pattern of sobriety unto
many, very seldom was seen abroad, except at church. When others
recreated themselves, at holidays and other times, she would take her
needlework, and say, 'here is my recreation.'"

The self-denial of this virtuous housewife developed into that
austerity which, when Puritanism had become the ruling power in
England, closed the theatre and the bear-garden, stopped the dancing on
the village green, and assumed a dress and manner, the sombreness of
which was meant to signify a scorn of this world. While we can now
easily perceive the mistakes of the Puritans, and condemn the folly of
prohibiting innocent amusements which form a natural outlet for
exuberant spirits, it will be well if we can do justice to the nobility
of aim, and the greatness of self-sacrifice, to which their austerity
was due. We must remember that the aim of the Puritans was a godliness
far more exacting than that which we seek, and requiring a
proportionate sacrifice of immediate pleasure. We must remember, too,
that the amusements of that time were in large part brutal, like the
bear-gardens; and licentious, like most of the theatres. Puritanism
could only exist among men filled to an uncommon degree with a love of
virtue, who were ready to undergo every hardship, and to sacrifice
every personal inclination to attain it. Growing up among the people at
large, Puritanism showed a strong national love of religion and
morality. The resolution with which its devotees pursued their aims,
the serene content with which the martyrs welcomed the flames which
were to open the gates of Heaven, were backed by a strength of faith
not exceeded by that of the early Christians. The self-control and
self-sacrifice of the Puritans moulded the armies of the Commonwealth,
and overthrew the tyranny of Charles. But their finer qualities were
clouded by the fanaticism which a long persecution had engendered. A
phrase in our description of the London housewife unconsciously tells
the story: "Loving all that were godly, much misliking the wicked and
profane." The godly were the sharers of her own faith, the "wicked and
profane" were all those without its pale. Here lay the weakness of
Puritanism: its narrowness, its lack of sympathy with the world at
large, its indifference to the sufferings of those who had no place in
the ranks of the elect.

Among such men we must look in vain for literary productions having the
aim of entertainment. The literature of the time was chiefly polemical,
and commentaries crowded on the book-shelves the volumes of classical
and Italian writers. To Puritanism, fiction was the invention of the
Evil One, but still to Puritanism we owe, what is now, and seems
destined ever to remain, the finest allegory in the English language.

[Footnote 82: See Green's "Short History of the English People," chap.
viii, sec. 1.]

[Footnote 83: John Wallington's description of his mother. Green's
"Short History of the English People," p. 451.]


That John Bunyan, a poor, illiterate tinker, was able to take the first
place among writers of allegory, and to accomplish the extraordinary
intellectual feat of producing a work which charmed alike the ignorant,
who could not perceive its literary merits, and cultivated critics, who
viewed it only from a literary standpoint, depended partly on his own
natural gifts, and partly on the character of Puritan thought. To write
a good allegory requires an imagination of unusual power. It requires,
in addition, a realization of the subject sufficiently strong to give
to immaterial and shadowy forms a living personality. These conditions
were combined in Bunyan's case to an unexampled degree. He possessed an
imagination the activity of which would have unsettled the reason of
any less powerfully constituted man. His subject, the doctrine of
salvation by grace, was, by the absorbing interest then attached to it,
impressed upon his mind with a vividness difficult to conceive. In
"Grace Abounding in the Chief of Sinners," Bunyan left a description of
his life, and the workings of his mind on religious subjects, which is
without a parallel in autobiography. The veil which hides the thoughts
of one man from another is withdrawn, and the reader is placed in the
closest communion with the mind of the writer. In "Grace Abounding" is
easily detected the secret of Bunyan's success in allegory. "My sins
did so offend the Lord, that even in my childhood He did scare and
affright me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with dreadful
visions. I have been in my bed greatly afflicted, while asleep, with
apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then
thought, labored to draw me away with them, of which I could never be
rid. I was afflicted with thoughts of the Day of Judgment, night and
day, trembling at the thoughts of the fearful torments of hell fire."
One Sunday, "as I was in the midst of a game at cat, and having struck
it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second
time, a voice did suddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said,
'Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven, or have thy sins and go to
Hell?' At this I was put to an exceeding maze; wherefore leaving my cat
on the ground, and looking up to Heaven, saw, as with the eyes of my
understanding, Jesus Christ looking down upon me very hotly displeased
with me, and severely threatening me with some grievous punishment for
my ungodly practices. * * * I cannot express with what longing I cried
to Christ to call me. I saw such glory in a converted state that I
could not be contented without a share therein. Had I had a whole world
it had all gone ten thousand times over for this, that my soul might
have been in a converted state." After Bunyan's conversion he says of
his conscience: "As to the act of sinning, I was never more tender than
now. I durst not take up a pin or a stick, though but so big as a
straw, for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch.
I could not tell how to speak my words for fear I should misplace

A man so sensitive to supernatural impressions could realize them as
completely as the actual experiences of his daily life. Such, in fact,
they were. With a conscience so tender, and a longing so intense for
what he considered a condition of grace, Bunyan described the journey
of Christian with the minuteness and fidelity of one who had trod the
same path. The sketch of the pilgrim, which opens the work, stamps
Christian at once an individual.

    As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a
    certain place where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to
    sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I
    saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his
    face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great burden
    upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read
    therein; and, as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able
    longer to contain, he broke out with a lamentable cry, saying "what
    shall I do?"

The same impression of reality pervades the whole work. Christian's
sins take an actual form in the burden on his back. Every personage
whom he meets on his journey, and every place through which he passes
appears to the mind of the reader with the vividness of actual
experience. The child or the laborer reads the "Pilgrim's Progress" as
a record of adventures undergone by a living man; the scholar forgets
the art which has raised the picture before his mind, in a sense of
contact with the subject portrayed. This is the triumph of a great
genius, and it is a triumph to which no other writer has attained to
the same degree. Other allegorists have pleased the fancy or gratified
the understanding, but Bunyan occupies at once the imagination, the
reason and the heart of his reader. Defoe's power of giving life to
fictitious scenes and personages has not been surpassed by that of any
other novelist. But Defoe's scenes and characters were of a nature
familiar to his readers, and therefore easily realized. In the
"Pilgrim's Progress," strange and unreal regions become well-known
places, and moral qualities distinct human beings. Evangelist, who puts
Christian on the way to the Wicked Gate; Pliable, who deserts him at
the first difficulty; Help, who pulls him out of the Slough of Despond;
Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who shows him an easy way to be rid of his burden,
are all life-like individuals. Timorous, Talkative, Vain Confidence,
Giant Despair, are not mere personifications, but distinct human beings
with whom every reader of the "Pilgrim's Progress" feels an intimate
acquaintance. Not less real is the impression produced by the various
scenes through which the journey of Christian conducts him. The Slough
of Despond, the Wicket Gate, the House of the Interpreter, the Hill
Difficulty, have been familiar localities to many generations of men,
who have watched Christian's struggle with Apollyon in the Valley of
Humiliation, and followed his footsteps as they trod the Valley of the
Shadow of Death, as they passed through the dangers of Vanity Fair,
and brought him at last to the Celestial City, and the welcome of the
Shining Ones.

The "Pilgrim's Progress" and the "Holy War" are not as allegories
entirely perfect, but they probably gain in religious effect, as much
as they lose from a literary point of view, in those passages where the
allegorical disguise is not sustained. The simplicity and power of
their language are alone sufficient to give them an important place in
English literature. Throughout the "Pilgrim's Progress" are evidences
of a strong human sympathy, and a kindly indulgence on the part of the
author for the weak and erring among his fellow-men. Ignorance, to be
sure, is cast into the bottomless pit; but as the work taught a
spiritual perfection, it could not afford to encourage the willingly
ignorant by bestowing a pardon on their representative. Bunyan himself
was distinguished for a general sympathy with his fellow-men which the
narrowness of Puritanism had failed to impair. The sad words in which
he mourned, while in prison, his long separation from his wife and
children, show the natural tenderness of his disposition, as well as
the greatness of the sacrifice which he was making for his
religion:--"The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been
to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from my bones; and that
not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but
also because I often brought to mind the many hardships, miseries, and
wants that my poor family was like to meet with; especially my poor
blind child, who lay nearer to my heart than all I had beside."

With the allegories of Bunyan, we leave ideality behind us as a
characteristic feature of English fiction. The knights of the Round
Table, Robin Hood and his merry men, the princes and princesses of the
"Arcadia," the pilgrim Christian, were the ideal heroes of the
particular periods to which they belong. They were placed amid the
scenes which seemed most attractive, and were endowed with the
qualities which seemed most admirable to the men whose imaginations
created them. But, with the exception perhaps of Robin Hood, they were
purely ideal, without prototypes in nature. The writer of fiction had
not yet turned his attention to the delineation of character, to the
study of complex social questions, to the portrayal of actual life.
With the fall of Puritan power, begins a great intellectual change.
History shows, since the Restoration, a tendency which has continuously
grown stronger and wider, to subordinate the imagination to the reason
of man, to withdraw political and social questions from the influence
of mere tradition, to subject them instead, to the test of practical
experience, and to encourage the patient physical investigations which
have resulted in the triumphs of modern science. This tendency has
pervaded all the channels of human industry. Its effect upon works of
fiction has been to introduce into that department of literature, a
spirit of realism, and a love of investigating the problems of life and
character, which have resulted in the modern novel. Henceforth we shall
meet no more ideal beings, but men or women, more or less true to
nature. In the fiction of the Restoration are first observable the new
tendencies, which, although but slightly marked at first, have finally
given to the English novel its present importance. An attempt to trace
the gradual perfection of this form of literature, its development into
a work of art, into a natural history of men, into a truthful
reflection of very varied social conditions, will occupy the remainder
of this volume.




The Puritans had overthrown the political tyranny of Charles, but in
attempting to build up by force a kingdom of the saints on earth, they
had established a spiritual tyranny, quite as irksome and quite as
perishable, of their own. Meanwhile they had failed to preserve the
reputation for sanctity which formed the chief basis of their
authority. As soon as they had attained power, they were joined by men
who professed their principles merely for selfish purposes; who vied
with each other in presenting to the world the outward signs of
Puritanism, and remained notoriously profligate in life and character.
The kingdom of the saints, objectionable as a tyranny, and finally
identified in the popular mind with a hated hypocrisy, came to its
inevitable end in the reaction of the Restoration. But when the first
fury of this reaction had passed away, it was evident that Puritanism
survived it: no longer a political power, but a moral influence which
controlled the great body of the people, and gave to English habits and
literature their distinctive tone of serious morality.

But for the time, all sight of this was lost. The entry of Charles II
into Whitehall was the sign for unlimited indulgence in all that had
lately been forbidden. "Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop."[84]
The Puritans had pent up for so long the natural cravings for pleasure
and gaiety, that, when the barriers were withdrawn, license and
debauchery were necessary to satisfy appetites which a long-enforced
abstinence had made abnormal. In Vanburgh's "Provoked Wife," a comedy,
like so many others of the time, at once very immoral and very
entertaining, Sir John Brute thus excuses the virtues of his early
life: "I was afraid of being damned in those days; for I kept sneaking,
cowardly company, fellows that went to church, said grace to their
meat, and had not the least tincture of quality about them."
_Heartfree_: "But I think you have got into a better gang now." _Sir
John_: "Zoons, sir, my Lord Rake and I are hand in glove."[85] In the
country, people were generally satisfied with getting back their
May-poles and Sunday games. But in London, where the rule of Puritanism
had been the strictest, and above all among the courtiers, the new
liberty resulted in a license and shamelessness unequalled in English

In the general proscription of Puritan ideas, the good were involved in
the same destruction as the bad. Religion was mocked at as a cloak for
hypocrisy, self-restraint was thrown aside as an obstacle to enjoyment.
It was thought that emancipation from Puritan tyranny could not be
attained more effectually than by a life of open licentiousness; by
gambling and drunkenness. Such, under the Restoration, were the
occupations most attractive to the gentlemen of fashion. Buckingham,
Rochester, and the troop of courtiers who looked to them for an
example, spent their lives in sinking into an ever deeper depravity.
Their thoughts and mouths were never clean. The verses they wrote are
too foul to transcribe as an illustration of the taste of their
composers. The orgies in which they indulged were not scenes of gaiety,
in which buoyant spirits and lively wit might excuse excess, but were
serious, bestial, and premeditated. The dealings of these men with the
female sex were but a succession of low intrigues, which destroyed all
sentiment and left nothing but disgust behind them. We hear a great
deal about "love" in the literature of the time, but it is the same
kind of love that might be found among a herd of cattle. It would be
difficult to mention any man about the court of Charles II who could
have appreciated the pure and enduring passion which in the century
before had breathed through the noble lines of Spenser's
"Epithalamion," and in the century that followed inspired "John
Anderson, my jo' John." Charles himself, "the old goat," set an example
which hardly needed the authority of the Lord's anointed to become
attractive. Without honor or virtue himself, and denying their
existence in others, he made a fitting leader of the society about him.
His mistresses insulted the queen by their splendor and arrogance, and
insulted him by amours with servants and mountebanks. So destitute of
dignity or principle as to share the Duchess of Cleveland with the
world, he coolly asked a courtier who was reputed to be on too intimate
terms with the queen, how his "mistress" did. While the gaming-tables
at court were nightly covered with gold, and Lady Castlemaine gambled
away thousands of pounds at a sitting, the exchequer was closed amid a
widespread ruin, and the menial servants about the court were in want
of bread. So openly was the king's coarse licentiousness pursued, that
"the very sentrys speak of it," that the queen rarely entered her
dressing-rooms without first being assured that the king was not there
with one of his women. Such an example had a powerful influence upon
all the rank and fashion of the time, already predisposed to a similar
course. The extent of the prevailing reverence for royalty is admirably
illustrated by the scene in which the Earl of Arlington advised Miss
Stewart concerning her conduct as mistress of the king, to which
position "it had pleased God and her virtue to raise her." Thus from
the popular dislike of Puritanism, and the example of a profligate
court, began that reign of social and political corruption which for a
hundred years demoralized the manners and sullied the literature of the
English people. The vice which became so engrafted on the habits of
private life as to make decency seem an affectation, invaded religion
and politics. To religion it brought about a general indifference,
which in the higher ranks of the clergy took effect in disregard of
their duties and in a shameless scramble for lucrative posts, and in
the lower ranks produced poverty and social degradation. In politics
are to be dated from this reign the gross corruption which enabled
every public officer, however high or however low, to use his position
for the purpose of private plunder, and the habit of bribing members of
Parliament which soon converted them into tools of the crown's

While the men found their greatest enjoyment and most congenial
occupation in drunkenness, duelling, and seduction, it is not to be
expected that women should have retained an unappreciated refinement.
Half-naked and ornamented with a profusion of jewels, they look out
from the portraits of the time with a sleepy, voluptuous expression,
which suggests a lack of intelligence and too great a susceptibility to
physical impressions. Women as we find them in contemporary memoirs,
and these most often deal with such as are about the court, are not
unfit companions for the men. We see not a few the willing victims of
coarse intrigues, and some even assisting in the degradation of others
of their sex. Many of them swore "good mouth filling oaths," and the
scandal they talked would have shocked the taste as well as the
principles of Elizabeth's time. In the eighteenth century much
coarseness is to be seen in literature and society, but we are
constantly meeting with the words "delicacy" and "indelicacy" in their
application to social refinement, and it is evident that the ideas of
that time on this subject differ from ours only in degree. Under the
Restoration, these words, or the thoughts they represent, had a very
insignificant existence. Public taste inclined to the gross and the
sensual, and welcomed as enjoyable, what the present discards as
disgusting. Ladies of the highest rank sat through plays of which the
purpose and effect was to degrade their own womanhood, to remove from
the minds of the men who sat about and watched their countenances at
each new obscenity, whatever respect for the sex might have lingered
there. Some wore masks to hide the blushes which might have been looked
for as a drama proceeded, which represented every female character on
the stage as little better than an animal, using such reason as she
possessed only to further the gratification of her appetites. Under
such conditions there could be no encouragement for maiden modesty, and
for old age no crown.

It is usually unfair to judge a community by its theatre, to which an
exceptional liberty must always be allowed. But the drama of the
Restoration may be said to reflect with much truth the popular taste.
For the noblest efforts of dramatic genius the student turns by
preference to the age of Elizabeth. There he finds art, beauty, and
poetry; there he finds human nature, with its nobility and its
littleness, with its virtues and its vices. The time of Charles II was
as narrow in its way as the Puritans had been in theirs, and was as
little capable of forming broad and just views of mankind. The
Puritans, if they had had a stage, would have represented man as an
embodiment of moral qualities. The dramatists of the Restoration made
him merely a creature subject to animal desires and brutish instincts,
which he made no effort to regulate. "It might, not be easy perhaps,"
says Hallam, "to find a scene in any comedy of Charles II's reign,
where one character has the behavior of a gentleman, in the sense we
attach to the word."[86] The stage was in perfect accord with its
audience. Morality was outraged by a constant association of virtue
with all that is contemptible and of vice with all that is attractive.
Taste was outraged by a perpetual choice of degraded subjects and
disgusting scenes. Nature was outraged by the representation of man,
not as a complex being, worthy of deep and skilful investigation, but
as a creature influenced by two or three passions always apparent on
the surface. Thus the dramatists, notwithstanding their very
exceptional abilities, produced little of enduring value, and nothing
which could outlive a change in the popular taste. They did, however,
produce what was greatly admired by their contemporaries: and the fact
that the men and the women of the time enjoyed the plays provided for
them, shows that they preferred to noble and elevating subjects, the
literary reproduction of their own corrupt lives. The theatre no doubt
represented men as worse than they were. But the friends of Buckingham
and Rochester, both male and female, found in its long list of
unprincipled men, of married women debauched, and of young girls
anxious to be debauched, the reflection and justification of their own

Posterity remembers little of the reign or the theatre of Charles II
beyond their corruption. Yet there is much that is worthy of
remembrance, without which any remarks on the social condition of the
time would be one-sided. There are to be referred to that period many
legislative enactments in the highest degree conducive to civil and
religious liberty. The foundation of the Royal Society marked the
inauguration of a new interest in speculative enquiry, of a great
activity in scientific research, and of a broader and more liberal
habit of thought on questions connected with government and education.
These advantages were attained in spite of a worthless king, of corrupt
ministers, and a licentious court, and they are due to the earnestness
and vigor of the great body of the English people, qualities which have
remained unchanged through every national vicissitude or success. While
Pepys and Grammont supply full details of the moral degeneration which
weakened and debased the highest ranks of society, the sound morality,
steady industry, and progressive nature of the nation are to be seen in
the journal of the good Evelyn. His character and occupations, as well
as those of his friends, offset the coarse tastes and worthless lives
which brought the time into discredit. To the prevailing disregard of
the marriage tie may well be contrasted the happiness of Evelyn's
domestic life. His daughter, of whom he has left a beautiful
description, was endowed with an elevation of character, a charm of
disposition, and a purity of thought admirable in any age, and it
cannot be doubted that she had many contemporary parallels.

[Footnote 84: Destouches, "Glorieux," v. 3.]

[Footnote 85: Act ii, sc. 1.]

[Footnote 86: "Literature of Europe," vol. 4, chap. 6, sec. 2-47.]


With the pensions and fashions which were sent across the Channel from
the court of Louis XIV, came a curious species of fiction which had a
temporary vogue in England. Gomberville, Scudéri, and Calprenède had
created the school of Heroic Romance by the publication of those
monumental works which the French not inaptly termed "les romans de
longue haleine." This was the bulky but enervated descendant of
chivalric and pastoral romance. The tales of chivalry and of pastoral
life had their _raison d'être_. The feudal knighthood found in the
tournaments, in the adventures of knight-errantry, and in the
supernatural agencies which filled their volumes of romance, the
reflection of their own aspirations and beliefs. They admired in the
ideal characters of Charlemagne and Arthur the qualities most valued
among themselves. Martial glory was to them the chief object of life;
love was simply the reward of valor. The pastoral romance followed in
less warlike times. Its subject was love; and that passion was usually
described amidst humble and peaceful shepherds, where its strength and
charm could develop more fully than amidst scenes of war and tumult.
Both the chivalric and the pastoral romance were the embodiment of
ideals which in turn represented contemporary tastes. But heroic
romance, although it shared some of the characteristics of its
predecessors, had not the same claim to interest. It was unnatural and
artificial, rather than ideal. It imitated the martial character of the
tales of chivalry, but subordinated that character to love. It imitated
the devoted strain of adoration which ran through the fanciful phrases
of pastoral fiction; but that artificial passion which seemed
appropriate to ideal shepherds tuning their pipes under a perpetual
sunshine, became absurd when applied to Greek or Carthaginian soldiers.

Gomberville's "Polexander," complete-in six thousand pages, and
Calprenède's "Cassandra," "the fam'd romance," are now before me.
Greeks, Romans, Turks, Parthians, Scythians, Babylonians are mingled
together in a truly heroic structure of absurdity and anachronism.
Artaxerxes appears on one page, the queen of the Amazons on the next,
then the king of Lacedæmon, Alexander the Great, even a prince of
Mexico, and comparatively private persons beyond computation. This
crowd of names represent personages who imitate the deeds of chivalry,
and converse in the affected style of the French court, while their
ancient bosoms are distracted by a pure, all-absorbing, and never-dying
love as foreign to their nature as to that of the readers of heroic
romance. That this species of fiction should have met with any success,
is largely due to the circumstance, that under the disguise of Greek
warriors or Parthian princesses, there were really described
contemporary beauties and courtiers, who fondly believed that they had
attained, through the genius of Calprenède and Scudéri, an enviable
immortality. Unhappily for them, the characters of heroic romance have
found in that endless desert of phraseology at once their birthplace
and their tomb.

The works of Gomberville, Calprenède, and Scudéri, although little
adapted to the English taste, shared the favor which was extended to
every thing French, and were both translated and imitated. The
"Eliana," published in 1661; although a _bona-fide_ imitation, would
have served much better as a caricature. To the absurdity of incident
is added an absurdity of language which gives the book almost a comic
aspect. The beauty of flowers growing in the fields is disguised under
the statement that Flora "spreads her fragrant mantle on the
superficies of the earth, and bespangles the verdant grass with her
beauteous adornments." A lover "enters a grove free from the
frequentations of any besides the ranging beasts and pleasing birds,
whose dulcet notes exulsecrate him out of his melancholy

Dunlop considered the best work of this description to be the
"Parthenissa," published in 1664, by Roger Boyle, afterward Earl of
Orrery. This romance, although marked by the faults of prolixity and
incongruity characteristic of the heroic style, is not without
narrative interest or literary merit. The hero is Artabanes, a Median
prince, as usual "richly attired, and proportionately blessed with all
the gifts of nature and education." At the Parthian court he becomes
enamored of the beautiful Parthenissa, and in her honor performs many
distinguished deeds of arms. Distracted, however, at the suspicion of
Parthenissa's preference for a rival, he leaves the Parthian court with
the determination to spend the remainder of his life on the summit of
the Alps. This intention is frustrated by pirates, who take him
prisoner and bestow him as a slave upon their chief. Artabanes soon
escapes from bondage, suddenly turns out to be the historic Spartacus,
and returns to Asia. There he finds that Parthenissa, to avoid the
importunities of an objectionable lover, has swallowed a potion which
gives her the appearance of death. In this dilemma he journeys to "the
Temple of Hieropolis in Syria, where the Queen of Love had settled an
oracle as famous as the Deity to whom it was consecrated." The priest
of this temple, after listening patiently to the long account of
Artabanes' misfortunes, tells the story of his own remarkable career,
by which it appears that he is Nicomedes, king of Bythinia, the father
of Julius Cæsar's Nicomedes. While Artabanes is listening to this
narrative, he sees two persons land upon the shore, and enter a
neighboring wood. One is a young knight, and the other the exact
counterpart of Parthenissa. At this apparition Artabanes is thrown into
the greatest confusion. The lady he has seen presents every outward
appearance of his mistress, and yet he believes her dead, and is unable
to conceive that if living, she should so far forget her duty to him
and the rules of propriety, as to place herself in so suspicions a
position. Here the romance comes to an abrupt end, leaving Artabanes in
the condition of painful uncertainty in which he has ever since

Heroic romance proved as ephemeral in England as the cloaks and
feathers with which it had crossed the Channel, and we may pass over
such trivial literary attempts as those of the Duchess of Newcastle to
the writings of Mrs. Manley and Mrs. Behn. These two novelists, if such
they may still be called, represent, in narrative fiction, the period
which extends from the Restoration to the opening of the eighteenth
century. They have left us little, and that of very indifferent merit.
But their stories have a certain importance, inasmuch as with them
begins the tendency, in English fiction, to deal with the actual,
instead of the imaginary, to describe characters and scenes meant to
represent real life.

The daughter of Sir Roger Manley, at one time Governor of Guernsey,
Mrs. Manley was seduced, when quite a young woman, and passed the
remainder of her life in a licentiousness which has evidently inspired
her literary productions. Having picked up a few stories from current
report, she worked them into what she called "The Power of Love, in
Seven Novels."[88] The "love" here described is an unregulated animal
passion, and its "power" is the natural effect of such a passion upon
men and women who have no idea of self-restraint or refinement. The
result is a series of licentious scenes, unredeemed by any literary
merit. Mrs. Manley's most prominent work was the "Secret Memoirs and
Manners of Several Persons of Quality of Both Sexes. From the New
Atalantis, an Island in the Mediterranean." This book is a scandalous
chronicle of crimes reputed to have been committed by persons of high
rank, and the names are so thinly disguised as to be easily identified.
Mrs. Manley was arrested and prosecuted for the publication, but
escaped without serious punishment. The work itself had a wide
circulation, and Pope adopted the endurance of its fame as a measure of
time in his shortsighted line, "As long as Atalantis shall be read."

In the beginning of this book a female personage named Astræa resolves
to revisit the earth, which she had long before abandoned in disgust.
She alights upon an island in the Mediterranean, named Atalantis, which
is meant to signify England, and a female form immediately rises up
before her.

    Her habit _obsolete_ and _torn_, almost degenerated into tatters;
    But her Native Charms, that needed not the Help of Art, gave to
    Astræa's returning Remembrance that it could be no other than her
    beautiful Mother Vertue. But oh! how despicable her Garments! how
    neglected her flowing Hair! How languid her formally animated Eyes!
    How pale, how withered the Roses of her lovely Cheeks and Lips! How
    useless her snowy arms and polished Fingers! they hung in a
    melancholy Decline, and seemed out of other Employment, but
    sometimes to support the Head of the dejected Fair One! Her limbs
    enervated and supine, wanting of that Energy which should bear her
    from a Solitude so affrighting!

From this very accurate description of the condition of virtue at the
end of the seventeenth century, it might be supposed that Mrs. Manley
deplored her neglected state. But such is far from being the case.
Astræa and Virtue meet with a personage called Intelligence, who
furnishes them with a detailed account of current scandal calculated to
still further depress the dejected Virtue. The trio are soon joined by
Mrs. Nightwork, a midwife, who never breaks an oath of secrecy unless
it be to her interest, and the character of whose contributions to the
general fund of gossip may be easily imagined. This semi-allegorical
method of narration is kept up during the first two volumes; in the
third and fourth Mrs. Manley tells her story in her own way. In the
course of these four volumes is unrolled an extraordinary series of
crimes, some unnatural, and all gross in highest degree. The details
which Mrs. Manley could not obtain from authentic sources are supplied
by her vivid and heated imagination. She gloats over each incident with
a horrible relish, and adds, with no unsparing brush, a heightened
color to each picture. Only a society whose conduct could afford
material for this composition could possibly have read it. Mrs. Manley
no doubt invented and exaggerated without scruple, but the fact that
her work was widely read and even popular is a sufficient commentary on
the taste of the time. The reader of to-day is sickened by the
multiplication of repulsive scenes, and the absence from the book of
any good qualities or actions whatever. The style in which the
"Atalantis" is written is so mean, that no person could have derived
any pleasure from its pages other than the gratification of a depraved

A writer of fiction of much greater importance appeared in the person
of Aphra Johnson, more generally known as Mrs. Behn, or "the divine
Astræa"; "a gentlewoman by birth, of a good family in the city of
Canterbury." Her father was appointed to a colonial office in the West
Indies, where he took his family while Mrs. Behn was yet a young girl.
There the future authoress began a chequered life by living on a
plantation among rough and lawless colonists, and there she made the
acquaintance of the slave Oroonoko, whose sad story she afterward made
known to the world. On her return to England, she married Behn, a
merchant of Dutch extraction, and went to live in the Netherlands,
where she acted as a British spy. By working upon the feelings of her
lovers, she was able to convey information to the English government of
the intention of the Dutch to enter the Thames to destroy the English
fleet. Her warnings were disregarded, and giving up her patriotic
occupation, she returned to London, and devoted herself to literature.
She died in 1689, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster
Abbey:--"Covered only with a marble stone, with two wretched verses on
it." Although Mrs. Behn is now almost forgotten, her position in her
own time was not inconsiderable. Besides a number of letters and poems,
her literary productions include a translation of Fontenelle's
"Plurality of Worlds," and a paraphrase on Van Dale's "De Oraculis
Ethnicorum." Her plays met with some success, but were characterized by
a licentiousness which won for her the title of "the female Wycherley,"
a fact, which, on account of her sex, called down upon her a general
and well-deserved condemnation. Two other productions, of which the
nature is sufficiently indicated by their titles, were "The Lover's
Watch; or the Art of making Love: being Rules for Courtship for every
Hour of the Day and Night"; and "The Ladies Looking Glass to dress
themselves by; or the whole Art of charming all Mankind."

It was on Mrs. Behn's return from the West Indies that, being
introduced at court, she related to Charles the Second the terrible
fate of the noble slave Oroonoko. At the solicitation of the king, she
put her narrative into the form of a novel, which obtained a large
circulation, and was dramatized by Southern in his tragedy of the same
name. "Oroonoko" is worthy of notice as one of the earliest attempts on
the part of an English novelist to deal with characters which had come
under the writer's observation in actual life. It is still more
important on account of the presence within it of a didactic purpose; a
characteristic which for good or for evil has been a prominent feature
of the English novel. Sir Thomas More had made use of fiction in the
sixteenth century to urge his ideas of political and social reforms.
Bunyan, more than a century later, used the same means to promulgate
his conception of Christian life. While English narrative fiction was
still in its first youth, Mrs. Behn protested against the evils of the
slave trade through the medium of a story which may be considered a
forerunner of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

To interest the public in a distant country or an abstract principle,
the novel is the most effective literary means. A treatise on the slave
trade by Mrs. Behn, however strong and truthful, would have met with
the little attention which is accorded to the sufferings of a distant
and unknown people. But the novel has the advantage over the treatise,
that it deals with the particular and not the general, with the
individual and not the nation. It can place before the reader a limited
number of persons; it can interest his mind and heart in their
characters, lives, and fate; and by subjecting them to the horrors of
the evil to be depicted, excite through commiseration for their
sufferings a hatred of the cause which inflicted them. To such a use
the novel has often been put, at too frequent a sacrifice of its
artistic merit. To excite indignation against the results of the slave
trade, Mrs. Behn took the special instance of Oroonoko. She endowed the
African slave with beauty of person and nobility of character. She gave
him tastes and qualities of a kind to attract the interest of a
European reader. She added a description of his wife Imoinda, dwelling
on the details of her beauty and charms. By a passionate relation of
the amatory scenes which occurred between Oroonoko and his wife, she
touched a key particularly calculated to excite contemporary English
sympathy. Finally, by telling the story of the cruel wrongs inflicted
on the slaves, she aroused a natural indignation against the system
which could entail such evil results.

The story itself is briefly as follows. Oroonoko was a brave young
chief, the grandson of a king whose dominions lay on the coast of
Africa. He had distinguished himself in war, and already commanded all
the forces of his grandfather's kingdom. Hitherto rather unsusceptible
to female charms, he became deeply enamored of Imoinda, on returning
victorious from a great war. Unfortunately the king noticed Imoinda at
the same time, and had her brought to his palace as his concubine.
According to the rules of the court, this would separate the lovers
forever. Oroonoko in desperation made his way to Imoinda's chamber in
the palace at night, where he was discovered by the king's servants.
Imoinda was immediately sold as a slave. Oroonoko made his way down to
the seashore, and was there allured, under false pretenses of
hospitality, on board an English ship. He was carried to the West
Indies, and sold to a planter of Surinam, the colony in which Mrs. Behn
was living, and where by a remarkable chance Imoinda had already been
sold. The beauty of Imoinda had brought about her a large number of
suitors, all of whom met with a cold repulse. The tenderness of the
meeting between Oroonoko and Imoinda prevailed upon their master to
allow them to live together. But Oroonoko longed for liberty. He
plotted a revolt among his fellow-slaves, and on its suppression was
brutally flogged. Enraged by this, he escaped into the woods with
Imoinda, who was then pregnant. Fearing that she might fall into the
hands of the whites, and unwilling to be the father of a slave, he
killed her, and remained by her dead body several days, half insensible
with grief and without food. Again taken by the colonists, he was tied
to a post, hacked to pieces and burned. The story, simple in itself,
becomes striking in the hands of Mrs. Behn. The hut of the old negro
king is given the brilliancy of an Eastern court, and his harem is
copied after that of a Turkish potentate. When Oroonoko is induced to
board the English slaver, it is in no common style, but "the Captain in
his Boat richly adorned with Carpets and velvet Cushions went to the
Shore to receive the Prince, with another Long Boat where was placed
all his Music and Trumpets." Mrs. Behn's methods of adorning her tale
are best shown by her description of Oroonoko himself, which is a good
example of the tone in which the story is written.

    I have often seen and conversed with this Great Man, and been a
    Witness to many of his mighty Actions: and do assure my Reader, the
    most illustrious Courts could not have produced a braver Man, both
    for Greatness of Courage and Mind, a Judgment more solid, a Wit
    more quick, and a Conversation more sweet and diverting. He knew
    almost as much as if he had read much; he had heard of and admired
    the Romans; he had heard of the late Civil Wars in England, and the
    deplorable Death of our great Monarch; and would discourse of it
    with all the Sense and abhorrence of the Injustice imaginable. He
    had an extremely good and graceful Mien, and all the civility of a
    well bred Great Man. He had nothing of Barbarity in his Nature, but
    in all Points addressed himself as if his Education had been in
    some European Court.

    This great and just character of Oroonoko gave me an extreme
    Curiosity to see him, especially when I knew he spoke French and
    English, and that I could talk with him. But though I had heard so
    much of him, I was as greatly surprised when I saw him, as if I had
    heard nothing of him; so beyond all Report I found him. He came
    into the Room, and addressed himself to me and some other Women
    with the best Grace in the World. He was pretty tall, but of a
    Shape the most exact that can be fancyed: The most famous Statuary
    could not form the figure of a Man more admirably turned from Head
    to Foot. His face was not of that brown lusty Black which most of
    that Nation are, but a perfect Ebony or polished Jet. His Eyes were
    the most aweful that could be seen, and very piercing; the White of
    'em being like Snow, as were his teeth. His Nose was rising and
    Roman, instead of African and flat. His Mouth the finest Shape that
    could be seen; far from those great turn'd Lips which are so
    natural to the rest of the Negroes. The whole Proportion and Air of
    his Face was nobly and exactly form'd, that bating his Colour,
    there would be nothing in Nature more beautiful, agreeable and
    handsome. There was no one Grace wanting that bears the Standard of
    true Beauty. His Hair came down to his Shoulders, by the aids of
    Art, which was by pulling it out with a quill, and keeping it
    comb'd; of which he took particular care. Nor did the perfections
    of his Mind come short of those of his Person; for his Discourse
    was admirable upon almost any Subject; and whoever had heard him
    speak, would have been convinced of their Errors, that all fine Wit
    is confined to the white Men, especially to those of Christendom;
    and would have confessed that Oroonoko was as capable even of
    reigning well, and of governing as wisely, had as great a Soul, as
    politick Maxims, and was as sensible of Power, as any Prince
    civilized in the most refined Schools of Humanity and Learning, or
    the most illustrious Courts.[89]

"Oroonoko" is the only one of Mrs Behn's stories which has a didactic
aim or a special interest of any kind. Her other works of fiction are
short tales, usually founded on fact, which describe in unrestrained
language the passion and adventures of a pair of very ardent lovers.
They show the prevailing inclination in narrative fiction toward
characters and scenes taken from actual life. But they have no interest
apart from the slender thread of the story itself. They contain no
studies of character, and no information of importance concerning
contemporary manners. Their heroes and heroines differ from each other
only in the intensity or the circumstances of their love. The best in
narrative interest, and the most attractive in tone, is the "Lucky
Mistake." It is without the grossness characteristic of Mrs. Behn's
works, and gives quite a pretty account of the loves of a young French
nobleman and an unusually modest young woman named Atlante. Mrs. Behn's
notion of love is contained in the opening lines of the "Fair Jilt,"
the most licentious of her tales. "As Love is the most noble and divine
Passion of the Soul, so it is that to which we may justly attribute all
the real Satisfactions of Life; and without it Man is Unfinished and
unhappy. There are a thousand Things to be said of the Advantages this
generous Passion brings to those whose Hearts are capable of receiving
its soft Impressions; for 'tis not Every one that can be sensible of
its tender Touches. How many Examples from History and Observation
could I give of its wondrous Power; nay, even to a degree of
Transmigration! How many Idiots has it made wise! How many Fools
eloquent! How many home-bred Squires accomplished! How many cowards
brave!" There is no doubt that Mrs. Behn was fully alive to the
strength of the passion she describes, but as Sir Richard Steele said,
she "understood the practic part of love better than the speculative."
In accordance with the views general amidst the society of her own
time, she represented love merely as a physical passion, and made the
interest of her stories depend on its gratification, and not on the
ennobling effects or subtle manifestations of which it is capable.

There is a great deal in that well-known anecdote of Sir Walter
Scott's, in which he relates that he "was acquainted with an old lady
of family, who assured him that, in her younger days, Mrs. Behn's
novels were as currently upon the toilette as the works of Miss
Edgeworth at present; and described with some humor her own surprise,
when the book falling into her hands after a long interval of years,
and when its contents were quite forgotten, she found it impossible to
endure, at the age of fourscore, what at fifteen, she, like all the
fashionable world of the time, had perused without an idea of
impropriety." This is a striking illustration of the mere relativeness
of such words as "morality," "refinement," and their opposites. If this
old lady could have lived over her early youth embued with the
refinement of taste which surrounded her declining years, she would
have been still more shocked at the coarseness of language, and the
looseness of conduct and morals which prevailed among the highest
ranks. At the same time she would have observed, that the society which
appeared to her coarse and corrupt was far from so considering itself.
What is gross to one age may have been the refinement of the last. A
young girl considered modest and discreet at the end of the seventeenth
century, if transferred unchanged to the end of the eighteenth, would
have shocked the women she met with by talking of subjects unmentioned
in society with a freedom and broadness unusual among the men. In
judging a literary work from the point of view of morality or
refinement, we must compare it with the standard of the age to which it
belongs, and not with our own. Pope's graphic lines, in which he
describes Mrs. Behn's position as a dramatist,

     "The stage how loosely doth Astræa tread,
      Who fairly puts all characters to bed."

apply almost equally well to her novels. But still the contemporary
reader found nothing in their pages to offend his sense of propriety.
And Mrs. Behn, who simply put into a literary form ideas and scenes which
were common in the society about her, cannot with justice be accused of
an intention to pander to the lowest tastes of her readers. She said
herself, when reproved for the tone of her plays, which was much inferior
to that of her novels: "I make challenge to any person of common sense
and reason, that is not wilfully bent on ill nature, and will, in spite
of sense, wrest a _double entendre_ from everything * * * but any
unprejudiced person that knows not the author--to read one of my comedies
and compare it with others of this age, and if they can find one word
which can offend the chastest ear, I will submit to all their pevish
cavills." All this is worthy of note, if we are to follow the course of
English fiction without prejudice. For it will be shown that the
nineteenth century, with all its well-deserved pride in an advanced
refinement and morality, has produced a large number of novelists, both
male and female, whose works are as immoral as those of Mrs. Behn,
without her excuse. Who, with all the advantages accruing from life
in a refined age, with every encouragement to pursue a better course,
have deliberately chosen to court an infamous notoriety by making vice
familiar and attractive. And this too, at a time when a general
confidence in the purity of contemporary literary works has practically
done away with parental censorship; when books of evil tendency are as
likely to fall into the hands of the young and susceptible as those of
elevating tendency--a circumstance which adds a new responsibility to
the duties of the conscientious writer.

[Footnote 87: Dunlop's "History of Fiction," chap. iv.]

[Footnote 88: "The Fair Hypocrite," "The Physician's Stratagem," "The
Wife's Resentment," "The Husband's Resentment," in two parts; "The
Happy Fugitive," "The Perjured Beauty."]

