By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A History of English Literature
Author: Fletcher, Robert Huntington
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of English Literature" ***

A History of English Literature

by Robert Huntington Fletcher



This book aims to provide a general manual of English Literature for
students in colleges and universities and others beyond the high-school
age. The first purposes of every such book must be to outline the
development of the literature with due regard to national life, and to give
appreciative interpretation of the work of the most important authors. I
have written the present volume because I have found no other that, to my
mind, combines satisfactory accomplishment of these ends with a selection
of authors sufficiently limited for clearness and with adequate accuracy
and fulness of details, biographical and other. A manual, it seems to me,
should supply a systematic statement of the important facts, so that the
greater part of the student's time, in class and without, may be left free
for the study of the literature itself.

I hope that the book may prove adaptable to various methods and conditions
of work. Experience has suggested the brief introductory statement of main
literary principles, too often taken for granted by teachers, with much
resulting haziness in the student's mind. The list of assignments and
questions at the end is intended, of course, to be freely treated. I hope
that the list of available inexpensive editions of the chief authors may
suggest a practical method of providing the material, especially for
colleges which can provide enough copies for class use. Poets, of course,
may be satisfactorily read in volumes of, selections; but to me, at least,
a book of brief extracts from twenty or a hundred prose authors is an
absurdity. Perhaps I may venture to add that personally I find it advisable
to pass hastily over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and so gain
as much time as possible for the nineteenth.

R. H. F.

_August, 1916._





      TO A.D. 1066

      A.D. 1066 TO ABOUT 1350

      ABOUT 1350 TO ABOUT 1500




      1603-1660. PROSE AND POETRY



      TO ABOUT 1830

      1830 TO 1901





TWO ASPECTS OF LITERARY STUDY. Such a study of Literature as that for which
the present book is designed includes two purposes, contributing to a
common end. In the first place (I), the student must gain some general
knowledge of the conditions out of which English literature has come into
being, as a whole and during its successive periods, that is of the
external facts of one sort or another without which it cannot be
understood. This means chiefly (1) tracing in a general way, from period to
period, the social life of the nation, and (2) getting some acquaintance
with the lives of the more important authors. The principal thing, however
(II), is the direct study of the literature itself. This study in turn
should aim first at an _understanding_ of the literature as an
expression of the authors' views of life and of their personalities and
especially as a portrayal and interpretation of the life of their periods
and of all life as they have seen it; it should aim further at an
_appreciation_ of each literary work as a product of Fine Art,
appealing with peculiar power both to our minds and to our emotions, not
least to the sense of Beauty and the whole higher nature. In the present
book, it should perhaps be added, the word Literature is generally
interpreted in the strict sense, as including only writing of permanent
significance and beauty.

The outline discussion of literary qualities which follows is intended to
help in the formation of intelligent and appreciative judgments.

SUBSTANCE AND FORM. The most thoroughgoing of all distinctions in
literature, as in the other Fine Arts, is that between (1) Substance, the
essential content and meaning of the work, and (2) Form, the manner in
which it is expressed (including narrative structure, external style, in
poetry verse-form, and many related matters). This distinction should be
kept in mind, but in what follows it will not be to our purpose to
emphasize it.

GENERAL MATTERS. 1. First and always in considering any piece of literature
a student should ask himself the question already implied: Does it present
a true portrayal of life--of the permanent elements in all life and in
human nature, of the life or thought of its own particular period, and (in
most sorts of books) of the persons, real or imaginary, with whom it deals?
If it properly accomplishes this main purpose, when the reader finishes it
he should feel that his understanding of life and of people has been
increased and broadened. But it should always be remembered that truth is
quite as much a matter of general spirit and impression as of literal
accuracy in details of fact. The essential question is not, Is the
presentation of life and character perfect in a photographic fashion? but
Does it convey the _underlying_ realities? 2. Other things being
equal, the value of a book, and especially of an author's whole work, is
proportional to its range, that is to the breadth and variety of the life
and characters which it presents. 3. A student should not form his
judgments merely from what is technically called the _dogmatic_ point
of view, but should try rather to adopt that of _historical_
criticism. This means that he should take into account the limitations
imposed on every author by the age in which he lived. If you find that the
poets of the Anglo-Saxon 'Béowulf' have given a clear and interesting
picture of the life of our barbarous ancestors of the sixth or seventh
century A. D., you should not blame them for a lack of the finer elements
of feeling and expression which after a thousand years of civilization
distinguish such delicate spirits as Keats and Tennyson. 4. It is often
important to consider also whether the author's personal method is
_objective_, which means that he presents life and character without
bias; or _subjective_, coloring his work with his personal tastes,
feelings and impressions. Subjectivity may be a falsifying influence, but
it may also be an important virtue, adding intimacy, charm, or force. 5.
Further, one may ask whether the author has a deliberately formed theory of
life; and if so how it shows itself, and, of course, how sound it is.

question in judging any book concerns the union which it shows: (1) of the
Intellectual faculty, that which enables the author to understand and
control his material and present it with directness and clearness; and (2)
of the Emotion, which gives warmth, enthusiasm, and appealing human power.
The relative proportions of these two faculties vary greatly in books of
different sorts. Exposition (as in most essays) cannot as a rule be
permeated with so much emotion as narration or, certainly, as lyric poetry.
In a great book the relation of the two faculties will of course properly
correspond to form and spirit. Largely a matter of Emotion is the Personal
Sympathy of the author for his characters, while Intellect has a large
share in Dramatic Sympathy, whereby the author enters truly into the
situations and feelings of any character, whether he personally likes him
or not. Largely made up of Emotion are: (1) true Sentiment, which is fine
feeling of any sort, and which should not degenerate into Sentimentalism
(exaggerated tender feeling); (2) Humor, the instinctive sense for that
which is amusing; and (3) the sense for Pathos. Pathos differs from Tragedy
in that Tragedy (whether in a drama or elsewhere) is the suffering of
persons who are able to struggle against it, Pathos the suffering of those
persons (children, for instance) who are merely helpless victims. Wit, the
brilliant perception of incongruities, is a matter of Intellect and the
complement of Humor.

IMAGINATION AND FANCY. Related to Emotion also and one of the most
necessary elements in the higher forms of literature is Imagination, the
faculty of making what is absent or unreal seem present and real, and
revealing the hidden or more subtile forces of life. Its main operations
may be classified under three heads: (1) Pictorial and Presentative. It
presents to the author's mind, and through him to the minds of his readers,
all the elements of human experience and life (drawing from his actual
experience or his reading). 2. Selective, Associative, and Constructive.
From the unorganized material thus brought clearly to the author's
consciousness Imagination next selects the details which can be turned to
present use, and proceeds to combine them, uniting scattered traits and
incidents, perhaps from widely different sources, into new characters,
stories, scenes, and ideas. The characters of 'Silas Marner,' for example,
never had an actual existence, and the precise incidents of the story never
took place in just that order and fashion, but they were all constructed by
the author's imagination out of what she had observed of many real persons
and events, and so make, in the most significant sense, a true picture of
life. 3. Penetrative and Interpretative. In its subtlest operations,
further, Imagination penetrates below the surface and comprehends and
brings to light the deeper forces and facts--the real controlling instincts
of characters, the real motives for actions, and the relations of material
things to those of the spiritual world and of Man to Nature and God.

Fancy may for convenience be considered as a distinct faculty, though it is
really the lighter, partly superficial, aspect of Imagination. It deals
with things not essentially or significantly true, amusing us with striking
or pleasing suggestions, such as seeing faces in the clouds, which vanish
almost as soon as they are discerned. Both Imagination and Fancy naturally
express themselves, often and effectively, through the use of metaphors,
similes, and suggestive condensed language. In painful contrast to them
stands commonplaceness, always a fatal fault.

IDEALISM, ROMANCE, AND REALISM. Among the most important literary qualities
also are Idealism, Romance, and Realism. Realism, in the broad sense, means
simply the presentation of the actual, depicting life as one sees it,
objectively, without such selection as aims deliberately to emphasize some
particular aspects, such as the pleasant or attractive ones. (Of course all
literature is necessarily based on the ordinary facts of life, which we may
call by the more general name of Reality.) Carried to the extreme, Realism
may become ignoble, dealing too frankly or in unworthy spirit with the
baser side of reality, and in almost all ages this sort of Realism has
actually attempted to assert itself in literature. Idealism, the tendency
opposite to Realism, seeks to emphasize the spiritual and other higher
elements, often to bring out the spiritual values which lie beneath the
surface. It is an optimistic interpretation of life, looking for what is
good and permanent beneath all the surface confusion. Romance may be called
Idealism in the realm of sentiment. It aims largely to interest and
delight, to throw over life a pleasing glamor; it generally deals with love
or heroic adventure; and it generally locates its scenes and characters in
distant times and places, where it can work unhampered by our consciousness
of the humdrum actualities of our daily experience. It may always be asked
whether a writer of Romance makes his world seem convincingly real as we
read or whether he frankly abandons all plausibility. The presence or
absence of a supernatural element generally makes an important difference.
Entitled to special mention, also, is spiritual Romance, where attention is
centered not on external events, which may here be treated in somewhat
shadowy fashion, but on the deeper questions of life. Spiritual Romance,
therefore, is essentially idealistic.

DRAMATIC POWER. Dramatic power, in general, means the presentation of life
with the vivid active reality of life and character which especially
distinguishes the acted drama. It is, of course, one of the main things to
be desired in most narrative; though sometimes the effect sought may be
something different, as, for instance, in romance and poetry, an atmosphere
of dreamy beauty. In a drama, and to some extent in other forms of
narrative, dramatic power culminates in the ability to bring out the great
crises with supreme effectiveness.

CHARACTERS. There is, generally speaking, no greater test of an author's
skill than his knowledge and presentation of characters. We should consider
whether he makes them (1) merely caricatures, or (2) type characters,
standing for certain general traits of human nature but not convincingly
real or especially significant persons, or (3) genuine individuals with all
the inconsistencies and half-revealed tendencies that in actual life belong
to real personality. Of course in the case of important characters, the
greater the genuine individuality the greater the success. But with
secondary characters the principles of emphasis and proportion generally
forbid very distinct individualization; and sometimes, especially in comedy
(drama), truth of character is properly sacrificed to other objects, such
as the main effect. It may also be asked whether the characters are simple,
as some people are in actual life, or complex, like most interesting
persons; whether they develop, as all real people must under the action of
significant experience, or whether the author merely presents them in brief
situations or lacks the power to make them anything but stationary. If
there are several of them it is a further question whether the author
properly contrasts them in such a way as to secure interest. And a main
requisite is that he shall properly motivate their actions, that is make
their actions result naturally from their characters, either their
controlling traits or their temporary impulses.

STRUCTURE. In any work of literature there should be definite structure.
This requires, (1) Unity, (2) Variety, (3) Order, (4) Proportion, and (5)
due Emphasis of parts. Unity means that everything included in the work
ought to contribute directly or indirectly to the main effect. Very often a
definite theme may be found about which the whole work centers, as for
instance in 'Macbeth,' The Ruin of a Man through Yielding to Evil.
Sometimes, however, as in a lyric poem, the effect intended may be the
rendering or creation of a mood, such as that of happy content, and in that
case the poem may not have an easily expressible concrete theme.

Order implies a proper beginning, arrangement, progress, and a definite
ending. In narrative, including all stories whether in prose or verse and
also the drama, there should be traceable a Line of Action, comprising
generally: (1) an Introduction, stating the necessary preliminaries; (2)
the Initial Impulse, the event which really sets in motion this particular
story; (3) a Rising Action; (4) a Main Climax. Sometimes (generally, in
Comedy) the Main Climax is identical with the Outcome; sometimes (regularly
in Tragedy) the Main Climax is a turning point and comes near the middle of
the story. In that case it really marks the beginning of the success of the
side which is to be victorious at the end (in Tragedy the side opposed to
the hero) and it initiates (5) a Falling Action, corresponding to the
Rising Action, and sometimes of much the same length, wherein the losing
side struggles to maintain itself. After (6) the Outcome, may come (7) a
brief tranquilizing Conclusion. The Antecedent Action is that part of the
characters' experiences which precedes the events of the story. If it has a
bearing, information about it must be given either in the Introduction or
incidentally later on. Sometimes, however, the structure just indicated may
not be followed; a story may begin in the middle, and the earlier part may
be told later on in retrospect, or incidentally indicated, like the
Antecedent Action.

If in any narrative there is one or more Secondary Action, a story which
might be separated from the Main Action and viewed as complete in itself,
criticism should always ask whether the Main and Secondary Actions are
properly unified. In the strictest theory there should be an essential
connection between them; for instance, they may illustrate different and
perhaps contrasting aspects of the general theme. Often, however, an author
introduces a Secondary Action merely for the sake of variety or to increase
the breadth of his picture--in order to present a whole section of society
instead of one narrow stratum or group. In such cases, he must generally be
judged to have succeeded if he has established an apparent unity, say by
mingling the same characters in the two actions, so that readers are not
readily conscious of the lack of real structural unity.

Other things to be considered in narrative are: Movement, which, unless for
special reasons, should be rapid, at least not slow and broken; Suspense;
general Interest; and the questions whether or not there are good
situations and good minor climaxes, contributing to the interest; and
whether or not motivation is good, apart from that which results from
character, that is whether events are properly represented as happening in
accordance with the law of cause and effect which inexorably governs actual
life. But it must always be remembered that in such writing as Comedy and
Romance the strict rules of motivation must be relaxed, and indeed in all
literature, even in Tragedy, the idealization, condensation, and
heightening which are the proper methods of Art require them to be slightly

DESCRIPTIVE POWER. Usually secondary in appearance but of vital artistic
importance, is the author's power of description, of picturing both the
appearance of his characters and the scenes which make his background and
help to give the tone of his work. Perhaps four subjects of description may
be distinguished: 1. External Nature. Here such questions as the following
are of varying importance, according to the character and purpose of the
work: Does the author know and care for Nature and frequently introduce
descriptions? Are the descriptions concrete and accurate, or on the other
hand purposely general (impressionistic) or carelessly superficial? Do they
give fine variations of appearance and impression, such as delicate
shiftings of light and shade and delicate tones of color? Are they
powerfully sensuous, that is do they appeal strongly to the physical
senses, of sight (color, light, and movement), sound (including music),
smell, taste, touch, and general physical sensation? How great is their
variety? Do they deal with many parts of Nature, for example the sea,
mountains, plains, forests, and clouds? Is the love of external beauty a
passion with the author? What is the author's attitude toward Nature--(1)
does he view Nature in a purely objective way, as a mass of material
things, a series of material phenomena or a mere embodiment of sensuous
beauty; or (2) is there symbolism or mysticism in his attitude, that
is--does he view Nature with awe as a spiritual power; or (3) is he
thoroughly subjective, reading his own moods into Nature or using Nature
chiefly for the expression of his moods? Or again, does the author describe
with merely expository purpose, to make the background of his work clear?
2. Individual Persons and Human Life: Is the author skilful in descriptions
of personal appearance and dress? Does he produce his impressions by full
enumeration of details, or by emphasis on prominent or characteristic
details? How often and how fully does he describe scenes of human activity
(such as a street scene, a social gathering, a procession on the march)? 3.
How frequent and how vivid are his descriptions of the inanimate background
of human life--buildings, interiors of rooms, and the rest? 4. Does the
author skilfully use description to create the general atmosphere in which
he wishes to invest his work--an atmosphere of cheerfulness, of mystery, of
activity, or any of a hundred other moods?

STYLE. Style in general means 'manner of writing.' In the broad sense it
includes everything pertaining to the author's spirit and point of
view--almost everything which is here being discussed. More narrowly
considered, as 'external style,' it designates the author's use of
language. Questions to be asked in regard to external style are such as
these: Is it good or bad, careful or careless, clear and easy or confused
and difficult; simple or complex; terse and forceful (perhaps colloquial)
or involved and stately; eloquent, balanced, rhythmical; vigorous, or
musical, languid, delicate and decorative; varied or monotonous; plain or
figurative; poor or rich in connotation and poetic suggestiveness;
beautiful, or only clear and strong? Are the sentences mostly long or
short; periodic or loose; mostly of one type, such as the declarative, or
with frequent introduction of such other forms as the question and the

POETRY. Most of what has thus far been said applies to both Prose and
Poetry. But in Poetry, as the literature especially characterized in
general by high Emotion, Imagination, and Beauty, finer and more delicate
effects are to be sought than in Prose. Poetry, generally speaking, is the
expression of the deeper nature; it belongs peculiarly to the realm of the
spirit. On the side of poetical expression such imaginative figures of
speech as metaphors and similes, and such devices as alliteration, prove
especially helpful. It may be asked further of poetry, whether the meter
and stanza structure are appropriate to the mood and thought and so handled
as to bring out the emotion effectively; and whether the sound is adapted
to the sense (for example, musical where the idea is of peace or quiet
beauty). If the sound of the words actually imitates the sound of the thing
indicated, the effect is called Onomatopoeia. Among kinds of poetry,
according to form, the most important are: (1) Narrative, which includes
many subordinate forms, such as the Epic. (2) Lyric. Lyric poems are
expressions of spontaneous emotion and are necessarily short. (3) Dramatic,
including not merely the drama but all poetry of vigorous action. (4)
Descriptive, like Goldsmith's 'Deserted Village' and Tennyson's 'Dream of
Fair Women.' Minor kinds are: (5) Satiric; and (6) Didactic.

Highly important in poetry is Rhythm, but the word means merely 'flow,' so
that rhythm belongs to prose as well as to poetry. Good rhythm is merely a
pleasing succession of sounds. Meter, the distinguishing formal mark of
poetry and all verse, is merely rhythm which is regular in certain
fundamental respects, roughly speaking is rhythm in which the recurrence of
stressed syllables or of feet with definite time-values is regular. There
is no proper connection either in spelling or in meaning between rhythm and
rime (which is generally misspelled 'rhyme'). The adjective derived from
'rhythm' is 'rhythmical'; there is no adjective from 'rime' except 'rimed.'
The word 'verse' in its general sense includes all writing in meter. Poetry
is that verse which has real literary merit. In a very different and
narrower sense 'verse' means 'line' (never properly 'stanza').

CLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM. Two of the most important contrasting
tendencies of style in the general sense are Classicism and Romanticism.
Classicism means those qualities which are most characteristic of the best
literature of Greece and Rome. It is in fact partly identical with
Idealism. It aims to express the inner truth or central principles of
things, without anxiety for minor details, and it is by nature largely
intellectual in quality, though not by any means to the exclusion of
emotion. In outward form, therefore, it insists on correct structure,
restraint, careful finish and avoidance of all excess. 'Paradise Lost,'
Arnold's 'Sohrab and Rustum,' and Addison's essays are modern examples.
Romanticism, which in general prevails in modern literature, lays most
emphasis on independence and fulness of expression and on strong emotion,
and it may be comparatively careless of form. The Classical style has well
been called sculpturesque, the Romantic picturesque. The virtues of the
Classical are exquisiteness and incisive significance; of the Romantic,
richness and splendor. The dangers of the Classical are coldness and
formality; of the Romantic, over-luxuriance, formlessness and excess of
emotion. [Footnote: All these matters, here merely suggested, are fully
discussed in the present author's 'Principles of Composition and
Literature.' (The A. S. Barnes Co.)]


I. The Britons and the Anglo-Saxon Period, from the
      beginning to the Norman Conquest in 1066 A. D.
   A. The Britons, before and during the Roman occupation,
      to the fifth century.
   B. Anglo-Saxon Poetry, on the Continent in prehistoric
      times before the migration to England, and in England
      especially during the Northumbrian Period, seventh and
      eighth centuries A. D. Ballads, 'Beowulf,' Caedmon,
      Bede (Latin prose), Cynewulf.
   C. Anglo-Saxon Prose, of the West Saxon Period, tenth
      and eleventh centuries, beginning with King Alfred,
      871-901. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
II. The Norman-French, Period, 1066 to about 1350.
    Literature in Latin, French, and English. Many different
      forms, both religious and secular, including the
      religious drama. The Metrical Romances, including the
      Arthurian Cycle. Geoffrey of Monmouth, 'Historia
      Regum Britanniae' (Latin), about 1136. Wace, 'Brut'
      (French), about 1155. Laghamon, 'Brut' (English),
      about 1200.
III. The End of the Middle Ages, about 1350 to about 1500.
    The Hundred Years' War. 'Sir John Mandeyille's'
      'Voyage.' Chaucer, 1338-1400. John Gower. 'The
      Vision Concerning Piers the Plowman.' Wiclif and
      the Lollard Bible, about 1380. Popular Ballads. The
      War of the Roses. Malory's 'Morte Darthur,' finished
      1467. Caxton and the printing press, 1476. Morality
      Plays and Interludes.
IV. The Renaissance and the Elizabethan Period, about 1500
      to 1603.
    Great discoveries and activity, both intellectual and
      physical. Influence of Italy. The Reformation.
    Henry VIII, 1509-47. Edward VI, to 1553. Mary, to 1558.
      Elizabeth, 1558-1603. Defeat of the Armada, 1588.
    Sir Thomas More, 'Utopia.' Tyndale's New Testament
      and other translations of the Bible.
    Wyatt and Surrey, about 1540.
    Prose Fiction. Lyly's 'Euphues,' 1578. Sidney's
    Spenser, 1552-1599. 'The Shepherd's Calendar,' 1579.
      'The Faerie Queene,' 1590 and later.
    Lyric poetry, including sonnet sequences. John Donne.
    The Drama. Classical and native influences. Lyly,
      Peele, Greene, Marlowe. Shakspere, 1564-1616. Ben
      Jonson and other dramatists.
V. The Seventeenth Century, 1603-1660.
    The First Stuart Kings, James I (to 1625) and Charles I.
      Cavaliers and Puritans. The Civil War and the Commonwealth.
    The Drama, to 1642.
    Francis Bacon.
    The King James Bible, 1611.
    Lyric Poets. Herrick. The 'Metaphysical' religious
      poets--Herbert, Crashaw, and Vaughan. Cavalier and
      Puritan poets.
    Milton, 1608-1674.
    John Bunyan, 'Pilgrim's Progress.' 1678.

VI. The Restoration Period, from the Restoration of Charles II
      in 1660 to the death of Dryden in 1700.
    Charles II, 1660-1685. James II, 1685 to the Revolution
      in 1688. William and Mary, 1688-1702.
    Butler's 'Hudibras.' Pepys' 'Diary.' The Restoration
      Drama. Dryden, 1631-1700.

VII. The Eighteenth Century.
         Queen Anne, 1702-1715. The four Georges, 1715-1830.

   Swift, 1667-1745.
   Addison, 1672-1719.
   Steele, 1672-1729.
   Pope, 1688-1744.
   Johnson, 1709-1784.

   Burke, 1729-1797.
   Gibbon, 'Decline and
     Fall,' 1776-1788.
   Boswell, 'Life of
     Johnson,' 1791.

   'Sir Roger de Coverly,'
   Defoe, 1661-1731.
     'Robinson Crusoe,'
   Richardson, 1689-1761.
     'Clarissa Harlowe,'
   Fielding, 1707-1754.
   Goldsmith, 'Vicar of
   Wakefield,' 1766.
   Historical and 'Gothic'
   Miss Burney, 'Evelina,'
   Revolutionary Novels
     of Purpose. Godwin,
     'Caleb Williams.'
   Miss Edgeworth.
   Miss Austen.

   Thomson, 'The Seasons,'
   Collins, 'Odes,' 1747.
   Gray, 1716-71.
   Percy's 'Reliques,'
   Goldsmith, 'The Deserted
   Macpherson, Ossianic
   Burns, 1759-96.

   Pseudo-Classical Tragedy,
     'Cato,' 1713.
   Sentimental Comedy.
   Domestic Tragedy.
   Revival of genuine
     Comedy of
     Manners. Goldsmith,
     'She Stoops to
     Conquer,' 1773.

VIII. The Romantic Triumph, 1798 to about 1830.
    Coleridge, 1772-1834. Wordsworth, 1770-1850. Southey,
      1774-1843. Scott, 1771-1832.
    Byron, 1788-1824. Shelley, 1792-1822. Keats, 1759-1821.

IX. The Victorian Period, about 1830-1901.
       Victoria Queen, 1837-1901.

  ESSAYISTS.              POETS.                   NOVELISTS.

  Macaulay, 1800-1859.    Mrs. Browning, 1806-     Charlotte Bronté,
  Carlyle, 1795-1881.      1861.                    1816-1855.
  Ruskin, 1819-1900.      Tennyson, 1809-1892.     Dickens, 1812-1870.
                          Browning, 1812-1889.     Thackeray, 1811-1863.
                          Matthew Arnold,          Kingsley, 1819-1875.
                           poems, 1848-58.         George Eliot, 1819-
                          Rossetti, 1828-82.        1880.
  Matthew Arnold,         Morris, 1834-96.         Reade, 1814-1884.
  essays, 1861-82.        Swinburne, 1837-1909.    Trollope, 1815-1882.
                                                   Blackmore, 'Lorna
                                                    Doone,' 1869.
                                                   Shorthouse,' John
                                                   Inglesant,' 1881.
                                                   Meredith, 1828-1910.
                                                   Thomas Hardy, 1840-
                                                   Stevenson, 1850-1894.
                          Kipling, 1865-           Kipling, 1865-


It is not a part of the plan of this book to present any extended
bibliography, but there are certain reference books to which the student's
attention should be called. 'Chambers' Cyclopedia of English Literature,'
edition of 1910, published in the United States by the J. B. Lippincott Co.
in three large volumes at $15.00 (generally sold at about half that price)
is in most parts very satisfactory. Garnett and Gosse's 'Illustrated
History of English Literature, four volumes, published by the Macmillan Co.
at $20.00 and in somewhat simpler form by Grosset and Dunlap at $12.00
(sold for less) is especially valuable for its illustrations. Jusserand's
'Literary History of the English People' (to 1642, G. P. Putnam's Sons,
three volumes, $3.50 a volume) should be mentioned. Courthope's 'History of
English Poetry' (Macmillan, six volumes, $3.25 a volume), is full and after
the first volume good. 'The Cambridge History of English Literature,' now
nearing completion in fourteen volumes (G. P. Putnam's Sons, $2.50 a
volume) is the largest and in most parts the most scholarly general work in
the field, but is generally too technical except for special students. The
short biographies of many of the chief English authors in the English Men
of Letters Series (Macmillan, 30 and 75 cents a volume) are generally
admirable. For appreciative criticism of some of the great poets the essays
of Lowell and of Matthew Arnold are among the best. Frederick Byland's
'Chronological Outlines of English Literature' (Macmillan, $1.00) is very
useful for reference though now much in need of revision. It is much to be
desired that students should have at hand for consultation some good short
history of England, such as that of S. E. Gardiner (Longmans, Green, and
Co.) or that of J. R. Green.



FOREWORD. The two earliest of the nine main divisions of English Literature
are by far the longest--taken together are longer than all the others
combined--but we shall pass rather rapidly over them. This is partly
because the amount of thoroughly great literature which they produced is
small, and partly because for present-day readers it is in effect a foreign
literature, written in early forms of English or in foreign languages, so
that to-day it is intelligible only through special study or in

THE BRITONS. The present English race has gradually shaped itself out of
several distinct peoples which successively occupied or conquered the
island of Great Britain. The earliest one of these peoples which need here
be mentioned belonged to the Celtic family and was itself divided into two
branches. The Goidels or Gaels were settled in the northern part of the
island, which is now Scotland, and were the ancestors of the present
Highland Scots. On English literature they exerted little or no influence
until a late period. The Britons, from whom the present Welsh are
descended, inhabited what is now England and Wales; and they were still
further subdivided, like most barbarous peoples, into many tribes which
were often at war with one another. Though the Britons were conquered and
chiefly supplanted later on by the Anglo-Saxons, enough of them, as we
shall see, were spared and intermarried with the victors to transmit
something of their racial qualities to the English nation and literature.

The characteristics of the Britons, which are those of the Celtic family as
a whole, appear in their history and in the scanty late remains of their
literature. Two main traits include or suggest all the others: first, a
vigorous but fitful emotionalism which rendered them vivacious, lovers of
novelty, and brave, but ineffective in practical affairs; second, a
somewhat fantastic but sincere and delicate sensitiveness to beauty. Into
impetuous action they were easily hurried; but their momentary ardor easily
cooled into fatalistic despondency. To the mysterious charm of Nature--of
hills and forests and pleasant breezes; to the loveliness and grace of
meadow-flowers or of a young man or a girl; to the varied sheen of rich
colors--to all attractive objects of sight and sound and motion their fancy
responded keenly and joyfully; but they preferred chiefly to weave these
things into stories and verse of supernatural romance or vague
suggestiveness; for substantial work of solider structure either in life or
in literature they possessed comparatively little faculty. Here is a
description (exceptionally beautiful, to be sure) from the story 'Kilhwch
and Olwen':

'The maid was clothed in a robe of flame-colored silk, and about her neck
was a collar of ruddy gold, on which were precious emeralds and rubies.
More yellow was her head than the flowers of the broom, and her skin was
whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her hands and her fingers
than the blossoms of the wood anemone amidst the spray of the meadow
fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the three-mewed
falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the
breast of the white swan, her cheeks were redder than the reddest roses.
Who beheld her was filled with her love. Pour white trefoils sprang up
wherever she trod. And therefore was she called Olwen.'

This charming fancifulness and delicacy of feeling is apparently the great
contribution of the Britons to English literature; from it may perhaps be
descended the fairy scenes of Shakspere and possibly to some extent the
lyrical music of Tennyson.

THE ROMAN OCCUPATION. Of the Roman conquest and occupation of Britain
(England and Wales) we need only make brief mention, since it produced
virtually no effect on English literature. The fact should not be forgotten
that for over three hundred years, from the first century A. D. to the
beginning of the fifth, the island was a Roman province, with Latin as the
language of the ruling class of Roman immigrants, who introduced Roman
civilization and later on Christianity, to the Britons of the towns and
plains. But the interest of the Romans in the island was centered on other
things than writing, and the great bulk of the Britons themselves seem to
have been only superficially affected by the Roman supremacy. At the end of
the Roman rule, as at its beginning, they appear divided into mutually
jealous tribes, still largely barbarous and primitive.

The Anglo-Saxons. Meanwhile across the North Sea the three Germanic tribes
which were destined to form the main element in the English race were
multiplying and unconsciously preparing to swarm to their new home. The
Angles, Saxons, and Jutes occupied territories in the region which includes
parts of the present Holland, of Germany about the mouth of the Elbe, and
of Denmark. They were barbarians, living partly from piratical expeditions
against the northern and eastern coasts of Europe, partly from their flocks
and herds, and partly from a rude sort of agriculture. At home they seem to
have sheltered themselves chiefly in unsubstantial wooden villages, easily
destroyed and easily abandoned; For the able-bodied freemen among them the
chief occupation, as a matter of course, was war. Strength, courage, and
loyalty to king and comrades were the chief virtues that they admired;
ferocity and cruelty, especially to other peoples, were necessarily among
their prominent traits when their blood was up; though among themselves
there was no doubt plenty of rough and ready companionable good-humor.
Their bleak country, where the foggy and unhealthy marshes of the coast
gave way further inland to vast and somber forests, developed in them
during their long inactive winters a sluggish and gloomy mood, in which,
however, the alternating spirit of aggressive enterprise was never
quenched. In religion they had reached a moderately advanced state of
heathenism, worshipping especially, it seems, Woden, a 'furious' god as
well as a wise and crafty one; the warrior Tiu; and the strong-armed Thunor
(the Scandinavian Thor); but together with these some milder deities like
the goddess of spring, Éostre, from whom our Easter is named. For the
people on whom they fell these barbarians were a pitiless and terrible
scourge; yet they possessed in undeveloped form the intelligence, the
energy, the strength--most of the qualities of head and heart and
body--which were to make of them one of the great world-races.

became England was a part of the long agony which transformed the Roman
Empire into modern Europe. In the fourth century A. D. the Angles, Saxons,
and Jutes began to harry the southern and eastern shores of Britain, where
the Romans were obliged to maintain a special military establishment
against them. But early in the fifth century the Romans, hard-pressed even
in Italy by other barbarian invaders, withdrew all their troops and
completely abandoned Britain. Not long thereafter, and probably before the
traditional date of 449, the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons began to come in
large bands with the deliberate purpose of permanent settlement. Their
conquest, very different in its methods and results from that of the
Romans, may roughly be said to have occupied a hundred and fifty or two
hundred years. The earlier invading hordes fixed themselves at various
points on the eastern and southern shore and gradually fought their way
inland, and they were constantly augmented by new arrivals. In general the
Angles settled in the east and north and the Saxons in the south, while the
less numerous Jutes, the first to come, in Kent, soon ceased to count in
the movement. In this way there naturally came into existence a group of
separate and rival kingdoms, which when they were not busy with the Britons
were often at war with each other. Their number varied somewhat from time
to time as they were united or divided; but on the whole, seven figured
most prominently, whence comes the traditional name 'The Saxon Heptarchy'
(Seven Kingdoms). The resistance of the Britons to the Anglo-Saxon advance
was often brave and sometimes temporarily successful. Early in the sixth
century, for example, they won at Mount Badon in the south a great victory,
later connected in tradition with the legendary name of King Arthur, which
for many years gave them security from further aggressions. But in the long
run their racial defects proved fatal; they were unable to combine in
permanent and steady union, and tribe by tribe the newcomers drove them
slowly back; until early in the seventh century the Anglo-Saxons were in
possession of nearly all of what is now England, the exceptions being the
regions all along the west coast, including what has ever since been, known
as Wales.

Of the Roman and British civilization the Anglo-Saxons were ruthless
destroyers, exulting, like other barbarians, in the wanton annihilation of
things which they did not understand. Every city, or nearly every one,
which they took, they burned, slaughtering the inhabitants. They themselves
occupied the land chiefly as masters of scattered farms, each warrior
established in a large rude house surrounded by its various outbuildings
and the huts of the British slaves and the Saxon and British bondmen. Just
how largely the Britons were exterminated and how largely they were kept
alive as slaves and wives, is uncertain; but it is evident that at least a
considerable number were spared; to this the British names of many of our
objects of humble use, for example _mattoc_ and _basket_, testify.

In the natural course of events, however, no sooner had the Anglo-Saxons
destroyed the (imperfect and partial) civilization of their predecessors
than they began to rebuild one for themselves; possessors of a fertile
land, they settled down to develop it, and from tribes of lawless fighters
were before long transformed into a race of farmer-citizens. Gradually
trade with the Continent, also, was reestablished and grew; but perhaps the
most important humanizing influence was the reintroduction of Christianity.
The story is famous of how Pope Gregory the Great, struck by the beauty of
certain Angle slave-boys at Rome, declared that they ought to be called not
_Angli_ but _Angeli_ (angels) and forthwith, in 597, sent to
Britain St. Augustine (not the famous African saint of that name), who
landed in Kent and converted that kingdom. Within the next two generations,
and after much fierce fighting between the adherents of the two religions,
all the other kingdoms as well had been christianized. It was only the
southern half of the island, however, that was won by the Roman
missionaries; in the north the work was done independently by preachers
from Ireland, where, in spite of much anarchy, a certain degree of
civilization had been preserved. These two types of Christianity, those of
Ireland and of Rome, were largely different in spirit. The Irish
missionaries were simple and loving men and won converts by the beauty of
their lives; the Romans brought with them the architecture, music, and
learning of their imperial city and the aggressive energy which in the
following centuries was to make their Church supreme throughout the Western
world. When the inevitable clash for supremacy came, the king of the
then-dominant Anglian kingdom, Northumbria, made choice of the Roman as
against the Irish Church, a choice which proved decisive for the entire
island. And though our personal sympathies may well go to the
finer-spirited Irish, this outcome was on the whole fortunate; for only
through religious union with Rome during the slow centuries of medieval
rebirth could England be bound to the rest of Europe as one of the family
of coöperating Christian states; and outside that family she would have
been isolated and spiritually starved.

One of the greatest gifts of Christianity, it should be observed, and one
of the most important influences in medieval civilization, was the network
of monasteries which were now gradually established and became centers of
active hospitality and the chief homes of such learning as was possible to
the time.

doubtless brought with them from the Continent the rude beginnings of
poetry, such as come first in the literature of every people and consist
largely of brief magical charms and of rough 'popular ballads' (ballads of
the people). The charms explain themselves as an inevitable product of
primitive superstition; the ballads probably first sprang up and developed,
among all races, in much the following way. At the very beginning of human
society, long before the commencement of history, the primitive groups of
savages who then constituted mankind were instinctively led to express
their emotions together, communally, in rhythmical fashion. Perhaps after
an achievement in hunting or war the village-group would mechanically fall
into a dance, sometimes, it might be, about their village fire. Suddenly
from among the inarticulate cries of the crowd some one excited individual
would shout out a fairly distinct rhythmical expression. This expression,
which may be called a line, was taken up and repeated by the crowd; others
might be added to it, and thus gradually, in the course of generations,
arose the regular habit of communal composition, composition of something
like complete ballads by the throng as a whole. This procedure ceased to be
important everywhere long before the literary period, but it led to the
frequent composition by humble versifiers of more deliberate poems which
were still 'popular' because they circulated by word of mouth, only, from
generation to generation, among the common people, and formed one of the
best expressions of their feeling. At an early period also professional
minstrels, called by the Anglo-Saxons scops or gleemen, disengaged
themselves from the crowd and began to gain their living by wandering from
village to village or tribe to tribe chanting to the harp either the
popular ballads or more formal poetry of their own composition. Among all
races when a certain stage of social development is reached at least one
such minstrel is to be found as a regular retainer at the court of every
barbarous chief or king, ready to entertain the warriors at their feasts,
with chants of heroes and battles and of the exploits of their present
lord. All the earliest products of these processes of 'popular' and
minstrel composition are everywhere lost long before recorded literature
begins, but the processes themselves in their less formal stages continue
among uneducated people (whose mental life always remains more or less
primitive) even down to the present time.

Out of the popular ballads, or, chiefly, of the minstrel poetry which is
partly based on them, regularly develops epic poetry. Perhaps a minstrel
finds a number of ballads which deal with the exploits of a single hero or
with a single event. He combines them as best he can into a unified story
and recites this on important and stately occasions. As his work passes
into general circulation other minstrels add other ballads, until at last,
very likely after many generations, a complete epic is formed, outwardly
continuous and whole, but generally more or less clearly separable on
analysis into its original parts. Or, on the other hand, the combination
may be mostly performed all at once at a comparatively late period by a
single great poet, who with conscious art weaves together a great mass of
separate materials into the nearly finished epic.

Not much Anglo-Saxon poetry of the pagan period has come down to us. By far
the most important remaining example is the epic 'Béowulf,' of about three
thousand lines. This poem seems to have originated on the Continent, but
when and where are not now to be known. It may have been carried to England
in the form of ballads by the Anglo-Saxons; or it may be Scandinavian
material, later brought in by Danish or Norwegian pirates. At any rate it
seems to have taken on its present form in England during the seventh and
eighth centuries. It relates, with the usual terse and unadorned power of
really primitive poetry, how the hero Beowulf, coming over the sea to the
relief of King Hrothgar, delivers him from a monster, Grendel, and then
from the vengeance of Grendel's only less formidable mother. Returned home
in triumph, Beowulf much later receives the due reward of his valor by
being made king of his own tribe, and meets his death while killing a
fire-breathing dragon which has become a scourge to his people. As he
appears in the poem, Béowulf is an idealized Anglo-Saxon hero, but in
origin he may have been any one of several other different things. Perhaps
he was the old Germanic god Béowa, and his exploits originally allegories,
like some of those in the Greek mythology, of his services to man; he may,
for instance, first have been the sun, driving away the mists and cold of
winter and of the swamps, hostile forces personified in Grendel and his
mother. Or, Béowulf may really have been a great human fighter who actually
killed some especially formidable wild beasts, and whose superhuman
strength in the poem results, through the similarity of names, from his
being confused with Béowa. This is the more likely because there is in the
poem a slight trace of authentic history. (See below, under the assignments
for study.)

'Béowulf' presents an interesting though very incomplete picture of the
life of the upper, warrior, caste among the northern Germanic tribes during
their later period of barbarism on the Continent and in England, a life
more highly developed than that of the Anglo-Saxons before their conquest
of the island. About King Hrothgar are grouped his immediate retainers, the
warriors, with whom he shares his wealth; it is a part of the character, of
a good king to be generous in the distribution of gifts of gold and
weapons. Somewhere in the background there must be a village, where the
bondmen and slaves provide the daily necessaries of life and where some of
the warriors may have houses and families; but all this is beneath the
notice of the courtly poet. The center of the warriors' life is the great
hall of the king, built chiefly of timber. Inside, there are benches and
tables for feasting, and the walls are perhaps adorned with tapestries.
Near the center is the hearth, whence the smoke must escape, if it escapes
at all, through a hole in the roof. In the hall the warriors banquet,
sometimes in the company of their wives, but the women retire before the
later revelry which often leaves the men drunk on the floor. Sometimes, it
seems, there are sleeping-rooms or niches about the sides of the hall, but
in 'Béowulf' Hrothgar and his followers retire to other quarters. War,
feasting, and hunting are the only occupations in which the warriors care
to be thought to take an interest.

The spirit of the poem is somber and grim. There is no unqualified
happiness of mood, and only brief hints of delight in the beauty and joy of
the world. Rather, there is stern satisfaction in the performance of the
warrior's and the sea-king's task, the determination of a strong-willed
race to assert itself, and do, with much barbarian boasting, what its hand
finds to do in the midst of a difficult life and a hostile nature. For the
ultimate force in the universe of these fighters and their poets (in spite
of certain Christian touches inserted by later poetic editors before the
poem crystallized into its present form) is Wyrd, the Fate of the Germanic
peoples, cold as their own winters and the bleak northern sea,
irresistible, despotic, and unmoved by sympathy for man. Great as the
differences are, very much of this Anglo-Saxon pagan spirit persists
centuries later in the English Puritans.

For the finer artistic graces, also, and the structural subtilties of a
more developed literary period, we must not, of course, look in 'Béowulf.'
The narrative is often more dramatic than clear, and there is no thought of
any minuteness of characterization. A few typical characters stand out
clearly, and they were all that the poet's turbulent and not very attentive
audience could understand. But the barbaric vividness and power of the poem
give it much more than a merely historical interest; and the careful reader
cannot fail to realize that it is after all the product of a long period of
poetic development.

THE ANGLO-SAXON VERSE-FORM. The poetic form of 'Béowulf' is that of
virtually all Anglo-Saxon poetry down to the tenth century, or indeed to
the end, a form which is roughly represented in the present book in a
passage of imitative translation two pages below. The verse is unrimed, not
arranged in stanzas, and with lines more commonly end-stopped (with
distinct pauses at the ends) than is true in good modern poetry. Each line
is divided into halves and each half contains two stressed syllables,
generally long in quantity. The number of unstressed syllables appears to a
modern eye or ear irregular and actually is very unequal, but they are
really combined with the stressed ones into 'feet' in accordance with
certain definite principles. At least one of the stressed syllables in each
half-line must be in alliteration with one in the other half-line; and most
often the alliteration includes both stressed syllables in the first
halfline and the first stressed syllable in the second, occasionally all
four stressed syllables. (All vowels are held to alliterate with each
other.) It will be seen therefore that (1) emphatic stress and (2)
alliteration are the basal principles of the system. To a present-day
reader the verse sounds crude, the more so because of the harshly
consonantal character of the Anglo-Saxon language; and in comparison with
modern poetry it is undoubtedly unmelodious. But it was worked out on
conscious artistic principles, carefully followed; and when chanted, as it
was meant to be, to the harp it possessed much power and even beauty of a
vigorous sort, to which the pictorial and metaphorical wealth of the
Anglo-Saxon poetic vocabulary largely contributed.

This last-named quality, the use of metaphors, is perhaps the most
conspicuous one in the _style_, of the Anglo-Saxon poetry. The
language, compared to that of our own vastly more complex time, was
undeveloped; but for use in poetry, especially, there were a great number
of periphrastic but vividly picturesque metaphorical synonyms (technically
called _kennings_). Thus the spear becomes 'the slaughter-shaft';
fighting 'hand-play'; the sword 'the leavings of the hammer' (or 'of the
anvil'); and a ship 'the foamy-necked floater.' These kennings add much
imaginative suggestiveness to the otherwise over-terse style, and often
contribute to the grim irony which is another outstanding trait.

long time fully occupied with the work of conquest and settlement, and
their first literature of any importance, aside from 'Beowulf,' appears at
about the time when 'Beowulf' was being put into its present form, namely
in the seventh century. This was in the Northern, Anglian, kingdom of
Northumbria (Yorkshire and Southern Scotland), which, as we have already
said, had then won the political supremacy, and whose monasteries and
capital city, York, thanks to the Irish missionaries, had become the chief
centers of learning and culture in Western Christian Europe. Still pagan in
spirit are certain obscure but, ingenious and skillfully developed riddles
in verse, representatives of one form of popular literature only less early
than the ballads and charms. There remain also a few pagan lyric poems,
which are all not only somber like 'Beowulf' but distinctly elegiac, that
is pensively melancholy. They deal with the hard and tragic things in life,
the terrible power of ocean and storm, or the inexorableness and dreariness
of death, banishment, and the separation of friends. In their frequent
tender notes of pathos there may be some influence from the Celtic spirit.
The greater part of the literature of the period, however, was Christian,
produced in the monasteries or under their influence. The first Christian
writer was Caedmon (pronounced Kadmon), who toward the end of the seventh
century paraphrased in Anglo-Saxon verse some portions of the Bible. The
legend of his divine call is famous. [Footnote: It may be found in Garnett
and Gosse, I, 19-20.] The following is a modern rendering of the hymn which
is said to have been his first work:

  Now must we worship the heaven-realm's Warder,
  The Maker's might and his mind's thought,
  The glory-father's work as he every wonder,
  Lord everlasting, of old established.
  He first fashioned the firmament for mortals,
  Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator.
  Then the midearth mankind's Warder,
  Lord everlasting, afterwards wrought,
  For men a garden, God almighty.

After Caedmon comes Bede, not a poet but a monk of strong and beautiful
character, a profound scholar who in nearly forty Latin prose works
summarized most of the knowledge of his time. The other name to be
remembered is that of Cynewulf (pronounced Kinnywulf), the author of some
noble religious poetry (in Anglo-Saxon), especially narratives dealing with
Christ and Christian Apostles and heroes. There is still other Anglo-Saxon
Christian poetry, generally akin in subjects to Cynewulf's, but in most of
the poetry of the whole period the excellence results chiefly from the
survival of the old pagan spirit which distinguishes 'Beowulf'. Where the
poet writes for edification he is likely to be dull, but when his story
provides him with sea-voyages, with battles, chances for dramatic dialogue,
or any incidents of vigorous action or of passion, the zest for adventure
and war rekindles, and we have descriptions and narratives of picturesque
color and stern force. Sometimes there is real religious yearning, and
indeed the heroes of these poems are partly medieval hermits and ascetics
as well as quick-striking fighters; but for the most part the Christian
Providence is really only the heathen Wyrd under another name, and God and
Christ are viewed in much the same way as the Anglo-Saxon kings, the
objects of feudal allegiance which is sincere but rather self-assertive and
worldly than humble or consecrated.

On the whole, then, Anglo-Saxon poetry exhibits the limitations of a
culturally early age, but it manifests also a degree of power which gives
to Anglo-Saxon literature unquestionable superiority over that of any other
European country of the same period.

THE WEST-SAXON, PROSE, PERIOD. The horrors which the Anglo-Saxons had
inflicted on the Britons they themselves were now to suffer from their
still heathen and piratical kinsmen the 'Danes' or Northmen, inhabitants or
the Scandinavian peninsula and the neighboring coasts. For a hundred years,
throughout the ninth century, the Danes, appearing with unwearied
persistence, repeatedly ravaged and plundered England, and they finally
made complete conquest of Northumbria, destroyed all the churches and
monasteries, and almost completely extinguished learning. It is a familiar
story how Alfred, king from 871 to 901 of the southern kingdom of Wessex
(the land of the West Saxons), which had now taken first place among the
Anglo-Saxon states, stemmed the tide of invasion and by ceding to the
'Danes' the whole northeastern half of the island obtained for the
remainder the peace which was the first essential for the reestablishment
of civilization. Peace secured, Alfred, who was one of the greatest of all
English kings, labored unremittingly for learning, as for everything else
that was useful, and he himself translated from Latin into Anglo-Saxon half
a dozen of the best informational manuals of his time, manuals of history,
philosophy, and religion. His most enduring literary work, however, was the
inspiration and possibly partial authorship of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,'
a series of annals beginning with the Christian era, kept at various
monasteries, and recording year by year (down to two centuries and a half
after Alfred's own death), the most important events of history, chiefly
that of England. Most of the entries in the 'Chronicle' are bare and brief,
but sometimes, especially in the accounts of Alfred's own splendid
exploits, a writer is roused to spirited narrative, occasionally in verse;
and in the tenth century two great battles against invading Northmen, at
Brunanburh and Maldon, produced the only important extant pieces of
Anglo-Saxon poetry which certainly belong to the West Saxon period.

For literature, indeed, the West-Saxon period has very little permanent
significance. Plenty of its other writing remains in the shape of religious
prose--sermons, lives and legends of saints, biblical paraphrases, and
similar work in which the monastic and priestly spirit took delight, but
which is generally dull with the dulness of medieval commonplace
didacticism and fantastic symbolism. The country, too, was still distracted
with wars. Within fifty years after Alfred's death, to be sure, his
descendants had won back the whole of England from 'Danish' rule (though
the 'Danes,' then constituting half the population of the north and east,
have remained to the present day a large element in the English race). But
near the end of the tenth century new swarms of 'Danes' reappeared from the
Baltic lands, once more slaughtering and devastating, until at last in the
eleventh century the 'Danish' though Christian Canute ruled for twenty
years over all England. In such a time there could be little intellectual
or literary life. But the decline of the Anglo-Saxon literature speaks also
partly of stagnation in the race itself. The people, though still sturdy,
seem to have become somewhat dull from inbreeding and to have required an
infusion of altogether different blood from without. This necessary
renovation was to be violently forced upon them, for in 1066 Duke William
of Normandy landed at Pevensey with his army of adventurers and his
ill-founded claim to the crown, and before him at Hastings fell the gallant
Harold and his nobles. By the fortune of this single fight, followed only
by stern suppression of spasmodic outbreaks, William established himself
and his vassals as masters of the land. England ceased to be Anglo-Saxon
and became, altogether politically, and partly in race, Norman-French, a
change more radical and far-reaching than any which it has since undergone.
[Footnote: Vivid though inaccurate pictures of life and events at the time
of the Norman Conquest are given in Bulwer-Lytton's 'Harold' and Charles
Kingsley's 'Hereward the Wake.' Tennyson's tragedy 'Harold' is much better
than either, though more limited in scope.]


Scott's 'Ivanhoe,' the best-known work of fiction dealing with any part of
this period, is interesting, but as a picture of life at the end of the
twelfth century is very misleading. The date assigned to his 'Betrothed,'
one of his less important, novels, is about the same.]

THE NORMANS. The Normans who conquered England were originally members of
the same stock as the 'Danes' who had harried and conquered it in the
preceding centuries--the ancestors of both were bands of Baltic and North
Sea pirates who merely happened to emigrate in different directions; and a
little farther back the Normans were close cousins, in the general Germanic
family, of the Anglo-Saxons themselves. The exploits of this whole race of
Norse sea-kings make one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of
medieval Europe. In the ninth and tenth centuries they mercilessly ravaged
all the coasts not only of the West but of all Europe from the Rhine to the
Adriatic. 'From the fury of the Norsemen, good Lord, deliver us!' was a
regular part of the litany of the unhappy French. They settled Iceland and
Greenland and prematurely discovered America; they established themselves
as the ruling aristocracy in Russia, and as the imperial body-guard and
chief bulwark of the Byzantine empire at Constantinople; and in the
eleventh century they conquered southern Italy and Sicily, whence in the
first crusade they pressed on with unabated vigor to Asia Minor. Those
bands of them with whom we are here concerned, and who became known
distinctively as Normans, fastened themselves as settlers, early in the
eleventh century, on the northern shore of France, and in return for their
acceptance of Christianity and acknowledgment of the nominal feudal
sovereignty of the French king were recognized as rightful possessors of
the large province which thus came to bear the name of Normandy. Here by
intermarriage with the native women they rapidly developed into a race
which while retaining all their original courage and enterprise took on
also, together with the French language, the French intellectual brilliancy
and flexibility and in manners became the chief exponent of medieval

The different elements contributed to the modern English character by the
latest stocks which have been united in it have been indicated by Matthew
Arnold in a famous passage ('On the Study of Celtic Literature'): 'The
Germanic [Anglo-Saxon and 'Danish'] genius has steadiness as its main
basis, with commonness and humdrum for its defect, fidelity to nature for
its excellence. The Norman genius, talent for affairs as its main basis,
with strenuousness and clear rapidity for its excellence, hardness and
insolence for its defect.' The Germanic (Anglo-Saxon and 'Danish') element
explains, then, why uneducated Englishmen of all times have been
thick-headed, unpleasantly self-assertive, and unimaginative, but sturdy
fighters; and the Norman strain why upper-class Englishmen have been
self-contained, inclined to snobbishness, but vigorously aggressive and
persevering, among the best conquerors, organizers, and administrators in
the history of the world.

SOCIAL RESULTS OF THE CONQUEST. In most respects, or all, the Norman
conquest accomplished precisely that racial rejuvenation of which, as we
have seen, Anglo-Saxon England stood in need. For the Normans brought with
them from France the zest for joy and beauty and dignified and stately
ceremony in which the Anglo-Saxon temperament was poor--they brought the
love of light-hearted song and chivalrous sports, of rich clothing, of
finely-painted manuscripts, of noble architecture in cathedrals and
palaces, of formal religious ritual, and of the pomp and display of all
elaborate pageantry. In the outcome they largely reshaped the heavy mass of
Anglo-Saxon life into forms of grace and beauty and brightened its duller
surface with varied and brilliant colors. For the Anglo-Saxons themselves,
however, the Conquest meant at first little else than that bitterest and
most complete of all national disasters, hopeless subjection to a
tyrannical and contemptuous foe. The Normans were not heathen, as the
'Danes' had been, and they were too few in number to wish to supplant the
conquered people; but they imposed themselves, both politically and
socially, as stern and absolute masters. King William confirmed in their
possessions the few Saxon nobles and lesser land-owners who accepted his
rule and did not later revolt; but both pledges and interest compelled him
to bestow most of the estates of the kingdom, together with the widows of
their former holders, on his own nobles and the great motley throng of
turbulent fighters who had made up his invading army. In the lordships and
manors, therefore, and likewise in the great places of the Church, were
established knights and nobles, the secular ones holding in feudal tenure
from the king or his immediate great vassals, and each supported in turn by
Norman men-at-arms; and to them were subjected as serfs, workers bound to
the land, the greater part of the Saxon population. As visible signs of the
changed order appeared here and there throughout the country massive and
gloomy castles of stone, and in the larger cities, in place of the simple
Anglo-Saxon churches, cathedrals lofty and magnificent beyond all
Anglo-Saxon dreams. What sufferings, at the worst, the Normans inflicted on
the Saxons is indicated in a famous passage of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,'
an entry seventy years subsequent to the Conquest, of which the least
distressing part may be thus paraphrased:

'They filled the land full of castles. [Footnote: This was only during a
period of anarchy. For the most part the nobles lived in manor-houses, very
rude according to our ideas. See Train's 'Social England,' I, 536 ff.] They
compelled the wretched men of the land to build their castles and wore them
out with hard labor. When the castles were made they filled them with
devils and evil men. Then they took all those whom they thought to have any
property, both by night and by day, both men and women, and put them in
prison for gold and silver, and tormented them with tortures that cannot be
told; for never were any martyrs so tormented as these were.'

their own race and identity were destined to be absorbed in those of the
Anglo-Saxons could never have occurred to any of the Normans who stood with
William at Hastings, and scarcely to any of their children. Yet this result
was predetermined by the stubborn tenacity and numerical superiority of the
conquered people and by the easy adaptability of the Norman temperament.
Racially, and to a less extent socially, intermarriage did its work, and
that within a very few generations. Little by little, also, Norman contempt
and Saxon hatred were softened into tolerance, and at last even into a
sentiment of national unity. This sentiment was finally to be confirmed by
the loss of Normandy and other French possessions of the Norman-English
kings in the thirteenth century, a loss which transformed England from a
province of the Norman Continental empire and of a foreign nobility into an
independent country, and further by the wars ('The Hundred Years' War')
which England-Norman nobility and Saxon yeomen fighting together--carried
on in France in the fourteenth century.

In language and literature the most general immediate result of the
Conquest was to make of England a trilingual country, where Latin, French,
and Anglo-Saxon were spoken separately side by side. With Latin, the tongue
of the Church and of scholars, the Norman clergy were much more thoroughly
familiar than the Saxon priests had been; and the introduction of the
richer Latin culture resulted, in the latter half of the twelfth century,
at the court of Henry II, in a brilliant outburst of Latin literature. In
England, as well as in the rest of Western Europe, Latin long continued to
be the language of religious and learned writing--down to the sixteenth
century or even later. French, that dialect of it which was spoken by the
Normans--Anglo-French (English-French) it has naturally come to be
called--was of course introduced by the Conquest as the language of the
governing and upper social class, and in it also during the next three or
four centuries a considerable body of literature was produced. Anglo-Saxon,
which we may now term English, remained inevitably as the language of the
subject race, but their literature was at first crushed down into
insignificance. Ballads celebrating the resistance of scattered Saxons to
their oppressors no doubt circulated widely on the lips of the people, but
English writing of the more formal sorts, almost absolutely ceased for more
than a century, to make a new beginning about the year 1200. In the
interval the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' is the only important document, and
even this, continued at the monastery of Peterboro, comes to an end in
1154, in the midst of the terrible anarchy of Stephen's reign.

It must not be supposed, notwithstanding, that the Normans, however much
they despised the English language and literature, made any effort to
destroy it. On the other hand, gradual union of the two languages was no
less inevitable than that of the races themselves. From, the very first the
need of communication, with their subjects must have rendered it necessary
for the Normans to acquire some knowledge of the English language; and the
children of mixed parentage of course learned it from their mothers. The
use of French continued in the upper strata of society, in the few
children's schools that existed, and in the law courts, for something like
three centuries, maintaining itself so long partly because French was then
the polite language of Western Europe. But the dead pressure of English was
increasingly strong, and by the end of the fourteenth century and of
Chaucer's life French had chiefly given way to it even at Court. [Footnote:
For details see O. F. Emerson's 'History of the English Language,' chapter
4; and T. B. Lounsbury's 'History of the English Language.'] As we have
already implied, however, the English which triumphed was in fact
English-French--English was enabled to triumph partly because it had now
largely absorbed the French. For the first one hundred or one hundred and
fifty years, it seems, the two languages remained for the most part pretty
clearly distinct, but in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries English,
abandoning its first aloofness, rapidly took into itself a large part of
the French (originally Latin) vocabulary; and under the influence of the
French it carried much farther the process of dropping its own
comparatively complicated grammatical inflections--a process which had
already gained much momentum even before the Conquest. This absorption of
the French was most fortunate for English. To the Anglo-Saxon
vocabulary--vigorous, but harsh, limited in extent, and lacking in fine
discriminations and power of abstract expression, was now added nearly the
whole wealth of French, with its fullness, flexibility, and grace. As a
direct consequence the resulting language, modern English, is the richest
and most varied instrument of expression ever developed at any time by any

THE RESULT FOR POETRY. For poetry the fusion meant even more than for
prose. The metrical system, which begins to appear in the thirteenth
century and comes to perfection a century and a half later in Chaucer's
poems combined what may fairly be called the better features of both the
systems from which it was compounded. We have seen that Anglo-Saxon verse
depended on regular stress of a definite number of quantitatively long
syllables in each line and on alliteration; that it allowed much variation
in the number of unstressed syllables; and that it was without rime. French
verse, on the other hand, had rime (or assonance) and carefully preserved
identity in the total number of syllables in corresponding lines, but it
was uncertain as regarded the number of clearly stressed ones. The derived
English system adopted from the French (1) rime and (2) identical
line-length, and retained from the Anglo-Saxon (3) regularity of stress.
(4) It largely abandoned the Anglo-Saxon regard for quantity and (5) it
retained alliteration not as a basic principle but as an (extremely useful)
subordinate device. This metrical system, thus shaped, has provided the
indispensable formal basis for making English poetry admittedly the
greatest in the modern world.

THE ENGLISH DIALECTS. The study of the literature of the period is further
complicated by the division of English into dialects. The Norman Conquest
put a stop to the progress of the West-Saxon dialect toward complete
supremacy, restoring the dialects of the other parts of the island to their
former positions of equal authority. The actual result was the development
of three groups of dialects, the Southern, Midland (divided into East and
West) and Northern, all differing among themselves in forms and even in
vocabulary. Literary activity when it recommenced was about equally
distributed among the three, and for three centuries it was doubtful which
of them would finally win the first place. In the outcome success fell to
the East Midland dialect, partly through the influence of London, which
under the Norman kings replaced Winchester as the capital city and seat of
the Court and Parliament, and partly through the influence of the two
Universities, Oxford and Cambridge, which gradually grew up during the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries and attracted students from all parts of
the country. This victory of the East Midland form was marked by, though it
was not in any large degree due to, the appearance in the fourteenth
century of the first great modern English poet, Chaucer. To the present
day, however, the three dialects, and subdivisions of them, are easily
distinguishable in colloquial use; the common idiom of such regions as
Yorkshire and Cornwall is decidedly different from that of London or indeed
any other part of the country.

One of the most striking general facts in the later Middle Ages is the
uniformity of life in many of its aspects throughout all Western Europe.
[Footnote: Differences are clearly presented in Charles Reade's novel, 'The
Cloister and the Hearth,' though this deals with the period following that
with which we are here concerned.] It was only during this period that the
modern nations, acquiring national consciousness, began definitely to shape
themselves out of the chaos which had followed the fall of the Roman
Empire. The Roman Church, firmly established in every corner of every land,
was the actual inheritor of much of the unifying power of the Roman
government, and the feudal system everywhere gave to society the same
political organization and ideals. In a truer sense, perhaps, than at any
later time, Western Europe was one great brotherhood, thinking much the
same thoughts, speaking in part the same speech, and actuated by the same
beliefs. At least, the literature of the period, largely composed and
copied by the great army of monks, exhibits everywhere a thorough
uniformity in types and ideas.

We of the twentieth century should not allow ourselves to think vaguely of
the Middle Ages as a benighted or shadowy period when life and the people
who constituted it had scarcely anything in common with ourselves. In
reality the men of the Middle Ages were moved by the same emotions and
impulses as our own, and their lives presented the same incongruous mixture
of nobility and baseness. Yet it is true that the externals of their
existence were strikingly different from those of more recent times. In
society the feudal system--lords with their serfs, towns struggling for
municipal independence, kings and nobles doing, peaceably or with violence,
very much what they pleased; a constant condition of public or private war;
cities walled as a matter of course for protection against bands of robbers
or hostile armies; the country still largely covered with forests,
wildernesses, and fens; roads infested with brigands and so bad that travel
was scarcely possible except on horseback; in private life, most of the
modern comforts unknown, and the houses, even of the wealthy, so filthy and
uncomfortable that all classes regularly, almost necessarily, spent most of
the daylight hours in the open air; in industry no coal, factories, or
large machinery, but in the towns guilds of workmen each turning out by
hand his slow product of single articles; almost no education except for
priests and monks, almost no conceptions of genuine science or history, but
instead the abstract system of scholastic logic and philosophy, highly
ingenious but highly fantastic; in religion no outward freedom of thought
except for a few courageous spirits, but the arbitrary dictates of a
despotic hierarchy, insisting on an ironbound creed which the remorseless
process of time was steadily rendering more and more inadequate--this
offers some slight suggestion of the conditions of life for several
centuries, ending with the period with which we are now concerned.

In medieval literature likewise the modern student encounters much which
seems at first sight grotesque. One of the most conspicuous examples is the
pervasive use of allegory. The men of the Middle Ages often wrote, as we
do, in direct terms and of simple things, but when they wished to rise
above the commonplace they turned with a frequency which to-day appears
astonishing to the devices of abstract personification and veiled meanings.
No doubt this tendency was due in part to an idealizing dissatisfaction
with the crudeness of their actual life (as well as to frequent inability
to enter into the realm of deeper and finer thought without the aid of
somewhat mechanical imagery); and no doubt it was greatly furthered also by
the medieval passion for translating into elaborate and fantastic symbolism
all the details of the Bible narratives. But from whatever cause, the
tendency hardened into a ruling convention; thousands upon thousands of
medieval manuscripts seem to declare that the world is a mirage of shadowy
forms, or that it exists merely to body forth remote and highly surprising

Of all these countless allegories none was reiterated with more unwearied
persistence than that of the Seven Deadly Sins (those sins which in the
doctrine of the Church lead to spiritual death because they are wilfully
committed). These sins are: Covetousness, Unchastity, Anger, Gluttony,
Envy, Sloth, and, chief of all, Pride, the earliest of all, through which
Lucifer was moved to his fatal rebellion against God, whence spring all
human ills. Each of the seven, however, was interpreted as including so
many related offences that among them they embraced nearly the whole range
of possible wickedness. Personified, the Seven Sins in themselves almost
dominate medieval literature, a sort of shadowy evil pantheon. Moral and
religious questions could scarcely be discussed without regard to them; and
they maintain their commanding place even as late as in Spenser's 'Faerie
Queene,' at the very end of the sixteenth century. To the Seven Sins were
commonly opposed, but with much less emphasis, the Seven Cardinal Virtues,
Faith, Hope, Charity (Love), Prudence, Temperance, Chastity, and Fortitude.
Again, almost as prominent as the Seven Sins was the figure of Fortune with
her revolving wheel, a goddess whom the violent vicissitudes and tragedies
of life led the men of the Middle Ages, in spite of their Christianity, to
bring over from classical literature and virtually to accept as a real
divinity, with almost absolute control in human affairs. In the seventeenth
century Shakspere's plays are full of allusions to her, but so for that
matter is the everyday talk of all of us in the twentieth century.

LITERATURE IN THE THREE LANGUAGES. It is not to the purpose in a study like
the present to give special attention to the literature written in England
in Latin and French; we can speak only briefly of that composed in English.
But in fact when the English had made its new beginning, about the year
1200, the same general forms flourished in all three languages, so that
what is said in general of the English applies almost as much to the other
two as well.

RELIGIOUS LITERATURE. We may virtually divide all the literature of the
period, roughly, into (1) Religious and (2) Secular. But it must be
observed that religious writings were far more important as literature
during the Middle Ages than in more recent times, and the separation
between religious and secular less distinct than at present. The forms of
the religious literature were largely the same as in the previous period.
There were songs, many of them addressed to the Virgin, some not only
beautiful in their sincere and tender devotion, speaking for the finer
spirits in an age of crudeness and violence, but occasionally beautiful as
poetry. There were paraphrases of many parts of the Bible, lives of saints,
in both verse and prose, and various other miscellaneous work. Perhaps
worthy of special mention among single productions is the 'Cursor Mundi'
(Surveyor of the World), an early fourteenth century poem of twenty-four
thousand lines ('Paradise Lost' has less than eleven thousand), relating
universal history from the beginning, on the basis of the Biblical
narrative. Most important of all for their promise of the future, there
were the germs of the modern drama in the form of the Church plays; but to
these we shall give special attention in a later chapter.

SECULAR LITERATURE. In secular literature the variety was greater than in
religious. We may begin by transcribing one or two of the songs, which,
though not as numerous then as in some later periods, show that the great
tradition of English secular lyric poetry reaches back from our own time to
that of the Anglo-Saxons without a break. The best known of all is the
'Cuckoo Song,' of the thirteenth century, intended to be sung in harmony by
four voices:

  Sumer is icumen in;
    Lhudè sing, cuccu!
  Groweth sed and bloweth med
    And springth the wdè nu.
      Sing, cuccu!
  Awè bleteth after lomb,
    Lhouth after calvè cu.
  Bulluc sterteth, buckè verteth;
    Murie sing, cuccu!
      Cuccu, cuccu,
    Wel singès thu, cuccu;
    Ne swik thu never nu.

Summer is come in; loud sing, cuckoo! Grows the seed and blooms the mead
[meadow] and buds the wood anew. Sing, cuckoo! The ewe bleats for the lamb,
lows for the calf the cow. The bullock gambols, the buck leaps; merrily
sing, cuckoo! Cuckoo, cuckoo, well singest thou, cuckoo; cease thou never

The next is the first stanza of 'Alysoun' ('Fair Alice'):

  Bytuenè Mersh ant Averil,
    When spray beginnth to springè,
  The lútel foul hath hire wyl
    On hyre lud to syngè.
    Ieh libbe in love-longingè
    For semlokest of allè thingè;
    He may me blissè bringè;
  Icham in hire baundoun.
      An hendy hap ichabbe ybent;
      Iehot from hevene it is me sent;
      From allè wymmen mi love is lent
  Ant lyht on Alysoun.

Between March and April, When the sprout begins to spring, The little bird
has her desire In her tongue to sing. I live in love-longing For the
fairest of all things; She may bring me bliss; I am at her mercy. A lucky
lot I have secured; I think from heaven it is sent me; From all women my
love is turned And is lighted on Alysoun.

There were also political and satirical songs and miscellaneous poems of
various sorts, among them certain 'Bestiaries,' accounts of the supposed
habits of animals, generally drawn originally from classical tradition, and
most of them highly fantastic and allegorized in the interests of morality
and religion. There was an abundance of extremely realistic coarse tales,
hardly belonging to literature, in both prose and verse. The popular
ballads of the fourteenth century we must reserve for later consideration.
Most numerous of all the prose works, perhaps, were the Chronicles, which
were produced generally in the monasteries and chiefly in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, the greater part in Latin, some in French, and a few
in rude English verse. Many of them were mere annals like the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, but some were the lifelong works of men with genuine historical
vision. Some dealt merely with the history of England, or a part of it,
others with that of the entire world as it was known to medieval Europe.
The majority will never be withdrawn from the obscurity of the manuscripts
on which the patient care of their authors inscribed them; others have been
printed in full and serve as the main basis for our knowledge of the events
of the period.

THE ROMANCES. But the chief form of secular literature during the period,
beginning in the middle of the twelfth century, was the romance, especially
the metrical (verse) romance. The typical romances were the literary
expression of chivalry. They were composed by the professional minstrels,
some of whom, as in Anglo-Saxon times, were richly supported and rewarded
by kings and nobles, while others still wandered about the country, always
welcome in the manor-houses. There, like Scott's Last Minstrel, they
recited their sometimes almost endless works from memory, in the great
halls or in the ladies' bowers, to the accompaniment of occasional strains
on their harps. For two or three centuries the romances were to the lords
and ladies, and to the wealthier citizens of the towns, much what novels
are to the reading public of our own day. By far the greater part of the
romances current in England were written in French, whether by Normans or
by French natives of the English provinces in France, and the English ones
which have been preserved are mostly translations or imitations of French
originals. The romances are extreme representatives of the whole class of
literature of all times to which they have given the name. Frankly
abandoning in the main the world of reality, they carry into that of
idealized and glamorous fancy the chief interests of the medieval lords and
ladies, namely, knightly exploits in war, and lovemaking. Love in the
romances, also, retains all its courtly affectations, together with that
worship of woman by man which in the twelfth century was exalted into a
sentimental art by the poets of wealthy and luxurious Provence in Southern
France. Side by side, again, with war and love, appears in the romances
medieval religion, likewise conventionalized and childishly superstitious,
but in some inadequate degree a mitigator of cruelty and a restrainer of
lawless passion. Artistically, in some respects or all, the greater part of
the romances are crude and immature. Their usual main or only purpose is to
hold attention by successions of marvellous adventures, natural or
supernatural; of structure, therefore, they are often destitute; the
characters are ordinarily mere types; and motivation is little considered.
There were, however, exceptional authors, genuine artists, masters of meter
and narrative, possessed by a true feeling for beauty; and in some of the
romances the psychological analysis of love, in particular, is subtile and
powerful, the direct precursor of one of the main developments in modern

The romances may very roughly be grouped into four great classes. First in
time, perhaps, come those which are derived from the earlier French epics
and in which love, if it appears at all, is subordinated to the military
exploits of Charlemagne and his twelve peers in their wars against the
Saracens. Second are the romances which, battered salvage from a greater
past, retell in strangely altered romantic fashion the great stories of
classical antiquity, mainly the achievements of Alexander the Great and the
tragic fortunes of Troy. Third come the Arthurian romances, and fourth
those scattering miscellaneous ones which do not belong to the other
classes, dealing, most of them, with native English heroes. Of these, two,
'King Horn' and 'Havelok,' spring direct from the common people and in both
substance and expression reflect the hard reality of their lives, while
'Guy of Warwick' and 'Bevis of Hampton,' which are among the best known but
most tedious of all the list, belong, in their original form, to the upper

Of all the romances the Arthurian are by far the most important. They
belong peculiarly to English literature, because they are based on
traditions of British history, but they have assumed a very prominent place
in the literature of the whole western world. Rich in varied characters and
incidents to which a universal significance could be attached, in their own
time they were the most popular works of their class; and living on
vigorously after the others were forgotten, they have continued to form one
of the chief quarries of literary material and one of the chief sources of
inspiration for modern poets and romancers. It seems well worth while,
therefore, to outline briefly their literary history.

The period in which their scene is nominally laid is that of the
Anglo-Saxon conquest of Great Britain. Of the actual historical events of
this period extremely little is known, and even the capital question
whether such a person as Arthur ever really existed can never receive a
definite answer. The only contemporary writer of the least importance is
the Briton (priest or monk), Gildas, who in a violent Latin pamphlet of
about the year 550 ('The Destruction and Conquest of Britain') denounces
his countrymen for their sins and urges them to unite against the Saxons;
and Gildas gives only the slightest sketch of what had actually happened.
He tells how a British king (to whom later tradition assigns the name
Vortigern) invited in the Anglo-Saxons as allies against the troublesome
northern Scots and Picts, and how the Anglo-Saxons, victorious against
these tribes, soon turned in furious conquest against the Britons
themselves, until, under a certain Ambrosius Aurelianus, a man 'of Roman
race,' the Britons successfully defended themselves and at last in the
battle of Mount Badon checked the Saxon advance.

Next in order after Gildas, but not until about the year 800, appears a
strangely jumbled document, last edited by a certain Nennius, and entitled
'Historia Britonum' (The History of the Britons), which adds to Gildas'
outline traditions, natural and supernatural, which had meanwhile been
growing up among the Britons (Welsh). It supplies the names of the earliest
Saxon leaders, Hengist and Horsa (who also figure in the 'Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle'), and narrates at length their treacherous dealings with
Vortigern. Among other stories we find that of Vortigern's tower, where
Gildas' Ambrosius appears as a boy of supernatural nature, destined to
develop in the romances into the great magician Merlin. In Nennius' book
occurs also the earliest mention of Arthur, who, in a comparatively sober
passage, is said, some time after the days of Vortigern, to have 'fought
against the Saxons, together with the kings of the Britons, but he himself
was leader in the battles.' A list, also, is given of his twelve victories,
ending with Mount Badon. It is impossible to decide whether there is really
any truth in this account of Nennius, or whether it springs wholly from the
imagination of the Britons, attempting to solace themselves for their
national overthrow; but it allows us to believe if we choose that sometime
in the early sixth century there was a British leader of the name of
Arthur, who by military genius rose to high command and for a while beat
back the Saxon hordes. At most, however, it should be clearly realized,
Arthur was probably only a local leader in some limited region, and, far
from filling the splendid place which he occupies in the later romances,
was but the hard-pressed captain of a few thousand barbarous and half-armed

For three hundred years longer the traditions about Arthur continued to
develop among the Welsh people. The most important change which took place
was Arthur's elevation to the position of chief hero of the British (Welsh)
race and the subordination to him, as his followers, of all the other
native heroes, most of whom had originally been gods. To Arthur himself
certain divine attributes were added, such as his possession of magic
weapons, among them the sword Excalibur. It also came to be passionately
believed among the Welsh that he was not really dead but would some day
return from the mysterious Other World to which he had withdrawn and
reconquer the island for his people. It was not until the twelfth century
that these Arthurian traditions, the cherished heritage of the Welsh and
their cousins, the Bretons across the English Channel in France, were
suddenly adopted as the property of all Western Europe, so that Arthur
became a universal Christian hero. This remarkable transformation, no doubt
in some degree inevitable, was actually brought about chiefly through the
instrumentality of a single man, a certain English archdeacon of Welsh
descent, Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey, a literary and ecclesiastical
adventurer looking about for a means of making himself famous, put forth
about the year 1136, in Latin, a 'History of the Britons' from the earliest
times to the seventh century, in which, imitating the form of the serious
chronicles, he combined in cleverly impudent fashion all the adaptable
miscellaneous material, fictitious, legendary, or traditional, which he
found at hand. In dealing with Arthur, Geoffrey greatly enlarges on Gildas
and Nennius; in part, no doubt, from his own invention, in part, perhaps,
from Welsh tradition. He provides Arthur with a father, King Uther, makes
of Arthur's wars against the Saxons only his youthful exploits, relates at
length how Arthur conquered almost all of Western Europe, and adds to the
earlier story the figures of Merlin, Guenevere, Modred, Gawain, Kay, and
Bedivere. What is not least important, he gives to Arthur's reign much of
the atmosphere of feudal chivalry which was that of the ruling class of his
own age.

Geoffrey may or may not have intended his astonishing story to be seriously
accepted, but in fact it was received with almost universal credence. For
centuries it was incorporated in outline or in excerpts into almost all the
sober chronicles, and what is of much more importance for literature, it
was taken up and rehandled in various fashions by very numerous romancers.
About twenty years after Geoffrey wrote, the French poet Wace, an English
subject, paraphrased his entire 'History' in vivid, fluent, and diffuse
verse. Wace imparts to the whole, in a thorough-going way, the manners of
chivalry, and adds, among other things, a mention of the Round Table, which
Geoffrey, somewhat chary of the supernatural, had chosen to omit, though it
was one of the early elements of the Welsh tradition. Other poets followed,
chief among them the delightful Chrêtien of Troyes, all writing mostly of
the exploits of single knights at Arthur's court, which they made over,
probably, from scattering tales of Welsh and Breton mythology. To declare
that most romantic heroes had been knights of Arthur's circle now became
almost a matter of course. Prose romances also appeared, vast formless
compilations, which gathered up into themselves story after story,
according to the fancy of each successive editor. Greatest of the additions
to the substance of the cycle was the story of the Holy Grail, originally
an altogether independent legend. Important changes necessarily developed.
Arthur himself, in many of the romances, was degraded from his position of
the bravest knight to be the inactive figurehead of a brilliant court; and
the only really historical element in the story, his struggle against the
Saxons, was thrust far into the background, while all the emphasis was laid
on the romantic achievements of the single knights.

LAGHAMON'S 'BRUT.' Thus it had come about that Arthur, originally the
national hero of the Welsh, and the deadly foe of the English, was adopted,
as a Christian champion, not only for one of the medieval Nine Worthies of
all history, but for the special glory of the English race itself. In that
light he figures in the first important work in which native English
reemerges after the Norman Conquest, the 'Brut' (Chronicle) wherein, about
the year 1200, Laghamon paraphrased Wace's paraphrase of Geoffrey.
[Footnote: Laghamon's name is generally written 'Layamon,' but this is
incorrect. The word 'Brut' comes from the name 'Brutus,' according to
Geoffrey a Trojan hero and eponymous founder of the British race. Standing
at the beginning of British (and English) history, his name came to be
applied to the whole of it, just as the first two Greek letters, alpha and
beta, have given the name to the alphabet.] Laghamon was a humble parish
priest in Worcestershire, and his thirty-two thousand half-lines, in which
he imperfectly follows the Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter, are rather
crude; though they are by no means dull, rather are often strong with the
old-time Anglo-Saxon fighting spirit. In language also the poem is almost
purely Saxon; occasionally it admits the French device of rime, but it is
said to exhibit, all told, fewer than a hundred words of French origin.
Expanding throughout on Wace's version, Laghamon adds some minor features;
but English was not yet ready to take a place beside French and Latin with
the reading class, and the poem exercised no influence on the development
of the Arthurian story or on English literature.

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT. We can make special mention of only one
other romance, which all students should read in modern translation,
namely, 'Sir Gawain (pronounced Gaw'-wain) and the Green Knight.' This is
the brief and carefully constructed work of an unknown but very real poetic
artist, who lived a century and more later than Laghamon and probably a
little earlier than Chaucer. The story consists of two old folk-tales, here
finely united in the form of an Arthurian romance and so treated as to
bring out all the better side of knightly feeling, with which the author is
in charming sympathy. Like many other medieval writings, this one is
preserved by mere chance in a single manuscript, which contains also three
slightly shorter religious poems (of a thousand or two lines apiece), all
possibly by the same author as the romance. One of them in particular, 'The
Pearl,' is a narrative of much fine feeling, which may well have come from
so true a gentleman as he. The dialect is that of the Northwest Midland,
scarcely more intelligible to modern readers than Anglo-Saxon, but it
indicates that the author belonged to the same border region between
England and Wales from which came also Geoffrey of Monmouth and Laghamon, a
region where Saxon and Norman elements were mingled with Celtic fancy and
delicacy of temperament. The meter, also, is interesting--the Anglo-Saxon
unrimed alliterative verse, but divided into long stanzas of irregular
length, each ending in a 'bob' of five short riming lines.

'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' may very fittingly bring to a close our
hasty survey of the entire Norman-French period, a period mainly of
formation, which has left no literary work of great and permanent fame, but
in which, after all, there were some sincere and talented writers, who have
fallen into forgetfulness rather through the untoward accidents of time
than from lack of genuine merit in themselves.



a half, from 1350 to 1500, which forms our third period, the most important
part for literature was the first fifty years, which constitutes the age of

The middle of the fourteenth century was also the middle of the externally
brilliant fifty years' reign of Edward III. In 1337 Edward had begun the
terrible though often-interrupted series of campaigns in France which
historians group together as the Hundred Tears' War, and having won the
battle of Crecy against amazing odds, he had inaugurated at his court a
period of splendor and luxury. The country as a whole was really increasing
in prosperity; Edward was fostering trade, and the towns and some of the
town-merchants were becoming wealthy; but the oppressiveness of the feudal
system, now becoming outgrown, was apparent, abuses in society and state
and church were almost intolerable, and the spirit which was to create our
modern age, beginning already in Italy to move toward the Renaissance, was
felt in faint stirrings even so far to the North as England.

The towns, indeed, were achieving their freedom. Thanks to compact
organization, they were loosening the bonds of their dependence on the
lords or bishops to whom most of them paid taxes; and the alliance of their
representatives with the knights of the shire (country gentlemen) in the
House of Commons, now a separate division of Parliament, was laying the
foundation of the political power of the whole middle class. But the feudal
system continued to rest cruelly on the peasants. Still bound, most of
them, to the soil, as serfs of the land or tenants with definite and heavy
obligations of service, living in dark and filthy hovels under
indescribably unhealthy conditions, earning a wretched subsistence by
ceaseless labor, and almost altogether at the mercy of masters who regarded
them as scarcely better than beasts, their lot was indeed pitiable.
Nevertheless their spirit was not broken nor their state so hopeless as it
seemed. It was by the archers of the class of yeomen (small free-holders),
men akin in origin and interests to the peasants, that the victories in the
French wars were won, and the knowledge that this was so created in the
peasants an increased self-respect and an increased dissatisfaction. Their
groping efforts to better their condition received strong stimulus also
from the ravages of the terrible Black Death, a pestilence which, sweeping
off at its first visitation, in 1348, at least half the population, and on
two later recurrences only smaller proportions, led to a scarcity of
laborers and added strength to their demand for commutation of personal
services by money-payments and for higher wages. This demand was met by the
ruling classes with sternly repressive measures, and the socialistic
Peasants' Revolt of John Ball and Wat Tyler in 1381 was violently crushed
out in blood, but it expressed a great human cry for justice which could
not permanently be denied.

Hand in hand with the State and its institutions, in this period as before,
stood the Church. Holding in the theoretical belief of almost every one the
absolute power of all men's salvation or spiritual death, monopolizing
almost all learning and education, the Church exercised in the spiritual
sphere, and to no small extent in the temporal, a despotic tyranny, a
tyranny employed sometimes for good, sometimes for evil. As the only even
partially democratic institution of the age it attracted to itself the most
ambitious and able men of all classes. Though social and personal influence
were powerful within its doors, as always in all human organizations,
nevertheless the son of a serf for whom there was no other means of escape
from his servitude might steal to the nearest monastery and there, gaining
his freedom by a few months of concealment, might hope, if he proved his
ability, to rise to the highest position, to become abbot, bishop or
perhaps even Pope. Within the Church were many sincere and able men
unselfishly devoting their lives to the service of their fellows; but the
moral tone of the organization as a whole had suffered from its worldly
prosperity and power. In its numerous secular lordships and monastic orders
it had become possessor of more than half the land in England, a proportion
constantly increased through the legacies left by religious-minded persons
for their souls' salvation; but from its vast income, several times greater
than that of the Crown, it paid no taxes, and owing allegiance only to the
Pope it was in effect a foreign power, sometimes openly hostile to the
national government. The monasteries, though still performing important
public functions as centers of education, charity, and hospitality, had
relaxed their discipline, and the lives of the monks were often scandalous.
The Dominican and Franciscan friars, also, who had come to England in the
thirteenth century, soon after the foundation of their orders in Italy, and
who had been full at first of passionate zeal for the spiritual and
physical welfare of the poor, had now departed widely from their early
character and become selfish, luxurious, ignorant, and unprincipled. Much
the same was true of the 'secular' clergy (those not members of monastic
orders, corresponding to the entire clergy of Protestant churches). Then
there were such unworthy charlatans as the pardoners and professional
pilgrims, traveling everywhere under special privileges and fleecing the
credulous of their money with fraudulent relics and preposterous stories of
edifying adventure. All this corruption was clear enough to every
intelligent person, and we shall find it an object of constant satire by
the authors of the age, but it was too firmly established to be easily or
quickly rooted out.

'MANDEVILLE'S VOYAGE.' One of the earliest literary works of the period,
however, was uninfluenced by these social and moral problems, being rather
a very complete expression of the naïve medieval delight in romantic
marvels. This is the highly entertaining 'Voyage and Travels of Sir John
Mandeville.' This clever book was actually written at Liège, in what is now
Belgium, sometime before the year 1370, and in the French language; from
which, attaining enormous popularity, it was several times translated into
Latin and English, and later into various other languages. Five centuries
had to pass before scholars succeeded in demonstrating that the asserted
author, 'Sir John Mandeville,' never existed, that the real author is
undiscoverable, and that this pretended account of his journeyings over all
the known and imagined world is a compilation from a large number of
previous works. Yet the book (the English version along with the others)
really deserved its long-continued reputation. Its tales of the Ethiopian
Prester John, of diamonds that by proper care can be made to grow, of trees
whose fruit is an odd sort of lambs, and a hundred other equally remarkable
phenomena, are narrated with skilful verisimilitude and still strongly hold
the reader's interest, even if they no longer command belief. With all his
credulity, too, the author has some odd ends of genuine science, among
others the conviction that the earth is not flat but round. In style the
English versions reflect the almost universal medieval uncertainty of
sentence structure; nevertheless they are straightforward and clear; and
the book is notable as the first example in English after the Norman
Conquest of prose used not for religious edification but for amusement
(though with the purpose also of giving instruction). 'Mandeville,'
however, is a very minor figure when compared with his great
contemporaries, especially with the chief of them, Geoffrey Chaucer.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER, 1338-1400. Chaucer (the name is French and seems to have
meant originally 'shoemaker') came into the world probably in 1338, the
first important author who was born and lived in London, which with him
becomes the center of English literature. About his life, as about those of
many of our earlier writers, there remains only very fragmentary
information, which in his case is largely pieced together from scattering
entries of various kinds in such documents as court account books and
public records of state matters and of lawsuits. His father, a wine
merchant, may have helped supply the cellars of the king (Edward III) and
so have been able to bring his son to royal notice; at any rate, while
still in his teens Geoffrey became a page in the service of one of the
king's daughters-in-law. In this position his duty would be partly to
perform various humble work in the household, partly also to help amuse the
leisure of the inmates, and it is easy to suppose that he soon won favor as
a fluent story-teller. He early became acquainted with the seamy as well as
the brilliant side of courtly life; for in 1359 he was in the campaign in
France and was taken prisoner. That he was already valued appears from the
king's subscription of the equivalent of a thousand dollars of present-day
money toward his ransom; and after his release he was transferred to the
king's own service, where about 1368 he was promoted to the rank of
esquire. He was probably already married to one of the queen's
ladies-in-waiting. Chaucer was now thirty years of age, and his practical
sagacity and knowledge of men had been recognized; for from this time on he
held important public positions. He was often sent to the Continent--to
France, Flanders, and Italy--on diplomatic missions; and for eleven years
he was in charge of the London customs, where the uncongenial drudgery
occupied almost all his time until through the intercession of the queen he
was allowed to perform it by deputy. In 1386 he was a member of Parliament,
knight of the shire for Kent; but in that year his fortune turned--he lost
all his offices at the overthrow of the faction of his patron, Duke John of
Gaunt (uncle of the young king, Richard II, who had succeeded his
grandfather, Edward III, some years before). Chaucer's party and himself
were soon restored to power, but although during the remaining dozen years
of his life he received from the Court various temporary appointments and
rewards, he appears often to have been poor and in need. When Duke Henry of
Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, deposed the king and himself assumed the
throne as Henry IV, Chaucer's prosperity seemed assured, but he lived after
this for less than a year, dying suddenly in 1400. He was buried in
Westminster Abbey, the first of the men of letters to be laid in the nook
which has since become the Poets' Corner.

Chaucer's poetry falls into three rather clearly marked periods. First is
that of French influence, when, though writing in English, he drew
inspiration from the rich French poetry of the period, which was produced
partly in France, partly in England. Chaucer experimented with the numerous
lyric forms which the French poets had brought to perfection; he also
translated, in whole or in part, the most important of medieval French
narrative poems, the thirteenth century 'Romance of the Rose' of Guillaume
de Lorris and Jean de Meung, a very clever satirical allegory, in many
thousand lines, of medieval love and medieval religion. This poem, with its
Gallic brilliancy and audacity, long exercised over Chaucer's mind the same
dominant influence which it possessed over most secular poets of the age.
Chaucer's second period, that of Italian influence, dates from his first
visit to Italy in 1372-3, where at Padua he may perhaps have met the fluent
Italian poet Petrarch, and where at any rate the revelation of Italian life
and literature must have aroused his intense enthusiasm. From this time,
and especially after his other visit to Italy, five years later, he made
much direct use of the works of Petrarch and Boccaccio and to a less degree
of those of their greater predecessor, Dante, whose severe spirit was too
unlike Chaucer's for his thorough appreciation. The longest and finest of
Chaucer's poems of this period, 'Troilus and Criseyde' is based on a work
of Boccaccio; here Chaucer details with compelling power the sentiment and
tragedy of love, and the psychology of the heroine who had become for the
Middle Ages a central figure in the tale of Troy. Chaucer's third period,
covering his last fifteen years, is called his English period, because now
at last his genius, mature and self-sufficient, worked in essential
independence. First in time among his poems of these years stands 'The
Legend of Good Women,' a series of romantic biographies of famous ladies of
classical legend and history, whom it pleases Chaucer to designate as
martyrs of love; but more important than the stories themselves is the
Prolog, where he chats with delightful frankness about his own ideas and

The great work of the period, however, and the crowning achievement of
Chaucer's life, is 'The Canterbury Tales.' Every one is familiar with the
plan of the story (which may well have had some basis in fact): how Chaucer
finds himself one April evening with thirty other men and women, all
gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark (a suburb of London and just across
the Thames from the city proper), ready to start next morning, as thousands
of Englishmen did every year, on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas a
Becket at Canterbury. The travelers readily accept the proposal of Harry
Bailey, their jovial and domineering host, that he go with them as leader
and that they enliven the journey with a story-telling contest (two stories
from each pilgrim during each half of the journey) for the prize of a
dinner at his inn on their return. Next morning, therefore, the Knight
begins the series of tales and the others follow in order. This literary
form--a collection of disconnected stories bound together in a fictitious
framework--goes back almost to the beginning of literature itself; but
Chaucer may well have been directly influenced by Boccaccio's famous book
of prose tales, 'The Decameron' (Ten Days of Story-Telling). Between the
two works, however, there is a striking contrast, which has often been
pointed out. While the Italian author represents his gentlemen and ladies
as selfishly fleeing from the misery of a frightful plague in Florence to a
charming villa and a holiday of unreflecting pleasure, the gaiety of
Chaucer's pilgrims rests on a basis of serious purpose, however
conventional it may be.

Perhaps the easiest way to make clear the sources of Chaucer's power will
be by means of a rather formal summary.