[Footnote 89: "History of Oroonoko," Mrs. Behn's "Collected plays and




The advance of a nation in numbers and civilization is accompanied by
so great a complexity of social conditions that in this volume it is
possible only to attempt to seize such salient characteristics of the
eighteenth century as may serve to throw light on the course of English
fiction. No age presents a more prosaic aspect. If we consider the
condition of England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the
prevalence of abuses and corruption left by the ignorance or vice of
preceding years, and reflect at the same time upon the progressive
nature of the people, the practical habit of their minds, and the moral
earnestness which they never wholly lost, it is not surprising to find
that the century is one of reforms. Population and wealth had outgrown
the laws and customs which had hitherto served for their control, and
though in the earlier part of the period we find corruption in public
and private life, indifference in religion, inadequate provision for
the education of the young, gross abuses in jurisprudence, and
coarseness of action and taste throughout the social system, there is
also perceptible a solid foundation of good-sense and an earnest
desire for improvement, which gradually, as the century wore on,
introduced one reform after another, until many of those benefits were
attained or made possible which the present century almost
unconsciously enjoys. We should lose one of the most instructive
lessons which history can afford, if, with Carlyle, we should allow the
eighteenth century to lie "massed up in our minds as a disastrous,
wrecked inanity, not useful to dwell upon,"[90] The England of that
century was modern England, but modern England, burdened with a
heritage of corruption and ignorance which it is the glory of the time
to have in large part discarded. It was a time of social and material
progress, and it was also the period of the growth and perfection of
English fiction. To thoroughly understand the one, we must be
acquainted with the other, and it will be the object of the two
following chapters to trace the development of the English novel in
connection with that national development of which it will be shown to
be in great measure the exponent.

That subordination of the imagination to reason, which, after the
Restoration, became so marked in English thought on intellectual,
political, and religious subjects, was continued in the eighteenth
century with results which affected the whole current of national life.
Before the light of physical science, silent but irresistible in its
advances, faded away the remains of dogmatism and superstition.
Astrology was forgotten in astronomy; belief in modern miracles and
witchcraft ceased to take root in minds conscious of a universe too
vast for realization, and governed by laws so regular, that probability
could not attach to arbitrary interference by God or the devil. From
the broadening of the intellectual horizon finally resulted
inestimable benefits; but these benefits were purchased at the price of
much temporary evil. If in religion, the rational tendencies prepared
the way for the liberal and undogmatic Christianity to come, their
effect for many years was to be seen only in scepticism, in a mocking
indifference to religion itself, in a contempt of high moral
aspirations and sentiments. If in politics, the final effect of these
tendencies was to introduce new wisdom into government, they showed for
long no other result than the suppression of all the higher qualities
of a statesman, the disappearance of every sign of patriotism other
than an ignorant hatred of foreign countries, the complete subversion
of public spirit by private rapacity.

The prevailing intellectual characteristics are marked, in literature,
by the great predominance of prose over poetry. It will be no
disparagement to Pope, Prior, Gray, Collins, Akenside, Goldsmith, or
Young, to say that they did not attain in poetry what in prose was
attained by Swift, Defoe, Steele, Addison, Bolingbroke, Richardson,
Fielding, Smollet, Hume, Gibbon, Junius, and Burke; while Goldsmith is
as much valued for his prose as for his verse, Addison, Swift, and
Johnson more so. It is to these men, and to contemporaries of lesser
note, that English literature is indebted for the invention or
perfection of prose forms of the highest importance and beauty. Defoe
stands pre-eminent among the founders of the newspaper, destined to
attain so high a degree of power and utility. Addison, Steele, and
Johnson made the essay one of the most attractive and popular forms of
literature. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Horace Walpole, Chesterfield,
and Junius brought letter-writing to perfection. Defoe, Addison,
Richardson, and Fielding developed the realistic novel. A prosaic and
conventional tone pervaded even the poetry of the period. Appreciation
of poetry was almost extinguished, Addison, writing of the poets of the
past, made no mention of Shakespeare, and found it possible to say of

      In vain he jests in his unpolish'd strain,
      And tries to make his readers laugh, in vain.

And of Spenser:

      Old Spenser next, warm'd with poetick rage,
      In ancient tales amus'd a barb'rous age.
      But now the mystick tale that pleas'd of yore
      Can charm an understanding age no more.[91]

"If you did amuse yourself with writing any thing in poetry," wrote
Horace Walpole to Sir H. Mann, in 1742, "you know how pleased I should
be to see it; but for encouraging you to it, d'ye see, 'tis an age most
unpoetical! 'Tis even a test of wit to dislike poetry; and though Pope
has half a dozen old friends that he has preserved from the taste of
last century, yet, I assure you the generality of readers are more
diverted with any paltry prose answer to old Marlborough's secret
history of Queen Mary's robes. I do not think an author would be
universally commended for any production in verse, unless it were an
ode to the Secret Committee, with rhymes of liberty and property,
nation and administration."

During the brilliant era of literary activity, known by the name of
Queen Anne, men of letters were encouraged by the government by means
of employment or rewards. They were supported also by the public
through the high social consideration which was freely accorded to men
of talent. Literary success was a passport to the houses and the
intimacy of the great. But under the first two Georges and the
administration of Walpole the government was seconded by the public in
its neglect of authors and their works. In those days the circle of
readers was too small to afford remuneration to authorship. Employment
or help from the government was almost a _sine qua non_ for the
production of works which required time and research. While under Anne,
Swift received a deanery, Addison was Secretary of State, Steele a
prominent member of Parliament, and Newton, Locke, Prior, Gay, Rowe,
Congreve, Tickell, Parnell, and Pope all received direct or indirect
aid from the government, in the reigns of George I and George II,
Steele died in poverty, Savage walked the streets for want of a
lodging, Johnson lived in penury and drudgery. Thomson was deprived of
a small office which formed his sole dependence.[92] This neglect of
authors and of literature was only partially due to an unappreciative
government. It was supported by the indifference of a public in a high
degree material and unintellectual. Conversation in France, said
Chesterfield, "turns at least upon some subject, something of taste,
some point of history, criticism, and even philosophy; which, though
probably not quite so solid as Mr. Locke's, is, however, better and
more becoming rational beings than our frivolous dissertations upon the
weather or upon whist."

In keeping with the unimpassioned and prosaic tone of the time, was the
low state of religious feeling, and the degeneration of the church,
both in its own organization and in public esteem. The upper classes of
society, as a rule, were lukewarm and insincere in any form of belief.
Statesman and nobles in the most prominent positions combined professed
irreligion with open profligacy, while the lower classes were left,
through the indolence and selfishness of the clergy, almost without
religious teaching. Montesquieu found that people laughed when religion
was mentioned in London drawing-rooms. Sir Robert Walpole put the
general feeling in his own coarse way. "Pray, madam," said he to the
Princess Emily, when it was suggested that the archbishop should be
called to the death-bed of Queen Caroline, "let this farce be played;
the archbishop will act it very well. You may bid him be as short as
you will. It will do the queen no hurt, no more than any good; and it
will satisfy all the wise and good fools, who will call us all atheists
if we don't pretend to be as great fools as they are."[93] This low
state of religious sentiment was brought about by much the same causes
which, at a later time, substituted a moral and liberal for the old
dogmatic Christianity. The dislike of theological controversy left by
the civil wars was aided by the Act of Toleration in giving the nation
a religious peace, and in diverting human energy from religious
speculations or emotions. The rational character of the national
intellect was inclined to what was material and tangible, to physical
study or industry. The general desire to submit all questions to the
test of a critical reason, induced the clergy to apply the same test to
theology. But while these tendencies, in their final result, were on
the whole beneficial to religion, their temporary effect was injurious
to it in a high degree. With a few exceptions, such as Butler,
Berkeley, and Wilson, the clergy shared the indifference of their
flocks. The upper ranks were indolent, selfish, often immoral; the
lower, poor, ignorant, and degraded in social position. Bishops and
prominent clergymen, under the system of pluralities, left their
congregations to the care of hungry curates, and sought promotion by
assiduous attendance at ministers' levees, or by paying court to the
king's mistresses. It is not surprising that public respect for them
and for their calling almost died away. Pope wrote sneeringly:[94]

      EVEN _in a_ BISHOP _I can spy desert_;
      _Seeker is decent, Rundle has a heart_.

A naked Venus hung in the room where prayers were read while Queen
Caroline dressed, which Dr. Madox sarcastically termed "a very proper
altar-piece."[95] Of the High Churchmen Defoe declared that "the spirit
of Christianity is fled from among them." When the Prince of Wales
died, George the Second appointed governors and preceptors for the
prince's children. Horace Walpole's description[96] of one of these is
significant. "The other Preceptor was Hayter, Bishop of Norwich, a
sensible well-bred man, natural son of Blackbourn, the jolly old
Archbishop of York, who had all the manners of a man of quality, though
he had been a Buccaneer and was a Clergyman; but he retained nothing of
his first profession except his seraglio."

While the attention of the upper clergy was largely absorbed by
thoughts of private profit and by the pursuit of worldly advancement,
the lower ranks were left in a position degrading alike to themselves
and to religion. In the country a clergyman was little above a peasant
in social consideration, and seldom equal to him in the comforts of
life. To eke out the sustenance of himself and family, hard labor in
his own garden was by no means the most menial of the services he was
obliged to perform. His wife was usually a servant-maid taken from a
neighboring country house, and the kitchen was his most common resort
when he visited the home of a squire. A private chaplain was little
above a servant. In London, many clergymen fell into the prisons
through debt or crime. From the ranks of the lower clergy were
recruited the "buck-parsons," so long a scandal to the church and to
public morality; and the large body of "Fleet parsons," of infamous
character, in the pay of gin shops and taverns, who, for a trifling
sum, performed what were legal marriages between boys and girls,
drunkards and runaways.

The corruption in political life, begun under the Restoration and
increased during the Revolution, was amplified and reduced to a system
under Walpole until government seemed to be based on bribery.
Ridiculing public spirit and disinterested motives in others, he bribed
George the Second with the promise of a large civil list, bribed Queen
Caroline with a large allowance, bribed members of Parliament with
sinecures, pensions, or with direct payment of money, and paid himself
with wealth and a peerage. Corruption was so firmly rooted as an engine
of power, that no serious discredit attached to it. So low had fallen
the standard of political honor, so widespread had become the spirit of
self-seeking and corruption among the ministers and in Parliament, that
"Love of our country," wrote Browne, "is no longer felt; and except in
a few minds of uncommon greatness, the principle of public spirit
exists not."[97] The dominating idea of political life was well put in
the words of the Marquis of Halifax: "Parties in a state, generally,
like freebooters, hang out false colors; the pretence is public good,
the real business is to catch prizes." Lord Hervey divided the Whig
party in 1727 into "Patriots and Courtiers, which was in plain English,
'Whigs in place,' and 'Whigs out of place.'"[98] The assertion of
disinterestedness met only with ridicule. In an interview with Queen
Caroline, "when Lord Stair talked of his conscience with great
solemnity, the queen (the whole conversation being in French) cried
out: Ah, my Lord, ne me parlez point de conscience, vous me faîtes
évanouir."[99] As personal advancement, and not the public service, was
the ruling aim of statesmen, it is not surprising that for this
advancement no means were regarded as too low. The king's mistresses
were the object of ceaseless attentions from aspirants for office, and
sometimes were the recipients of their bribes. Treachery was the order
of the day. Bolingbroke said to Sir Robert Walpole, "that the very air
he breathed was the gift of his bounty," and then left Sir Robert to
tell the king that Walpole "was the weakest minister any prince ever
employed abroad, and the wickedest that ever had the direction of
affairs at home."[100] The Duke of Newcastle, that "living, moving,
talking caricature," stands out an exaggerated type of the common
statesmen of the time; "hereditary possessors of ennobled folly,"[101]
maintained in offices which they had no capacity to fill by corruption,
the abuse of patronage, and the control of rotten boroughs. Speaking of
the Dukes of Devonshire, Grafton, and Newcastle, Lord Hervey says[102]:
"The two first were mutes, and the last often wished so by those he
spoke for, and always by those he spoke to." George the Second
appreciated the character and objects of his advisers. He had, also, a
frank and pointed way of describing them. In his opinion Sir Robert
Walpole was "a great rogue"; Mr. Horace Walpole, ambassador to France,
was a "dirty buffoon"; Newcastle, an "impertinent fool"; Lord
Townshend, a "choleric blockhead";[103] while Lord Chesterfield was
disposed of as a "tea-table scoundrel."[104] He complained that he was
"obliged to enrich people for being rascals, and buy them not to cut
his throat."[105] "The king and queen," wrote Hervey, "looked upon
human kind as so many commodities in a market, which, without favor or
affection, they considered only in the degree they were useful, and
paid for them in that proportion--Sir Robert Walpole being sworn
appraiser to their Majesties at all these sales."[106]

The cringing subserviency of political men was equal to their
corruption. When George I died, and it was believed that Sir Spencer
Compton would succeed to the power of Sir Robert Walpole, at the king's
reception "Sir Robert walked through these rooms as if they had been
still empty; his presence, that used to make a crowd wherever he
appeared, now emptied every corner he turned to, and the same people
who were officiously a week ago clearing the way to flatter his
prosperity, were now getting out of it to avoid sharing his disgrace.
Everybody looked upon it as sure, and whatever profession of adherence
and gratitude for former favors were made him in private, there were
none among the many his power had obliged (excepting General Churchill
and Lord Hervey) who did not in public as notoriously decline and fear
his notice, as they used industriously to seek and covet it."[107] On
the same occasion, Horace Walpole tells us, "my mother * * * could not
make her way (to pay her respects to the king and queen) between the
scornful backs and elbows of her late devotees, nor could approach
nearer to the queen than the third or fourth row; but no sooner was she
descried by her Majesty, than the queen cried aloud, '_There I am sure
I see a friend!_' The torrent divided and shrunk to either side: 'and
as I came away,' said my mother, 'I might have walked over their heads
if I had pleased.'"[108] The general corruption and wickedness produced
a remarkable misanthropy in the minds of men, which is reflected in the
savage satire of Swift, in the bitter invective of Junius, in the
cynicism of Lord Hervey. Sir Robert Walpole, said the latter, "had more
warmth of affection and friendship for some particular people than one
could have believed it possible for any one who had been so long raking
in the dirt of mankind to be capable of feeling for so worthless a
species of animals. One should naturally have imagined that the
contempt and distrust he must have had for the species in gross, would
have given him at least an indifference and distrust toward every

The mercenary character of Parliament allowed the first two Georges to
have much their own way as long as the money held out. Liberty of the
subject, if not in great danger, had certainly lost its natural
guardian. Few seats depended on a direct and popular vote. Most of them
were in the gift of noblemen or rich commoners, "rotten boroughs,"
having only "the bare name of a town, of which there remains not so
much as the ruins."[110] Defoe tells us that the market price of a seat
was a thousand guineas. The object of the purchaser was less often the
service of his country, or even an honorable ambition, than the profit
to be made from the sale of his vote. Members not infrequently had
regular salaries from the government. "Sir Robert Walpole and the queen
both told me separately," wrote Lord Hervey, "that it (the victory of
the court) cost the king but 900_l_.--500_l_. to one man, and 400_l_.
to another; and that even those two sums were advanced to two men who
were to have received them at the end of the session had this question
never been moved, and who only took this opportunity to solicit prompt
payment."[111] Lord Chesterfield, in the same letter in which he spoke
of the corrupt influencing of elections as a high crime and
misdemeanor, recommends the Earl of Marchmont to _bribe_ "some of your
venal peers" to confess that they took money to vote for the
court.[112] "Ever since Lord Granville went out," wrote Horace Walpole
in 1744, "all has been in suspense. The leaders of the Opposition
immediately imposed silence upon their party; everything passed without
the least debate, in short, _all were making their bargains_. One has
heard of the corruption of courtiers, but, believe me the impudent
prostitution of patriots, going to market with their honesty, beats it
to nothing. Do but think of two hundred men _of the most consummate
virtue_, setting themselves to sale for three weeks!"[113] The
corruption of Parliament and the indifference, of members to any
interests other than their own, were pointedly expressed by Queen
Caroline in her reply to an address by Lord Stair[114]:--"I must,
therefore, once more ask you, my Lord, how you can have the assurance
to talk to me of your thinking the sense of constituents, their
interests, or their instructions any measure or rule for the conduct of
their representatives in Parliament. * * * To talk, therefore, in the
patriot strain you have done to me on this occasion, can move me, my
Lord, to nothing but laughter."

In the words of Mr. Lecky,[115] the government was "corrupt,
inefficient, and unheroic, but it was free from the gross vices of
continental administrations; it was moderate tolerant, and economical;
it was, with all its faults, a free government, and it contained in
itself the elements of reformation." The national industry and
resolution, particularly in the middle classes, brought about a great
increase of wealth, a remarkable development of manufactures and
commerce, which gave the country the extraordinary prosperity which it
has since, almost without a check, enjoyed. The external appearance of
England presented a new aspect. A fourth part of the whole land was
redeemed from waste and put under cultivation.[116] The advance in
agriculture and manufactures, making necessary better means of
communication, introduced canals and substituted fine highways for the
old muddy, robber-infested roads. The condition of these as late as
1736 may be inferred from that of the road between Kensington and
London: "The road between this place and London is grown so infamously
bad, that we live here in the same solitude as we should do if cast on
a rock in the middle of the ocean, and all the Londoners tell us there
is between them and us a great, impassable gulf of mud. There are two
roads through the Park, but the new one is so convex and the old one so
concave, that by this extreme of faults they agree in the common one of
being, like the high-road, impassable."[117]

Social life was marked by the same corruption, by the same absence of
high aspirations and standards which we have seen in politics. The
nation, especially the higher ranks, had not recovered from the license
of the Restoration, while the agencies which can preserve virtue and
refinement in a society were almost inactive. Religion, partly in
consequence of the reaction which followed the civil wars, and partly
in consequence of the spread of rational tendencies, had lost its hold
on society, and no longer sufficed to keep it in check. Theological
controversy, although it issue in narrowness and persecution, yet has
the merit of keeping alive an appreciation of high moral qualities and
aims. In the absence of strong religious feeling, there is yet in the
human mind a natural preference for what is beautiful and honorable,
usually taking the form of ideals, which may keep up a social tone.
This may be seen in the age of Elizabeth, not a very religious period,
but one in which poetry and elevation of thought overshadow coarseness
and immorality. The nineteenth century, again, is neither marked by
strong religious feelings nor by any great tendency to idealization.
And yet the nineteenth century has its standard, firmly based on public
opinion, made up of a respect for decency and justice, a love of
refinement, and an appreciation of the expediency as well as the
attractiveness of virtue; a standard which influences many minds over
which religion has little control. But in the earlier part of the
eighteenth century, religion had ceased to govern, and had not yet
attained that moral influence which, even in the absence of strong
faith, establishes rectitude of conduct, philanthropy, and purity of
thought in the minds of men. The ideals and aspirations of preceding
centuries had no meaning for what Addison called an "understanding
age," and the standard of order, refinement and taste of the present
had yet to come. The low state of society was realized and revolted
against by the best minds of the time. Gay lampooned it in the
"Beggars' Opera," Swift satirized it in "Gulliver's Travels," Defoe
became by force of circumstances a moral teacher; Addison, Steele, all
the essayists preached lay sermons; the novelists set out with the
object, less to amuse than to instruct, to improve their readers. This
tendency, so marked in the literature of the time, is the evidence of
the reforming influences at work. But many years passed before their
effect was perceptible.

There is nothing attractive about George the First and his two ugly old
mistresses, the "Elephant" and the "Maypole"; nor about his court of
Germans, utilizing their time in England by accumulating money to carry
back to Hanover when the harvest time had passed. George the Second,
brave, but narrow and ill-tempered, embodied in himself the coarseness
of the time. He loved his wife, who was faithful to him through every
outrage and every neglect. He caused one side to be taken out of her
coffin, so that when he should be laid beside her his dust might mingle
with hers. He esteemed her so highly, that in his grief at losing her,
he went so far as to say that if she had not been his wife, he would
have wished her for a mistress. To this wife, whom, in his own way, he
sincerely loved and sincerely mourned, he confided all the details of
his amours with other women. From Hanover, where he was acquiring
Madame Walmoden as his mistress, "he acquainted the queen by letter of
every step he took--of the growth of his passion, the progress of his
applications, and their success, of every word as well as every action
that passed--so minute a description of her person that, had the queen
been a painter, she might have drawn her rival's picture at six hundred
miles' distance. He added, too, the account of his buying her, and what
he gave her, which, considering the rank of the purchaser, and the
merits of the purchase as he set them forth, I think he had no great
reason to brag of, when the first price, according to his report, was
only one thousand ducats--a much greater proof of his economy than his
passion."[118] Among many extraordinary relations and expressions his
letters contained, "there was one in which he desired the queen to
contrive, if she could, that the Prince of Modena, who was to come the
latter end of the year to England, might bring his wife with him; and
the reason he gave for it was, that he heard her Highness was pretty
free of her person, and that he had the greatest inclination imaginable
to pay his addresses to a daughter of the late Regent of France, the
Duke of Orleans--'un plaisir' (for he always wrote in French), 'que je
suis sur, ma chère Caroline, vous serez bien aise de me procurer, quand
je vous dis combien je le souhaite.' Such a request to his wife
respecting a woman he never saw, and during his connection with Madame
Walmoden, speaks much stronger in a bare narrative of the fact, than by
any comment or reflections; and is as incapable of being heightened as
difficult to be credited."[119]

Queen Caroline bore all this without a murmur in order to retain her
political influence with the king. To the power of the queen she
sacrificed the feelings of the woman. With many good qualities and
considerable ability, she shared in the prevailing coarseness. Her son,
the Prince of Wales, was a very disagreeable person. Neither the queen
nor the Princess Caroline "made much ceremony of wishing a hundred
times a day that the prince might drop down dead of an apoplexy--the
queen cursing the hour of his birth, and the Princess Caroline
declaring she grudged him every hour he continued to breathe; and
reproaching Lord Hervey" for ever having believed "the nauseous beast
(those were her words) cared for anybody but his own nauseous
self."[120] The morning after the prince had been ordered to leave the
palace, "the queen, at breakfast, every now and then repeated, 'I hope,
in God, I shall never see him again'; and the king, among many other
paternal _douceurs_ in his valediction to his son, said,'Thank-God,
to-morrow night the puppy will be out of my house.'"[121] "My dear
Lord" said the queen to Hervey, "I will give it to you under my own
hand, if you are in any fear of my relapsing, that my dear first-born
is the greatest ass and the greatest liar and the greatest _canaille_,
and the greatest beast in the whole world, and that I most heartily
wish he was out of it."[122] After the royal family, Sir Robert Walpole
was the most prominent person in the country. He went about publicly
with his mistress, and entertained his friends at his country-seat with
orgies which disturbed the whole neighborhood. When the queen died he
urged the princesses to get their father some new mistress to distract
him. Lord Hervey says that Lady Sundon "had sense enough to perceive
what black and dirty company, by living in a court, she was forced to
keep."[123] Lady Deloraine, who was suspected of being the king's
mistress, "when she spoke seriously to Sir Robert Walpole, pretended
not to have yet yielded; and said 'she was not of an age like a vain or
a loving fool, but that if she did consent, that she would be well
paid.'"[124] "She told Lady Sundon, with whom she was very little
acquainted, that the king had been very importunate these two years;
and had often told her how unkind she was to refuse him; that it was
mere crossness, for that he was sure her husband would not take it at
all ill."[125] The looseness of the marriage tie had been a prevailing
evil ever since the Restoration. Steele wrote in the _Tatler_ in 1710:
"The wits of this island for above fifty years past, instead of
correcting the vices of the age, have done all they could to inflame
them. Marriage has been one of the common topics of ridicule that every
stage scribbler hath found his account in; for whenever there is an
occasion for a clap, an impertinent jest upon matrimony is sure to
raise it. This hath been attended with very pernicious consequences.
Many a country squire, upon his setting up for a man of the town, has
gone home in the gaiety of his heart and beat his wife. A kind husband
hath been looked upon as a clown, and a good wife as a domestic annual
unfit for the company or conversation of the _beau monde_. In short,
separate beds, silent tables, and solitary homes have been introduced
by your men of wit and pleasure of the age."[126]

The prevailing immorality and coarseness were in keeping with the
absence of sympathy with all elevation of thought and sentiment. "If a
man of any delicacy were to attend the discourses of the young fellows
of this age," wrote Steele, "he would believe that there were none but
prostitutes to make the objects of passion."[127] "Every woman is at
heart a rake," thought Pope. Women were generally treated with
disrespect, and distinctively female virtues were almost without
appreciation. It is instructive to contrast the deeds of arms done in
honor of a mistress in the Middle Ages, and the elevated sentiments
held regarding women in what Addison called a "barbarous age," with the
actions by which young men sometimes showed their devotion in the
earlier part of the eighteenth century. The latter were as extravagant
as the former, but extravagant after how different a manner. One young
fellow, distinguished himself by drinking wine strained through his
mistress' chemise; another, by drinking out of her shoe; another, by
having her slipper torn to shreds, cooked, and served up as a dish.
Coarseness of thought naturally brought on coarseness of action. Horace
Walpole wrote in 1737, "'Tis no little inducement, to make me wish
myself in France, that I hear gallantry is not left off there; that you
may be polite, and not be thought awkward for it. You know the pretty
men of the age in England use the women with no more deference than
they do their coach horses, and have not half the regard for them that
they have for themselves."[128]

Against the grosser faults of immorality and indecency Steele and
Addison preached. But even they were insensible to an elevated view of
the relations between men and women. Such a view was, however, taken by
Defoe; a man whom Steele and Addison, as well as the polite world in
general, looked upon as an adventurer, and one whose opinions on social
subjects they disdained. "We reproach the sex every day," wrote Defoe,
"with folly and impertinence, while I am confident, had they the
advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than
ourselves. * * * I cannot think that God ever made them so delicate, so
glorious creatures, and furnished them with such charms, so agreeable
and so delightful to mankind, with souls capable of the same enjoyments
as men, and all to be only stewards of our houses, cooks, and
slaves."[129] Defoe stands almost alone in his remonstrance against the
neglect of female education. But he stands more isolated still in his
appreciation of womanly virtues, and in the enthusiasm with which he
could speak of them. "A woman well-bred and well-taught, furnished with
the additional accomplishments of knowledge and behavior, is a creature
without comparison. Her society is the emblem of sublimer enjoyments;
she is all softness and sweetness, love, wit, and delight; she is every
way suitable to the sublimest wish; and the man that has such a one to
his portion, has nothing to do but to rejoice in her and be

Love was hardly distinguished from mere animal desire. The poets wrote
of it coldly and conventionally, as of a thing which existed only in
name. The lover could only beg his mistress "to ease his pain." But the
conventionality which extended through all thoughts and expressions
relating to the higher emotions of the human soul, had no effect in
diminishing the coarseness of thought and conversation. Men were
conventional as regards the nobler sentiments of life, but they were
not conventional in the spirit which excludes from conversation and
literature the gross and the immoral. Chesterfield wrote to his son of
honor, justice, and so forth, as qualities of which he should know the
names, but of no consequence compared to "manners, good-breeding, and
the graces." If a man blushed, it was not at his own indecency, nor at
his own vice, but at the supposition that he could be so weak as to be
influenced by sentiments of delicacy. Coarseness is, of course, quite
separate from immorality, although the two are usually found together.
In the earlier part of the eighteenth century there was a marked
distinction between them. Swift's Stella, a woman of refinement, was
highly indignant at remarks being made before her of a licentious
character, but she herself used expressions of the grossest description
without a thought of impropriety. The same distinction is seen in the
essays and novels of the time. Swift, Defoe, Fielding, Richardson, all
had a moral object in their fictions--the exposure and condemnation of
vice, the encouragement of virtue. And yet most of these novels,
especially intended to exert a good influence, are of so coarse a
nature, and describe scenes so licentious that no parent would now
allow them in their children's hands. The essayists wrote principally
what we should now look upon as sermons, or moral teachings, and yet
very many of their papers are unfit to be read in a mixed society. Men
and women were made then of coarser stuff than we. Their eyes and ears
were less sensitive. They were, at best, accustomed to think and speak
of things which to us seem disgusting, and of which, therefore, we
think and speak as little as possible. In view of the circumstances
which influenced society in the last century, this condition was a
perfectly natural one. We must bear it in mind in reading contemporary
literature, that we may not mistake an author's intention. But we must
be careful in censuring what was, after all, only one necessary stage
in the development of our own civilization. It must be said, also, that
the coarseness of the eighteenth century was a healthy coarseness, bred
of energetic natures and animal spirits. In our time, and in the midst
of our advanced refinement there lurks a sickly sentimentality, a false
modesty, and an unhealthy delicacy which are in a degree inimical to
morality. We have novels in great numbers, not broadly coarse, as those
of Fielding or Smollett, but insidiously immoral, painting vice and
unbridled passions in an attractive light.

The same rude and physical coarseness controlled the standard of taste,
and introduced boisterousness and violence even into amusements. "The
present grandeur of the British nation might make us expect," wrote
Steele, "that we should rise in our public diversions and manner of
enjoying life, in proportion to our advancement in glory and power.
Instead of that, survey this town, and you will find rakes and
debauchees are your men of pleasure; thoughtless atheists and
illiterate drunkards call themselves free-thinkers; and gamesters,
banterers, biters, swearers, and twenty new-born insects more, are, in
their several species, the modern men of wit."[131] Walpole[132] wrote
in 1744: "The town has been trying all this winter to drive pantomimes
off the stage, very boisterously; for it is the way here to make even
an affair of taste and sense a matter of riot and arms. Fleetwood, the
master of Drury Lane, has omitted nothing to support them, as they
supported his house. About ten days ago he let into the pit great
numbers of bear-garden _bruisers_ (that is the term), to knock down
everybody that hissed. The pit rallied their forces and drove them out.
I was sitting very quietly in the boxes contemplating all this. On a
sudden the curtain flew up, and discovered the whole stage filled with
blackguards armed with bludgeons and clubs, to menace the audience.
This raised the greatest uproar."

Mrs. Delany, whose character has excited so much admiration in her own
and in succeeding generations, left, in her autobiography and letters,
a picture of the society about her as seen by one of the most refined
and cultivated women of the time. Like many others, she was struck with
disgust at the coarseness and immorality which surrounded her. "It is
enough to make one a cynic, to shun the world, and shut oneself up in a
tub as Diogenes did; but I must acknowledge, though the age is very
degenerate, that it is not quite void of perfection. I know some
persons that still reconcile me to the world, and that convince me that
virtue is not fled, though it is confined to a few."[133] "The men have
so despicable an opinion of women, and treat them by their words and
actions so ungenerously and inhumanly."[134] "The women were never so
audacious as now; this may well be called the brazen age."[135] The
material tone of society and its lack of sentiment were largely
responsible for the low estimation in which women were held. Marriages
were almost universally arranged on the simple basis of money, a
circumstance which explains much of the conjugal infidelity and
unhappiness which prevailed. "My Lady A.'s behaviour," wrote Mrs.
Delany,[136] "and some more wives' behaviour of the same stamp, has so
disgraced matrimony that I am not surprised the men are afraid of it;
and if we consider the loose morals of the men, it is strange the women
are so easily won to their own undoing." Mrs. Delany, while a young
married woman, although she was known to be of a virtuous character,
was subjected to licentious attacks which fell little short of
violence. It is hardly necessary to comment on the hard drinking and
the hard swearing which were almost universal characteristics of
gentlemen of fashion. Duelling was still a custom, and gambling was the
favorite amusement at court, at the clubs, and in ladies'
drawing-rooms. The title of gentleman depended on birth, and had
nothing to do with personal conduct. Caste feeling was very strong.
Gentlemen looked upon professional men or men of letters as beneath
them, however superior they might be in manners, morals, or education.
A curious instance of this caste feeling occurred in the case of
Captain Vratz, who said of himself and companions on their way to the
gallows for murder, that "God would show them some respect as they were
gentlemen." When Gay's "Beggar's Opera" was put on the stage, the
fashionable world crowded to see their own coarseness and immorality
exhibited in the persons of thieves and highwaymen, and to laugh at the
truth of the Beggar's words: "Through the whole piece you may observe
such a similitude of manners in high and low life, that it is difficult
to determine whether (in the fashionable vices) the fine gentlemen
imitate the gentlemen of the road, or the gentlemen of the road the
fine gentlemen."

The lower classes of society were as ignorant and brutal as the higher
were coarse and corrupt. Among the other qualities in which the times
were deficient, was philanthropy. The measures which the wisdom and
charity of the present have exerted to diminish crime, and to improve
the condition of the poor, were then represented only by a harsh and
cruel penal code, which had a powerful, though an indirect tendency to
promote pauperism and to multiply criminals. Although population had
greatly increased, no new provision had been made for religious
teaching, and there were no schools but those of Edward and
Elizabeth.[137] Defective poor-laws, which forbade laborers to move
from one parish to another in search of work, made pauperism in many
cases the inevitable fate of the industrious. In the cities there was
no adequate police regulation of the criminal classes; and this, too,
at a time when peaceful habits were fast growing among the people at
large, and police protection was more needed than ever before. At the
same time there came upon the lower classes, the terrible scourge of
gin. Violent and ignorant as these classes were, the effects upon them
of so cheap and maddening a drink were incalculably debasing. "The
drunkenness of the common people," says an eye-witness, "was so
universal by the retailing of a liquor called _gin_, with which they
could get drunk for a groat, that the whole town of London, and many
towns in the country swarmed with drunken people of both sexes from
morning to night, and were more like a scene from a Bacchanal than the
residence of a civil society."[138] The sign which hangs over the
inn-door in Hogarth's picture of Gin Lane, and announces that the
customer can get drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence, and have
straw for nothing, was a copy, not an invention. Attempts to limit the
traffic in gin were met by riots so fierce that the government was
obliged to withdraw its measures. The violent natures of the common
people appeared in their amusements as well as in their crimes. Their
sports were of the most brutal kind, and almost all involved the
sufferings of men or animals. Among other entertainments advertised to
take place in London in 1729 and 1730, were "a mad bull to be dressed
up with fireworks and turned loose in the game place, a dog to be
dressed up with fireworks over him, a bear to be let loose at the same
time, and a cat to be tied to the bull's tail, a mad bull dressed up
with fireworks to be baited."[139] Such amusements were interspersed
with cock-fighting, prize fights, and boxing matches between women. The
same brutality characterised the crimes of the period. Violent riots,
aggravated by the plunder of gin-shops, attended the preaching of the
Methodists, the Gin Act, and even the employment by Garrick of a few
French dancers at Drury Lane Theatre. Piracy and smuggling were
systematically carried on, accompanied by atrocious cruelties and
murders. It was no uncommon practice for the inhabitants of the
sea-coast to lure vessels on shore by false signals in order to plunder

Other causes, as well as the ignorance and brutality in which the lower
classes almost necessarily lived, contributed to the number and
impunity of criminals. It was only in 1736 that the streets of London,
hitherto plunged at night in total darkness, began to be lighted for a
few hours by lamps. The right of sanctuary, which still practically
existed in such quarters as Whitefriars and the Mint afforded to
criminals an easy and safe retreat beyond the reach of the law. The
rougher elements of the upper as well as of the lower classes, made the
streets impassable at night without great danger. They organized
themselves into bands, and committed atrocious and wanton brutalities
on inoffensive passers-by. One band, called the Modocs, indulged in the
amusement called "tipping the lion" which consisted in flattening the
nose of the victim on his face and boring out his eyes with the
fingers. There were also the "dancing masters," who made people dance
by pricking them with swords, the "sweaters," who pricked their victims
with swords till they fell exhausted, and the "tumblers," who set women
on their heads and mutilated their limbs.[140] Others rolled women down
hill in barrels, cut the faces of maid-servants, and slit the noses of
watchmen. The criminal classes became so daring and numerous that the
streets were insecure even in the day-time, "It is shocking to think
what a shambles this country is grown!" wrote Walpole. "Seventeen were
executed this morning, after having murdered the turnkey on Friday
night, and almost forced open Newgate. One is forced to travel even at
noon, as if one were going to battle."[141] It was the custom to go
out at night accompanied by armed servants. Addison gave an amusing
description of the precautions observed when Sir Roger de Coverley was
taken to the theatre. "The Captain, who did not fail to meet me there
at the appointed Hour, bid Sir Roger fear nothing, for that he had put
on the same Sword which he made use of at the Battle of _Steenkirk_.
Sir Roger's Servants, and among the rest my old Friend the Butler, had,
I found, provided themselves with good oaken Plants to attend their
Master upon this occasion. When we had placed him in his Coach, with
myself at his left hand, the Captain before him, and his Butler at the
Head of his Footmen in the Rear, we convoyed him in safety to the
Playhouse."[142] "One night, in the beginning of November, 1749," wrote
Walpole, "as I was returning from Holland House by moonlight, about ten
at night, I was attacked by two highwaymen in Hyde Park, and the pistol
of one of them going off accidentally, razed the skin under my left eye,
left some marks of shot on my face, and stunned me."[143] These men were
taken about a year later. "I have been in town for a day or two, and
heard no conversation but about M'Lean, a fashionable highwayman, who
is just taken, and who robbed me among others. * * * His father was an
Irish Dean; his brother is a Calvinist minister in great esteem at the
Hague. * * * He took to the road with only one companion, Plunkett, a
journeyman apothecary, my other friend. * * * M'Lean had a lodging in
St. James Street, over against White's, and another at Chelsea; Plunkett
one in Jermyn St., and their faces are as well known about St. James' as
any gentleman who lives in that quarter, and who, perhaps, goes upon the
road too. M'Lean had a quarrel at Putney Bowling Green two months ago
with an officer whom he challenged for disputing his rank; but the
captain declined, till M'Lean should produce a certificate of his
nobility, which he has just received. * * * As I conclude he will suffer,
and wish him no ill, I don't care to have his idea, and am almost single
in not having been to see him. Lord Mountford at the head of half White's
went the first day: his aunt was crying over him: as soon as they were
withdrawn she said to him, knowing they were of White's, 'My dear, what
did the lords say to you? Have you ever been concerned with any of
them?'--was not it admirable? What a favorable idea people must have
of White's! and what if White's should not deserve a much better! But
the chief personages who have been to comfort and weep over this fallen
hero are Lady Caroline Petersham and Miss Asche: I call them Polly and

The fact that death was the penalty for almost all serious violations
of the law gave an additional zest to crime. The criminal looked upon
himself, and was looked upon by others, as a brave man, and even those
who abhorred the crime retained a certain admiration for the courage
which they thought involved in its commission. Felons sat erect and
proud in the cart which carried them to execution. Their great ambition
was to die like "gentlemen," and they saw no disgrace in death by "the
ladder and the cord," so long as it was borne with bravado. Criminals
are frequent and prominent characters in contemporary fiction. The
period contributed more than any other to the romance of crime, and a
glamour has been cast over the most infamous careers which has made
them celebrated to the present day. The famous highwayman Dick Turpin,
and one Parsons, the son of a baronet, educated at Eton, attained a
public interest and admiration, in which the greatness of their crimes
was forgotten in the dangers they incurred and the boldness with which
they defied justice. When Jack Sheppard, the burglar, was finally
captured after two remarkable escapes from Newgate,[145] he became a
popular hero. Great numbers of people visited him in prison and gave
him presents of money. Several lives were written of him.

But the most remarkable criminal career, and that which best
illustrates the inefficiency of the law and the impunity and ferocity
of criminals, is that of Johnathan Wild, surnamed the Great.[146] This
man spent some time in Newgate, and having become acquainted with the
secrets and methods of its inhabitants, married a notorious woman who
was well versed in similar knowledge. He then set up an establishment
for receiving stolen goods, and organized thieves into regular bands.
Some were to rob churches, others to pick pockets at theatres and
fairs, others to rob on the streets and highways. He even divided the
country into districts, and appointed a special gang to work in each.
All these thieves were obliged to account to him for what they stole,
and he disposed of it in London, or if that seemed too dangerous, he
sent it abroad in a ship of his own. He attained over lesser criminals
the most rigid authority and absolute power. His lieutenants were
chosen among transported convicts who had returned before the
expiration of their terms. These were legally incapable of giving
evidence against Wild, but he could send them to the gallows at a
moment's notice, if suspicious of their fidelity, by information to the
authorities. Over the common thieves he had nearly the same power.
Those whom he suspected of retaining part of their booty, or whom he
feared as witnesses against himself, were at once sent to the gallows
by private information to the magistrates. On the other hand, a thief
who was in danger of arrest, if useful and faithful, was taken into
Wild's own house, protected, fed, and employed in counterfeiting or
other in-door occupation. When a law was passed making it criminal to
receive stolen goods, Wild opened an intelligence office for the
discovery of missing articles. To that office came the thieves, like so
many workmen, to deliver their booty and receive their wages, and
there, too, came the robbed to describe their losses and name their
rewards. If the reward were sufficient to satisfy Wild, he returned the
article; otherwise he had it made unrecognizable by skilled workmen
whom he employed for the purpose, and presented it to a faithful
follower, or disposed of it in the regular course of business. It is
impossible not to notice a certain resemblance between Johnathan Wild
and Defoe's English Tradesman. The practical turn of mind, the absence
of sentiment so characteristic of the times, are to be seen alike in
the thief, the tradesman, and the gentleman. Conducted on purely
business principles, like a mercer's shop or a marriage between noble
families, without hatred or affection, anger or generosity, the work
went on. Wild dealt in human lives with the same cold, money-making
calculation which directed the disposal of a stolen watch. When public
complaints were made, that although many robberies were committed few
thieves were apprehended, Wild supplied the gallows with thieves who
were useless to him or lukewarm in his interest. When a large reward
was offered for the apprehension of a criminal, Wild was usually able
to deliver the man. If he was unable to do so, or was friendly to the
criminal, he still secured the reward by giving false information
against an innocent person, and supported his assertions by the perjury
of his subordinates. By these methods he soon grew rich. He carried a
silver wand which he asserted to be a badge of office given him by the
government, and entered into secret leagues with corrupt magistrates.
After a time he called himself a gentleman, and wore a sword, the first
use of which was to cut off his wife's ear. At last he was detected in
aiding the escape of a highwayman confined in Newgate, and being
deprived of his power, he was easily convicted. He was hung in 1725,
and on his way to the scaffold was almost pelted to death by the mob.