1. _His Personality_. Chaucer's personality stands out in his writings
plainly and most delightfully. It must be borne in mind that, like some
others of the greatest poets, he was not a poet merely, but also a man of
practical affairs, in the eyes of his associates first and mainly a
courtier, diplomat, and government official. His wide experience of men and
things is manifest in the life-likeness and mature power of his poetry, and
it accounts in part for the broad truth of all but his earliest work, which
makes it essentially poetry not of an age but for all time. Something of
conventional medievalism still clings to Chaucer in externals, as we shall
see, but in alertness, independence of thought, and a certain directness of
utterance, he speaks for universal humanity. His practical experience helps
to explain as well why, unlike most great poets, he does not belong
primarily with the idealists. Fine feeling he did not lack; he loved
external beauty--some of his most pleasing passages voice his enthusiasm
for Nature; and down to the end of his life he never lost the zest for
fanciful romance. His mind and eye were keen, besides, for moral qualities;
he penetrated directly through all the pretenses of falsehood and
hypocrisy; while how thoroughly he understood and respected honest worth
appears in the picture of the Poor Parson in the Prolog to 'The Canterbury
Tales.' Himself quiet and self-contained, moreover, Chaucer was genial and
sympathetic toward all mankind. But all this does not declare him a
positive idealist, and in fact, rather, he was willing to accept the world
as he found it--he had no reformer's dream of 'shattering it to bits and
remoulding it nearer to the heart's desire.' His moral nature, indeed, was
easy-going; he was the appropriate poet of the Court circle, with very much
of the better courtier's point of view. At the day's tasks he worked long
and faithfully, but he also loved comfort, and he had nothing of the
martyr's instinct. To him human life was a vast procession, of boundless
interest, to be observed keenly and reproduced for the reader's enjoyment
in works of objective literary art. The countless tragedies of life he
noted with kindly pity, but he felt no impulse to dash himself against the
existing barriers of the world in the effort to assure a better future for
the coming generations. In a word, Chaucer is an artist of broad artistic
vision to whom art is its own excuse for being. And when everything is said
few readers would have it otherwise with him; for in his art he has
accomplished what no one else in his place could have done, and he has left
besides the picture of himself, very real and human across the gulf of half
a thousand years. Religion, we should add, was for him, as for so many men
of the world, a somewhat secondary and formal thing. In his early works
there is much conventional piety, no doubt sincere so far as it goes; and
he always took a strong intellectual interest in the problems of medieval
theology; but he became steadily and quietly independent in his philosophic
outlook and indeed rather skeptical of all definite dogmas.

Even in his art Chaucer's lack of the highest will-power produced one
rather conspicuous formal weakness; of his numerous long poems he really
finished scarcely one. For this, however, it is perhaps sufficient excuse
that he could write only in intervals hardly snatched from business and
sleep. In 'The Canterbury Tales' indeed, the plan is almost impossibly
ambitious; the more than twenty stories actually finished, with their
eighteen thousand lines, are only a fifth part of the intended number. Even
so, several of them do not really belong to the series; composed in stanza
forms, they are selected from his earlier poems and here pressed into
service, and on the average they are less excellent than those which he
wrote for their present places (in the rimed pentameter couplet that he
adopted from the French).

2. _His Humor_. In nothing are Chaucer's personality and his poetry
more pleasing than in the rich humor which pervades them through and
through. Sometimes, as in his treatment of the popular medieval beast-epic
material in the Nun's Priest's Tale of the Fox and the Cock, the humor
takes the form of boisterous farce; but much more often it is of the finer
intellectual sort, the sort which a careless reader may not catch, but
which touches with perfect sureness and charming lightness on all the
incongruities of life, always, too, in kindly spirit. No foible is too
trifling for Chaucer's quiet observation; while if he does not choose to
denounce the hypocrisy of the Pardoner and the worldliness of the Monk, he
has made their weaknesses sources of amusement (and indeed object-lessons
as well) for all the coming generations.

3. _He is one of the greatest of all narrative poets_. Chaucer is an
exquisite lyric poet, but only a few of his lyrics have come down to us,
and his fame must always rest largely on his narratives. Here, first, he
possesses unfailing fluency. It was with rapidity, evidently with ease, and
with masterful certainty, that he poured out his long series of vivid and
delightful tales. It is true that in his early, imitative, work he shares
the medieval faults of wordiness, digression, and abstract symbolism; and,
like most medieval writers, he chose rather to reshape material from the
great contemporary store than to invent stories of his own. But these are
really very minor matters. He has great variety, also, of narrative forms:
elaborate allegories; love stories of many kinds; romances, both religious
and secular; tales of chivalrous exploit, like that related by the Knight;
humorous extravaganzas; and jocose renderings of coarse popular
material--something, at least, in virtually every medieval type.

4. _The thorough knowledge and sure portrayal of men and women which,
belong to his mature work extend through, many various types of
character._ It is a commonplace to say that the Prolog to 'The
Canterbury Tales' presents in its twenty portraits virtually every
contemporary English class except the very lowest, made to live forever in
the finest series of character sketches preserved anywhere in literature;
and in his other work the same power appears in only less conspicuous

5. _His poetry is also essentially and thoroughly dramatic_, dealing
very vividly with life in genuine and varied action. To be sure, Chaucer
possesses all the medieval love for logical reasoning, and he takes a keen
delight in psychological analysis; but when he introduces these things
(except for the tendency to medieval diffuseness) they are true to the
situation and really serve to enhance the suspense. There is much interest
in the question often raised whether, if he had lived in an age like the
Elizabethan, when the drama was the dominant literary form, he too would
have been a dramatist.

6. _As a descriptive poet (of things as well as persons) he displays
equal skill._ Whatever his scenes or objects, he sees them with perfect
clearness and brings them in full life-likeness before the reader's eyes,
sometimes even with the minuteness of a nineteenth century novelist. And no
one understands more thoroughly the art of conveying the general impression
with perfect sureness, with a foreground where a few characteristic details
stand out in picturesque and telling clearness.

7. _Chaucer is an unerring master of poetic form._ His stanza
combinations reproduce all the well-proportioned grace of his French
models, and to the pentameter riming couplet of his later work he gives the
perfect ease and metrical variety which match the fluent thought. In all
his poetry there is probably not a single faulty line. And yet within a
hundred years after his death, such was the irony of circumstances, English
pronunciation had so greatly altered that his meter was held to be rude and
barbarous, and not until the nineteenth century were its principles again
fully understood. His language, we should add, is modern, according to the
technical classification, and is really as much like the form of our own
day as like that of a century before his time; but it is still only
_early_ modern English, and a little definitely directed study is
necessary for any present-day reader before its beauty can be adequately

The main principles for the pronunciation of Chaucer's language, so far as
it differs from ours, are these: Every letter should be sounded, especially
the final _e_ (except when it is to be suppressed before another
vowel). A large proportion of the rimes are therefore feminine. The
following vowel sounds should be observed: Stressed _a_ like modern
_a_ in father. Stressed _e_ and _ee_ like _e_ in
_fête_ or _ea_ in breath. Stressed _i_ as in _machine_,
_oo_ like _o_ in _open_. _u_ commonly as in _push_
or like _oo_ in _spoon_, _y_ like _i_ in _machine_
or _pin_ according as it is stressed or not. _ai_, _ay_,
_ei_, and _ey_ like _ay_ in _day_. _au_ commonly
like _ou_ in _pound_, _ou_ like _oo_ in _spoon_.
_-ye_ (final) is a diphthong. _g_ (not in _ng_ and not initial)
before _e_ or _i_is like _j_.

Lowell has named in a suggestive summary the chief quality of each of the
great English poets, with Chaucer standing first in order: 'Actual life is
represented by Chaucer; imaginative life by Spenser; ideal life by
Shakspere; interior life by Milton; conventional life by Pope.' We might
add: the life of spiritual mysticism and simplicity by Wordsworth; the
completely balanced life by Tennyson; and the life of moral issues and
dramatic moments by Robert Browning.

JOHN GOWER. The three other chief writers contemporary with Chaucer
contrast strikingly both with him and with each other. Least important is
John Gower (pronounced either Go-er or Gow-er), a wealthy landowner whose
tomb, with his effigy, may still be seen in St. Savior's, Southwark, the
church of a priory to whose rebuilding he contributed and where he spent
his latter days. Gower was a confirmed conservative, and time has left him
stranded far in the rear of the forces that move and live. Unlike
Chaucer's, the bulk of his voluminous poems reflect the past and scarcely
hint of the future. The earlier and larger part of them are written in
French and Latin, and in 'Vox Clamantis' (The Voice of One Crying in the
Wilderness) he exhausts the vocabulary of exaggerated bitterness in
denouncing the common people for the insurrection in which they threatened
the privileges and authority of his own class. Later on, perhaps through
Chaucer's example, he turned to English, and in 'Confessio Amantis' (A
Lover's Confession) produced a series of renderings of traditional stories
parallel in general nature to 'The Canterbury Tales.' He is generally a
smooth and fluent versifier, but his fluency is his undoing; he wraps up
his material in too great a mass of verbiage.

THE VISION CONCERNING PIERS THE PLOWMAN. The active moral impulse which
Chaucer and Gower lacked, and a consequent direct confronting of the evils
of the age, appear vigorously in the group of poems written during the last
forty years of the century and known from the title in some of the
manuscripts as 'The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman.' From
the sixteenth century, at least, until very lately this work, the various
versions of which differ greatly, has been supposed to be the single poem
of a single author, repeatedly enlarged and revised by him; and ingenious
inference has constructed for this supposed author a brief but picturesque
biography under the name of William Langland. Recent investigation,
however, has made it seem at least probable that the work grew, to its
final form through additions by several successive writers who have not
left their names and whose points of view were not altogether identical.

Like the slightly earlier poet of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,' the
authors belonged to the region of the Northwest Midland, near the Malvern
Hills, and like him, they wrote in the Anglo-Saxon verse form,
alliterative, unrimed, and in this case without stanza divisions. Their
language, too, the regular dialect of this region, differs very greatly, as
we have already implied, from that of Chaucer, with much less infusion from
the French; to the modern reader, except in translation, it seems uncouth
and unintelligible. But the poem, though in its final state prolix and
structurally formless, exhibits great power not only of moral conviction
and emotion, but also of expression--vivid, often homely, but not seldom

The 'first passus' begins with the sleeping author's vision of 'a field
full of folk' (the world), bounded on one side by a cliff with the tower of
Truth, and on the other by a deep vale wherein frowns the dungeon of Wrong.
Society in all its various classes and occupations is very dramatically
presented in the brief description of the 'field of folk,' with incisive
passing satire of the sins and vices of each class. 'Gluttonous wasters'
are there, lazy beggars, lying pilgrims, corrupt friars and pardoners,
venal lawyers, and, with a lively touch of realistic humour, cooks and
their 'knaves' crying, 'Hot pies!' But a sane balance is preserved--there
are also worthy people, faithful laborers, honest merchants, and sincere
priests and monks. Soon the allegory deepens. Holy Church, appearing,
instructs the author about Truth and the religion which consists in loving
God and giving help to the poor. A long portrayal of the evil done by Lady
Meed (love of money and worldly rewards) prepares for the appearance of the
hero, the sturdy plowman Piers, who later on is even identified in a hazy
way with Christ himself. Through Piers and his search for Truth is
developed the great central teaching of the poem, the Gospel of Work--the
doctrine, namely, that society is to be saved by honest labor, or in
general by the faithful service of every class in its own sphere. The Seven
Deadly Sins and their fatal fruits are emphasized, and in the later forms
of the poem the corruptions of wealth and the Church are indignantly
denounced, with earnest pleading for the religion of practical social love
to all mankind.

In its own age the influence of 'Piers the Plowman' was very great. Despite
its intended impartiality, it was inevitably adopted as a partisan document
by the poor and oppressed, and together with the revolutionary songs of
John Ball it became a powerful incentive to the Peasant's Insurrection.
Piers himself became and continued an ideal for men who longed for a less
selfish and brutal world, and a century and a half later the poem was still
cherished by the Protestants for its exposure of the vices of the Church.
Its medieval form and setting remove it hopelessly beyond the horizon of
general readers of the present time, yet it furnishes the most detailed
remaining picture of the actual social and economic conditions of its age,
and as a great landmark in the progress of moral and social thought it can
never lose its significance.

THE WICLIFITE BIBLE. A product of the same general forces which inspired
'Piers the Plowman' is the earliest in the great succession of the modern
English versions of the Bible, the one connected with the name of John
Wiclif, himself the first important English precursor of the Reformation.
Wiclif was born about 1320, a Yorkshireman of very vigorous intellect as
well as will, but in all his nature and instincts a direct representative
of the common people. During the greater part of his life he was connected
with Oxford University, as student, teacher (and therefore priest), and
college head. Early known as one of the ablest English thinkers and
philosophers, he was already opposing certain doctrines and practices of
the Church when he was led to become a chief spokesman for King Edward and
the nation in their refusal to pay the tribute which King John, a century
and a half before, had promised to the Papacy and which was now actually
demanded. As the controversies proceeded, Wiclif was brought at last to
formulate the principle, later to be basal in the whole Protestant
movement, that the final source of religious authority is not the Church,
but the Bible. One by one he was led to attack also other fundamental
doctrines and institutions of the Church--transubstantiation, the temporal
possessions of the Church, the Papacy, and at last, for their corruption,
the four orders of friars. In the outcome the Church proved too strong for
even Wiclif, and Oxford, against its will, was compelled to abandon him;
yet he could be driven no farther than to his parish of Lutterworth, where
he died undisturbed in 1384.

His connection with literature was an unforeseen but natural outgrowth of
his activities. Some years before his death, with characteristic energy and
zeal, he had begun to spread his doctrines by sending out 'poor priests'
and laymen who, practicing the self-denying life of the friars of earlier
days, founded the Lollard sect. [Footnote: The name, given by their
enemies, perhaps means 'tares.'] It was inevitable not only that he and his
associates should compose many tracts and sermons for the furtherance of
their views, but, considering their attitude toward the Bible, that they
should wish to put it into the hands of all the people in a form which they
would be able to understand, that is in their own vernacular English. Hence
sprang the Wiclifite translation. The usual supposition that from the
outset, before the time of Wiclif, the Church had prohibited translations
of the Bible from the Latin into the common tongues is a mistake; that
policy was a direct result of Wiclif's work. In England from Anglo-Saxon
times, as must be clear from what has here already been said, partial
English translations, literal or free, in prose or verse, had been in
circulation among the few persons who could read and wished to have them.
But Wiclif proposed to popularize the entire book, in order to make the
conscience of every man the final authority in every question of belief and
religious practice, and this the Church would not allow. It is altogether
probable that Wiclif personally directed the translation which has ever
since borne his name; but no record of the facts has come down to us, and
there is no proof that he himself was the actual author of any part of
it--that work may all have been done by others. The basis of the
translation was necessarily the Latin 'Vulgate' (Common) version, made nine
hundred years before from the original Hebrew and Greek by St. Jerome,
which still remains to-day, as in Wiclif's time, the official version of
the Roman church. The first Wiclifite translation was hasty and rather
rough, and it was soon revised and bettered by a certain John Purvey, one
of the 'Lollard' priests.

Wiclif and the men associated with him, however, were always reformers
first and writers only to that end. Their religious tracts are formless and
crude in style, and even their final version of the Bible aims chiefly at
fidelity of rendering. In general it is not elegant, the more so because
the authors usually follow the Latin idioms and sentence divisions instead
of reshaping them into the native English style. Their text, again, is
often interrupted by the insertion of brief phrases explanatory of unusual
words. The vocabulary, adapted to the unlearned readers, is more largely
Saxon than in our later versions, and the older inflected forms appear
oftener than in Chaucer; so that it is only through our knowledge of the
later versions that we to-day can read the work without frequent stumbling.
Nevertheless this version has served as the starting point for almost all
those that have come after it in English, as even a hasty reader of this
one must be conscious; and no reader can fail to admire in it the sturdy
Saxon vigor which has helped to make our own version one of the great
masterpieces of English literature.

THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. With Chaucer's death in 1400 the half century of
original creative literature in which he is the main figure comes to an
end, and for a hundred and fifty years thereafter there is only a single
author of the highest rank. For this decline political confusion is the
chief cause; first, in the renewal of the Hundred Years' War, with its
sordid effort to deprive another nation of its liberty, and then in the
brutal and meaningless War of the Roses, a mere cut-throat civil butchery
of rival factions with no real principle at stake. Throughout the fifteenth
century the leading poets (of prose we will speak later) were avowed
imitators of Chaucer, and therefore at best only second-rate writers. Most
of them were Scots, and best known is the Scottish king, James I. For
tradition seems correct in naming this monarch as the author of a pretty
poem, 'The King's Quair' ('The King's Quire,' that is Book), which relates
in a medieval dream allegory of fourteen hundred lines how the captive
author sees and falls in love with a lady whom in the end Fortune promises
to bestow upon him. This may well be the poetic record of King James'
eighteen-year captivity in England and his actual marriage to a noble
English wife. In compliment to him Chaucer's stanza of seven lines (riming
_ababbcc_), which King James employs, has received the name of 'rime

THE 'POPULAR' BALLADS. Largely to the fifteenth century, however, belong
those of the English and Scottish 'popular' ballads which the accidents of
time have not succeeded in destroying. We have already considered the
theory of the communal origin of this kind of poetry in the remote
pre-historic past, and have seen that the ballads continue to flourish
vigorously down to the later periods of civilization. The still existing
English and Scottish ballads are mostly, no doubt, the work of individual
authors of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but none the less they
express the little-changing mind and emotions of the great body of the
common people who had been singing and repeating ballads for so many
thousand years. Really essentially 'popular,' too, in spirit are the more
pretentious poems of the wandering professional minstrels, which have been
handed down along with the others, just as the minstrels were accustomed to
recite both sorts indiscriminately. Such minstrel ballads are the famous
ones on the battle of Chevy Chase, or Otterburn. The production of genuine
popular ballads began to wane in the fifteenth century when the printing
press gave circulation to the output of cheap London writers and
substituted reading for the verbal memory by which the ballads had been
transmitted, portions, as it were, of a half mysterious and almost sacred
tradition. Yet the existing ballads yielded slowly, lingering on in the
remote regions, and those which have been preserved were recovered during
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by collectors from simple men and
women living apart from the main currents of life, to whose hearts and lips
they were still dear. Indeed even now the ballads and ballad-making are not
altogether dead, but may still be found nourishing in such outskirts of
civilization as the cowboy plains of Texas, Rocky Mountain mining camps, or
the nooks and corners of the Southern Alleghenies.

The true 'popular' ballads have a quality peculiarly their own, which
renders them far superior to the sixteenth century imitations and which no
conscious literary artist has ever successfully reproduced. Longfellow's
'Skeleton in Armor' and Tennyson's 'Revenge' are stirring artistic ballads,
but they are altogether different in tone and effect from the authentic
'popular' ones. Some of the elements which go to make this peculiar
'popular' quality can be definitely stated.

1. The 'popular' ballads are the simple and spontaneous expression of the
elemental emotion of the people, emotion often crude but absolutely genuine
and unaffected. Phrases are often repeated in the ballads, just as in the
talk of the common man, for the sake of emphasis, but there is neither
complexity of plot or characterization nor attempt at decorative literary
adornment--the story and the emotion which it calls forth are all in all.
It is this simple, direct fervor of feeling, the straightforward outpouring
of the authors' hearts, that gives the ballads their power and entitles
them to consideration among the far more finished works of conscious
literature. Both the emotion and the morals of the ballads, also, are
pagan, or at least pre-Christian; vengeance on one's enemies is as much a
virtue as loyalty to one's friends; the most shameful sins are cowardice
and treachery in war or love; and the love is often lawless.

2. From first to last the treatment of the themes is objective, dramatic,
and picturesque. Everything is action, simple feeling, or vivid scenes,
with no merely abstract moralizing (except in a few unusual cases); and
often much of the story or sentiment is implied rather than directly
stated. This too, of course, is the natural manner of the common man, a
manner perfectly effective either in animated conversation or in the chant
of a minstrel, where expression and gesture can do so much of the work
which the restraints of civilized society have transferred to words.

3. To this spirit and treatment correspond the subjects of the ballads.
They are such as make appeal to the underlying human instincts--brave
exploits in individual fighting or in organized war, and the romance and
pathos and tragedy of love and of the other moving situations of simple
life. From the 'popular' nature of the ballads it has resulted that many of
them are confined within no boundaries of race or nation, but, originating
one here, one there, are spread in very varying versions throughout the
whole, almost, of the world. Purely English, however, are those which deal
with Robin Hood and his 'merry men,' idealized imaginary heroes of the
Saxon common people in the dogged struggle which they maintained for
centuries against their oppressive feudal lords.

4. The characters and 'properties' of the ballads of all classes are
generally typical or traditional. There are the brave champion, whether
noble or common man, who conquers or falls against overwhelming odds; the
faithful lover of either sex; the woman whose constancy, proving stronger
than man's fickleness, wins back her lover to her side at last; the
traitorous old woman (victim of the blind and cruel prejudice which after a
century or two was often to send her to the stake as a witch); the loyal
little child; and some few others.

5. The verbal style of the ballads, like their spirit, is vigorous and
simple, generally unpolished and sometimes rough, but often powerful with
its terse dramatic suggestiveness. The usual, though not the only, poetic
form is the four-lined stanza in lines alternately of four and three
stresses and riming only in the second and fourth lines. Besides the
refrains which are perhaps a relic of communal composition and the
conventional epithets which the ballads share with epic poetry there are
numerous traditional ballad expressions--rather meaningless formulas and
line-tags used only to complete the rime or meter, the common useful
scrap-bag reserve of these unpretentious poets. The license of Anglo-Saxon
poetry in the number of the unstressed syllables still remains. But it is
evident that the existing versions of the ballads are generally more
imperfect than the original forms; they have suffered from the corruptions
of generations of oral repetition, which the scholars who have recovered
them have preserved with necessary accuracy, but which for appreciative
reading editors should so far as possible revise away.

Among the best or most representative single ballads are: The Hunting of
the Cheviot (otherwise called The Ancient Ballad of Chevy Chase--clearly of
minstrel authorship); Sir Patrick Spens; Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne;
Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudeslee; Captain Car, or
Edom o' Gordon; King Estmere (though this has been somewhat altered by
Bishop Percy, who had and destroyed the only surviving copy of it); Edward,
Edward; Young Waters; Sweet William's Ghost; Lord Thomas and Fair Annet.
Kinmont Willie is very fine, but seems to be largely the work of Sir Walter
Scott and therefore not truly 'popular.'

SIR THOMAS MALORY AND HIS 'MORTE DARTHUR.' The one fifteenth century author
of the first rank, above referred to, is Sir Thomas Malory (the _a_ is
pronounced as in _tally_). He is probably to be identified with the
Sir Thomas Malory who during the wars in France and the civil strife of the
Roses that followed was an adherent of the Earls of Warwick and who died in
1471 under sentence of outlawry by the victorious Edward IV. And some
passing observations, at least, in his book seem to indicate that if he
knew and had shared all the splendor and inspiration of the last years of
medieval chivalry, he had experienced also the disappointment and
bitterness of defeat and prolonged captivity. Further than this we know of
him only that he wrote 'Le Morte Darthur' and had finished it by 1467.

Malory's purpose was to collect in a single work the great body of
important Arthurian romance and to arrange it in the form of a continuous
history of King Arthur and his knights. He called his book 'Le Morte
Darthur,' The Death of Arthur, from the title of several popular Arthurian
romances to which, since they dealt only with Arthur's later years and
death, it was properly enough applied, and from which it seems to have
passed into general currency as a name for the entire story of Arthur's
life. [Footnote: Since the French word 'Morte' is feminine, the preceding
article was originally 'La,' but the whole name had come to be thought of
as a compound phrase and hence as masculine or neuter in gender.] Actually
to get together all the Arthurian romances was not possible for any man in
Malory's day, or in any other, but he gathered up a goodly number, most of
them, at least, written in French, and combined them, on the whole with
unusual skill, into a work of about one-tenth their original bulk, which
still ranks, with all qualifications, as one of the masterpieces of English
literature. Dealing with such miscellaneous material, he could not wholly
avoid inconsistencies, so that, for example, he sometimes introduces in
full health in a later book a knight whom a hundred pages earlier he had
killed and regularly buried; but this need not cause the reader anything
worse than mild amusement. Not Malory but his age, also, is to blame for
his sometimes hazy and puzzled treatment of the supernatural element in his
material. In the remote earliest form of the stories, as Celtic myths, this
supernatural element was no doubt frank and very large, but Malory's
authorities, the more skeptical French romancers, adapting it to their own
age, had often more or less fully rationalized it; transforming, for
instance, the black river of Death which the original heroes often had to
cross on journeys to the Celtic Other World into a rude and forbidding moat
about the hostile castle into which the romancers degraded the Other World
itself. Countless magic details, however, still remained recalcitrant to
such treatment; and they evidently troubled Malory, whose devotion to his
story was earnest and sincere. Some of them he omits, doubtless as
incredible, but others he retains, often in a form where the impossible is
merely garbled into the unintelligible. For a single instance, in his
seventh book he does not satisfactorily explain why the valiant Gareth on
his arrival at Arthur's court asks at first only for a year's food and
drink. In the original story, we can see to-day, Gareth must have been
under a witch's spell which compelled him to a season of distasteful
servitude; but this motivating bit of superstition Malory discards, or
rather, in this case, it had been lost from the story at a much earlier
stage. It results, therefore, that Malory's supernatural incidents are
often far from clear and satisfactory; yet the reader is little troubled by
this difficulty either in so thoroughly romantic a work.

Other technical faults may easily be pointed out in Malory's book. Thorough
unity, either in the whole or in the separate stories so loosely woven
together, could not be expected; in continual reading the long succession
of similar combat after combat and the constant repetition of stereotyped
phrases become monotonous for a present-day reader; and it must be
confessed that Malory has little of the modern literary craftsman's power
of close-knit style or proportion and emphasis in details. But these faults
also may be overlooked, and the work is truly great, partly because it is
an idealist's dream of chivalry, as chivalry might have been, a chivalry of
faithful knights who went about redressing human wrongs and were loyal
lovers and zealous servants of Holy Church; great also because Malory's
heart is in his stories, so that he tells them in the main well, and
invests them with a delightful atmosphere of romance which can never lose
its fascination.

The style, also, in the narrower sense, is strong and good, and does its
part to make the book, except for the Wiclif Bible, unquestionably the
greatest monument of English prose of the entire period before the
sixteenth century. There is no affectation of elegance, but rather knightly
straightforwardness which has power without lack of ease. The sentences are
often long, but always 'loose' and clear; and short ones are often used
with the instinctive skill of sincerity. Everything is picturesque and
dramatic and everywhere there is chivalrous feeling and genuine human

book is the first great English classic which was given to the world in
print instead of written manuscript; for it was shortly after Malory's
death that the printing press was brought to England by William Caxton. The
invention of printing, perhaps the most important event of modern times,
took place in Germany not long after the middle of the fifteenth century,
and the development of the art was rapid. Caxton, a shrewd and enterprising
Kentishman, was by first profession a cloth merchant, and having taken up
his residence across the Channel, was appointed by the king to the
important post of Governor of the English Merchants in Flanders. Employed
later in the service of the Duchess of Burgundy (sister of Edward IV), his
ardent delight in romances led him to translate into English a French
'Recueil des Histoires de Troye' (Collection of the Troy Stories). To
supply the large demand for copies he investigated and mastered the new art
by which they might be so wonderfully multiplied and about 1475, at fifty
years of age, set up a press at Bruges in the modern Belgium, where he
issued his 'Recueil,' which was thus the first English book ever put into
print. During the next year, 1476, just a century before the first theater
was to be built in London, Caxton returned to England and established his
shop in Westminster, then a London suburb. During the fifteen remaining
years of his life he labored diligently, printing an aggregate of more than
a hundred books, which together comprised over fourteen thousand pages.
Aside from Malory's romance, which he put out in 1485, the most important
of his publications was an edition of Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales.' While
laboring as a publisher Caxton himself continued to make translations, and
in spite of many difficulties he, together with his assistants, turned into
English from French no fewer than twenty-one distinct works. From every
point of view Caxton's services were great. As translator and editor his
style is careless and uncertain, but like Malory's it is sincere and manly,
and vital with energy and enthusiasm. As printer, in a time of rapid
changes in the language, when through the wars in France and her growing
influence the second great infusion of Latin-French words was coming into
the English language, he did what could be done for consistency in forms
and spelling. Partly medieval and partly modern in spirit, he may fittingly
stand at the close, or nearly at the close, of our study of the medieval



For the sake of clearness we have reserved for a separate chapter the
discussion of the drama of the whole medieval period, which, though it did
not reach a very high literary level, was one of the most characteristic
expressions of the age. It should be emphasized that to no other form does
what we have said of the similarity of medieval literature throughout
Western Europe apply more closely, so that what we find true of the drama
in England would for the most part hold good for the other countries as

JUGGLERS, FOLK-PLAYS, PAGEANTS. At the fall of the Roman Empire, which
marks the beginning of the Middle Ages, the corrupt Roman drama, proscribed
by the Church, had come to an unhonored end, and the actors had been merged
into the great body of disreputable jugglers and inferior minstrels who
wandered over all Christendom. The performances of these social outcasts,
crude and immoral as they were, continued for centuries unsuppressed,
because they responded to the demand for dramatic spectacle which is one of
the deepest though not least troublesome instincts in human nature. The
same demand was partly satisfied also by the rude country folk-plays,
survivals of primitive heathen ceremonials, performed at such festival
occasions as the harvest season, which in all lands continue to flourish
among the country people long after their original meaning has been
forgotten. In England the folk-plays, throughout the Middle Ages and in
remote spots down almost to the present time, sometimes took the form of
energetic dances (Morris dances, they came to be called, through confusion
with Moorish performances of the same general nature). Others of them,
however, exhibited in the midst of much rough-and-tumble fighting and
buffoonery, a slight thread of dramatic action. Their characters gradually
came to be a conventional set, partly famous figures of popular tradition,
such as St. George, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and the Green Dragon. Other
offshoots of the folk-play were the 'mummings' and 'disguisings,'
collective names for many forms of processions, shows, and other
entertainments, such as, among the upper classes, that precursor of the
Elizabethan Mask in which a group of persons in disguise, invited or
uninvited, attended a formal dancing party. In the later part of the Middle
Ages, also, there were the secular pageants, spectacular displays (rather
different from those of the twentieth century) given on such occasions as
when a king or other person of high rank made formal entry into a town.
They consisted of an elaborate scenic background set up near the city gate
or on the street, with figures from allegorical or traditional history who
engaged in some pantomime or declamation, but with very little dramatic
dialog, or none.

they were not altogether without later influence, were very minor affairs,
and the real drama of the Middle Ages grew up, without design and by the
mere nature of things, from the regular services of the Church.

We must try in the first place to realize clearly the conditions under
which the church service, the mass, was conducted during all the medieval
centuries. We should picture to ourselves congregations of persons for the
most part grossly ignorant, of unquestioning though very superficial faith,
and of emotions easily aroused to fever heat. Of the Latin words of the
service they understood nothing; and of the Bible story they had only a
very general impression. It was necessary, therefore, that the service
should be given a strongly spectacular and emotional character, and to this
end no effort was spared. The great cathedrals and churches were much the
finest buildings of the time, spacious with lofty pillars and shadowy
recesses, rich in sculptured stone and in painted windows that cast on the
walls and pavements soft and glowing patterns of many colors and shifting
forms. The service itself was in great part musical, the confident notes of
the full choir joining with the resonant organ-tones; and after all the
rest the richly robed priests and ministrants passed along the aisles in
stately processions enveloped in fragrant clouds of incense. That the eye
if not the ear of the spectator, also, might catch some definite knowledge,
the priests as they read the Bible stories sometimes displayed painted
rolls which vividly pictured the principal events of the day's lesson.

Still, however, a lack was strongly felt, and at last, accidentally and
slowly, began the process of dramatizing the services. First, inevitably,
to be so treated was the central incident of Christian faith, the story of
Christ's resurrection. The earliest steps were very simple. First, during
the ceremonies on Good Friday, the day when Christ was crucified, the cross
which stood all the year above the altar, bearing the Savior's figure, was
taken down and laid beneath the altar, a dramatic symbol of the Death and
Burial; and two days later, on 'the third day' of the Bible phraseology,
that is on Easter Sunday, as the story of the Resurrection was chanted by
the choir, the cross was uncovered and replaced, amid the rejoicings of the
congregation. Next, and before the Norman Conquest, the Gospel dialog
between the angel and the three Marys at the tomb of Christ came sometimes
to be chanted by the choir in those responses which are called 'tropes':
'Whom seek ye in the sepulcher, O Christians ?' 'Jesus of Nazareth the
crucified, O angel.' 'He is not here; he has arisen as he said. Go,
announce that he has risen from the sepulcher.' After this a little
dramatic action was introduced almost as a matter of course. One priest
dressed in white robes sat, to represent the angel, by one of the
square-built tombs near the junction of nave and transept, and three
others, personating the Marys, advanced slowly toward him while they
chanted their portion of the same dialog. As the last momentous words of
the angel died away a jubilant 'Te Deum' burst from, organ and choir, and
every member of the congregation exulted, often with sobs, in the great
triumph which brought salvation to every Christian soul.

Little by little, probably, as time passed, this Easter scene was further
enlarged, in part by additions from the closing incidents of the Savior's
life. A similar treatment, too, was being given to the Christmas scene,
still more humanly beautiful, of his birth in the manger, and occasionally
the two scenes might be taken from their regular places in the service,
combined, and presented at any season of the year. Other Biblical scenes,
as well, came to be enacted, and, further, there were added stories from
Christian tradition, such as that of Antichrist, and, on their particular
days, the lives of Christian saints. Thus far these compositions are called
Liturgical Plays, because they formed, in general, a part of the church
service (liturgy). But as some of them were united into extended groups and
as the interest of the congregation deepened, the churches began to seem
too small and inconvenient, the excited audiences forgot the proper
reverence, and the performances were transferred to the churchyard, and
then, when the gravestones proved troublesome, to the market place, the
village-green, or any convenient field. By this time the people had ceased
to be patient with the unintelligible Latin, and it was replaced at first,
perhaps, and in part, by French, but finally by English; though probably
verse was always retained as more appropriate than prose to the sacred
subjects. Then, the religious spirit yielding inevitably in part to that of
merrymaking, minstrels and mountebanks began to flock to the celebrations;
and regular fairs, even, grew up about them. Gradually, too, the priests
lost their hold even on the plays themselves; skilful actors from among the
laymen began to take many of the parts; and at last in some towns the
trade-guilds, or unions of the various handicrafts, which had secured
control of the town governments, assumed entire charge.

These changes, very slowly creeping in, one by one, had come about in most
places by the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1311 a new impetus
was given to the whole ceremony by the establishment of the late spring
festival of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the doctrine of
transubstantiation. On this occasion, or sometimes on some other festival,
it became customary for the guilds to present an extended series of the
plays, a series which together contained the essential substance of the
Christian story, and therefore of the Christian faith. The Church generally
still encouraged attendance, and not only did all the townspeople join
wholeheartedly, but from all the country round the peasants flocked in. On
one occasion the Pope promised the remission of a thousand days of
purgatory to all persons who should be present at the Chester plays, and to
this exemption the bishop of Chester added sixty days more.

The list of plays thus presented commonly included: The Fall of Lucifer;
the Creation of the World and the Fall of Adam; Noah and the Flood; Abraham
and Isaac and the promise of Christ's coming; a Procession of the Prophets,
also foretelling Christ; the main events of the Gospel story, with some
additions from Christian tradition; and the Day of Judgment. The longest
cycle now known, that at York, contained, when fully developed, fifty
plays, or perhaps even more. Generally each play was presented by a single
guild (though sometimes two or three guilds or two or three plays might be
combined), and sometimes, though not always, there was a special fitness in
the assignment, as when the watermen gave the play of Noah's Ark or the
bakers that of the Last Supper. In this connected form the plays are called
the Mystery or Miracle Cycles. [Footnote: 'Miracle' was the medieval word
in England; 'Mystery' has been taken by recent scholars from the medieval
French usage. It is not connected with our usual word 'mystery,' but
possibly is derived from the Latin 'ministerium,' 'function,' which was the
name applied to the trade-guild as an organization and from which our title
'Mr.' also comes.] In many places, however, detached plays, or groups of
plays smaller than the full cycles, continued to be presented at one season
or another.

Each cycle as a whole, it will be seen, has a natural epic unity, centering
about the majestic theme of the spiritual history and the final judgment of
all Mankind. But unity both of material and of atmosphere suffers not only
from the diversity among the separate plays but also from the violent
intrusion of the comedy and the farce which the coarse taste of the
audience demanded. Sometimes, in the later period, altogether original and
very realistic scenes from actual English life were added, like the very
clever but very coarse parody on the Nativity play in the 'Towneley' cycle.
More often comic treatment was given to the Bible scenes and characters
themselves. Noah's wife, for example, came regularly to be presented as a
shrew, who would not enter the ark until she had been beaten into
submission; and Herod always appears as a blustering tyrant, whose fame
still survives in a proverb of Shakspere's coinage--'to out-Herod Herod.'

The manner of presentation of the cycles varied much in different towns.
Sometimes the entire cycle was still given, like the detached plays, at a
single spot, the market-place or some other central square; but often, to
accommodate the great crowds, there were several 'stations' at convenient
intervals. In the latter case each play might remain all day at a
particular station and be continuously repeated as the crowd moved slowly
by; but more often it was the, spectators who remained, and the plays,
mounted on movable stages, the 'pageant'-wagons, were drawn in turn by the
guild-apprentices from one station to another. When the audience was
stationary, the common people stood in the square on all sides of the
stage, while persons of higher rank or greater means were seated on
temporary wooden scaffolds or looked down from the windows of the adjacent
houses. In the construction of the 'pageant' all the little that was
possible was done to meet the needs of the presentation. Below the main
floor, or stage, was the curtained dressing-room of the actors; and when
the play required, on one side was attached 'Hell-Mouth,' a great and
horrible human head, whence issued flames and fiendish cries, often the
fiends themselves, and into which lost sinners were violently hurled. On
the stage the scenery was necessarily very simple. A small raised platform
or pyramid might represent Heaven, where God the Father was seated, and
from which as the action required the angels came down; a single tree might
indicate the Garden of Eden; and a doorway an entire house. In partial
compensation the costumes were often elaborate, with all the finery of the
church wardrobe and much of those of the wealthy citizens. The expense
accounts of the guilds, sometimes luckily preserved, furnish many
picturesque and amusing items, such as these: 'Four pair of angels' wings,
2 shillings and 8 pence.' 'For mending of hell head, 6 pence.' 'Item, link
for setting the world on fire.' Apparently women never acted; men and boys
took the women's parts. All the plays of the cycle were commonly performed
in a single day, beginning, at the first station, perhaps as early as five
o'clock in the morning; but sometimes three days or even more were
employed. To the guilds the giving of the plays was a very serious matter.
Often each guild had a 'pageant-house' where it stored its 'properties,'
and a pageant-master who trained the actors and imposed substantial fines
on members remiss in coöperation.

We have said that the plays were always composed in verse. The stanza forms
employed differ widely even within the same cycle, since the single plays
were very diverse in both authorship and dates. The quality of the verse,
generally mediocre at the outset, has often suffered much in transmission
from generation to generation. In other respects also there are great
contrasts; sometimes the feeling and power of a scene are admirable,
revealing an author of real ability, sometimes there is only crude and
wooden amateurishness. The medieval lack of historic sense gives to all the
plays the setting of the authors' own times; Roman officers appear as
feudal knights; and all the heathens (including the Jews) are Saracens,
worshippers of 'Mahound' and 'Termagaunt'; while the good characters,
however long they may really have lived before the Christian era, swear
stoutly by St. John and St. Paul and the other medieval Christian
divinities. The frank coarseness of the plays is often merely disgusting,
and suggests how superficial, in most cases, was the medieval religious
sense. With no thought of incongruity, too, these writers brought God the
Father onto the stage in bodily form, and then, attempting in all sincerity
to show him reverence, gilded his face and put into his mouth long speeches
of exceedingly tedious declamation. The whole emphasis, as generally in the
religion of the times, was on the fear of hell rather than on the love of
righteousness. Yet in spite of everything grotesque and inconsistent, the
plays no doubt largely fulfilled their religious purpose and exercised on
the whole an elevating influence. The humble submission of the boy Isaac to
the will of God and of his earthly father, the yearning devotion of Mary
the mother of Jesus, and the infinite love and pity of the tortured Christ
himself, must have struck into even callous hearts for at least a little
time some genuine consciousness of the beauty and power of the finer and
higher life. A literary form which supplied much of the religious and
artistic nourishment of half a continent for half a thousand years cannot
be lightly regarded or dismissed.

THE MORALITY PLAYS. The Mystery Plays seem to have reached their greatest
popularity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the dawning light
of the Renaissance and the modern spirit they gradually waned, though in
exceptional places and in special revivals they did not altogether cease to
be given until the seventeenth century. On the Continent of Europe, indeed,
they still survive, after a fashion, in a single somewhat modernized form,
the celebrated Passion Play of Oberammergau. In England by the end of the
fifteenth century they had been for the most part replaced by a kindred
species which had long been growing up beside them, namely the Morality

The Morality Play probably arose in part from the desire of religious
writers to teach the principles of Christian living in a more direct and
compact fashion than was possible through the Bible stories of the
Mysteries. In its strict form the Morality Play was a dramatized moral
allegory. It was in part an offshoot from the Mysteries, in some of which
there had appeared among the actors abstract allegorical figures, either
good or bad, such as The Seven Deadly Sins, Contemplation, and
Raise-Slander. In the Moralities the majority of the characters are of this
sort--though not to the exclusion of supernatural persons such as God and
the Devil--and the hero is generally a type-figure standing for all
Mankind. For the control of the hero the two definitely opposing groups of
Virtues and Vices contend; the commonest type of Morality presents in brief
glimpses the entire story of the hero's life, that is of the life of every
man. It shows how he yields to temptation and lives for the most part in
reckless sin, but at last in spite of all his flippancy and folly is saved
by Perseverance and Repentance, pardoned through God's mercy, and assured
of salvation. As compared with the usual type of Mystery plays the
Moralities had for the writers this advantage, that they allowed some
independence in the invention of the story; and how powerful they might be
made in the hands of a really gifted author has been finely demonstrated in
our own time by the stage-revival of the best of them, 'Everyman' (which is
probably a translation from a Dutch original). In most cases, however, the
spirit of medieval allegory proved fatal, the genuinely abstract characters
are mostly shadowy and unreal, and the speeches of the Virtues are extreme
examples of intolerable sanctimonious declamation. Against this tendency,
on the other hand, the persistent instinct for realism provided a partial
antidote; the Vices are often very lifelike rascals, abstract only in name.
In these cases the whole plays become vivid studies in contemporary low
life, largely human and interesting except for their prolixity and the
coarseness which they inherited from the Mysteries and multiplied on their
own account. During the Reformation period, in the early sixteenth century,
the character of the Moralities, more strictly so called, underwent
something of a change, and they were--sometimes made the vehicle for
religious argument, especially by Protestants.

THE INTERLUDES. Early in the sixteenth century, the Morality in its turn
was largely superseded by another sort of play called the Interlude. But
just as in the case of the Mystery and the Morality, the Interlude
developed out of the Morality, and the two cannot always be distinguished,
some single plays being distinctly described by the authors as 'Moral
Interludes.' In the Interludes the realism of the Moralities became still
more pronounced, so that the typical Interlude is nothing more than a
coarse farce, with no pretense at religious or ethical meaning. The name
Interlude denotes literally 'a play between,' but the meaning intended
(between whom or what) is uncertain. The plays were given sometimes in the
halls of nobles and gentlemen, either when banquets were in progress or on
other festival occasions; sometimes before less select audiences in the
town halls or on village greens. The actors were sometimes strolling
companies of players, who might be minstrels 'or rustics, and were
sometimes also retainers of the great nobles, allowed to practice their
dramatic ability on tours about the country when they were not needed for
their masters' entertainment. In the Interlude-Moralities and Interludes
first appears _The_ Vice, a rogue who sums up in himself all the Vices
of the older Moralities and serves as the buffoon. One of his most popular
exploits was to belabor the Devil about the stage with a wooden dagger, a
habit which took a great hold on the popular imagination, as numerous
references in later literature testify. Transformed by time, the Vice
appears in the Elizabethan drama, and thereafter, as the clown.

THE LATER INFLUENCE OF THE MEDIEVAL DRAMA. The various dramatic forms from
the tenth century to the middle of the sixteenth at which we have thus
hastily glanced--folk-plays, mummings and disguisings, secular pageants,
Mystery plays, Moralities, and Interludes--have little but a historical
importance. But besides demonstrating the persistence of the popular demand
for drama, they exerted a permanent influence in that they formed certain
stage traditions which were to modify or largely control the great drama of
the Elizabethan period and to some extent of later times. Among these
traditions were the disregard for unity, partly of action, but especially
of time and place; the mingling of comedy with even the intensest scenes of
tragedy; the nearly complete lack of stage scenery, with a resultant
willingness in the audience to make the largest possible imaginative
assumptions; the presence of certain stock figures, such as the clown; and
the presentation of women's parts by men and boys. The plays, therefore,
must be reckoned with in dramatic history.


ELIZABETH [Footnote: George Eliot's 'Romola' gives one of the best pictures
of the spirit of the Renaissance in Italy. Tennyson's 'Queen Mary,' though
it is weak as a drama, presents clearly some of the conditions of the
Reformation period in England.]

THE RENAISSANCE. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are the period of
the European Renaissance or New Birth, one of the three or four great
transforming movements of European history. This impulse by which the
medieval society of scholasticism, feudalism, and chivalry was to be made
over into what we call the modern world came first from Italy. Italy, like
the rest of the Roman Empire, had been overrun and conquered in the fifth
century by the barbarian Teutonic tribes, but the devastation had been less
complete there than in the more northern lands, and there, even more,
perhaps, than in France, the bulk of the people remained Latin in blood and
in character. Hence it resulted that though the Middle Ages were in Italy a
period of terrible political anarchy, yet Italian culture recovered far
more rapidly than that of the northern nations, whom the Italians continued
down to the modern period to regard contemptuously as still mere
barbarians. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, further, the
Italians had become intellectually one of the keenest races whom the world
has ever known, though in morals they were sinking to almost incredible
corruption. Already in fourteenth century Italy, therefore, the movement
for a much fuller and freer intellectual life had begun, and we have seen
that by Petrarch and Boccaccio something of this spirit was transmitted to
Chaucer. In England Chaucer was followed by the medievalizing fifteenth
century, but in Italy there was no such interruption.

The Renaissance movement first received definite direction from the
rediscovery and study of Greek literature, which clearly revealed the
unbounded possibilities of life to men who had been groping dissatisfied
within the now narrow limits of medieval thought. Before Chaucer was dead
the study of Greek, almost forgotten in Western Europe during the Middle
Ages, had been renewed in Italy, and it received a still further impulse
when at the taking of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 Greek scholars
and manuscripts were scattered to the West. It is hard for us to-day to
realize the meaning for the men of the fifteenth century of this revived
knowledge of the life and thought of the Greek race. The medieval Church,
at first merely from the brutal necessities of a period of anarchy, had for
the most part frowned on the joy and beauty of life, permitting pleasure,
indeed, to the laity, but as a thing half dangerous, and declaring that
there was perfect safety only within the walls of the nominally ascetic
Church itself. The intellectual life, also, nearly restricted to priests
and monks, had been formalized and conventionalized, until in spite of the
keenness of its methods and the brilliancy of many of its scholars, it had
become largely barren and unprofitable. The whole sphere of knowledge had
been subjected to the mere authority of the Bible and of a few great minds
of the past, such as Aristotle. All questions were argued and decided on
the basis of their assertions, which had often become wholly inadequate and
were often warped into grotesquely impossible interpretations and
applications. Scientific investigation was almost entirely stifled, and
progress was impossible. The whole field of religion and knowledge had
become largely stagnant under an arbitrary despotism.

To the minds which were being paralyzed under this system, Greek literature
brought the inspiration for which they longed. For it was the literature of
a great and brilliant people who, far from attempting to make a divorce
within man's nature, had aimed to 'see life steadily and see it whole,'
who, giving free play to all their powers, had found in pleasure and beauty
some of the most essential constructive forces, and had embodied beauty in
works of literature and art where the significance of the whole spiritual
life was more splendidly suggested than in the achievements of any, or
almost any, other period. The enthusiasm, therefore, with which the
Italians turned to the study of Greek literature and Greek life was
boundless, and it constantly found fresh nourishment. Every year restored
from forgotten recesses of libraries or from the ruins of Roman villas
another Greek author or volume or work of art, and those which had never
been lost were reinterpreted with much deeper insight. Aristotle was again
vitalized, and Plato's noble idealistic philosophy was once more
appreciatively studied and understood. In the light of this new revelation
Latin literature, also, which had never ceased to be almost superstitiously
studied, took on a far greater human significance. Vergil and Cicero were
regarded no longer as mysterious prophets from a dimly imagined past, but
as real men of flesh and blood, speaking out of experiences remote in time
from the present but no less humanly real. The word 'human,' indeed, became
the chosen motto of the Renaissance scholars; 'humanists' was the title
which they applied to themselves as to men for whom 'nothing human was
without appeal.' New creative enthusiasm, also, and magnificent actual new
creation, followed the discovery of the old treasures, creation in
literature and all the arts; culminating particularly in the early
sixteenth century in the greatest group of painters whom any country has
ever seen, Lionardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. In Italy, to be
sure, the light of the Renaissance had its palpable shadow; in breaking
away from the medieval bondage into the unhesitating enjoyment of all
pleasure, the humanists too often overleaped all restraints and plunged
into wild excess, often into mere sensuality. Hence the Italian Renaissance
is commonly called Pagan, and hence when young English nobles began to
travel to Italy to drink at the fountain head of the new inspiration
moralists at home protested with much reason against the ideas and habits
which many of them brought back with their new clothes and flaunted as
evidences of intellectual emancipation. History, however, shows no great
progressive movement unaccompanied by exaggerations and extravagances.

The Renaissance, penetrating northward, past first from Italy to France,
but as early as the middle of the fifteenth century English students were
frequenting the Italian universities. Soon the study of Greek was
introduced into England, also, first at Oxford; and it was cultivated with
such good results that when, early in the sixteenth century, the great
Dutch student and reformer, Erasmus, unable through poverty to reach Italy,
came to Oxford instead, he found there a group of accomplished scholars and
gentlemen whose instruction and hospitable companionship aroused his
unbounded delight. One member of this group was the fine-spirited John
Colet, later Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, who was to bring new
life into the secondary education of English boys by the establishment of
St. Paul's Grammar School, based on the principle of kindness in place of
the merciless severity of the traditional English system.

Great as was the stimulus of literary culture, it was only one of several
influences that made up the Renaissance. While Greek was speaking so
powerfully to the cultivated class, other forces were contributing to
revolutionize life as a whole and all men's outlook upon it. The invention
of printing, multiplying books in unlimited quantities where before there
had been only a few manuscripts laboriously copied page by page, absolutely
transformed all the processes of knowledge and almost of thought. Not much
later began the vast expansion of the physical world through geographical
exploration. Toward the end of the fifteenth century the Portuguese sailor,
Vasco da Gama, finishing the work of Diaz, discovered the sea route to
India around the Cape of Good Hope. A few years earlier Columbus had
revealed the New World and virtually proved that the earth is round, a
proof scientifically completed a generation after him when Magellan's ship
actually circled the globe. Following close after Columbus, the Cabots,
Italian-born, but naturalized Englishmen, discovered North America, and for
a hundred years the rival ships of Spain, England, and Portugal filled the
waters of the new West and the new East. In America handfuls of Spanish
adventurers conquered great empires and despatched home annual treasure
fleets of gold and silver, which the audacious English sea-captains, half
explorers and half pirates, soon learned to intercept and plunder. The
marvels which were constantly being revealed as actual facts seemed no less
wonderful than the extravagances of medieval romance; and it was scarcely
more than a matter of course that men should search in the new strange
lands for the fountain of perpetual youth and the philosopher's stone. The
supernatural beings and events of Spenser's 'Faerie Queene' could scarcely
seem incredible to an age where incredulity was almost unknown because it
was impossible to set a bound how far any one might reasonably believe. But
the horizon of man's expanded knowledge was not to be limited even to his
own earth. About the year 1540, the Polish Copernicus opened a still
grander realm of speculation (not to be adequately possessed for several
centuries) by the announcement that our world is not the center of the
universe, but merely one of the satellites of its far-superior sun.

The whole of England was profoundly stirred by the Renaissance to a new and
most energetic life, but not least was this true of the Court, where for a
time literature was very largely to center. Since the old nobility had
mostly perished in the wars, both Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor line,
and his son, Henry VIII, adopted the policy of replacing it with able and
wealthy men of the middle class, who would be strongly devoted to
themselves. The court therefore became a brilliant and crowded circle of
unscrupulous but unusually adroit statesmen, and a center of lavish
entertainments and display. Under this new aristocracy the rigidity of the
feudal system was relaxed, and life became somewhat easier for all the
dependent classes. Modern comforts, too, were largely introduced, and with
them the Italian arts; Tudor architecture, in particular, exhibited the
originality and splendor of an energetic and self-confident age. Further,
both Henries, though perhaps as essentially selfish and tyrannical as
almost any of their predecessors, were politic and far-sighted, and they
took a genuine pride in the prosperity of their kingdom. They encouraged
trade; and in the peace which was their best gift the well-being of the
nation as a whole increased by leaps and bounds.

THE REFORMATION. Lastly, the literature of the sixteenth century and later
was profoundly influenced by that religious result of the Renaissance which
we know as the Reformation. While in Italy the new impulses were chiefly
turned into secular and often corrupt channels, in the Teutonic lands they
deeply stirred the Teutonic conscience. In 1517 Martin Luther, protesting
against the unprincipled and flippant practices that were disgracing
religion, began the breach between Catholicism, with its insistence on the
supremacy of the Church, and Protestantism, asserting the independence of
the individual judgment. In England Luther's action revived the spirit of
Lollardism, which had nearly been crushed out, and in spite of a minority
devoted to the older system, the nation as a whole began to move rapidly
toward change. Advocates of radical revolution thrust themselves forward in
large numbers, while cultured and thoughtful men, including the Oxford
group, indulged the too ideal hope of a gradual and peaceful reform.

The actual course of the religious movement was determined largely by the
personal and political projects of Henry VIII. Conservative at the outset,
Henry even attacked Luther in a pamphlet, which won from the Pope for
himself and his successors the title 'Defender of the Faith.' But when the
Pope finally refused Henry's demand for the divorce from Katharine of
Spain, which would make possible a marriage with Anne Boleyn, Henry angrily
threw off the papal authority and declared himself the Supreme Head of the
Church in England, thus establishing the separate English (Anglican,
Episcopal) church. In the brief reign of Henry's son, Edward VI, the
separation was made more decisive; under Edward's sister, Mary, Catholicism
was restored; but the last of Henry's children, Elizabeth, coming to the
throne in 1558, gave the final victory to the English communion. Under all
these sovereigns (to complete our summary of the movement) the more radical
Protestants, Puritans as they came to be called, were active in agitation,
undeterred by frequent cruel persecution and largely influenced by the
corresponding sects in Germany and by the Presbyterianism established by
Calvin in Geneva and later by John Knox in Scotland. Elizabeth's skilful
management long kept the majority of the Puritans within the English
Church, where they formed an important element, working for simpler
practices and introducing them in congregations which they controlled. But
toward the end of the century and of Elizabeth's reign, feeling grew
tenser, and groups of the Puritans, sometimes under persecution, definitely
separated themselves from the State Church and established various
sectarian bodies. Shortly after 1600, in particular, the Independents, or
Congregationalists, founded in Holland the church which was soon to
colonize New England. At home, under James I, the breach widened, until the
nation was divided into two hostile camps, with results most radically
decisive for literature. But for the present we must return to the early
part of the sixteenth century.

SIR THOMAS MORE AND HIS 'UTOPIA.' Out of the confused and bitter strife of
churches and parties, while the outcome was still uncertain, issued a great
mass of controversial writing which does not belong to literature. A few
works, however, more or less directly connected with the religious
agitation, cannot be passed by.

One of the most attractive and finest spirits of the reign of Henry VIII
was Sir Thomas More. A member of the Oxford group in its second generation,
a close friend of Erasmus, his house a center of humanism, he became even
more conspicuous in public life. A highly successful lawyer, he was rapidly
advanced by Henry VIII in court and in national affairs, until on the fall
of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529 he was appointed, much against his will, to the
highest office open to a subject, that of Lord Chancellor (head of the
judicial system). A devoted Catholic, he took a part which must have been
revolting to himself in the torturing and burning of Protestants; but his
absolute loyalty to conscience showed itself to better purpose when in the
almost inevitable reverse of fortune he chose harsh imprisonment and death
rather than to take the formal oath of allegiance to the king in opposition
to the Pope. His quiet jests on the scaffold suggest the never-failing
sense of humor which was one sign of the completeness and perfect poise of
his character; while the hair-shirt which he wore throughout his life and
the severe penances to which he subjected himself reveal strikingly how the
expression of the deepest convictions of the best natures may be determined
by inherited and outworn modes of thought.

More's most important work was his 'Utopia,' published in 1516. The name,
which is Greek, means No-Place, and the book is one of the most famous of
that series of attempts to outline an imaginary ideal condition of society
which begins with Plato's 'Republic' and has continued to our own time.
'Utopia,' broadly considered, deals primarily with the question which is
common to most of these books and in which both ancient Greece and Europe
of the Renaissance took a special interest, namely the question of the
relation of the State and the individual. It consists of two parts. In the
first there is a vivid picture of the terrible evils which England was
suffering through war, lawlessness, the wholesale and foolish application
of the death penalty, the misery of the peasants, the absorption of the
land by the rich, and the other distressing corruptions in Church and
State. In the second part, in contrast to all this, a certain imaginary
Raphael Hythlodaye describes the customs of Utopia, a remote island in the
New World, to which chance has carried him. To some of the ideals thus set
forth More can scarcely have expected the world ever to attain; and some of
them will hardly appeal to the majority of readers of any period; but in
the main he lays down an admirable program for human progress, no small
part of which has been actually realized in the four centuries which have
since elapsed.

The controlling purpose in the life of the Utopians is to secure both the
welfare of the State and the full development of the individual under the
ascendancy of his higher faculties. The State is democratic, socialistic,
and communistic, and the will of the individual is subordinated to the
advantage of all, but the real interests of each and all are recognized as
identical. Every one is obliged to work, but not to overwork; six hours a
day make the allotted period; and the rest of the time is free, but with
plentiful provision of lectures and other aids for the education of mind
and spirit. All the citizens are taught the fundamental art, that of
agriculture, and in addition each has a particular trade or profession of
his own. There is no surfeit, excess, or ostentation. Clothing is made for
durability, and every one's garments are precisely like those of every one
else, except that there is a difference between those of men and women and
those of married and unmarried persons. The sick are carefully tended, but
the victims of hopeless or painful disease are mercifully put to death if
they so desire. Crime is naturally at a minimum, but those who persist in
it are made slaves (not executed, for why should the State be deprived of
their services?). Detesting war, the Utopians make a practice of hiring
certain barbarians who, conveniently, are their neighbors, to do whatever
fighting is necessary for their defense, and they win if possible, not by
the revolting slaughter of pitched battles, but by the assassination of
their enemies' generals. In especial, there is complete religious
toleration, except for atheism, and except for those who urge their
opinions with offensive violence.

'Utopia' was written and published in Latin; among the multitude of
translations into many languages the earliest in English, in which it is
often reprinted, is that of Ralph Robinson, made in 1551.

THE ENGLISH BIBLE AND BOOKS OF DEVOTION. To this century of religious
change belongs the greater part of the literary history of the English
Bible and of the ritual books of the English Church. Since the suppression
of the Wiclifite movement the circulation of the Bible in English had been
forbidden, but growing Protestantism insistently revived the demand for it.
The attitude of Henry VIII and his ministers was inconsistent and
uncertain, reflecting their own changing points of view. In 1526 William
Tyndale, a zealous Protestant controversialist then in exile in Germany,
published an excellent English translation of the New Testament. Based on
the proper authority, the Greek original, though with influence from Wiclif
and from the Latin and German (Luther's) version, this has been directly or
indirectly the starting-point for all subsequent English translations
except those of the Catholics.

Ten years later Tyndale suffered martyrdom, but in 1535 Miles Coverdale,
later bishop of Exeter, issued in Germany a translation of the whole Bible
in a more gracious style than Tyndale's, and to this the king and the
established clergy were now ready to give license and favor. Still two
years later appeared a version compounded of those of Tyndale and Coverdale
and called, from the fictitious name of its editor, the 'Matthew' Bible. In
1539, under the direction of Archbishop Cranmer, Coverdale issued a revised
edition, officially authorized for use in churches; its version of the
Psalms still stands as the Psalter of the English Church. In 1560 English
Puritan refugees at Geneva put forth the 'Geneva Bible,' especially
accurate as a translation, which long continued the accepted version for
private use among all parties and for all purposes among the Puritans, in
both Old and New England. Eight years later, under Archbishop Parker, there
was issued in large volume form and for use in churches the 'Bishops'
Bible,' so named because the majority of its thirteen editors were bishops.
This completes the list of important translations down to those of 1611 and
1881, of which we shall speak in the proper place. The Book of Common
Prayer, now used in the English Church coordinately with Bible and Psalter,
took shape out of previous primers of private devotion, litanies, and
hymns, mainly as the work of Archbishop Cranmer during the reign of Edward

Of the influence of these translations of the Bible on English literature
it is impossible to speak too strongly. They rendered the whole nation
familiar for centuries with one of the grandest and most varied of all
collections of books, which was adopted with ardent patriotic enthusiasm as
one of the chief national possessions, and which has served as an unfailing
storehouse of poetic and dramatic allusions for all later writers. Modern
English literature as a whole is permeated and enriched to an incalculable
degree with the substance and spirit of the English Bible.

WYATT AND SURREY AND THE NEW POETRY. In the literature of fine art also the
new beginning was made during the reign of Henry VIII. This was through the
introduction by Sir Thomas Wyatt of the Italian fashion of lyric poetry.
Wyatt, a man of gentle birth, entered Cambridge at the age of twelve and
received his degree of M. A. seven years later. His mature life was that of
a courtier to whom the king's favor brought high appointments, with such
vicissitudes of fortune, including occasional imprisonments, as formed at
that time a common part of the courtier's lot. Wyatt, however, was not a
merely worldly person, but a Protestant seemingly of high and somewhat
severe moral character. He died in 1542 at the age of thirty-nine of a
fever caught as he was hastening, at the king's command, to meet and
welcome the Spanish ambassador.

On one of his missions to the Continent, Wyatt, like Chaucer, had visited
Italy. Impressed with the beauty of Italian verse and the contrasting
rudeness of that of contemporary England, he determined to remodel the
latter in the style of the former. Here a brief historical retrospect is
necessary. The Italian poetry of the sixteenth century had itself been
originally an imitation, namely of the poetry of Provence in Southern
France. There, in the twelfth century, under a delightful climate and in a
region of enchanting beauty, had arisen a luxurious civilization whose
poets, the troubadours, many of them men of noble birth, had carried to the
furthest extreme the woman-worship of medieval chivalry and had enshrined
it in lyric poetry of superb and varied sweetness and beauty. In this
highly conventionalized poetry the lover is forever sighing for his lady, a
correspondingly obdurate being whose favor is to be won only by years of
the most unqualified and unreasoning devotion. From Provence, Italy had
taken up the style, and among the other forms for its expression, in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, had devised the poem of a single
fourteen-line stanza which we call the sonnet. The whole movement had found
its great master in Petrarch, who, in hundreds of poems, mostly sonnets, of
perfect beauty, had sung the praises and cruelty of his nearly imaginary

It was this highly artificial but very beautiful poetic fashion which Wyatt
deliberately set about to introduce into England. The nature and success of
his innovation can be summarized in a few definite statements.

1. Imitating Petrarch, Wyatt nearly limits himself as regards substance to
the treatment of the artificial love-theme, lamenting the unkindness of
ladies who very probably never existed and whose favor in any case he
probably regarded very lightly; yet even so, he often strikes a manly
English note of independence, declaring that if the lady continues
obstinate he will not die for her love.

2. Historically much the most important feature of Wyatt's experiment was
the introduction of the sonnet, a very substantial service indeed; for not
only did this form, like the love-theme, become by far the most popular one
among English lyric poets of the next two generations, setting a fashion
which was carried to an astonishing excess; but it is the only artificial
form of foreign origin which has ever been really adopted and naturalized
in English, and it still remains the best instrument for the terse
expression of a single poetic thought. Wyatt, it should be observed,
generally departs from the Petrarchan rime-scheme, on the whole
unfortunately, by substituting a third quatrain for the first four lines of
the sestet. That is, while Petrarch's rime-arrangement is either _a b b a
a b b a c d c d c d_, or _a b b a a b b a c d e c d e_, Wyatt's is
usually _a b b a a b b a c d d c e e_.

3. In his attempted reformation of English metrical irregularity Wyatt, in
his sonnets, shows only the uncertain hand of a beginner. He generally
secures an equal number of syllables in each line, but he often merely
counts them off on his fingers, wrenching the accents all awry, and often
violently forcing the rimes as well. In his songs, however, which are much
more numerous than the sonnets, he attains delightful fluency and melody.
His 'My Lute, Awake,' and 'Forget Not Yet' are still counted among the
notable English lyrics.

4. A particular and characteristic part of the conventional Italian lyric
apparatus which Wyatt transplanted was the 'conceit.' A conceit may be
defined as an exaggerated figure of speech or play on words in which
intellectual cleverness figures at least as largely as real emotion and
which is often dragged out to extremely complicated lengths of literal
application. An example is Wyatt's declaration (after Petrarch) that his
love, living in his heart, advances to his face and there encamps,
displaying his banner (which merely means that the lover blushes with his
emotion). In introducing the conceit Wyatt fathered the most conspicuous of
the superficial general features which were to dominate English poetry for
a century to come.

5. Still another, minor, innovation of Wyatt was the introduction into
English verse of the Horatian 'satire' (moral poem, reflecting on current
follies) in the form of three metrical letters to friends. In these the
meter is the _terza rima_ of Dante.

Wyatt's work was continued by his poetical disciple and successor, Henry
Howard, who, as son of the Duke of Norfolk, held the courtesy title of Earl
of Surrey. A brilliant though wilful representative of Tudor chivalry, and
distinguished in war, Surrey seems to have occupied at Court almost the
same commanding position as Sir Philip Sidney in the following generation.
His career was cut short in tragically ironical fashion at the age of
thirty by the plots of his enemies and the dying bloodthirstiness of King
Henry, which together led to his execution on a trumped-up charge of
treason. It was only one of countless brutal court crimes, but it seems the
more hateful because if the king had died a single day earlier Surrey could
have been saved.

Surrey's services to poetry were two: 1. He improved on the versification
of Wyatt's sonnets, securing fluency and smoothness. 2. In a translation of
two books of Vergil's 'Æneid' he introduced, from the Italian, pentameter
blank verse, which was destined thenceforth to be the meter of English
poetic drama and of much of the greatest English non-dramatic poetry.
Further, though his poems are less numerous than those of Wyatt, his range
of subjects is somewhat broader, including some appreciative treatment of
external Nature. He seems, however, somewhat less sincere than his teacher.
In his sonnets he abandoned the form followed by Wyatt and adopted (still
from the Italian) the one which was subsequently used by Shakspere,
consisting of three independent quatrains followed, as with Wyatt, by a
couplet which sums up the thought with epigrammatic force, thus: _a b a b
c d c d e f e f g g_.

Wyatt and Surrey set a fashion at Court; for some years it seems to have
been an almost necessary accomplishment for every young noble to turn off
love poems after Italian and French models; for France too had now taken up
the fashion. These poems were generally and naturally regarded as the
property of the Court and of the gentry, and circulated at first only in
manuscript among the author's friends; but the general public became
curious about them, and in 1557 one of the publishers of the day, Richard
Tottel, securing a number of those of Wyatt, Surrey, and a few other noble
or gentle authors, published them in a little volume, which is known as
'Tottel's Miscellany.' Coming as it does in the year before the accession
of Queen Elizabeth, at the end of the comparatively barren reigns of Edward
and Mary, this book is taken by common consent as marking the beginning of
the literature of the Elizabethan period. It was the premature predecessor,
also, of a number of such anthologies which were published during the
latter half of Elizabeth's reign.

THE ELIZABETHAN PERIOD. [Footnote: Vivid pictures of the Elizabethan period
are given in Charles Kingsley's 'Westward, ho!' and in Scott's
'Kenilworth.' Scott's 'The Monastery' and 'The Abbot' deal less
successfully with the same period in Scotland.] The earlier half of
Elizabeth's reign, also, though not lacking in literary effort, produced no
work of permanent importance. After the religious convulsions of half a
century time was required for the development of the internal quiet and
confidence from which a great literature could spring. At length, however,
the hour grew ripe and there came the greatest outburst of creative energy
in the whole history of English literature. Under Elizabeth's wise guidance
the prosperity and enthusiasm of the nation had risen to the highest pitch,
and London in particular was overflowing with vigorous life. A special
stimulus of the most intense kind came from the struggle with Spain. After
a generation of half-piratical depredations by the English seadogs against
the Spanish treasure fleets and the Spanish settlements in America, King
Philip, exasperated beyond all patience and urged on by a bigot's zeal for
the Catholic Church, began deliberately to prepare the Great Armada, which
was to crush at one blow the insolence, the independence, and the religion
of England. There followed several long years of breathless suspense; then
in 1588 the Armada sailed and was utterly overwhelmed in one of the most
complete disasters of the world's history. Thereupon the released energy of
England broke out exultantly into still more impetuous achievement in
almost every line of activity. The great literary period is taken by common
consent to begin with the publication of Spenser's 'Shepherd's Calendar' in
1579, and to end in some sense at the death of Elizabeth in 1603, though in
the drama, at least, it really continues many years longer.

Several general characteristics of Elizabethan literature and writers
should be indicated at the outset. 1. The period has the great variety of
almost unlimited creative force; it includes works of many kinds in both
verse and prose, and ranges in spirit from the loftiest Platonic idealism
or the most delightful romance to the level of very repulsive realism. 2.
It was mainly dominated, however, by the spirit of romance (above, pp.
95-96). 3. It was full also of the spirit of dramatic action, as befitted
an age whose restless enterprise was eagerly extending itself to every
quarter of the globe. 4. In style it often exhibits romantic luxuriance,
which sometimes takes the form of elaborate affectations of which the
favorite 'conceit' is only the most apparent. 5. It was in part a period of
experimentation, when the proper material and limits of literary forms were
being determined, oftentimes by means of false starts and grandiose
failures. In particular, many efforts were made to give prolonged poetical
treatment to many subjects essentially prosaic, for example to systems of
theological or scientific thought, or to the geography of all England. 6.
It continued to be largely influenced by the literature of Italy, and to a
less degree by those of France and Spain. 7. The literary spirit was
all-pervasive, and the authors were men (not yet women) of almost every
class, from distinguished courtiers, like Ralegh and Sidney, to the company
of hack writers, who starved in garrets and hung about the outskirts of the
bustling taverns.

PROSE FICTION. The period saw the beginning, among other things, of English
prose fiction of something like the later modern type. First appeared a
series of collections of short tales chiefly translated from Italian
authors, to which tales the Italian name 'novella' (novel) was applied.
Most of the separate tales are crude or amateurish and have only historical
interest, though as a class they furnished the plots for many Elizabethan
dramas, including several of Shakspere's. The most important collection was
Painter's 'Palace of Pleasure,' in 1566. The earliest original, or partly
original, English prose fictions to appear were handbooks of morals and
manners in story form, and here the beginning was made by John Lyly, who is
also of some importance in the history of the Elizabethan drama. In 1578
Lyly, at the age of twenty-five, came from Oxford to London, full of the
enthusiasm of Renaissance learning, and evidently determined to fix himself
as a new and dazzling star in the literary sky. In this ambition he
achieved a remarkable and immediate success, by the publication of a little
book entitled 'Euphues and His Anatomie of Wit.' 'Euphues' means 'the
well-bred man,' and though there is a slight action, the work is mainly a
series of moralizing disquisitions (mostly rearranged from Sir Thomas
North's translation of 'The Dial of Princes' of the Spaniard Guevara) on
love, religion, and conduct. Most influential, however, for the time-being,
was Lyly's style, which is the most conspicuous English example of the
later Renaissance craze, then rampant throughout Western Europe, for
refining and beautifying the art of prose expression in a mincingly
affected fashion. Witty, clever, and sparkling at all costs, Lyly takes
especial pains to balance his sentences and clauses antithetically, phrase
against phrase and often word against word, sometimes emphasizing the
balance also by an exaggerated use of alliteration and assonance. A
representative sentence is this: 'Although there be none so ignorant that
doth not know, neither any so impudent that will not confesse, friendship
to be the jewell of humaine joye; yet whosoever shall see this amitie
grounded upon a little affection, will soone conjecture that it shall be
dissolved upon a light occasion.' Others of Lyly's affectations are
rhetorical questions, hosts of allusions to classical history, and
literature, and an unfailing succession of similes from all the recondite
knowledge that he can command, especially from the fantastic collection of
fables which, coming down through the Middle Ages from the Roman writer
Pliny, went at that time by the name of natural history and which we have
already encountered in the medieval Bestiaries. Preposterous by any
reasonable standard, Lyly's style, 'Euphuism,' precisely hit the Court
taste of his age and became for a decade its most approved conversational

In literature the imitations of 'Euphues' which flourished for a while gave
way to a series of romances inaugurated by the 'Arcadia' of Sir Philip
Sidney. Sidney's brilliant position for a few years as the noblest
representative of chivalrous ideals in the intriguing Court of Elizabeth is
a matter of common fame, as is his death in 1586 at the age of thirty-two
during the siege of Zutphen in Holland. He wrote 'Arcadia' for the
amusement of his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, during a period of
enforced retirement beginning in 1580, but the book was not published until
ten years later. It is a pastoral romance, in the general style of Italian
and Spanish romances of the earlier part of the century. The pastoral is
the most artificial literary form in modern fiction. It may be said to have
begun in the third century B. C. with the perfectly sincere poems of the
Greek Theocritus, who gives genuine expression to the life of actual
Sicilian shepherds. But with successive Latin, Medieval, and Renaissance
writers in verse and prose the country characters and setting had become
mere disguises, sometimes allegorical, for the expression of the very far
from simple sentiments of the upper classes, and sometimes for their partly
genuine longing, the outgrowth of sophisticated weariness and ennui, for
rural naturalness. Sidney's very complicated tale of adventures in love and
war, much longer than any of its successors, is by no means free from
artificiality, but it finely mirrors his own knightly spirit and remains a
permanent English classic. Among his followers were some of the better
hack-writers of the time, who were also among the minor dramatists and
poets, especially Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge. Lodge's 'Rosalynde,' also
much influenced by Lyly, is in itself a pretty story and is noteworthy as
the original of Shakspere's 'As You Like It.'

Lastly, in the concluding decade of the sixteenth century, came a series of
realistic stories depicting chiefly, in more or less farcical spirit, the
life of the poorer classes. They belonged mostly to that class of realistic
fiction which is called picaresque, from the Spanish word 'picaro,' a
rogue, because it began in Spain with the 'Lazarillo de Tormes' of Diego de
Mendoza, in 1553, and because its heroes are knavish serving-boys or
similar characters whose unprincipled tricks and exploits formed the
substance of the stories. In Elizabethan England it produced nothing of
individual note.

EDMUND SPENSER, 1552-1599. The first really commanding figure in the
Elizabethan period, and one of the chief of all English poets, is Edmund
Spenser. [Footnote: His name should never be spelled with a _c_.] Born
in London in 1552, the son of a clothmaker, Spenser past from the newly
established Merchant Taylors' school to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, as a
sizar, or poor student, and during the customary seven years of residence
took the degrees of B. A. and, in 1576, of M. A. At Cambridge he
assimilated two of the controlling forces of his life, the moderate
Puritanism of his college and Platonic idealism. Next, after a year or two
with his kinspeople in Lancashire, in the North of England, he came to
London, hoping through literature to win high political place, and attached
himself to the household of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Queen
Elizabeth's worthless favorite. Together with Sidney, who was Leicester's
nephew, he was for a while a member of a little group of students who
called themselves 'The Areopagus' and who, like occasional other
experimenters of the later Renaissance period, attempted to make over
English versification by substituting for rime and accentual meter the
Greek and Latin system based on exact quantity of syllables. Spenser,
however, soon outgrew this folly and in 1579 published the collection of
poems which, as we have already said, is commonly taken as marking the
beginning of the great Elizabethan literary period, namely 'The Shepherd's
Calendar.' This is a series of pastoral pieces (eclogues, Spenser calls
them, by the classical name) twelve in number, artificially assigned one to
each month in the year. The subjects are various--the conventionalized love
of the poet for a certain Rosalind; current religious controversies in
allegory; moral questions; the state of poetry in England; and the praises
of Queen Elizabeth, whose almost incredible vanity exacted the most fulsome
flattery from every writer who hoped to win a name at her court. The
significance of 'The Shepherd's Calendar' lies partly in its genuine
feeling for external Nature, which contrasts strongly with the hollow
conventional phrases of the poetry of the previous decade, and especially
in the vigor, the originality, and, in some of the eclogues, the beauty, of
the language and of the varied verse. It was at once evident that here a
real poet had appeared. An interesting innovation, diversely judged at the
time and since, was Spenser's deliberate employment of rustic and archaic
words, especially of the Northern dialect, which he introduced partly
because of their appropriateness to the imaginary characters, partly for
the sake of freshness of expression. They, like other features of the work,
point forward to 'The Faerie Queene.'

In the uncertainties of court intrigue literary success did not gain for
Spenser the political rewards which he was seeking, and he was obliged to
content himself, the next year, with an appointment, which he viewed as
substantially a sentence of exile, as secretary to Lord Grey, the governor
of Ireland. In Ireland, therefore, the remaining twenty years of Spenser's
short life were for the most part spent, amid distressing scenes of English
oppression and chronic insurrection among the native Irish. After various
activities during several years Spenser secured a permanent home in
Kilcolman, a fortified tower and estate in the southern part of the island,
where the romantic scenery furnished fit environment for a poet's
imagination. And Spenser, able all his life to take refuge in his art from
the crass realities of life, now produced many poems, some of them short,
but among the others the immortal 'Faerie Queene.' The first three books of
this, his crowning achievement, Spenser, under enthusiastic encouragement
from Ralegh, brought to London and published in 1590. The dedication is to
Queen Elizabeth, to whom, indeed, as its heroine, the poem pays perhaps the
most splendid compliment ever offered to any human being in verse. She
responded with an uncertain pension of £50 (equivalent to perhaps $1500 at
the present time), but not with the gift of political preferment which was
still Spenser's hope; and in some bitterness of spirit he retired to
Ireland, where in satirical poems he proceeded to attack the vanity of the
world and the fickleness of men. His courtship and, in 1594, his marriage
produced his sonnet sequence, called 'Amoretti' (Italian for 'Love-poems'),
and his 'Epithalamium,' the most magnificent of marriage hymns in English
and probably in world-literature; though his 'Prothalamium,' in honor of
the marriage of two noble sisters, is a near rival to it.

Spenser, a zealous Protestant as well as a fine-spirited idealist, was in
entire sympathy with Lord Grey's policy of stern repression of the Catholic
Irish, to whom, therefore, he must have appeared merely as one of the hated
crew of their pitiless tyrants. In 1598 he was appointed sheriff of the
county of Cork; but a rebellion which broke out proved too strong for him,
and he and his family barely escaped from the sack and destruction of his
tower. He was sent with despatches to the English Court and died in London
in January, 1599, no doubt in part as a result of the hardships that he had
suffered. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Spenser's 'Faerie Queene' is not only one of the longest but one of the
greatest of English poems; it is also very characteristically Elizabethan.
To deal with so delicate a thing by the method of mechanical analysis seems
scarcely less than profanation, but accurate criticism can proceed in no
other way.

1. _Sources and Plan_. Few poems more clearly illustrate the variety
of influences from which most great literary works result. In many respects
the most direct source was the body of Italian romances of chivalry,
especially the 'Orlando Furioso' of Ariosto, which was written in the early
part of the sixteenth century. These romances, in turn, combine the
personages of the medieval French epics of Charlemagne with something of
the spirit of Arthurian romance and with a Renaissance atmosphere of magic
and of rich fantastic beauty. Spenser borrows and absorbs all these things
and moreover he imitates Ariosto closely, often merely translating whole
passages from his work. But this use of the Italian romances, further,
carries with it a large employment of characters, incidents, and imagery
from classical mythology and literature, among other things the elaborated
similes of the classical epics. Spenser himself is directly influenced,
also, by the medieval romances. Most important of all, all these elements
are shaped to the purpose of the poem by Spenser's high moral aim, which in
turn springs largely from his Platonic idealism.

What the plan of the poem is Spenser explains in a prefatory letter to Sir
Walter Ralegh. The whole is a vast epic allegory, aiming, in the first
place, to portray the virtues which make up the character of a perfect
knight; an ideal embodiment, seen through Renaissance conceptions, of the
best in the chivalrous system which in Spenser's time had passed away, but
to which some choice spirits still looked back with regretful admiration.
As Spenser intended, twelve moral virtues of the individual character, such
as Holiness and Temperance, were to be presented, each personified in the
hero of one of twelve Books; and the crowning virtue, which Spenser, in
Renaissance terms, called Magnificence, and which may be interpreted as
Magnanimity, was to figure as Prince (King) Arthur, nominally the central
hero of the whole poem, appearing and disappearing at frequent intervals.
Spenser states in his prefatory letter that if he shall carry this first
projected labor to a successful end he may continue it in still twelve
other Books, similarly allegorizing twelve political virtues. The
allegorical form, we should hardly need to be reminded, is another heritage
from medieval literature, but the effort to shape a perfect character,
completely equipped to serve the State, was characteristically of the
Platonizing Renaissance. That the reader may never be in danger of
forgetting his moral aim, Spenser fills the poem with moral observations,
frequently setting them as guides at the beginning of the cantos.

2. _The Allegory. Lack of Unity_. So complex and vast a plan could
scarcely have been worked out by any human genius in a perfect and clear
unity, and besides this, Spenser, with all his high endowments, was
decidedly weak in constructive skill. The allegory, at the outset, even in
Spenser's own statement, is confused and hazy. For beyond the primary moral
interpretation, Spenser applies it in various secondary or parallel ways.
In the widest sense, the entire struggle between the good and evil
characters is to be taken as figuring forth the warfare both in the
individual soul and in the world at large between Righteousness and Sin;
and in somewhat narrower senses, between Protestantism and Catholicism, and
between England and Spain. In some places, also, it represents other events
and aspects of European politics. Many of the single persons of the story,
entering into each of these overlapping interpretations, bear double or
triple roles. Gloriana, the Fairy Queen, is abstractly Glory, but humanly
she is Queen Elizabeth; and from other points of view Elizabeth is
identified with several of the lesser heroines. So likewise the witch
Duessa is both Papal Falsehood and Mary Queen of Scots; Prince Arthur both
Magnificence and (with sorry inappropriateness) the Earl of Leicester; and
others of the characters stand with more or less consistency for such
actual persons as Philip II of Spain, Henry IV of France, and Spenser's
chief, Lord Grey. In fact, in Renaissance spirit, and following Sidney's
'Defense of Poesie,' Spenser attempts to harmonize history, philosophy,
ethics, and politics, subordinating them all to the art of poetry. The plan
is grand but impracticable, and except for the original moral
interpretation, to which in the earlier books the incidents are skilfully
adapted, it is fruitless as one reads to undertake to follow the
allegories. Many readers are able, no doubt, merely to disregard them, but
there are others, like Lowell, to whom the moral, 'when they come suddenly
upon it, gives a shock of unpleasant surprise, as when in eating
strawberries one's teeth encounter grit.'

The same lack of unity pervades the external story. The first Book begins
abruptly, in the middle; and for clearness' sake Spenser had been obliged
to explain in his prefatory letter that the real commencement must be
supposed to be a scene like those of Arthurian romance, at the court and
annual feast of the Fairy Queen, where twelve adventures had been assigned
to as many knights. Spenser strangely planned to narrate this beginning of
the whole in his final Book, but even if it had been properly placed at the
outset it would have served only as a loose enveloping action for a series
of stories essentially as distinct as those in Malory. More serious,
perhaps, is the lack of unity within the single books. Spenser's genius was
never for strongly condensed narrative, and following his Italian
originals, though with less firmness, he wove his story as a tangled web of
intermingled adventures, with almost endless elaboration and digression.
Incident after incident is broken off and later resumed and episode after
episode is introduced, until the reader almost abandons any effort to trace
the main design. A part of the confusion is due to the mechanical plan.
Each Book consists of twelve cantos (of from forty to ninety stanzas each)
and oftentimes Spenser has difficulty in filling out the scheme. No one,
certainly, can regret that he actually completed only a quarter of his
projected work. In the six existing Books he has given almost exhaustive
expression to a richly creative imagination, and additional prolongation
would have done little but to repeat.

Still further, the characteristic Renaissance lack of certainty as to the
proper materials for poetry is sometimes responsible for a rudely
inharmonious element in the otherwise delightful romantic atmosphere. For a
single illustration, the description of the House of Alma in Book II, Canto
Nine, is a tediously literal medieval allegory of the Soul and Body; and
occasional realistic details here and there in the poem at large are merely
repellent to more modern taste.

3. _The Lack of Dramatic Reality_. A romantic allegory like 'The
Faerie Queene' does not aim at intense lifelikeness--a certain remoteness
from the actual is one of its chief attractions. But sometimes in Spenser's
poem the reader feels too wide a divorce from reality. Part of this fault
is ascribable to the use of magic, to which there is repeated but
inconsistent resort, especially, as in the medieval romances, for the
protection of the good characters. Oftentimes, indeed, by the persistent
loading of the dice against the villains and scapegoats, the reader's
sympathy is half aroused in their behalf. Thus in the fight of the Red
Cross Knight with his special enemy, the dragon, where, of course, the
Knight must be victorious, it is evident that without the author's help the
dragon is incomparably the stronger. Once, swooping down on the Knight, he
seizes him in his talons (whose least touch was elsewhere said to be fatal)
and bears him aloft into the air. The valor of the Knight compels him to
relax his hold, but instead of merely dropping the Knight to certain death,
he carefully flies back to earth and sets him down in safety. More definite
regard to the actual laws of life would have given the poem greater
firmness without the sacrifice of any of its charm.

4. _The Romantic Beauty. General Atmosphere and Description._ Critical
sincerity has required us to dwell thus long on the defects of the poem;
but once recognized we should dismiss them altogether from mind and turn
attention to the far more important beauties. The great qualities of 'The
Faerie Queene' are suggested by the title, 'The Poets' Poet,' which Charles
Lamb, with happy inspiration, applied to Spenser. Most of all are we
indebted to Spenser's high idealism. No poem in the world is nobler than
'The Faerie Queene' in atmosphere and entire effect. Spenser himself is
always the perfect gentleman of his own imagination, and in his company we
are secure from the intrusion of anything morally base or mean. But in him,
also, moral beauty is in full harmony with the beauty of art and the
senses. Spenser was a Puritan, but a Puritan of the earlier English
Renaissance, to whom the foes of righteousness were also the foes of
external loveliness. Of the three fierce Saracen brother-knights who
repeatedly appear in the service of Evil, two are Sansloy, the enemy of
law, and Sansfoy, the enemy of religion, but the third is Sansjoy, enemy of
pleasure. And of external beauty there has never been a more gifted lover
than Spenser. We often feel, with Lowell, that 'he is the pure sense of the
beautiful incarnated.' The poem is a romantically luxuriant wilderness of
dreamily or languorously delightful visions, often rich with all the
harmonies of form and motion and color and sound. As Lowell says, 'The true
use of Spenser is as a gallery of pictures which we visit as the mood takes
us, and where we spend an hour or two, long enough to sweeten our
perceptions, not so long as to cloy them.' His landscapes, to speak of one
particular feature, are usually of a rather vague, often of a vast nature,
as suits the unreality of his poetic world, and usually, since Spenser was
not a minute observer, follow the conventions of Renaissance literature.
They are commonly great plains, wide and gloomy forests (where the trees of
many climates often grow together in impossible harmony), cool caves--in
general, lonely, quiet, or soothing scenes, but all unquestionable portions
of a delightful fairyland. To him, it should be added, as to most men
before modern Science had subdued the world to human uses, the sublime
aspects of Nature were mainly dreadful; the ocean, for example, seemed to
him a raging 'waste of waters, wide and deep,' a mysterious and insatiate
devourer of the lives of men.

To the beauty of Spenser's imagination, ideal and sensuous, corresponds his
magnificent command of rhythm and of sound. As a verbal melodist,
especially a melodist of sweetness and of stately grace, and as a harmonist
of prolonged and complex cadences, he is unsurpassable. But he has full
command of his rhythm according to the subject, and can range from the most
delicate suggestion of airy beauty to the roar of the tempest or the
strident energy of battle. In vocabulary and phraseology his fluency
appears inexhaustible. Here, as in 'The Shepherd's Calendar,' he
deliberately introduces, especially from Chaucer, obsolete words and forms,
such as the inflectional ending in _-en_, which distinctly contribute
to his romantic effect. His constant use of alliteration is very skilful;
the frequency of the alliteration on _w_ is conspicuous but apparently

5. _The Spenserian Stanza._ For the external medium of all this beauty
Spenser, modifying the _ottava rima_ of Ariosto (a stanza which rimes
_abababcc_), invented the stanza which bears his own name and which is
the only artificial stanza of English origin that has ever passed into
currency. [Footnote: Note that this is not inconsistent with what is said
above, p. 102, of the sonnet.] The rime-scheme is _ababbcbcc_, and in
the last line the iambic pentameter gives place to an Alexandrine (an
iambic hexameter). Whether or not any stanza form is as well adapted as
blank verse or the rimed couplet for prolonged narrative is an interesting
question, but there can be no doubt that Spenser's stanza, firmly unified,
in spite of its length, by its central couplet and by the finality of the
last line, is a discovery of genius, and that the Alexandrine, 'forever
feeling for the next stanza,' does much to bind the stanzas together. It
has been adopted in no small number of the greatest subsequent English
poems, including such various ones as Burns' 'Cotter's Saturday Night,'
Byron's 'Childe Harold,' Keats' 'Eve of St. Agnes,' and Shelley's

In general style and spirit, it should be added, Spenser has been one of
the most powerful influences on all succeeding English romantic poetry. Two
further sentences of Lowell well summarize his whole general achievement:
'His great merit is in the ideal treatment with which he glorified common
things and gilded them with a ray of enthusiasm. He is a standing protest
against the tyranny of the Commonplace, and sows the seeds of a noble
discontent with prosaic views of life and the dull uses to which it may be

ELIZABETHAN LYRIC POETRY. 'The Faerie Queene' is the only long Elizabethan
poem of the very highest rank, but Spenser, as we have seen, is almost
equally conspicuous as a lyric poet. In that respect he was one among a
throng of melodists who made the Elizabethan age in many respects the
greatest lyric period in the history of English or perhaps of any
literature. Still grander, to be sure, by the nature of the two forms, was
the Elizabethan achievement in the drama, which we shall consider in the
next chapter; but the lyrics have the advantage in sheer delightfulness
and, of course, in rapid and direct appeal.

The zest for lyric poetry somewhat artificially inaugurated at Court by
Wyatt and Surrey seems to have largely subsided, like any other fad, after
some years, but it vigorously revived, in much more genuine fashion, with
the taste for other imaginative forms of literature, in the last two
decades of Elizabeth's reign. It revived, too, not only among the courtiers
but among all classes; in no other form of literature was the diversity of
authors so marked; almost every writer of the period who was not purely a
man of prose seems to have been gifted with the lyric power.

The qualities which especially distinguish the Elizabethan lyrics are
fluency, sweetness, melody, and an enthusiastic joy in life, all
spontaneous, direct, and exquisite. Uniting the genuineness of the popular
ballad with the finer sense of conscious artistic poetry, these poems
possess a charm different, though in an only half definable way, from that
of any other lyrics. In subjects they display the usual lyric variety.
There are songs of delight in Nature; a multitude of love poems of all
moods; many pastorals, in which, generally, the pastoral conventions sit
lightly on the genuine poetical feeling; occasional patriotic outbursts;
and some reflective and religious poems. In stanza structure the number of
forms is unusually great, but in most cases stanzas are internally varied
and have a large admixture of short, ringing or musing, lines. The lyrics
were published sometimes in collections by single authors, sometimes in the
series of anthologies which succeeded to Tottel's 'Miscellany.' Some of
these anthologies were books of songs with the accompanying music; for
music, brought with all the other cultural influences from Italy and
France, was now enthusiastically cultivated, and the soft melody of many of
the best Elizabethan lyrics is that of accomplished composers. Many of the
lyrics, again, are included as songs in the dramas of the time; and
Shakspere's comedies show him nearly as preëminent among the lyric poets as
among the playwrights.

Some of the finest of the lyrics are anonymous. Among the best of the known
poets are these: George Gascoigne (about 1530-1577), a courtier and
soldier, who bridges the gap between Surrey and Sidney; Sir Edward Dyer
(about 1545-1607), a scholar and statesman, author of one perfect lyric,
'My mind to me a kingdom is'; John Lyly (1553-1606), the Euphuist and
dramatist; Nicholas Breton (about 1545 to about 1626), a prolific writer in
verse and prose and one of the most successful poets of the pastoral style;
Robert Southwell (about 1562-1595), a Jesuit intriguer of ardent piety,
finally imprisoned, tortured, and executed as a traitor; George Peele (1558
to about 1598), the dramatist; Thomas Lodge (about 1558-1625), poet,
novelist, and physician; Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), the dramatist;
Thomas Nash (1567-1601), one of the most prolific Elizabethan hack writers;
Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), scholar and critic, member in his later years of
the royal household of James I; Barnabe Barnes (about 1569-1609); Richard
Barnfield (1574-1627); Sir Walter Ralegh (1552-1618), courtier, statesman,
explorer, and scholar; Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), linguist and merchant,
known for his translation of the long religious poems of the Frenchman Du
Bartas, through which he exercised an influence on Milton; Francis Davison
(about 1575 to about 1619), son of a counsellor of Queen Elizabeth, a
lawyer; and Thomas Dekker (about 1570 to about 1640), a ne'er-do-weel
dramatist and hack-writer of irrepressible and delightful good spirits.