The impunity with which Wild followed his long career of crime was not
unusual. The authorities were inefficient and corrupt. Fielding,
himself a police justice, makes a magistrate say in "Amelia": "And to
speak my opinion plainly, such are the laws and such the method of
proceeding that one would almost think our laws were made for the
protection of rogues, rather than for the punishment of them." The laws
bore hardly upon the poor and spared the rich. "The parson," complained
Defoe in the "Poor Man's Plea," "preaches a thundering sermon against
drunkenness, and the justice of the peace sets my poor neighbor in the
stocks, and I am like to be much the better for either, when I know
perhaps that this same parson and this same justice were both drunk
together but the night before." The magistrates and constables were as
much in need of reform as the laws. "The greatest criminals in this
town," said Walpole,[147] "are the officers of justice; there is no
tyranny they do not exercise, no villany of which they do not partake."
Many of the magistrates were never impartial, except, as Fielding said:
"when they could get nothing on either side." One class of constables
was described by Fielding in "Amelia."[148] The watchmen intended "to
guard our streets by night from thieves and robbers, an office which at
least requires strength of body, are chosen out of those poor old
decrepit people, who are from their want of bodily strength rendered
incapable of getting a livelihood by work. These men, armed only with a
pole, which some of them are scarce able to lift, are to secure the
persons and houses of his Majesty's subjects from the attacks of young,
bold, stout, desperate, and well-armed villains. If the poor old
fellows should run away from such enemies, no one, I think, can wonder,
unless it be that they were able to make their escape." Defoe's
pickpockets are always more afraid of being mobbed on the spot, than of
being detected and punished by the police. Well known highwaymen not
infrequently rode through the streets of London with armed companions,
although large rewards were offered for their capture. Many of the
constables were of the most villanous character. The following
incident, recorded by Walpole, is only one of many instances of their
brutality which might be mentioned.[149] "There has lately been the
most shocking scene of murder imaginable; a parcel of _drunken_
constables took it into their heads to put the laws in execution
against _disorderly_ persons, and so took up every woman they met till
they had collected five or six and twenty, all of whom they thrust into
St. Martin's round house, where they kept them all night, with doors
and windows closed. The poor creatures, who could not stir or breathe,
screamed as long as they had any breath left, begging at least for
water; one poor wretch said she was worth eighteen-pence, and would
gladly give it for a draught of water, but in vain! So well did they
keep them there, that in the morning four were found stifled to death;
two died soon after, and a dozen more are in a shocking way. In short,
it is horrid to think what the poor creatures suffered. Several of them
were beggars, who, from having no lodging, were necessarily found in
the street, and others honest labouring women. One of the dead was a
poor washer-woman, big with child, who was returning home late from
washing. * * * These same men, the same night, broke into a bagnio in
Covent Garden, and took up Jack Spencer, Mr. Stewart, and Lord George
Graham, and would have thrust them into the round-house with the poor
women if they had not been worth more than eighteen-pence!"

Keepers of prisons bought their places with the distinct purpose of
making money by extortions from the prisoners. The following is an
account of the means pursued by Bainbridge, Warden of the Fleet, to
extort money from one Solas, a poor man, imprisoned for debt[150]:
"Bainbridge caused him to be turned into the dungeon, called the Strong
Room of the Master's side. This place is a vault, like those in which
the dead are interred, and wherein the bodies of persons dying in the
said prison are usually deposited till the coroner's inquest hath
passed upon them; it has no chimney nor fireplace, nor any light but
what comes over the door, or through a hole of about eight inches
square. It is neither paved nor boarded; and the rough bricks appear
both on the sides and top, being neither wainscotted nor plastered;
what adds to the dampness and stench of the place, is its being built
over the common sewer, and adjoining to the sink and dunghill where all
the nastiness of the prison is cast. In this miserable place the poor
wretch was kept by the said Bainbridge manacled and shackled for near
two months. At length on receiving five guineas from Mr. Kemp, a friend
of Solas's, Bainbridge released the prisoner from his cruel
confinement. But though his chains were taken off, his terror still
remained, and the unhappy man was prevailed upon by that terror, not
only to labor _gratis_ for the said Bainbridge, but to swear also at
random all that he hath required of him; and the committee themselves
saw an instance of the deep impression his sufferings had made upon
him; for on his surmising from something said, that Bainbridge was to
return again as Warden of the Fleet, he fainted, and the blood started
out of his mouth and nose." This example is by no means an exceptional
one. It is impossible, within the limits of this volume, to give an
adequate idea of the disease, the squalor, the cruelties and abuses
which existed in the prisons. Their interiors are often described by
the novelists, who were unable to exaggerate the actual circumstances.
Poor prisoners, when acquitted, were dragged back to prison and kept
there till their dues were paid or they were released by death. Richer
men were subjected to all sorts of indignity and danger, even to that
of small-pox, to force them to enrich their jailers.

The social condition of England in the first half of the eighteenth
century presents a material and unattractive aspect. Its most prominent
characteristics are the corruption and coarseness of the upper classes,
and the ignorant brutality of the lower. Still there existed beneath
this exterior, qualities and habits in the highest degree favorable to
civilization and social order. At a later time these qualities brought
about reforms which did away with many of the worst abuses. Among the
middle classes, fast rising to political and social prominence, lived
an earnest morality, which at a later time took form in the great
Methodist revival, and the rise of philanthropy. This persevering
industry of the same classes added enormously to the wealth of the
nation. When reform came, it came as a revolt against existing
conditions, showing at once how bad those conditions were, and how
strongly the popular mind inclined to a better state. A general feeling
of disgust prevailed which left deep traces on contemporary literature,
and produced a widespread misanthropy. The first half of the eighteenth
century was to the period of the Restoration like the morning after a
debauch. Rochester, in the time of Charles II, and Hervey, in the time
of George II were representative men. The difference in the feelings
with which these men looked upon life is significant. Rochester, in the
full tide of dissipation, glories in his sensuality, and writes the
"Maimed Debauchee."

      Should some brave youth (worth being drunk) prove nice,
      And from his fair inviter meanly shrink,
      'T would please the ghost of my departed vice,
      If, at my council, he repent and drink.

But Hervey represents the time when dissipation had run a long course,
and disgust, sanctity, and misanthropy were succeeding. To him, as to
Swift, men were "a worthless species of animals," their vices, natural;
their virtues, affectation:

      Mankind I know, their nature and their art,
      Their vice their own, their virtue but a part
      Ill played so oft, that all the cheat can tell,
      And dangerous only when 't is acted well,

       *       *       *       *       *

      To such reflections when I turn my mind
      _I loathe my being, and abhor mankind._

[Footnote 90: Carlyle, "Frederick the Great," p. 13. vol. i.]

[Footnote 91: Addison, "An Account of the Greatest English Poets."
Quoted by Henry Morley, LL.D., "English Literature in the Reign of

[Footnote 92: Lecky's "History of England in the 18th Century," vol. i,
p. 502.]

[Footnote 93: Lord Hervey, "Memoirs of George II," v. 3, p. 527.]

[Footnote 94: Hervey's "Mem. of George II," vol. 1, p. 147, note.]

[Footnote 95: Walpole's "Reminiscences"; Hervey's "Mem.," v. 2, p. 103,

[Footnote 96: Walpole's "Mem. of George II," vol. 1, p. 87.]

[Footnote 97: Browne's "Estimate of the Times"; Lecky, "Hist. of 18th
Century," vol. 1, p. 509.]

[Footnote 98: Lord Hervey, "Mem. of Geo. II," vol. i, p. 5.]

[Footnote 99: _Idem_, vol. i, p. 170.]

[Footnote 100: _Idem_, vol. i, p. 18.]

[Footnote 101: Hervey's "Mem.," i, 20.]

[Footnote 102: _Idem_, vol. 1, p. 208.]

[Footnote 103: Hervey's "Memoirs," 1, 39.]

[Footnote 104: _Idem_, ii, 360.]

[Footnote 105: _Idem_, ii, 31.]

[Footnote 106: _Idem_, vol. i, p. 91.]

[Footnote 107: Hervey's "Memoirs," vol. 1, p. 37.]

[Footnote 108: Hervey, 1, 22-25.]

[Footnote 109: Horace Walpole, "Reminiscences."]

[Footnote 110: Locke "On Civil Government," b. ii, ch. 13; Lecky's
"History of the 18th Century," vol. I, p. 471.]

[Footnote 111: Hervey's "Memoirs," ii, 280.]

[Footnote 112: Chesterfield, "Correspondence," iii, 94.]

[Footnote 113: Walpole to Mann, Dec. 24, 1741.]

[Footnote 114: Hervey's "Memoirs," i, 172.]

[Footnote 115: "History of the Eighteenth Century," vol. 1, p. 512.]

[Footnote 116: Green's "Short History of the English People," pp. 768-9.]

[Footnote 117: Hervey, ii, 189, note.]

[Footnote 118: Hervey's "Memoirs," vol. i, p. 500.]

[Footnote 119: Hervey's "Memoirs," vol. i, p. 502.]

[Footnote 120: Lord Hervey's "Memoirs", ii, 255.]

[Footnote 121: _Idem_, ii, 434.]

[Footnote 122: Hervey's "Memoirs," ii, 472.]

[Footnote 123: Hervey's "Memoirs," ii, 350.]

[Footnote 124: _Idem_, i, 90.]

[Footnote 125: _Idem_, ii, 349.]

[Footnote 126: _Tatler_, No. 159, Saturday, April 15, 1710.]

[Footnote 127: Steele, _Tatler_, No. 5.]

[Footnote 128: Walpole to Montague, March 20, 1737.]

[Footnote 129: Wilson's "Memoirs of Defoe," vol. i, p. 265.]

[Footnote 130: Wilson's "Memoirs of Defoe," vol. i, p. 206.]

[Footnote 131: Steele, _Tatler_, No. 12 May 7, 1709.]

[Footnote 132: Walpole to Mann, Nov. 26, 1711.]

[Footnote 133: Letter to Mrs. Ann Granville, Dec. 5, 1739.]

[Footnote 134: Letter to Mrs. Ann Granville, Jan. 17, 1731-32.]

[Footnote 135: Letter to Mrs. Ann Granville, Nov. 18, 1729.]

[Footnote 136: Letter to Mrs. Ann Granville, Christmas-day, 1729.]

[Footnote 137: Green, "Short History of the English People," p. 717.]

[Footnote 138: Lord Hervey's "Memoirs of George II," vol. ii, p. 139.]

[Footnote 139: Strutt's "Sports and Pastimes," p. 259; Lecky, "History
of England in the 18th Century," vol. i, chap. iv.]

[Footnote 140: Lecky, "History of England in the 18th Century," vol. i,
p. 522.]

[Footnote 141: Walpole to Sir H. Mann, March 23, 1752.]

[Footnote 142: The _Spectator_, "Sir Roger at the Playhouse."]

[Footnote 143: Horace Walpole, "Short Notes of My Life."]

[Footnote 144: Horace Walpole to Sir H. Mann, Aug. 2, 1750.]

[Footnote 145: See the "Newgate Calendar."]

[Footnote 146: See the "Newgate Calendar" and Pike's "History of
Crime," vol. 2, chap. x.]

[Footnote 147: Walpole to Mann, bet. July 14 and 29, 1742.]

[Footnote 148: "Amelia," book i, chap. 2.]

[Footnote 149: Walpole to Mann, bet. July 14 and 29, 1742.]

[Footnote 150: "State Trials;" vol. xvii, p. 298. _Proceedings against
John Higgins, Esq., Warden of the Fleet, Thomas Bainbridge, Esq., Warden of
the Fleet, Richard Corbett, one of the Tipstaffs of the Fleet, and
William Acton, Keeper of the Marshalsea Prison: 3 George II, A.D. 1729.
Report of the Com. of the House of Commons_.]


Lord Hervey's bitter lines introduce us to Jonathan Swift. Nature,
together with the character of his time, made the great Dean a
misanthropist. Physical infirmity, disappointed hopes, and a long
series of humiliations destroyed the happiness which should have
belonged to his rare union of noble gifts,--his tall, commanding
figure, his awe-inspiring countenance, his acute wit, and magnificent
intellect. Naturally proud and sensitive to an abnormal degree, he was
obliged to suffer the most galling slights. From his earliest years he
hated dependence, and yet, until middle life he was forced to be a
dependent. His education was furnished by the charity of relatives,
between whom and himself there was no affection. His college degree was
conferred in a manner which made it a disgrace rather than an honor.
The long years which he passed in the household of Sir William Temple,
subject to the humors and caprices of his master, embittered his temper
at the time of life when it should have been most buoyant and hopeful.
Thus began the melancholy and misanthropy which marred his whole life,
darkening his triumphs, turning such love as he had to give into a
curse to those who received it, producing an eccentricity which often
gave him the appearance of a madman, and finally bringing him to a
terrible end--to die, as he himself foretold, like a blasted elm, first
at the top. He kept his birthday as a day of mourning. He solemnly
regretted his escape when nearly killed by an accident. He habitually
parted from a friend with the wish that they might never meet again.
Cæsar's description of Cassius is wonderfully applicable to Swift:[151]

                      ----He reads much;
      He is a great observer, and he looks
      Quite through the deeds of men ----
      Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort
      As if he mocked himself, and scorn'd his spirit
      That could be amused to smile at any thing.

The character of Swift presents great apparent contradictions. Although
full of good-will and appreciation for individuals, although exercising
out of a small income the most discriminating and open handed
generosity, there has never lived a man more bitter in his misanthropy,
more fierce in his denunciation of mankind. Although capable of great
and disinterested affection, he was unable to make his affection a
source of happiness to himself or to others. Although he always chose
for companionship the most refined and cultivated women, the wisest and
most honored men, his mind dwelt by preference on the most terrible
examples of human depravity, and he gave permanent form, in his
literary productions, to ideas from which a healthy mind must always
turn with horror and disgust. His misanthropy was founded partly on
observation of the evil and corruption which he saw about him, and
partly on the suspicions and exaggerations of his own imagination. He
gave up writing a history of England, because, in his own words, he
found the characters of history such a pack of rascals that he would
have no more to say to them. He made a "List of Friends," which he
classified as Grateful, Ungrateful, Indifferent, and Doubtful. Of these
friends, forty-four in number, only seventeen were marked with the _g_
which signified that their friendship was trusted. We cannot
disassociate Swift from his own time, nor can we attribute simply to a
melancholy life or to mental aberration the revolting conceptions which
his works contain. The coarseness and corruption which marked the
private and public life of Swift's day had their share in the
production of such poems as The "Lady's Dressing-Room," and such
degrading views of human nature as are expressed in the "Voyage to the

It is a significant sign of the times that Hogarth, the greatest
English painter, and Swift, the greatest English writer, should have
employed their talents in caricature and in satire. In the wonderful
allegory of the "Tale of a Tub," in which the corruptions and failings
of the English, Roman, and Presbyterian churches were ridiculed in the
persons of Jack, Peter, and Martin, Swift displayed at an early age his
exuberant wit and surpassing satirical power. The "Tale of a Tub" was
succeeded by the "Battle of the Books," an imaginary conflict between
volumes in a library, which exposed the absurdity of the controversy
over the relative merits of the ancients and the moderns. But Swift's
satire became most fierce and brilliant when it was turned from rival
creeds and rival literatures, and directed toward mankind itself.

The "Travels of Lemuel Gulliver" were dropped, said the publisher, at
his house, in the dark, from a hackney-coach. In regard to this work,
the Dean followed his custom of sending out his writings to the world
to make their way on their own merits, without the assistance of his
name. But the authorship of the book could not long remain unknown
before the storm of applause and curiosity which it immediately
excited. It was a production, said Johnson,[152] "so new and strange
that it filled the reader with a mingled emotion of merriment and
amazement. It was received with such avidity, that the price of the
first edition was raised before the second could be made; it was read
by the high and the low, the learned and illiterate. Criticism was for
a while lost in wonder; no rules of judgment were applied to a book
written in open defiance of truth and regularity." Whether read for the
satire or the story, the adventures of Gulliver proved equally
fascinating. They "offered personal and political satire to the readers
in high life, low and coarse incidents to the vulgar, marvels to the
romantic, wit to the young and lively, lessons of morality and policy
to the grave, and maxims of deep and bitter misanthropy to neglected
age and disappointed ambition."[153]

The early part of the eighteenth century offered rich material to the
satirist, and Swift brought to his work unparalleled fierceness and
power. He attacked the corruption of the politician and the minister,
the vanity and vice of the courtier, the folly and extravagance of the
fashionable world, and gathering venom in his course, made his satire
universal and painted the pettiness and deformity of the human race.
But among the follies and vices of mankind, vanity was the fault most
offensive to Swift, and that which he lashed with his most bitter
invective. To ridicule human pride, and to expose its inconsistency
with the imperfection of man, is the ruling object of his great
satirical romance. On Gulliver's return to England from the land of the
Houyhnhnms, where, under the degraded form of Yahoos, he had studied
mankind as they appeared when influenced by all human vices and brutal
instincts unveiled by hypocrisy or civilization, he describes his
horror at observing the existence of vanity among his countrymen who
resembled Yahoos so closely;--

    My reconcilement to the Yahoo kind in general might not be so
    difficult, if they would be content with those vices and follies
    only which nature has entitled them to. I am not in the least
    provoked at the sight of a lawyer, a pickpocket, a colonel, a fool,
    a lord, a gamester, a politician, a whoremonger, a physician, an
    evidence, a suborner, an attorney, a traitor, or the like; this is
    all according to the due course of things: but when I behold a lump
    of deformity and diseases, both in body and mind, smitten with
    pride, it immediately breaks all the measures of my patience;
    neither shall I ever be able to comprehend how such an animal, and
    such a vice, could tally together.

In the "Voyage to Lilliput" the follies and vanities of individuals and
of parties are ridiculed by the representation of their practice among
diminutive beings. Sir Robert Walpole suffered in the person of Flimnap
the Lilliputian Premier, Tories and Whigs in the High-Heels and
Low-Heels, Catholics and Protestants in the Big-endians and
Small-endians. In the "Voyage to Brobdingnag," where Gulliver finds
himself a pigmy among giants, the general object of the satire is the
same, but its application becomes more bitter and universal.
Characteristics of the human race hardly perceptible in their ordinary
proportions, attain a disgusting and monstrous prominence when seen in
the huge persons of the Brobdingnagians. The king of this gigantic
people is represented as a beneficent monarch, who directs all his
energies toward the peace, prosperity, and material advancement of his
subjects; who seeks with a cold, calculating mind, undisturbed by
passion or prejudice, the greatest good of the greatest number. To this
monarch Gulliver gave a description of his native country: "I artfully
eluded many of his questions, and gave to every point a more favorable
turn, by many degrees, than the strictness of truth would allow; for I
have always borne that laudable partiality to my own country, which
Dionysius Halicarnasseusis, with so much justice, recommends to a
historian; I would hide the frailties and deformities of my political
mother, and place her virtues and beauties in the most advantageous
light." But the impression produced upon the King of Brobdingnag by
Gulliver's relation expressed the widespread sense of evil which
existed in Swift's day, which tinctured literature with misanthropy,
and made Rousseau at a later time argue the superiority of the savage
man over his civilized, but corrupt and hypocritical brother.

    He was perfectly astonished with the historical account I gave him
    of our affairs during the last century; protesting: "It was only a
    heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions,
    banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction,
    hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy,
    lust, malice, and ambition could produce."

    His majesty, in another audience, was at the pains to recapitulate
    the sum of all I had spoken; compared the questions he made with
    the answers I had given; then, taking me into his hands, and
    stroking me gently, delivered himself in these words, which I shall
    never forget, nor the manner he spoke them in: "My little friend,
    Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your
    country; you have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice
    are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator; that laws
    are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose
    interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding
    them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which in
    its original, might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and
    the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions. It does not
    appear from all you have said, how any one perfection is required
    toward the procurement of any one station among you; much less,
    that men are ennobled on account of their virtue; that priests are
    advanced for their piety or learning; soldiers for their conduct or
    valor; judges for their integrity; senators for the love of their
    country; or counsellors for their wisdom. * * * I cannot but
    conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of
    little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the
    surface of the earth!"

In the voyage to Laputa the satire is directed against the vanity of
human wisdom, and the folly of abandoning useful occupations for the
empty schemes of visionaries. The philosophers of Laputa had allowed
their land to run to waste, and their people to fall into poverty in
their attempts to "soften marble for pillows and pin-cushions," to
"petrify the hoofs of a living horse to prevent them from foundering,"
to "sow land with chaff," and to "extract sunbeams from cucumbers,
which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm
the air in raw, inclement summers." The satire cannot be considered
too broad when we consider the folly and credulity which, at the time
of the South Sea mania, led many persons into sinking their whole
fortunes in such enterprises as the company "To Fish up Wrecks on the
Irish Coast," to "Make Salt-Water Fresh," to "Extract Silver from
Lead," and to "Import Jackasses from Spain."

It is impossible within the limits of this volume to comment with any
completeness on the application of Gulliver's Travels. The satire
gathered strength and bitterness in its progress, until the limits of
horror were reached in the voyage to the Houyhnhnms. This portion of
the work cannot be considered to apply universally. Man does not here
perceive a truthful reflection of himself. The Houyhnhnms, beings
endowed with reason, but undisturbed and untempted by the passions or
struggles of earthly existence, are not brutes, and are not to be
compared with men. The Yahoos, in their total depravity, are not human;
they represent, and that with a terrible truthfulness, the condition
into which men may fall when their animal instincts and baser passions
are allowed to subvert their reason and their noble qualities. The more
a man suffers his better nature to yield to his lower, the more he
resembles the detestable Yahoo. In this sense alone, the satire applies
generally to mankind; but it applies with peculiar point to some
characteristics of Swift's time. In reading the following passage, it
is impossible not to be reminded of the treatment of Sir Robert Walpole
by his former flatterers and sycophants when his power seemed at an

    Some curious _Houyhnhnms_ observe that in most herds there was a
    sort of ruling _Yahoo_, * * * who was always more deformed in body
    and mischievous in disposition than any of the rest; that this
    leader had usually a favorite as like himself as he could get,
    whose employment was to lick his master's feet * * * and drive the
    female Yahoos to his kennel; for which he was now and then rewarded
    with a piece of ass's flesh. This favorite is hated by the whole
    herd, and, therefore, to protect himself, keeps always near the
    person of his leader. He usually continues in office till a worse
    can be found; but the very moment he is discarded, his successor,
    at the head of all the _Yahoos_ in that district, young and old,
    male and female, come in a body, and * * * (defile) him from head
    to foot.

But Swift, in his denunciation of men under the form of the Yahoos,
disclosed the narrowness of his own misanthropy. When Gulliver has
returned from his last voyage, with a mind which had dwelt on the
beastliness and vice of the human race as it existed in the land of the
Houyhnhnms, his warped judgment is unable to discern in his countrymen
any attributes but those which they seem to share with the Yahoos:--

    My wife and family received me with great surprise and joy, because
    they concluded me certainly dead; but I must freely confess the sight
    of them filled me only with hatred, disgust, and contempt; and the
    more, by reflecting on the near alliance I had to them. * * * As soon
    as I entered the house, my wife took me in her arms and kissed me;
    at which, having not been used to the touch of that odious animal
    for so many years, I fell into a swoon for almost an hour. At the
    time I am writing, it is five years since my last return to England:
    during the first year, I could not endure my wife or children in my
    presence; the very smell of them was intolerable, much less could I
    suffer them to eat in the same room. To this hour they dare not
    presume to touch my bread, or drink out of the same cup; neither
    was I ever able to let one of them take me by the hand.

Thus Swift himself, from the vividness with which he realized, and the
intensity with which he hated, the vices and failings of humanity, was
unable to duly appreciate the good, which, in some measure, always
accompanies the evil.

It was the habit of the great Dean to utter the witticisms which caused
the continual delight or terror of all who approached him with the most
stern composure. Such was the manner of the "Travels." The solemn and
circumstantial narrative style, imitated from the old English explorers
added verisimilitude to the incidents and point to the sarcasm.
Trifles, personal to the traveller and of no consequence to the course
of the story, gave an appearance of truth to the whole work. Thus
Gulliver keeps the reader informed of the most minute details
interesting to himself. "I took part of a small house in the Old Jewry;
and being advised to alter my condition, I married Mrs. Mary Burton,
second daughter to Mr. Edmund Burton, hosier, in Newgate Street, with
whom I received four hundred pounds for a portion." In the same way he
informs us carefully that the date of his sailing on the first voyage
was May 4, 1699, from Bristol, and the storm which destroyed the ship
arose when in the latitude of 30 degrees 2 minutes south. In a work of
fiction only such events are expected as have a direct bearing upon the
development of the plot, and when immaterial details are introduced,
the reader is likely to be impressed with their truth. In this way the
personality of Gulliver is kept up, and he remains, through whatever
strange scenes he passes, the same honest, blunt English sailor.

Yet more remarkable is the skill of the author in maintaining the
probability of the allegory. When living among the Lilliputians,
Gulliver insensibly adopts their ideas of size. He admires as much as
they the prowess of the horseman who clears his shoe at a single leap.
When the committee of the Lilliputian king examine Gulliver's pockets,
they describe his handkerchief as a "great piece of coarse cloth, large
enough to be a foot-cloth to your majesty's chief room of state"; his
purse is "a net, almost large enough for a fisherman," containing
"several massy pieces of yellow metal, which, if they be real gold,
must be of immense value." The same almost mathematical accuracy of
proportion is kept up in the visit to Brobdingnag, and on Gulliver's
return to his native country he experiences as much trouble in
reaccustoming his mind to the ordinary standard as he had met with in
adopting that of pigmies or giants. There was a country clergyman
living in Ireland, who declared there were some things in Gulliver's
Travels he could not quite believe. His difficulty probably occurred in
the "Voyage to the Houyhnhnms." In the latter part of the work Swift
allowed the fiction to yield to the exigencies of the satire. So long
as we can imagine the existence of giants and pigmies, it is easy to
realize all the circumstances connected with Gulliver's existence among
them, but it is impossible to feel the same sense of reality in regard
to horses who live in houses they could not build, and who eat oats
they could not harvest.[154]

The general desire for reform is not more clearly to be seen in Acts of
Parliament than in the works of Swift and Addison. The earlier part of
the century was marked by a strong realization of evil, and by a
constantly growing inclination to suppress it. The first condition is
illustrated by the fierce satire of "Gulliver's Travels," the second
by the earnest admonitions of the _Spectator_. The two great authors
make a striking contrast. Swift, misanthropic, miserable, bitter;
Addison, happy, loving mankind, admired alike by ally and opponent,
Swift, dying mad; Addison, calm, conscious, employing his last moments
to ask pardon of one he had offended. The same contrast is in their
works. Swift dwelt and gloated on the evil about him, exposed it in
more than its own deformity, and left his reader to reflect on his own
degradation. Addison, to whom that evil was almost equally apparent,
but who turned from its contemplation with horror, exerted all his
talents to correct it. "The great and only end of these speculations,"
he tells the reader of the _Spectator_, "is to banish vice and
ignorance out of the territories of Great Britain."

With solemn reproof and delicate raillery, Addison urged women to lay
aside coarseness and folly, and preached against the licentiousness,
swearing, gambling, duelling, and drunkenness of the men. He attacked
with both argument and ridicule the idea so prevalent since the
Restoration, that vice was necessarily associated with pleasure and
elegance, virtue with Puritanism and vulgarity. To teach people to be
witty without being indecent, gay without being vicious, such was the
object of Addison. As M. Taine says, he made morality fashionable. To
do this he exposed the folly and ugliness of vice. But he did more. He
held up to the public view characters who exemplified his teachings,
and were calculated to attract imitation. In the creation and
delineation of these characters he unconsciously began the English

We should look in vain in the pages of Fielding, of Scott, or of George
Eliot, for a more perfect sketch of character than that of Sir Roger
de Coverley. And the minor personages are little less delicately and
naturally drawn. There is the Bachelor of the Inner-Temple, "an
excellent critick," to whom "the time of the play is his hour of
business"; Sir Andrew Freeport, the typical merchant; Captain Sentry,
"a gentleman of great courage, good understanding, but invincible
modesty"; Will Honeycomb, "an honest, worthy man where women are not
concerned"; the clergyman, who has ceased to have "interests in this
world, as one who is hastening to the object of all his wishes, and
conceives hope from his decays and infirmities." "These are my ordinary
companions," says the _Spectator_, whom we soon learn to know very well

Addison's knowledge of human nature, and his skill in delineating it in
single touches, place him in the front rank of writers of fiction,
notwithstanding the limit of his contributions to this department of
literature. In a few words we are made to see and know the Quaker who
reproves the insolent captain on the stage-coach: "Thy mirth, friend,
savoureth of folly; thou art a person of a light mind; thy drum is a
type of thee, it soundeth because it is empty." There is nothing
wanting to the reader's perfect acquaintance with Will Wimble, the poor
relation. All who know Worcestershire, says the _Spectator_, "are very
well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger." His fame has
spread from Worcestershire throughout the English-speaking world, where
he has been loved and admired for more than a hundred and fifty years.
Sir Roger de Coverley is not to be described by any pen but that of
Addison. He exhibits, joined to a perfect simplicity, the qualities of
a just, honest, useful man, and delightful companion. Our acquaintance
with him is a personal one. We know how he appears at his
country-house, surrounded by admiring tenants and servants, and how he
occupies himself in London, and whom he meets there. We know his
ancestry, the extent and management of his estate, his long standing
love affair with the beautiful widow, all his thoughts, opinions, and
surroundings. All who read about Sir Roger remember him with affection.
Addison dwelt with tenderness on every detail regarding him, and
finally described Sir Roger's death to prevent any less reverential pen
from trifling with his hero.

Previous to the publication of the papers of the _Spectator_ relating
to Sir Roger de Coverley, there had been no attempt at what is a
necessary constituent of the modern novel--the study of character.
There had been the romance and the allegory. There had been the short
love story. But with Addison, nature becomes the subject of fiction,
and the novel is begun.

In a review of the remarkable life of Daniel Defoe, he appears to us
under the varied aspects of a tradesman, a pamphleteer, a politician, a
novelist, and, through it all, a reformer. It is in his character as a
novelist that he is now known, and that he is to be considered here.
But there are few among the millions to whom "Robinson Crusoe" has
brought pleasure, who know that the composition of that work was only
one event in a long life of ceaseless labor, political and literary,
and that its author's fame among his contemporaries was assured
independently of it. Defoe's career was so full that both his chief
biographers[155] have found three large volumes to be necessary to do
it justice. And yet it was not until near the end of that busy life,
when the author was fifty-eight years old, feeling the approach of age
and infirmity, and looking about for means to provide for a large
family, that he added the writing of novels to his multifarious

There is probably no writer with whose works his life and personality
are more intimately connected. It is impossible to consider the one
separate from the other. Defoe began to write novels as a tradesman, as
a literary hack, and as a reformer. Being dependent on his pen for his
bread, he wrote what was likely to bring in the most immediate return.
He calculated exactly the value and quality of his wares. He gave to
his fictions the same moral object which inspired his own life. His
novels followed naturally on his other labors, and partook of their
character. It was his custom, on the death of any celebrated person, to
write his life immediately, and to send it to the world while public
interest was still fresh. But being often unable to obtain complete or
authentic information concerning the subject of his biography, he
supplemented facts and rumors by plausible inventions. Fiction entered
into his biographies, just as biography afterward entered into his
novels. But in writing the lives of real individuals Defoe recognized
the necessity of impressing his reader with a sense of the truth and
exactitude of the narrative. This effect he attained by the use of a
literary faculty which he possessed in a degree unequalled by any other
writer--that of circumstantial invention. By the multiplication of
small, unimportant details, each one of which is carefully dwelt upon,
and by the insertion of uninteresting personal incidents and moral
reflections, seeming true from their very dulness, he gave to his work
a remarkable verisimilitude. He did not even issue the book under his
own name, but invented an authorship which would attract attention and
credibility. Thus the "History of Charles XII" was announced on the
title-page as "written by a Scot's gentleman in the Swedish service";
and the "Life of Count Patkul" was "written by a Lutheran minister who
assisted him in his last home, and faithfully translated out of a High
Dutch manuscript."[156] The same characteristics appear in all Defoe's
works. He invents freely, giving the most elaborate details to support
his assertions, and attains to an extraordinary degree the art of
"lying like truth." In the "Journal of the Plague Year," Defoe assumed
with his accustomed ease and skill the character of a plain, blunt
London shopkeeper. He described with such apparent accuracy the
observations of a man who had lived in the scene of that terrible
calamity, giving curious incidents, anecdotes, statistics, after so
methodical a manner, that it was long before any doubts were cast on
the authenticity of the journal. It was a work of imagination, but so
matter-of-fact, that it is difficult to believe the author had any
imagination, and that he had not actually witnessed every occurrence he
so calmly related. It is the same with the "Memoirs of a Cavalier." The
civil wars are described by a young officer who took part in them, who
gives a detailed account of his own opinions, his wardrobe, his horse,
his lodgings. Lord Chatham quoted these memoirs as the true account of
an eye-witness. From writing the life of a well known individual, Defoe
had advanced to writing the life of a fictitious person placed amidst
historical scenes. His next step was to write the life of a fictitious
person amidst fictitious scenes.[157]

The "Journal of the Plague Year" had been issued to satisfy a popular
interest excited by the appearance of the plague in France and the
consequent fear of it in England. A similar public demand occasioned
the composition of "Robinson Crusoe." A sailor named Alexander Selkirk
had been "marooned" on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez, and
after living there alone for more than four years, had been taken off
by the same captain who had abandoned him. The interest taken in
England in the narrative of this event revealed to Defoe's acute mind a
great literary opportunity. But if he was indebted to the adventure of
Selkirk for the fundamental idea of his novel, he was not the less
original. Never has a greater individuality been given to a fictitious
character, or a more vivid impression of life and reality to the
circumstances surrounding him. The combination of ingenuity and
simplicity which distinguishes the work, has, for a century and a half,
had a peculiar fascination for children, and has awakened the wonder
and admiration of men. There are three works of English fiction of
imperishable interest, all of which have attained in a high degree the
quality of reality, and have charmed alike all classes and ages. In the
allegory of "The Pilgrim's Progress," the sense of reality was produced
by the intense realization of the subject by the author, unassisted by
any literary device. In "Gulliver's Travels" the effect was attained by
a skilful observation of exact proportions, added to a circumstantial
and personal method of narration, which Swift probably owed in some
measure to Defoe. If the reader can accept the possible existence of
pigmies and giants, his credulity is put to no further strain. Defoe
had no difficulty of the supernatural to overcome. He had a power
almost as great as that of Bunyan of identifying himself with his hero;
and he surpassed Swift in the power of circumstantial invention.

The story of "Robinson Crusoe" is too intimately known to require
comment. His over-mastering desire to go to sea, his being cast up by
the breakers on the island, his endless labors, and the resolute
determination which overcame them, his dangers, fears, and the
consolation of religion, the foot-print on the sand, the companionship
with Friday, and the final release, are recollections of our childhood
too familiar to be dwelt upon. But in this very familiarity with
Robinson himself, in the brightness and endurance of our idea of him,
in our acquaintance with the inmost workings of his mind and heart, is
contained the evidence that Defoe not only wrote a novel of adventure,
as he had intended, but that he wrote also a novel of character.

If the author of "Robinson Crusoe" could realize so thoroughly the
difficulties and expedients of a man living on a desert island, he
could deal yet more easily with the adventures and shifts of thieves
and abandoned women which formed the subject of his other tales. In
these minor works, now little known, Defoe displayed equal talents, but
did not attain equal results. The enduring interest which must ever
attach to the central idea of "Robinson Crusoe" the complete isolation
of the man--gave that work a very exceptional claim to the attention of
posterity. But it had other merits, which are not apparent in the same
perfection in Defoe's lesser novels. Its design was single and
concentrated, its chief character natural and strongly marked, its
plot coherent and complete. Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack are indeed
well-drawn and real persons, and the design of the works which bear
their names is clear, but in both cases the plot is merely a series of
independent adventures, and the characters themselves could not, from
their nature, long attract the attention of readers. "Colonel Jack,"
"Captain Singleton," "Moll Flanders," and "Roxana," have been
surpassed, and are neglected. "Robinson Crusoe" is, of its kind,
perfect, and therefore enduring.

But the works of Defoe have a historical, almost equal to their
literary, interest. Whoever would attain a correct idea of the
condition of the lower classes in the earlier part of the eighteenth
century, should consult "Moll Flanders" and "Colonel Jack," as much as
the "Newgate Calendar," and histories of crime and labor. What the
author has described, he had seen.

Defoe was throughout his life a reformer; a large proportion of the
many pamphlets and occasional writings which fell from his pen have for
their object the reformation or exposure of some abuse. Yet a large
number of his fictitious characters are thieves and harlots. The
criminal classes occupied the public mind in the first half of the
eighteenth century to a remarkable degree, and Defoe was not mistaken
in thinking that novels concerning those classes would interest and
sell. He knew that the public taste was low, and his business was to
cater to public taste. He said, in "More Reformation":[158]

      Let this describe the nation's character.
      One man reads Milton, forty Rochester;
      The cause is plain, the temper of the time.
      One wrote the lewd, the other the sublime.

To satisfy the forty who read Rochester, Defoe described the lives and
occupations of pirates, pickpockets, highwaymen, and women of abandoned
character. The title-pages of some of these novels cannot with decency
be quoted, and the novels themselves are filled with criminal and
licentious scenes. But the reforming inclination of Defoe himself, and
that which we find in the general literature of the time, induced him
to turn these scenes into a moral account. Moll Flanders is a low,
cunning, thoroughly bad woman, and her life is placed quite bare before
the reader. Yet Defoe asserts that the book is designed to teach a good
lesson.[159] "There is not a superlative villain brought upon the
stage, but either he is brought to an unhappy end, or brought to be a
penitent. There is not an ill thing mentioned, but it is condemned even
in the relation; nor a virtuous, just thing, but it carries its praise
along with it. * * * Upon this foundation the book is recommended to
the reader, as a work from every part of which something may be
learned, and some just and religious inference is drawn." Defoe,
thoroughly a man of his time, thought he could put the coarsest and
most vicious matter before his reader, and reasonably expect him to
profit by the moral, without being hurt by contact with the vice. "All
possible care," he says, "has been taken to give no lewd ideas, no
immodest turns in the dressing up of this story. * * * To this purpose
some of the vicious part of her life, which could not be modestly told,
is quite left out, and several other parts very much shortened. What is
left, 'tis hoped will not offend the chastest reader, or the modestest
hearer." To any one acquainted with "Moll Flanders" this seems a
strange statement. It exhibits the standard of the age. Mrs. Behn said
almost the same thing about her novels and plays. To make up for the
low, vicious life unrolled before us, it is not enough that Moll at
last "grew rich, lived honest, and died penitent."

The aim of "Roxana, or the Fortunate Mistress," like that of "Moll
Flanders," is to describe the gradual corruption of a woman, who is
influenced by some conscientious scruples and misgivings, but the
heroine is placed in a higher station of life. We have a curious
commentary on the times in comparing the body of the work with the
preface. "Roxana" is among the coarsest records of vice in English
fiction. But yet it is to impart moral instruction. "In the manner she
has told the story it is evident she does not insist upon her
justification in any part of it; much less does she recommend her
conduct, or, indeed, any part of it, except her repentance, to our
imitation. On the contrary, she makes frequent excursions, in a just
censuring and condemning her own practice. How often does she reproach
herself in the most passionate manner, and guide us to make just
reflections in the like cases?" The modern reader is astonished to find
"that all imaginable care has been taken to keep clear of indecencies
and immodest expressions; and, it is hoped, you will find nothing to
prompt a vicious mind, but everywhere much to discourage and expose

Defoe is much more successful in teaching a moral lesson in "Colonel
Jack." The aim of this novel is to describe the course of a street-boy
who takes to thieving before he knows that it is not a legitimate
business, and who being possessed naturally of a good character is
brought to repentance and reform when subjected to better influences.
Defoe's preface has great significance when we consider the deplorable
condition of the lower classes and no better idea can be gained of the
usual fate of the children of the poor than is afforded by this novel.

    Here is room for just and copious observations on the blessings and
    advantages of a sober and well-governed education, and the ruin of
    so many thousands of all ranks in this Nation for want of it; here
    also we may see how much public schools and charities might be
    improved, to prevent the destruction of so many unhappy children,
    as, in this town, are every year bred up for the executioner.

    The miserable condition of multitudes of youth, many of whose
    natural tempers are docible, and would lead them to learn the best
    things, rather than the worst, is truly deplorable, and is
    abundantly seen in the history of this man's childhood; where,
    though circumstances formed him by necessity to be a thief,
    surprising rectitude of principles remained with him, and made him
    early abhor the worst part of his trade, and at length to forsake
    the whole of it. Had he come into the world with the advantage of a
    virtuous education, and been instructed how to improve the generous
    principles he had in him, what a figure might he not have made,
    either as a man or a Christian.

The promise of the preface is fulfilled. The whole work is a protest
against the neglect of the education and training of the youth of the
lower classes; and the life of Colonel Jack would be apt to have a good
effect on youthful readers of the time. In Chapter X, when Jack has
risen by his industry and humanity from being a slave on a Virginia
plantation to the rank of an overseer, and finally to that of an
independent planter, he makes a long digression to rejoice in his
change of condition and character:

    It was an inexpressible joy to me, that I was now like to be not
    only a man, but an honest man; and it yielded me a greater
    pleasure, that I was ransomed from being a vagabond, a thief, and a
    criminal, as I had been from a child, than that I was delivered
    from slavery, and the wretched state of a Virginia sold servant; I
    had notion enough in my mind of the hardship of the servant or
    slave, because I had felt it, and worked through it; I remembered
    it as a state of labour and servitude, hardship and suffering. But
    the other shocked my very nature, chilled my blood, and turned the
    very soul within me; the thought of it was like reflections upon
    hell and the damned spirits; it struck me with horror, it was
    odious and frightful to look back on, and it gave me a kind of fit,
    a convulsion or nervous disorder, that was very uneasy to me.

These reflections remind us of the self-communings of Bunyan in "Grace
Abounding in the Chief of Sinners." They express the feelings of
remorse and the longings for a better state arising in the mind of a
rough but conscientious man. They are the promptings of a strong moral
nature, and illustrate those national qualities which brought about the
reforms which distinguish the latter half of the eighteenth century.
Colonel Jack took advantage of every opportunity for improvement. When
a vagabond in Scotland, he learned with infinite pains to read and
write. When a planter in Virginia, he took for his schoolmaster a
transported felon, who knew Latin. This spirit of self-advancement by
patient labor, by invincible resolution, is the spirit of Defoe's
writings; it is the English characteristic which has raised the nation
to all its prosperity and greatness.

When "Robinson Crusoe" had attained celebrity, Defoe claimed that it
was an allegory of his own life. A parallel might easily be drawn
between the isolation of the solitary sailor on his island, and that
of the persecuted author in the heart of a great city. All the world,
and particularly his literary brethren, had been against Defoe. Pope
had put him into the "Dunciad," Swift had spoken of him as "the fellow
who was pilloried, I forget his name," He had known oppression and
poverty, the pillory and the prison. He has left us his own view of the
aim of "Robinson Crusoe."[160] "Here is invincible patience recommended
under the worst of misery; indefatigable application and undaunted
resolution under the greatest and most discouraging circumstances." And
such is the moral of Defoe's own life.

Mrs. Heywood had written a number of stories[161] resembling, in the
licentiousness of their character and the flimsiness of their
construction, the novels of Mrs. Behn. Toward the end of her life she
wrote "Miss Betsey Thoughtless," which is believed to have suggested to
Miss Burney some of the incidents in "Evelina." This novel was
exceedingly popular, and had some merit, considering the period of its
composition. It is among the earliest specimens of a domestic novel;
the plot has interest, and the characters are life-like. It
illustrates, if any illustration were needed, the prevailing absence of
any elevated view, either of love, or of the relations between men and
women. The book is made up of easy seductions and licentious talk, and
represents its youthful characters as very familiar with dissolute
scenes and thoughts.

[Footnote 151: "Julius Cæsar," Act. I, sc. 2. Quoted in Scott's "Life
of Swift." For Swift, see also "Life" by Sheridan, by Roscoe, and by

[Footnote 152: "Life of Swift."]

[Footnote 153: Sir W. Scott. "Life of Swift."]

[Footnote 154: See "Life of Swift," by Scott.]

[Footnote 155: Wilson "Life of Defoe." Lee, "Life of Defoe."]

[Footnote 156: See "Daniel Defoe," by William Minto, p. 135. American

[Footnote 157: William Minto, "Life of Defoe," p. 134:--"From writing
biographies with real names attached to them, it was but a short step
to writing biographies with fictitious names."]

[Footnote 158: "Memoir of Defoe," William Hazlitt, p. 30.]

[Footnote 159: See the preface to "Moll Flanders."]

[Footnote 160: Preface to the "Serious Reflections of Robinson

[Footnote 161: "Love in Excess," "The British Recluse," "The Injured
Husband," "Jenny and Jemmy Bessamy," "The Fortunate Foundling."]


Samuel Richardson might have stood for Hogarth's "Industrious
Apprentice." When a printer's boy, young Samuel stole from his hours
of rest and relaxation the time to improve his mind. He was careful not
to tire himself by sitting up too late at night over his books, and
purchased his own candles, so that his master, who called him the
"pillar of his house," might suffer no injury from his servant's
improvement.[162] Thus Richardson persevered in the path of virtue,
until, like the "Industrious Apprentice," himself, he married his
master's daughter, succeeded to his business, and lived happy and
respected, surrounded by all the blessings which should fall to the lot
of the truly good.

"I was not fond of play, as other boys," says the author of "Pamela";
"my school-fellows used to call me _Serious_ and _Gravity_; and five of
them particularly, delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at
their fathers' houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they
phrased it. Some I told them from my reading, as true; others from my
head, as mere invention; of which they would be most fond. * * * _All
my stories carried with them, I am bold to say, an useful moral._"[163]
In such a manner, and with such an intention, Richardson began his
career as a novelist.

The life of the stout, vain little printer was already well advanced,
his fortune was assured, and he was surrounded by a group of
affectionate relatives and admiring female friends, when he was asked
by a publisher to write "a little book of familiar letters on the
useful concerns in common life." While thinking over this proposal, be
recollected a story once told him of a young servant-girl, whose honor
was long attempted by a dissolute master, and who, by her resolute
chastity, finally conquered his vicious intentions, and was rewarded
by honorable marriage with her thwarted seducer. And then it occurred
to Richardson, that this story, "if written in an easy and natural
manner, suitable to the simplicity of it, might possibly introduce a
new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a
course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance
writing, and, dismissing the improbable and marvellous, with which
novels generally abound, might tend to promote the cause of religion
and virtue." Such was the origin of a novel destined to make a new era
in English fiction. It is evident that Richardson placed before himself
two aims: to promote the cause of religion and virtue, and to introduce
a new species of writing, and in both he succeeded.

The name, "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded," sounds like a tract, and
"Pamela" is, indeed, a very long tract. The contrast is curious between
the moral object of the work and its contents. In the preface we are
told that "Pamela" is to inculcate religion and morality in an easy and
agreeable manner; it is to make vice odious, to make virtue truly
lovely, and to give practical examples, "worthy to be followed, in the
most critical cases, by the modest virgin, the chaste bride, and the
obliging wife." Moreover, all this is to be done, "without raising a
single idea throughout the whole, that shall shock the exactest
purity." Yet, "Pamela" contains not a few scenes likely to inflame the
imagination, and its subject, kept continually before the reader's
mind, is the licentious pursuit of a young girl. This story would not
now do for a tract. But it answered the purpose very well in the
eighteenth century. Richardson had no fear his book would give the
youthful reader any new knowledge of evil, or that the long account of
Pamela's attempted seduction would shock the "exactest purity" of his
time. He simply described the dangers to which every attractive young
woman was more or less subject by the prevailing looseness of morals,
while, by the pathetic and resolute resistance of Pamela's chastity, he
undoubtedly enlisted the sympathies of his reader on the side of
virtue. The perusal of the book was recommended by Dr. Sherlock from
the pulpit. One critic declared that it would do more good than twenty
volumes of sermons; another, that if all other books were to be burnt,
"Pamela" and the Bible should be preserved. A gentleman said that he
would give it to his son as soon as he could read, that he might have
an early impression of virtue.[164]

The moral of "Pamela" was virtue rewarded. That of "Clarissa,"
Richardson's second novel, was virtue triumphant, even in disgrace and
ruin. The heroine, to escape the tyranny of her parents who wished to
force her into a marriage she abhors, throws herself on the protection
of a lover, the famous Lovelace, who, failing to seduce her by any
other means, lures her into a brothel, and there violates her person
while she is rendered insensible by opiates. Lovelace offers to make
reparation for his crime by marriage, but in refusing this offer, and
in dying of a broken heart, Clarissa carries out the moral of the

Richardson was blamed for making the libertine hero, Lovelace, more
attractive than was consistent with moral effect. And to remedy this
mistake, he undertook in "Sir Charles Grandison," his last novel, to
draw the portrait of a man of _true honor_; "acting uniformly well
through a variety of trying scenes, because all his actions are
regulated by one steady principle: a man of religion and virtue; of
liveliness and spirit; accomplished and agreeable; happy in himself,
and a blessing to others." Sir Charles then is not a man, but a model.
"Pamela" and "Clarissa" remained virtuous through temptation and trial.
But Grandison is a good man because he has no inducement to be
otherwise. He can afford to be generous, because he is rich; he can
afford to decline a duel, his reputation for skill in swordsmanship is
so well established that he runs no danger of being called a coward; he
is free from licentiousness, because his passions are under perfect
control. The name of Sir Charles Grandison has passed into a proverb,
and its mention calls up to the mind a man of the most dignified
deportment, of the most delicate consideration for women, and of the
most elaborate manners. But it must be remembered that in Sir Charles,
our author drew the portrait of what a gentleman should be, and not of
what a gentleman was. Even the most punctilious men of the time did
not, like Grandison, hesitate to visit a sick person, because it would
involve travelling on Sunday; nor did they, as he, refuse to have their
horses' tails docked, because nature had humanely given those tails as
a protection against flies. The Grandisonian manners are not to be
taken as a picture of contemporary fashion. Richardson was unacquainted
with aristocratic habits, and his high-flown love scenes were purely
ideal. When he goes into high life, said Chesterfield, "he mistakes the
modes." Not long before Sir Charles was making his formal and courtly
addresses to Miss Byron, Walpole had written to George Montagu: "'Tis
no little inducement to wish myself in France, that I hear gallantry is
not left off there; that you may be polite, and not be thought awkward
for it. You know the pretty men of the age in England use the women
with no more deference than they do their coach horses." Such was the
state of things which the example of Sir Charles Grandison was intended
to remedy.

The moral design is an important element in Richardson's novels, but
the extraordinary popularity of these works was owing to other causes.
Richardson had known how to move his reader's heart, and how to give to
his characters a deep personal interest. He had attempted to introduce
"a new species of writing," and public enthusiasm testified to his
success. Colly Cibber read "Clarissa" before its publication, and was
wrought up into a high state of excitement by the story. "What a
piteous, d----d, disgraceful pickle you have placed her in!" he wrote
to Richardson. "For God's sake, send me the sequel, or--I don't know
what to say! * * * My girls are all on fire and fright to know what can
possibly have become of her." And when he heard that Clarissa was to
have a miserable end, he wrote the author: "God d----n him, if she
should."[165] Mrs. Pilkington was not less distressed: "Spare her
virgin purity, dear sir, spare it! Consider if this wounds both Mr.
Cibber and me (_who neither of us set up for immaculate chastity_),
what must it do with those who possess that inestimable treasure?"[166]
Miss Fielding, the sister of the novelist of that name, thus described,
in a letter to its author, her feelings on reading "Clarissa": "When I
read of her, I am all sensation; my heart glows. I am overwhelmed; my
only vent is tears." One Thomas Turner, who kept a village shop in
Sussex, thus recorded in his diary the impression produced upon him by
the death of Clarissa: "Oh, may the Supreme Being give me grace to
lead my life in such a manner as my exit may in some measure be like
that divine creature's."[167] Johnson was an enthusiastic admirer of
Richardson. Dr. Young looked upon him as an "instrument of Providence."
Ladies at Ranelagh held up "Pamela," to show that they had the famous
book.[168] Nor was this interest confined to the last century. "When I
was in India," said Macaulay to Thackeray, "I passed one hot season at
the hills, and there were the governor-general, and the secretary of
government, and the commander-in-chief, and their wives. I had "Clarissa"
with me, and as soon as they began to read, the whole station was in a
passion of excitement about Miss Harlowe and her misfortunes, and her
scoundrelly Lovelace. The governor's wife seized the book, and the
secretary waited for it, and the chief justice could not read it for
tears!" Macaulay "acted the whole scene," adds Thackeray; "he paced up
and down the Athenæum library; I dare say he could have spoken pages
of the book."[169] But admiration of Richardson was still greater among
foreigners. The novels were translated into French, Dutch, and German,
and the enthusiasm they excited may be imagined from the warmth of
Diderot's eulogy: "I yet remember with delight the first time ('Clarissa')
came into my hands. I was in the country. How deliciously was I affected!
At every moment I saw my happiness abridged by a page. I then experienced
the same sensations those feel who have long lived with one they love,
and are on the point of separation. At the close of the work I seemed to
remain deserted. * * * Oh, Richardson! thou singular genius in my eyes!
thou shalt form my reading at all times. If, forced by sharp necessity,
my friend falls into indigence; if the mediocrity of my fortune is not
sufficient to bestow on my children the necessary cares for their
education, I will sell my books,--but thou shalt remain! Yes, thou shalt
rest in the _same class_ with Moses, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles, to
be read alternately."[170]

What was the secret by which the stout little printer excited such
enthusiasm and won such eulogy? How did he appeal to natures so
different as the worldly Lord Chesterfield, the country shopkeeper, and
the impassioned Diderot? Richardson was the first novelist to stir the
heart and to move the passions, and his power was the more striking
that it was new. His study of human nature had begun early in life. "I
was not more than thirteen," he says, "when three young women, unknown
to each other, having an high opinion of my taciturnity, revealed to me
their love secrets, in order to induce me to give them copies to write
after, or correct, for answers to their lovers' letters. * * * I have
been directed to chide, and even repulse, when an offence was either
taken or given, at the very time when the heart of the chider or
repulser was open before me, overflowing with esteem and affection; and
the fair repulser, dreading to be taken at her word, directed _this_
word, or _that_ expression, to be softened or changed. One, highly
gratified with her lover's fervor and vows of everlasting love, has
said, when I have asked her direction, _I cannot tell you what to
write; but_ (her heart on her lips) _you cannot write too
kindly_."[171] With such an apprenticeship, Richardson had come to
possess a very delicate perception of character, and especially of
female character. There was a certain effeminacy in his own nature
which made him understand women better than men. His best creations are
Pamela and Clarissa. Lovelace and Grandison are drawn from the outside;
they are less real and natural. But Richardson leads his reader into
the inmost recesses of his heroines' hearts. He is at home in
describing the fears, the trials, and the final childlike rejoicings of
Pamela. He attains to a high tragic effect in the death of Clarissa, a
scene which Sir James Mackintosh ranked with Hume's description of the
death of Mary Stuart. In this power to touch the heart and to move the
passions of his reader lay the charm of Richardson's writing. But to
paint perfection, rather than to study nature, was his object in "Sir
Charles Grandison," and therefore that novel was less powerful in the
author's day, and is less interesting in ours than "Pamela" and
"Clarissa." We no longer need the example of the pompous Sir Charles to
dissuade us from indecent language and drunkenness in a lady's
drawing-room, and we can only laugh at the studied propriety of his
faultless intercourse with Miss Byron:

    He kissed my hand with fervor, dropped down on one knee; again
    kissed it--You have laid me, madam, under everlasting obligation;
    and will you permit me before I rise--loveliest of women, will you
    permit me to beg an early day?--

    He clasped me in his; arms with an ardor--that displeased me not on
    reflection. But at the time startled me. He then thanked me again
    on one knee. I held out the hand he had not in his, with intent to
    raise him; for I could not speak. He received it as a token of
    favor; kissed it with ardor; arose; _again_ pressed my cheeks with
    his lips. I was too much surprised to repulse him with anger; but
    was he not too free? Am I a prude, my dear?

    Restrain, check me, madam, whenever I seem to trespass on your
    goodness. Yet how shall I forbear to wish you to hasten the day
    that shall make you wholly mine? You will the rather allow me to
    wish it, as you will then be more than ever your own mistress;
    though you have always been generously left to a discretion that
    never was more deservedly trusted to. Your will, madam, will ever
    comprehend mine.

The verisimilitude of Richardson's novels, which is made so striking by
his feminine attention to detail, may seem destroyed to modern readers
by the apparent improbability of the narrative itself. It appears
strange that young girls like Pamela or Clarissa should be so entirely
in the power of their seducers, that incidents should be repeated with
impunity which the existence of a police force would seem to make
impossible. But the reader whose sense of probability is shocked by the
unpunished and uninterrupted villanies of Mr. B. and of Lovelace, can
find evidence of the security with which such crimes could be committed
by the rich and influential in the Newgate calendar. The forcible
detention in his own house, by Lord Baltimore, of a young girl, his
atrocious treatment of her, and his escape from punishment, are
incidents in real life not more remarkable than the fictions of the

Sir Walter Scott lamented, early in the present century, the neglect
into which the works of Richardson had fallen. That neglect has not
since been diminished, for obvious reasons. "Surely, sir," said Erskine
to Johnson, "Richardson is very tedious." "Why, sir," was the
lexicographer's reply, "if you were to read Richardson for the story,
your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself,
but you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only
giving occasion to the sentiment." But the reader of today will agree
with Erskine in thinking that Richardson is tedious. We have so many
good novels which do not require the attention and labor exacted by
him. We live so fast that we cannot spare the time for so much
sentiment. These novels, like the elaborate embroideries of the last
century, belong to a period when life was less full, and books less
abundant. Samuel Richardson will take his place among the great authors
who are much admired and little read, whose works every educated person
should have heard of, but upon which very few would like to be

With Richardson's novels English fiction took a long step forward; but
it made a still greater advance in the hands of Henry Fielding. The
latter was peculiarly well fitted by his talents and experience to
carry the novel to a high position of importance and artistic merit. He
united a considerable dramatic, and a great narrative power with an
exuberant wit and an extensive knowledge of men. Allied to a noble
family, but oppressed by poverty, Fielding mingled during his life with
all classes of society. The Hon. George Lyttleton was his friend and
protector, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was his cousin. On the other hand,
his poverty and improvidence constantly kept him, as Lady Mary put it,
"raking in the lowest rinks of vice and misery." Richardson, who always
denounced Fielding's works as "wretchedly low and dirty," said
sneeringly: "his brawls, his jars, his jails, his spunging-houses are
all drawn from what he has seen and known." But in this ungenerous
sneer lay a substantial compliment. Fielding did describe what he had
seen and known, and the variety of his experience gave him a breadth
and power in describing human nature which the confined life of
Richardson could not afford. The two novelists cannot be fairly
compared, nor should they be considered as rivals. They pursued
different methods, and aimed at opposite effects. Each has a high place
in English literature, which the greatness of the other cannot depress.
Richardson is best able to make his reader weep, and Fielding to make
him laugh.

Fielding was a tall, handsome fellow, so full of life and spirits that
"his happy disposition," to quote Lady Mary, "made him forget every
evil when he was before a venison-pastry, or over a flask of
champagne." This rollicking, careless joyousness is the tone of his
books. Whether taken to a prison, an inn, or a lady's boudoir, whether
watching the breaking of heads, the blackening of eyes, or the making
of love, the reader is always kept smiling.

Fielding is often censured by moralists for the coarseness of his
novels. But had he not been coarse he would not have been true. He
described life as it was in the eighteenth century, as he had seen it
in the ups and downs of a checkered career. His characters were taken
from the higher ranks and the lower. He placed the house, the
amusements, the habits of a country gentleman before the reader with
the faithfulness of a man who had hunted, feasted, and got drunk with
country-gentlemen. He described the miserable prisons of his time as he
only could who had mingled with their degraded inmates, and had exerted
his power as a police magistrate to break up the gangs of ruffians who
infested the streets. Thus Fielding's novels have a high historical, as
well as a literary value. Mr. Lecky has testified to their importance
in a reconstruction of the past by placing "Amelia" among his
authorities. Squire Allworthy, Squire Western, Tom Jones, Parson Adams,
are characters to be studied by whoever would understand social life in
the eighteenth century. The lovely Sophia, the modest Fanny, and above
all Amelia, whom Thackeray considered "the most charming character in
English fiction," are portraits in the gallery of history.[172]

As Fielding set out to describe truth and nature as he saw them, the
reader must put away his notions of refinement and delicacy. He must be
prepared to be entertained by blows, licentious assaults, a tub of
hog's blood thrown by a clergyman, coarse practical jokes, foul talk,
all put before him without disguise or circumlocution. As he follows
Parson Adams, Joseph, and Fanny in their journey, he must always be
ready for a fight. Here is a specimen:

    "The captain * * * drew forth his hanger as Adams approached him,
    and was levelling a blow at his head which would probably have
    silenced the preacher forever, had not Joseph in that instant
    lifted up a certain huge stone pot of the chamber with one hand,
    which six beaux could not have lifted with both, and discharged it,
    together with the contents, full in the captain's face. The
    uplifted hanger dropped from his hand, and he fell prostrate on the
    floor with a lumpish noise, and his half-pence rattled in his
    pocket: the red liquor which his veins contained, and the white
    liquor which the pot contained, ran in one stream down his face and
    his clothes. Nor had Adams quite escaped, some of the water having
    in its passage shed its honors on his head, and begun to trickle
    down the wrinkles, or rather furrows, of his cheeks; when one of
    the servants snatching a mop out of a pail of water, which had
    already done its duty in washing the house, pushed it in the
    parson's face; yet could he not bear him down; for the parson
    wresting the mop from the fellow with one hand, with the other
    brought his enemy as low as the earth."[173]

To obtain any adequate idea of the range of Fielding's pictures of
human nature, the reader must consult the novels themselves. Propriety
forbids the insertion here of quotations which could convey an
impression of the happy dissoluteness of Tom Jones, the brutal
coarseness of Squire Western, or the scenes of unblushing license which
pervade the novels of Henry Fielding. But a sample of the witty, jovial
tone which has made these novels so popular may be of interest to
readers who are not inclined to open "Tom Jones" itself. The following
scene was occasioned by the appearance of Molly Seagrim in church, in
unaccustomed and ostentatious finery, and is described in the Homeric
style, which Fielding sometimes adopted with such humorous effect.

    As a vast herd of cows in a rich farmer's yard, if, while they are
    milked, they hear their calves at a distance, lamenting the robbery
    which is then committing, roar and bellow: so roared forth the
    Somersetshire mob an halloloo, made up of almost as many squalls,
    screams, and other different sounds, as there were persons, or
    indeed passions, among them. Some were inspired by rage, others
    alarmed by fear, and others had nothing in theirs heads but the
    love of fun; but chiefly Envy, the sister of Satan and his constant
    companion, rushed among the crowd and blew up the fury of the
    women; who no sooner came up to Molly than they pelted her with
    dirt and rubbish.

    Molly, having endeavored in vain to make a handsome retreat, faced
    about; and laying hold of ragged Bess, who advanced in the front
    of the enemy, she at one blow felled her to the ground. The whole
    army of the enemy (though near a hundred in number), seeing the
    fate of their general, gave back many paces, and retired beyond a
    new dug grave; for the church-yard was the field of battle, where
    there was to be a funeral that very evening. Molly pursued her
    victory, and catching up a skull which lay on the side of the
    grave, discharged it with such fury, that having hit a tailor on
    the head, the two skulls sent equally forth a hollow sound at their
    meeting, and the tailor took presently measure of his length on the
    ground, where the skulls lay side by side, and it was doubtful
    which was the more valuable of the two. Molly, then taking a thigh
    bone in her hand, fell in among the flying ranks, and dealing her
    blows with great liberality on either side, overthrew the carcass
    of many a mighty hero and heroine. Recount, O muse, the names of
    those who fell on this fatal day. First Jemmy Tweedle felt on his
    hinder head the direful bone. Him the pleasant banks of sweetly
    winding Stour had nourished, where he first learnt the vocal art,
    with which, wandering up and down at wakes and fairs, he cheered
    the rural nymphs and swains, when upon the green they interweaved
    the sprightly dance; while he himself stood fiddling and jumping to
    his own music. How little now avails his fiddle! He thumps the
    verdant floor with his carcass. Next old Echepole, the sow-gelder,
    received a blow in his forehead from our Amazonian heroine, and
    immediately fell to the ground. He was a swinging fat fellow, and
    fell with almost as much noise as a house. His tobacco-box dropt at
    the same time from his pocket, which Molly took up as lawful
    spoils. Then Kate of the Mill tumbled unfortunately over a
    tombstone, which catching hold of her ungartered stocking, inverted
    the order of nature, and gave her heels the superiority to her
    head. Betty Pippin, with young Roger her lover, fell both to the
    ground; where, O Perverse Fate! she salutes the earth, and he the

Fielding had shown more than any predecessor the possibilities of
fiction in the study of character and the illustration of manners, and
to the art of the narrator, he had added that of the dramatist. The
falling of the rug in Molly Seagrim's bedroom[175] is one of the
happiest incidents ever devised, and no doubt suggested to Sheridan the
falling of the screen in the "School for Scandal." But the chief
distinction of Fielding lies in his having carried the novel to a high
point as a work of art. It was the opinion of Coleridge that the
"Oedipus Tyrannus," "The Alchemist," and "Tom Jones," were the three
most perfect plots ever planned.[176] It is to this excellence of
plot--the subordination of each minor circumstance to the general aim,
the skill with which all events are made to lead up to the final
dénouement--that Fielding, if any one, deserves the title of the
founder of the English novel. But to give this title to any individual
is a manifest injustice. The novel was developed, not created; and in
that development many minds took part. Short love stories had been made
familiar in England by the Italian writers. Such, also, had been
produced by Mrs. Behn, Mrs. Manley, and Mrs. Heywood. Defoe had written
novels of adventure, in one of which, at least, is found the
combination of a character well drawn and a plot well executed. In the
number of his characters and the complication of his plot, Richardson
had surpassed Defoe. It is the merit of Fielding to have combined in a
far greater degree than those who had gone before the characteristic
qualities of the novel. In others we see the promise, in him the

And this was in no respect the result of an accident. Fielding looked
upon his first work as a new attempt in English literature. "Joseph
Andrews" was first intended to be merely a satire on "Pamela." But study
and reflection on the nature of his work determined Fielding to produce
a "prose epic." "The epic as well as the drama," he said in the preface,
"is divided into tragedy and comedy." Now, he continued, "when any kind
of writing contains all the other parts (of the epic), such as fable,
action, characters, sentiments, and diction, and is deficient in metre
only; it seems, I think, reasonable to refer it to the epic." Such, too,
was the opinion of the Chevalier Bunsen. "The romance of modern times,"
he says in his preface to "Soll und Haben" * * * "represents the latest
_stadium_ of the epic. Every romance is intended, or ought to be, a new
Iliad or Odyssey; in other words, a poetic representation of a course of
events consistent with the highest laws of moral government, whether it
delineate the general history of a people, or narrate the fortunes of a
chosen hero. * * * The excellence of a romance, like that of an epic or
a drama, lies in the apprehension and truthful exhibition of the course
of human things."[177] Lord Byron expressed his opinion that Fielding
had realized this view of the nature of the novel by calling him the
prose Homer of human nature.

Fielding's novels are now considered unfit for general perusal. In
considering the coarseness and immorality of a writer, the intention and
the result must be separated. That Fielding's works are coarse, and that
they contain scenes and characters of a dissolute nature, is neither to
be denied nor to be regretted. If they were more pure, they would be
less valuable from a historical point of view; less true to nature, and
therefore less artistic. That the author's intention was far from the
production of works with an evil tendency, is evident. He was careful
to say in the preface to "Joseph Andrews": "It may be objected to me
that I have against my own rules introduced vices, and of a very black
kind, in this work. To which I shall answer first, that it is very
difficult to pursue a series of human actions, and keep clear from them.
Secondly, that the vices to be found here are rather the accidental
consequences of some human frailty or foible, than causes habitually
existing in the mind. Thirdly, that they are never set forth as the
objects of ridicule, but detestation. Fourthly, that they are never
the principal figure at that time on the scene; and lastly, they never
produce the intended evil." And again, still more strongly, Fielding
claims the merit of purity and moral effect for "Tom Jones," "I hope
my reader will be convinced, at his very entrance on this work, that
he will find, in the whole course of it, nothing prejudicial to the
cause of religion and virtue; nothing inconsistent with the strictest
rules of decency, nor which can offend the chastest eye in the perusal.
On the contrary, I declare, that to recommend goodness and innocence
hath been my sincere endeavor in this history. * * * Besides displaying
that beauty of virtue which may attract the admiration of mankind, I have
attempted to engage a stronger motive to human action in her favor, by
convincing men that their true interest directs them to a pursuit of her.
For this purpose I have shown, that no acquisitions of guilt can
compensate the loss of that solid inward comfort of mind, which is the
sure companion of innocence and virtue; nor can in the least balance the
evil of that horror and anxiety which, in their room, guilt introduced
into our bosoms."

Thus, it is evident, that Fielding had no desire to write what might be
harmful. The contrast between his promise and his fulfilment is simply
an illustration of the standard of his time. His novels are coarse to a
degree which may nullify their merits in the eyes of some readers of
the present day, and may unfit them for the perusal of very young
people. But this is simply because the standard in such matters has
changed, and not because the novels were purposely made dissolute.
Their coarseness was adapted to the lack of refinement in thought and
speech characteristic of that time. Fielding wished to "laugh mankind
out of their follies and vices." In his coarseness there is always an
open, frank laughter. There is none of that veiled pruriency which
lurks underneath the more conventionally expressed, but really vicious
sentiments that are to be found in too many novels of our own day.

The novel was well defined in character and well established in
popularity when Smollett entered the field so well occupied by
Richardson and Fielding. On this account his works have a less
important place in the history of fiction than those of his
predecessors. While he added greatly to the store of fictitious
writing, he developed no new ideas concerning it. Fielding had
announced at the outset of his career as a novelist that he had taken
Cervantes as a prototype, and the influence of the great Spanish writer
is plainly visible in "Joseph Andrews." But in the literary workmanship
of his two later novels, Fielding's entire originality is undeniable.
Smollett, however, is plainly an imitator of Le Sage. He did not aim at
that artistic construction of plot, which is Fielding's chief merit.
The novel, in his hands, became rather a series of adventures, linked
together by their occurrence to the same individuals. "A novel," he
said, "is a large, diffused picture, comprehending the characters of
life, disposed in different groups, and exhibited in various attitudes,
for the purposes of a uniform plan and general occurrence, to which
every individual figure is subservient. But this plan cannot be
executed with propriety, probability, or success, without a principal
personage to attract the attention, unite the incidents, unwind the
clue of the labyrinth, and at last close the scene by virtue of his
importance."[178] But Smollett presents the "different groups" and
"various attitudes" of his "diffused picture" with a luxuriance of
imagination, a fidelity to nature, and an exuberance of broad humor
which inspire interest even when they occasion disgust. If he added
nothing new to the novel from a purely literary point of view, his
works have an exceptional historical value.

His life was well adapted to educate him as an observer and student of
human nature. Of a good Scotch family, but obliged by poverty to rely
on his own efforts for a living, he mixed familiarly with varied
classes of men. As a surgeon in London, he came in contact with the
middle and lower ranks of the city, from which many of his best
characters are taken. As surgeon's mate on board a man-of-war, he
obtained that acquaintance with a seafaring life which was afterward
turned to such excellent account.

Of Smollett's works, "Humphrey Clinker" is the most humorous, "Roderick
Random" the simplest and most natural, "Perigrine Pickle," the most
elaborate and brilliant. The reader is conducted from adventure to
adventure with an unfailing interest, sustained by the distinctness of
the picture and the brightness of the coloring. The characters met with
are natural and well studied. Trunnion, Hatchway, Pipes, Lieutenant
Bowling, and Jack Rattlin are all distinctly seamen, and yet each has a
marked individuality of his own. Matthew Bramble and Winifred Jenkins
are among the best-drawn and most entertaining of fictitious
personages. Smollett's humor is usually of the broadest and most
elementary kind. It consists largely of hard blows, _a-propos_
knockdowns, and practical jokes. More than any novelist, he illustrates
the coarseness of his time. His pages are filled with cruelties and
blackguardism. Many of his principal characters are dissolute without
enjoyment, and brutal without good nature. Modern taste is shocked by
the succession of repulsive scenes and degrading representations of
vice which are often intended to amuse, and always to entertain. But it
is because life in the eighteenth century had so many repulsive
features, that the novels of the time often repel the modern reader,
There is nothing strained or uncommon in the experiences of Miss
Williams while in prison:

    There I saw nothing but rage, anguish, and impiety; and heard
    nothing but groans, curses, and blasphemy. In the midst of this
    hellish crew, I was subjected in the tyranny of a barbarian, who
    imposed upon me tasks that I could not possibly perform, and then
    punished my incapacity with the utmost rigor and inhumanity. I was
    often whipped into a swoon, and lashed out of it, during which
    miserable intervals I was robbed by my fellow-prisoners of every
    thing about me, even to my cap, shoes, and stockings; I was not
    only destitute of necessaries, but even of food, so that my
    wretchedness was extreme. Not one of my acquaintance, to whom I
    imparted my situation, would grant me the least succor or regard,
    on pretence of my being committed for theft; and my landlord
    refused to part with some of my own clothes, which I sent for,
    because I was indebted to him for a week's lodging. Overwhelmed
    with calamity, I grew desperate, and resolved to put an end to my
    grievances and life together; for this purpose I got up in the
    middle of the night, when I thought everybody around me asleep, and
    fixing one end of my handkerchief to a large hook in the ceiling
    that supported the scales on which the hemp is weighed, I stood
    upon a chair, and making a noose on the other end, put my neck into
    it with an intention to hang myself; but before I could adjust the
    knot, I was surprised and prevented by two women who had been awake
    all the while, and suspected my design. In the morning my attempt
    was published among the prisoners, and punished with thirty
    stripes, the pain of which co-operating with my disappointment and
    disgrace, bereft me of my senses, and threw me into an ecstasy of
    madness, during which I tore the flesh from my bones with my teeth,
    and dashed my head against the pavement.[179]

While Smollett mingled such scenes of misery with coarse adventures and
coarse humor, he is yet always true to nature and always picturesque.
He keeps the reader's attention even when he offends his taste. He
impaired the literary merit of "Perigrine Pickle," but at the same time
added to its dissolute character and its immediate popularity by the
forced insertion of the licentious "Memoirs of a Lady of Quality." Now
a serious blemish, these memoirs formed at the time an added attraction
to the book. They were eagerly read as the authentic account of Lady
Vane, a notorious woman of rank, and were furnished to Smollett by
herself, in the hope, fully gratified, that her infamous career might
be known to future generations.[180]

That the standard of public taste was rising, would appear from the
fact that in the second edition of "Perigrine Pickle," Smollett found
it advisable to "reform the manners and correct the expression" of the
first; but when "he flatters himself that he has expunged every
adventure, phrase, and insinuation that could be construed by the most
delicate reader into a trespass upon the rules of decorum," he does not
give a high idea of the standard of the "most delicate reader." But
Smollett has left an account of his own views regarding the moral
effect of the pictures of vice and degradation which his works contain,
and that account is a striking statement of contemporary feeling upon
the subject:

    The same principle by which we rejoice at the remuneration of
    merit, will teach us to relish the disgrace and discomfiture of
    vice, which is always an example of extensive use and influence,
    because it leaves a deep impression of terror upon the minds of
    those who were not confirmed in the pursuit of morality and virtue,
    and, while the balance wavers, enables the right scale to
    preponderate. * * * The impulses of fear, which is the most violent
    and interesting of all the passions, remain longer than any other
    upon the memory; and for one that is allured to virtue by the
    contemplation of that peace and happiness which it bestows, an
    hundred are deterred from the practice of vice, by the infamy and
    punishment to which it is liable from the laws and regulations of
    mankind. Let me not, therefore, be condemned for having chosen my
    principal character from the purlieus of treachery and fraud, when
    I declare that my purpose is to set him up as a beacon for the
    benefit of the inexperienced and the unwary, who, from the perusal
    of these memoirs, may learn to avoid the manifold snares with which
    they are continually surrounded in the paths of life; while those
    who hesitate on the brink of iniquity may he terrified from
    plunging into that irremediable gulph, by surveying the deplorable
    fate of Ferdinand Count Fathom.[181]

This passage illustrates with remarkable fidelity the attitude, not
only of Smollett, but of the other novelists and the general public of
the first half of the eighteenth century, toward vice and crime. The
consciousness of evil and the desire for reformation were prominent
features of the time. But to deter men from wrong-doing, fear was the
only recognized agent. There was absolutely no feeling of philanthropy.
There was no effort to prevent crime through the education or
regulation of the lower classes; there was no attempt to reform the
criminal when convicted. The public fear of the criminal classes was
expressed in the cruel and ineffective code which punished almost every
offense with death. The corruptions which pervaded the administration
of justice made it almost impossible to punish the wealthy and
influential. When Smollett declared that the miserable fate of Count
Fathom would deter his reader from similar courses by a fear of similar
punishment, when Defoe urged the moral usefulness of "Moll Flanders"
and "Roxana," the two novelists simply expressed the general feeling
that the sight of a malefactor hanging on the gallows was the most
effective recommendation to virtue. In the same spirit in which justice
exposed the offender in the stocks to public view, the novelist
described his careers of vice ending in misery, and Hogarth conducted
his Idle Apprentice from stage to stage till Tyburn Hill is reached.
The same moral end is always in view, but the lesson is illustrated by
the ugliness of vice, and not by the beauty of virtue. In our time we
have reason to be thankful for a criminal legislation tempered by mercy
and philanthropy. We have attained, too, a standard of taste and of
humanity which has banished the degrading exhibitions of public
punishments, which has largely done away with coarseness and brutality,
and has added much to the happiness of life. In fiction, the writer who
wishes to serve a moral purpose attains his end by the more agreeable
method of holding up examples of merit to be imitated, rather than of
vice to be shunned.

But when the great novelists of the eighteenth century were writing,
the standard of taste was extremely low. The author knew that he was
keeping his reader in bad company, and was supplying his mind with
coarse ideas, but he believed that he might do this without offense.
Defoe thought that "Moll Flanders" would not "offend the chastest
reader or the modestest hearer"; Richardson, that the prolonged effort
to seduce Pamela could be described "without raising a single idea
throughout the whole that shall shock the exactest purity"; Fielding,
that there was nothing in "Tom Jones" which "could offend the chastest
eye in the perusal." Nor, as concerned their own time, were they
mistaken. They clearly understood the distinction between coarseness
and immorality. The young women who read "Tom Jones" with enthusiasm
were not less moral than the women who now avoid it, they were only
less refined. They did not think vice less reprehensible, but were more
accustomed to the sight of it, and therefore less easily offended by
its description.

While the novels of which we have been speaking were making their first
appearance, there lived in Kent a charming young lady who went by the
name of "the celebrated Miss Talbot." She had attained this distinction
by her great cultivation. She had studied astronomy and geography, was
"mistress of French and Italian," and knew a little Latin. When she was
only twenty years of age, the Dean of Canterbury spoke of her with high
admiration. Her acquaintance was eagerly sought by accomplished young
ladies, and by none more successfully than "the learned" Miss Carter.
Both of these girls read the novels of the day, and fortunately
recorded some of their opinions in the letters which passed between
them.[182] "I want much to know," wrote Miss Talbot, "whether you have
yet condescended to read 'Joseph Andrews.'" "I must thank you," replied
Miss Carter, "for the perfectly agreeable entertainment I have met in
reading 'Joseph Andrews.' It contains such a surprising variety of
nature, wit, morality, and good sense, as is scarcely to be met with in
any one composition, and there is such a spirit of benevolence through
the whole, as, I think renders it peculiarly charming," Some years
later the Bishop of Gloucester came to visit Miss Talbot's family, and
read "Amelia," the young lady wrote, while he was nursing his cold by
the fireside. Miss Carter replied that "in favor of the bishop's cold,
his reading 'Amelia' in silence may be tolerated, but I am somewhat
scandalized that, since he did not read it to you, you did not read it
yourself." "The more I read 'Tom Jones,'" wrote Miss Talbot, "the more
I detest him, and admire Clarissa Harlowe,--yet there are in it things
that must touch and please every good heart, and probe to the quick
many a bad one, and humor that it is impossible not to laugh at." "I am
sorry," replied Miss Carter, "to find you so outrageous about poor Tom
Jones; he is no doubt an imperfect, but not a detestable character,
with all that honesty, good-nature, and generosity." Miss Talbot, in a
later letter, said that she had once heard a lady piously say to her
son that she wished with all her heart he was like Tom Jones.[183] In
1747 "Clarissa" was read aloud at the palace of the Bishop of Oxford,
Miss Talbot's uncle. "As for us," she wrote, "we lived quite happy the
whole time we were reading it, and we made that time as long as we
could, too, for we only read it _en famille_, at set hours, and all the
rest of the day we talked of it. One can scarcely persuade one's self
that they are not real characters and living people." Even "Roderick
Random" made part of the young ladies' reading. "It is a very strange
and a very low book," commented the Bishop's celebrated niece, "though
not without some characters in it, and, I believe, some very just,
though very wretched descriptions."

[Footnote 162: Mrs. Barbauld's "Life of Richardson," vol. 1, p. 42.
Scott's "Life of Richardson."]

[Footnote 163: Mrs. Barbauld's "Life of Richardson," vol. 1, p. 37.]

[Footnote 164: _Edinburgh Review._ Oct., 1804. Scott's "Life of
Richardson," note.]

[Footnote 165: Richardson's correspondence, 1748.]

[Footnote 166: Richardson's correspondence. Forsyth's "Novels and
Novelists," p. 251.]

[Footnote 167: See the interesting "Glimpses of Our Ancestors," by
Charles Fleet, p. 33.]