THE SONNETS. In the last decade, especially, of the century, no other lyric
form compared in popularity with the sonnet. Here England was still
following in the footsteps of Italy and France; it has been estimated that
in the course of the century over three hundred thousand sonnets were
written in Western Europe. In England as elsewhere most of these poems were
inevitably of mediocre quality and imitative in substance, ringing the
changes with wearisome iteration on a minimum of ideas, often with the most
extravagant use of conceits. Petrarch's example was still commonly
followed; the sonnets were generally composed in sequences (cycles) of a
hundred or more, addressed to the poet's more or less imaginary cruel lady,
though the note of manly independence introduced by Wyatt is frequent.
First of the important English sequences is the 'Astrophel and Stella' of
Sir Philip Sidney, written about 1580, published in 1591. 'Astrophel' is a
fanciful half-Greek anagram for the poet's own name, and Stella (Star)
designates Lady Penelope Devereux, who at about this time married Lord
Rich. The sequence may very reasonably be interpreted as an expression of
Platonic idealism, though it is sometimes taken in a sense less consistent
with Sidney's high reputation. Of Spenser's 'Amoretti' we have already
spoken. By far the finest of all the sonnets are the best ones (a
considerable part) of Shakspere's one hundred and fifty-four, which were
not published until 1609 but may have been mostly written before 1600.
Their interpretation has long been hotly debated. It is certain, however,
that they do not form a connected sequence. Some of them are occupied with
urging a youth of high rank, Shakspere's patron, who may have been either
the Earl of Southampton or William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, to marry and
perpetuate his race; others hint the story, real or imaginary, of
Shakspere's infatuation for a 'dark lady,' leading to bitter disillusion;
and still others seem to be occasional expressions of devotion to other
friends of one or the other sex. Here as elsewhere Shakspere's genius, at
its best, is supreme over all rivals; the first recorded criticism speaks
of the 'sugared sweetness' of his sonnets; but his genius is not always at
its best.

of the sixteenth century presents also, in the poems of John Donne,
[Footnote: Pronounced _Dun_] a new and very strange style of verse.
Donne, born in 1573, possessed one of the keenest and most powerful
intellects of the time, but his early manhood was largely wasted in
dissipation, though he studied theology and law and seems to have seen
military service. It was during this period that he wrote his love poems.
Then, while living with his wife and children in uncertain dependence on
noble patrons, he turned to religious poetry. At last he entered the
Church, became famous as one of the most eloquent preachers of the time,
and through the favor of King James was rapidly promoted until he was made
Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. He died in 1631 after having furnished a
striking instance of the fantastic morbidness of the period
(post-Elizabethan) by having his picture painted as he stood wrapped in his
shroud on a funeral urn.

The distinguishing general characteristic of Donne's poetry is the
remarkable combination of an aggressive intellectuality with the lyric form
and spirit. Whether true poetry or mere intellectual cleverness is the
predominant element may reasonably be questioned; but on many readers
Donne's verse exercises a unique attraction. Its definite peculiarities are
outstanding: 1. By a process of extreme exaggeration and minute elaboration
Donne carries the Elizabethan conceits almost to the farthest possible
limit, achieving what Samuel Johnson two centuries later described as
'enormous and disgusting hyperboles.' 2. In so doing he makes relentless
use of the intellect and of verbally precise but actually preposterous
logic, striking out astonishingly brilliant but utterly fantastic flashes
of wit. 3. He draws the material of his figures of speech from highly
unpoetical sources--partly from the activities of every-day life, but
especially from all the sciences and school-knowledge of the time. The
material is abstract, but Donne gives it full poetic concrete
picturesqueness. Thus he speaks of one spirit overtaking another at death
as one bullet shot out of a gun may overtake another which has lesser
velocity but was earlier discharged. It was because of these last two
characteristics that Dr. Johnson applied to Donne and his followers the
rather clumsy name of 'Metaphysical' (Philosophical) poets. 'Fantastic'
would have been a better word. 4. In vigorous reaction against the
sometimes nerveless melody of most contemporary poets Donne often makes his
verse as ruggedly condensed (often as obscure) and as harsh as possible.
Its wrenched accents and slurred syllables sometimes appear absolutely
unmetrical, but it seems that Donne generally followed subtle rhythmical
ideas of his own. He adds to the appearance of irregularity by
experimenting with a large number of lyric stanza forms--a different form,
in fact, for nearly every poem. 5. In his love poems, while his sentiment
is often Petrarchan, he often emphasizes also the English note of
independence, taking as a favorite theme the incredible fickleness of

In spirit Donne belongs much less to Elizabethan poetry than to the
following period, in which nearly half his life fell. Of his great
influence on the poetry of that period we shall speak in the proper place.



drama at that point, toward the middle of the sixteenth century, when the
Mystery Plays had largely declined and Moralities and Interlude-Farces,
themselves decadent, were sharing in rather confused rivalry that degree of
popular interest which remained unabsorbed by the religious, political, and
social ferment. There was still to be a period of thirty or forty years
before the flowering of the great Elizabethan drama, but they were to be
years of new, if uncertain, beginnings.

The first new formative force was the influence of the classical drama, for
which, with other things classical, the Renaissance had aroused enthusiasm.
This force operated mainly not through writers for popular audiences, like
the authors of most Moralities and Interludes, but through men of the
schools and the universities, writing for performances in their own circles
or in that of the Court. It had now become a not uncommon thing for boys at
the large schools to act in regular dramatic fashion, at first in Latin,
afterward in English translation, some of the plays of the Latin comedians
which had long formed a part of the school curriculum. Shortly after the
middle of the century, probably, the head-master of Westminister School,
Nicholas Udall, took the further step of writing for his boys on the
classical model an original farce-comedy, the amusing 'Ralph Roister
Doister.' This play is so close a copy of Plautus' 'Miles Gloriosus' and
Terence's 'Eunuchus' that there is little that is really English about it;
a much larger element of local realism of the traditional English sort, in
a classical framework, was presented in the coarse but really skillful
'Gammer Gurton's Needle,' which was probably written at about the same
time, apparently by the Cambridge student William Stevenson.

Meanwhile students at the universities, also, had been acting Plautus and
Terence, and further, had been writing and acting Latin tragedies, as well
as comedies, of their own composition. Their chief models for tragedy were
the plays of the first-century Roman Seneca, who may or may not have been
identical with the philosopher who was the tutor of the Emperor Nero. Both
through these university imitations and directly, Seneca's very faulty
plays continued for many years to exercise a great influence on English
tragedy. Falling far short of the noble spirit of Greek tragedy, which they
in turn attempt to copy, Seneca's plays do observe its mechanical
conventions, especially the unities of Action and Time, the use of the
chorus to comment on the action, the avoidance of violent action and deaths
on the stage, and the use of messengers to report such events. For proper
dramatic action they largely substitute ranting moralizing declamation,
with crudely exaggerated passion, and they exhibit a great vein of
melodramatic horror, for instance in the frequent use of the motive of
implacable revenge for murder and of a ghost who incites to it. In the
early Elizabethan period, however, an age when life itself was dramatically
intense and tragic, when everything classic was looked on with reverence,
and when standards of taste were unformed, it was natural enough that such
plays should pass for masterpieces.

A direct imitation of Seneca, famous as the first tragedy in English on
classical lines, was the 'Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex,' of Thomas Norton
and Thomas Sackville, acted in 1562. Its story, like those of some of
Shakspere's plays later, goes back ultimately to the account of one of the
early reigns in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 'History.' 'Gorboduc' outdoes its
Senecan models in tedious moralizing, and is painfully wooden in all
respects; but it has real importance not only because it is the first
regular English tragedy, but because it was the first play to use the
iambic pentameter blank verse which Surrey had introduced to English poetry
and which was destined to be the verse-form of really great English
tragedy. When they wrote the play Norton and Sackville were law students at
the Inner Temple, and from other law students during the following years
came other plays, which were generally acted at festival seasons, such, as
Christmas, at the lawyers' colleges, or before the Queen, though the common
people were also admitted among the audience. Unlike 'Gorboduc,' these
other university plays were not only for the most part crude and coarse in
the same manner as earlier English plays, but in accordance also with the
native English tradition and in violent defiance of the classical principle
of Unity, they generally combined tragical classical stories with realistic
scenes of English comedy (somewhat later with Italian stories).
Nevertheless, and this is the main thing, the more thoughtful members of
the Court and University circles, were now learning from the study of
classical plays a sense for form and the fundamental distinction between
tragedy and comedy.

THE CHRONICLE-HISTORY PLAY. About twenty years before the end of the
century there began to appear, at first at the Court and the Universities,
later on the popular stage, a form of play which was to hold, along with
tragedy and comedy, an important place in the great decades that were to
follow, namely the Chronicle-History Play. This form of play generally
presented the chief events in the whole or a part of the reign of some
English king. It was largely a product of the pride which was being
awakened among the people in the greatness of England under Elizabeth, and
of the consequent desire to know something of the past history of the
country, and it received a great impulse from the enthusiasm aroused by the
struggle with Spain and the defeat of the Armada. It was not, however,
altogether a new creation, for its method was similar to that of the
university plays which dealt with monarchs of classical history. It partly
inherited from them the formless mixture of farcical humor with historical
or supposedly historical fact which it shared with other plays of the time,
and sometimes also an unusually reckless disregard of unity of action,
time, and place. Since its main serious purpose, when it had one, was to
convey information, the other chief dramatic principles, such as careful
presentation of a few main characters and of a universally significant
human struggle, were also generally disregarded. It was only in the hands
of Shakspere that the species was to be moulded into true dramatic form and
to attain real greatness; and after a quarter century of popularity it was
to be reabsorbed into tragedy, of which in fact it was always only a
special variety.

JOHN LYLY. The first Elizabethan dramatist of permanent individual
importance is the comedian John Lyly, of whose early success at Court with
the artificial romance 'Euphues' we have already spoken. From 'Euphues'
Lyly turned to the still more promising work of writing comedies for the
Court entertainments with which Queen Elizabeth was extremely lavish. The
character of Lyly's plays was largely determined by the light and
spectacular nature of these entertainments, and further by the fact that on
most occasions the players at Court were boys. These were primarily the
'children [choir-boys] of the Queen's Chapel,' who for some generations had
been sought out from all parts of England for their good voices and were
very carefully trained for singing and for dramatic performances. The
choir-boys of St. Paul's Cathedral, similarly trained, also often acted
before the Queen. Many of the plays given by these boys were of the
ordinary sorts, but it is evident that they would be most successful in
dainty comedies especially adapted to their boyish capacity. Such comedies
Lyly proceeded to write, in prose. The subjects are from classical
mythology or history or English folk-lore, into which Lyly sometimes weaves
an allegorical presentation of court intrigue. The plots are very slight,
and though the structure is decidedly better than in most previous plays,
the humorous sub-actions sometimes have little connection with the main
action. Characterization is still rudimentary, and altogether the plays
present not so much a picture of reality as 'a faint moonlight reflection
of life.' None the less the best of them, such as 'Alexander and Campaspe,'
are delightful in their sparkling delicacy, which is produced partly by the
carefully-wrought style, similar to that of 'Euphues,' but less artificial,
and is enhanced by the charming lyrics which are scattered through them.
For all this the elaborate scenery and costuming of the Court
entertainments provided a very harmonious background.

These plays were to exert a strong influence on Shakspere's early comedies,
probably suggesting to him: the use of prose for comedy; the value of
snappy and witty dialog; refinement, as well as affectation, of style;
lyric atmosphere; the characters and tone of high comedy, contrasting so
favorably with the usual coarse farce of the period; and further such
details as the employment of impudent boy-pages as a source of amusement.

PEELE, GREENE, AND KYD. Of the most important early contemporaries of
Shakspere we have already mentioned two as noteworthy in other fields of
literature. George Peele's masque-like 'Arraignment of Paris' helps to show
him as more a lyric poet than a dramatist. Robert Greene's plays,
especially 'Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay,' reveal, like his novels, some
real, though not very elaborate, power of characterization. They are
especially important in developing the theme of romantic love with real
fineness of feeling and thus helping to prepare the way for Shakspere in a
very important particular. In marked contrast to these men is Thomas Kyd,
who about the year 1590 attained a meteoric reputation with crude
'tragedies of blood,' specialized descendants of Senecan tragedy, one of
which may have been the early play on Hamlet which Shakspere used as the
groundwork for his masterpiece.

CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE, 1564-1593. Peele and Greene were University men who
wrote partly for Court or academic audiences, partly for the popular stage.
The distinction between the two sorts of drama was still further broken
down in the work of Christopher Marlowe, a poet of real genius, decidedly
the chief dramatist among Shakspere's early contemporaries, and the one
from whom Shakspere learned the most.

Marlowe was born in 1564 (the same year as Shakspere), the son of a
shoemaker at Canterbury. Taking his master's degree after seven years at
Cambridge, in 1587, he followed the other 'university wits' to London.
There, probably the same year and the next, he astonished the public with
the two parts of 'Tamburlaine the Great,' a dramatization of the stupendous
career of the bloodthirsty Mongol fourteenth-century conqueror. These
plays, in spite of faults now conspicuous enough, are splendidly
imaginative and poetic, and were by far the most powerful that had yet been
written in England. Marlowe followed them with 'The Tragical History of Dr.
Faustus,' a treatment of the medieval story which two hundred years later
was to serve Goethe for his masterpiece; with 'The Jew of Malta,' which was
to give Shakspere suggestions for 'The Merchant of Venice'; and with
'Edward the Second,' the first really artistic Chronicle History play.
Among the literary adventurers of the age who led wild lives in the London
taverns Marlowe is said to have attained a conspicuous reputation for
violence and irreligion. He was killed in 1593 in a reckless and foolish
brawl, before he had reached the age of thirty.

If Marlowe's life was unworthy, the fault must be laid rather at the door
of circumstances than of his own genuine nature. His plays show him to have
been an ardent idealist and a representative of many of the qualities that
made the greatness of the Renaissance. The Renaissance learning, the
apparently boundless vistas which it had opened to the human spirit, and
the consciousness of his own power, evidently intoxicated Marlowe with a
vast ambition to achieve results which in his youthful inexperience he
could scarcely even picture to himself. His spirit, cramped and outraged by
the impassable limitations of human life and by the conventions of society,
beat recklessly against them with an impatience fruitless but partly grand.
This is the underlying spirit of almost all his plays, struggling in them
for expression. The Prolog to 'Tamburlaine' makes pretentious announcement
that the author will discard the usual buffoonery of the popular stage and
will set a new standard of tragic majesty:

  From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits,
  And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay,
  We'll lead you to the stately tent of war,
  Where you shall hear the Scythian Tamburlaine
  Threatening the world with high astounding terms,
  And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.

Tamburlaine himself as Marlowe presents him is a titanic, almost
superhuman, figure who by sheer courage and pitiless unbending will raises
himself from shepherd to general and then emperor of countless peoples, and
sweeps like a whirlwind over the stage of the world, carrying everywhere
overwhelming slaughter and desolation. His speeches are outbursts of
incredible arrogance, equally powerful and bombastic. Indeed his
blasphemous boasts of superiority to the gods seem almost justified by his
apparently irresistible success. But at the end he learns that the laws of
life are inexorable even for him; all his indignant rage cannot redeem his
son from cowardice, or save his wife from death, or delay his own end. As
has been said, [Footnote: Professor Barrett Wendell, 'William Shakspere,'
p. 36.] 'Tamburlaine' expresses with 'a profound, lasting, noble sense and
in grandly symbolic terms, the eternal tragedy inherent in the conflict
between human aspiration and human power.'

For several other reasons 'Tamburlaine' is of high importance. It gives
repeated and splendid expression to the passionate haunting Renaissance
zest for the beautiful. It is rich with extravagant sensuous descriptions,
notable among those which abound gorgeously in all Elizabethan poetry. But
finest of all is the description of beauty by its effects which Marlowe
puts into the mouth of Faustus at the sight of Helen of Troy:

  Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
  And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

Much of Marlowe's strength, again, lies in his powerful and beautiful use
of blank verse. First among the dramatists of the popular stage he
discarded rime, and taking and vitalizing the stiff pentameter line of
'Gorboduc,' gave it an immediate and lasting vogue for tragedy and high
comedy. Marlowe, virtually a beginner, could not be expected to carry blank
verse to that perfection which his success made possible for Shakspere; he
did not altogether escape monotony and commonplaceness; but he gained a
high degree of flexibility and beauty by avoiding a regularly end-stopped
arrangement, by taking pains to secure variety of pause and accent, and by
giving his language poetic condensation and suggestiveness. His workmanship
thoroughly justifies the characterization 'Marlowe's mighty line,' which
Ben Jonson in his tribute to Shakspere bestowed on it long after Marlowe's

The greatest significance of 'Tamburlaine,' lastly, lies in the fact that
it definitely established tragedy as a distinct form on the English popular
stage, and invested it with proper dignity.

These are Marlowe's great achievements both in 'Tamburlaine' and in his
later more restrained plays. His limitations must also be suggested. Like
other Elizabethans he did not fully understand the distinction between
drama and other literary forms; 'Tamburlaine' is not so much a regularly
constructed tragedy, with a struggle between nearly equal persons and
forces, artistically complicated and resolved, as an epic poem, a
succession of adventures in war (and love). Again, in spite of the prolog
in 'Tamburlaine,' Marlowe, in almost all his plays, and following the
Elizabethan custom, does attempt scenes of humor, but he attains only to
the coarse and brutal horse-play at which the English audiences had laughed
for centuries in the Mystery plays and the Interludes. Elizabethan also
(and before that medieval) is the lack of historical perspective which
gives to Mongol shepherds the manners and speech of Greek classical
antiquity as Marlowe had learned to know it at the university. More serious
is the lack of mature skill in characterization. Tamburlaine the man is an
exaggerated type; most of the men about him are his faint shadows, and
those who are intended to be comic are preposterous. The women, though they
have some differentiating touches, are certainly not more dramatically and
vitally imagined. In his later plays Marlowe makes gains in this respect,
but he never arrives at full easy mastery and trenchantly convincing
lifelikeness either in characterization, in presentation of action, or in
fine poetic finish. It has often been remarked that at the age when Marlowe
died Shakspere had produced not one of the great plays on which his
reputation rests; but Shakspere's genius came to maturity more surely, as
well as more slowly, and there is no basis for the inference sometimes
drawn that if Marlowe had lived he would ever have equalled or even
approached Shakespere's supreme achievement.

Shakspere we must briefly consider those external facts which conditioned
the form of the Elizabethan plays and explain many of those things in them
which at the present time appear perplexing.

[Illustration: TIMON OF ATHENS, v, 4. OUTER SCENE.

  _Trumpets sound. Enter Alcibiades with his
  Powers before Athens._

  "_Alc_. Sound to this Coward, and lascivious
  Towne, Our terrible approach."

  _Sounds a parly. The Senators appears upon
  the Wals._

Reproduced from _The Shakespearean Stage_, by V. E. Albright, through
the courtesy of the publishers, the Columbia University Press.


The medieval religious drama had been written and acted in many towns
throughout the country, and was a far less important feature in the life of
London than of many other places. But as the capital became more and more
the center of national life, the drama, with other forms of literature, was
more largely appropriated by it; the Elizabethan drama of the great period
was altogether written in London and belonged distinctly to it. Until well
into the seventeenth century, to be sure, the London companies made
frequent tours through the country, but that was chiefly when the
prevalence of the plague had necessitated the closing of the London
theaters or when for other reasons acting there had become temporarily
unprofitable. The companies themselves had now assumed a regular
organization. They retained a trace of their origin (above, page 90) in
that each was under the protection of some influential noble and was
called, for example, 'Lord Leicester's Servants,' or 'The Lord Admiral's
Servants.' But this connection was for the most part nominal--the companies
were virtually very much like the stock-companies of the nineteenth
century. By the beginning of the great period the membership of each troupe
was made up of at least three classes of persons. At the bottom of the
scale were the boy-apprentices who were employed, as Shakspere is said to
have been at first, in miscellaneous menial capacities. Next came the paid
actors; and lastly the shareholders, generally also actors, some or all of
whom were the general managers. The writers of plays were sometimes members
of the companies, as in Shakspere's case; sometimes, however, they were

Until near the middle of Elizabeth's reign there were no special theater
buildings, but the players, in London or elsewhere, acted wherever they
could find an available place--in open squares, large halls, or,
especially, in the quadrangular open inner yards of inns. As the profession
became better organized and as the plays gained in quality, such makeshift
accommodations became more and more unsatisfactory; but there were special
difficulties in the way of securing better ones in London. For the
population and magistrates of London were prevailingly Puritan, and the
great body of the Puritans, then as always, were strongly opposed to the
theater as a frivolous and irreligious thing--an attitude for which the
lives of the players and the character of many plays afforded, then as
almost always, only too much reason. The city was very jealous of its
prerogatives; so that in spite of Queen Elizabeth's strong patronage of the
drama, throughout her whole reign no public theater buildings were allowed
within the limits of the city corporation. But these limits were narrow,
and in 1576 James Burbage inaugurated a new era by erecting 'The Theater'
just to the north of the 'city,' only a few minutes' walk from the center
of population. His example was soon followed by other managers, though the
favorite place for the theaters soon came to be the 'Bankside,' the region
in Southwark just across the Thames from the 'city' where Chaucer's Tabard
Inn had stood and where pits for bear-baiting and cock-fighting had long

The structure of the Elizabethan theater was naturally imitated from its
chief predecessor, the inn-yard. There, under the open sky, opposite the
street entrance, the players had been accustomed to set up their stage.
About it, on three sides, the ordinary part of the audience had stood
during the performance, while the inn-guests and persons able to pay a
fixed price had sat in the open galleries which lined the building and ran
all around the yard. In the theaters, therefore, at first generally
square-built or octagonal, the stage projected from the rear wall well
toward the center of an unroofed pit (the present-day 'orchestra'), where,
still on three sides of the stage, the common people, admitted for sixpence
or less, stood and jostled each other, either going home when it rained or
staying and getting wet as the degree of their interest in the play might
determine. The enveloping building proper was occupied with tiers of
galleries, generally two or three in number, provided with seats; and here,
of course, sat the people of means, the women avoiding embarrassment and
annoyance only by being always masked. Behind the unprotected front part of
the stage the middle part was covered by a lean-to roof sloping down from
the rear wall of the building and supported by two pillars standing on the
stage. This roof concealed a loft, from which gods and goddesses or any
appropriate properties could be let down by mechanical devices. Still
farther back, under the galleries, was the 'rear-stage,' which could be
used to represent inner rooms; and that part of the lower gallery
immediately above it was generally appropriated as a part of the stage,
representing such places as city walls or the second stories of houses. The
musicians' place was also just beside in the gallery.

The stage, therefore, was a 'platform stage,' seen by the audience from
almost all sides, not, as in our own time, a 'picture-stage,' with its
scenes viewed through a single large frame. This arrangement made
impossible any front curtain, though a curtain was generally hung before
the rear stage, from the floor of the gallery. Hence the changes between
scenes must generally be made in full view of the audience, and instead of
ending the scenes with striking situations the dramatists must arrange for
a withdrawal of the actors, only avoiding if possible the effect of a mere
anti-climax. Dead bodies must either get up and walk away in plain sight or
be carried off, either by stage hands, or, as part of the action, by other
characters in the play. This latter device was sometimes adopted at
considerable violence to probability, as when Shakspere makes Falstaff bear
away Hotspur, and Hamlet, Polonius. Likewise, while the medieval habit of
elaborate costuming was continued, there was every reason for adhering to
the medieval simplicity of scenery. A single potted tree might symbolize a
forest, and houses and caverns, with a great deal else, might be left to
the imagination of the audience. In no respect, indeed, was realism of
setting an important concern of either dramatist or audience; in many
cases, evidently, neither of them cared to think of a scene as located in
any precise spot; hence the anxious effort of Shakspere's editors on this
point is beside the mark. This nonchalance made for easy transition from
one place to another, and the whole simplicity of staging had the important
advantage of allowing the audience to center their attention on the play
rather than on the accompaniments. On the rear-stage, however, behind the
curtain, more elaborate scenery might be placed, and Elizabethan plays,
like those of our own day, seem sometimes to have 'alternation scenes,'
intended to be acted in front, while the next background was being prepared
behind the balcony curtain. The lack of elaborate settings also facilitated
rapidity of action, and the plays, beginning at three in the afternoon,
were ordinarily over by the dinner-hour of five. Less satisfactory was the
entire absence of women-actors, who did not appear on the public stage
until after the Restoration of 1660. The inadequacy of the boys who took
the part of the women-characters is alluded to by Shakspere and must have
been a source of frequent irritation to any dramatist who was attempting to
present a subtle or complex heroine.

Lastly may be mentioned the picturesque but very objectionable custom of
the young dandies who insisted on carrying their chairs onto the sides of
the stage itself, where they not only made themselves conspicuous objects
of attention but seriously crowded the actors and rudely abused them if the
play was not to their liking. It should be added that from the latter part
of Elizabeth's reign there existed within the city itself certain 'private'
theaters, used by the boys' companies and others, whose structure was more
like that of the theaters of our own time and where plays were given by
artificial light.

SHAKESPEARE, 1564-1616. William Shakspere, by universal consent the
greatest author of England, if not of the world, occupies chronologically a
central position in the Elizabethan drama. He was born in 1564 in the
good-sized village of Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, near the middle of
England, where the level but beautiful country furnished full external
stimulus for a poet's eye and heart. His father, John Shakspere, who was a
general dealer in agricultural products and other commodities, was one of
the chief citizens of the village, and during his son's childhood was
chosen an alderman and shortly after mayor, as we should call it. But by
1577 his prosperity declined, apparently through his own shiftlessness, and
for many years he was harassed with legal difficulties. In the village
'grammar' school William Shakspere had acquired the rudiments of
book-knowledge, consisting largely of Latin, but his chief education was
from Nature and experience. As his father's troubles thickened he was very
likely removed from school, but at the age of eighteen, under circumstances
not altogether creditable to himself, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman
eight years his senior, who lived in the neighboring village of Shottery.
The suggestion that the marriage proved positively unhappy is supported by
no real evidence, but what little is known of Shakspere's later life
implies that it was not exceptionally congenial. Two girls and a boy were
born from it.

In his early manhood, apparently between 1586 and 1588, Shakspere left
Stratford to seek his fortune in London. As to the circumstances, there is
reasonable plausibility in the later tradition that he had joined in
poaching raids on the deer-park of Sir Thomas Lucy, a neighboring country
gentleman, and found it desirable to get beyond the bounds of that
gentleman's authority. It is also likely enough that Shakspere had been
fascinated by the performances of traveling dramatic companies at Stratford
and by the Earl of Leicester's costly entertainment of Queen Elizabeth in
1575 at the castle of Kenilworth, not many miles away. At any rate, in
London he evidently soon secured mechanical employment in a theatrical
company, presumably the one then known as Lord Leicester's company, with
which, in that case, he was always thereafter connected. His energy and
interest must soon have won him the opportunity to show his skill as actor
and also reviser and collaborator in play-writing, then as independent
author; and after the first few years of slow progress his rise was rapid.
He became one of the leading members, later one of the chief shareholders,
of the company, and evidently enjoyed a substantial reputation as a
playwright and a good, though not a great, actor. This was both at Court
(where, however, actors had no social standing) and in the London dramatic
circle. Of his personal life only the most fragmentary record has been
preserved, through occasional mentions in miscellaneous documents, but it
is evident that his rich nature was partly appreciated and thoroughly loved
by his associates. His business talent was marked and before the end of his
dramatic career he seems to have been receiving as manager, shareholder,
playwright and actor, a yearly income equivalent to $25,000 in money of the
present time. He early began to devote attention to paying the debts of his
father, who lived until 1601, and restoring the fortunes of his family in
Stratford. The death of his only son, Hamnet, in 1596, must have been a
severe blow to him, but he obtained from the Heralds' College the grant of
a family coat of arms, which secured the position of the family as
gentlefolks; in 1597 he purchased New Place, the largest house in
Stratford; and later on he acquired other large property rights there. How
often he may have visited Stratford in the twenty-five years of his career
in London we have no information; but however enjoyable London life and the
society of the writers at the 'Mermaid' Tavern may have been to him, he
probably always looked forward to ending his life as the chief country
gentleman of his native village. Thither he retired about 1610 or 1612, and
there he died prematurely in 1616, just as he was completing his
fifty-second year.

Shakspere's dramatic career falls naturally into four successive divisions
of increasing maturity. To be sure, no definite record of the order of his
plays has come down to us, and it can scarcely be said that we certainly
know the exact date of a single one of them; but the evidence of the
title-page dates of such of them as were hastily published during his
lifetime, of allusions to them in other writings of the time, and other
scattering facts of one sort or another, joined with the more important
internal evidence of comparative maturity of mind and art which shows
'Macbeth' and 'The Winter's Tale,' for example, vastly superior to 'Love's
Labour's Lost'--all this evidence together enables us to arrange the plays
in a chronological order which is certainly approximately correct. The
first of the four periods thus disclosed is that of experiment and
preparation, from about 1588 to about 1593, when Shakspere tried his hand
at virtually every current kind of dramatic work. Its most important
product is 'Richard III,' a melodramatic chronicle-history play, largely
imitative of Marlowe and yet showing striking power. At the end of this
period Shakspere issued two rather long narrative poems on classical
subjects, 'Venus and Adonis,' and 'The Rape of Lucrece,' dedicating them
both to the young Earl of Southampton, who thus appears as his patron. Both
display great fluency in the most luxuriant and sensuous Renaissance
manner, and though they appeal little to the taste of the present day
'Venus and Adonis,' in particular, seems to have become at once the most
popular poem of its own time. Shakspere himself regarded them very
seriously, publishing them with care, though he, like most Elizabethan
dramatists, never thought it worth while to put his plays into print except
to safeguard the property rights of his company in them. Probably at about
the end of his first period, also, he began the composition of his sonnets,
of which we have already spoken (page 119).

The second period of Shakspere's work, extending from about 1594 to about
1601, is occupied chiefly with chronicle-history plays and happy comedies.
The chronicle-history plays begin (probably) with the subtile and
fascinating, though not yet absolutely masterful study of contrasting
characters in 'Richard II'; continue through the two parts of 'Henry IV,'
where the realistic comedy action of Falstaff and his group makes history
familiarly vivid; and end with the epic glorification of a typical English
hero-king in 'Henry V.' The comedies include the charmingly fantastic
'Midsummer Night's Dream'; 'The Merchant of Venice,' where a story of
tragic sternness is strikingly contrasted with the most poetical idealizing
romance and yet is harmoniously blended into it; 'Much Ado About Nothing,'
a magnificent example of high comedy of character and wit; 'As You Like
It,' the supreme delightful achievement of Elizabethan and all English
pastoral romance; and 'Twelfth Night,' where again charming romantic
sentiment is made believable by combination with a story of comic realism.
Even in the one, unique, tragedy of the period, 'Romeo and Juliet,' the
main impression is not that of the predestined tragedy, but that of ideal
youthful love, too gloriously radiant to be viewed with sorrow even in its
fatal outcome.

The third period, extending from about 1601 to about 1609, includes
Shakspere's great tragedies and certain cynical plays, which formal
classification mis-names comedies. In these plays as a group Shakspere sets
himself to grapple with the deepest and darkest problems of human character
and life; but it is only very uncertain inference that he was himself
passing at this time through a period of bitterness and disillusion.
'Julius Cæsar' presents the material failure of an unpractical idealist
(Brutus); 'Hamlet' the struggle of a perplexed and divided soul; 'Othello'
the ruin of a noble life by an evil one through the terrible power of
jealousy; 'King Lear' unnatural ingratitude working its hateful will and
yet thwarted at the end by its own excess and by faithful love; and
'Macbeth' the destruction of a large nature by material ambition. Without
doubt this is the greatest continuous group of plays ever wrought out by a
human mind, and they are followed by 'Antony and Cleopatra,' which
magnificently portrays the emptiness of a sensual passion against the
background of a decaying civilization.

Shakspere did not solve the insoluble problems of life, but having
presented them as powerfully, perhaps, as is possible for human
intelligence, he turned in his last period, of only two or three years, to
the expression of the serene philosophy of life in which he himself must
have now taken refuge. The noble and beautiful romance-comedies,
'Cymbeline,' 'The Winter's Tale,' and 'The Tempest,' suggest that men do
best to forget what is painful and center their attention on the pleasing
and encouraging things in a world where there is at least an inexhaustible
store of beauty and goodness and delight.

Shakspere may now well have felt, as his retirement to Stratford suggests,
that in his nearly forty plays he had fully expressed himself and had
earned the right to a long and peaceful old age. The latter, as we have
seen, was denied him; but seven years after his death two of his
fellow-managers assured the preservation of the plays whose unique
importance he himself did not suspect by collecting them in the first folio
edition of his complete dramatic works.

Shakspere's greatness rests on supreme achievement--the result of the
highest genius matured by experience and by careful experiment and
labor--in all phases of the work of a poetic dramatist. The surpassing
charm of his rendering of the romantic beauty and joy of life and the
profundity of his presentation of its tragic side we have already
suggested. Equally sure and comprehensive is his portrayal of characters.
With the certainty of absolute mastery he causes men and women to live for
us, a vast representative group, in all the actual variety of age and
station, perfectly realized in all the subtile diversities and
inconsistencies of protean human nature. Not less notable than his strong
men are his delightful young heroines, romantic Elizabethan heroines, to be
sure, with an unconventionality, many of them, which does not belong to
such women in the more restricted world of reality, but pure embodiments of
the finest womanly delicacy, keenness, and vivacity. Shakspere, it is true,
was a practical dramatist. His background characters are often present in
the plays not in order to be entirely real but in order to furnish
amusement; and even in the case of the chief ones, just as in the treatment
of incidents, he is always perfectly ready to sacrifice literal truth to
dramatic effect. But these things are only the corollaries of all
successful playwriting and of all art.

To Shakspere's mastery of poetic expression similarly strong superlatives
must be applied. For his form he perfected Marlowe's blank verse,
developing it to the farthest possible limits of fluency, variety, and
melody; though he retained the riming couplet for occasional use (partly
for the sake of variety) and frequently made use also of prose, both for
the same reason and in realistic or commonplace scenes. As regards the
spirit of poetry, it scarcely need be said that nowhere else in literature
is there a like storehouse of the most delightful and the greatest ideas
phrased with the utmost power of condensed expression and figurative
beauty. In dramatic structure his greatness is on the whole less
conspicuous. Writing for success on the Elizabethan stage, he seldom
attempted to reduce its romantic licenses to the perfection of an absolute
standard. 'Romeo and Juliet, 'Hamlet,' and indeed most of his plays,
contain unnecessary scenes, interesting to the Elizabethans, which
Sophocles as well as Racine would have pruned away. Yet when Shakspere
chooses, as in 'Othello,' to develop a play with the sternest and most
rapid directness, he proves essentially the equal even of the most rigid

Shakspere, indeed, although as Ben Jonson said, 'he was not for an age but
for all time,' was in every respect a thorough Elizabethan also, and does
not escape the superficial Elizabethan faults. Chief of these, perhaps, is
his fondness for 'conceits,' with which he makes his plays, especially some
of the earlier ones, sparkle, brilliantly, but often inappropriately. In
his prose style, again, except in the talk of commonplace persons, he never
outgrew, or wished to outgrow, a large measure of Elizabethan
self-conscious elegance. Scarcely a fault is his other Elizabethan habit of
seldom, perhaps never, inventing the whole of his stories, but drawing the
outlines of them from previous works--English chronicles, poems, or plays,
Italian 'novels,' or the biographies of Plutarch. But in the majority of
cases these sources provided him only with bare or even crude sketches, and
perhaps nothing furnishes clearer proof of his genius than the way in which
he has seen the human significance in stories baldly and wretchedly told,
where the figures are merely wooden types, and by the power of imagination
has transformed them into the greatest literary masterpieces, profound
revelations of the underlying forces of life.

Shakspere, like every other great man, has been the object of much
unintelligent, and misdirected adulation, but his greatness, so far from
suffering diminution, grows more apparent with the passage of time and the
increase of study.

[Note: The theory persistently advocated during the last half century that
Shakspere's works were really written not by himself but by Francis Bacon
or some other person can never gain credence with any competent judge. Our
knowledge of Shakspere's life, slight as it is, is really at least as great
as that which has been preserved of almost any dramatist of the period; for
dramatists were not then looked on as persons of permanent importance.
There is really much direct contemporary documentary evidence, as we have
already indicated, of Shakspere's authorship of the plays and poems. No
theory, further, could be more preposterous, to any one really acquainted
with literature, than the idea that the imaginative poetry of Shakspere was
produced by the essentially scientific and prosaic mind of Francis Bacon.
As to the cipher systems supposed to reveal hidden messages in the plays:
First, no poet bending his energies to the composition of such masterpieces
as Shakspere's could possibly concern himself at the same time with weaving
into them a complicated and trifling cryptogram. Second, the cipher systems
are absolutely arbitrary and unscientific, applied to any writings whatever
can be made to 'prove' anything that one likes, and indeed have been
discredited in the hands of their own inventors by being made to 'prove'
far too much. Third, it has been demonstrated more than once that the
verbal coincidences on which the cipher systems rest are no more numerous
than the law of mathematical probabilities requires. Aside from actually
vicious pursuits, there can be no more melancholy waste of time than the
effort to demonstrate that Shakspere is not the real author of his reputed

NATIONAL LIFE FROM 1603 TO 1660. We have already observed that, as
Shakspere's career suggests, there was no abrupt change in either life or
literature at the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603; and in fact the
Elizabethan period of literature is often made to include the reign of
James I, 1603-1625 (the Jacobean period [Footnote: 'Jaco'bus' is the Latin
form of 'James.']), or even, especially in the case of the drama, that of
Charles I, 1625-1649 (the Carolean period). Certainly the drama of all
three reigns forms a continuously developing whole, and should be discussed
as such. None the less the spirit of the first half of the seventeenth
century came gradually to be widely different from that of the preceding
fifty years, and before going on to Shakspere's successors we must stop to
indicate briefly wherein the difference consists and for this purpose to
speak of the determining events of the period. Before the end of
Elizabeth's reign, indeed, there had been a perceptible change; as the
queen grew old and morose the national life seemed also to lose its youth
and freshness. Her successor and distant cousin, James of Scotland (James I
of England), was a bigoted pedant, and under his rule the perennial Court
corruption, striking in, became foul and noisome. The national Church,
instead of protesting, steadily identified itself more closely with the
Court party, and its ruling officials, on the whole, grew more and more
worldly and intolerant. Little by little the nation found itself divided
into two great factions; on the one hand the Cavaliers, the party of the
Court, the nobles, and the Church, who continued to be largely dominated by
the Renaissance zest for beauty and, especially, pleasure; and on the other
hand the Puritans, comprising the bulk of the middle classes, controlled by
the religious principles of the Reformation, often, in their opposition to
Cavalier frivolity, stern and narrow, and more and more inclined to
separate themselves from the English Church in denominations of their own.
The breach steadily widened until in 1642, under the arbitrary rule of
Charles I, the Civil War broke out. In three years the Puritan Parliament
was victorious, and in 1649 the extreme minority of the Puritans, supported
by the army, took the unprecedented step of putting King Charles to death,
and declared England a Commonwealth. But in four years more the
Parliamentary government, bigoted and inefficient, made itself impossible,
and then for five years, until his death, Oliver Cromwell strongly ruled
England as Protector. Another year and a half of chaos confirmed the nation
in a natural reaction, and in 1660 the unworthy Stuart race was restored in
the person of the base and frivolous Charles II. The general influence of
the forces which produced these events shows clearly in the changing tone
of the drama, the work of those dramatists who were Shakspere's later
contemporaries and successors.

BEN JONSON. The second place among the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists
is universally assigned, on the whole justly, to Ben Jonson, [Footnote:
This name is spelled without the _h_.] who both in temperament and in
artistic theories and practice presents a complete contrast to Shakspere.
Jonson, the posthumous son of an impoverished gentleman-clergyman, was born
in London in 1573. At Westminster School he received a permanent bent
toward classical studies from the headmaster, William Camden, who was one
of the greatest scholars of the time. Forced into the uncongenial trade of
his stepfather, a master-bricklayer, he soon deserted it to enlist among
the English soldiers who were helping the Dutch to fight their Spanish
oppressors. Here he exhibited some of his dominating traits by challenging
a champion from the other army and killing him in classical fashion in
single combat between the lines. By about the age of twenty he was back in
London and married to a wife whom he later described as being 'virtuous but
a shrew,' and who at one time found it more agreeable to live apart from
him. He became an actor (at which profession he failed) and a writer of
plays. About 1598 he displayed his distinguishing realistic style in the
comedy 'Every Man in His Humour,' which was acted by Shakspere's company,
it is said through Shakspere's friendly influence. At about the same time
the burly Jonson killed another actor in a duel and escaped capital
punishment only through 'benefit of clergy' (the exemption still allowed to
educated men).

The plays which Jonson produced during the following years were chiefly
satirical attacks on other dramatists, especially Marston and Dekker, who
retorted in kind. Thus there developed a fierce actors' quarrel, referred
to in Shakspere's 'Hamlet,' in which the 'children's' companies had some
active but now uncertain part. Before it was over most of the dramatists
had taken sides against Jonson, whose arrogant and violent
self-assertiveness put him at odds, sooner or later, with nearly every one
with whom he had much to do. In 1603 he made peace, only to become involved
in other, still more, serious difficulties. Shortly after the accession of
King James, Jonson, Chapman, and Marston brought out a comedy, 'Eastward
Hoe,' in which they offended the king by satirical flings at the needy
Scotsmen to whom James was freely awarding Court positions. They were
imprisoned and for a while, according to the barbarous procedure of the
time, were in danger of losing their ears and noses. At a banquet
celebrating their release, Jonson reports, his 'old mother' produced a
paper of poison which, if necessary, she had intended to administer to him
to save him from this disgrace, and of which, she said, to show that she
was 'no churl,' she would herself first have drunk.

Just before this incident, in 1603, Jonson had turned to tragedy and
written 'Sejanus,' which marks the beginning of his most important decade.
He followed up 'Sejanus' after several years with the less excellent
'Catiline,' but his most significant dramatic works, on the whole, are his
four great satirical comedies. 'Volpone, or the Fox,' assails gross vice;
'Epicoene, the Silent Woman,' ridicules various sorts of absurd persons;
'The Alchemist' castigates quackery and its foolish encouragers; and
'Bartholomew Fair' is a coarse but overwhelming broadside at Puritan
hypocrisy. Strange as it seems in the author of these masterpieces of frank
realism, Jonson at the same time was showing himself the most gifted writer
of the Court masks, which now, arrived at the last period of their
evolution, were reaching the extreme of spectacular elaborateness. Early in
James' reign, therefore, Jonson was made Court Poet, and during the next
thirty years he produced about forty masks, devoting to them much attention
and care, and quarreling violently with Inigo Jones, the Court architect,
who contrived the stage settings. During this period Jonson was under the
patronage of various nobles, and he also reigned as dictator at the club of
literary men which Sir Walter Raleigh had founded at the Mermaid Tavern (so
called, like other inns, from its sign). A well-known poetical letter of
the dramatist Francis Beaumont to Jonson celebrates the club meetings; and
equally well known is a description given in the next generation from
hearsay and inference by the antiquary Thomas Fuller: 'Many were the
wit-combats betwixt Shakspere and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a
Spanish great galleon and an English man-of-war: Master Jonson, like the
former, was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his
performances; Shakespere, with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk, but
lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about and take
advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.'

The last dozen years of Jonson's life were unhappy. Though he had a pension
from the Court, he was sometimes in financial straits; and for a time he
lost his position as Court Poet. He resumed the writing of regular plays,
but his style no longer pleased the public; and he often suffered much from
sickness. Nevertheless at the Devil Tavern he collected about him a circle
of younger admirers, some of them among the oncoming poets, who were proud
to be known as 'Sons of Ben,' and who largely accepted as authoritative his
opinions on literary matters. Thus his life, which ended in 1637, did not
altogether go out in gloom. On the plain stone which alone, for a long
time, marked his grave in Westminster Abbey an unknown admirer inscribed
the famous epitaph, 'O rare Ben Jonson.'

As a man Jonson, pugnacious, capricious, ill-mannered, sometimes surly,
intemperate in drink and in other respects, is an object for only very
qualified admiration; and as a writer he cannot properly be said to possess
that indefinable thing, genius, which is essential to the truest greatness.
But both as man and as writer he manifested great force; and in both drama
and poetry he stands for several distinct literary principles and
attainments highly important both in themselves and for their subsequent

1. Most conspicuous in his dramas is his realism, often, as we have said,
extremely coarse, and a direct reflection of his intellect, which was as
strongly masculine as his body and altogether lacking, where the regular
drama was concerned, in fineness of sentiment or poetic feeling. He early
assumed an attitude of pronounced opposition to the Elizabethan romantic
plays, which seemed to him not only lawless in artistic structure but
unreal and trifling in atmosphere and substance. (That he was not, however,
as has sometimes been said, personally hostile to Shakspere is clear, among
other things, from his poetic tributes in the folio edition of Shakspere
and from his direct statement elsewhere that he loved Shakspere almost to
idolatry.) Jonson's purpose was to present life as he believed it to be; he
was thoroughly acquainted with its worser side; and he refused to conceal
anything that appeared to him significant. His plays, therefore, have very
much that is flatly offensive to the taste which seeks in literature,
prevailingly, for idealism and beauty; but they are, nevertheless,
generally speaking, powerful portrayals of actual life.

2. Jonson's purpose, however, was never unworthy; rather, it was distinctly
to uphold morality. His frankest plays, as we have indicated, are attacks
on vice and folly, and sometimes, it is said, had important reformatory
influence on contemporary manners. He held, indeed, that in the drama, even
in comedy, the function of teaching was as important as that of giving
pleasure. His attitude toward his audiences was that of a learned
schoolmaster, whose ideas they should accept with deferential respect; and
when they did not approve his plays he was outspoken in indignant contempt.

3. Jonson's self-satisfaction and his critical sense of intellectual
superiority to the generality of mankind produce also a marked and
disagreeable lack of sympathy in his portrayal of both life and character.
The world of his dramas is mostly made up of knaves, scoundrels,
hypocrites, fools, and dupes; and it includes among its really important
characters very few excellent men and not a single really good woman.
Jonson viewed his fellow-men, in the mass, with complete scorn, which it
was one of his moral and artistic principles not to disguise. His
characteristic comedies all belong, further, to the particular type which
he himself originated, namely, the 'Comedy of Humors.' [Footnote: The
meaning of this, term can be understood only by some explanation of the
history of the word 'Humor.' In the first place this was the Latin name for
'liquid.' According to medieval physiology there were four chief liquids in
the human body, namely blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile, and an excess
of any of them produced an undue predominance of the corresponding quality;
thus, an excess of phlegm made a person phlegmatic, or dull; or an excess
of black bile, melancholy. In the Elizabethan idiom, therefore, 'humor'
came to mean a mood, and then any exaggerated quality or marked peculiarity
in a person.]