[Footnote 168: Mrs. Barbauld's "Life of Richardson."]

[Footnote 169: W.M. Thackeray, "Nil Nisi Bonum", _Cornhill Mag._, No. 1.]

[Footnote 170: D'Israeli's "Curiosities of Literature," art.

[Footnote 171: Mrs. Barbauld's "Life of Richardson," vol. I, p. 40.
Scott's "Life of Richardson."]

[Footnote 172: The reader may find some curious examples of the
fidelity with which Fielding portrayed contemporary character and
manners in comparing passages in "Tom Jones," with "Glimpses of our
Ancestors," by Charles Fleet, pp. 38, 39, _et passim_.]

[Footnote 173: "Joseph Andrews," book III, chap. 9.]

[Footnote 174: "Tom Jones," book iv, ch. 8.]

[Footnote 175: Samuel Rogers, "Table Talk," p. 227.]

[Footnote 176: Coleridge, "Table Talk," p. 339, vol. 2, London, 1835.]

[Footnote 177: Preface to "Debit and Credit" ("Soll und Haben"), by
Gustav Freitag.]

[Footnote 178: "Adventures of Count Fathom," letter of dedication.]

[Footnote 179: "Roderick Random," chap. xxiii.]

[Footnote 180: 'The wife of William, second Viscount Vane, "was the too
celebrated Lady Vane; first married to Lord William Hamilton, and
secondly to Lord Vane; who has given her own extraordinary and
disreputable adventures to the world in Smollett's novel of 'Perigrine
Pickle,' under the title of 'Memoirs of a Lady of Quality.'"--Walpole
to Mann, Nov 23, 1743. "The troops continue going to Flanders, but
slowly enough. Lady Vane has taken a trip thither after a cousin of
Lord Berkeley, who is as simple about her as her own husband is, and
has written to Mr. Knight at Paris to furnish her with what money she
wants. He says she is vastly to blame, for he was trying to get her a
divorce from Lord Vane, and then would have married her himself. Her
adventures are worthy to be bound up with those of my good
sister-in-law, the German Princess, and Moll Flanders."--Walpole to
Mann, June 14, 1742.]

[Footnote 181: "Adventures of Count Fathom," letter of dedication.]

[Footnote 182: "The Carter and Talbot Correspondence," Ed. by Rev.
Montagu Pennington, 1809.]

[Footnote 183: See "The Carter and Talbot Correspondences."]




We have observed in the earlier works of fiction of the eighteenth
century, together with great coarseness of thought and manners, the
reflection of a strong moral and reforming tendency. As early as the
reign of William III, Parliament had requested the king to issue
proclamations to justices of the peace, instructing them to put in
execution the neglected laws against open licentiousness.[184] In 1698,
Collier published his "Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of
the English Stage," a powerful and effective protest against the
depravity of the drama. At about the same time had been formed the
Societies for the Reformation of Manners, which energetically attacked
the more flagrant forms of crime. "England, bad as she is," wrote Defoe
in 1706, "is yet a reforming nation; and the work has made more
progress from the court even to the street, than, I believe, any nation
in the world can parallel in such a time and in such circumstances."
Toward the middle of the century, these tendencies took effect in the
Methodist Revival, a movement destined to exert a profound influence
on society. Accompanying this revival, or resulting from it, were many
important reforms. The corruption of political life gradually
diminished. A new patriotism and unselfishness began to appear in
public men. A spirit of philanthropy arose which corrected some of the
worst social abuses. Under the leadership of the noble John Howard, the
prisons, so long the abandoned haunts of squalor, oppression, and
misery, were considerably redeemed from their shameful condition. Beau
Nash marked the progress of peaceful and law-abiding habits by formally
forbidding the wearing of swords wherever his fashionable authority was
recognized. In the fiction of the latter half of the eighteenth century
is illustrated a gradual transition of morals and taste from the
unbridled coarseness of the century's earlier years to the comparative
refinement of our own times.

There lived in Sussex about the time of the Methodist revival, a
thriving shopkeeper named Thomas Turner. He had received a good
education, and in early life had been a schoolmaster. On reading
"Clarissa" he had exclaimed, what would have gladdened the heart of
Richardson: "Oh, may the Supreme Being give me grace to lead my life in
such a manner as my exit may in some measure be like that divine
creature's!" His literary tastes were so pronounced and varied that in
the space of six weeks he had read Gray's "Poems," Stewart "On the
Supreme Being," the "Whole Duty of Man," "Paradise Lost and Regained,"
"Othello," the "Universal Magazine," Thomson's "Seasons," Young's
"Night Thoughts," Tournefort's "Voyage to the Levant," and "Perigrine
Pickle." This scholarly tradesman kept a diary, in which he recorded
his thoughts, his studies, and his amusements with a frankness which
deserves the thanks of posterity. Some passages of his diary, in their
illustration of the combination of licence, coarseness, and moral
earnestness characteristic of the writer's time may greatly assist us
in appreciating the power and influence of the religious revival.[185]

"I went to the audit and came home drunk. But I think never to exceed
the bounds of moderation more. * * * "Sunday, 28th, went down to Jones',
where we drank one bowl of punch and two muggs of bumboo; and I came
home again in liquor. Oh, with what horrors does it fill my heart, to
think I should be guilty of doing so, and on a Sunday, too! Let me once
more endeavour, never, no never, to be guilty of the same again. * * * I
read part of the fourth volume of the _Tatler_; the oftener I read it,
the better I like it. I think I never found the vice of drinking so well
exploded in my life, as in one of the numbers." In January, 1751,
"Mr. Elless (the schoolmaster), Marchant, myself, and wife sat down to
whist about seven o'clock, and played all night; very pleasant, and I
think I may say innocent mirth, there being no oaths nor imprecations
sounding from side to side, as is too often the case at cards."
February 2, "we supped at Mr. Fuller's, and spent the evening with a
great deal of mirth, till between one and two. Tho, Fuller brought my
wife home on his back, I cannot say I came home sober, though I was far
from being bad company. I think we spent the evening with a great deal
of pleasure." March 7th, a party met at Mr. Joseph Fuller's,
"drinking," records our diarist, "like horses, as the vulgar phrase
is, and singing, till many of us were very drunk, and then we went to
dancing, and pulling of wigs, caps, and hats; and thus we continued in
this frantic manner, behaving more like mad people than they that
profess the name of Christians." Three days after, the same amusements
are enjoyed at the house of Mr. Porter, the clergyman of the parish,
except "there was no swearing and ill words, by reason of which Mr.
Porter calls it innocent mirth, but I in opinion differ much
therefrom." Mr. Turner had no great reason to respect the opinion of
clergymen on such matters. Soon after, "Mr. ----, the curate of
Laughton, came to the shop in the forenoon, and he having bought some
things of me (and I could wish he had paid for them), dined with me,
and also staid in the afternoon till he got in liquor, and being so
complaisant as to keep him company, I was quite drunk. How do I detest
myself for being so foolish!" A little later, Mr, Turner attended a
vestry meeting, at which "we had several warm arguments, and several
vollies of execrable oaths oftentime redounded from almost all parts of
the room.

"About 4 P.M. I walked down to Whyly. We played at bragg the first part
of the even. After ten we went to supper, on four broiled chicken, four
boiled ducks, minced veal, cold roast goose, chicken pastry, and ham.
Our company, Mr. and Mrs. Porter, Mr. and Mrs. Coates, Mrs. Atkins,
Mrs. Hicks, Mr. Piper and wife, Joseph Fuller and wife, Tho. Fuller and
wife, Dame Durrant, myself and wife, and Mr. French's family. After
supper our behaviour was far from that of serious, harmless mirth; it
was downright obstreperious, mixed with a great deal of folly and
stupidity. Our diversion was dancing or jumping about, without a violin
or any musick, singing of foolish healths, and drinking all the time
as fast as it could be well poured down; and the parson of the parish
was one among the mixed multitude. If conscience dictates right from
wrong, as doubtless it sometimes does, mine is one that I may say is
soon offended: for, I must say, I am always very uneasy at such
behavior, thinking it not like the behaviour of the primitive
Christians, which, I imagine, was most in conformity to our Saviour's

"Thursday, Feb, 25th. This morning, about six o'clock, just as my wife
was got to bed, we was awaked by Mrs. Porter, who pretended she wanted
some cream of tartar; but as soon as my wife got out of bed, she vowed
she should come down. She found Mr. Porter (the clergyman), Mr. Fuller,
and his wife, with a lighted candle, and part of a bottle of port wine
and a glass. The next thing was to have me down stairs, which being
apprised of, I fastened my door. Up stairs they came, and threatened to
break it open; so I ordered the boys to open it, when they poured into
my room; and as modesty forbid me to get out of bed, so I refrained;
but their immodesty permitted them to draw me out of bed, as the phrase
is, topsy-turvey; but, however, at the intercession of Mr. Porter, they
permitted me to put on * * * my wife's petticoats; and in this manner
they made me dance, without shoes and stockings, until they had emptied
a bottle of wine, and also a bottle of my beer. * * * About three
o'clock in the afternoon, they found their way to their respective
homes, beginning to be a little serious, and, in my opinion, ashamed of
their stupid enterprise and drunken perambulation. Now let any one call
in reason to his assistance, and reflect seriously on what I have
before recited, and they will join me in thinking that the precepts
delivered from the pulpit on Sunday, though delivered with the greatest
ardour, must lose a great deal of there efficacy by such examples."

Such were the amusements and such the moral reflections of a country
tradesman in the middle of the last century, Fielding, Smollett, and
the other novelists described the same kind of life: the same
succession of brawls, drunken sprees, cock-fights, boxing matches, and
bull-baitings. It would be difficult to imagine a state of society more
ripe for a revival. Mr. Thomas Turner had moral and religious
aspirations, but these could not be satisfied by the clergyman of his
parish or the curate of Laughton, the companions of his debauches but
not the sharers of his remorse. When the clergy were sincere and moral,
they were still too cold and commonplace to seriously influence their
flocks. The sermons of the time were at best, moral essays, teaching
little, as Mr. Lecky says, "that might not have been taught by
disciples of Socrates and Confucius." They might encourage honesty and
temperance where those virtues already existed, but they had no spell
to arouse religious feelings, nor to reclaim the vicious. How great,
then, must have been the effect of the impassioned eloquence of a
Whitefield, which could draw tears from thousands of hardened colliers,
upon such a society as that of Mr. Turner and his friends, accustomed
only to the discourses of their boon companion, the Rev. Mr. Porter.
The prevailing licence and the prevailing moral consciousness were
elements especially adapted to the work of the religious revivalist.
The effect of the sermons of Berridge is thus described by an

    I heard many cry out, especially children, whose agonies were
    amazing. One of the eldest, a girl of ten or twelve years old, was
    full in my view, in violent contortions of body, and weeping aloud,
    I think incessantly, during the whole service. * * * While poor
    sinners felt the sentence of death in their souls, what sounds of
    distress did I hear! Some shrieking, some roaring aloud. The most
    general was a loud breathing, like that of people half strangled
    and gasping for life. And indeed, almost all the cries were like
    those of human creatures dying in bitter anguish. Great numbers
    wept without any noise; others fell down as dead; some sinking in
    silence; some with extreme noise and violent agitation. I stood on
    the pew seat, as did a young man in an opposite pew--an
    able-bodied, fresh, healthy countryman. But in a moment, when he
    seemed to think of nothing less, down he dropped with a violence
    inconceivable. The adjoining pews seemed shook with his fall. I
    heard afterward the stamping of his feet, ready to break the boards
    as he lay in strong convulsions at the bottom of the pew. * * *
    Among the children who felt the arrows of the Almighty I saw a
    sturdy boy about eight years old, who roared above his fellows, and
    seemed, in his agony, in struggle with the strength of a grown man.
    His face was red as scarlet; and almost all on whom God laid his
    hand turned either red or almost black. * * * A stranger, well
    dressed, who stood facing me, fell backward to the wall; then
    forward on his knees, wringing his hands and roaring like a bull.
    His face at first turned quite red, then almost black. He rose and
    ran against the wall till Mr. Keeling and another held him. He
    screamed out "Oh! what shall I do? what shall I do? Oh, for one
    drop of the blood of Christ!"

These were violent remedies, but they were applied to a powerful
disease. If the revivalists did harm by the religious terrorism which
they excited, they yet had a powerful and wide-spread influence for
good. They awakened religious feelings among the people, and diffused
a new earnestness among the clergy. A spirit of philanthropy was born
with their teachings which has gone on growing until it now extends a
protecting arm even to brutes. The societies for the prevention of
cruelty to children and to animals are part of a great philanthropic
movement which began at the end of the eighteenth century, which has
carried into practical, every-day life the spirit of Christianity, and
has given to the words mercy and charity, the signification of real and
existing virtues. Horses, dogs, even rats, are now more safe from
wanton brutality than great numbers of men and women in the eighteenth
century. To any one who studies that period, the stocks, the whipping
post, the gibbet, cock fights, prize-fights, bull-baitings, accounts of
rapes, are simply the outward signs of an all-pervading cruelty. If he
opens a novel, he finds that the story turns on brutality in one form
or other. It is not only in such novels as those of Fielding and
Smollett, which are intended to describe the lower classes of society,
and in which blackened eyes and broken heads are relished forms of wit,
that the modern reader is offended by the continual infliction of pain.
Goldsmith gives Squire Thornhill perfect impunity from the law and from
public opinion in his crimes. Mackenzie does not think of visiting any
legal retribution on his "Man of the World." Godwin wrote "Caleb
Williams" to show with what impunity man preyed on man, how powerless
the tenant and the dependent woman lay before the violence or the
intrigue of the rich. And it is not only that a crime should be
committed with perfect security which would now receive a severe
sentence at the hands of an ordinary judge and jury which surprises the
reader of to-day, but that scenes which would now shock any person of
common humanity or taste, were, in the last century, especially
intended to amuse. In Miss Burney's "Evelina," Captain Mirvan
continually insults and maltreats Mme. Duval, the grandmother of the
heroine, in a manner which would not only be inconceivable in a
gentleman tolerated in society, but in a blackguard, not entirely
bereft of feelings of decency or good-nature. While she is a guest in
his own house, he torments her with false accounts of the sufferings of
a friend; sends her on a futile errand to relieve those sufferings in a
carriage of his own, and then, disguised as a highwayman, he assaults
her with the collusion of his servants, tears her clothes, and leaves
her half dead with terror, tied with ropes, at the bottom of a ditch.
When Mme. Duval relates her ill-treatment to her granddaughter, Evelina
could only find occasion to say: "Though this narrative almost
compelled me to laugh, yet I was really irritated with the captain, for
carrying his love of tormenting--sport, he calls it to such harshness
and unjustifiable extremes." And Miss Burney expected, no doubt with
reason, that her reader would be amused by all this.

In the same work a nobleman and a fashionable commoner are described
as settling a bet by a race between two decrepit women over eighty
years of age. "When the signal was given for them to set off, the
poor creatures, feeble and frightened, ran against each other: and
neither of them being able to support the shock, they both fell on
the ground. * * * Again they set off, and hobbled along, nearly even
with each other, for some time, yet frequently, to the inexpressible
diversion of the company, they stumbled and tottered. * * * Not long
after, a foot of one of the poor women slipped, and with great force
she came again to the ground. * * * Mr. Coverley went himself to help
her, and insisted that the other should stop. A debate ensued, but the
poor creature was too much hurt to move, and declared her utter
inability to make another attempt. Mr. Coverley was quite brutal; he
swore at her with unmanly rage, and seemed scarce able to refrain even
from striking her." It would be impossible perhaps to find a party of
the upper ranks gathered at a country house at the present time,
composed of persons who could have endured, without remonstrance, such
treatment of a pair of superannuated horses; yet Miss Burney describes
the efforts and sufferings of these old women as affording
inexpressible diversion to the ladies and gentlemen who figure in her
novel, and she evidently expects the reader to be equally entertained.
"Evelina" was written by a young woman who saw the best society, who
was maid of honor to Queen Charlotte, who was universally admired for
her delicacy and her talents, and whose novels are among the most
refined of the time.

The higher ranks were much less influenced by the religious revival
than the lower. Although certainly not less in need of reformation,
they were far less inclined to welcome it. The fashionable indifference
to religion was an obstacle which Wesley found much more difficult to
overcome than the brutal ignorance of the inmates of Newgate. After
listening to a sermon by Whitefield, Bolingbroke complimented the
preacher by saying that he had "done great justice to the divine
attributes." The Duchess of Buckingham's remarks on the preaching of
the Methodists, in a letter to Lady Huntingdon, are an amusing
commentary on the times. "I thank your ladyship for the information
concerning the Methodist preachers. Their doctrines are most
repulsive, and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect
toward their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks
and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you
have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth.
This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that
your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with
high rank and good-breeding."[187] High rank and good-breeding,
however, in the society of which the Duchess of Buckingham was so
proud, were not considered inconsistent with habitual drunkenness,
indecency, and profanity. The vices which "the common wretches that
crawl the earth" practised in addition to these, her Grace would have
had difficulty in mentioning.

Still, in the latter half of the eighteenth century is to be traced a
continual improvement, which is reflected in contemporary fiction. As a
remarkable example of the change which took place may be mentioned the
instance of the Earl of March. "As Duke of Queensberry, at nearer
ninety than eighty years of age, he was still rolling in wealth, still
wallowing in sin, and regarded by his countrymen as one whom it was
hardly decent to name, because he did not choose, out of respect for
the public opinion of 1808, to discontinue a mode of existence which in
1768 was almost a thing of course" among the higher ranks.[188]

[Footnote 184: Wilson's "Memoirs of Daniel Defoe."]

[Footnote 185: For the diary of Thomas Turner, see "Glimpses of our
Ancestors," by Charles Fleet, pp. 31-52.]

[Footnote 186: For these manifestations, see Wesley's "Journal," and
Lecky's "History of England in the Eighteenth Century," vol. II, chap.

[Footnote 187: Lecky, "Hist. of England in the 18th Century," vol. ii,
chap. 9.]

[Footnote 188: See Trevelyan's "Early History of Charles James Fox,"
Harper's ed., p. 75.]


In 1759, were published the first two volumes of "Tristram Shandy," a
singular and brilliant medley of wit, sentiment, indecency, and study
of character. Laurence Sterne was a profligate clergyman, a dishonest
author, and an unfaithful husband. He wrote "Tristram Shandy," and he
wrote a great many sermons. He descended to the indulgence of low
tastes, and rose to an elevated strain of thought, with equal facility.
He was a man who knew the better and followed the worse. His talents
made him a welcome guest at great men's tables, where he paid for his
dinner by amusing the company with a brilliant succession of witticisms
and indecent anecdotes, which, to his hearers, derived an additional
piquancy from the fact that they proceeded from the mouth of a divine.
But although the man was in many respects contemptible, although he
disgraced his priestly character by his profligacy, and his literary
character by a shameless plagiarism,[189] he possessed in a high degree
a quality which must give him a distinguished place in English fiction.
His borrowed plumage and his imitation of Rabelais' style apart, Sterne
had originality, a gift at all times rare, and always, perhaps,
becoming rarer. As a humorist, he is to be classed with Fielding and
Smollett, but as a novelist, his position in the history of fiction is
separate and unique.

"Tristram Shandy" has all the elements of a novel except the plot. The
author has no story to tell. His aim is to amuse the reader by odd and
whimsical remarks on every subject and on every personage whose
peculiarities promise material for humor and satire. Sterne is
perpetually digressing, moralizing commenting on every trivial topic
which enters into his story, until the story itself is completely lost,
if, indeed, it can be said ever to have been begun. The absence of
arrangement is so marked that it is very difficult to turn to a passage
which in a previous perusal has struck the eye. The eccentricity and
whimsicality of the book contributed greatly to its immediate
popularity. But the same characteristics which seem brilliant when
novel, soon become dull when familiar, and although "Tristram Shandy"
will always afford single passages of lasting interest to the lover of
literature, the work as a whole is not a little tedious when read
continuously from cover to cover.

In the course of his literary medley, Sterne introduces his reader to a
group of characters amongst the most odd and original in fiction. Mr.
Shandy, with his syllogisms and his hypotheses, his "close reasoning
upon the smallest matters"; Yorick, the witty parson, whose epitaph,
_Alas! Poor Yorick!_ expresses so tenderly the amiable faults for which
he suffered; Captain Shandy, that combination of simplicity,
gentleness, humanity, and modesty, are all creations which deserve to
rank with the most individual and happily conceived of fictitious
personages. Sterne makes a character known to the reader by a
succession of delicate touches rather than by description. He seems to
enter into an individual, and make him betray his peculiarities by
significant actions and phrases. Thus Mr. Shandy exposes at once the
nature of his mind and the vigor of his "hobby-horse," when he
exclaims to his brother Toby: "What is the character of a family to an

The combination of sentiment, pathos, and humor which Sterne sometimes
reached with remarkable success, is particularly apparent in every
incident which concerns the celebrated Captain Toby Shandy, for the
creation of which character this author may most easily be forgiven his
indecencies and his literary thefts. Uncle Toby's sympathy with
Lefevre, a poor army officer, on his way to join his regiment, who died
in an inn near Shandy's house, is exquisitely painted throughout, and
the colloquy between the captain and his faithful servant, Corporal
Trim, when the death of the officer is imminent, is probably the finest
passage which ever fell from the skilful pen of Laurence Sterne:

    A sick brother-officer should have the best quarters, Trim; and if
    we had him with us,--we could tend and look to him.--Thou art an
    excellent nurse thyself, Trim: and what with thy care of him, and
    the old woman's, and his boy's, and mine together, we might recruit
    him again at once, and set him upon his legs.

    --In a fortnight or three weeks, added my uncle Toby, smiling, he
    might march.--He will never march, an' please your Honour, in this
    world, said the Corporal.--He _will_ march, said my uncle Toby,
    rising up from the side of the bed with one shoe off.--An' please
    your Honour, said the Corporal, he will never march but to his
    grave. He _shall_ march, cried my uncle Toby, marching the foot
    which had a shoe on, though without advancing an inch,--he _shall_
    march to his regiment.--He cannot stand it, said the Corporal.--He
    shall be supported, said my uncle Toby.--He'll drop at last, said
    the Corporal, and what will become of his boy? He _shall not_ drop
    said my uncle Toby, firmly,--Ah, well-a-day!--do what we can for
    him, said Trim, maintaining his point,--the poor soul will
    die.--_He shall not die, by G--_, cried my uncle Toby.

    --The _accusing spirit_, which flew up to Heaven's chancery with
    the oath, blushed as he gave it in;--and the _recording angel_, as
    he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon the word, and blotted it out
    for ever.[190]

"Ye, who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue
with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform
the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day
will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas,
Prince of Abyssinia." Thus begins the famous tale which Dr. Johnson
made the repository of so much of his wisdom, and so beautiful an
example of English style. Rasselas and his royal brothers and sisters
live in a secluded portion of the earth known as the Happy Valley,
where, completely isolated from the world, they await their succession
to the crown of the imaginary land of Abyssinia, surrounded by every
luxury which can make life agreeable, and shut off from all knowledge
of those evils which can make it painful. The aim of the story is to
show the vanity of expecting perfect happiness, and the folly of
sacrificing present advantages for the delusive promises of the future.

The scene opens in the Happy Valley, where there is all that labor or
danger can procure or purchase, without either labor to be endured or
danger to be dreaded. Rasselas illustrates the habitual discontent of
man by wearying of the monotonous happiness of his royal home, and,
together with his sister Nekayah, who shares his ennui, and Imlac, a
man of learning, he escapes from the abode of changeless joys and
perpetual merriment.

Once beyond the barriers of the Happy Valley, Rasselas and Nekayah
seek in the various ranks and conditions of men the abode of true
happiness. It is sought in vain amidst the hollow and noisy pleasures
of the young and thoughtless; in vain among philosophers, whose
theories so ill accord with their practice; in vain among shepherds,
whose actual life contrasts so painfully with the descriptions of the
poet; in vain in crowds, where sorrow lurks beneath the outward smile;
in vain in the cell of the hermit, who counts the days till he shall
once more mix with the world. The task becomes more hopeless with each
new disappointment. Rasselas pursues his investigation among the higher
ranks, in courts and cities; Nekayah, hers among the poor and humble,
in the shop and the hamlet. But when the brother and sister meet to
share their experiences, they both have the same tale to tell of human
discontent. Finally, in returning disappointed to Abyssinia, they
illustrate the tendency among men to look back with regret on the early
pleasures of life, abandoned for the impossible happiness which
discontent had taught them to seek.

On this slight thread of narrative, Johnson strung his thoughts with
great felicity. The characters, by the different view which they
entertain of life, are distinct and individual. The book is filled with
pregnant and beautiful passages, which leave a deep impression on the
reader. The words in which Imlac describes to the Prince and Princess
the dangers of an unrestrained imagination, might, with equal
propriety, find a place in a scientific treatise on the causes of
insanity, and in a collection of beautiful literary extracts:

    To indulge the power of fiction, and send imagination out upon the
    wing, is often the sport of those who delight too much in silent
    speculation. When we are alone, we are not always busy; the labour
    of excogitation is too violent to last long; the ardour of inquiry
    will sometimes give way to idleness or satiety. He who has nothing
    external that can divert him, must find pleasure in his own
    thoughts, and must conceive himself what he is not; for who is
    pleased with what he is? He then expatiates in boundless futurity,
    and culls from all imaginable conditions that which for the present
    moment he should most desire, amuses his desires with impossible
    enjoyments, and confers upon his pride unattainable dominion. The
    mind dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures in all
    combinations, and riots in delights which nature and fortune, with
    all their bounty, cannot bestow.

    In time, some particular train of ideas fixes the attention; all
    other intellectual gratifications are rejected; the mind, in
    weariness or leisure, recurs constantly to the favorite conception,
    and feasts on the luscious falsehood whenever she is offended with
    the bitterness of truth. By degrees, the reign of fancy is
    confirmed; she grows first imperious, and in time, despotic. Then
    fictions begin to operate as realities, false opinions fasten upon
    the mind, and life passes in dreams of rapture or of anguish.[191]

The resemblance between Johnson's "Rasselas" and Voltaire's "Candide"
is so marked, that had either author seen the other's work, he must
have been suspected of imitation. But while both these great minds were
writing at nearly the same time on the same theme of human misery, the
lessons they taught differed in a manner which is strongly illustrative
of the differences between the two men and their respective
surroundings. French scepticism and distrust of divine power led
Voltaire to impute human griefs to the incapacity of the Creator. But
Johnson, writing "Rasselas" in an hour of sorrow, to obtain means to
pay for his mother's funeral, taught that that happiness, which this
world can not afford, should be sought in the prospect of another and a

All readers of Boswell know how the "Vicar of Wakefield" found a
publisher. How Goldsmith's landlady arrested him for his rent, and how
he wrote to Johnson in his distress. How the kind lexicographer sent a
guinea at once, and followed to find the guinea already changed, and a
bottle of Madeira before the persecuted but philosophical author. How
Johnson put the cork in the bottle, and after a hasty glance at the MS.
of the "Vicar of Wakefield," went out and sold it for sixty pounds. And
how triumphantly Goldsmith rated his landlady.

In the hands of that bookseller, who purchased the novel as much out of
charity as in hope of profit, the "Vicar of Wakefield" remained
neglected, until the publication of "The Traveler" had made the author
famous. This interval would have afforded Goldsmith ample time to
correct the obvious inconsistencies and faults which his work
contained. But in the spirit of a man who depended on his pen for his
bread, he made no effort to improve what had already brought him all
this remuneration for which he could hope. This is the more to be
regretted, that very little revision would have been sufficient, to
make the "Vicar of Wakefield" as perfect in its construction as in its
style and spirit. "There are a hundred faults in this thing," says the
preface, "and a hundred things might be said to prove them beauties.
But it is needless. A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it
may be very dull without a single absurdity. The hero of this piece
unites in himself the three greatest characters upon earth;--he is a
priest, a husbandman, and the father of a family. He is drawn as ready
to teach, and ready to obey--as simple in affluence, and majestic in

These few words are not an inaccurate statement of the merits and
demerits of the "Vicar of Wakefield." Faults there are, certainly. The
improbability of Sir William Thornhill's being able to go about among
his own tenantry _incognito_, without other disguise than a change of
dress; the inconsistency of the philanthropist's allowing his
villainous nephew to retain possession of the wealth which he used only
to assist him in his crimes; and, finally, the impossibility of that
nephew's being so nearly of an age with Sir William himself, when he
must have been the son of a younger brother, are all blemishes which
Goldsmith might easily have removed, had he not relied on the opinion
which he expressed in Chapter xv, "the reputation of books is raised,
not by their freedom from defect, but by the greatness of their

Such a rule would be an obviously dangerous one for an author to
follow. But Goldsmith's confidence in the beauties of his novel was
fully justified by the verdict of the world. No novelist has more
deeply imbued his work with his own genius and spirit, and none have
had a more beneficent genius, nor a more beautiful spirit to impart
than the author of "The Deserted Village." The exquisite style, the
delicate choice of words, the amiability of sentiment, so peculiarly
his own, and so well suited to express the simple beauty of his
thoughts, give a charm to the work which familiarity can only endear.
Dr. Primrose, preserving his simplicity, his modesty, and his nobility
of character alike when surrounded by the pleasures of his early and
prosperous home, when struggling with the hardships of his ruined
fortune, and when rewarded at last by the surfeit of good-fortune which
follows his trial, stands high among the most noble conceptions of
English fiction. "We read the 'Vicar of Wakefield,'" said the great Sir
Walter, "in youth and in age. We return to it again and again, and
bless the memory of an author who contrives so well to reconcile us to
human nature."

Goethe, when in his eighty-first year, declared that Goldsmith's novel
"was his delight at the age of twenty, that it had in a manner formed a
part of his education, influencing his tastes and feelings throughout
life, and that he had recently read it again from beginning to end,
with renewed delight, and with a grateful sense of the early benefit
derived from it." "Rogers, the Nestor of British literature, whose
refined purity of taste and exquisite mental organization rendered him
eminently calculated to appreciate a work of the kind, declared that of
all the books, which, through the fitful changes of three generations
he had seen rise and fall, the charm of the 'Vicar of Wakefield' had
alone continued as at first; and could he revisit the world after an
interval of many more generations, he should as surely look to find it
undiminished." So wrote Washington Irving; and if the reader is
inclined to look for the causes of the extraordinary endurance of
Goldsmith's work, he can find them nowhere better stated than in the
words of John Forster: "Not in those graces of style, nor even in that
home-cherished gallery of familiar faces can the secret of its
extraordinary fascination be said to consist. It lies nearer the heart.
A something which has found its way _there_; which, while it amused,
has made us happier; which, gently interweaving itself with our habits
of thought, has increased our good-humour and charity; which,
insensibly it may be, has corrected wilful impatiences of temper, and
made the world's daily accidents easier and kinder to us all; somewhat
thus should be expressed, I think, the charm of the 'Vicar of

In 1760 was published "Chrysal, the Adventures of a Guinea," by Charles
Johnstone, the author of several deservedly forgotten novels.[193] The
first volume was sent to Dr. Johnson for his opinion, who thought, as
Boswell tells us, that it should be published--an estimate justified by
the considerable circulation which the book enjoyed.

Chrysal is an elementary spirit, whose abode is in a piece of gold
converted into a guinea. In that form the spirit passes from man to
man, and takes accurate note of the different scenes of which it
becomes a witness. This is a natural and favorable medium for a satire,
which Johnstone probably owed, in some measure, both to the "Diable
Boiteux" of Gil Blas, and the "Adventures of a Halfpenny" of Dr.
Bathurst. The circulation of the guinea enables the author to describe
the characteristics of its possessors as seen by a truthful witness,
and he has taken advantage of his opportunity to produce one of the
most disgusting records of vice in literature. A depraved mind only
could find any pleasure in reading "Chrysal," and whoever is obliged to
read it from cover to cover for the purpose of describing it to others,
must find himself, at the end of his task, in sore vexation of spirit.
Human depravity is never an agreeable subject for a work of
entertainment, and while Swift's genius holds the reader fascinated
with the horror of his Yahoos, the ability of a Manley or a Johnstone
is not sufficient to aid the reader in wading through their vicious
expositions of corruption. It must be said that Johnstone had some
excuse. If he were to satirize society at all, it was better that he
should do it thoroughly; that he should expose official greed and
dishonesty, the orgies of Medenham Abbey, the infamous extortions of
trading justices, in all their native ugliness. It must be said that
the time in which he lived presented many features to the painter of
manners which could not look otherwise than repulsive on his canvas.
But his zeal to expose the vices of his age led him into doing great
injustice to some persons, and into grossly libelling others. He
imputed crimes to individuals of which he could have had no knowledge;
and he shamefully misrepresented the Methodists and the Jews. If
Johnstone had wished to see how offensive a book he might write, and
how disgusting and indecent a book the public of his day would read and
applaud, he might well have brought "Chrysal" into the world. If he had
intended, by exposing crime, to check it, he had better have burned his
manuscript. He has added one other corruption to those he exposed, and
one other evidence of the lack of taste and decency which characterized
his time. No man can plead the intention of a reformer as an excuse for
placing before the world the scenes and suggestions of unnatural crime
which sully the pages of "Chrysal," and if men do, in single instances,
fall below the level of brutes, he who gloats over their infamy and
publishes their contagious guilt deserves some share of their odium.

The novels of Henry Mackenzie have a charm of their own, which may be
largely attributed to the fact that their author was a gentleman.
Whoever has read, to any extent, the works of fiction of the eighteenth
century, must have observed how perpetually he was kept in low company,
how rarely he met with a character who had the instincts as well as the
social position of a gentleman. A tone of refined sentiment and dignity
pervades "The Man of Feeling," which recalls the "Vicar of Wakefield,"
and introduces the reader to better company and more elevated thoughts
than the novels of the time usually afford. "The Man of Feeling" is
hardly a narrative. Harley, the chief character, is a sensitive,
retiring man, with feelings too fine for his surroundings. The author
places him in various scenes, and traces the effect which each produces
upon his character. The effect of the work is agreeable, though
melancholy, and the early death of Harley completes the delineation of
a man too gentle and too sensitive to battle with life.

In his next novel Mackenzie described the counterpart of Harley, "The
Man of the World." Almost any writer of the present day who took a man
of the world for his hero, would draw him as a calm, philosophical
person, neither very good nor very bad,--one who took the pleasures and
troubles of life as they came, without quarrelling with either. But the
man of the world as Mackenzie paints him, and as the eighteenth century
made him, was quite another individual. Sir Thomas Sindall is a villain
of the heroic type. Not one, simply, who does all the injury and
commits all the crimes which chance brings in his way. He labors with a
ceaseless persistency, and a resolution which years do not diminish, to
seduce a single woman. Without any apparent passion, he finally
accomplishes his object by force, after having spent several years in
ruining her brother to prevent his interference. The long periods of
time, the great expenditure of vital energy, and the exhaustless fund
of brutality which are consumed by the fictitious villains of the
eighteenth century in gratifying what would seem merely a passing
inclination, astonish the reader of to-day. The crime of rape, rarely
now introduced into fiction, and rarely figuring even in criminal
courts, is a common incident in old novels, and as commonly, remains
unpunished. In Sir Thomas Sindall, Mackenzie meant to present a
contrast to the delicate and benevolent character of Harley. Both are
extremes, the one of sensibility, the other of brutality. Harley was a
new creation, but Sindall quite a familiar person, with whom all
readers of the novels of the last century have often associated.

It was suggested very sensibly to Mackenzie, that the interest of most
works of fiction depended on the _designing_ villainy of one or more
characters, and that in actual life calamities were more often brought
about by the innocent errors of the sufferers. To place this view
before his readers, Mackenzie wrote "Julia de Roubigné," in which a
wife brings death upon herself and her husband by indiscreetly, though
innocently, arousing his jealousy. Sir Walter Scott ranked this novel
among the "most heart-wringing histories" that ever were written--a
description which justly becomes it. Mackenzie's aim was less to weave
a complicated plot, than to study and move the heart; and to the lover
of sentiment his novels may still be attractive.

The "Fool of Quality," by Henry Brooke, has had a singular history. The
author was a young Irishman of a fine figure, a well-stored mind, and a
disposition of particular gentleness. He was loved by Pope and
Lyttleton, caressed by the Prince of Wales, and honored by the friendly
interest of Jonathan Swift. Married before he was twenty-one to a young
girl who presented him with three children before she was eighteen, his
life was a constant struggle to provide for a family which increased
with every year. After a long period of active life, passed in literary
occupations, he retired to an obscure part of Ireland, and there died,
attended by a daughter, the only survivor of twenty-two children, who
remembered nothing of her father "previous to his retirement from the
world; and knew little of him, save that he bore the infirmities and
misfortunes of his declining years with the heroism of true
Christianity, and that he was possessed of virtues and feelings which
shone forth to the last moment of his life, unimpaired by the
distractions of pain, and unshaken amid the ruins of genius."[194]

The "Fool of Quality" was first published in 1766, and received a
moderate share of public attention. Its narrative was extremely slight.
Harry, the future Earl of Moreland, was stolen from his parents by an
uncle in disguise; and the five volumes of the work consist almost
entirely of an account of the education of the child, and the various
incidents which affected or illustrated his mental growth. One day John
Wesley chanced to meet with it, and although he required his followers
"to read only such books as tend to the knowledge and love of God," he
was tempted to look into this particular novel. The "whimsical title"
at first offended him, but as he proceeded, he became so enthusiastic
over the moral excellence of the work, that he expunged some offensive
passages it contained, and republished it for the benefit of the
Methodists. "I now venture to recommend the following treatise," said
Wesley to his people, "as the most excellent in its kind that I have
seen either in the English or any other language. * * * It perpetually
aims at inspiring and increasing every right affection; at the
instilling gratitude to God and benevolence to man. And it does this
not by dry, dull, tedious, precepts, but by the liveliest examples that
can be conceived; by setting before your eyes one of the most beautiful
pictures that ever was drawn in the world. The strokes of this are so
delicately fine, the touches so easy, natural, and affecting, that I
know not who can survey it with tearless eyes, unless he has a heart of
stone. I recommend it, therefore, to all those who are already, or who
desire to be, lovers of God and man." It was not as a good novel that
Wesley either enjoyed or republished the "Fool of Quality." He
recommended it for the excellence of its moral, and the "Fool of
Quality" would have been allowed to slumber forever on Methodist
book-shelves, had it not been revived by a man who was an equally good
judge of a moral and a work of fiction.

But, in regard to this novel, it must be admitted that Charles
Kingsley's judgment was seriously at fault. He saw both its qualities
and its faults, but he did not realize that a good purpose will not
make up for a poor execution. The causes of the neglect of the book,
said the Canon in his preface, are to be found "in its deep and grand
ethics, in its broad and genial humanity, in the divine value which it
attaches to the relations of husband and wife, father and child, and to
the utter absence, both of that sentimentalism and that superstition
which have been alternately debauching of late years the minds of the
young. And if he shall have arrived at this discovery, he will be able
possibly to regard at least with patience those who are rash enough to
affirm that they have learnt from this book more which is pure, sacred,
and eternal, than from any which has been published since Spenser's
'Fairy Queen.'"[195] On the testimony of Wesley and of Kingsley, all
the merits of a moral nature which they claim for the "Fool of Quality"
will readily be accorded to it. But it is very doubtful that such
qualities would necessarily interfere with the success of a work of
fiction. The real reason why very few who can help it will read this
novel, lies in those characteristics which Kingsley himself admitted
would appear to the average reader. "The plot is extravagant as well as
ill-woven, and broken, besides, by episodes as extravagant as itself.
The morality is quixotic, and practically impossible. The sermonizing,
whether theological or social, is equally clumsy and obtrusive. Without
artistic method, without knowledge of human nature and the real world,
the book can never have touched many hearts and can touch none

It is singular that Kingsley should have expected that a book with so
many and so evident faults could have remained popular simply because
its moral was a good one. If he had sat down to warn the world against
Henry Brooke's novel, he could hardly have expressed himself with more
effect. Whatever merit it may have is buried under a mass of dulness
almost impossible to penetrate, and a silliness pervades the characters
and the conversations which makes even the lighter portions unreadable.
The "Fool of Quality" has all the drawbacks of a novel of purpose in an
exaggerated form. The improvement of his reader is a laudable object
for a novelist. But it is an object which can be successfully carried
out in a work of art, only very indirectly. An author may have a great
influence for good, but that influence can be obtained, not by
deliberate sermonizing, but only by tone of healthy sentiment which
insensibly elevates the reader's mind.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the number and variety of
works of fiction rapidly increased. William Beckford, whom Byron calls
in "Childe Harold," "Vathek, England's wealthiest son," wrote in his
twentieth year the oriental romance "Vathek," which excited great
attention at the time. It was composed in three days and two nights,
during which the author never took off his clothes. Byron considered
this tale superior to "Rasselas." It represented the downward career of
an oriental prince, who had given himself up to sensual indulgence, and
who is allured by a Giaour into the commission of crimes which lead him
to everlasting and horrible punishments. "Vathek" gives evidence of a
familiarity with oriental customs, and a vividness of imagination which
are remarkable in so youthful an author. The descriptions of the Caliph
and of the Hall of Eblis are full of power. But in depth of meaning,
and in that intrinsic worth which gives endurance to a literary work,
it bears no comparison to "Rasselas." The one affords an hour's
amusement; the other retains its place among those volumes which are
read and re-read with constant pleasure and satisfaction.