Aiming in these plays to flail the follies of his time, he makes his chief
characters, in spite of his realistic purpose, extreme and distorted
'humors,' each, in spite of individual traits, the embodiment of some one
abstract vice--cowardice, sensualism, hypocrisy, or what not. Too often,
also, the unreality is increased because Jonson takes the characters from
the stock figures of Latin comedy rather than from genuine English life.

4. In opposition to the free Elizabethan romantic structure, Jonson stood
for and deliberately intended to revive the classical style; though with
characteristic good sense he declared that not all the classical practices
were applicable to English plays. He generally observed unity not only of
action but also of time (a single day) and place, sometimes with serious
resultant loss of probability. In his tragedies, 'Sejanus' and 'Catiline,'
he excluded comic material; for the most part he kept scenes of death and
violence off the stage; and he very carefully and slowly constructed plays
which have nothing, indeed, of the poetic greatness of Sophocles or
Euripides (rather a Jonsonese broad solidity) but which move steadily to
their climaxes and then on to the catastrophes in the compact classical
manner. He carried his scholarship, however, to the point of pedantry, not
only in the illustrative extracts from Latin authors with which in the
printed edition he filled the lower half of his pages, but in the plays
themselves in the scrupulous exactitude of his rendering of the details of
Roman life. The plays reconstruct the ancient world with much more minute
accuracy than do Shakspere's; the student should consider for himself
whether they succeed better in reproducing its human reality, making it a
living part of the reader's mental and spiritual possessions.

5. Jonson's style in his plays, especially the blank verse of his
tragedies, exhibits the same general characteristics. It is strong,
compact, and sometimes powerful, but it entirely lacks imaginative poetic
beauty--it is really only rhythmical prose, though sometimes suffused with

6. The surprising skill which Jonson, author of such plays, showed in
devising the court masks, daintily unsubstantial creations of moral
allegory, classical myth, and Teutonic folklore, is rendered less
surprising, perhaps, by the lack in the masks of any very great lyric
quality. There is no lyric quality at all in the greater part of his
non-dramatic verse, though there is an occasional delightful exception, as
in the famous 'Drink to me only with thine eyes.' But of his non-dramatic
verse we shall speak in the next chapter.

7. Last, and not least: Jonson's revolt from romanticism to classicism
initiated, chiefly in non-dramatic verse, the movement for restraint and
regularity, which, making slow headway during the next half century, was to
issue in the triumphant pseudo-classicism of the generations of Dryden and
Pope. Thus, notable in himself, he was significant also as one of the
moving forces of a great literary revolution.

THE OTHER DRAMATISTS. From the many other dramatists of this highly
dramatic period, some of whom in their own day enjoyed a reputation fully
equal to that of Shakspere and Jonson, we may merely select a few for brief
mention. For not only does their light now pale hopelessly in the presence
of Shakspere, but in many cases their violations of taste and moral
restraint pass the limits of present-day tolerance. Most of them, like
Shakspere, produced both comedies and tragedies, prevailingly romantic but
with elements of realism; most of them wrote more often in collaboration
than did Shakspere; they all shared the Elizabethan vigorously creative
interest in life; but none of them attained either Shakspere's wisdom, his
power, or his mastery of poetic beauty. One of the most learned of the
group was George Chapman, whose verse has a Jonsonian solidity not
unaccompanied with Jonsonian ponderousness. He won fame also in
non-dramatic poetry, especially by vigorous but rather clumsy verse
translations of the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey,' Another highly individual figure
is that of Thomas Dekker, who seems to have been one of the completest
embodiments of irrepressible Elizabethan cheerfulness, though this was
joined in him with an irresponsibility which kept him commonly floundering
in debt or confined in debtor's prison. His 'Shoemaker's Holiday' (1600),
still occasionally chosen by amateur companies for reproduction, gives a
rough-and-ready but (apart from its coarseness) charming romanticized
picture of the life of London apprentices and whole-hearted citizens.
Thomas Heywood, a sort of journalist before the days of newspapers,
produced an enormous amount of work in various literary forms; in the drama
he claimed to have had 'an entire hand, or at least a maine finger' in no
less than two hundred and twenty plays. Inevitably, therefore, he is
careless and slipshod, but some of his portrayals of sturdy English men and
women and of romantic adventure (as in 'The Fair Maid of the West') are of
refreshing naturalness and breeziness. Thomas Middleton, also a very
prolific writer, often deals, like Jonson and Heywood, with sordid
material. John Marston, as well, has too little delicacy or reserve; he
also wrote catch-as-catch-can non-dramatic satires.

The sanity of Shakspere's plays, continuing and indeed increasing toward
the end of his career, disguises for modern students the tendency to
decline in the drama which set in at about the time of King James'
accession. Not later than the end of the first decade of the century the
dramatists as a class exhibit not only a decrease of originality in plot
and characterization, but also a lowering of moral tone, which results
largely from the closer identification of the drama with the Court party.
There is a lack of seriousness of purpose, an increasing tendency to
return, in more morbid spirit, to the sensationalism of the 1580's, and an
anxious straining to attract and please the audiences by almost any means.
These tendencies appear in the plays of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher,
whose reputations are indissolubly linked together in one of the most
famous literary partnerships of all time. Beaumont, however, was
short-lived, and much the greater part of the fifty and more plays
ultimately published under their joint names really belong to Fletcher
alone or to Fletcher and other collaborators. The scholarship of our day
agrees with the opinion of their contemporaries in assigning to Beaumont
the greater share of judgment and intellectual power and to Fletcher the
greater share of spontaneity and fancy. Fletcher's style is very
individual. It is peculiarly sweet; but its unmistakable mark is his
constant tendency to break down the blank verse line by the use of extra
syllables, both within the line and at the end. The lyrics which he
scatters through his plays are beautifully smooth and musical. The plays of
Beaumont and Fletcher, as a group, are sentimentally romantic, often in an
extravagant degree, though their charm often conceals the extravagance as
well as the lack of true characterization. They are notable often for their
portrayal of the loyal devotion of both men and women to king, lover, or
friend. One of the best of them is 'Philaster, or Love Lies Bleeding,'
while Fletcher's 'Faithful Shepherdess' is the most pleasing example in
English of the artificial pastoral drama in the Italian and Spanish style.

The Elizabethan tendency to sensational horror finds its greatest artistic
expression in two plays of John Webster, 'The White Devil, or Vittoria
Corombona,' and 'The Duchess of Malfi.' Here the corrupt and brutal life of
the Italian nobility of the Renaissance is presented with terrible
frankness, but with an overwhelming sense for passion, tragedy, and pathos.
The most moving pathos permeates some of the plays of John Ford (of the
time of Charles I), for example, 'The Broken Heart'; but they are abnormal
and unhealthy. Philip Massinger, a pupil and collaborator of Fletcher, was
of thoughtful spirit, and apparently a sincere moralist at heart, in spite
of much concession in his plays to the contrary demands of the time. His
famous comedy, 'A New Way to Pay Old Debts,' a satire on greed and cruelty,
is one of the few plays of the period, aside from Shakspere's, which are
still occasionally acted. The last dramatist of the whole great line was
James Shirley, who survived the Commonwealth and the Restoration and died
of exposure at the Fire of London in 1666. In his romantic comedies and
comedies of manners Shirley vividly reflects the thoughtless life of the
Court of Charles I and of the well-to-do contemporary London citizens and
shows how surprisingly far that life had progressed toward the reckless
frivolity and abandonment which after the interval of Puritan rule were to
run riot in the Restoration period.

The great Elizabethan dramatic impulse had thus become deeply degenerate,
and nothing could be more fitting than that it should be brought to a
definite end. When the war broke out in 1642 one of the first acts of
Parliament, now at last free to work its will on the enemies of Puritanism,
was to decree that 'whereas public sports do not well agree with public
calamities, nor public stage-plays with the seasons of humiliation,' all
dramatic performances should cease. This law, fatal, of course, to the
writing as well as the acting of plays, was enforced with only slightly
relaxing rigor until very shortly before the Restoration of Charles II in
1660. Doubtless to the Puritans it seemed that their long fight against the
theater had ended in permanent triumph; but this was only one of many
respects in which the Puritans were to learn that human nature cannot be
forced into permanent conformity with any rigidly over-severe standard, on
however high ideals it may be based.

SUMMARY. The chief dramatists of the whole sixty years of the great period
may be conveniently grouped as follows: I. Shakspere's early
contemporaries, about 1580 to about 1593: Lyly, Peele, Greene, Kyd,
Marlowe. II. Shakspere. III. Shakspere's later contemporaries, under
Elizabeth and James I: Jonson, Chapman, Dekker, Heywood, Middleton,
Marston, Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster. IV. The last group, under James I
and Charles I, to 1642: Ford, Massinger, and Shirley.



(_For political and social facts and conditions, see above, page 141._
[Footnote: One of the best works of fiction dealing with the period is J.
H. Shorthouse's 'John Inglesant.'])

The first half of the seventeenth century as a whole, compared with the
Elizabethan age, was a period of relaxing vigor. The Renaissance enthusiasm
had spent itself, and in place of the danger and glory which had long
united the nation there followed increasing dissension in religion and
politics and uncertainty as to the future of England and, indeed, as to the
whole purpose of life. Through increased experience men were certainly
wiser and more sophisticated than before, but they were also more
self-conscious and sadder or more pensive. The output of literature did not
diminish, but it spread itself over wider fields, in general fields of
somewhat recondite scholarship rather than of creation. Nevertheless this
period includes in prose one writer greater than any prose writer of the
previous century, namely Francis Bacon, and, further, the book which
unquestionably occupies the highest place in English literature, that is
the King James version of the Bible; and in poetry it includes one of the
very greatest figures, John Milton, together with a varied and highly
interesting assemblage of lesser lyrists.

FRANCIS BACON, VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS, 1561-1626. [Footnote: Macaulay's
well-known essay on Bacon is marred by Macaulay's besetting faults of
superficiality and dogmatism and is best left unread.] Francis Bacon,
intellectually one of the most eminent Englishmen of all times, and chief
formulator of the methods of modern science, was born in 1561 (three years
before Shakspere), the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great
Seal under Queen Elizabeth and one of her most trusted earlier advisers.
The boy's precocity led the queen to call him her 'little Lord Keeper.' At
the age of twelve he, like Wyatt, was sent to Cambridge, where his chief
impression was of disgust at the unfruitful scholastic application of
Aristotle's ideas, still supreme in spite of a century of Renaissance
enlightenment. A very much more satisfactory three years' residence in
France in the household of the English ambassador was terminated in 1579
(the year of Spenser's 'Shepherd's Calendar') by the death of Sir Nicholas.
Bacon was now ready to enter on the great career for which his talents
fitted him, but his uncle by marriage, Lord Burghley, though all-powerful
with the queen, systematically thwarted his progress, from jealous
consciousness of his superiority to his own son. Bacon therefore studied
law, and was soon chosen a member of Parliament, where he quickly became a
leader. He continued, however, throughout his life to devote much of his
time to study and scholarly scientific writing.

On the interpretation of Bacon's public actions depends the answer to the
complex and much-debated question of his character. The most reasonable
conclusions seem to be: that Bacon was sincerely devoted to the public good
and in his earlier life was sometimes ready to risk his own interests in
its behalf; that he had a perfectly clear theoretical insight into the
principles of moral conduct; that he lacked the moral force of character to
live on the level of his convictions, so that after the first, at least,
his personal ambition was often stronger than his conscience; that he
believed that public success could be gained only by conformity to the low
standards of the age; that he fell into the fatal error of supposing that
his own preëminent endowments and the services which they might enable him
to render justified him in the use of unworthy means; that his sense of
real as distinguished from apparent personal dignity was distressingly
inadequate; and that, in general, like many men of great intellect, he was
deficient in greatness of character, emotion, fine feeling, sympathy, and
even in comprehension of the highest spiritual principles. He certainly
shared to the full in the usual courtier's ambition for great place and
wealth, and in the worldling's inclination to ostentatious display.

Having offended Queen Elizabeth by his boldness in successfully opposing an
encroachment on the rights of the House of Commons, Bacon connected himself
with the Earl of Essex and received from him many favors; but when Essex
attempted a treasonable insurrection in 1601, Bacon, as one of the Queen's
lawyers, displayed against him a subservient zeal which on theoretical
grounds of patriotism might appear praiseworthy, but which in view of his
personal obligations was grossly indecent. For the worldly prosperity which
he sought, however, Bacon was obliged to wait until the accession of King
James, after which his rise was rapid. The King appreciated his ability and
often consulted him, and he frequently gave the wisest advice, whose
acceptance might perhaps have averted the worst national disasters of the
next fifty years. The advice was above the courage of both the King and the
age; but Bacon was advanced through various legal offices, until in 1613 he
was made Attorney-General and in 1618 (two years after Shakspere's death)
Lord High Chancellor of England, at the same time being raised to the
peerage as Baron Verulam. During all this period, in spite of his better
knowledge, he truckled with sorry servility to the King and his unworthy
favorites and lent himself as an agent in their most arbitrary acts.
Retribution overtook him in 1621, within a few days after his elevation to
the dignity of Viscount St. Albans. The House of Commons, balked in an
attack on the King and the Duke of Buckingham, suddenly turned on Bacon and
impeached him for having received bribes in connection with his legal
decisions as Lord Chancellor. Bacon admitted the taking of presents
(against which in one of his essays he had directly cautioned judges), and
threw himself on the mercy of the House of Lords, with whom the sentence
lay. He appears to have been sincere in protesting later that the presents
had not influenced his decisions and that he was the justest judge whom
England had had for fifty years; it seems that the giving of presents by
the parties to a suit was a customary abuse. But he had technically laid
himself open to the malice of his enemies and was condemned to very heavy
penalties, of which two were enforced, namely, perpetual incapacitation
from holding public office, and banishment from Court. Even after this he
continued, with an astonishing lack of good taste, to live extravagantly
and beyond his means (again in disregard of his own precepts), so that
Prince Charles observed that he 'scorned to go out in a snuff.' He died in
1626 from a cold caught in the prosecution of his scientific researches,
namely in an experiment on the power of snow to preserve meat.

Bacon's splendid mind and unique intellectual vision produced, perhaps
inevitably, considering his public activity, only fragmentary concrete
achievements. The only one of his books still commonly read is the series
of 'Essays,' which consist of brief and comparatively informal jottings on
various subjects. In their earliest form, in 1597, the essays were ten in
number, but by additions from time to time they had increased at last in
1625 to fifty-eight. They deal with a great variety of topics, whatever
Bacon happened to be interested in, from friendship to the arrangement of a
house, and in their condensation they are more like bare synopses than
complete discussions. But their comprehensiveness of view, sureness of
ideas and phrasing, suggestiveness, and apt illustrations reveal the
pregnancy and practical force of Bacon's thought (though, on the other
hand, he is not altogether free from the superstitions of his time and
after the lapse of three hundred years sometimes seems commonplace). The
whole general tone of the essays, also, shows the man, keen and worldly,
not at all a poet or idealist. How to succeed and make the most of
prosperity might be called the pervading theme of the essays, and subjects
which in themselves suggest spiritual treatment are actually considered in
accordance with a coldly intellectual calculation of worldly advantage.

The essays are scarcely less notable for style than for ideas. With
characteristic intellectual independence Bacon strikes out for himself an
extremely terse and clear manner of expression, doubtless influenced by
such Latin authors as Tacitus, which stands in marked contrast to the
formless diffuseness or artificial elaborateness of most Elizabethan and
Jacobean prose. His unit of structure is always a short clause. The
sentences are sometimes short, sometimes consist of a number of connected
clauses; but they are always essentially loose rather than periodic; so
that the thought is perfectly simple and its movement clear and systematic.
The very numerous allusions to classical history and life are not the
result of affectation, but merely indicate the natural furnishing of the
mind of the educated Renaissance gentleman. The essays, it should be added,
were evidently suggested and more or less influenced by those of the great
French thinker, Montaigne, an earlier contemporary of Bacon. The hold of
medieval scholarly tradition, it is further interesting to note, was still
so strong that in order to insure their permanent preservation Bacon
translated them into Latin--he took for granted that the English in which
he first composed them and in which they will always be known was only a
temporary vulgar tongue.

But Bacon's most important work, as we have already implied, was not in the
field of pure literature but in the general advancement of knowledge,
particularly knowledge of natural science; and of this great service we
must speak briefly. His avowal to Burghley, made as early as 1592, is
famous: 'I have taken all knowledge to be my province.' Briefly stated, his
purposes, constituting an absorbing and noble ambition, were to survey all
the learning of his time, in all lines of thought, natural science, morals,
politics, and the rest, to overthrow the current method of _a priori_
deduction, deduction resting, moreover, on very insufficient and
long-antiquated bases of observation, and to substitute for it as the
method of the future, unlimited fresh observation and experiment and
inductive reasoning. This enormous task was to be mapped out and its
results summarized in a Latin work called 'Magna Instauratio Scientiarum'
(The Great Renewal of Knowledge); but parts of this survey were necessarily
to be left for posterity to formulate, and of the rest Bacon actually
composed only a fraction. What may be called the first part appeared
originally in English in 1605 and is known by the abbreviated title, 'The
Advancement of Learning'; the expanded Latin form has the title, 'De
Augmentis Scientiarum.' Its exhaustive enumeration of the branches of
thought and knowledge, what has been accomplished in each and what may be
hoped for it in the future, is thoroughly fascinating, though even here
Bacon was not capable of passionate enthusiasm. However, the second part of
the work, 'Novum Organum' (The New Method), written in Latin and published
in 1620, is the most important. Most interesting here, perhaps, is the
classification (contrasting with Plato's doctrine of divinely perfect
controlling ideas) of the 'idols' (phantoms) which mislead the human mind.
Of these Bacon finds four sorts: idols of the tribe, which are inherent in
human nature; idols of the cave, the errors of the individual; idols of the
market-place, due to mistaken reliance on words; and idols of the theater
(that is, of the schools), resulting from false reasoning.

In the details of all his scholarly work Bacon's knowledge and point of
view were inevitably imperfect. Even in natural science he was not
altogether abreast of his time--he refused to accept Harvey's discovery of
the manner of the circulation of the blood and the Copernican system of
astronomy. Neither was he, as is sometimes supposed, the _inventor_ of
the inductive method of observation and reasoning, which in some degree is
fundamental in all study. But he did, much more fully and clearly than any
one before him, demonstrate the importance and possibilities of that
method; modern experimental science and thought have proceeded directly in
the path which he pointed out; and he is fully entitled to the great honor
of being called their father, which certainly places him high among the
great figures in the history of human thought.

THE KING JAMES BIBLE, 1611. It was during the reign of James I that the
long series of sixteenth century translations of the Bible reached its
culmination in what we have already called the greatest of all English
books (or rather, collections of books), the King James ('Authorized')
version. In 1604 an ecclesiastical conference accepted a suggestion,
approved by the king, that a new and more accurate rendering of the Bible
should be made. The work was entrusted to a body of about fifty scholars,
who divided themselves into six groups, among which the various books of
the Bible were apportioned. The resulting translation, proceeding with the
inevitable slowness, was completed in 1611, and then rather rapidly
superseded all other English versions for both public and private use. This
King James Bible is universally accepted as the chief masterpiece of
English prose style. The translators followed previous versions so far as
possible, checking them by comparison with the original Hebrew and Greek,
so that while attaining the greater correctness at which they aimed they
preserved the accumulated stylistic excellences of three generations of
their predecessors; and their language, properly varying according to the
nature of the different books, possesses an imaginative grandeur and rhythm
not unworthy--and no higher praise could be awarded--of the themes which it
expresses. The still more accurate scholarship of a later century demanded
the Revised Version of 1881, but the superior literary quality of the King
James version remains undisputed. Its style, by the nature of the case, was
somewhat archaic from the outset, and of course has become much more so
with the passage of time. This entails the practical disadvantage of making
the Bible--events, characters, and ideas--seem less real and living; but on
the other hand it helps inestimably to create the finer imaginative
atmosphere which is so essential for the genuine religious spirit.

MINOR PROSE WRITERS. Among the prose authors of the period who hold an
assured secondary position in the history of English literature three or
four may be mentioned: Robert Burton, Oxford scholar, minister, and
recluse, whose 'Anatomy of Melancholy' (1621), a vast and quaint compendium
of information both scientific and literary, has largely influenced
numerous later writers; Jeremy Taylor, royalist clergyman and bishop, one
of the most eloquent and spiritual of English preachers, author of 'Holy
Living' (1650) and 'Holy Dying' (1651); Izaak Walton, London tradesman and
student, best known for his 'Compleat Angler' (1653), but author also of
charming brief lives of Donne, George Herbert, and others of his
contemporaries; and Sir Thomas Browne, a scholarly physician of Norwich,
who elaborated a fastidiously poetic Latinized prose style for his
pensively delightful 'Religio Medici' (A Physician's Religion--1643) and
other works.

LYRIC POETRY. Apart from the drama and the King James Bible, the most
enduring literary achievement of the period was in poetry.
Milton--distinctly, after Shakspere, the greatest writer of the
century--must receive separate consideration; the more purely lyric poets
may be grouped together.

The absence of any sharp line of separation between the literature of the
reign of Elizabeth and of those of James I and Charles I is no less marked
in the case of the lyric poetry than of the drama. Some of the poets whom
we have already discussed in Chapter V continued writing until the second
decade of the seventeenth century, or later, and some of those whom we
shall here name had commenced their career well before 1600. Just as in the
drama, therefore, something of the Elizabethan spirit remains in the lyric
poetry; yet here also before many years there is a perceptible change; the
Elizabethan spontaneous joyousness largely vanishes and is replaced by more
self-conscious artistry or thought.

The Elizabethan note is perhaps most unmodified in certain anonymous songs
and other poems of the early years of James I, such as the exquisite 'Weep
you no more, sad fountains.' It is clear also in the charming songs of
Thomas Campion, a physician who composed both words and music for several
song-books, and in Michael Drayton, a voluminous poet and dramatist who is
known to most readers only for his finely rugged patriotic ballad on the
battle of Agincourt. Sir Henry Wotton, [Footnote: The first _o_ is
pronounced as in _note_.] statesman and Provost (head) of Eton School,
displays the Elizabethan idealism in 'The Character of a Happy Life' and in
his stanzas in praise of Elizabeth, daughter of King James, wife of the
ill-starred Elector-Palatine and King of Bohemia, and ancestress of the
present English royal family. The Elizabethan spirit is present but mingled
with seventeenth century melancholy in the sonnets and other poems of the
Scotch gentleman William Drummond of Hawthornden (the name of his estate
near Edinburgh), who in quiet life-long retirement lamented the untimely
death of the lady to whom he had been betrothed or meditated on heavenly

In Drummond appears the influence of Spenser, which was strong on many
poets of the period, especially on some, like William Browne, who continued
the pastoral form. Another of the main forces, in lyric poetry as in the
drama, was the beginning of the revival of the classical spirit, and in
lyric poetry also this was largely due to Ben Jonson. As we have already
said, the greater part of Jonson's non-dramatic poetry, like his dramas,
expresses chiefly the downright strength of his mind and character. It is
terse and unadorned, dealing often with commonplace things in the manner of
the Epistles and Satires of Horace, and it generally has more of the
quality of intellectual prose than of real emotional poetry. A very
favorable representative of it is the admirable, eulogy on Shakspere
included in the first folio edition of Shakspere's works. In a few
instances, however, Jonson strikes the true lyric note delightfully. Every
one knows and sings his two stanzas 'To Celia'--'Drink to me only with
thine eyes,' which would still be famous without the exquisitely
appropriate music that has come down to us from Jonson's own time, and
which are no less beautiful because they consist largely of ideas culled
from the Greek philosopher Theophrastus. In all his poems, however, Jonson
aims consistently at the classical virtues of clearness, brevity,
proportion, finish, and elimination of all excess.

These latter qualities appear also in the lyrics which abound in the plays
of John Fletcher, and yet it cannot be said that Fletcher's sweet melody is
more classical than Elizabethan. His other distinctive quality is the tone
of somewhat artificial courtliness which was soon to mark the lyrics of the
other poets of the Cavalier party. An avowed disciple of Jonson and his
classicism and a greater poet than Fletcher is Robert Herrick, who, indeed,
after Shakspere and Milton, is the finest lyric poet of these two

Herrick, the nephew of a wealthy goldsmith, seems, after a late graduation
from Cambridge, to have spent some years about the Court and in the band of
Jonson's 'sons.' Entering the Church when he was nearly forty, he received
the small country parish of Dean Prior in the southwest (Devonshire), which
he held for nearly twenty years, until 1647, when he was dispossessed by
the victorious Puritans. After the Restoration he was reinstated, and he
continued to hold the place until his death in old age in 1674. He
published his poems (all lyrics) in 1648 in a collection which he called
'Hesperides and Noble Numbers.' The 'Hesperides' (named from the golden
apples of the classical Garden of the Daughters of the Sun) are twelve
hundred little secular pieces, the 'Noble Numbers' a much less extensive
series of religious lyrics. Both sorts are written in a great variety of
stanza forms, all equally skilful and musical. Few of the poems extend
beyond fifteen or twenty lines in length, and many are mere epigrams of
four lines or even two. The chief secular subjects are: Herrick's devotion
to various ladies, Julia, Anthea, Perilla, and sundry more, all presumably
more or less imaginary; the joy and uncertainty of life; the charming
beauty of Nature; country life, folk lore, and festivals; and similar light
or familiar themes. Herrick's characteristic quality, so far as it can be
described, is a blend of Elizabethan joyousness with classical perfection
of finish. The finish, however, really the result of painstaking labor,
such as Herrick had observed in his uncle's shop and as Jonson had
enjoined, is perfectly unobtrusive; so apparently natural are the poems
that they seem the irrepressible unmeditated outpourings of happy and idle
moments. In care-free lyric charm Herrick can certainly never be surpassed;
he is certainly one of the most captivating of all the poets of the world.
Some of the 'Noble Numbers' are almost as pleasing as the 'Hesperides,' but
not because of real religious significance. For of anything that can be
called spiritual religion Herrick was absolutely incapable; his nature was
far too deficient in depth. He himself and his philosophy of life were
purely Epicurean, Hedonistic, or pagan, in the sense in which we use those
terms to-day. His forever controlling sentiment is that to which he gives
perfect expression in his best-known song, 'Gather ye rosebuds,' namely the
Horatian 'Carpe diem'--'Snatch all possible pleasure from the
rapidly-fleeting hours and from this gloriously delightful world.' He is
said to have performed his religious duties with regularity; though
sometimes in an outburst of disgust at the stupidity of his rustic
parishioners he would throw his sermon in their faces and rush out of the
church. Put his religion is altogether conventional. He thanks God for
material blessings, prays for their continuance, and as the conclusion of
everything, in compensation for a formally orthodox life, or rather creed,
expects when he dies to be admitted to Heaven. The simple naïveté with
which he expresses this skin-deep and primitive faith is, indeed, one of
the chief sources of charm in the 'Noble Numbers.'

Herrick belongs in part to a group of poets who, being attached to the
Court, and devoting some, at least, of their verses to conventional
love-making, are called the Cavalier Poets. Among the others Thomas Carew
follows the classical principles of Jonson in lyrics which are facile,
smooth, and sometimes a little frigid. Sir John Suckling, a handsome and
capricious representative of all the extravagances of the Court set, with
whom he was enormously popular, tossed off with affected carelessness a
mass of slovenly lyrics of which a few audaciously impudent ones are worthy
to survive. From the equally chaotic product of Colonel Richard Lovelace
stand out the two well-known bits of noble idealism, 'To Lucasta, Going to
the Wars,' and 'To Althea, from Prison.' George Wither (1588-1667), a much
older man than Suckling and Lovelace, may be mentioned with them as the
writer in his youth of light-hearted love-poems. But in the Civil War he
took the side of Parliament and under Cromwell he rose to the rank of
major-general. In his later life he wrote a great quantity of Puritan
religious verse, largely prosy in spite of his fluency.

The last important group among these lyrists is that of the more distinctly
religious poets. The chief of these, George Herbert (1593-1633), the
subject of one of the most delightful of the short biographies of Izaak
Walton, belonged to a distinguished family of the Welsh Border, one branch
of which held the earldom of Pembroke, so that the poet was related to the
young noble who may have been Shakspere's patron. He was also younger
brother of Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury, an inveterate duellist and the
father of English Deism. [Footnote: See below, p. 212.] Destined by his
mother to peaceful pursuits, he wavered from the outset between two forces,
religious devotion and a passion for worldly comfort and distinction. For a
long period the latter had the upper hand, and his life has been described
by his best editor, Professor George Herbert Palmer, as twenty-seven years
of vacillation and three of consecrated service. Appointed Public Orator,
or showman, of his university, Cambridge, he spent some years in enjoying
the somewhat trifling elegancies of life and in truckling to the great.
Then, on the death of his patrons, he passed through a period of intense
crisis from which he emerged wholly spiritualized. The three remaining
years of his life he spent in the little country parish of Bemerton, just
outside of Salisbury, as a fervent High Church minister, or as he preferred
to name himself, priest, in the strictest devotion to his professional
duties and to the practices of an ascetic piety which to the usual American
mind must seem about equally admirable and conventional. His religious
poems, published after his death in a volume called 'The Temple,' show
mainly two things, first his intense and beautiful consecration to his
personal God and Saviour, which, in its earnest sincerity, renders him
distinctly the most representative poet of the Church of England, and
second the influence of Donne, who was a close friend of his mother. The
titles of most of the poems, often consisting of a single word, are
commonly fantastic and symbolical--for example, 'The Collar,' meaning the
yoke of submission to God; and his use of conceits, though not so pervasive
as with Donne, is equally contorted. To a present-day reader the apparent
affectations may seem at first to throw doubt on Herbert's genuineness; but
in reality he was aiming to dedicate to religious purposes what appeared to
him the highest style of poetry. Without question he is, in a true if
special sense, a really great poet.

The second of these religious poets, Richard Crashaw, [Footnote: The first
vowel is pronounced as in the noun _crash_.] whose life (1612-1649)
was not quite so short as Herbert's, combined an ascetic devotion with a
glowingly sensuous esthetic nature that seems rather Spanish than English.
Born into an extreme Protestant family, but outraged by the wanton
iconoclasm of the triumphant Puritans, and deprived by them of his
fellowship, at Cambridge, he became a Catholic and died a canon in the
church of the miracle-working Lady (Virgin Mary) of Loretto in Italy. His
most characteristic poetry is marked by extravagant conceits and by
ecstatic outbursts of emotion that have been called more ardent than
anything else in English; though he sometimes writes also in a vein of calm
and limpid beauty. He was a poetic disciple of Herbert, as he avowed by
humbly entitling his volume 'Steps to the Temple.'

The life of Henry Vaughan [Footnote: The second _a_ is not now
sounded.] (1621-1695) stands in contrast to those of Herbert and Crashaw
both by its length and by its quietness. Vaughan himself emphasized his
Welsh race by designating himself 'The Silurist' (native of South Wales).
After an incomplete university course at Jesus College (the Welsh college),
Oxford, and some apparently idle years in London among Jonson's disciples,
perhaps also after serving the king in the war, he settled down in his
native mountains to the self-denying life of a country physician. His
important poems were mostly published at this time, in 1650 and 1655, in
the collection which he named 'Silex Scintillans' (The Flaming Flint), a
title explained by the frontispiece, which represents a flinty heart
glowing under the lightning stroke of God's call. Vaughan's chief traits
are a very fine and calm philosophic-religious spirit and a carefully
observant love of external Nature, in which he sees mystic revelations of
God. In both respects he is closely akin to the later and greater
Wordsworth, and his 'Retreat' has the same theme as Wordsworth's famous
'Ode on Intimations of Immortality,' the idea namely that children have a
greater spiritual sensitiveness than older persons, because they have come
to earth directly from a former life in Heaven.

The contrast between the chief Anglican and Catholic religious poets of
this period has been thus expressed by a discerning critic: 'Herrick's
religious emotions are only as ripples on a shallow lake when compared to
the crested waves of Crashaw, the storm-tides of Herbert, and the deep-sea
stirrings of Vaughan.'

We may give a further word of mention to the voluminous Francis Quarles,
who in his own day and long after enjoyed enormous popularity, especially
among members of the Church of England and especially for his 'Emblems,' a
book of a sort common in Europe for a century before his time, in which
fantastic woodcuts, like Vaughan's 'Silex Scintillans,' were illustrated
with short poems of religious emotion, chiefly dominated by fear. But
Quarles survives only as an interesting curiosity.

Three other poets whose lives belong to the middle of the century may be
said to complete this entire lyric group. Andrew Marvell, a very moderate
Puritan, joined with Milton in his office of Latin Secretary under
Cromwell, wrote much poetry of various sorts, some of it in the Elizabethan
octosyllabic couplet. He voices a genuine love of Nature, like Wither often
in the pastoral form; but his best-known poem is the 'Horatian Ode upon
Cromwell's Return from Ireland,' containing the famous eulogy of King
Charles' bearing at his execution. Abraham Cowley, a youthful prodigy and
always conspicuous for intellectual power, was secretary to Queen Henrietta
Maria after her flight to France and later was a royalist spy in England.
His most conspicuous poems are his so-called 'Pindaric Odes,' in which he
supposed that he was imitating the structure of the Greek Pindar but really
originated the pseudo-Pindaric Ode, a poem in irregular, non-correspondent
stanzas. He is the last important representative of the 'Metaphysical'
style. In his own day he was acclaimed as the greatest poet of all time,
but as is usual in such cases his reputation very rapidly waned. Edmund
Waller (1606-1687), a very wealthy gentleman in public life who played a
flatly discreditable part in the Civil War, is most important for his share
in shaping the riming pentameter couplet into the smooth pseudo-classical
form rendered famous by Dryden and Pope; but his only notable single poems
are two Cavalier love-lyrics in stanzas, 'On a Girdle' and 'Go, Lovely

JOHN MILTON, 1608-1674. Conspicuous above all his contemporaries as the
representative poet of Puritanism, and, by almost equally general consent,
distinctly the greatest of English poets except Shakspere, stands John
Milton. His life falls naturally into three periods: 1. Youth and
preparation, 1608-1639, when he wrote his shorter poems. 2. Public life,
1639-1660, when he wrote, or at least published, in poetry, only a few
sonnets. 3. Later years, 1660-1674, of outer defeat, but of chief poetic
achievement, the period of 'Paradise Lost,' 'Paradise Regained,' and
'Samson Agonistes.'

Milton was born in London in December, 1608. His father was a prosperous
scrivener, or lawyer of the humbler sort, and a Puritan, but broad-minded,
and his children were brought up in the love of music, beauty, and
learning. At the age of twelve the future poet was sent to St. Paul's
School, and he tells us that from this time on his devotion to study seldom
allowed him to leave his books earlier than midnight. At sixteen, in 1625,
he entered Cambridge, where he remained during the seven years required for
the M. A. degree, and where he was known as 'the lady of Christ's'
[College], perhaps for his beauty, of which all his life he continued
proud, perhaps for his moral scrupulousness. Milton was never, however, a
conventional prig, and a quarrel with a self-important tutor led at one
time to his informal suspension from the University. His nature, indeed,
had many elements quite inconsistent with the usual vague popular
conception of him. He was always not only inflexible in his devotion to
principle, but--partly, no doubt, from consciousness of his intellectual
superiority--haughty as well as reserved, self-confident, and little
respectful of opinions and feelings that clashed with his own. Nevertheless
in his youth he had plenty of animal spirits and always for his friends
warm human sympathies.

To his college years belong two important poems. His Christmas hymn, the
'Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity,' shows the influence of his early
poetical master, Spenser, and of contemporary pastoral poets, though it
also contains some conceits--truly poetic conceits, however, not exercises
in intellectual cleverness like many of those of Donne and his followers.
With whatever qualifications, it is certainly one of the great English
lyrics, and its union of Renaissance sensuousness with grandeur of
conception and sureness of expression foretell clearly enough at twenty the
poet of 'Paradise Lost.' The sonnet on his twenty-third birthday, further,
is known to almost every reader of poetry as the best short expression in
literature of the dedication of one's life and powers to God.

Milton had planned to enter the ministry, but the growing predominance of
the High-Church party made this impossible for him, and on leaving the
University in 1632 he retired to the country estate which his parents now
occupied at Horton, twenty miles west of London. Here, for nearly six
years, amid surroundings which nourished his poet's love for Nature, he
devoted his time chiefly to further mastery of the whole range of approved
literature, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and English. His poems of these
years also are few, but they too are of the very highest quality.
'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso' are idealized visions, in the tripping
Elizabethan octosyllabic couplet, of the pleasures of suburban life viewed
in moods respectively of light-hearted happiness and of reflection.
'Comus,' the last of the Elizabethan and Jacobean masks, combines an
exquisite poetic beauty and a real dramatic action more substantial than
that of any other mask with a serious moral theme (the security of Virtue)
in a fashion that renders it unique. 'Lycidas' is one of the supreme
English elegies; though the grief which helps to create its power sprang
more from the recent death of the poet's mother than from that of the
nominal subject, his college acquaintance, Edward King, and though in the
hands of a lesser artist the solemn denunciation of the false leaders of
the English Church might not have been wrought into so fine a harmony with
the pastoral form.

Milton's first period ends with an experience designed to complete his
preparation for his career, a fifteen months' tour in France and Italy,
where the highest literary circles received him cordially. From this trip
he returned in 1639, sooner than he had planned, because, he said, the
public troubles at home, foreshadowing the approaching war, seemed to him a
call to service; though in fact some time intervened before his entrance on
public life.

The twenty years which follow, the second period of Milton's career,
developed and modified his nature and ideas in an unusual degree and
fashion. Outwardly the occupations which they brought him appear chiefly as
an unfortunate waste of his great poetic powers. The sixteen sonnets which
belong here show how nobly this form could be adapted to the varied
expression of the most serious thought, but otherwise Milton abandoned
poetry, at least the publication of it, for prose, and for prose which was
mostly ephemeral. Taking up his residence in London, for some time he
carried on a small private school in his own house, where he much
overworked his boys in the mistaken effort to raise their intellectual
ambitions to the level of his own. Naturally unwilling to confine himself
to a private sphere, he soon engaged in a prose controversy supporting the
Puritan view against the Episcopal form of church government, that is
against the office of bishops. There shortly followed the most regrettable
incident in his whole career, which pathetically illustrates also the lack
of a sense of humor which was perhaps his greatest defect. At the age of
thirty-four, and apparently at first sight, he suddenly married Mary
Powell, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a royalist country gentleman
with whom his family had long maintained some business and social
relations. Evidently this daughter of the Cavaliers met a rude
disillusionment in Milton's Puritan household and in his Old Testament
theory of woman's inferiority and of a wife's duty of strict subjection to
her husband; a few weeks after the marriage she fled to her family and
refused to return. Thereupon, with characteristic egoism, Milton put forth
a series of pamphlets on divorce, arguing, contrary to English law, and
with great scandal to the public, that mere incompatibility of temper was
adequate ground for separation. He even proceeded so far as to make
proposals of marriage to another woman. But after two years and the ruin of
the royalist cause his wife made unconditional submission, which Milton
accepted, and he also received and supported her whole family in his house.
Meanwhile his divorce pamphlets had led to the best of his prose writings.
He had published the pamphlets without the license of Parliament, then
required for all books, and a suit was begun against him. He replied with
'Areopagitica,' an, eloquent and noble argument against the licensing
system and in favor of freedom of publication within the widest possible
limits. (The name is an allusion to the condemnation of the works of
Protagoras by the Athenian Areopagus.) In the stress of public affairs the
attack on him was dropped, but the book remains, a deathless plea for
individual liberty.

Now at last Milton was drawn into active public life. The execution of the
King by the extreme Puritan minority excited an outburst of indignation not
only in England but throughout Europe. Milton, rising to the occasion,
defended the act in a pamphlet, thereby beginning a paper controversy,
chiefly with the Dutch scholar Salmasius, which lasted for several years.
By 1652 it had resulted in the loss of Milton's eyesight, previously
over-strained by his studies--a sacrifice in which he gloried but which
lovers of poetry must always regret, especially since the controversy
largely consisted, according to the custom of the time, in a disgusting
exchange of personal scurrilities. Milton's championship of the existing
government, however, together with his scholarship, had at once secured for
him the position of Latin secretary, or conductor of the diplomatic
correspondence of the State with foreign countries. He held this office,
after the loss of his eyesight, with Marvell as a colleague, under both
Parliament and Cromwell, but it is an error to suppose that he exerted any
influence in the management of affairs or that he was on familiar terms
with the Protector. At the Restoration he necessarily lost both the
position and a considerable part of his property, and for a while he went
into hiding; but through the efforts of Marvell and others he was finally
included in the general amnesty.

In the remaining fourteen years which make the third period of his life
Milton stands out for subsequent ages as a noble figure. His very obstinacy
and egoism now enabled him, blind, comparatively poor, and the
representative of a lost cause, to maintain his proud and patient dignity
in the midst of the triumph of all that was most hateful to him, and, as he
believed, to God. His isolation, indeed, was in many respects extreme,
though now as always he found the few sympathetic friends on whom his
nature was quite dependent. His religious beliefs had become what would at
present be called Unitarian, and he did not associate with any of the
existing denominations; in private theory he had even come to believe in
polygamy. At home he is said to have suffered from the coldness or more
active antipathy of his three daughters, which is no great cause for wonder
if we must credit the report that he compelled them to read aloud to him in
foreign languages of which he had taught them the pronunciation but not the
meaning. Their mother had died some years before, and he had soon lost the
second wife who is the subject of one of his finest sonnets. In 1663, at
the age of fifty-four, he was united in a third marriage to Elizabeth
Minshull, a woman of twenty-four, who was to survive him for more than
fifty years.

The important fact of this last period, however, is that Milton now had the
leisure to write, or to complete, 'Paradise Lost.' For a quarter of a
century he had avowedly cherished the ambition to produce 'such a work as
the world would not willingly let die' and had had in mind, among others,
the story of Man's Fall. Outlines for a treatment of it not in epic but in
dramatic form are preserved in a list of a hundred possible subjects for a
great work which he drew up as early as 1640, and during the Commonwealth
period he seems not only to have been slowly maturing the plan but to have
composed parts of the existing poem; nevertheless the actual work of
composition belongs chiefly to the years following 1660. The story as told
in Genesis had received much elaboration in Christian tradition from a very
early period and Milton drew largely from this general tradition and no
doubt to some extent from various previous treatments of the Bible
narrative in several languages which he might naturally have read and kept
in mind. But beyond the simple outline the poem, like every great work, is
essentially the product of his own genius. He aimed, specifically, to
produce a Christian epic which should rank with the great epics of
antiquity and with those of the Italian Renaissance.

In this purpose he was entirely successful. As a whole, by the consent of
all competent judges, 'Paradise Lost' is worthy of its theme, perhaps the
greatest that the mind of man can conceive, namely 'to justify the ways of
God.' Of course there are defects. The seventeenth century theology, like
every successive theological, philosophical, and scientific system, has
lost its hold on later generations, and it becomes dull indeed in the long
expository passages of the poem. The attempt to express spiritual ideas
through the medium of the secular epic, with its battles and councils and
all the forms of physical life, is of course rationally paradoxical. It was
early pointed out that in spite of himself Milton has in some sense made
Satan the hero of the poem--a reader can scarcely fail to sympathize with
the fallen archangel in his unconquerable Puritan-like resistance to the
arbitrary decrees of Milton's despotic Deity. Further, Milton's personal,
English, and Puritan prejudices sometimes intrude in various ways. But all
these things are on the surface. In sustained imaginative grandeur of
conception, expression, and imagery 'Paradise Lost' yields to no human
work, and the majestic and varied movement of the blank verse, here first
employed in a really great non-dramatic English poem, is as magnificent as
anything else in literature. It cannot be said that the later books always
sustain the greatness of the first two; but the profusely scattered
passages of sensuous description, at least, such as those of the Garden of
Eden and of the beauty of Eve, are in their own way equally fine. Stately
and more familiar passages alike show that however much his experience had
done to harden Milton's Puritanism, his youthful Renaissance love of beauty
for beauty's sake had lost none of its strength, though of course it could
no longer be expressed with youthful lightness of fancy and melody. The
poem is a magnificent example of classical art, in the best Greek spirit,
united with glowing romantic feeling. Lastly, the value of Milton's
scholarship should by no means be overlooked. All his poetry, from the
'Nativity Ode' onward, is like a rich mosaic of gems borrowed from a great
range of classical and modern authors, and in 'Paradise Lost' the allusions
to literature and history give half of the romantic charm and very much of
the dignity. The poem could have been written only by one who combined in a
very high degree intellectual power, poetic feeling, religious idealism,
profound scholarship and knowledge of literature, and also experienced
knowledge of the actual world of men.

'Paradise Lost' was published in 1677. It was followed in 1671 by 'Paradise
Regained,' only one-third as long and much less important; and by 'Samson
Agonistes' (Samson in his Death Struggle). In the latter Milton puts the
story of the fallen hero's last days into the majestic form of a Greek
drama, imparting to it the passionate but lofty feeling evoked by the close
similarity of Samson's situation to his own. This was his last work, and he
died in 1674. Whatever his faults, the moral, intellectual and poetic
greatness of his nature sets him apart as in a sense the grandest figure in
English literature.

JOHN BUNYAN. Seventeenth century Puritanism was to find a supreme spokesman
in prose fiction as well as in poetry; John Milton and John Bunyan,
standing at widely different angles of experience, make one of the most
interesting complementary pairs in all literature. By the mere chronology
of his works, Bunyan belongs in our next period, but in his case mere
chronology must be disregarded.

Bunyan was born in 1628 at the village of Elstow, just outside of Bedford,
in central England. After very slight schooling and some practice at his
father's trade of tinker, he was in 1644 drafted for two years and a half
into garrison service in the Parliamentary army. Released from this
occupation, he married a poor but excellent wife and worked at his trade;
but the important experiences of his life were the religious ones. Endowed
by nature with great moral sensitiveness, he was nevertheless a person of
violent impulses and had early fallen into profanity and laxity of conduct,
which he later described with great exaggeration as a condition of
abandoned wickedness. But from childhood his abnormally active dramatic
imagination had tormented him with dreams and fears of devils and
hell-fire, and now he entered on a long and agonizing struggle between his
religious instinct and his obstinate self-will. He has told the whole story
in his spiritual autobiography, 'Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,'
which is one of the notable religious books of the world. A reader of it
must be filled about equally with admiration for the force of will and
perseverance that enabled Bunyan at last to win his battle, and pity for
the fantastic morbidness that created out of next to nothing most of his
well-nigh intolerable tortures. One Sunday, for example, fresh from a
sermon on Sabbath observance, he was engaged in a game of 'cat,' when he
suddenly heard within himself the question, 'Wilt thou leave thy sins and
go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?' Stupefied, he looked up to
the sky and seemed there to see the Lord Jesus gazing at him 'hotly
displeased' and threatening punishment. Again, one of his favorite
diversions was to watch bellmen ringing the chimes in the church steeples,
and though his Puritan conscience insisted that the pleasure was 'vain,'
still he would not forego it. Suddenly one day as he was indulging in it
the thought occurred to him that God might cause one of the bells to fall
and kill him, and he hastened to shield himself by standing under a beam.
But, he reflected, the bell might easily rebound from the wall and strike
him; so he shifted his position to the steeple-door. Then 'it came into his
head, "How if the steeple itself should fall?"' and with that he fled alike
from the controversy and the danger.

Relief came when at the age of twenty-four he joined a non-sectarian church
in Bedford (his own point of view being Baptist). A man of so energetic
spirit could not long remain inactive, and within two years he was
preaching in the surrounding villages. A dispute with the Friends had
already led to the beginning of his controversial writing when in 1660 the
Restoration rendered preaching by persons outside the communion of the
Church of England illegal, and he was arrested and imprisoned in Bedford
jail. Consistently refusing to give the promise of submission and
abstention from preaching which at any time would have secured his release,
he continued in prison for twelve years, not suffering particular
discomfort and working for the support of his family by fastening the ends
onto shoestrings. During this time he wrote and published several of the
most important of his sixty books and pamphlets. At last, in 1672, the
authorities abandoned the ineffective requirement of conformity, and he was
released and became pastor of his church. Three years later he was again
imprisoned for six months, and it was at that time that he composed the
first part of 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' which was published in 1678. During
the remaining ten years of his life his reputation and authority among the
Dissenters almost equalled his earnest devotion and kindness, and won for
him from his opponents the good-naturedly jocose title of 'the Baptist
bishop.' He died in 1688.

Several of Bunyan's books are strong, but none of the others is to be named
together with 'The Pilgrim's Progress.' This has been translated into
nearly or quite a hundred languages and dialects--a record never approached
by any other book of English authorship. The sources of its power are
obvious. It is the intensely sincere presentation by a man of tremendous
moral energy of what he believed to be the one subject of eternal and
incalculable importance to every human being, the subject namely of
personal salvation. Its language and style, further, are founded on the
noble and simple model of the English Bible, which was almost the only book
that Bunyan knew, and with which his whole being was saturated. His
triumphant and loving joy in his religion enables him often to attain the
poetic beauty and eloquence of his original; but both by instinct and of
set purpose he rendered his own style even more simple and direct, partly
by the use of homely vernacular expressions. What he had said in 'Grace
Abounding' is equally true here: 'I could have stepped into a style much
higher ... but I dare not. God did not play in convincing of me ...
wherefore I may not play in my relating of these experiences.' 'Pilgrim's
Progress' is perfectly intelligible to any child, and further, it is highly
dramatic and picturesque. It is, to be sure, an allegory, but one of those
allegories which seem inherent in the human mind and hence more natural
than the most direct narrative. For all men life is indeed a journey, and
the Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair, and the Valley of
Humiliation are places where in one sense or another every human soul has
often struggled and suffered; so that every reader goes hand in hand with
Christian and his friends, fears for them in their dangers and rejoices in
their escapes. The incidents, however, have all the further fascination of
supernatural romance; and the union of this element with the homely
sincerity of the style accounts for much of the peculiar quality of the
book. Universal in its appeal, absolutely direct and vivid in manner--such
a work might well become, as it speedily did, one of the most famous of
world classics. It is interesting to learn, therefore, that Bunyan had
expected its circulation to be confined to the common people; the early
editions are as cheap as possible in paper, printing, and illustrations.

Criticism, no doubt, easily discovers in 'Pilgrim's Progress' technical
faults. The story often lacks the full development and balance of incidents
and narration which a trained literary artist would have given it; the
allegory is inconsistent in a hundred ways and places; the characters are
only types; and Bunyan, always more preacher than artist, is distinctly
unfair to the bad ones among them. But these things are unimportant. Every
allegory is inconsistent, and Bunyan repeatedly takes pains to emphasize
that this is a dream; while the simplicity of character-treatment increases
the directness of the main effect. When all is said, the book remains the
greatest example in literature of what absolute earnestness may make
possible for a plain and untrained man. Nothing, of course, can alter the
fundamental distinctions. 'Paradise Lost' is certainly greater than
'Pilgrim's Progress,' because it is the work of a poet and a scholar as
well as a religious enthusiast. But 'Pilgrim's Progress,' let it be said
frankly, will always find a dozen readers where Milton has one by choice,
and no man can afford to think otherwise than respectfully of achievements
which speak powerfully and nobly to the underlying instincts and needs of
all mankind.

The naturalness of the allegory, it may be added, renders the resemblance
of 'Pilgrim's Progress' to many previous treatments of the same theme and
to less closely parallel works like 'The Faerie Queene' probably
accidental; in any significant sense Bunyan probably had no other source
than the Bible and his own imagination.



(_For the political events leading up to the Restoration see above, pages
141-142._) [Footnote: This is the period of Scott's 'Old Mortality' and
'Legend of Montrose.']

GENERAL CONDITIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS. The repudiation of the Puritan rule
by the English people and the Restoration of the Stuart kings in the person
of Charles II, in 1660, mark one of the most decisive changes in English
life and literature. The preceding half century had really been
transitional, and during its course, as we have seen, the Elizabethan
adventurous energy and half-naif greatness of spirit had more and more
disappeared. With the coming of Charles II the various tendencies which had
been replacing these forces seemed to crystallize into their almost
complete opposites. This was true to a large extent throughout the country;
but it was especially true of London and the Court party, to which
literature of most sorts was now to be perhaps more nearly limited than
ever before.

The revolt of the nation was directed partly against the irresponsible
injustice of the Puritan military government but largely also against the
excessive moral severity of the whole Puritan régime. Accordingly a large
part of the nation, but particularly the Court, now plunged into an orgy of
self-indulgence in which moral restraints almost ceased to be regarded. The
new king and his nobles had not only been led by years of proscription and
exile to hate on principle everything that bore the name of Puritan, but
had spent their exile at the French Court, where utterly cynical and
selfish pursuit of pleasure and licentiousness of conduct were merely
masked by conventionally polished manners. The upshot was that the quarter
century of the renewed Stuart rule was in almost all respects the most
disgraceful period of English history and life. In everything, so far as
possible, the restored Cavaliers turned their backs on their immediate
predecessors. The Puritans, in particular, had inherited the enthusiasm
which had largely made the greatness of the Elizabethan period but had in
great measure shifted it into the channel of their religion. Hence to the
Restoration courtiers enthusiasm and outspoken emotion seemed marks of
hypocrisy and barbarism. In opposition to such tendencies they aimed to
realize the ideal of the man of the world, sophisticated, skeptical,
subjecting everything to the scrutiny of the reason, and above all,
well-bred. Well-bred, that is, according to the artificial social standards
of a selfish aristocratic class; for the actual manners of the courtiers,
as of such persons at all times, were in many respects disgustingly crude.
In religion most of them professed adherence to the English Church (some to
the Catholic), but it was a conventional adherence to an institution of the
State and a badge of party allegiance, not a matter of spiritual conviction
or of any really deep feeling. The Puritans, since they refused to return
to the English (Established) Church, now became known as Dissenters.

The men of the Restoration, then, deliberately repudiated some of the chief
forces which seem to a romantic age to make life significant. As a natural
corollary they concentrated their interest on the sphere of the practical
and the actual. In science, particularly, they continued with marked
success the work of Bacon and his followers. Very shortly after the
Restoration the Royal Society was founded for the promotion of research and
scientific knowledge, and it was during this period that Sir Isaac Newton
(a man in every respect admirable) made his vastly important discoveries in
physics, mathematics, and astronomy.

In literature, both prose and verse, the rationalistic and practical spirit
showed itself in the enthroning above everything else of the principles of
utility and common sense in substance and straightforward directness in
style. The imaginative treatment of the spiritual life, as in 'Paradise
Lost' or 'The Faerie Queene,' or the impassioned exaltation of imaginative
beauty, as in much Elizabethan poetry, seemed to the typical men of the
Restoration unsubstantial and meaningless, and they had no ambition to
attempt flights in those realms. In anything beyond the tangible affairs of
visible life, indeed, they had little real belief, and they preferred that
literature should restrain itself within the safe limits of the known and
the demonstrable. Hence the characteristic Restoration verse is satire of a
prosaic sort which scarcely belongs to poetry at all. More fortunate
results of the prevailing spirit were the gradual abandonment of the
conceits and irregularities of the 'metaphysical' poets, and, most
important, the perfecting of the highly regular rimed pentameter couplet,
the one great formal achievement of the time in verse. In prose style the
same tendencies resulted in a distinct advance. Thitherto English prose had
seldom attained to thorough conciseness and order; it had generally been
more or less formless or involved in sentence structure or pretentious in
general manner; but the Restoration writers substantially formed the more
logical and clear-cut manner which, generally speaking, has prevailed ever

Quite consistent with this commonsense spirit, as the facts were then
interpreted, was the allegiance which Restoration writers rendered to the
literature of classical antiquity, an allegiance which has gained for this
period and the following half-century, where the same attitude was still
more strongly emphasized, the name 'pseudo-classical.' We have before noted
that the enthusiasm for Greek and Latin literature which so largely
underlay the Renaissance took in Ben Jonson and his followers, in part, the
form of a careful imitation of the external technique of the classical
writers. In France and Italy at the same time this tendency was still
stronger and much more general. The seventeenth century was the great
period of French tragedy (Corneille and Racine), which attempted to base
itself altogether on classical tragedy. Still more representative, however,
were the numerous Italian and French critics, who elaborated a complex
system of rules, among them, for tragedy, those of the 'three unities,'
which they believed to dominate classic literature. Many of these rules
were trivial and absurd, and the insistence of the critics upon them showed
an unfortunate inability to grasp the real spirit of the classic,
especially of Greek, literature. In all this, English writers and critics
of the Restoration period and the next half-century very commonly followed
the French and Italians deferentially. Hence it is that the literature of
the time is pseudo-classical (false classical) rather than true classical.
But this reduction of art to strict order and decorum, it should be clear,
was quite in accord with the whole spirit of the time.

One particular social institution of the period should be mentioned for its
connection with literature, namely the coffee houses, which, introduced
about the middle of the century, soon became very popular and influential.
They were, in our own idiom, cafés, where men met to sip coffee or
chocolate and discuss current topics. Later, in the next century, they
often developed into clubs.

MINOR WRITERS. The contempt which fell upon the Puritans as a deposed and
unpopular party found stinging literary expression in one of the most
famous of English satires, Samuel Butler's 'Hudibras.' Butler, a reserved
and saturnine man, spent much of his uneventful life in the employ
(sometimes as steward) of gentlemen and nobles, one of whom, a Puritan
officer, Sir Samuel Luke, was to serve as the central lay-figure for his
lampoon. 'Hudibras,' which appeared in three parts during a period of
fifteen years, is written, like previous English satires, in
rough-and-ready doggerel verse, in this case verse of octosyllabic couplets
and in the form of a mock-epic. It ridicules the intolerance and
sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Puritans as the Cavaliers insisted on seeing
them in the person of the absurd Sir Hudibras and his squire Ralph (partly
suggested by Cervantes' Don Quixote and Sancho). These sorry figures are
made to pass very unheroically through a series of burlesque adventures.
The chief power of the production lies in its fire of witty epigrams, many
of which have become familiar quotations, for example:

  He could distinguish, and divide,
  A hair 'twixt south and south-west side.
  Compound for sins they are inclined to
  By damning those they have no mind to.

Though the king and Court took unlimited delight in 'Hudibras' they
displayed toward Butler their usual ingratitude and allowed him to pass his
latter years in obscure poverty.

Some of the other central characteristics of the age appear in a unique
book, the voluminous 'Diary' which Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peps), a
typical representative of the thrifty and unimaginative citizen class, kept
in shorthand for ten years beginning in 1660. Pepys, who ultimately became
Secretary to the Admiralty, and was a hard-working and very able naval
official, was also astonishingly naïf and vain. In his 'Diary' he records
in the greatest detail, without the least reserve (and with no idea of
publication) all his daily doings, public and private, and a large part of
his thoughts. The absurdities and weaknesses, together with the better
traits, of a man spiritually shallow and yet very human are here revealed
with a frankness unparalleled and almost incredible. Fascinating as a
psychological study, the book also affords the fullest possible information
about all the life of the period, especially the familiar life, not on
dress-parade. In rather sharp contrast stands the 'Diary' of John Evelyn,
which in much shorter space and virtually only in a series of glimpses
covers seventy years of time. Evelyn was a real gentleman and scholar who
occupied an honorable position in national life; his 'Diary,' also,
furnishes a record, but a dignified record, of his public and private

THE RESTORATION DRAMA. The moral anarchy of the period is most strikingly
exhibited in its drama, particularly in its comedy and 'comedy of manners.'
These plays, dealing mostly with love-actions in the setting of the Court
or of fashionable London life, and carrying still further the general
spirit of those of Fletcher and Shirley a generation or two earlier,
deliberately ridicule moral principles and institutions, especially
marriage, and are always in one degree or another grossly indecent.
Technically they are often clever; according to that definition of
literature which includes a moral standard, they are not literature at all.
To them, however, we shall briefly return at the end of the chapter.

JOHN DRYDEN, 1631-1700. No other English literary period is so thoroughly
represented and summed up in the works of a single man as is the
Restoration period in John Dryden, a writer in some respects akin to Ben
Jonson, of prolific and vigorous talent without the crowning quality of

Dryden, the son of a family of Northamptonshire country gentry, was born in
1631. From Westminster School and Cambridge he went, at about the age of
twenty-six and possessed by inheritance of a minimum living income, to
London, where he perhaps hoped to get political preferment through his
relatives in the Puritan party. His serious entrance into literature was
made comparatively late, in 1659, with a eulogizing poem on Cromwell on the
occasion of the latter's death. When, the next year, Charles II was
restored, Dryden shifted to the Royalist side and wrote some poems in honor
of the king. Dryden's character should not be judged from this incident and
similar ones in his later life too hastily nor without regard to the spirit
of the times. Aside from the fact that Dryden had never professed,
probably, to be a radical Puritan, he certainly was not, like Milton and
Bunyan, a heroic person, nor endowed with deep and dynamic convictions; on
the other hand, he was very far from being base or dishonorable--no one can
read his works attentively without being impressed by their spirit of
straightforward manliness. Controlled, like his age, by cool common sense
and practical judgment, he kept his mind constantly open to new
impressions, and was more concerned to avoid the appearance of bigotry and
unreason than to maintain that of consistency. In regard to politics and
even religion he evidently shared the opinion, bred in many of his
contemporaries by the wasteful strife of the previous generations, that
beyond a few fundamental matters the good citizen should make no close
scrutiny of details but rather render loyal support to the established
institutions of the State, by which peace is preserved and anarchy
restrained. Since the nation had recalled Charles II, overthrown
Puritanism, and reëstablished the Anglican Church, it probably appeared to
Dryden an act of patriotism as well as of expediency to accept its

Dryden's marriage with the daughter of an earl, two or three years after
the Restoration, secured his social position, and for more than fifteen
years thereafter his life was outwardly successful. He first turned to the
drama. In spite of the prohibitory Puritan law (above, p. 150), a facile
writer, Sir William Davenant, had begun, cautiously, a few years before the
Restoration, to produce operas and other works of dramatic nature; and the
returning Court had brought from Paris a passion for the stage, which
therefore offered the best and indeed the only field for remunerative
literary effort. Accordingly, although Dryden himself frankly admitted that
his talents were not especially adapted to writing plays, he proceeded to
do so energetically, and continued at it, with diminishing productivity,
nearly down to the end of his life, thirty-five years later. But his
activity always found varied outlets. He secured a lucrative share in the
profits of the King's Playhouse, one of the two theaters of the time which
alone were allowed to present regular plays, and he held the mainly
honorary positions of poet laureate and historiographer-royal. Later, like
Chaucer, he was for a time collector of the customs of the port of London.
He was not much disturbed by 'The Rehearsal,' a burlesque play brought out
by the Duke of Buckingham and other wits to ridicule current dramas and
dramatists, in which he figured as chief butt under the name 'Bayes' (poet
laureate); and he took more than full revenge ten years later when in
'Absalom and Achitophel' he drew the portrait of Buckingham as Zimri. But
in 1680 an outrage of which he was the victim, a brutal and unprovoked
beating inflicted by ruffians in the employ of the Earl of Rochester, seems
to mark a permanent change for the worse in his fortunes, a change not
indeed to disaster but to a permanent condition of doubtful prosperity.

The next year he became engaged in political controversy, which resulted in
the production of his most famous work. Charles II was without a legitimate
child, and the heir to the throne was his brother, the Duke of York, who a
few years later actually became king as James II. But while Charles was
outwardly, for political reasons, a member of the Church of England (at
heart he was a Catholic), the Duke of York was a professed and devoted
Catholic, and the powerful Whig party, strongly Protestant, was violently
opposed to him. The monstrous fiction of a 'Popish Plot,' brought forward
by Titus Oates, and the murderous frenzy which it produced, were
demonstrations of the strength of the Protestant feeling, and the leader of
the Whigs, the Earl of Shaftesbury, proposed that the Duke of York should
be excluded by law from the succession to the throne in favor of the Duke
of Monmouth, one of the king's illegitimate sons. At last, in 1681, the
nation became afraid of another civil war, and the king was enabled to have
Shaftesbury arrested on the charge of treason. Hereupon Dryden, at the
suggestion, it is said, of the king, and with the purpose of securing
Shaftesbury's conviction, put forth the First Part of 'Absalom and
Achitophel,' a masterly satire of Shaftesbury, Monmouth, and their
associates in the allegorical disguise of the (somewhat altered) Biblical
story of David and Absalom. [Footnote: The subsequent history of the affair
was as follows: Shaftesbury was acquitted by the jury, and his enthusiastic
friends struck a medal in his honor, which drew from Dryden a short and
less important satire, 'The Medal.' To this in turn a minor poet named
Shadwell replied, and Dryden retorted with 'Mac Flecknoe.' The name means
'Son of Flecknoe,' and Dryden represented Shadwell as having inherited the
stupidity of an obscure Irish rimester named Flecknoe, recently deceased.
The piece is interesting chiefly because it suggested Pope's 'Dunciad.'
Now, in 1682, the political tide again turned against Shaftesbury, and he
fled from England. His death followed shortly, but meanwhile appeared the
Second Part of 'Absalom and Achitophel,' chiefly a commonplace production
written by Nahum Tate (joint author of Tate and Brady's paraphrase of the
Psalms into English hymn-form), but with some passages by Dryden.]

In 1685 Charles died and James succeeded him. At about the same time Dryden
became a Catholic, a change which laid him open to the suspicion of
truckling for royal favor, though in fact he had nothing to gain by it and
its chief effect was to identify him with a highly unpopular minority. He
had already, in 1682, written a didactic poem, 'Religio Laici' (A Layman's
Religion), in which he set forth his reasons for adhering to the English
Church. Now, in 1687, he published the much longer allegorical 'Hind and
the Panther,' a defense of the Catholic Church and an attack on the English
Church and the Dissenters. The next year, King James was driven from the
throne, his daughter Mary and her husband, William, Prince of Orange,
succeeded him, and the supremacy of the Church of England was again
assured. Dryden remained constant to Catholicism and his refusal to take
the oath of allegiance to the new rulers cost him all his public offices
and reduced him for the rest of his life to comparative poverty. He had the
further mortification of seeing the very Shadwell whom he had so
unsparingly ridiculed replace him as poet laureate. These reverses,
however, he met with his characteristic manly fortitude, and of his
position as the acknowledged head of English letters he could not be
deprived; his chair at 'Will's' coffee-house was the throne of an
unquestioned monarch. His industry, also, stimulated by necessity, was
unabated to the end. Among other work he continued, in accordance with the
taste of the age, to make verse translations from the chief Latin poets,
and in 1697 he brought out a version of all the poems of Vergil. He died in
1700, and his death may conveniently be taken, with substantial accuracy,
as marking the end of the Restoration period.

Variety, fluency, and not ungraceful strength are perhaps the chief
qualities of Dryden's work, displayed alike in his verse and in his prose.
Since he was primarily a poet it is natural to speak first of his verse;
and we must begin with a glance at the history of the rimed pentameter
couplet, which he carried to the highest point of effectiveness thus far
attained. This form had been introduced into English, probably from French,
by Chaucer, who used it in many thousand lines of the 'Canterbury Tales.'
It was employed to some extent by the Elizabethans, especially in scattered
passages of their dramas, and in some poems of the early seventeenth
century. Up to that time it generally had a free form, with frequent
'running-on' of the sense from one line to the next and marked irregularity
of pauses. The process of developing it into the representative
pseudo-classical measure of Dryden and Pope consisted in making the lines,
or at least the couplets, generally end-stopt, and in securing a general
regular movement, mainly by eliminating pronounced pauses within the line,
except for the frequent organic cesura in the middle. This process, like
other pseudo-classical tendencies, was furthered by Ben Jonson, who used
the couplet in more than half of his non-dramatic verse; but it was
especially carried on by the wealthy politician and minor poet Edmund
Waller (above, page 164), who for sixty years, from 1623 on, wrote most of
his verse (no very great quantity) in the couplet. Dryden and all his
contemporaries gave to Waller, rather too unreservedly, the credit of
having first perfected the form, that is of first making it (to their
taste) pleasingly smooth and regular. The great danger of the couplet thus
treated is that of over-great conventionality, as was partly illustrated by
Dryden's successor, Pope, who carried Waller's method to the farthest
possible limit. Dryden's vigorous instincts largely saved him from this
fault; by skilful variations in accents and pauses and by terse
forcefulness of expression he gave the couplet firmness as well as
smoothness. He employed, also, two other more questionable means of
variety, namely, the insertion (not original with him) of occasional
Alexandrine lines and of frequent triplets, three lines instead of two
riming together. A present-day reader may like the pentameter couplet or
may find it frigid and tedious; at any rate Dryden employed it in the
larger part of his verse and stamped it unmistakably with the strength of
his strong personality.

In satiric and didactic verse Dryden is accepted as the chief English
master, and here 'Absalom and Achitophel' is his greatest achievement. It
is formally a narrative poem, but in fact almost nothing happens in it; it
is really expository and descriptive--a very clever partisan analysis of a
situation, enlivened by a series of the most skilful character sketches
with very decided partisan coloring. The sketches, therefore, offer an
interesting contrast with the sympathetic and humorous portraits of
Chaucer's 'Prolog.' Among the secrets of Dryden's success in this
particular field are his intellectual coolness, his vigorous masculine
power of seizing on the salient points of character, and his command of
terse, biting phraseology, set off by effective contrast.

Of Dryden's numerous comedies and 'tragi-comedies' (serious plays with a
sub-action of comedy) it may be said summarily that some of them were among
the best of their time but that they were as licentious as all the others.
Dryden was also the chief author of another kind of play, peculiar to this
period in England, namely the 'Heroic' (Epic) Play. The material and spirit
of these works came largely from the enormously long contemporary French
romances, which were widely read in England, and of which a prominent
representative was 'The Great Cyrus' of Mlle. de Scudéry, in ten volumes of
a thousand pages or more apiece. These romances, carrying further the
tendency which appears in Sidney's 'Arcadia,' are among the most
extravagant of all products of the romantic imagination--strange mélanges
of ancient history, medieval chivalry, pastoralism, seventeenth century
artificial manners, and allegory of current events. The English 'heroic'
plays, partly following along these lines, with influence also from
Fletcher, lay their scenes in distant countries; their central interest is
extravagant romantic love; the action is more that of epic adventure than
of tragedy; and incidents, situations, characters, sentiments, and style,
though not without power, are exaggerated or overstrained to an absurd
degree. Breaking so violently through the commonplaceness and formality of
the age, however, they offer eloquent testimony to the irrepressibility of
the romantic instinct in human nature. Dryden's most representative play of
this class is 'Almanzor and Almahide, or the Conquest of Granada,' in two
long five-act parts.

We need do no more than mention two or three very bad adaptations of plays
of Shakspere to the Restoration taste in which Dryden had a hand; but his
most enduring dramatic work is his 'All for Love, or the World Well Lost,'
where he treats without direct imitation, though in conscious rivalry, the
story which Shakspere used in 'Antony and Cleopatra.' The two plays afford
an excellent illustration of the contrast between the spirits of their
periods. Dryden's undoubtedly has much force and real feeling; but he
follows to a large extent the artificial rules of the pseudo-classical
French tragedies and critics. He observes the 'three unities' with
considerable closeness, and he complicates the love-action with new
elements of Restoration jealousy and questions of formal honor. Altogether,
the twentieth century reader finds in 'All for Love' a strong and skilful
play, ranking, nevertheless, with its somewhat formal rhetoric and
conventional atmosphere, far below Shakspere's less regular but
magnificently emotional and imaginative masterpiece.

A word must be added about the form of Dryden's plays. In his comedies and
in comic portions of the others he, like other English dramatists, uses
prose, for its suggestion of every-day reality. In plays of serious tone he
often turns to blank verse, and this is the meter of 'All for Love.' But
early in his dramatic career he, almost contemporaneously with other
dramatists, introduced the rimed couplet, especially in his heroic plays.
The innovation was due in part to the influence of contemporary French
tragedy, whose riming Alexandrine couplet is very similar in effect to the
English couplet. About the suitability of the English couplet to the drama
there has always been difference of critical opinion; but most English
readers feel that it too greatly interrupts the flow of the speeches and is
not capable of the dignity and power of blank verse. Dryden himself, at any
rate, finally grew tired of it and returned to blank verse.

Dryden's work in other forms of verse, also, is of high quality. In his
dramas he inserted songs whose lyric sweetness is reminiscent of the
similar songs of Fletcher. Early in his career he composed (in pentameter
quatrains of alternate rime, like Gray's 'Elegy') 'Annus Mirabilis' (The
Wonderful Year--namely 1666), a long and vigorous though far from faultless
narrative of the war with the Dutch and of the Great Fire of London. More
important are the three odes in the 'irregular Pindaric' form introduced by
Cowley. The first, that to Mrs. (i. e., Miss) Anne Killigrew, one of the
Queen's maids of honor, is full, thanks to Cowley's example, of
'metaphysical' conceits and science. The two later ones, 'Alexander's
Feast' and the 'Song for St. Cecilia's Day,' both written for a musical
society's annual festival in honor of the patron saint of their art, are
finely spirited and among the most striking, though not most delicate,
examples of onomatopoeia in all poetry.

Dryden's prose, only less important than his verse, is mostly in the form
of long critical essays, virtually the first in English, which are prefixed
to many of his plays and poems. In them, following French example, he
discusses fundamental questions of poetic art or of general esthetics. His
opinions are judicious; independent, so far as the despotic authority of
the French critics permitted, at least honest; and interesting. Most
important, perhaps, is his attitude toward the French pseudo-classical
formulas. He accepted French theory even in details which we now know to be
absurd--agreed, for instance, that even Homer wrote to enforce an abstract
moral (namely that discord destroys a state). In the field of his main
interest, further, his reason was persuaded by the pseudo-classical
arguments that English (Elizabethan) tragedy, with its violent contrasts
and irregularity, was theoretically wrong. Nevertheless his greatness
consists throughout partly in the common sense which he shares with the
best English critics and thinkers of all periods; and as regards tragedy he
concludes, in spite of rules and theory, that he 'loves Shakspere.'

In expression, still again, Dryden did perhaps more than any other man to
form modern prose style, a style clear, straightforward, terse, forceful,
easy and simple and yet dignified, fluent in vocabulary, varied, and of
pleasing rhythm.

Dryden's general quality and a large part of his achievement are happily
summarized in Lowell's epigram that he 'was the greatest poet who ever was
or ever could be made wholly out of prose.' He can never again be a
favorite with the general reading-public; but he will always remain one of
the conspicuous figures in the history of English literature.

THE OTHER DRAMATISTS. The other dramatists of the Restoration period may be
dismissed with a few words. In tragedy the overdrawn but powerful plays of
Thomas Otway, a man of short and pathetic life, and of Nathaniel Lee, are
alone of any importance. In comedy, during the first part of the period,
stand Sir George Etherege and William Wycherley. The latter's 'Country
Wife' has been called the most heartless play ever written. To the next
generation and the end of the period (or rather of the Restoration
literature, which actually lasted somewhat beyond 1700), belong William
Congreve, a master of sparkling wit, Sir John Vanbrugh, and George
Farquhar. So corrupt a form of writing as the Restoration comedy could not
continue to flaunt itself indefinitely. The growing indignation was voiced
from time to time in published protests, of which the last, in 1698, was
the over-zealous but powerful 'Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness
of the English Stage' by Jeremy Collier, which carried the more weight
because the author was not a Puritan but a High-Church bishop and partisan
of the Stuarts. Partly as a result of such attacks and partly by the
natural course of events the pendulum, by the end of the period, was
swinging back, and not long thereafter Restoration comedy died and the
stage was left free for more decent, though, as it proved, not for greater,


MODERN ROMANTICISM [Footnote: Thackeray's 'Henry Esmond' is the greatest
historical novel relating to the early eighteenth century.]

POLITICAL CONDITIONS. During the first part of the eighteenth century the
direct connection between politics and literature was closer than at any
previous period of English life; for the practical spirit of the previous
generation continued to prevail, so that the chief writers were very ready
to concern themselves with the affairs of State, and in the uncertain
strife of parties ministers were glad to enlist their aid. On the death of
King William in 1702, Anne, sister of his wife Queen Mary and daughter of
James II, became Queen. Unlike King William she was a Tory and at first
filled offices with members of that party. But the English campaigns under
the Duke of Marlborough against Louis XIV were supported by the Whigs,
[Footnote: The Tories were the political ancestors of the present-day
Conservatives; the Whigs of the Liberals.] who therefore gradually regained
control, and in 1708 the Queen had to submit to a Whig ministry. She
succeeded in ousting them in 1710, and a Tory cabinet was formed by Henry
Harley (afterwards Earl of Oxford) and Henry St. John (afterwards Viscount
Bolingbroke). On the death of Anne in 1714 Bolingbroke, with other Tories,
was intriguing for a second restoration of the Stuarts in the person of the
son of James II (the 'Old Pretender'). But the nation decided for a
Protestant German prince, a descendant of James I through his daughter
Elizabeth, [Footnote: The subject of Wotton's fine poem, above, p. 158.]
and this prince was crowned as George I--an event which brought England
peace at the price of a century of rule by an unenlightened and sordid
foreign dynasty. The Tories were violently turned out of office; Oxford was
imprisoned, and Bolingbroke, having fled to the Pretender, was declared a
traitor. Ten years later he was allowed to come back and attempted to
oppose Robert Walpole, the Whig statesman who for twenty years governed
England in the name of the first two Georges; but in the upshot Bolingbroke
was again obliged to retire to France. How closely these events were
connected with the fortunes of the foremost authors we shall see as we

THE GENERAL SPIRIT OF THE PERIOD. The writers of the reigns of Anne and
George I called their period the Augustan Age, because they flattered
themselves that with them English life and literature had reached a
culminating period of civilization and elegance corresponding to that which
existed at Rome under the Emperor Augustus. They believed also that both in
the art of living and in literature they had rediscovered and were
practising the principles of the best periods of Greek and Roman life. In
our own time this judgment appears equally arrogant and mistaken. In
reality the men of the early eighteenth century, like those of the
Restoration, largely misunderstood the qualities of the classical spirit,
and thinking to reproduce them attained only a superficial,
pseudo-classical, imitation. The main characteristics of the period and its
literature continue, with some further development, those of the
Restoration, and may be summarily indicated as follows:

1. Interest was largely centered in the practical well-being either of
society as a whole or of one's own social class or set. The majority of
writers, furthermore, belonged by birth or association to the upper social
stratum and tended to overemphasize its artificial conventions, often
looking with contempt on the other classes. To them conventional good
breeding, fine manners, the pleasures of the leisure class, and the
standards of 'The Town' (fashionable London society) were the only part of
life much worth regarding. 2. The men of this age carried still further the
distrust and dislike felt by the previous generation for emotion,
enthusiasm, and strong individuality both in life and in literature, and
exalted Reason and Regularity as their guiding stars. The terms 'decency'
and 'neatness' were forever on their lips. They sought a conventional
uniformity in manners, speech, and indeed in nearly everything else, and
were uneasy if they deviated far from the approved, respectable standards
of the body of their fellows. Great poetic imagination, therefore, could
scarcely exist among them, or indeed supreme greatness of any sort. 3. They
had little appreciation for external Nature or for any beauty except that
of formalized Art. A forest seemed to most of them merely wild and gloomy,
and great mountains chiefly terrible, but they took delight in gardens of
artificially trimmed trees and in regularly plotted and alternating beds of
domestic flowers. The Elizabethans also, as we have seen, had had much more
feeling for the terror than for the grandeur of the sublime in Nature, but
the Elizabethans had had nothing of the elegant primness of the Augustans.
4. In speech and especially in literature, most of all in poetry, they were
given to abstractness of thought and expression, intended to secure
elegance, but often serving largely to substitute superficiality for
definiteness and significant meaning. They abounded in personifications of
abstract qualities and ideas ('Laughter, heavenly maid,' Honor, Glory,
Sorrow, and so on, with prominent capital letters), a sort of a
pseudo-classical substitute for emotion. 5. They were still more fully
confirmed than the men of the Restoration in the conviction that the
ancients had attained the highest possible perfection in literature, and
some of them made absolute submission of judgment to the ancients,
especially to the Latin poets and the Greek, Latin, and also the
seventeenth century classicizing French critics. Some authors seemed
timidly to desire to be under authority and to glory in surrendering their
independence, individuality, and originality to foreign and
long-established leaders and principles. 6. Under these circumstances the
effort to attain the finished beauty of classical literature naturally
resulted largely in a more or less shallow formal smoothness. 7. There was
a strong tendency to moralizing, which also was not altogether free from
conventionality and superficiality.

Although the 'Augustan Age' must be considered to end before the middle of
the century, the same spirit continued dominant among many writers until
near its close, so that almost the whole of the century may be called the
period of pseudo-classicism.

DANIEL DEFOE. The two earliest notable writers of the period, however,
though they display some of these characteristics, were men of strong
individual traits which in any age would have directed them largely along
paths of their own choosing. The first of them is Daniel Defoe, who
belongs, furthermore, quite outside the main circle of high-bred and
polished fashion.

Defoe was born in London about 1660, the son of James Foe, a butcher, to
whose name the son arbitrarily and with characteristic eye to effect
prefixed the 'De' in middle life. Educated for the Dissenting ministry,
Defoe, a man of inexhaustible practical energy, engaged instead in several
successive lines of business, and at the age of thirty-five, after various
vicissitudes, was in prosperous circumstances. He now became a pamphleteer
in support of King William and the Whigs. His first very significant work,
a satire against the High-Church Tories entitled 'The Shortest Way with
Dissenters,' belongs early in the reign of Queen Anne. Here, parodying
extreme Tory bigotry, he argued, with apparent seriousness, that the
Dissenters should all be hanged. The Tories were at first delighted, but
when they discovered the hoax became correspondingly indignant and Defoe
was set in the pillory, and (for a short time) imprisoned. In this
confinement he began _The Review_, a newspaper which he continued for
eleven years and whose department called 'The Scandal Club' suggested 'The
Tatler' to Steele. During many years following his release Defoe issued an
enormous number of pamphlets and acted continuously as a secret agent and
spy of the government. Though he was always at heart a thorough-going
Dissenter and Whig, he served all the successive governments, Whig and
Tory, alike; for his character and point of view were those of the
'practical' journalist and middle-class money-getter. This of course means
that all his professed principles were superficial, or at least secondary,
that he was destitute of real religious feeling and of the gentleman's
sense of honor.

Defoe's influence in helping to shape modern journalism and modern
every-day English style was large; but the achievement which has given him
world-wide fame came late in life. In 1706 he had written a masterly short
story, 'The Apparition of Mrs. Veal.' Its real purpose, characteristically
enough, was the concealed one of promoting the sale of an unsuccessful
religious book, but its literary importance lies first in the
extraordinarily convincing mass of minute details which it casts about an
incredible incident and second in the complete knowledge (sprung from
Defoe's wide experience in journalism, politics, and business) which it
displays of a certain range of middle-class characters and ideas. It is
these same elements, together with the vigorous presentation and emphasis
of basal practical virtues, that distinguished 'Robinson Crusoe,' of which
the First Part appeared in 1719, when Defoe was nearly or quite sixty years
of age. The book, which must have been somewhat influenced by 'Pilgrim's
Progress,' was more directly suggested by a passage in William Dampier's
'Voyage Round the World,' and also, as every one knows, by the experience
of Alexander Selkirk, a sailor who, set ashore on the island of Juan
Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, had lived there alone from 1709 to 1713.
Selkirk's story had been briefly told in the year of his return in a
newspaper of Steele, 'The Englishman'; it was later to inspire the most
famous poem of William Cowper. 'Robinson Crusoe,' however, turned the
material to account in a much larger, more clever, and more striking
fashion. Its success was immediate and enormous, both with the English
middle class and with a wider circle of readers in the other European
countries; it was followed by numerous imitations and it will doubtless
always continue to be one of the best known of world classics. The precise
elements of its power can be briefly indicated. As a story of unprecedented
adventure in a distant and unknown region it speaks thrillingly to the
universal human sense of romance. Yet it makes a still stronger appeal to
the instinct for practical, every-day realism which is the controlling
quality in the English dissenting middle class for whom Defoe was writing.
Defoe has put himself with astonishingly complete dramatic sympathy into
the place of his hero. In spite of not a few errors and oversights (due to
hasty composition) in the minor details of external fact, he has virtually
lived Crusoe's life with him in imagination and he therefore makes the
reader also pass with Crusoe through all his experiences, his fears, hopes
and doubts. Here also, as we have implied, Defoe's vivid sense for external
minutiae plays an important part. He tells precisely how many guns and
cheeses and flasks of spirit Crusoe brought away from the wreck, how many
days or weeks he spent in making his earthen vessels and his canoe--in a
word, thoroughly actualizes the whole story. More than this, the book
strikes home to the English middle class because it records how a plain
Englishman completely mastered apparently insuperable obstacles through the
plain virtues of courage, patience, perseverance, and mechanical ingenuity.
Further, it directly addresses the dissenting conscience in its emphasis on
religion and morality. This is none the less true because the religion and
morality are of the shallow sort characteristic of Defoe, a man who, like
Crusoe, would have had no scruples about selling into slavery a
dark-skinned boy who had helped him to escape from the same condition. Of
any really delicate or poetic feeling, any appreciation for the finer
things of life, the book has no suggestion. In style, like Defoe's other
writings, it is straightforward and clear, though colloquially informal,
with an entire absence of pretense or affectation. Structurally, it is a
characteristic story of adventure--a series of loosely connected
experiences not unified into an organic plot, and with no stress on
character and little treatment of the really complex relations and
struggles between opposing characters and groups of characters. Yet it
certainly marks a step in the development of the modern novel, as will be
indicated in the proper place (below, p. 254).

Defoe's energy had not diminished with age and a hard life, and the success
of 'Robinson Crusoe' led him to pour out a series of other works of
romantic-realistic fiction. The second part of 'Robinson Crusoe' is no more
satisfactory than any other similar continuation, and the third part, a
collection of moralizings, is today entirely and properly forgotten. On the
other hand, his usual method, the remarkable imaginative re-creation and
vivifying of a host of minute details, makes of the fictitious 'Journal of
the Plague Year' (1666) a piece of virtual history. Defoe's other later
works are rather unworthy attempts to make profit out of his reputation and
his full knowledge of the worst aspects of life; they are mostly very frank
presentations of the careers of adventurers or criminals, real or
fictitious. In this coarse realism they are picaresque (above, p. 108), and
in structure also they, like 'Robinson Crusoe,' are picaresque in being
mere successions of adventures without artistic plot.

In Defoe's last years he suffered a great reverse of fortune, paying the
full penalty for his opportunism and lack of ideals. His secret and
unworthy long-standing connection with the Government was disclosed, so
that his reputation was sadly blemished, and he seems to have gone into
hiding, perhaps as the result of half-insane delusions. He died in 1731.
His place in English literature is secure, though he owes it to the lucky
accident of finding not quite too late special material exactly suited to
his peculiar talent.

JONATHAN SWIFT. Jonathan Swift, another unique figure of very mixed traits,
is like Defoe in that he connects the reign of William III with that of his
successors and that, in accordance with the spirit of his age, he wrote for
the most part not for literary but for practical purposes; in many other
respects the two are widely different. Swift is one of the best
representatives in English literature of sheer intellectual power, but his
character, his aims, his environment, and the circumstances of his life
denied to him also literary achievement of the greatest permanent
significance. Swift, though of unmixed English descent, related to both
Dryden and Robert Herrick, was born in Ireland, in 1667. Brought up in
poverty by his widowed mother, he spent the period between his fourteenth
and twentieth years recklessly and without distinction at Trinity College,
Dublin. From the outbreak attending the Revolution of 1688 he fled to
England, where for the greater part of nine years he lived in the country
as a sort of secretary to the retired statesman, Sir William Temple, who
was his distant relative by marriage. Here he had plenty of time for
reading, but the position of dependence and the consciousness that his
great though still unformed powers of intellect and of action were rusting
away in obscurity undoubtedly did much to increase the natural bitterness
of his disposition. As the result of a quarrel he left Temple for a time
and took holy orders, and on the death of Temple he returned to Ireland as
chaplain to the English Lord Deputy. He was eventually given several small
livings and other church positions in and near Dublin, and at one of these,
Laracor, he made his home for another nine years. During all this period
and later the Miss Esther Johnson whom he has immortalized as 'Stella'
holds a prominent place in his life. A girl of technically gentle birth,
she also had been a member of Sir William Temple's household, was
infatuated with Swift, and followed him to Ireland. About their intimacy
there has always hung a mystery. It has been held that after many years
they were secretly married, but this is probably a mistake; the essential
fact seems to be that Swift, with characteristic selfishness, was willing
to sacrifice any other possible prospects of 'Stella' to his own mere
enjoyment of her society. It is certain, however, that he both highly
esteemed her and reciprocated her affection so far as it was possible for
him to love any woman.

In 1704 Swift published his first important works (written earlier, while
he was living with Temple), which are among the masterpieces of his
satirical genius. In 'The Battle of the Books' he supports Temple, who had
taken the side of the Ancients in a hotly-debated and very futile quarrel
then being carried on by French and English writers as to whether ancient
or modern authors are the greater. 'The Tale of a Tub' is a keen, coarse,
and violent satire on the actual irreligion of all Christian Churches. It
takes the form of a burlesque history of three brothers, Peter (the
Catholics, so called from St. Peter), Martin (the Lutherans and the Church
of England, named from Martin Luther), and Jack (the Dissenters, who
followed John Calvin); but a great part of the book is made up of
irrelevant introductions and digressions in which Swift ridicules various
absurdities, literary and otherwise, among them the very practice of

Swift's instinctive dominating impulse was personal ambition, and during
this period he made long visits to London, attempting to push his fortunes
with the Whig statesmen, who were then growing in power; attempting, that
is, to secure a higher position in the Church; also, be it added, to get
relief for the ill-treated English Church in Ireland. He made the
friendship of Addison, who called him, perhaps rightly, 'the greatest
genius of the age,' and of Steele, but he failed of his main purposes; and
when in 1710 the Tories replaced the Whigs he accepted their solicitations
and devoted his pen, already somewhat experienced in pamphleteering, to
their service. It should not be overlooked that up to this time, when he
was already more than forty years of age, his life had been one of
continual disappointment, so that he was already greatly soured. Now, in
conducting a paper, 'The Examiner,' and in writing masterly political
pamphlets, he found occupation for his tremendous energy and gave very
vital help to the ministers. During the four years of their control of the
government he remained in London on intimate terms with them, especially
with Bolingbroke and Harley, exercising a very large advisory share in the
bestowal of places of all sorts and in the general conduct of affairs. This
was Swift's proper sphere; in the realization and exercise of power he took
a fierce and deep delight. His bearing at this time too largely reflected
the less pleasant side of his nature, especially his pride and arrogance.
Yet toward professed inferiors he could be kind; and real playfulness and
tenderness, little evident in most of his other writings, distinguish his
'Journal to Stella,' which he wrote for her with affectionate regularity,
generally every day, for nearly three years. The 'Journal' is interesting
also for its record of the minor details of the life of Swift and of London
in his day. His association, first and last, with literary men was
unusually broad; when politics estranged him from Steele and Addison he
drew close to Pope and other Tory writers in what they called the
Scriblérus Club.

Despite his political success, Swift was still unable to secure the
definite object of his ambition, a bishopric in England, since the levity
with which he had treated holy things in 'A Tale of a Tub' had hopelessly
prejudiced Queen Anne against him and the ministers could not act
altogether in opposition to her wishes. In 1713 he received the unwelcome
gift of the deanship of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, and the next
year, when the Queen died and the Tory ministry fell, he withdrew to
Dublin, as he himself bitterly said, 'to die like a poisoned rat in a

In Swift's personal life there were now events in which he again showed to
very little advantage. In London he had become acquainted with a certain
Hester Vanhomrigh, the 'Vanessa' of his longest poem, 'Cadenus and Vanessa'
(in which 'Cadenus' is an anagram of 'Decanus,' Latin for 'Dean,' i. e.,
Swift). Miss Vanhomrigh, like 'Stella,' was infatuated with Swift, and like
her followed him to Ireland, and for nine years, as has been said, he
'lived a double life' between the two. 'Vanessa' then died, probably of a
broken heart, and 'Stella' a few years later. Over against this conduct, so
far as it goes, may be set Swift's quixotic but extensive and constant
personal benevolence and generosity to the poor.

In general, this last period of Swift's life amounted to thirty years of
increasing bitterness. He devoted some of his very numerous pamphlets to
defending the Irish, and especially the English who formed the governing
class in Ireland, against oppression by England. Most important here were
'The Drapier's [i.e., Draper's, Cloth-Merchant's] Letters,' in which Swift
aroused the country to successful resistance against a very unprincipled
piece of political jobbery whereby a certain Englishman was to be allowed
to issue a debased copper coinage at enormous profit to himself but to the
certain disaster of Ireland. 'A Modest Proposal,' the proposal, namely,
that the misery of the poor in Ireland should be alleviated by the raising
of children for food, like pigs, is one of the most powerful, as well as
one of the most horrible, satires which ever issued from any human
imagination. In 1726 (seven years after 'Robinson Crusoe') appeared Swift's
masterpiece, the only one of his works still widely known, namely, 'The
Travels of Lemuel Gulliver.' The remarkable power of this unique work lies
partly in its perfect combination of two apparently inconsistent things,
first, a story of marvelous adventure which must always remain (in the
first parts) one of the most popular of children's classics; and second, a
bitter satire against mankind. The intensity of the satire increases as the
work proceeds. In the first voyage, that to the Lilliputians, the tone is
one mainly of humorous irony; but in such passages as the hideous
description of the _Struldbrugs_ in the third voyage the cynical
contempt is unspeakably painful, and from the distorted libel on mankind in
the _Yahoos_ of the fourth voyage a reader recoils in indignant

During these years Swift corresponded with friends in England, among them
Pope, whom he bitterly urged to 'lash the world for his sake,' and he once
or twice visited England in the hope, even then, of securing a place in the
Church on the English side of St. George's Channel. His last years were
melancholy in the extreme. Long before, on noticing a dying tree, he had
observed, with the pitiless incisiveness which would spare neither others
nor himself: 'I am like that. I shall die first at the top.' His birthday
he was accustomed to celebrate with lamentations. At length an obscure
disease which had always afflicted him, fed in part, no doubt, by his fiery
spirit and his fiery discontent, reached his brain. After some years of
increasing lethargy and imbecility, occasionally varied by fits of violent
madness and terrible pain, he died in 1745, leaving all his money to found
a hospital for the insane. His grave in St. Patrick's Cathedral bears this
inscription of his own composing, the best possible epitome of his career:
'Ubi saeva indignatio cor ulterius lacerare nequit' (Where fierce
indignation can no longer tear his heart).