The novels of Richard Cumberland, "Henry," "Arundel," and "John de
Lancaster," contain some well-drawn characters and readable sketches of
life. But Cumberland had little originality. He aimed without success
at Fielding's constructive excellence, and imitated that great master's
humor, only to reproduce his coarseness. The character of Ezekiel Daw,
the Methodist, in "Henry," is fair and just, and contrasts very
favorably with the libellous representations of the Methodist preachers
in Graves' "Spiritual Quixote," and other contemporary novels. Another
writer of fiction of considerable prominence in his day, but of none in
ours, was Dr. Moore, whose "Zeluco" contained some very lively "Views
of human nature, taken from life and manners, foreign and domestic,"
but also some very disagreeable exhibitions of human degradation and

The influence of the French Revolution in England is apparent in the
works of several novelists who wrote at the end of the eighteenth
century. Thomas Holcroft embodied radical views in novels now quite
forgotten.[197] Robert Bage has left four works containing opinions of
a revolutionary character--"Barham Downs," "James Wallace," "The Fair
Syrian," and "Mount Henneth." These novels are written in the form of a
series of letters and have little narrative interest. The author has
striven, sometimes successfully, at a powerful delineation of
character, but his works are too evidently a vehicle for his political
and philosophical opinions. He represents with unnatural consistency
the upper classes as invariably corrupt and tyrannical, and the lower
as invariably honest and deserving. His theories are not only
inartistically prominent, but are worthless and immoral. He looks upon
a tax-gatherer as a thief, and condones feminine unchastity as a
trivial and unimportant offence.

The novelist most deeply embued with the doctrines of the French
Revolution was William Godwin--a man of great literary ambition, and
less literary capacity. His "Life of Chaucer" has the merits of a
compilation, but not those of an original literary work. His political
and social writings were merely reproductions of French revolutionary
views, and were entirely discredited by Malthus' attacks upon them. The
same lack of originality and of independent power characterized
Godwin's novels. They all have a patch-work effect, and in all may be
found the traces of imitation. "St. Leon" and "Mandeville"[198] are
dull attempts in the direction of the historical novel. "Fleetwood, or
the New Man of Feeling" embodies some of the author's social views, and
contains evidence of an imitation of Fielding and Smollett, in which
only their coarseness is successfully copied.

But Godwin gave one book to the world which has acquired a notoriety
which entitles it to a more extended notice than its intrinsic merits
would otherwise justify. "Caleb Williams" was first published in 1794,
and was widely read. Lord Byron is said to have threatened his wife
that he would treat her as Falkland had treated Caleb Williams, and
this fact brought the novel into prominence with the Byron controversy,
and occasioned its republication in the present century. The author
tells us that his object was "to comprehend a general review of the
modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism by which man becomes the
destroyer of man." And this was to be done "without subtracting from
the interest and passion by which a performance of this sort (a novel)
ought to be characterized." In both his didactic and his artistic
purpose the author must be said to have failed. The story is briefly as
follows: Falkland, who is represented as a man whose chief thought and
consideration consist in guarding his honor from stain, stabs Tyrrel,
his enemy, in the back, at night. He then allows two innocent men to
suffer for the murder on the gallows. His aim, during the remainder of
his life, is to prevent the discovery of his crime and the consequent
disgrace to his name. Caleb Williams enters his employment as a
secretary, discovers the secret with the greatest ease, and promises
never to betray his patron. Williams soon becomes weary of his
position, and attempts to escape. He is accused by Falkland of robbery
and is imprisoned. He escapes from prison, and wanders about the
country, always pursued by the hirelings of his master who use every
means to render his life miserable. Finally he openly accuses Falkland
of his crime, who confesses it and dies. The story is full of the most
evident inconsistencies. There is no adequate reason for Tyrrel's
hatred of Falkland, which leads to the murder. It is inconceivable that
a man of Falkland's worship of honor should commit so dastardly a
crime, and should suffer two innocent men to pay its penalty. The
facility with which Falkland allows his secretary to discover a secret
which would bring him to the gallows is entirely inconsistent with the
strength of mind which the author imputes to his hero. Finally, the
confession of crime, after so many years of secrecy, and when
conscience must have been blunted by time and habit, is without
adequate cause. The characters are very slightly sketched, and excite
neither interest nor sympathy. Emily Melville resembles Pamela too
closely, and Tyrrel is a poor reproduction of Squire Western.

Godwin tells us that, when thinking over "Caleb Williams," he said to
himself a thousand times: "I will write a tale, that shall constitute
an epoch in the mind of the reader, that no one, after he has read it,
shall ever be exactly the same man that he was before." The effort, and
straining after effect which this confession implies, are evident
throughout the work. The reader's curiosity is continually excited by
the promise of new interest and new developments, but he is as
continually disappointed. The main idea of the story is certainly a
striking one, but it is feebly carried out. The constitution of society
cannot be effectively attacked by so improbable and exceptional an
illustration of tyranny as the persecution of Caleb Williams.

[Footnote 189: It would be difficult to find a more bare-faced and
impudent literary theft than the case in which Sterne appropriated to
himself the remonstrance of Burton ("Anatomy of Melancholy"), against
that very plagiarism which he (Sterne) was then committing. Burton
said: "As apothecaries, we make new mixtures, every day pour out of one
vessel into another * * * We weave the same web, still twist the same
rope again and again." Sterne says, with an effrontery all his own:
"Shall we forever make new books, as apothecaries make new medicines,
by pouring only out of one vessel into another? Are we forever to be
twisting and untwisting the same rope--forever in the same track?
forever at the same pace?" For Sterne's plagiarism, see Dr. Ferriar's
"Essay and Illustrations," also Scott's "Life of Sterne."]

[Footnote 190: "Tristram Shandy," orig. ed., vol. viii, chap. 8.]

[Footnote 191: "Rasselas," chap. xliv. Contrast with Porter on "The
Human Intellect," pp. 371-2.]

[Footnote 192: See Scott's "Memoir of Johnson."]

[Footnote 193: "The Reverie," "The History of Arbaces," "The Pilgrim,"
"The History of John Juniper."]

[Footnote 194: The facts of Brooke's life are taken from the
introduction to the "Fool of Quality," by Rev. Charles Kingsley, New
York, 1860.]

[Footnote 195: Charles Kingsley, preface to the "Fool of Quality."]

[Footnote 196: Kingsley's preface to "Fool of Quality."]

[Footnote 197: "Alwyn," "Anna St. Ives," "Hugh Trevor," "Bryan

[Footnote 198: Published in 1817, when the author was far advanced in


The publication of "Evelina," in 1778, made a sensation which the
merits of the work fully justified. The story of Miss Burney's[199]
early life, her furtive attempts at fictitious composition, the great
variety of artistic and political characters who passed in review
before her observant eyes at Dr. Burney's house have been made familiar
by her own diary and letters. Petted and admired by Johnson, Mrs.
Thrale, and the brilliant literary society of which they formed the
centre, she lived sufficiently far into the present century to see the
works of her early friends enrolled among the classics or consigned to
oblivion, and to recognize that the approval of posterity had been
added to the early fame of her own writings. As a very young girl,
unnoticed by the distinguished persons who frequented her father's
house, she had studied with careful attention the characters and
manners of those who talked and moved about her. A strong desire to
reproduce the impressions which filled her mind induced Miss Burney in
her sixteenth year to devote her stolen hours of seclusion to
fictitious composition. Discouraged in her early efforts by her
stepmother, her habits of observation remained active, and took form,
when the authoress was twenty five years old, in the famous novel of
"Evelina." The book was issued secretly and anonymously, the publisher
even being ignorant of the writer's true name. But the immediate
popularity and admiration which greeted the work soon led to its open
acknowledgment by the happy young authoress.

And "Evelina" fully deserved the praise and interest which it obtained
and still excites. The aim was to describe the difficulties and
sensations of a young girl just entering life. The heroine chosen by
Miss Burney was one whose circumstances particularly well suited her to
form the centre of a varied collection of characters and of a
comprehensive picture of contemporary society. Well connected on her
father's side, Evelina moved in fashionable circles with the Mirvan
family. On account of the origin of her mother she was brought into
close contact with humbler personages, with Madame Duval and the
Brangtons. Hence this novel presents to the reader a variety of social
scenes which gives it a value possessed by no other work of fiction of
the eighteenth century. No novelist has described so well or so fully
the aspect of the theatres, of Vauxhall and Ranelagh, of Bath in the
season, of the ridottos and assemblies of the London fashionable world.
The shops, the amusements and the manners of the middle classes are
made familiar to Evelina by her association with the Brangtons, and add
greatly to the breadth of this valuable picture of metropolitan life.
With a feminine attention to detail, and a quick perception of salient
characteristics, Miss Burney described the world about her so
faithfully and picturesquely as to deserve the thanks of every student
of social history. The novel of "Evelina," the letters of Horace
Walpole and Mrs. Delany corroborate each other, and may be
appropriately placed on the same shelf in a well-ordered library.

In the painting of manners Miss Burney was eminently successful. But
she was hardly less so in a point in which excellence could not have
been expected in so youthful a writer. The plot of "Evelina" is
constructed with a skill worthy of a veteran. Fielding alone, of the
eighteenth century novelists, can be said to surpass Miss Burney in
this respect. The whole story of the mischances and misunderstanding of
Evelina's intercourse with Lord Orville, the skill with which the
various personages are brought into contact with each other and made to
contribute to the final _dénoument_, compose a truly artistic success.
The introduction of Macartney and his marriage to the supposed daughter
of Sir John Belmont form a very happy and effective invention.

In regard to her sketches of character, it may be objected that Miss
Burney lacked breadth of treatment, that she dwelt on one distinctive
characteristic at the expense of the others. But still, Lord Orville,
though somewhat too much of a model, and Mrs. Selwyn, though somewhat
too habitually a wit, are vivid and life-like characters. The Brangtons
and Sir Clement Willougby are nature itself, and the girlish nature of
Evelina is betrayed in her letters with great felicity.

It is no small triumph for Miss Burney, who has had so many and so
deserving competitors in the department of literature to which she
contributed, that her novels should have remained in active
circulation for more than a century after their publication. "Cecilia"
has much the same merits which distinguished "Evelina," and the two
novels bid fair to hold their own as long as English fiction retains
its popularity. Johnson considered Miss Burney equal to Fielding. But
although she possessed qualities similar to his--constructive power and
picturesqueness--she possessed them in a lesser degree. In the
management of the difficulties of the epistolary form of novel-writing,
she surpassed Richardson in verisimilitude and concentration.

Some readers of the present day object to Miss Burney's novels that
they contain so many references to "delicacy" and "propriety" that an
air of affectation is produced. But at the time when "Evelina" was
written, a perpetual discretion in actions and words was absolutely
necessary to a young woman who did not wish to be subjected to
libertine advances. Society is now so much more generally refined that
there is far less danger of such misconstruction, and far less need for
a young girl to be always on her guard. A sound objection, on the
ground of taste, may be made against the excessively prolonged account
of Captain Mirvan's brutalities. The effect might have been as well
produced in a much shorter space, and the reader spared the
uninteresting scenes which now fill so many repulsive pages. For this
defect, however, we must blame the times more than the author.

Charlotte Lennox was the daughter of Sir James Ramsay, Lieutenant
governor of New York, where she was born in 1720. When fifteen years of
age she was sent to London, and there supported herself by her pen.
Johnson said that he had "dined at Mrs. Garrick's with Mrs. Carter,
Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney: three such women are not to be
found. I know not where I could find a fourth, except Mrs. Lennox, who
is superior to them all." Such high praise was not called forth by Mrs.
Lennox's novels, which have little originality or power. "The Female
Quixote" is an entertaining satire on the old French romances, but
"Sophia," and "Euphemia" are without any special interest.

A writer of more ability, whose name is still remembered by
novel-readers, is Mrs. Inchbald. She was overcome in early life by an
enthusiasm for the stage; ran away from home to find theatrical
employment, and remained for many years a popular London actress.
Although possessed of great and durable beauty, and the object of
constant attention from aristocratic admirers, it is believed that her
reputation continued unsullied. Her poverty, largely caused by a
worthless husband, obliged her to perform the most menial labors. She
rejoiced on one occasion that the approach of warmer weather released
her from the duty of making fires, scouring the grate, sifting the
cinders, and of going up and down three pair of long stairs with water
or dirt. All this Mrs. Inchbald thought that she could cheerfully bear,
but the labor of being a fine lady the remainder of the day was almost
too much for her. "Last Thursday," she wrote to a friend, "I finished
scouring my bed-chamber, while a coach with a coronet and two footmen
waited at the door to take me an airing."

The same courage and industry were carried by Mrs. Inchbald into her
literary labors, the profits of which enabled her to live with
considerable comfort toward the end of her life. She left a large
number of plays, many of which had been acted with success, and two
novels, "A Simple Story," published in 1791, and "Nature and Art,"
published five years later. Neither of these works has much merit from
a critical point of view. They are faulty in construction, and give
frequent evidence of the authoress' lack of education.

Yet, in her ability to excite the interest and to move the feelings of
her reader, Mrs. Inchbald met with great success. Her novels are of the
pathetic order, and appeal to the sympathies with a sometimes powerful
effect. Maria Edgeworth was deeply moved by the "Simple Story." "Its
effect upon my feelings," she said after reading it for the fourth
time, "was as powerful as at the first reading; I never read _any_
novel--I except none,--I never read any novel that affected me so
strongly, or that so completely possessed me with the belief in the
real existence, of all the persons it represents. I never once
recollected the author whilst I was reading it; never said or thought,
_that's a fine sentiment_,--or, _that is well expressed_--or, _that is
well invented_; I believed all to be real, and was affected as I should
be by the real scenes, if they had passed before my eyes; it is truly
and deeply pathetic."

The sisters, Harriet and Sophia Lee, wrote a number of stories gathered
together under the rather unfortunate title of "The Canterbury Tales,"
which had a long-continued popularity. "The Young Lady's Tale," and
"The Clergyman's Tale" were written by Sophia; all the others, together
with the novel "Errors of Innocence," belonged to Harriet. These
stories have great narrative interest, and contain some powerfully
drawn characters. Byron was deeply affected by some of them. Of the
"German's Tale," he confessed: "It made a deep impression on me, and
may be said to contain the germ of much that I have since written." It
not only contained the germ of "Werner," but supplied the whole
material for that tragedy. All the characters of the novel are
reproduced by Byron except "Ida," whom he added. The plan of Miss Lee's
work is exactly followed, as the poet admitted, and even the language
is frequently adopted without essential change.

Charlotte Smith was a woman of talent and imagination who was driven to
literature for aid in supporting a large family abandoned by their
spendthrift father. She was among the most prolific novelists of her
time, but only one work, "The Old Manor House," enjoyed more than a
passing reputation, or has any claim to particular mention here. The
chief merit of Charlotte Smith's novels lies in their descriptions of
scenery, an element only just entering into the work of the novelist.

Clara Reeve and the celebrated Mrs. Radcliffe did much to sustain the
prominent position which women were taking in fictitious composition,
and their works will be commented upon in connection with the romantic
revival, to which movement they were eminent contributors.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the number and variety of
works of fiction increased with remarkable rapidity. The female sex
supplied its full share, both in amount and in excellence of work. But
those who desire to see the advent of women into new walks of active
life on the ground that their presence and participation add to the
purity of every occupation they adopt, can find no illustration of the
theory in the connection of women with fictitious composition. Mrs.
Behn, Mrs. Manley, and Mrs. Heywood, the earliest female novelists,
produced the most inflammatory and licentious novels of their time. At
a later period, during the eighteenth century, although some female
writers exhibited a very exceptional refinement, the majority showed in
this respect no marked superiority to their masculine contemporaries.
In our own time, whoever would make a list of those novels which are
most evidently immoral in their teachings and licentious in their tone,
would be obliged to seek them almost quite as much among the works of
female writers, as among those of the rougher sex.

To write a really excellent novel, is among the most difficult of
literary feats. But to write a poor one has often been found an easy
undertaking. The apparent facility of fictitious composition has
deceived great numbers of literary aspirants, and has filled the
circulating libraries with a vast collection of thoroughly worthless
productions. This unfortunate fecundity, to which the department of
fiction is subject, began to be conspicuous at the end of the
eighteenth century,[200] and excited much opposition to novels of all
kinds. Hannah More, in her essays on female education, inveighed
against the evil in terms which are quite as applicable at the present
day. "Who are those ever multiplying authors, that with unparalleled
fecundity are overstocking the world with their quick-succeeding
progeny? They are _novel-writers_; the easiness of whose productions is
at once the cause of their own fruitfulness, and of the almost
infinitely numerous race of imitators to whom they give birth. Such is
the frightful facility of this species of composition, that every raw
girl, while she reads, is tempted to fancy that she can also write. And
as Alexander, on perusing the Iliad, found by congenial sympathy the
image of Achilles stamped on his own ardent soul, and felt himself the
hero he was studying; and as Correggio, on first beholding a picture
which exhibited the perfection of the graphic art, prophetically felt
all his own future greatness, and cried out in rapture: 'And I, too, am
a painter!' So a thorough-paced novel-reading miss, at the close of
every tissue of hackneyed adventures, feels within herself the stirring
impulse of corresponding genius, and triumphantly exclaims: 'And I,
too, am an author!' The glutted imagination soon overflows with the
redundance of cheap sentiment and plentiful incident, and, by a sort of
arithmetical proportion, is enabled by the perusal of any three novels,
to produce a fourth; till every fresh production, like the prolific
progeny of Banquo, is followed by

    'Another, and another, and another!'"

[Footnote 199: Afterward Madame D'Arblay.]

[Footnote 200: See the "Progress of Romance," by Clara Reeve, for the
names of many now forgotten novels, for which room cannot be spared


The writers who took the chief part in originating and sustaining the
romantic revival in English fiction were Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve,
and Mrs. Radcliffe. As we have called upon the testimony of Walpole so
often in this work, and as we are now to consider him as an author,
some account of his personal appearance may be of interest. "His
figure," says Miss Hawkins, "was not merely tall, but long and slender
to excess; his complexion, and particularly his hands, of a most
unhealthy paleness. His eyes were remarkably bright and penetrating,
very dark and lively:--his voice was not strong, but his tones were
extremely pleasant, and, if I may so say, highly gentlemanly. I do not
remember his common gait; he always entered a room in that style of
affected delicacy which fashion had then made almost natural; _chapeau
bras_ between his hands as if he wished to compress it, or under his
arm; knees bent, and feet on tiptoe, as if afraid of a wet floor. His
dress in visiting was most usually, in summer, when I most saw him, a
lavender suit, the waistcoat embroidered with a little silver, or of
white silk worked in the tambour, partridge silk stockings, and gold
buckles, ruffles and frill generally lace. I remember, when a child,
thinking him very much under-dressed, if at any time, except in
mourning, he wore hemmed cambric. In summer, no powder, but his wig
combed straight, and showing his very smooth, pale forehead, and queued
behind; in winter, powder."

Posterity has cause to regret that Horace Walpole, of all men best
fitted by personal knowledge and ability to draw a picture of the
brilliant society of his time, should have contributed no work in the
department of realistic fiction. Had the keen observation and
experience of the world so conspicuous in his letters been brought to
bear on a narrative of real life not less ably constructed than that of
"The Castle of Otranto," an addition of no little value to the social
history of the eighteenth century must have been the result. But
although Walpole attempted no novel in which he might have depicted the
fashionable life of which he was so faithful a chronicler, he yet tried
an experiment in fiction for which he was peculiarly qualified by his
antiquarian studies and his fondness for the arts and customs of feudal

The object of "The Castle of Otranto" was to unite the characteristic
elements of the ancient romance with those of the modern novel. It was
attempted to introduce into a narrative constructed with modern order
and sequence, such supernatural events as controlled the incidents of
romantic fiction. To accomplish this result, it was necessary that the
_mise en scène_ should be impressive and awe-inspiring, that the
reader's mind should be insensibly prepared by strange surroundings for
extraordinary incidents. In his selection of age and scene, Walpole was
highly judicious. He chose the feudal period, when superstition
accorded the most ready belief to supernatural agencies. He introduced
his reader to a huge, gloomy castle, furnished with towers, donjons,
subterranean passages, and trapdoors. He took for his hero, Manfred, a
fierce and cruel knight, who had obtained his lands by duplicity and
blood; whose chief aim in life was to continue his posterity in
possession of wrongfully acquired power. He added subordinate
characters of a kind to aid the effect of supernatural phenomena: a
monk in a neighboring convent, who threatened Manfred with divine
visitation for his crimes; superstitious servants, whose easy fears
exaggerated every unusual sound or foot-fall. He gave an interest to
his narrative by the love passages of Manfred's daughters which were
perpetually at the mercy of the fate which hung over the castle. He
introduced his supernatural effects in the form of a gigantic gauntlet
seen on the stair-rail; a gigantic helmet which crushed the son and
heir of the house as he was about to be married and to carry out his
father's hopes; a skeleton monk who urged the rightful owner of the
castle to take his own from the usurper's hands.

In attempting to make a regularly constructed narrative depend on
supernatural agencies, Walpole undoubtedly succeeded as far as success
was possible. But it may be said without hesitation that real success
was unattainable. The very merits of "The Castle of Otranto" sustain
this decision. The experiment had a fair trial. The narrative of
Manfred's crimes and the punishments visited upon them, the characters
and actions of subordinate personages are all managed with skill; while
the supernatural agencies are introduced at the proper times and have
the expected effects. But the real test of success in such an attempt
must lie in the impression made on the reader's mind. And this
impression may be of two kinds. Let us imagine a group of young people
sitting about the dying embers of a fire on a winter's evening,
listening to a ghost story. The black darkness, the sound of the wind
howling without, accord with the low tones, the dim light, and the tale
of horror within. The minds of the listeners insensibly cast off their
ordinary trains of thought, and give themselves up to the unreal
impressions of the moment. The incredible circumstances of the
apparition are accepted without question or criticism; the impression
of the supernatural occurrences is alone thought of and enjoyed. But
now, let the same tale be read aloud after breakfast, from a newspaper,
with the affidavits of the witnesses of the apparition duly attached,
and only laughter can be the result.

Now let us apply the same test to romance. We open the "Morte d'Arthur";
we find ourselves at once in an unreal, almost nameless land; we meet
with knights whom we only know apart by their armor, and queens ambling
through pathless forests on white palfreys; we attend brilliant
tournaments and witness superhuman deeds of arms. Our minds, untroubled
by scepticism and thoughtless of unreality, yield themselves to the
poetical illusion. Who stops to think of the incredible when Sir
Bedivere hurls into the lake the dying Arthur's sword Excalibur?

    Then Sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took
    it up, and went to the water side, and there he bound the girdle
    about the hilts, and then he threw the sword as far into the water
    as he might, and there came an arm and an hand above the water, and
    met it, and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished, and
    then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water.

But when we are introduced to the castle of Otranto, when we know its
dimensions and appearance, when we have become acquainted with its
inmates, and have been made to realize that they are flesh and blood
like ourselves, we cannot receive without a shock the account of the
supernatural occurrences by which they are affected. It is as if we
listened to a ghost story in the glare of daylight, and in the full
activity of our critical faculties.

    "Thou art no lawful prince," said Jerome; "thou art no prince--go,
    discuss thy claim with Frederic; and when that is done----" "It is
    done," replied Manfred; "Frederic accepts Matilda's hand, and is
    content to waive his claim, unless I have no male issue." As he
    spoke these words three drops of blood fell from the nose of
    Alfonso's statue.

"The Castle of Otranto" is an entertaining, well-constructed romance
which may absorb the attention of young people, and indeed of all
readers who delight in tales of superstitious horror. But looked upon
as a work of art, it contains discordant elements. The realistic manner
in which the scene and characters are made known, the exactitude with
which the incidents are combined, are in constant opposition to that
poetical ideality without which the supernatural cannot take possession
of the mind. In reading the "Morte d'Arthur" we are insensibly
penetrated by an atmosphere of the marvellous which makes a giant a
natural companion, and a magic sword a necessary part of a warrior's
outfit. But Manfred and his family are so essentially human, and their
surroundings are so realistic, that the reader's sense of congruity is
shocked by the introduction of a bleeding statue or a skeleton monk.

This was evident to Miss Clara Reeve, who hoped to attain success in
the attempt to unite the romance and the novel by limiting all
supernatural occurrences to the verge of probability. It is obvious
that the line would be difficult to draw. Miss Reeve drew it at ghosts.
In the "Old English Baron," she took a story similar to that of
Walpole. She presented to the reader a castle whose real owner had been
murdered, and of which the rightful heir, ignorant of his birth, lived
as a dependent on the wrongful possessor. The story turned on the
revelation of the secret by the ghost of the murdered knight.

    "God defend us!" said Edmund; "but I verily believe that the person
    that owned this armor lies buried under us." Upon this a dismal,
    hollow groan was heard, as if from underneath. A solemn silence
    ensued, and marks of fear were visible upon all three; the groan
    was thrice heard.

To the average mind of the present day Clara Reeve's ghost is not less
improbable and incredible than Walpole's gigantic helmet. If the reader
is prepared by the poetic nature of a narrative for the influence of
the supernatural, he will receive all marvels with equal ease; but if
he be not prepared, if his mind be occupied during the greater part of
the work with actual and ordinary occurrences, any supernatural event
is rejected. Miss Reeve introduced far less of the incredible than her
predecessor, but she did not approach Walpole in the adaptation of her
scenes to supernatural effects. It requires less imagination to see a
figure walk out of a portrait in the gloomy castle of Otranto, than to
hear the groan of Miss Reeve's spectre.

The incompatibility of the real and the unreal in the same work is
sufficiently shown by the course pursued by the different writers who
took part in the romantic revival. Walpole had boldly introduced a
skeleton monk, and had crushed one of his characters by a gigantic
helmet which fell from the sky. Clara Reeve's sense of congruity was
shocked by so strong a contrast between the usual and the
extraordinary, and therefore limited herself to a single supernatural
effect, which might inspire fear while yet remaining within the bounds
of superstitious credulity. The next and greatest contributor to the
romantic revival still further modified the methods of her
predecessors, and in so modifying them, testified her doubts of their
efficacy. Mrs. Radcliffe's plan was not to summon a spectre from his
resting-place and to make him move among flesh and blood personages.
She simply described the superstitious fears of her heroes and
heroines, and sought to make her reader share in them. She excited the
imagination by highly wrought scenes of horror, but instead of
ascribing those scenes to the intervention of supernatural beings, she
showed them to proceed from natural causes. The terror felt, by her
fictitious characters and shared by the reader, was not so much
inspired by real dangers from without, as by superstitious fear within.
The following passage will illustrate Mrs. Radcliffe's method of
dealing with the supernatural:

    From the disturbed slumber into which she then sunk, she was soon
    awakened by a noise, which seemed to arise within her chamber; but
    the silence that prevailed, as she tearfully listened, inclined her
    to believe that she had been alarmed by such sounds as sometimes
    occur in dreams, and she laid her head again upon the pillow.

    A return of the noise again disturbed her, it seemed to come from
    that part of the room which communicated with the private
    staircase, and she instantly remembered the odd circumstance of the
    door having been fastened during the preceding night by some
    unknown hand. The late alarming suspicion concerning its
    communication also occurred to her. Her heart became faint with
    terror. Half raising herself from the bed, and gently drawing aside
    the curtain, she looked toward the door of the staircase, but the
    lamp that burnt on the hearth spread so feeble a light through the
    apartment, that the remote parts of it were lost in shadow. The
    noise, however, which she was convinced came from the door,
    continued. It seemed like that made by the undrawing of rusty
    bolts, and often ceased, and was then renewed more gently, as if
    the hand that occasioned it was restrained by a fear of discovery.
    While Emily kept her eyes fixed on the spot, she saw the door move,
    and then slowly open, and perceived something enter the room, but
    the extreme duskiness prevented her perceiving what it was. Almost
    fainting with terror, she had yet sufficient command over herself
    to check the shriek that was escaping from her lips, and, letting
    the curtain drop from her hand, continued to observe in silence the
    motions of the mysterious figure she saw. It seemed to glide along
    the remote obscurity of the apartment, then paused, and, as it
    approached the hearth, she perceived, in the stronger light, what
    appeared to be a human figure. Certain remembrances now struck upon
    her heart, and almost subdued the feeble remains of her spirit. She
    continued, however, to watch the figure, which remained for some
    time motionless, but then, advancing slowly toward the bed, stood
    silently at the feet, where the curtains, being a little open,
    allowed her still to see it; terror, however, had now deprived her
    of the power of discrimination, as well as that of utterance.[201]

This scene is an excellent example of Mrs. Radcliffe's power of
depicting and exciting fear. The loneliness of Emily in the castle, her
dread of real dangers inclining her mind to expect the unreal, are
shown with an art of which neither Walpole nor Reeve were capable. But,
while these writers would have introduced a real spectre as the
disturber of Emily's slumber, Mrs. Radcliffe is contented with the
terror she has aroused, and hastens to explain its cause.

    Having continued there a moment, the form retreated towards the
    hearth, when it took the lamp, held it up, surveyed the chamber for
    a few moments, and then again advanced towards the bed. The light
    at that instant awakening the dog that had slept at Emily's feet,
    he barked loudly, and, jumping to the floor, flew at the stranger,
    who struck the animal smartly with a sheathed sword, and springing
    towards the bed, Emily discovered--Count Morano.

These passages afford evidence of both the strength and the weakness of
Mrs. Radcliffe's work. She chose a scene calculated to inspire horror,
she subjected to its influence a lonely female, and she then described
with blood-curdling minuteness each detail which could enhance the
sense of hidden danger which it was her purpose to excite. While the
reader follows such portions of her writings, he is carried by the
force and picturesqueness of Mrs. Radcliffe's language into a condition
of sympathy with the fears of the fictitious personage. But the moment
that the scene of horror is past, that the hidden danger is revealed,
that, it turns out to be no ghost but only a Count Morano, all Mrs.
Radcliffe's power is required to prevent an anti-climax. This weakness
is very different from that of Walpole or Reeve. They failed to excite
the feeling of superstitious fear. Mrs. Radcliffe excited it, but she
destroyed its effect by revealing the inadequacy of its cause. The
works of Walpole, Clara Reeve, and particularly of Mrs. Radcliffe,
contain very decided merits. They made a school which has found many
admirers and has given a vast deal of pleasure. But the school was
founded on wrong principles and could not endure. It is impossible for
the mind to enjoy the supernatural while it is chained down to
every-day life by realistic descriptions of scenes and persons. And it
is equally impossible to permanently please by fear-inspiring
narratives, when the reader is aware that all the while there is no
sufficient cause for the hero's terror.

But what Mrs. Radcliffe attempted, she carried out with a very great
skill. She placed the scenes of her narratives in Sicily, in Italy, or
the south of France, and made good use of the warm natures and vivid
imaginations which are born of southern climates. Every aid which an
effective _mise en scène_ could supply to her supernatural effects was
most skilfully brought into play. Lonely castles, secret passages,
gloomy churches, and monkish superstitions,--all were adapted to the
tale of unknown dangers and fearful predicaments which Mrs. Radcliffe
had to tell. She kept up with remarkable strength a supernatural tone
which insensibly aids the imagination. In her descriptions of scenery,
she chose nature in its most awe-inspiring forms, and instilled into
the reader's mind the same sense of the insignificance of man, under
the influence of which her heroes and heroines so continually remain.
We are reminded of Buckle's description of the effect of nature upon
human imagination and credulity when we notice the striking manner in
which Mrs. Radcliffe moulded the surroundings of her heroes and
heroines, and made their minds susceptible to superstitious terror.

    From Beaujeu the road had constantly ascended, conducting the
    travellers into the higher regions of the air, where immense
    glaciers exhibited their frozen horrors, and eternal snow whitened
    the summits of the mountains. They often paused to contemplate
    these stupendous scenes, and, seated on some wild cliff, where only
    the ilex or the larch could flourish, looked over dark forests of
    fir, and precipices where human foot had never wandered, into the
    glen--so deep that the thunder of the torrent, which was seen to
    foam along the bottom was scarcely heard to murmur. Over these
    crags rose others of stupendous height and fantastic shape; some
    shooting into cones; others impending far over their base, in huge
    masses of granite, along whose broken ridges was often lodged a
    weight of snow, that, trembling even to the vibration of a sound,
    threatened to bear destruction in its course to the vale. Around on
    every side, far as the eye could penetrate, were seen only forms of
    grandeur the long perspective of mountain tops, tinged with
    ethereal blue, or white with snow; valleys of ice, and forests of
    gloomy fir. * * * The deep silence of these solitudes was broken
    only at intervals by the scream of the vultures, seen cowering
    round some cliff below, or by the cry of the eagle sailing high in
    the air; except when the travellers listened to the hollow thunder
    that sometimes muttered at their feet.[202]

Lewis in "The Monk," and Maturin in "The Family of Montorio," carried
the principles of the Radcliffe school beyond the verge of absurdity.
Their novels are wild melodramas, the product of distorted
imaginations, in which endless horrors are mingled with gross
violations of decency. "The Monk" and "The Family of Montorio" had a
great reputation in their day, and in contemporary criticism we find
their praise sung and their immortality predicted. But, while they
illustrate, on the one hand, the temporary vogue an author may acquire
by highly-wrought clap-trap and flashy flights of imagination, they
show very plainly, in the oblivion which has overtaken them, how little
such characteristics avail in the race for enduring fame.

[Footnote 201: "The Mysteries of Udolpho," chap. xix.]

[Footnote 202: "The Mysteries of Udolpho," ch. iv.]


At the end of the eighteenth century, the novel had become established
as a popular form of literature, and the number of its votaries had
begun to assume the proportions which have since made novelists by far
the most numerous literary body. Some writers, perhaps, have been
omitted who deserved mention as much as some who have been commented
upon. But all have been spoken of, it is believed, who contributed any
new ideas or methods to the art of fictitious composition.

The novel had, indeed, taken the place of the stage to a very great
extent. If we compare the productions of the dramatist with those of
the novelist, as regards both quantity and merit, during the last
hundred and fifty years, we shall perceive a great preponderance in
favor of the writer of fiction. Although there are some respects in
which the novel cannot compete with the drama, there are obvious
reasons why the former should be much better adapted than the latter to
modern requirements. Great changes have come over the audience. With
the progress of civilization, life has become less and less dramatic,
and affords fewer striking scenes and violent ebullitions of passion.
It not only furnishes far less material for stage effects, but also
supplies little of that sympathy which the dramatist must find in the
minds of his audience. While life has become less dramatic, it has
become far more complex, and requires a broader treatment in its
delineation than the restrictions of the stage can allow.

As we look back upon the fiction of the eighteenth century it is
evident that the novel, like the play, is capable of great uses and of
great abuses, according to the spirit in which it is written. In the
hands of Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Goldsmith, and Miss Burney, it
reached a high position as a work of art. It retained, indeed, much of
the manner of the story of adventure, inasmuch as the interest was more
commonly made to depend on the fortunes of a chosen hero than on the
development of a well constructed plot. But "Robinson Crusoe," "Tom
Jones," "The Vicar of Wakefield," and "Evelina," are works which
deserve and possess the interest of the present time. Such books as
these are to be cherished as precious legacies from the years that have
gone before. They have given, in the course of their long active
circulation, an incalculable amount of pleasure. They have supplied
posterity with a picturesque view of the life and manners of their
ancestors which could not be acquired from any other source. But while
the fiction of the eighteenth century includes much that is valuable
from a literary and from a historical point of view, it includes also a
great quantity of worthless and injurious writing. By far the larger
number of novels published were of a kind likely to exert an evil
influence on their readers. Their coarseness and licentiousness had a
strong tendency to disseminate the morbid thoughts and unregulated
passions which dictated their production. So general was the feeling
that a work of fiction would probably contain immoral and debasing
views of life, that the novel and the novelist, were both looked upon
askance. "In the republic of letters," said Miss Burney, "there is no
member of such inferior rank, or who is so much disdained by his
brethren of the quill, as the humble novelist; nor is his fate less
hard in the world at large, since, among the whole class of writers
perhaps not one can be named of which the votaries are more numerous
but less respectable." Miss Edgeworth, in the beginning of the present
century, felt it necessary to call her first novel "a moral tale,"
because so much folly, error, and vice are disseminated in books
classed "under the denomination of novels." A great part of the fiction
of the last century, as indeed of our own time, possesses neither the
value of a work of art nor that belonging to the description and
preservation of contemporary manners. Nor could the excuse of the
amusement they afforded be called up in their favor. No amusement is
worth having which is not healthy and innocent. The general prejudice
which formerly existed against novels very much lessened their
circulation, and lessened the evil done by licentious productions.
Careful parents did not allow a novel in their children's hands which
had not passed an examination--a precaution now too generally

But notwithstanding all the trash, and worse than trash, which has gone
into circulation under the broad and attractive term of novel, it is
evident that the English speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic
demand purity in the works of fiction which are submitted to its
judgment. While no literary work can present a greater claim to
permanent favor than a really good novel, none is more certain to be
quite ephemeral than a bad one, whether its badness consist in the
manner or the matter. For more than a hundred years "The Vicar of
Wakefield" has held its own, while hundreds of novels which created
more sensation at the time of their appearance have fallen into
everlasting oblivion. And this triumph is not only due to literary
excellence, but to the human excellence of the conception which
Goldsmith gave to the world.




Fiction has absorbed so much of the literary talent of the present
century, and has attained so important a place in the lives and
thoughts of the reading public, that, in this chapter, we will attempt
a description of its varied forms, and an inquiry into its uses and
abuses, rather than an extended criticism of individual writers.
Allibone's "Dictionary of Authors" contains two thousand two hundred
and fifty-seven names of writers of fiction, by far the greater number
of which belong to the nineteenth century, and every year adds to the

There is no better example of the closeness of the connection between
society and its literature than is supplied by the novel. Every change
in the public taste has been followed by a corresponding variety of
fiction, until it is difficult to enumerate all the schools into which
novelists have divided themselves. During the present century, life has
become far more complex and the reading public far more exacting,
varied, and extended than ever before. Steam and electricity have
brought distant countries into close communion, and have awakened a
feeling of fellowship among the different nations of the civilised
world which has greatly widened the horizon of human interests. The
spread of education, the increase and distribution of wealth, together
with the cheapness of printing, have largely increased the number and
variety of those who seek entertainment from works of fiction. The
novel-reader is no longer content with the description of scenes and
characters among which his own life is passed. He wishes to be
introduced to foreign countries, to past ages, and to societies and
ranks apart from his own. He wishes also to find in fiction the
reflection of his own tastes and the discussion of his own interests.
He seeks psychology, or study of character, or the excitement of a
complicated plot, or the details and events of sea-faring, criminal, or
fashionable life. All of these different tastes the novelist has
undertaken to gratify.

Under the extensive head of the novel of life and manners, the habits,
modes of thought, and peculiarities of language of Scotland, Ireland,
England, and the United States, with many sub-divisions of provinces
and cities, have been studied and described. The novelist has extended
his investigations into Eastern countries, and has portrayed the
customs and institutions of Oriental life. He has taken his characters
from historic times, and has recommended the past for the instruction
or amusement of the present. The experience of the soldier and the
sailor have taken their place among the incidents of fiction; the
adventures and crimes of blacklegs and convicts have been drawn upon to
gratify palates sated with the weak _pabulum_ of the fashionable novel.

Fiction has not been confined to the study of manners and character,
but has been extensively used to propagate opinions and to argue
causes. Novels have been written in support of religious views,
Catholic, High-Church, and Low-Church; political novels have supported
the interests of Tory, Whig, anti-slavery, and civil service;
philosophical novels have exposed the evils of society as at present
constituted, and have built up impossible utopias. Besides the novel of
purpose, there has been the novel of fancy, in which the imagination
has been allowed to soar unchecked in the regions of the unreal and the

With so great a variety of works of fiction, it is not surprising to
find a corresponding variety of authorship. Lords and ladies, generals
and colonels have entered the lists against police court reporters and
female adventurers. The novel is no longer the exclusive work of a
professional author. Amateurs have attempted it to pass the time which
hung heavily on their hands; to put into form their dreams or
experiences; to gratify a mere literary vanity. The needy nobleman has
made profitable use of his name on the title-page of a novel purporting
to give information concerning fashionable life. But the most
remarkable characteristic of novel-writing has been the important part
taken by women. They have adopted fiction as their special department
of literature, and have shown their capacity for it by the production
of novels which fully equal in number and almost equal in merit the
works of their masculine rivals. On her own ground, George Eliot has no
superior, while the writings of Miss Austen, of Miss Edgeworth, of Miss
Ferrier, of Mrs. Stowe, not to mention many others, are to be ranked
among the best works of fiction in any language. But while women have
contributed their full share of novels, both as regards quantity and
merit, they have also contributed much more than what we think their
full share of worthless and immoral writing. Bad women will have
literary capacity as well as bad men, but it is doubly shocking to find
that the prurient thoughts, the indecent allusions, and immoral
opinions which are often met with in the novels of the day proceed from
that sex which ought to be the stronghold of modesty and virtue.

And this matter becomes very important when we consider the position
which works of fiction have attained in the present century. In the
days of Mrs. Behn, Mrs. Heywood, Fielding, or Smollett, coarseness of
thought and language was so general that it naturally had a prominent
place in novels. All persons who objected to licentious scenes and
gross expressions in the reading of themselves or their children
excluded works of fiction. As Miss Edgeworth said, most novels were
filled with vice or folly, and as Miss Burney complained, no body of
literary men were so numerous, or so little respectable as novelists.
But, in the hands of such writers as Sir Walter Scott, as Miss Ferrier,
as Miss Austen, as Dickens, as Thackeray, as Charles Kingsley, as Mr.
Anthony Trollope, the novel has achieved for itself a position of
respectability and dignity which seems to remain unimpaired,
notwithstanding the efforts of many authors to destroy it. Works of
fiction are to be found in every home, in the hands of parents, in the
hands of young boys and girls. The word novel has been given so high a
signification by the great names which are associated with it, that
parental censorship has almost ceased. It is impossible that a form of
literature to which so many and so great minds have been devoted, and
which takes so prominent a place in the favor of the reading public,
should not be without a powerful influence. Let us look more closely at
the works of fiction of the nineteenth century, and then endeavor to
determine how far their influence has been for good, and how far for


It is the especial province of the novel of life and manners to be as
far as possible a truthful reflection of nature. And the more it
approaches to this condition, the more realistic it is said to be. But
the word realism is a vague term, and is constantly employed to express
different ideas. As far as it applies to the novel, it usually
signifies an author's fidelity to nature. But even with this
definition, the term realism has no very definite meaning unless all
persons agree as to what constitutes nature. There is a great
difference in men according as they are looked at with the eye of a
Raphael or of a Rembrandt. There has been a strong tendency among
novelists of the present century who have written since Scott, to
devote themselves more to the common characters and incidents of
every-day life; to describe the world as it appears to the ordinary
observer, who rarely associates with either heroes or villains, and has
little experience of either the sublime or the marvellous. Such was the
expressed object of Thackeray, and such is the general character of the
works of George Eliot and of Mr. Anthony Trollope. This tendency has
been carried to an extreme by some English novelists, and above all by
the Frenchman, Emile Zola, who have not only thrown aside entirely the
romantic element in their fictions, but have shown their ideas of
realism to consist in the base and the ignoble, and have confined their
studies to the vices and degradation of the human species.

An admirer of Thackeray and an admirer of Zola would consider the works
of his favorite author to be realistic, and yet nature appears under
very different aspects in the pages of the two novelists. But the
partisans of Thackeray and those of Zola would probably unite in the
opinion that Sir Walter Scott was not realistic; they would call him
romantic, and claim that he painted ideal scenes and ideal characters.
But among those who read and re-read the novels of Scott, by far the
greater number believe that "The Wizard of the North" was true to
nature, that Jeanie Deans and Rob Roy and Meg Merrilies were not
impossible characters. There are many who enter into the scenes
described by Scott with as much feeling of reality as is experienced by
those who follow the career of a Pendennis, of a Duke of Omnium, or of
a Nana. A novelist, then, is realistic or not realistic according to
the views which he and his reader entertain of nature. To the optimist,
to the youthful and romantic, "The Heart of Midlothian" and "Guy
Mannering" will seem a truthful representation of life. The more
worldly and practical will find their idea of reality in "The Mill on
the Floss," in "Vanity Fair," in "The Prime Minister." And finally
those whose taste or lot has kept them "raking in the dirt of mankind"
will think their view of truth best expressed by "L'Assommoir" or

But we would not be understood to mean that a novelist or a painter is
realistic, because he represents nature as it appears to him, whether
he look at it through a glass _couleur de rose_, or with the distorted
eye of a cynic. He may describe the sublime, the ordinary, or the vile,
as nature supplies examples of all three, and yet be realistic, so long
as he presents any one of these conditions without exaggeration, and
without too extended an application.

The writers who have devoted themselves to the novel of life and
manners have all sought to be realistic, and the value of their work
largely depends on the success which has attended their efforts in this
direction. The enduring vitality of "Tom Jones" is due to Fielding's
fidelity to nature, and it is safe to predict that no novel which fails
in this respect can have more than an ephemeral reputation. Nothing
could be more false than the views of contemporary life contained in a
large part of the fiction of the present day, and the future historian
who looks to the novel of the nineteenth century for information
concerning morals and social habits will have to exercise a constant


Scottish life and manners have been made familiar to the world by a
series of brilliant novelists, first among whom stands the greatest
figure in the history of English fiction. Sir Walter Scott was
qualified to an extraordinary degree for the great work he was destined
to perform for his country and for the novel. His ancestry, the
traditions among which he grew up, his in-born love of legendary lore,
his vivid imagination and keenness of sympathy all fitted him to
appreciate and to put into enduring form the latent romance which
pervaded his beloved Scotland. His practical experience as a lawyer and
as a sheriff, gave him a clear insight into the institutions of his
country. Previous to the publication of "Waverley," Scotland was a
comparatively unknown land. Even Englishmen had little knowledge of its
national habits, of its traditions, or its scenery. To Scotchmen, the
history of their country was little more than a skeleton, till the
magic wand of Scott it filled it with flesh and blood, and gave it new
life and animation. "Up to the era of Sir Walter," says an eminent
Scotchman, "living people had some vague, general, indistinct notions
about dead people mouldering away to nothing, centuries ago, in regular
kirk-yards and chance burial-places, 'mang muirs and mosses many O,'
somewhere or other in that difficultly distinguished and very debatable
district called the Borders. All at once he touched their tombs with a
divining-rod, and the turf streamed out ghosts, some in woodmen's
dresses, most in warriors' mail; queer archers leapt forth, with yew
bows and quivers, and giants stalked shaking spears! The gray
chronicler smiled, and taking up his pen, wrote in lines of light the
annals of the chivalrous and heroic days of auld feudal Scotland. The
nation then, for the first time, knew the character of its ancestors;
for these were not spectres--not they, indeed,--nor phantoms of the
brain, but gaunt flesh and blood, or glad and glorious;--base-born
cottage churls of the olden time, because Scottish, became familiar to
the love of the nation's heart, and so to its pride did the high born
lineage of palace kings. * * * We know now the character of our own
people as it showed itself in war and peace--in palace, castle, hall,
hut, hovel, and shieling--through centuries of advancing civilization."

And it was not only to his countrymen that Scott made vivid and
familiar the history of his native land. Since his genius described the
Highland fastnesses, and peopled them with the chiefs and maidens of
old, all the world feels at home in that land at once so small and so
great. In Italy, in France in Germany, in America, Jeanie Deans and the
Master of Ravenswood are household friends, and Scottish life and
habits are known to tens of thousands who never leave their native

Besides making his country celebrated by his writings, Scott placed the
novel on the firm foundation in public estimation which it has since
retained. He redeemed its character from the disrepute into which it
had fallen. He used it not only as a means of giving acute and
healthful pleasure, but he made it the medium for moral and
intellectual advancement. The purity of thought which pervades all his
writings, the never-failing nobility of the views of life which he
placed before his readers can have no other than an elevating

Scott's literary success was due both to genius and to industry. Of his
early precocity Mrs. Cockburn has left a remarkable instance.[203] "I
last night supped in Mr. Walter Scott's. He has the most extraordinary
genius of a boy I ever saw. He was reading a poem to his mother when I
went in. I made him read on; it was the description of a shipwreck. His
passion rose with the storm. He lifted his eyes and hands: 'There's the
mast gone!' says he. 'Crash it goes! They will all perish!' After his
agitation he turns to me: 'That is too melancholy,' says he. 'I had
better read you something more amusing.' I preferred a little chat, and
asked his opinion of Milton and other books he was reading, which he
gave me wonderfully. One of his observations was: 'How strange it is
that Adam, just new come into the world, should know every thing! That
must be the poet's fancy,' says he. But when told he was created
perfect by God, he instantly yielded. When taken to bed last night, he
told his aunt he liked that lady. 'What lady?' says she. 'Why, Mrs.
Cockburn, for I think she is a virtuoso,--like myself.' 'Dear Walter,'
says Aunt Jenny, 'what is a virtuoso?' 'Don't ye know? Why, it's one
who wishes and will know every thing.' Now, sir, you will think this a
very silly story. Pray, what age do you suppose this boy to be? Name
it, now, before I tell you. 'Why, twelve or fourteen.' No such thing;
he is not quite six years old. He has a lame leg, for which he was a
year at Bath, and has acquired the perfect English accent, which he has
not lost since he came, and he reads like a Garrick. You will allow
this an uncommon exotic."

The vivid imagination and love of knowledge which Scott displayed from
his earliest years were supplemented throughout his life by an
assiduous self-cultivation. The great and varied body of legendary lore
which he accumulated, together with his ever active and universal
sympathy with mankind, made the chief elements in his fictions. There
is no one respect in which the Waverley novels are pre-eminent. As
regards plot, Scott has been frequently surpassed. While "Kenilworth,"
the "Bride of Lammermoor," and "Ivanhoe," are well constructed, the
plan of "Rob Roy" and "The Monastery" are lacking in sequence. Other
novelists, too, have drawn character with quite as much power. But the
Waverly novels have attained their supreme position in public
estimation by a rare and well balanced union of different qualities.
They contain beautiful examples of the sublime, and amusing examples of
the ludicrous. They reflect nature in various phases, and always with
picturesqueness, power, and truth. Of Scott's historical novels we
shall speak elsewhere. Of those which relate especially to his own
country, the most remarkable merit consists in the fidelity with which
they have reflected the Scotch nationality. On this account they will
always possess a value for the student of social history.

Of the estimation in which these novels have been held by the world,
and the immense area over which their influence has extended, some idea
may be formed from the fact that the actual profits which accrued from
them to the author or to his estate shortly after his death, exceeded
two millions of dollars. When we add to this sum the profits of the
publishers, and when we consider the number of translations issued in
Europe and the editions printed since Scott's death in Great Britain
and America, we can realize how vast a sum the world has been glad to
pay for the possession of these invaluable works.

Following the great Sir Walter in the description of Scottish life and
manners, are many well-known writers. John Galt, in the "Annals of the
Parish," gave many humorous descriptions of national character. In
Wilson's "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life," in "The Ettrick
Shepherd," in the works of Scott's son-in-law, Lockhart, are scenes and
characters still very familiar to novel readers. Jane Porter embodied
rather ideal views of history in "Thaddeus of Warsaw," and "The
Scottish Chiefs." The talents of Miss Ferrier, of Mrs. Oliphant, and of
Mr. William Black have kept up the interest which the world has learned
to take in every thing appertaining to the land which Sir Walter Scott
taught it to know and love so well.[204]

[Footnote 203: Mrs. Cockburn to Rev. Dr. Douglas, 1777; Lockhart's
"Life of Scott."]

[Footnote 204: Other novelists belonging especially in Scotland and of
considerable reputation, are Maria Porter, Elizabeth Hamilton, A.
Cunningham, Mrs. Johnstone, Hogg, Picken, Moir, Sir T.D. Lauder, Hugh
Miller, George MacDonald.]


First among the contributors to the novel of Irish life and manners may
be mentioned Maria Edgeworth, by whose successful labors Scott was
first inspired to undertake his own. In Miss Edgeworth's works, Ireland
found a true exposition of her wrongs and her virtues; and also of her
follies and errors. The evils of absenteeism were powerfully
illustrated in the novel of the same name. In "Castle Rackrent," the
trials and difficulties of landlord and tenant were described with
genuine sympathy and dramatic force. The peculiarities of Irish temper
and character have been studied by Miss Edgeworth with a fidelity which
has given her novels the same national stamp and value which belong to
those of Scott. Like him, too, she did much to raise fiction in
character, scope, and influence. Whether describing Irish, English, or
fashionable life, she is always true to nature, always pure and
elevated in tone. Her works are neither marred by the coarseness of the
past, nor by the false delicacy of the present. She studiously avoids
error and exaggeration in every form. Sentimentality and mock heroism
have no place in her pages. While she is wanting in poetry, she is
singularly rich in the scenes and characters of every-day life, and her
novels are marked by a common-sense knowledge of the world which never
degenerates into commonplace.

Miss Edgeworth has been ably followed by several students of Irish
life. William Carleton's "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry,"
the novels of Samuel Lover and of John Banim are still well known.
Thomas Crofton Croker, with whose amusing description of the "Last of
the Irish Sarpints," the reader is probably familiar, has studied his
countrymen's superstitions and peculiarities with great success.
Charles James Lever has long retained a well-deserved popularity by the
production of about thirty jovial dashing novels, among which the most
celebrated is "Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon."[205]

[Footnote 205: Among other novelists of Irish life and manners may be
mentioned Lady Morgan, Mrs. S.C. Hall, Gerald Griffin, T.C. Grattan,
Justin MacCarthy, and others.]


Novels relating particularly to English life and manners have been
greater in number and more varied in character than those of any other
country. A large volume would be necessary to do any critical justice
to the many distinguished writers whom we can only briefly notice here.
The most considerable subdivision of the English novel has been that
occupied with the study of domestic life,--a department for which women
are particularly fitted, and in which they have been eminently

Mrs. Opie's "Simple Tales," "Tales of Real Life," and "Tales of the
Heart," although displaying no great talent in construction or style,
excel in a natural pathos and a delicacy of sentiment which have made
them popular for many years. Miss Edgeworth brought to the study of
English life the same practical views and library talents which we have
seen in her Irish novels. Her children's stories, "Frank," "Harry and
Lucy," and "Rosamund" were among the first contributions to juvenile
fiction. "Helen," in which she exposed the evils of untruthfulness, is
a good example of the success with which this admirable woman could
combine entertainment and moral elevation. Jane Austen's name has long
been linked with that of Miss Edgeworth, as the two most powerful
female novelists of the earlier part of the century. In "Pride and
Prejudice," "Emma," "Mansfield Park," "Sense and Sensibility," she
described the country gentry and middle classes of society. She
depended neither on exciting scenes, nor on highly wrought effects of
human passion for the interest of her stories, but studied every-day
life and ordinary people with a sympathy and power of observation which
imparted a deep interest to all her works. Miss Ferrier's novels,
"Inheritance" and "Marriage," were greatly admired by Scott, and now,
some sixty years later, are still widely read, and receive the honor of
both cheap and expensive editions. Miss Ferrier's skill in the
construction of a plot, her natural studies of character and the
liveliness of her descriptions have kept her works popular,
notwithstanding great changes in the public taste. Mrs. Trollope, the
mother of a more celebrated son, contributed largely to the English
domestic novel. The pathetic story of the lives of the Brontë sisters,
supplied by Mrs. Gaskell, has deepened the interest excited by the
early popularity of "Jane Eyre." Charlotte was the most talented of the
family, and won a widespread admiration by her knowledge of life, her
freshness, her vigor, and her innocent disregard of conventionality.
Mrs. Gaskell described the life and trials of the manufacturing classes
with great ability in "Mary Barton" and other novels. Miss Yonge,
author of the "Heir of Redclyffe," Mrs. Henry Wood, author of "East
Lynne," and Mrs. Lynn Linton have added largely to this department of
fiction. The Baroness Tautphoeus described English and German life in
the particularly fascinating novels, "Quits," "At Odds," and "The
Initials." Miss Thackeray has made good use of talents inherited from
her father. Mary R. Mitford and Mrs. Alexander have written many
entertaining and popular novels. Miss Mulock began a long list of
successful works with "The Ogilvies" and "John Halifax."

But by far the greatest female novelist who has devoted her talents to
the English domestic novel, and by far the greatest female writer in
the language is undeniably George Eliot. Women almost invariably leave
the stamp of their sex upon their work. But George Eliot took and held
a man's position in literature from the outset of her career. It was
not that she was unfeminine. She brought to her work a woman's sympathy
and a woman's attention to detail. But in breadth of conception, in
comprehensiveness of thought, her mind was essentially masculine. Her
appreciation of varieties and shades of character was almost
Shakespearian. She could describe the self-indulgence of a Hetty Sorrel
leading to cruelty, and that of a Tito leading to treachery, with
perfect distinctness. She could enter into the generous aspirations of
a Savonarola, and the selfish desires of a Grandcourt, with equal
perspicuity. Her readers do not feel less familiar with the dull
barrenness of Casaubon than with the pregnant vivacity of Mrs. Poyser.
In the study of the inward workings of the human mind, George Eliot is
unsurpassed by any novelist. Thackeray alone can dispute her
pre-eminence in this respect. However much the reader may recoil from
the horror of Little Hetty's crime, he cannot deny that it follows as a
natural consequence. Although Dorothea's marriages are extremely
disappointing, the train of thought which led her to enter into them is
traced with unerring clearness.

An obstacle to the popularity of George Eliot's novels lies in the
slowness of their movement. The author's soliloquies, comments, and
reflections, which are so much valued by her especial admirers,
constantly interrupt the course of the narrative, and prove cumbersome
to such readers as enjoy a rapid, flowing story. But without these
interruptions, how much of George Eliot's best wisdom would be lost!
How many significant phrases would be lost from familiar language! The
commentaries of the authoress herself on the incidents of her tale give
her works a value which inclines us to take up her volumes again and
again, long after the stories themselves have become familiar. We never
weary of such sentences as the following from "Adam Bede": "There is no
despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our
first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have
suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope."
Not less beautiful and concentrated are those few words on woman's love
in "Middlemarch":--"Those childlike caresses which are the bent of
every sweet woman, who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate
of her bald doll, creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the
wealth of her own love."

A faculty which George Eliot possessed in common with Dickens and
Thackeray was that of making very ordinary people interesting. And this
is a talent characteristic of the best minds which have contributed to
fiction or the drama. Shakespeare possessed it in a high degree, and
the best creations of Scott are ordinary, unheroic persons. The faculty
arises from superior powers of observation. Some people will take a
walk through a picturesque country or a crowded city without having
seen any thing worthy of remark. Others will pass over the same
ground, and return overflowing with description. In the same manner,
the great number of men and women pass through life finding every thing
commonplace, and the observing sympathy of a Thackeray, a Miss Austen,
or a George Eliot is necessary to light up the unnoticed figures which
throng the path. George Eliot is particularly happy in drawing a really
ordinary person, especially when a little pretension is added. She must
have written Mr. Brooke's opinion of women with true enjoyment: "There
is a lightness about the feminine mind--a touch and go--music, the fine
arts, that kind of thing--they should study those up to a certain
point, women should; but in a light way, you know." But though Mrs.
Poyser be humble, she is far from ordinary. "Some folks' tongues," she
says, "are like the clocks as run on strikin', not to tell you the time
o' the day, but because there's summat wrong i' their own inside."

So long as George Eliot confined herself to her own sphere of action,
she exhibited the same remarkable powers. But even her great name could
not command admiration for "The Spanish Gypsy." Her limitations clearly
appeared in "Daniel Deronda." When describing the characters and
intercourse of Grandcourt and Gwendolen, when dealing with every thing
English in that variously estimated work, she remained the great author
of "Adam Bede" and "Silas Marner." But in undertaking the discussion of
the religion and social position of the Jews, she mistook her own
talents, and created in Daniel Deronda, an indefinite combination of
virtues unworthy of her genius.

We have now noticed fifteen women, from Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen
to George Eliot, who have contributed to the single department of
fiction concerned with English domestic life. Many other names almost
equally deserving and equally celebrated might be added to the list.
The enduring popularity of their works is sufficient commentary on the
success with which woman's talent has been directed toward fiction. Not
only have the productions of these writers a high literary value, but
their widespread circulation has afforded a really healthful amusement
to tens of thousands, and their influence has been uniformly for

The novels of English domestic life written by men have been little
more numerous or able, but much more extended in scope. "Tremaine" and
"De Vere," of R. Plumer Ward, contain clever sketches of character, but
the narrative is loaded down with political and philosophical
disquisitions. Theodore Hook's stories were as unequal as his life.
Almost all bear the marks of haste and carelessness, and yet very few
are without some portion of that pointed wit and delicate humor which
delineated Jack Brag, or described Mr. Abberley's dinner party in the
"Man of Many Friends." Richard Harris Barham is well known as the
author of the witty "Ingoldsby Legends," and Samuel Warren as the
author of "Ten Thousand a Year." Charles Kingsley described the life
and grievances of mechanics in "Alton Locke." Charles Reade began a
long series of popular novels with "Peg Woffington" and "Christie
Johnstone." His best work is "Never Too Late to Mend," in which he
criticized prison discipline, and described the striking scenes of the
Australian gold-fields. Few novels of the present day contain a more
interesting story or more lifelike delineations of character. Wilkie
Collins' greatest power lies in the construction of his plot; the
"Moonstone" and the "Woman in White," are among the most absorbing
narratives in the whole range of fiction. His studies of the morbid
workings of the mind are often striking, but with the exception of
Count Fosco and a few others, his characters are not strongly marked.
Thomas Hughes accomplished a truly noble work in the composition of
"Tom Brown's School Days" and "Tom Brown at Oxford,"--books which have
found their way to every boy's heart, and have appealed to all that was
most healthful and manly there. The novels of Benjamin d'Israeli are
chiefly interesting in their relation to the character of their
illustrious author. As works of art they are faulty in construction,
exaggerated in description, and unnatural in effect. "Vivian Gray" and
"Lothair" cannot pretend to be truthful studies of English life, nor
would their author, probably, have represented them as such. But so
much of the great statesman's power was instilled into his novels that
they have a certain interest even for those who are most alive to their
faults. They are the conceptions of a very rich imagination, and
contain many pictures which, if untrue to nature, are still extremely
vivid. D'Israeli's chief literary, and perhaps also his chief political
characteristic, was a constant endeavor to make striking effects. The
reader may be sure to find nothing commonplace in his writings. Every
scene and every character is painted in the brightest of colors. If the
background be sombre, it will simply throw out more brilliantly the
figures in the foreground. It is said that most men have a favorite
word. That of d'Israeli was "wondrous." He took his reader into
wondrous baronial halls, filled with wondrous gems, with wondrous
tapestries, with wondrous paintings, and introduced him to wondrous
dukes and duchesses, looking out from wondrous dark orbs, and breathing
through almond-shaped nostrils. He loved to bring the royal family on
the scene, and to trace the awe-inspiring effect of their august
presence. When we open a novel of d'Israeli's we are certain of moving
in a brilliant society, although one belonging to a yet undiscovered
world. Women whose political influence changes the map of Europe,
irresistible Catholic priests are mingled with impudent adventurers and
professional toad-eaters. And over every thing is cast, by d'Israeli's
Eastern imagination, a glamour of unlimited wealth, of numberless
coronets, and of soaring ambitions. The political career of the Earl of
Beaconsfield is one of the most remarkable in history, and even his
opponents cannot withhold admiration from the great abilities and
undaunted resolution which brought that career to its triumphant close.
But the novels of the Earl of Beaconsfield have little value beyond
their reflection of his dreams and his ambition.

Among the most famous writers of fiction of the nineteenth century will
always be mentioned the name of Sir Bulwer Lytton. More than any other
writer, he studied and developed the novel as a form of literature.
Almost every novelist has taken some special field and has confined
himself to that. Dickens, George Eliot, Thackeray made occasional
incursions on historic ground, but still their chief work was expended
upon the novel of life and manners. Lytton attempted, and successfully,
every department of fiction. In "Zanoni," he gave to the world a novel
of fancy; in "Pelham" and "The Disowned," fashionable novels: in "Paul
Clifford," a criminal novel; in "Rienzi," "Harold," "The Last of the
Barons," historical novels; in "What Will He Do With It?" a novel of
familiar life. And he brought to each variety of fiction the same
artistic sense, the same knowledge of the world, and keen observation.
To describe English life in all its phases, he was particularly fitted.
Born in a high rank, he was perfectly at home in his descriptions of
the upper classes, and never slow in exposing their vices. His studies
of men took so universal a form that he became familiar even with the
slang terms of pickpockets and house-breakers. "What Will He Do With
It?" combines examples of the heroic, the humorous, the pathetic, and
the villainous, and affords, perhaps, the best general view of the
author's varied talents. Sir Bulwer Lytton is one of the most
voluminous writers of a very prolific class, and yet he has never
repeated himself. Mr. Anthony Trollope and several other novelists have
shown how fallacious is the idea that the imagination is a fickle
mistress to be courted and waited for. They have proved that she can be
made to settle down and accustomed by habit to working at stated hours
and for regular periods. But Bulwer Lytton not only forced his
imagination to continuous labor, but he was able to insure an unending
novelty of conception. In each one of his novels we are introduced to
an entirely new set of characters inhabiting quite unfamiliar scenes.

With a few exceptions, Mr. Anthony Trollope has confined himself to the
novel of English social life, but that mine he has worked with
wonderful assiduity and success. In "The Warden," in "Barchester
Towers," are studies of clerical character for which this writer has
won a special reputation. "The Small House at Allington" is a love
story of particular fascination. Few writers have described the
manifestations of love in the acts and thoughts of a modest, sweet girl
as delicately as Mr. Trollope has done in the case of the deserted
Lily. Her rejection of a second suitor is felt by the reader to be the
inevitable consequence of so pure a passion, and the treachery of
Crosbie is traced through its various gradations with true fidelity to
nature. "Phineas Finn" is an excellent example of a parliamentary
novel. That work and its companions, "Phineas Redux," "The Prime
Minister," and "The Duke's Children," keep up our acquaintance with the
family and connections of Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, than
which few groups of fictitious characters are more continuously
interesting. Mr. Trollope's novels will have a special value for the
future student of English social life in the nineteenth century. The
race-course, the hunting field, the country seat, Piccadilly, Hyde
Park, the life of clubs and parliament, are described by him with
photographic minuteness. And the novel-reader of to-day derives a
constant pleasure from his books, notwithstanding the fact that the
monotony of modern life is somewhat too closely reflected in them.

The works of no writer in the English language, except those of Scott,
have attained so immediate a reputation and have won so wide-spread a
popularity as the novels of Charles Dickens. "In less than six months
from the appearance of the first number of the 'Pickwick Papers,'" said
the _London Quarterly Review_ in 1837, "the whole reading public were
talking about them, the names of Winkle, Warden, Weller, Snodgrass,
Dodson and Fogg, had become familiar in our mouths as household terms;
and Mr. Dickens was the grand object of interest to the whole tribe of
'Leo-hunters,' male and female, of the metropolis. Nay, Pickwick
chintzes figured in linen-drapers' windows, and Weller corduroys in
breeches-makers' advertisements; Boz cabs might be seen rattling
through the streets; and the portrait of the author of 'Pelham' or
'Crichton' was scraped down or pasted over to make room for that of the
new popular favourite in the omnibuses." For forty years the writings
of this great novelist have held their place in the public esteem
without any sensible diminution. Hundreds of thousands, old and young,
in Great Britain, in America, in every country of Europe, have followed
the fortunes of Nicholas Nickleby, of David Copperfield, of Oliver
Twist, and of numberless other celebrated characters with unflagging
interest. Perhaps Dickens' most remarkable achievement lay in the
number of his creations, and in the distinctness with which he could
impress them on the memory of his readers. Of the great host of figures
who throng his scenes, how many we remember! Their names remain stamped
on our minds, and some of their characteristic phrases, like Micawber's
"Something will turn up," or Tapley's "There's some credit in being
jolly here," have passed into current phrases. Dickens' great object
was to celebrate the virtues of the humbler ranks of life, and to
expose the acts of injustice or tyranny to which they are subjected.
This he did in a spirit of the truest philanthropy and most universal
benevolence. The helpless victims of oppression, like little Oliver
Twist, or the inmates of Dotheboys Hall, found in him an effective
champion. Never has hypocrisy, the besetting vice of this age, been so
mercilessly exposed as in the works of Dickens. It is not only in such
a character as Pecksniff that its ugliness is revealed, but wherever
pretence hides guilt behind a sanctimonious countenance, the mask is
surely torn off. Dickens hated hypocrisy as Thackeray hated snobbism.
And both, in their zeal, occasionally saw the hypocrite or the snob
where he did not exist. Dealing, as Dickens did, so exclusively with
common and low-born characters, it is remarkable that his books so
rarely leave any impression of vulgarity behind them. And this result
is due to the author's love of truth and detestation of all pretence.
There can be no vulgarity without pretension. A great many novels of
the day are extremely vulgar, because they describe ill-bred people and
represent them to the reader as ladies and gentlemen. But Dickens'
shopkeeper or street-sweeper makes no pretence to gentility, and
therefore is as far from being vulgar as the man who has never known
what it was to be any thing but a gentleman. The faults, like the
merits, of Dickens' work resulted from the exuberance and power of his
imagination. The same vividness of conception which gives such life to
his description of a thunderstorm or of a quiet family scene, sometimes
betrayed him into exaggeration and caricature. And yet when we consider
the number and variety of the figures conjured up by his creative mind,
from Paul Dombey to the Jew, Fagin, it is extraordinary that to so few
this criticism will apply.

Dickens' vast popularity resulted only in part from the artistic merit
of his works. The breadth of his canvas, his intense realization of
fictitious scenes, and his extraordinary descriptive power are
qualities enough to win for him his eminent position in fiction. But
the affection felt for Dickens as a man, which has made him occupy so
much the hearts as well as the minds of the reading public, was
attracted by qualities apart from those which excited admiration for
the author. Dickens was essentially a national writer in the variety of
the characters with whom he brought his readers into communion. He was
essentially popular, from the fact that he dealt with the masses and
not with any particular class. He was essentially English, in that he
was the apostle of home. No novelist who has treated domestic life has
so thoroughly caught its spirit, and has so sympathetically traced its
joys and sorrows, its trials and recompenses. Family life has been for
more than two centuries gradually supplanting the life of the camp and
the court. It is in the domestic circle that men now find the interest
which was formerly sought in adventure or publicity. Not only in the
Christmas stories, especially devoted to the celebration of home, but
through all his great fictions Dickens made domestic life his chief
study. And he is, above all others, the favorite household novelist.
While he lived, each new work of his was welcomed alike by parent and
child, and when he died, there were few homes where books ever came
that the loss of a friend was not felt.

Scott, Dickens, almost all the great English novelists described heroes
and heroines. They made their chief character an embodiment of virtue
or strength, and strove to win for him the admiration of the reader.
Even Tom Jones was a hero to Fielding, and Roderick Random to Smollett.
But Thackeray said to himself as he looked out on the world, that
humanity was not made up of heroes and villains. He had never met with
the truly heroic, nor with the utterly depraved. It seemed to him that
human nature lay between the two extremes. In "Vanity Fair," in
"Pendennis" and in "The Newcomes" he resolved to describe man as he
was, with virtues and failings, with occasional glimpses of the noble,
and more common exhibitions of the mean and the little. Young men were
to appear in his pages with their weakness and selfishness; young girls
with their silliness and affectation. Thackeray, in a word, was to be
more realistic than his predecessors in fiction had dared to be. He was
to show his readers what they really were, and not what they would wish
to be.

But in Thackeray's novels is evident the difficulty of establishing any
generally accepted standard of realism. If this quality consists in
representing a character as speaking and acting just as we should
expect such a character to speak and act, Thackeray succeeded as
perhaps no novelist, except Fielding, had done before him. Becky Sharp,
Sir Pitt Crawley, Pendennis, Clive Newcome, all use such words as the
reader would expect from them. Their actions are the natural results of
the trains of thought into which the author has given us an insight.
When the old reprobate, Lord Steyne, discovers that Becky Sharp had
appropriated to herself the money which he had given her to restore
poor Miss Briggs' stolen property, he is not indignant at the
deception. The admiration of the noble rogue is only increased for the
woman who has shown herself to be possessed of a more astute roguery
than his own:--

    "What an accomplished little devil it is!" thought he. "What a
    splendid actress and manager! She had almost got a second supply
    out of me the other day with her coaxing ways. She beats all the
    women I have ever seen in the course of all my well-spent life!
    They are babies compared to her. I am a green-horn myself and a
    fool in her hands--an old fool. She is unsurpassable in lies." His
    lordship's admiration for Becky rose immeasurably at this proof of
    her cleverness. Getting the money was nothing--but getting double
    the sum she wanted and paying nobody--it was a magnificent stroke.

In his delineation of character, in the perfect naturalness with which
all his personages act out their respective parts, no novelist is more
realistic than Thackeray. But realism has a broader application. A
novelist who takes every-day life for his subject has not only to give
the stamp of nature to all his scenes and individuals, but he must so
write, that at the end of his book the reader will have the impression
that real life, with its due apportionment of good and evil, of
happiness and grief, has been placed before him. Some readers will
receive that impression from Thackeray's novels; but they will be those
who think that the evil and the unhappiness predominate. So thought the
author himself. But the world in general think differently, and agree
to look upon Thackeray as a satirist.

As such, he ranks in English literature second only to Swift. To the
great Dean, man was a lump of deformity and disease. He saw in humanity
little besides its vice, and painted his species in colors under which
few men have been willing to recognize a portrait. Thackeray's genial
disposition naturally made him far less bitter than Swift. He neither
saw nor portrayed the monstrous vice which excited the hatred of the
satirist of the eighteenth century. To Thackeray, men were weak rather
than bad, selfish rather than vicious. George Osborne braves the
consequences of marrying poor Amelia Sedley, and yet prefers his own
pleasure to that of his wife. Rawdon Crawley is ignorant, rude, and
unprincipled, but yet is loving and faithful to Rebecca. Weakness,
pettiness, self-deception were the main objects of Thackeray's satire.
Where are the absurdities of youthful woman-worship held up to such
derision as in Pendennis' love for Miss Costigan!

    Pen tried to engage her in conversation about poetry and about her
    profession. He asked her what she thought about Ophelia's madness,
    and whether she was in love with Hamlet or not? "In love with such
    a little ojus creature as that stunted manager of a Bingley?" She
    bristled with indignation at the thought. Pen explained that it was
    not of her he spoke, but of Ophelia of the play. "Oh, indeed, if no
    offense was meant none was taken: but as for Bingley, indeed, she
    did not value him--not that glass of punch." Pen next tried her on
    Kotzebue. "Kotzebue? who was he?" "The author of the play in which
    she had been performing so admirably." "She did not know that, the
    man's name at the beginning of the book was Thompson," she said.
    Pen laughed at her adorable simplicity.... "How beautiful she is,"
    thought Pen, cantering homewards. "How simple and how tender! How
    charming it is to see a woman of her genius busying herself with
    the humble affairs of domestic life, cooking dishes to make her old
    father comfortable, and brewing him drink! How rude it was of me to
    begin to talk of professional matters, and how well she turned the
    conversation! ... Pendennis, Pendennis,--how she spoke the word!
    Emily! Emily! how good, how noble, how beautiful, how perfect she

Thackeray's satire is all the more powerful in that it is directed
against foibles more than against vices. Many a reader who will reject
Swift's portrait of man as a libel, cannot but feel a twinge at
Thackeray's delicate pencillings. After dwelling on the worldliness,
the hypocrisy, the self-seeking of the inmates of Queen's Crawley, how
softly but how terribly he scourges them! "These honest folks at the
Hall, whose simplicity and sweet rural purity surely show the advantage
of a country life over a town one." His praise is the severest cut of
all. "Dear Rebecca," "the dear creature," and we wince for Becky. "What
a dignity it gives an old lady, that balance at the banker's! How
tenderly we look at her faults, if she be a relative." "These money
transactions, these speculations in life and death--these silent
battles for reversionary spoil--make brothers very loving toward each
other in Vanity Fair."

Thackeray is the novelist whose works depend in the least degree on
narrative interest. The characters are so clearly drawn and so
interesting, the manner of Thackeray's writing is so uniformly
entertaining, that his books can always be opened at random and read
with pleasure. "Henry Esmond" is the only novel in which the plot is
carefully constructed. The others are a string of consecutive chapters,
each one of which possesses its individual interest.[208]

The novel of English life and manners includes many subdivisions. Among
the writings of Miss Edgeworth, Miss Ferrier, Bulwer Lytton, Mr.
Anthony Trollope, and others, are novels which deal to a greater or
less extent with fashionable life. A number of novelists, principally
female, have confined their studies to the aristocratic classes.[209]
But the so called fashionable novel is most often the composition of
adventurers whose catch-penny productions aim at affording, to the
middle or lower ranks, information concerning the habits of the
aristocracy. It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that
fashionable life in these novels is such as it might appear to an
imaginative kitchen-maid whose idea of up-stairs existence is founded
on the gossip of servants. When written by persons conversant with
their subject, the fashionable novel forms a legitimate subdivision of
the novel of life and manners. But it is most often a noxious weed. Its
cultivators constantly make up for lack of talent by the excitement of
immoral scenes, and give to their audience of sempstresses and grooms a
most degraded view of aristocratic life. Even when harmless in matter,
its rank luxuriance fills up space much better occupied by the flowers
of literature.

The eminent criminal novel is taken as a tonic by minds satiated with
the vapidity of fashionable fiction. From Lytton's "Paul Clifford," and
Ainsworth's "Jack Sheppard," down to "Merciless Ben, the Hair-Lifter,"
criminal narrative has been occupied with endowing burglars and
murderers with the graces of gentlemen and the moral worth of Christian
missionaries. In its celebration of successful crime, and its
representation under a heroic aspect of villains and blacklegs, no
species of fiction is more false to nature or more injurious to
youthful readers.

To such writers as George A. Lawrence and "Ouida" the world is indebted
for the "Muscular Novel," which combines all the worst elements of both
fashionable and criminal narrative. In "Guy Livingstone," "Strathmore,"
and a hundred similar fictions, the reader is introduced to men of
extraordinary physical development, whose strength is proof against
the wildest dissipation; to women of extraordinary beauty, whose charms
are enhanced in proportion to their coarseness and lack of modesty.
Jack Sheppard, reposing on a velvet couch, smoking a perfumed
cigarette, and worshipped by two or three ornaments of the demi-monde,
is the type most admired by the muscular novelist. Lawrence and "Ouida"
have brought to their work a literary power which has given them
considerable notoriety; and has placed them at the head of their
particular school; but it is a school whose distinctive characteristics
consist in extravagance, unhealthiness of tone, and falseness to

English military life has been ably described by such writers as E.
Napier, G.R. Gleig, W.H. Maxwell, and James Grant. But as a maritime
nation, England has been much more prolific of naval novelists. At the
head of these stands Captain Marryat, who has celebrated the pleasures
and described the incidents of sea-faring life in about thirty jovial,
dashing books. Among the great number of odd and entertaining
characters sketched by his hand, "Peter Simple" and "Midshipman Easy"
are perhaps the most interesting. Marryat's narratives are not
carefully constructed, but flow on gracefully and easily, enlivened by
an inexhaustible fund of humor, and enriched by an endless succession
of bright or exciting scenes. The names of Captain Glassock, Howard,
Trelawney, Captain Chamier, Michael Scott, and the author of the "Wreck
of the Grosvenor," are among those most prominently associated with the
marine novel. These writers have not only dealt with the adventures of
a sailor's life and the peculiarities of a sailor's character, but have
studied the influence of the sea on the human mind.

Through the great interest felt by Englishmen in the manners and
customs of Eastern nations, Oriental novels have become a recognized
department of English fiction. In the eighteenth century, Johnson, in
"Rasselas," and Beckford, in "Vathek," had drawn on the romantic
features of Eastern life. In the present century successful attempts
have been made to study Oriental character through the medium of the
realistic novel. Hope, in "Anastasius," described the vices and
degradation of Turkey and Greece in the person of his hero. In James
Morier's "Hajji Baba of Ispahan" and "Ayesha," are vivid delineations
of Eastern character and highly humorous sketches of Persian life.
James Baillie Fraser, in "The Kuzzilbash," and Miss Pardoe in a number
of tales, have still further enriched the department of Oriental

[Footnote 206: Other women who have contributed to the English domestic
novel--. Mary K. Mitford, Mrs. Crowe, Mrs. Marsh, Lady Georgiana
Fullerton, Miss Kavanaugh, Geraldine Jewsbury, Mrs. Alexander, S.
Bunbury, C. Sinclair, A. Strickland, M.C. Clarke, L.S. Costello, C.
Crowe, A.H. Drury, G. Ellis, M. Howitt, Mrs. Hubback, Hon. Mrs. Norton,
M.A. Power, E. Sewell, Mrs. Marquoid, Hesba Stretton, Florence Marryat,
Elizabeth Wetherell, Sarah Tytler, C.C. Fraser-Tytler, C. Craik, Hon.
Mrs. Chetwind, M.M. Grant, A.E. Bray, and others.]

[Footnote 207: "Pendennis," Chap. v.]

[Footnote 208: Many other well-known writers have contributed to the
English domestic novel: Thomas Love Peacock, H. Coke, Samuel Philips,
Angus B. Reach, Albert Smith, R. Cobbold, Edmund Yates, Thomas A.
Trollope, Thomas Hardy, James Payn, George Augustus Sala, William
Thornbury, the author of "The Bachelor of the Albany," Mortimer
Collins, G.H. Lewes, Shirley Brooks, Douglas Jerrold, C. Crowley, T. de
Quincey, S.W. Fullom, J. Hannay, W. Howitt, C. Mackay, G.J.
Whyte-Melville, T. Miller, L. Ritchie, F.E. Smedley, J.A. St. John, M.F.
Tupper, F.M. Whitly, F. Williams, C.L. Wraxall, and others.]

[Footnote 209: T.H. Lister, Marquis of Normanby, Lady Caroline Lamb,
Countess of Morley, Lady Charlotte Bury, Lady Dacre, Mrs. Gore, Lady


James Fenimore Cooper said in regard to the materials for American
fiction: "There is a familiarity of the subject, a scarcity of events,
and a poverty in the accompaniments that drive an author from the
undertaking in despair." But the truth of this statement has been
greatly modified, if not quite refuted, by the work of that great
novelist and of several others who have succeeded him. It is true that
American life presents less salient characteristics than that of
Europe; that class distinctions are less marked; and that the energies
of the nation are still so much confined to strictly utilitarian
objects, that life moves along with unpicturesque sameness and
evenness. But mankind remains equally complicated and equally
interesting under whatever circumstances it may be placed. The vast
extent of American territory and the infinite variety of its
inhabitants afford material to the novelist which yet remains almost
untouched. New England, New York, the Southern States, and, above all,
the Great West, are rich in special customs, traditions, and habits of
thought with which fiction has only begun to concern itself. The
visitor to Washington cannot fail to be struck by the variety of men
who jostle each other in that cosmopolitan city. The New England
farmer, the New York banker, the Southern planter, the Western herder
or grain merchant, the California mine-owner, the negro, and perhaps a
stray visiting Indian chief, represent widely differing and highly
interesting forms of life and opinion. Whenever native genius has cast
aside foreign influence and has found inspiration in American
traditions and institutions, the extent and richness of its literary
material have been made manifest.

The earliest examples of fiction in the United States were tentative
and lacking in originality. At the close of the eighteenth century,
Charles Brockden Brown began the career of the first American novelist
with "Wieland." His pecuniary necessities and the slight encouragement
offered at that time to American authors made it impossible for him to
afford the time and care essential to artistic finish. His novels are
of an imaginative and psychological character, often interesting in
parts from the intense mental excitement which they describe. They were
much admired by the English novelist Godwin, whose works they resemble
in intensity of conception and faultiness of execution. A novel called
"Charlotte Temple," by Susanna Rowson, obtained a wide circulation in
the beginning of the present century, due much more to its foundation
on a notorious scandal than to its own literary merit. "Modern
Chivalry; or the Adventures of Captain Farrago and Teague O'Reagan,
his Servant"--a poor imitation of "Don Quixote"--as a satire directed
against the Democratic party by H.H. Brackenridge. R.H. Dana's "Tom
Thornton" and "Paul Felton" have little claim to attention beyond the
excitement of their rather sensational stories.

But with the publication of "The Spy," Cooper opened a thoroughly
national vein, and began a literary career which showed how little
native genius need rely on foreign influence or on foreign subjects. He
described the stirring events and the moral heroism of the American
Revolution with patriotic sympathy and original literary power. He
touched the romantic chords of that great struggle with a delicacy
which met with a world-wide response. Not only did Americans feel that
in Cooper's novels the picturesque and characteristic features of their
country were delineated by a master-hand, but in almost every European
land, translations of "The Spy," "The Pioneers," or "The Pathfinder,"
testified to the universal interest excited by the examples of
simplicity, endurance, and sagacity which formed the subjects of
Cooper's pen. In "The Pioneers," "The Last of the Mohicans," "The
Prairie," "The Pathfinder," and "The Deer-slayer" figures the character
of Leatherstocking, than whom no fictitious personage has a greater
claim to interest. His bravery, resolution, and woodland skill make him
a type of the hardy race who pushed westward the reign of civilization.
The scenes among which he lived, the primeval forest, the great inland
lakes, the hunter's camp, and Indian wigwam were described by Cooper
with a fidelity and picturesqueness which will always give to his works
a national value. Now that farms and manufacturing towns cover what a
century ago was a trackless wilderness, where backwoodsmen and Indians
shot bear and deer, it would be almost impossible for us to realize the
previous condition of our now populous country were it not for the
novels of Cooper. And this great writer not only described the wild
aspect of American scenery and the hardly less wild features of pioneer
character. He painted with equal skill the life of the American sailor,
at a time when that life had an interest and excitement it no longer
possesses. Long Tom Coffin, Tom Tiller, Bob Yarn, belonged to a period
when the United Stales was a maritime country, before American
enterprise and industry were shut off from the sea by legislative
imbecility. No marine novelist has given a more life-like impression of
a ship than Cooper, and none have excelled him in descriptions of the
sea and in studies of those peculiar forms of human nature produced by
life on the ocean. So long as Cooper confined himself to purely
national subjects, his success was brilliant and continuous; but many
of his works show the effect of misdirected talent, and have fallen
into neglect.

The "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and "Rip Van Winkle" are the specimens
of American fiction most intimately associated with New York. In these
stories the traditions and scenery of the Hudson River were treated by
Washington Irving with all the richness of imagination and delicacy of
expression of which he had so great a store. Some part of that romantic
interest afforded to the traveller by the castles of the Rhine, has
been imparted to the Hudson by the exquisite pages of the "Sketch
Book." The stories of Nathaniel P. Willis and some of the novels of
Bayard Taylor and of J.G. Holland also belong especially to New York.

At the head of New England, and, indeed, of American writers of
fiction, stands Nathaniel Hawthorne. His three great works, "The
Scarlet Letter," "The House of the Seven Gables," and "The Blithedale
Romance," are the finest specimens of imaginative writing which
American genius has yet produced. The interest of Hawthorne's novels
lies almost entirely in their subtle and astute studies of the hidden
workings of the human mind. His fictions are remarkable for their want
of action. "The Scarlet Letter" can hardly be said to have a plot. The
series of chapters which intervene between the exhibition of Hester
Prynne on the scaffold and the voluntary self-exposure there of the
Puritan minister, simply represent gradual changes from the first to
the last situation of the principal characters. But narrative
excitement was never Hawthorne's object, and the want of it is never
felt by his reader. Each scene is an appropriate sequel to the last,
and a natural introduction to the next. Each chapter has its special
interest,--the analysis of a condition of mind, a dramatic situation,
or a highly finished domestic picture. It is in the delineation of
character and the study of human motives that Hawthorne's chief
excellence as a novelist consists. Nothing can exceed the penetration
and vividness with which such persons as Zenobia, in "The Blithedale
Romance," and Holgrave, in "The House of the Seven Gables," are
described. The homeward walk of the fallen young minister, in "The
Scarlet Letter," when he had resolved to desert his flock and to
connect himself again with Hester Prynne, is an unsurpassed delineation
of sudden moral degeneration. There is nothing of modern realism in
Hawthorne's novels, and yet they leave a realistic impression behind
them. The greater number of his characters appear to us rather as
representatives of certain mental conditions then as real flesh and
blood. Neither in the dialogue, nor in what may be called the
"properties" of his writing did Hawthorne strive at realistic effects.
Still, when the reader lays down "The Scarlet Letter," or "The House of
the Seven Gables," he insensibly feels himself embued with the spirit
and atmosphere of Puritan New England. Hawthorne was so intensely a New
Englander in his sympathies, prejudices, and habits of mind, that his
writings were always colored by the thought and sentiment of his native
land. In "The Scarlet Letter," there is little evidence of the use of
historical researches, and yet in that volume, colonial life has been
made real and actual to us by the very intensity of the author's
national feeling.

New England fiction includes a number of other celebrated and honored
names. Catherine M. Sedgwick began her literary career with "Hope
Leslie," a story founded on the early history of Massachusetts, which
was followed by "Redwood" and "The Linwoods, or Sixty Years Since in
America." Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes studied New England village life in
"Elsie Venner," and Sylvester Judd that of the Maine backwoods in
"Margaret." Mr. T.W. Higginson has written "Malbone." Mr. W.D. Howells,
Rev. Edward Everett Hale, and Miss E.S. Phelps are still adding to
their reputations.

Among the novels relating to life in the Southern States, "Uncle Tom's
Cabin" is the most prominent. The circulation and fame of this book
have been the most remarkable phenomenon in the annals of literature.
Within a year, more than two hundred thousand copies were sold in the
United States, and fully a million in England. Thirteen different
translations were issued in Germany, four in France, and two in Russia;
the Magyar language boasted three separate versions; the Wallachian,
two; the Welsh, two; and the Dutch, two; while the Armenian, Arabic,
Romaic, and all the European languages had at least one version. The
book was dramatized in not less than twenty different forms, and was
acted all over Europe. In France, and still more in England, all other
books and all other subjects became, for the time, secondary to "Uncle
Tom's Cabin." This extraordinary popularity was chiefly due to the
importance and novelty of the subject treated. Mrs. Stowe imparted a
considerable narrative interest to her work, and gave to her characters
a very life-like effect. Her pathetic and humorous scenes are natural
and well arranged. The peculiarities of negro life and habits of
thought are placed before the reader with genuine sympathy and truth.
Uncle Tom and Topsy are fine and original creations. But taken simply
as a novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is not more remarkable than a hundred
others, and cannot compete with such works as "Tom Jones," "Adam Bede,"
or "David Copperfield." Mrs. Stowe's extraordinary success was fully
deserved, but it resulted less from the literary excellence of her
work, than from the fact that when one great subject rose pre-eminent
in the public mind, she was able to embody it in a popular and easily
comprehended form. Gilmore Simms and John P. Kennedy have contributed
largely to the novel of Southern life. Mr. G.W. Cable is now studying
Louisiana characters, and Judge Tourgee the general condition of the
South since the war.

Novels descriptive of Western life have been written by Charles Fenno
Hoffman, James Hall, Timothy Flint, Thomas, and O'Connell. But none of
these writers have given such original sketches of character, or have
so graphically portrayed the spirit of life in the far West as Mr.
Bret Harte. "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and the other stories of this
talented writer have opened a vein of romance where it was least

American fiction has been exceptionally rich in stories adapted to the
juvenile mind, among which the most prominent are Mrs. Whitney's "Faith
Gartney's Girlhood," Miss Alcott's "Little Women," and Mr. T.B.
Aldrich's "Story of a Bad Boy." Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales of the
Grotesque and the Arabesque," are remarkable for intensity and
vividness of conception, combined with a circumstantial invention
almost equal to that of Defoe. Mrs. Burnett and Mr. J.W. De Forest are
still writing excellent novels of American life; and Mr. Henry James,
Jr., is studying that peculiar form of human nature known as the
American in Europe.[210]

[Footnote 210: Other American writers of fiction:--R.B. Kimball, Herman
Melville, Dr. R. Bird, John Neal, H.W. Longfellow, Washington Allston,
Maria S. Cummins, W.G. Simms, Theodore Winthrop, Mary J. Holmes, Mrs.
Terhune, Augusta Evans Wilson, Catherine Sedgwick Valerio.]


The historical novel is obviously a subdivision of the novel of life
and manners. But, dealing as it does with remote ages, with forgotten
opinions and long-disused customs, it has to reconstruct where the
novel of contemporary life has only to illustrate. Strict historical
accuracy can hardly be expected in fiction concerned with the past. The
details of life, always difficult to seize, are almost beyond the reach
of the novelist who deals with a subject with which he has had no
personal experience. A certain amount of accuracy concerning dress,
customs, peculiarities of opinion and language are necessary to give to
a historical novel the effect of verisimilitude. But what is chiefly
requisite in such a work is that the general spirit of the period
treated should be successfully caught; that the reader should find
himself occupied with a train of associations and sympathies which
insensibly withdraws his thoughts from their ordinary channels, and
occupies them with the beliefs, opinions, and aspirations of a totally
different state of society.

Such is the special merit of Scott's historical novels. Many
inaccuracies of fact might be pointed out in them. His study of the
character of James I, in "The Fortunes of Nigel," is in several
respects entirely mistaken. His description of a euphuist in "The
Monastery" bears no resemblance whatever to the followers of John Lyly.
In "The Talisman" and in "Ivanhoe," of which the scenes are laid in the
time of Richard Coeur de Lion, the reader recognises little realism
of language. But as Scott's historical novels deal with periods
extending from that of the crusades down to the Pretender's attempt in
1745, an intimate knowledge of the innumerable social changes and
peculiarities is not to be expected.

It is, indeed, to be doubted that a novelist can so reproduce a distant
epoch as to satisfy the ideas of careful historical students. He can,
however, make familiar to his readers the general spirit of a time.
And, in this, Scott was eminently successful. "Kenilworth" gives a
vivid picture of the gay picturesqueness of Elizabeth's age.
"Woodstock" contains a fine contrast between the Cavalier and the
Puritan character. "Quentin Durward" affords a lasting impression of
the times of Louis XI and Charles the Bold. Scott's strong national
feeling and his intense sympathy with the traditions of his native land
naturally gave to his Scotch fictions a particular historical value.
"The Legend of Montrose," describing the civil war in the sixteenth
century; "Old Mortality," dealing with the rebellion of the
Covenanters; and "Waverley," occupied with the Pretender's troubles in
the middle of the eighteenth century, threw into bold relief widely
differing periods of Scotch history. Its is, indeed, extraordinary that
one mind should have been able to seize so many and so varied
historical conditions as are treated in the Waverley novels. Of these
works, about fourteen deal with entirely distinct epochs, each one of
which is given its individual character and obtains its appropriate

Bulwer Lytton's "Last Days of Pompeii," and "Harold, the Last of the
Saxon Kings," are both powerful, ingenious, and interesting narratives,
and they give as definite an idea, perhaps, of the times of which they
treat as is possible after so long a lapse of time. "Rienzi" leaves a
greater impression of verisimilitude. "The Last of the Barons" is
somewhat clogged by its superabundance of historic incident, but still
affords a striking view of declining feudalism. In the "Tale of Two
Cities" and "Barnaby Rudge," Dickens described the sanguinary scenes of
the French Revolution and the Lord Gordon Riots with his never-failing
power. Since the Waverley novels, the most perfect specimen of English
historical fiction has been "Henry Esmond." The artistic construction
of its plot, and the life-like reality of its characters, place it
first among Thackeray's works. But its pre-eminence among historical
novels is due to the fact that it reproduces so vividly the spirit and
atmosphere of a past age. All the thoughts, opinions, and actions of
the characters in "Henry Esmond" are such as we should expect from
persons living in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Whoever is
familiar with the pages of the "Spectator" will notice how faithfully
Thackeray adopted the language of Steele and Addison. It is true that
he had a far less difficult task before him in describing the age of
Queen Anne than fell to the lot of Bulwer Lytton in "The Last Days of
Pompeii." The latter work required far more historical research and a
far greater effort of the imagination. But while in Lytton's novel the
reader cannot divest himself of a certain sense of unreality, he feels
that "Henry Esmond" really carries him back to the period it portrays.

George Eliot's "Romola" must always retain a high place in historical
fiction. But its author's great creative power led her to bestow more
pains on such of the characters as proceeded from her own imagination,
than on those whom history provided ready-made. The reader's memory
retains a more vivid impression of Tito than it does of Savonarola.
Charles Kingsley's "Hypatia" and "Westward Ho!" are among the most
prominent of recent historical novels. The latter aimed at describing
the time of Elizabeth, but resembles more closely that of Cromwell.
John Gibson Lockhart, in "Valerius," and Mr. Wilkie Collins in
"Antonina," have studied the life of ancient Rome. James Fenimore
Cooper in "The Spy" and "The Pioneers" threw into bold relief the
stirring incidents of American colonial and revolutionary times.
Nathaniel Hawthorne reproduced the spirit of Puritan New England in
"The Scarlet Letter," of which mention has already been made.

[Footnote 211: Horace Smith, Sir T.D. Lauder, and G.P.R. James are
well-known historical novelists who have written under the influence of
Scott. W. Harrison Ainsworth has made use of historical material in
"The Tower of London," and similar writings.]


The novel of purpose may be defined as a work of fiction of which the
main object is to teach a lesson or to advocate a principle. Strictly
speaking, every good novel has a purpose, or some well-defined aim, if
it be only that of affording entertainment. But the novel of purpose
distinctly subordinates the amusement of the reader to his improvement
or information. With a few exceptions, such as "The Fool of Quality,"
this species of fiction is the product of the nineteenth century. It
has special difficulties to contend against. To combine a didactic aim
with artistic excellence is among the most difficult of literary
experiments. If the lesson or principle to be inculcated be given too
much prominence, the reader who opens the book for entertainment will
shut it very soon in spite of any prospective self-improvement. If
narrative interest or artistic beauty be the most striking feature of
the work, its serious aim will be unnoticed. The safest plan for the
writer of the novel of purpose to pursue, is to openly acknowledge his
object, and to place that object before the reader in as attractive a
manner as possible. But he cannot expect to attain success unless the
principle he advocates be one of general interest and importance. Nor
can he expect, when that principle has obtained acceptance, that the
work in which it is urged can have any further prominence. He must be
content that his object is attained, and that his book, having served
its purpose, falls into obscurity.

Some of Miss Edgeworth's tales, and such novels as Miss Brunton's
"Self-Control" and "Discipline," were among the earliest specimens of
fiction having the professed object of moral improvement. These books
were very popular at a time when a well-justified prejudice against
novels prevailed. But since the character of fiction has been raised to
its present standard of purity, professedly moral novels have become
unnecessary for general reading. The successors of Miss Edgeworth's and
Miss Brunton's works now appear in the form of temperance novels and
Sunday-school books. A curious form of the novel of purpose is that
written in the interest of religious sects or special tenets, of which
specimens may be found in the writings of Elizabeth M. Sewell, who
advocated High Church doctrines. Harriet Martineau made very successful
use of fiction in conveying her ideas on political economy. In "Ginx's
Baby," by Mr. Edward Jenkins, the popularity and interest of a
political pamphlet had been greatly increased by the assistance of a
narrative form.

The most important specimens of the novel of purpose are those written
in the interest of some injured or suffering class. A mere recital of
general grievances is not likely to have much effect on the public
mind. But a novelist who can interest a considerable body of readers in
a few well-chosen characters, who can subject his fictitious personages
to the evils which he means to expose, and thus arouse the sympathy and
indignation of a large number of people, can make a novel of purpose a
very effective weapon of reform. Individuals are much more interesting
than bodies of men, and the sufferings of little Oliver Twist or of the
inmates of Dotheboys Hall, as related by Dickens, will arouse public
attention far more actively than the report of an examining committee.
But although a novelist may accomplish great results by such devotion
to a philanthrophic object, he can hardly avoid injury to the artistic
effect and permanent value of his work. Many passages in Dickens'
novels which have had a great influence in the cause of reform, cannot
fail, in the future, when the evil exposed is no longer felt, to be a
drag on the works which contain them.

Charles Kingsley described the grievances of mechanics in "Alton
Locke," a work in which the artistic elements are much subordinated to
the didactic. A more powerful novel of purpose is Mrs. Gaskell's "Mary
Barton," which enlists the sympathies of the reader very strongly with
the trials of the manufacturing classes. Not of more literary
excellence, but dealing with a subject of far wider interest than that
of "Mary Barton," was the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of Mrs. Stowe. This work
is a wonderful example of the capacities of fiction for moving the
public mind. Before its publication, great numbers of ordinarily humane
people had a general, ill defined horror of slavery. It was felt to be
a barbarous institution, a blot on American civilization. But to most
people it was a distant abuse, with which they seldom or never came in
contact, and of which they only heard the evil effects in a general
way. But with the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" the whole Northern
public were brought face to face with the question of slavery. Here
were individuals, made real and interesting by the power of the
novelist, subjected to tyranny and suffering from which every generous
nature recoiled. Slavery then assumed a new and more personal aspect,
and thousands who were indifferent to the rights of the negroes in
general felt a sympathy with the fate of Uncle Tom which easily
extended to the sufferings of the whole race. But the extraordinary
reputation and circulation given to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by the
world-wide interest in its subject, could not be sustained when public
interest in that subject declined; and the volume which at one time
occupied the attention of the whole civilized world, fell into
comparative obscurity when its mission was accomplished.


Works of fiction occupied with purely imaginary or supernatural
subjects have been comparatively rare. While Byron, Shelley and his
wife were living at the Lake of Geneva, a rainy week kept them indoors,
and all three occupied themselves with reading or inventing ghost
stories. Mrs. Shelley, who was the daughter of Godwin the novelist, and
who inherited his intensity of imagination, reproduced the impressions
then made upon her mind in the remarkable but disagreeable romance of
"Frankenstein." The story is related by a young student, who creates a
monstrous being from materials gathered in the tomb and the
dissecting-room. When the creature is made complete with bones,
muscles, and skin, it acquires life and commits atrocious crimes. It
murders a friend of the student, strangles his bride, and finally comes
to an end in the Northern seas. While some parts of the story are
written with considerable power, the general effect is exceedingly
unpleasant. Bulwer Lytton's "Zanoni," a peculiarly fanciful work,
unfolds the mysteries of the Rosicrucians. In "Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland," the freaks and vagaries of the imagination in sleep are
vividly traced. The curious mixture of the actual and the unreal, the
merging of wholly different ideas in one conception, so frequent in
dreams, are described with extraordinary skill and delicacy. The
childlike simplicity of Alice's mind is charmingly maintained, and the
exquisite vein of humor which runs through the whole book makes it one
of the most delightful as well as one of the most remarkable of


In an article published in _The Ninteenth Century_, Mr. Anthony
Trollope expressed his views on the good and evil influences exerted by
works of fiction, and he has repeated very much the same opinions in
his interesting book on Thackeray.[212] "However poor your matter may
be," he says, "however near you may come to that 'foolishest of
existing mortals,' as Carlyle presumes some unfortunate novelist to be,
still, if there be those who read your works, they will undoubtedly be
more or less influenced by what they find there. And it is because the
novelist amuses that he is thus influential. The sermon too often has
no such effect, because it is applied with the declared intention of
having it. The palpable and overt dose the child rejects; but that
which is cunningly insinuated by the aid of jam or honey is accepted
unconsciously, and goes on its curative mission. So it is with the
novel. It is taken because of its jam and honey. But, unlike the
honest, simple jam and honey of the household cupboard, it is never
unmixed with physic. There will be the dose within it, either curative
or poisonous. The girl will be taught modesty or immodesty, truth or
falsehood; the lad will be taught honor or dishonor, simplicity or
affectation. Without the lesson the amusement will not be there. There
are novels which certainly teach nothing; but then neither can they
amuse any one. I should be said to insist absurdly on the power of my
own confraternity if I were to declare that the bulk of the young
people in the upper and middle classes receive their moral teaching
chiefly from the novels they read. Mothers would no doubt think of
their own sweet teaching: fathers of the examples which they set: and
schoolmasters of the influence of their instructions. Happy is the
country that has such mothers, fathers, schoolmasters! But the novelist
creeps in closer than the schoolmaster, closer than the father, closer
almost than the mother. He is the chosen guide, the tutor whom the
young pupil chooses for herself. She retires with him, suspecting no
lesson, safe against rebuke, throwing herself head and heart into the
narration as she can hardly do into her task-work; and there she is
taught how she shall learn to love; how she shall receive the lover
when he comes; how far she should advance to meet the joy; why she
should be reticent, and not throw herself at once into this new
delight. It is the same with the young man, though he would be more
prone even than she to reject the suspicion of such tutorship. But he,
too, will there learn either to speak the truth, or to lie; and will
receive from his novel lessons either of real manliness, or of that
affected apishness and tailor-begotten demeanor which too many
professors of the craft give out as their dearest precepts."

Such are the views of a close observer of human nature, whose works
have had an exceedingly wide and an always excellent influence. While
Mr. Trollope has probably exaggerated the educational power of the
novel, it cannot be denied that this form of literature takes a
considerable part in moulding the opinions and standards of the young.
The impressions of life derived from novels are almost as strong as
those we receive from what is passing in the world about us. If a work
of fiction form a truthful reflection of nature, it must hold up to
the reader's view examples of evil as well as examples of good; it must
deal with depravity as well as with virtue. And, therefore, all that
can be expected from the novelist is that he should endeavor to
represent life as it is, with its due apportionment of beauty and of
ugliness. And so much is demanded not only by the moralist, but by the
critic. Many writers who have described the life of criminals, who have
endeavored to make infamous careers attractive, and have pandered to
the lower tastes of the reading public, would urge in their own
defence: that they have nothing to do with morality; that their object
is to produce a work of art; that no question of the good or evil
effect of their writing should be allowed to trammel their imagination.
But the critic would rightly reply, that truth at least must be
respected in a work of art; that the imagination must not be allowed
the liberty of misrepresentation; and that the novelist in whose pages
vice predominates, or is given an alluring aspect, is no more artistic
than the writer of Sunday-school books. In judging the influence
exerted by the great body of writers of fiction whose names have been
mentioned in this chapter, I shall therefore proceed on the
understanding that that novelist who writes almost exclusively of good
people is not necessarily the one whose influence has been the best,
nor that he who has drawn many weak or evil-doing characters has
necessarily taught the worst lessons. The standard by which we must
judge an author, as well from an artistic as from a moral point of
view, must be founded on the recognition that both good and evil
prevail in the world, and that whoever undertakes to give a picture of
life must paint both the evil and the good in their true colors.

In commenting on the fiction of the eighteenth century, its prevailing
coarseness was reprehended. But this characteristic was objected to on
the score of taste, but not at all on that of truth or morality. The
novelist of that time would not have faithfully represented the society
about him had he not allowed himself that license which universally
prevailed. Nor could the coarseness of the eighteenth-century writer be
objected to on moral grounds. Morality is concerned with thoughts, not
with expression. Whether we speak plainly the ideas in our mind,
whether we communicate them by means of some, circumlocution, or
whether we keep them wholly to ourselves, is a matter of fashion, not
of morality.[213] Our great-grandmothers were not less chaste because
they spoke of things regarding which we remain silent in a mixed
society: they were simply less squeamish. Mrs. Behn in her day, and
Fielding in his, described a licentious scene openly and honestly
without a suspicion of evil.

But a great change has come over public taste, and I may even say over
public morality, during the present century. Licentious conduct is no
longer a venial offence; gross and immodest expressions are no longer
allowed in respectable society. The improvement has certainly been
great, although not as great as it seems. Out of our higher morality,
out of our new and boasted refinement, has sprung a vice more ugly than
coarseness, more degrading than sensuality, and that vice is hypocrisy,
which shelters all others behind its deceptive mask. Many a parent now
winks at the hidden vice of a son, the exposure of which would fill him
with shame and indignation. Thousands of young men feel that they can
privately lead a life of dissipation, so long as they keep a
respectable face to the world. It is not the vice that society
punishes, it is the being found out. So when we think of our improved
morality and refinement, we must temper our pride with the reflection
that we may be simply more hypocritical, and not more virtuous than our
ancestors. Still, the fact that licentiousness must now wear a mask of
respectability, that social status is now greatly affected by moral
worth, shows that a real advance has been made. This advance has left
plainly marked traces on the fiction of our time, where, too, we shall
find plentiful evidence of that hypocrisy which has become our
besetting sin.

As we look back upon the list of the great authors who have written in
the present century, it must be with a feeling of gratitude for the
benefits they have conferred. They have devoted their lives to the
production of literary works, the beauty and excellence of which have
incalculably elevated the public taste. They have held up ideals and
noble conceptions which insensibly impart a dignity to life, and an
encouragement to youthful aspiration. They have described so truthfully
and sympathetically the character and aims of different classes and
different peoples, that whoever reads their works cannot but feel
himself drawn nearer to great divisions of the human race, which he had
hitherto regarded with an indifferent or a prejudiced eye. The novels
of Scott, of Dickens, of Thackeray, of George Eliot, of Miss Austen, of
Miss Ferrier, of very many others, have afforded to hundreds of
thousands, young and old, a never failing source of healthful
entertainment. Domestic life, as well in the cottage as the castle, has
been cheered and enlivened by their presence. Their examples of
heroism, of patience, of generosity, have excited the emulation of the
young, while their pictures of selfishness and vice have stifled many
an evil inclination and have given birth to many a good resolution.

Such writers as these have expressed the best tendencies of the age.
And they have been able to do so because they themselves are among the
best men and women of their time. But, unfortunately, as the nineteenth
century has many evil characteristics, and as depraved and weak-minded
persons are often endowed with some literary capacity, a great deal of
poisonous matter has unavoidably come to the surface in English
fiction. The writers who have prostituted their talents in pandering to
the low tastes of their readers, have carefully avoided any such open
representation of vice as was permissible in the last century. But they
have hidden under an outward respectability of words the most immoral
and degrading thoughts. They have recognized the fact that a not
inconsiderable number of persons would be be glad to find in a work of
fiction the same gross ideas which occupy their own minds. And thus a
more dangerous, because a more insidious, species of literature has
sprung up. The absence of parental censorship, the general freedom with
which works of fiction are allowed to enter almost every household,
permit these novels to fall into the hands of the youngest and most
susceptible. The young girl or boy whose parents carefully put away the
newspaper which contains an account of a divorce trial or a rape, is
very possibly reading a novel of which the main interest lies in a
detailed description of a seduction. It is not of the so-called "dime
novels" or of the stories published in a police gazette to which
reference is made, but to books issued by respectable publishers and
often written by women. Of these novels, the subject is the unlawful
gratification of the passions. Bigamy, seduction, adultery, are the
incidents on which the story turns, and an effort is always made by the
novelist to give to the sinners as attractive and interesting an aspect
as possible, and to hold up any respectable people who may appear in
the book to the contempt and derision of the reader. Perhaps we would
be wrong in blaming a writer for his or her vulgarity. This is a fault
into which some authors fall unconsciously, and is a part of their
nature which they cannot shake off. If Rhoda Broughton or "Ouida" were
to cease being vulgar in print, they would be obliged to stop writing
altogether, a public benefit which we can hardly expect them to confer.
But we have a right to severely call an author to task for representing
vice in an attractive aspect, for condoning offences against morality,
for depicting licentiousness as unattended by retributive consequences.
In so doing, a writer is false to art and to nature, as well as to

Critics have done their utmost to discourage and expose this kind of
literature. The pages of _The Spectator_, of _The Saturday Review_, of
_The Athenæum_, of _The London Examiner_, of _The Nation_, are full of
reviews which denounce in unmeasured terms the vulgarity and pruriency
of much of the fiction of the present day. But their censure can have
little practical effect. So long as a class of corrupt readers exists,
so long will evil-minded men and women find a sale for the low
conceptions of their depraved minds. Parents alone, by supervising the
reading of their children, can prevent the evil effects of immoral
novels. Some may think that I have exaggerated the bad characteristics
of modern fiction. A few examples of objectionable works will be found
at the foot of this page,[214] an acquaintance with which will sustain
my remarks.

The reader may possibly object that these are obscure names in
literature, and that they represent writers whose works are ephemeral.
The names chosen are the most prominent in the class to which they
belong. Their obscurity is a redeeming feature of the society which can
tolerate their existence. Although writers are able to find a sale for
the most disgusting productions; although the critic is continually
obliged, in reviewing current literature, to wade through the nastiest
mire, it yet remains certain that public taste is not pleased with the
vile. A limited circulation will be found for immoral novels among a
depraved class, but it is to be said, for the credit of the nineteenth
century, that talents prostituted can never bring fame. The conceptions
of a Goldsmith, a Scott, a Dickens, a Thackeray, a George Eliot, remain
among the dearest possessions of all English-speaking people. But the
unhealthy, unnatural, and hideous pictures given to the world by
vicious men and women receive the same wages as the sin they portray.

[Footnote 212: In Mr. John Morley's edition of "English Men of
Letters," chapter ix.]

[Footnote 213: See Macaulay on "The Comic Dramatists."]

[Footnote 214: See "Strathmore," and others, by "Ouida"; "Not Wisely,
But Too Well," "Red as a Rose Is She," "Joan," by Rhoda Broughton;
"Cherry Ripe," by Helen Mathers; "The Lovels of Arden," by Miss
Braddon; "Under which Lord?" by Mrs E.L. Linton; "A Romance of the
Nineteenth Century," by W.H. Mallock; "Children of Nature," by the Earl
of Desart. A long list of very nasty books might easily be added, but
these will be sufficient to illustrate the bad tendencies of fiction,
and to show how thoroughly female authors have kept pace in immodesty
and indecency with their rivals of the less pretentious sex.]



Addison, 180
Ainsworth, H., 303
Alcott, Miss, 312
Aldrich, T.B., 312
Alexander, Mrs., 288
Alice's Adventures in Wonder Land, 319
Allston, W., 312
Amadis of Gaul, 46
"Arcadia," Greene's, 83
---- Sidney's, 92
"Argenis", 101, _note_
Arthur, King, 21, 39
---- Combat with Accolon, 31
Atalantis, The New, 123
Austen, Jane, 287

Banim, John, 285
Barclay, Robert, 101, _note_
Barham, R.H., 291
Beckford, W., 247
Behn, Aphra, 125
Bird, R., 312
Black, W., 284
Blessington, Mrs., 302, _note_
Boyle, Roger, 121
Brackenridge, H.H., 307
Braddon, M.E., 327, 288
Bray, A.E., 291
Brooke, H., 243
Brooks, S., 302, _note_
Broughton, R., 327
Brown, C.B., 306
Brunton, Mrs., 316
Bunbury, S., 291
Bunyan, John, 106
Burnett, Mrs., 312
Burney, Miss, 251
Bury, Lady C., 302, _note_

Cable, G.W., 311
Calprenède, 119
Carleton, W., 285
Chamier, Capt., 304
Charlemagne, 21, 24
Chaucer, 42
Chetwind, Mrs., 291
Chivalry, Decline of, 45
---- Origin of, 17
---- Rise of, 9
---- Romances of, chap., 1
---- Theory and Practice of, 14
Clarke, M.C., 291
Cobbold, R., 302, _note_
Coke, H., 302, _note_
Collins, M., 302, _note_
Collins, W., 292, 315
Cooper, J.F., 307, 315
Costello, L.S., 291
Craik, G., 295
Croker, T.C., 285
Crowe, C., 291
Crowe, Mrs., 291
Crowley, G., 302, _note_
Cummins, M.S., 312
Cunningham, A., 281

Dacre, Lady, 302, _note_
Dana, R.H., 307
D'Arblay, Mme., 281
Defoe, D., 183
De Forest, J.W., 312
Deloney, T., 51
De Quincey, T., 302, _note_
Desart, Earl of, 327
Dickens, C., 295, 314
D'Israeli, B., 293
Drury, A.H., 206

Edgeworth, M., 285
"Eliana", 121
Eliot, George, 288, 315
Ellis, G., 291
"Euphues", 76
Euphuism, 76, 82, _note_
Excalibur, 26, 39

Ferrier, Miss, 284, 287
Fielding, Henry, 203
Flint, T., 311
Ford, E., 47, _note_
Fraser, J.B., 305
Fraser-Tytler, C.C., 291
Friar Bacon, 52
Friar Rush, 54
Fullerton, Lady G., 291
Fullom, S.W., 302, _note_

Galahad, Sir, 35, 37
Galt, John, 284
Gaskell, Mrs., 287, 318
Geoffrey of Monmouth, 24
"George-a-Green", 50
Glassock, Capt., 304
Gleig, G.R., 304
Godwin, Francis, 101, _note_
Godwin, W., 248
Goldsmith, O., 227
Gomberville, 119
Gore, Mrs., 303, _note_
Grant, James, 304
Grant, M.M., 291
Grattan, T.C., 286
Graves, 248
Greene, Robert, 82
Griffin, Gerald, 286
Guenever, 23, 34, 39
Gulliver's Travels, 173

Hale, E.E., 310
Hall, J., 311
Hall, S.C., 286
Hamilton, E., 284
Hannay, J., 302, _note_
Hardy, T., 302, _note_
Harte, Bret, 312
Hawthorne, N., 309
"Helyas", 46, _note_
Heroic Romance, 119
Heywood, Mrs., 193
Higginson, T.W., 310
Hoffman, C.F., 311
Hogg, 284
Holcroft, T., 248
Holland, J.G., 308
Holmes, M.J., 314
Holmes, O.W., 310
Hook, Theodore, 291
Hope's "Anastasius", 305
Howard, 304
Howells, W.D., 310
Howitt, M., 291
Howitt, W., 302, _note_
Hubback, Mrs., 291
Hughes, Thomas, 292
Humor in Sidney's "Arcadia", 100
---- in the "Morte d'Arthur", 40

Ideality in Fiction, 111
Igraine, 25
Inchbald, Mrs., 255
Irving, W., 308
Isould, 34

"Jack, the Giant-killer", 24
James, G.P.R., 311
James, H., Jr., 312
Jenkins, E., 317
Jerrold, Douglas, 302 _note_
Jewsbury, Geraldine, 291
Johnson, Dr., 234
Johnson, R., 46, _note_
Johnstone, C., 240
Johnstone, Mrs., 284
Judd, S., 310

Kavanagh, Miss, 219
Kennedy, J.P., 311
Kimball, R.B., 312
Kingsley, C., 291, 315, 318

"Lady of the Lake", 26
Lamb, Lady C., 302, _note_
Launcelot, 22, 34, 39
Lauder, Sir T.D., 284, 314
Lawrence, Geo. A., 303
"Lear, King", 24
Lee, Harriet and Sophia, 256
Lennox, C., 254
Lever, C.J., 286
Lewes, G.H., 302, _note_
Lewis, 269
Linton, E.L., 327
Lister, T.H., 302, _note_
Lockhart, 284, 315
Lodge, T., 88
Longfellow, H.W., 312
Lover, S., 285
Lyly, J., 75
Lytton, Bulwer, 293, 314, 319

MacCarthy, J., 266
MacDonald, G., 284
Mackay, C., 302, _note_
Mackenzie, H., 241
Marquoid, Mrs., 291
Malory, Sir Thomas, 25
Mallock, W. H., 327, _note_
"Man in the Moon", 101, _note_
Manley, Mrs., 123
Mapes, Walter, 24
Marryat, Capt., 304
Marryat, F., 291
Marsh, Mrs., 291
Martineau, H., 317
Mathers, H., 327
Maturin, 269
Maxwell, W.H., 304
Meliadus, 25
Melville, H., 312
Merlin, 24
Miller, H., 284
Miller, T., 302, _note_
Mitford, M.R., 288
Moir, 284
Moore, Dr., 248
Moore, Sir T., 56
Morier, J., 305
Morgan, Lady, 286
Morgana, 26
Morley, Countess of, 302, _note_
"Morte d'Arthur", 24, 40
Mulock, Miss, 288

Napier, E., 304
Neal, J., 312
Newcastle, Duchess of, 122
Normanby, Marquis of, 302, _note_
Norton, Hon. Mrs., 291
Novel, Development of, _see_ Addison, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding
Novel, in the xixth Century, 274
---- of American Life, 305
---- of English Life, 291
---- of Irish Life, 285
---- of Scotch Life, 280
---- Criminal, 303
---- Fashionable, 303
---- Historical, 313
---- Immoral, 303
---- Military, 304
---- Muscular, 303
---- Naval, 304
---- Oriental, 305
---- of fancy, 319
---- of purpose, 316

O'Connell, 311
Oliphant, Mrs., 284
Opie, Mrs., 286
"Ornatus and Artexia", 46, _note_
"Oroonoko", 126
Orrery, Earl of, 121
Ouida, 303, 326

Palmerin of England, 46
Palomides, Sir, 35
"Pandosto", 85
Pardoe, Miss, 305
"Parismus", 47, _note_
Parthenissa, 121
Payn, J., 302, _note_
Peacock, T.L., 302, _note_
Pendragon, Uther, 25
Perceval le Gallois, 25
"Pheander", 17, _note_
Phelps, E.S., 310
Philips, S., 302, _note_
"Philomela", 86
Picken, 284
"Pilgrim's Progress", 108
Poe, E.A., 312
Porter, Jane, 284
Porter, Maria, 284
Power, M.A., 291

Radcliffe, Ann, 265
Reach, A.B., 302, _note_
Reade, C., 291
Realism, 279
Reeve, Clara, 264
Religious Revival, 220
Richardson, Samuel, 193
Ritchie, L., 302, _note_
Robin Hood, 47
"Robert the Devil," 47, _note_
Roberts, H., 47, _note_
Romantic Revival, 259
"Rosalynde," 88
Round Table, 26, 33, 38
Rowson, S., 306

"Saint Gréal," 25, 35
Sala, Geo. Aug., 302, _note_
Scott, Michael, 304
Scott, Sir Walter, 280, 313
Scudéri, 119
Sedgwick, C.M., 310
"Seven Champions of Christendom," 46, _note_
Sewell, E., 291
Sewell, E.M., 317
Shelley, Mrs., 319
Sidney, Sir Phillip, 91
Simms, G., 311
Simms, W., 312
Sinclair, C., 307
Smedley, F.E., 302, _note_
Smith, A., 302, _note_
Smith, C., 257
Smith, H., 314
Smollett, T., 211
Sterne, L., 231
St. John, J.A., 302, _note_
Stowe, H.B., 310, 318
Stretton, H., 291
Strickland, A., 291
Swift, J., 170

Tautphoeus, Baroness, 287
Taylor, B., 308
Terhune, Mrs., 312
Thackeray, Miss, 287
Thackeray, W.M., 298, 314
Thomas, 311
"Thomas of Reading," 50
Thornbury, W., 302, _note_
"Tom-a-Lincoln," 46
Tourgee, Judge, 311
Trelawney, 304
Tristram, 22, 25, 30, 34
Trollope, A., 294, 295
Trollope, Mrs., 287
Trollope, T.A., 302, _note_
Tupper, M.F., 302, _note_
Turner, T., Diary of, 221
Tytler, S., 297

Valerio, C.S., 312

Walpole, Horace, 259
Ward, R. Plumer, 291
Warren, S., 291
Wetherell, E., 291
Whitly, F.M., 302, _note_
Whitney, Mrs., 312
Whyte-Melville, G.J., 302, _note_
Wilson, A.E., 312
Wilson, Prof., 284
Williams, F., 302, _note_
Willis, N.P., 308
Winthrop, T., 312
Wood, Mrs. H, 287
Wraxall, C.L., 302, _note_

Yates, E., 302, _note_
Yonge, Miss, 287

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that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.