The complexity of Swift's character and the great difference between the
viewpoints of his age and of ours make it easy at the present time to judge
him with too great harshness. Apart from his selfish egotism and his
bitterness, his nature was genuinely loyal, kind and tender to friends and
connections; and he hated injustice and the more flagrant kinds of
hypocrisy with a sincere and irrepressible violence. Whimsicalness and a
contemptuous sort of humor were as characteristic of him as biting sarcasm,
and his conduct and writings often veered rapidly from the one to the other
in a way puzzling to one who does not understand him. Nevertheless he was
dominated by cold intellect and an instinct for the practical. To show
sentiment, except under cover, he regarded as a weakness, and it is said
that when he was unable to control it he would retire from observation. He
was ready to serve mankind to the utmost of his power when effort seemed to
him of any avail, and at times he sacrificed even his ambition to his
convictions; but he had decided that the mass of men were hopelessly
foolish, corrupt, and inferior, personal sympathy with them was impossible
to him, and his contempt often took the form of sardonic practical jokes,
practised sometimes on a whole city. Says Sir Leslie Stephen in his life of
Swift: 'His doctrine was that virtue is the one thing which deserves love
and admiration, and yet that virtue in this hideous chaos of a world
involves misery and decay.' Of his extreme arrogance and brutality to those
who offended him there are numerous anecdotes; not least in the case of
women, whom he, like most men of his age, regarded as man's inferiors. He
once drove a lady from her own parlor in tears by violent insistence that
she should sing, against her will, and when he next met her, inquired,
'Pray, madam, are you as proud and ill-natured to-day as when I saw you
last?' It seems, indeed, that throughout his life Swift's mind was
positively abnormal, and this may help to excuse the repulsive elements in
his writings. For metaphysics and abstract principles, it may be added, he
had a bigoted antipathy. In religion he was a staunch and sincere High
Churchman, but it was according to the formal fashion of many thinkers of
his day; he looked on the Church not as a medium of spiritual life, of
which he, like his generation, had little conception, but as one of the
organized institutions of society, useful in maintaining decency and order.

Swift's 'poems' require only passing notice. In any strict sense they are
not poems at all, since they are entirely bare of imagination, delicacy,
and beauty. Instead they exhibit the typical pseudo-classical traits of
matter-of-factness and clearness; also, as Swift's personal notes,
cleverness, directness, trenchant intellectual power, irony, and entire
ease, to which latter the prevailing octosyllabic couplet meter
contributes. This is the meter of 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso,' and the
contrast between these poems and Swift's is instructive.

Swift's prose style has substantially the same qualities. Writing generally
as a man of affairs, for practical ends, he makes no attempt at elegance
and is informal even to the appearance of looseness of expression. Of
conscious refinements and also, in his stories, of technical artistic
structural devices, he has no knowledge; he does not go out of the straight
path in order to create suspense, he does not always explain difficulties
of detail, and sometimes his narrative becomes crudely bare. He often
displays the greatest imaginative power, but it is always a practical
imagination; his similes, for example, are always from very matter-of-fact
things. But more notable are his positive merits. He is always absolutely
clear, direct, and intellectually forceful; in exposition and argument he
is cumulatively irresistible; in description and narration realistically
picturesque and fascinating; and he has the natural instinct for narration
which gives vigorous movement and climax. Indignation and contempt often
make his style burn with passion, and humor, fierce or bitterly mirthful,
often enlivens it with startling flashes.

The great range of the satires which make the greater part of Swift's work
is supported in part by variety of satiric method. Sometimes he pours out a
savage direct attack. Sometimes, in a long ironical statement, he says
exactly the opposite of what he really means to suggest. Sometimes he uses
apparently logical reasoning where either, as in 'A Modest Proposal,' the
proposition, or, as in the 'Argument Against Abolishing Christianity,' the
arguments are absurd. He often shoots out incidental humorous or satirical
shafts. But his most important and extended method is that of allegory. The
pigmy size of the Lilliputians symbolizes the littleness of mankind and
their interests; the superior skill in rope-dancing which with them is the
ground for political advancement, the political intrigues of real men; and
the question whether eggs shall be broken on the big or the little end,
which has embroiled Lilliput in a bloody war, both civil and foreign, the
trivial causes of European conflicts. In Brobdingnag, on the other hand,
the coarseness of mankind is exhibited by the magnifying process. Swift,
like Defoe, generally increases the verisimilitude of his fictions and his
ironies by careful accuracy in details, which is sometimes arithmetically
genuine, sometimes only a hoax. In Lilliput all the dimensions are
scientifically computed on a scale one-twelfth as large as that of man; in
Brobdingnag, by an exact reversal, everything is twelve times greater than
among men. But the long list of technical nautical terms which seem to make
a spirited narrative at the beginning of the second of Gulliver's voyages
is merely an incoherent hodge-podge.

Swift, then, is the greatest of English satirists and the only one who as a
satirist claims large attention in a brief general survey of English
literature. He is one of the most powerfully intellectual of all English
writers, and the clear force of his work is admirable; but being first a
man of affairs and only secondarily a man of letters, he stands only on the
outskirts of real literature. In his character the elements were greatly
mingled, and in our final judgment of him there must be combined something
of disgust, something of admiration, and not a little of sympathy and pity.

Steele and Addison, of which the most important are their essays in 'The
Tatler' and 'The Spectator,' contrast strongly with the work of Swift and
are more broadly characteristic of the pseudo-classical period.

Richard Steele was born in Dublin in 1672 of an English father and an Irish
mother. The Irish strain was conspicuous throughout his life in his
warm-heartedness, impulsiveness and lack of self-control and practical
judgment. Having lost his father early, he was sent to the Charterhouse
School in London, where he made the acquaintance of Addison, and then to
Oxford. He abandoned the university to enlist in the aristocratic regiment
of Life Guards, and he remained in the army, apparently, for seven or eight
years, though he seems not to have been in active service and became a
recognized wit at the London coffee-houses. Thackeray in 'Henry Esmond'
gives interesting though freely imaginative pictures of him at this stage
of his career and later. His reckless instincts and love of pleasure were
rather strangely combined with a sincere theoretical devotion to religion,
and his first noticeable work (1701), a little booklet called 'The
Christian Hero,' aimed, in opposition to fashionable license, to show that
decency and goodness are requisites of a real gentleman. The resultant
ridicule forced him into a duel (in which he seriously wounded his
antagonist), and thenceforth in his writings duelling was a main object of
his attacks. During the next few years he turned with the same reforming
zeal to comedy, where he attempted to exalt pure love and high ideals,
though the standards of his age and class leave in his own plays much that
to-day seems coarse. Otherwise his plays are by no means great; they
initiated the weak 'Sentimental Comedy,' which largely dominated the
English stage for the rest of the century. During this period Steele was
married twice in rather rapid succession to wealthy ladies whose fortunes
served only very temporarily to respite him from his chronic condition of
debt and bailiff's duns.

Now succeeds the brief period of his main literary achievement. All his
life a strong Whig, he was appointed in 1707 Gazetteer, or editor, of 'The
London Gazette,' the official government newspaper. This led him in 1709 to
start 'The Tatler.' English periodical literature, in forms which must be
called the germs both of the modern newspaper and of the modern magazine,
had begun in an uncertain fashion, of which the details are too complicated
for record here, nearly a hundred years before, and had continued ever
since with increasing vigor. The lapsing of the licensing laws in 1695 had
given a special impetus. Defoe's 'Review,' from 1704 to 1713, was devoted
to many interests, including politics, the Church and commerce. Steele's
'Tatler' at first likewise dealt in each number with several subjects, such
as foreign news, literary criticism, and morals, but his controlling
instinct to inculcate virtue and good sense more and more asserted itself.
The various departments were dated from the respective coffee-houses where
those subjects were chiefly discussed, Poetry from 'Will's,' Foreign and
Domestic News from 'St. James's,' and so on. The more didactic papers were
ascribed to an imaginary Isaac Bickerstaff, a nom-de-plume which Steele
borrowed from some of Swift's satires. Steele himself wrote two-thirds of
all the papers, but before proceeding far he accepted Addison's offer of
assistance and later he occasionally called in other contributors.

'The Tatler' appeared three times a week and ran for twenty-one months; it
came to an end shortly after the return of the Tories to power had deprived
Steele and Addison of some of their political offices. Its discontinuance
may have been due to weariness on Steele's part or, since it was Whig in
tone, to a desire to be done with partisan writing; at any rate, two months
later, in March, 1711, of Marlborough's victory at Blenheim, secured the
favor of the ministers of the day, and throughout almost all the rest of
his life he held important political places, some even, thanks to Swift,
during the period of Tory dominance. During his last ten years he was a
member of Parliament; but though he was a delightful conversationalist in a
small group of friends, he was unable to speak in public.

Addison's great fame as 'The Spectator' was increased when in 1713 he
brought out the play 'Cato,' mostly written years before. This is a
characteristic example of the pseudo-classical tragedies of which a few
were produced during the first half of the eighteenth century. They are the
stiffest and most lifeless of all forms of pseudo-classical literature;
Addison, for his part, attempts not only to observe the three unities, but
to follow many of the minor formal rules drawn up by the French critics,
and his plot, characterization, and language are alike excessively pale and
frigid. Paleness and frigidity, however, were taken for beauties at the
time, and the moral idea of the play, the eulogy of Cato's devotion to
liberty in his opposition to Caesar, was very much in accord with the
prevailing taste, or at least the prevailing affected taste. Both political
parties loudly claimed the work as an expression of their principles, the
Whigs discovering in Caesar an embodiment of arbitrary government like that
of the Tories, the Tories declaring him a counterpart of Marlborough, a
dangerous plotter, endeavoring to establish a military despotism. 'Cato,'
further, was a main cause of a famous quarrel between Addison and Pope.
Addison, now recognized as the literary dictator of the age, had greatly
pleased Pope, then a young aspirant for fame, by praising his 'Essay on
Criticism,' and Pope rendered considerable help in the final revision of
'Cato.' When John Dennis, a rather clumsy critic, attacked the play, Pope
came to its defense with a reply written in a spirit of railing bitterness
which sprang from injuries of his own. Addison, a real gentleman, disowned
the defense, and this, with other slights suffered or imagined by Pope's
jealous disposition, led to estrangement and soon to the composition of
Pope's very clever and telling satire on Addison as 'Atticus,' which Pope
did not publish, however, until he included it in his 'Epistle to Dr.
Arbuthnot,' many years after Addison's death.

The few remaining years of Addison's life were rather unhappy. He married
the widowed Countess of Warwick and attained a place in the Ministry as one
of the Secretaries of State; but his marriage was perhaps incompatible and
his quarrel with Steele was regrettable. He died in 1719 at the age of only
forty-seven, perhaps the most generally respected and beloved man of his
time. On his deathbed, with a somewhat self-conscious virtue characteristic
both of himself and of the period, he called his stepson to come and 'see
in what peace a Christian could die.'

'The Tatler' and the more important 'Spectator' accomplished two results of
main importance: they developed the modern essay as a comprehensive and
fluent discussion of topics of current interest; and they performed a very
great service in elevating the tone of English thought and life. The later
'Tatlers' and all the 'Spectators' dealt, by diverse methods, with a great
range of themes--amusements, religion, literature, art, dress, clubs,
superstitions, and in general all the fashions and follies of the time. The
writers, especially Addison, with his wide and mature scholarship, aimed to
form public taste. But the chief purpose of the papers, professedly, was
'to banish Vice and Ignorance' (though here also, especially in Steele's
papers, the tone sometimes seems to twentieth-century readers far from
unexceptionable). When the papers began to appear, in spite of some
weakening of the Restoration spirit, the idea still dominated, or was
allowed to appear dominant, that immorality and lawlessness were the proper
marks of a gentleman. The influence of the papers is thus summarized by the
poet Gray: 'It would have been a jest, some time since, for a man to have
asserted that anything witty could be said in praise of a married state or
that Devotion and Virtue were in any way necessary to the character of a
fine gentleman.... Instead of complying with the false sentiments or
vicious tastes of the age he [Steele] has boldly assured them that they
were altogether in the wrong.... It is incredible to conceive the effect
his writings have had upon the Town; how many thousand follies they have
either quite banished or given a very great check to! how much countenance
they have added to Virtue and Religion! how many people they have rendered
happy by showing them it was their own faults if they were not so.'

An appeal was made, also, to women no less than to men. During the previous
period woman, in fashionable circles, had been treated as an elegant toy,
of whom nothing was expected but to be frivolously attractive. Addison and
Steele held up to her the ideal of self-respecting intellectual development
and of reasonable preparation for her own particular sphere.

The great effectiveness of 'The Spectator's' preaching was due largely to
its tactfulness. The method was never violent denunciation, rather gentle
admonition, suggestion by example or otherwise, and light or humorous
raillery. Indeed, this almost uniform urbanity and good-nature makes the
chief charm of the papers. Their success was largely furthered, also, by
the audience provided in the coffee-houses, virtually eighteenth century
middle-class clubs whose members and points of view they primarily

The external style has been from the first an object of unqualified and
well-merited praise. Both the chief authors are direct, sincere, and
lifelike, and the many short sentences which they mingle with the longer,
balanced, ones give point and force. Steele is on the whole somewhat more
colloquial and less finished, Addison more balanced and polished, though
without artificial formality. Dr. Johnson's repeatedly quoted description
of the style can scarcely be improved on--'familiar but not coarse, and
elegant but not ostentatious.'

It still remains to speak of one particular achievement of 'The Spectator,'
namely the development of the character-sketch, accomplished by means of
the series of De Coverly papers, scattered at intervals among the others.
This was important because it signified preparation for the modern novel
with its attention to character as well as action. The character-sketch as
a distinct form began with the Greek philosopher, Theophrastus, of the
third century B. C., who struck off with great skill brief humorous
pictures of typical figures--the Dissembler, the Flatterer, the Coward, and
so on. This sort of writing, in one form or another, was popular in France
and England in the seventeenth century. From it Steele, and following him
Addison, really derived the idea for their portraits of Sir Roger, Will
Honeycomb, Will Wimble, and the other members of the De Coverly group; but
in each case they added individuality to the type traits. Students should
consider how complete the resulting characterizations are, and in general
just what additions and changes in all respects would be needed to
transform the De Coverly papers into a novel of the nineteenth century

ALEXANDER POPE, 1688-1744. The chief representative of pseudo-classicism in
its most particular field, that of poetry, is Dryden's successor, Alexander

Pope was born in 1688 (just a hundred years before Byron), the son of a
Catholic linen-merchant in London. Scarcely any other great writer has ever
had to contend against such hard and cruel handicaps as he. He inherited a
deformed and dwarfed body and an incurably sickly constitution, which
carried with it abnormal sensitiveness of both nerves and mind. Though he
never had really definite religious convictions of his own, he remained all
his life formally loyal to his parents' faith, and under the laws of the
time this closed to him all the usual careers of a gentleman. But he was
predestined by Nature to be a poet. Brought up chiefly at the country home
near Windsor to which his father had retired, and left to himself for
mental training, he never acquired any thoroughness of knowledge or power
of systematic thought, but he read eagerly the poetry of many languages. He
was one of the most precocious of the long list of precocious versifiers;
his own words are: 'I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.' The
influences which would no doubt have determined his style in any case were
early brought to a focus in the advice given him by an amateur poet and
critic, William Walsh. Walsh declared that England had had great poets,
'but never one great poet that was correct' (that is of thoroughly regular
style). Pope accepted this hint as his guiding principle and proceeded to
seek correctness by giving still further polish to the pentameter couplet
of Dryden.

At the age of twenty-one, when he was already on familiar terms with
prominent literary men, he published some imitative pastorals, and two
years later his 'Essay on Criticism.' This work is thoroughly
representative both of Pope and of his period. In the first place the
subject is properly one not for poetry but for expository prose. In the
second place the substance is not original with Pope but is a restatement
of the ideas of the Greek Aristotle, the Roman Horace, especially of the
French critic Boileau, who was Pope's earlier contemporary, and of various
other critical authorities, French and English. But in terse and
epigrammatic expression of fundamental or pseudo-classical principles of
poetic composition and criticism the 'Essay' is amazingly brilliant, and it
shows Pope already a consummate master of the couplet. The reputation which
it brought him was very properly increased by the publication the next year
of the admirable mock-epic 'The Rape of the Lock,' which Pope soon
improved, against Addison's advice, by the delightful 'machinery' of the
Rosicrucian sylphs. In its adaptation of means to ends and its attainment
of its ends Lowell has boldly called this the most successful poem in
English. Pope now formed his lifelong friendship with Swift (who was twice
his age), with Bolingbroke, and other distinguished persons, and at
twenty-five or twenty-six found himself acknowledged as the chief man of
letters in England, with a wide European reputation.

For the next dozen years he occupied himself chiefly with the formidable
task (suggested, no doubt, by Dryden's 'Virgil,' but expressive also of the
age) of translating 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey.' 'The Iliad' he completed
unaided, but then, tiring of the drudgery, he turned over half of 'The
Odyssey' to two minor writers. So easy, however, was his style to catch
that if the facts were not on record the work of his assistants would
generally be indistinguishable from his own. From an absolute point of view
many criticisms must be made of Pope's version. That he knew little Greek
when he began the work and from first to last depended much on translations
would in itself have made his rendering inaccurate. Moreover, the noble but
direct and simple spirit and language of Homer were as different as
possible from the spirit and language of the London drawing-rooms for which
Pope wrote; hence he not only expands, as every author of a
verse-translation must do in filling out his lines, but inserts new ideas
of his own and continually substitutes for Homer's expressions the
periphrastic and, as he held, elegant ones of the pseudo-classic diction.
The polished rimed couplet, also, pleasing as its precision and smoothness
are for a while, becomes eventually monotonous to most readers of a
romantic period. Equally serious is the inability which Pope shared with
most of the men of his time to understand the culture of the still
half-barbarous Homeric age. He supposes (in his Preface) that it was by a
deliberate literary artifice that Homer introduced the gods into his
action, supposes, that is, that Homer no more believed in the Greek gods
than did he, Pope, himself; and in general Pope largely obliterates the
differences between the Homeric warrior-chief and the eighteenth century
gentleman. The force of all this may be realized by comparing Pope's
translation with the very sympathetic and skilful one made (in prose) in
our own time by Messrs. Lang, Leaf, and Myers. A criticism of Pope's work
which Pope never forgave but which is final in some aspects was made by the
great Cambridge professor, Bentley: 'It's a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you
must not call it Homer.' Yet after all, Pope merited much higher praise
than this, and his work was really, a great achievement. It has been truly
said that every age must have the great classics translated into its own
dialect, and this work could scarcely have been better done for the early
eighteenth century than it is done by Pope.

The publication of Pope's Homer marks an important stage in the development
of authorship. Until the time of Dryden no writer had expected to earn his
whole living by publishing works of real literature. The medieval minstrels
and romancers of the higher class and the dramatists of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries had indeed supported themselves largely or wholly by
their works, but not by printing them. When, in Dryden's time, with the
great enlargement of the reading public, conditions were about to change,
the publisher took the upper hand; authors might sometimes receive gifts
from the noblemen to whom they inscribed dedications, but for their main
returns they must generally sell their works outright to the publisher and
accept his price. Pope's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' afforded the first notably
successful instance of another method, that of publication by
subscription--individual purchasers at a generous price being secured
beforehand by solicitation and in acknowledgment having their names printed
in a conspicuous list in the front of the book. From the two Homeric poems
together, thanks to this device, Pope realized a profit of nearly £9000,
and thus proved that an author might be independent of the publisher. On
the success of 'The Iliad' alone Pope had retired to an estate at a London
suburb, Twickenham (then pronounced 'Twitnam'), where he spent the
remainder of his life. Here he laid out five acres with skill, though in
the formal landscape-garden taste of his time. In particular, he excavated
under the road a 'grotto,' which he adorned with mirrors and glittering
stones and which was considered by his friends, or at least by himself, as
a marvel of artistic beauty.

Only bare mention need here be made of Pope's edition of Shakspere,
prepared with his usual hard work but with inadequate knowledge and
appreciation, and published in 1725. His next production, 'The Dunciad,'
can be understood only in the light of his personal character. Somewhat
like Swift, Pope was loyal and kind to his friends and inoffensive to
persons against whom he did not conceive a prejudice. He was an unusually
faithful son, and, in a brutal age, a hater of physical brutality. But, as
we have said, his infirmities and hardships had sadly warped his
disposition and he himself spoke of 'that long disease, my life.' He was
proud, vain, abnormally sensitive, suspicious, quick to imagine an injury,
incredibly spiteful, implacable in resentment, apparently devoid of any
sense of honesty--at his worst hateful and petty-minded beyond any other
man in English literature. His trickiness was astonishing. Dr. Johnson
observes that he 'hardly drank tea without a stratagem,' and indeed he
seems to have been almost constitutionally unable to do anything in an open
and straightforward way. Wishing, for example, to publish his
correspondence, he not only falsified it, but to preserve an appearance of
modesty engaged in a remarkably complicated series of intrigues by which he
trapped a publisher into apparently stealing a part of it--and then loudly
protested at the theft and the publication. It is easy to understand,
therefore, that Pope was readily drawn into quarrels and was not an
agreeable antagonist. He had early taken a violent antipathy to the host of
poor scribblers who are known by the name of the residence of most of them,
Grub Street--an antipathy chiefly based, it would seem, on his contempt for
their worldly and intellectual poverty. For some years he had been carrying
on a pamphlet war against them, and now, it appears, he deliberately
stirred them up to make new attacks upon him. Determined, at any rate, to
overwhelm all his enemies at once in a great satire, he bent all his
energies, with the utmost seriousness, to writing 'The Dunciad' on the
model of Dryden's 'Mac Flecknoe' and irresponsibly 'dealt damnation 'round
the land.' Clever and powerful, the poem is still more disgusting--grossly
obscene, pitifully rancorous against scores of insignificant creatures, and
no less violent against some of the ablest men of the time, at whom Pope
happened to have taken offense. Yet throughout the rest of his life Pope
continued with keen delight to work the unsavory production over and to
bring out new editions.

During his last fifteen years Pope's original work was done chiefly in two
very closely related fields, first in a group of what he called 'Moral'
essays, second in the imitation of a few of the Satires and Epistles of
Horace, which Pope applied to circumstances of his own time. In the 'Moral'
Essays he had intended to deal comprehensively with human nature and
institutions, but such a systematic plan was beyond his powers. The longest
of the essays which he accomplished, the 'Essay on Man,' aims, like
'Paradise Lost,' to 'vindicate the ways of God to man,' but as regards
logic chiefly demonstrates the author's inability to reason. He derived the
ideas, in fragmentary fashion, from Bolingbroke, who was an amateur Deist
and optimist of the shallow eighteenth century type, and so far was Pope
from understanding what he was doing that he was greatly disturbed when it
was pointed out to him that the theology of the poem was Deistic rather
than Christian [Footnote: The name Deist was applied rather generally in
the eighteenth century to all persons who did not belong to some recognized
Christian denomination. More strictly, it belongs to those men who
attempted rationalistic criticism of the Bible and wished to go back to
what they supposed to be a primitive pure religion, anterior to revealed
religion and free from the corruptions and formalism of actual
Christianity. The Deistic ideas followed those expressed in the seventeenth
century by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, brother of George Herbert, who held
that the worship due to the Deity consists chiefly in reverence and
virtuous conduct, and also that man should repent of sin and forsake it and
that reward and punishment, both in this life and hereafter, follow from
the goodness and justice of God.] In this poem, as in all Pope's others of
this period, the best things are the detached observations. Some of the
other poems, especially the autobiographical 'Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,'
are notable for their masterly and venomous satirical sketches of various
contemporary characters.

Pope's physical disabilities brought him to premature old age, and he died
in 1744. His declining years were saddened by the loss of friends, and he
had never married, though his dependent and sensitive nature would have
made marriage especially helpful to him. During the greater part of his
life, however, he was faithfully watched over by a certain Martha Blount,
whose kindness he repaid with only less selfishness than that which
'Stella' endured from Swift. Indeed, Pope's whole attitude toward woman,
which appears clearly in his poetry, was largely that of the Restoration.
Yet after all that must be said against Pope, it is only fair to conclude,
as does his biographer, Sir Leslie Stephen: 'It was a gallant spirit which
got so much work out of this crazy carcase, and kept it going, spite of all
its feebleness, for fifty-six years.'

The question of Pope's rank among authors is of central importance for any
theory of poetry. In his own age he was definitely regarded by his
adherents as the greatest of all English poets of all time. As the
pseudo-classic spirit yielded to the romantic this judgment was modified,
until in the nineteenth century it was rather popular to deny that in any
true sense Pope was a poet at all. Of course the truth lies somewhere
between these extremes. Into the highest region of poetry, that of great
emotion and imagination, Pope scarcely enters at all; he is not a poet in
the same sense as Shakspere, Milton, Wordsworth, Shelley, or Browning;
neither his age nor his own nature permitted it. In lyric, original
narrative, and dramatic poetry he accomplished very little, though the
success of his 'Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady' and 'Eloisa to Abelard' must
be carefully weighed in this connection. On the other hand, it may well be
doubted if he can ever be excelled as a master in satire and kindred
semi-prosaic forms. He is supreme in epigrams, the terse statement of pithy
truths; his poems have furnished more brief familiar quotations to our
language than those of any other writer except Shakspere. For this sort of
effect his rimed couplet provided him an unrivalled instrument, and he
especially developed its power in antithesis, very frequently balancing one
line of the couplet, or one half of a line, against the other. He had
received the couplet from Dryden, but he polished it to a greater finish,
emphasizing, on the whole, its character as a single unit by making it more
consistently end-stopped. By this means he gained in snap and point, though
for purposes of continuous narrative or exposition he increased the
monotony and somewhat decreased the strength. Every reader must decide for
himself how far the rimed couplet, in either Dryden's or Pope's use of it,
is a proper medium for real poetry. But it is certain that within the
limits which he laid down for himself, there never was a more finished
artist than Pope. He chooses every word with the greatest care for its
value as both sound and sense; his minor technique is well-night perfect,
except sometimes in the matter of rimes; and in particular the variety
which he secures, partly by skilful shifting of pauses and use of extra
syllables, is remarkable; though it is a variety less forceful than

[Note: The judgments of certain prominent critics on the poetry of Pope and
of his period may well be considered. Professor Lewis E. Gates has said:
'The special task of the pseudo-classical period was to order, to
systematize, and to name; its favorite methods were, analysis and
generalization. It asked for no new experience. The abstract, the typical,
the general--these were everywhere exalted at the expense of the image, the
specific experience, the vital fact.' Lowell declares that it 'ignored the
imagination altogether and sent Nature about her business as an impertinent
baggage whose household loom competed unlawfully with the machine-made
fabrics, so exquisitely uniform in pattern, of the royal manufactories.'
Still more hostile is Matthew Arnold: 'The difference between genuine
poetry and the poetry of Dryden, Pope, and all their school, is briefly
this: Their poetry is conceived and composed in their wits, genuine poetry
is conceived and composed in the soul. The difference is immense.' Taine is
contemptuous: 'Pope did not write because he thought, but thought in order
to write. Inky paper, and the noise it makes in the world, was his idol.'
Professor Henry A. Beers is more judicious: 'Pope did in some inadequate
sense hold the mirror up to Nature.... It was a mirror in a drawing-room,
but it gave back a faithful image of society, powdered and rouged, to be
sure, and intent on trifles, yet still as human in its own way as the
heroes of Homer in theirs, though not broadly human.'

It should be helpful also to indicate briefly some of the more specific
mannerisms of pseudo-classical poetry, in addition to the general
tendencies named above on page 190. Almost all of them, it will be
observed, result from the habit of generalizing instead of searching for
the pictorial and the particular. 1. There is a constant preference (to
enlarge on what was briefly stated above) for abstract expressions instead
of concrete ones, such expressions as 'immortal powers' or 'Heaven' for
'God.' These abstract expressions are especially noticeable in the
descriptions of emotion, which the pseudo-classical writers often describe
without really feeling it, in such colorless words as 'joys, 'delights,'
and 'ecstasies,' and which they uniformly refer to the conventionalized
'heart, 'soul,' or 'bosom.' Likewise in the case of personal features,
instead of picturing a face with blue eyes, rosy lips, and pretty color,
these poets vaguely mention 'charms,' 'beauties,' 'glories,'
'enchantments,' and the like. These three lines from 'The Rape of the Lock'
are thoroughly characteristic:

  The fair [the lady] each moment rises in her charms,
  Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
  And calls forth all the, wonders of her face.

The tendency reaches its extreme in the frequent use of abstract and often
absurdly pretentious expressions in place of the ordinary ones which to
these poets appeared too simple or vulgar. With them a field is generally a
'verdant mead'; a lock of hair becomes 'The long-contended honours of her
head'; and a boot 'The shining leather that encased the limb.'

2. There is a constant use of generic or generalizing articles, pronouns,
and adjectives, 'the,' 'a,' 'that,' 'every,' and 'each' as in some of the
preceding and in the following examples: 'The wise man's passion and the
vain man's boast.' 'Wind the shrill horn or spread the waving net.' 'To act
a Lover's or a Roman's part.' 'That bleeding bosom.' 3. There is an
excessive use of adjectives, often one to nearly every important noun,
which creates monotony. 4. The vocabulary is largely conventionalized,
with, certain favorite words usurping the place of a full and free variety,
such words as 'conscious,' 'generous, 'soft,' and 'amorous.' The metaphors
employed are largely conventionalized ones, like 'Now burns with glory, and
then melts with love.' 5. The poets imitate the Latin language to some
extent; especially they often prefer long words of Latin origin to short
Saxon ones, and Latin names to English--'Sol' for 'Sun, 'temple' for
'church,' 'Senate' for 'Parliament,' and so on.]

SAMUEL JOHNSON, 1709-1784. To the informal position of dictator of English
letters which had been held successively by Dryden, Addison, and Pope,
succeeded in the third quarter of the eighteenth century a man very
different from any of them, one of the most forcefully individual of all
authors, Samuel Johnson. It was his fortune to uphold, largely by the
strength of his personality, the pseudo-classical ideals which Dryden and
Addison had helped to form and whose complete dominance had contributed to
Pope's success, in the period when their authority was being undermined by
the progress of the rising Romantic Movement.

Johnson was born in 1709, the son of a bookseller in Lichfield. He
inherited a constitution of iron, great physical strength, and fearless
self-assertiveness, but also hypochondria (persistent melancholy),
uncouthness of body and movement, and scrofula, which disfigured his face
and greatly injured his eyesight. In his early life as well as later,
spasmodic fits of abnormal mental activity when he 'gorged' books,
especially the classics, as he did food, alternated with other fits of
indolence. The total result, however, was a very thorough knowledge of an
extremely wide range of literature; when he entered Oxford in 1728 the
Master of his college assured him that he was the best qualified applicant
whom he had ever known. Johnson, on his side, was not nearly so well
pleased with the University; he found the teachers incompetent, and his
pride suffered intensely from his poverty, so that he remained at Oxford
little more than a year. The death of his father in 1731 plunged him into a
distressingly painful struggle for existence which lasted for thirty years.
After failing as a subordinate teacher in a boarding-school he became a
hack-writer in Birmingham, where, at the age of twenty-five, he made a
marriage with a widow, Mrs. Porter, an unattractive, rather absurd, but
good-hearted woman of forty-six. He set up a school of his own, where he
had only three pupils, and then in 1737 tramped with one of them, David
Garrick, later the famous actor, to London to try his fortune in another
field. When the two reached the city their combined funds amounted to
sixpence. Sir Robert Walpole, ruling the country with unscrupulous
absolutism, had now put an end to the employment of literary men in public
life, and though Johnson's poem 'London,' a satire on the city written in
imitation of the Roman poet Juvenal and published in 1738, attracted much
attention, he could do no better for a time than to become one of that
undistinguished herd of hand-to-mouth and nearly starving Grub Street
writers whom Pope was so contemptuously abusing and who chiefly depended on
the despotic patronage of magazine publishers. Living in a garret or even
walking the streets at night for lack of a lodging, Johnson was sometimes
unable to appear at a tavern because he had no respectable clothes. It was
ten years after the appearance of 'London' that he began to emerge, through
the publication of his 'Vanity of Human Wishes,' a poem of the same kind as
'London' but more sincere and very powerful. A little later Garrick, who
had risen very much more rapidly and was now manager of Drury Lane theater,
gave him substantial help by producing his early play 'Irene,' a
representative pseudo-classical tragedy of which it has been said that a
person with a highly developed sense of duty may be able to read it

Meanwhile, by an arrangement with leading booksellers, Johnson had entered
on the largest, and, as it proved, the decisive, work of his life, the
preparation of his 'Dictionary of the English Language.' The earliest
mentionable English dictionary had appeared as far back as 1604,
'containing 3000 hard words ... gathered for the benefit and help of
ladies, gentle women, or any other unskilful persons.' Others had followed;
but none of them was comprehensive or satisfactory. Johnson, planning a far
more thorough work, contracted to do it for £1575--scanty pay for himself
and his copyists, the more so that the task occupied more than twice as
much time as he had expected, over seven years. The result, then, of very
great labor, the 'Dictionary' appeared in 1755. It had distinct
limitations. The knowledge of Johnson's day was not adequate for tracing
the history and etymology of words, and Johnson himself on being asked the
reason for one of his numerous blunders could only reply, with his
characteristic blunt frankness, 'sheer ignorance.' Moreover, he allowed his
strong prejudices to intrude, even though he colored them with humor; for
example in defining 'oats' as 'a grain which in England is generally given
to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.' Jesting at himself he
defined 'lexicographer' as 'a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.'
Nevertheless the work, though not creative literature, was a great and
necessary one, and Johnson did it, on the whole, decidedly well. The
'Dictionary,' in successive enlargements, ultimately, though not until
after Johnson's death, became the standard, and it gave him at once the
definite headship of English literary life. Of course, it should be added,
the English language has vastly expanded since his time, and Johnson's
first edition contained only a tithe of the 400,000 words recorded in the
latest edition of Webster (1910).

With the 'Dictionary' is connected one of the best-known incidents in
English literary history. At the outset of the undertaking Johnson exerted
himself to secure the patronage and financial aid of Lord Chesterfield, an
elegant leader of fashion and of fashionable literature. At the time
Chesterfield, not foreseeing the importance of the work, was coldly
indifferent, but shortly before the Dictionary appeared, being better
informed, he attempted to gain a share in the credit by commending it in a
periodical. Johnson responded with a letter which is a perfect masterpiece
of bitter but polished irony and which should be familiar to every student.

The hard labor of the 'Dictionary' had been the only remedy for Johnson's
profound grief at the death of his wife, in 1752; and how intensively he
could apply himself at need he showed again some years later when to pay
his mother's funeral expenses he wrote in the evenings of a single week his
'Rasselas,' which in the guise of an Eastern tale is a series of
philosophical discussions of life.

Great as were Johnson's labors during the eight years of preparation of the
'Dictionary' they made only a part of his activity. For about two years he
earned a living income by carrying on the semi-weekly 'Rambler,' one of the
numerous imitations of 'The Spectator.' He was not so well qualified as
Addison or Steele for this work, but he repeated it some years later in
'The Idler.'

It was not until 1775 that Johnson received from Oxford the degree of LL.D.
which gave him the title of 'Dr.,' now almost inseparable from his name;
but his long battle with poverty had ended on the accession of George III
in 1762, when the ministers, deciding to signalize the new reign by
encouraging men of letters, granted Johnson a pension of £300 for life. In
his Dictionary Johnson had contemptuously defined a pension thus: 'An
allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England, it is
generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to
his country.' This was embarrassing, but Johnson's friends rightly
persuaded him to accept the pension, which he, at least, had certainly
earned by services to society very far from treasonable. However, with the
removal of financial pressure his natural indolence, increased by the
strain of hardships and long-continued over-exertion, asserted itself in
spite of his self-reproaches and frequent vows of amendment. Henceforth he
wrote comparatively little but gave expression to his ideas in
conversation, where his genius always showed most brilliantly. At the
tavern meetings of 'The Club' (commonly referred to as 'The Literary
Club'), of which Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Goldsmith, Gibbon, and others,
were members, he reigned unquestioned conversational monarch. Here or in
other taverns with fewer friends he spent most of his nights, talking and
drinking incredible quantities of tea, and going home in the small hours to
lie abed until noon.

But occasionally even yet he aroused himself to effort. In 1765 appeared
his long-promised edition of Shakspere. It displays in places much of the
sound sense which is one of Johnson's most distinguishing merits, as in the
terse exposure of the fallacies of the pseudo-classic theory of the three
dramatic unities, and it made some interpretative contributions; but as a
whole it was carelessly and slightly done. Johnson's last important
production, his most important really literary work, was a series of 'Lives
of the English Poets' from the middle of the seventeenth century, which he
wrote for a publishers' collection of their works. The selection of poets
was badly made by the publishers, so that many of the lives deal with very
minor versifiers. Further, Johnson's indolence and prejudices are here
again evident; often when he did not know the facts he did not take the
trouble to investigate; a thorough Tory himself he was often unfair to men
of Whig principles; and for poetry of the delicately imaginative and
romantic sort his rather painfully practical mind had little appreciation.
Nevertheless he was in many respects well fitted for the work, and some of
the lives, such as those of Dryden, Pope, Addison and Swift, men in whom he
took a real interest, are of high merit.

Johnson's last years were rendered gloomy, partly by the loss of friends,
partly by ill-health and a deepening of his lifelong tendency to morbid
depression. He had an almost insane shrinking from death and with it a
pathetic apprehension of future punishment. His melancholy was perhaps the
greater because of the manly courage and contempt for sentimentality which
prevented him from complaining or discussing his distresses. His religious
faith, also, in spite of all intellectual doubts, was strong, and he died
calmly, in 1784. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Johnson's picturesque surface oddities have received undue attention,
thanks largely to his friend and biographer Boswell. Nearly every one
knows, for example, that he superstitiously made a practice of entering
doorways in a certain manner and would rather turn back and come in again
than fail in the observance; that he was careless, even slovenly, in dress
and person, and once remarked frankly that he had no passion for clean
linen; that he ate voraciously, with a half-animal eagerness; that in the
intervals of talking he 'would make odd sounds, a half whistle, or a
clucking like a hen's, and when he ended an argument would blow out his
breath like a whale.' More important were his dogmatism of opinion, his
intense prejudices, and the often seemingly brutal dictatorial violence
with which he enforced them. Yet these things too were really on the
surface. It is true that his nature was extremely conservative; that after
a brief period of youthful free thinking he was fanatically loyal to the
national Church and to the king (though theoretically he was a Jacobite, a
supporter of the supplanted Stuarts as against the reigning House of
Hanover); and that in conversation he was likely to roar down or scowl down
all innovators and their defenders or silence them with such observations
as, 'Sir, I perceive you are a vile Whig.' At worst it was not quite
certain that he would not knock them down physically. Of women's preaching
he curtly observed that it was like a dog walking on its hind legs: 'It is
not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.' English
insular narrowness certainly never had franker expression than in his
exclamation: 'For anything I can see, all foreigners are fools.' For the
American colonists who had presumed to rebel against their king his
bitterness was sometimes almost frenzied; he characterized them as
'rascals, robbers and pirates.' His special antipathy to Scotland and its
people led him to insult them repeatedly, though with some individual Scots
he was on very friendly terms. Yet after all, many of these prejudices
rested on important principles which were among the most solid foundations
of Johnson's nature and largely explain his real greatness, namely on sound
commonsense, moral and intellectual independence, and hatred of
insincerity. There was really something to be said for his refusal to
listen to the Americans' demand for liberty while they themselves held
slaves. Living in a period of change, Johnson perceived that in many cases
innovations prove dangerous and that the progress of society largely
depends on the continuance of the established institutions in which the
wisdom of the past is summed up. Of course in specific instances, perhaps
in the majority of them, Johnson was wrong; but that does not alter the
fact that he thought of himself as standing, and really did stand, for
order against a freedom which is always more or less in danger of leading
to anarchy.

Johnson's personality, too, cannot be fairly judged by its more grotesque
expression. Beneath the rough surface he was a man not only of very
vigorous intellect and great learning, but of sincere piety, a very warm
heart, unusual sympathy and kindness, and the most unselfish, though
eccentric, generosity. Fine ladies were often fascinated by him, and he was
no stranger to good society. On himself, during his later years, he spent
only a third part of his pension, giving away the rest to a small army of
beneficiaries. Some of these persons, through no claim on him but their
need, he had rescued from abject distress and supported in his own house,
where, so far from being grateful, they quarreled among themselves,
complained of the dinner, or even brought their children to live with them.
Johnson himself was sometimes exasperated by their peevishness and even
driven to take refuge from his own home in that 'of his wealthy friends the
Thrales, where, indeed, he had a room of his own; but he never allowed any
one else to criticize or speak harshly of them. In sum, no man was ever
loved or respected more deeply, or with better reason, by those who really
knew him, or more sincerely mourned when he died.

Johnson's importance as a conservative was greatest in his professional
capacity of literary critic and bulwark of pseudo-classicism. In this case,
except that a restraining influence is always salutary to hold a new
movement from extremes, he was in opposition to the time-spirit;
romanticism was destined to a complete triumph because it was the
expression of vital forces which were necessary for the rejuvenation of
literature. Yet it is true that romanticism carried with it much vague and
insincere sentimentality, and it was partly against this that Johnson
protested. Perhaps the twentieth-century mind is most dissatisfied with his
lack of sympathy for the romantic return to an intimate appreciation of
external Nature. Johnson was not blind to the charm of Nature and sometimes
expresses it in his own writing; but for the most part his interest, like
that of his pseudo-classical predecessors, was centered in the world of
man. To him, as he flatly declared, Fleet Street, in the midst of the hurry
of London life, was the most interesting place in the world.

In the substance of his work Johnson is most conspicuously, and of set
purpose, a moralist. In all his writing, so far as the subject permitted,
he aimed chiefly at the inculcation of virtue and the formation of
character. His uncompromising resoluteness in this respect accounts for
much of the dulness which it is useless to try to deny in his work. 'The
Rambler' and 'The Idler' altogether lack Addison's lightness of touch and
of humor; for Johnson, thoroughly Puritan at heart, and dealing generally
with the issues of personal conduct and responsibility, can never greatly
relax his seriousness, while Addison, a man of the world, is content if he
can produce some effect on society as a whole. Again, a present-day reader
can only smile when he finds Johnson in his Preface to Shakspere blaming
the great dramatist for omitting opportunities of instructing and
delighting, as if the best moral teachers were always explicit. But
Johnson's moral and religious earnestness is essentially admirable, the
more so because his deliberate view of the world was thoroughly
pessimistic. His own long and unhappy experience had convinced him that
life is for the most part a painful tribulation, to be endured with as much
patience and courage as possible, under the consciousness of the duty of
doing our best where God has put us and in the hope (though with Johnson
not a confident hope) that we shall find our reward in another world.

It has long been a popular tradition, based largely on a superficial page
of Macaulay, that Johnson's style always represents the extreme of
ponderous pedantry. As usual, the tradition must be largely discounted. It
is evident that Johnson talked, on the whole, better than he wrote, that
the present stimulus of other active minds aroused him to a complete
exertion of his powers, but that in writing, his indolence often allowed
him to compose half sleepily, at a low pressure. In some of his works,
especially 'The Rambler,' where, it has been jocosely suggested, he was
exercising the polysyllables that he wished to put into his 'Dictionary,'
he does employ a stilted Latinized vocabulary and a stilted style, with too
much use of abstract phrases for concrete ones, too many long sentences,
much inverted order, and over-elaborate balance. His style is always in
some respects monotonous, with little use, for instance, as critics have
pointed out, of any form of sentence but the direct declarative, and with
few really imaginative figures of speech. In much of his writing, on the
other hand, the most conspicuous things are power and strong effective
exposition. He often uses short sentences, whether or not in contrast to
his long ones, with full consciousness of their value; when he will take
the trouble, no one can express ideas with clearer and more forceful
brevity; and in a very large part of his work his style carries the finely
tonic qualities of his clear and vigorous mind.

JAMES BOSWELL AND HIS 'LIFE OF JOHNSON.' It is an interesting paradox that
while Johnson's reputation as the chief English man of letters of his age
seems secure for all time, his works, for the most part, do not belong to
the field of pure literature, and, further, have long ceased, almost
altogether, to be read. His reputation is really due to the interest of his
personality, and that is known chiefly by the most famous of all
biographies, the life of him by James Boswell.

Boswell was a Scotch gentleman, born in 1740, the son of a judge who was
also laird of the estate of Auchinleck in Ayrshire, near the English
border. James Boswell studied law, but was never very serious in any
regular activity. Early in life he became possessed by an extreme
boyish-romantic admiration for Johnson's works and through them for their
author, and at last in 1763 (only twenty years before Johnson's death)
secured an introduction to him. Boswell took pains that acquaintance should
soon ripen into intimacy, though it was not until nine years later that he
could be much in Johnson's company. Indeed it appears from Boswell's
account that they were personally together, all told, only during a total
of one hundred and eighty days at intermittent intervals, plus a hundred
more continuously when in 1773 they went on a tour to the Hebrides.
Boswell, however, made a point of recording in minute detail, sometimes on
the spot, all of Johnson's significant conversation to which he listened,
and of collecting with the greatest care his letters and all possible
information about him. He is the founder and still the most thorough
representative of the modern method of accurate biographical writing. After
Johnson's death he continued his researches, refusing to be hurried or
disturbed by several hasty lives of his subject brought out by other
persons, with the result that when his work appeared in 1791 it at once
assumed the position among biographies which it has ever since occupied.
Boswell lived only four years longer, sinking more and more under the habit
of drunkenness which had marred the greater part of his life.

Boswell's character, though absolutely different from Johnson's, was
perhaps as unusual a mixture. He was shallow, extremely vain, often
childishly foolish, and disagreeably jealous of Johnson's other friends.
Only extreme lack of personal dignity can account for the servility of his
attitude toward Johnson and his acceptance of the countless rebuffs from
his idol some of which he himself records and which would have driven any
other man away in indignation. None the less he was good-hearted, and the
other members of Johnson's circle, though they were often vexed by him and
admitted him to 'The Club' only under virtual compulsion by Johnson, seem
on the whole, in the upshot, to have liked him. Certainly it is only by
force of real genius of some sort, never by a mere lucky chance, that a man
achieves the acknowledged masterpiece in any line of work.

Boswell's genius, one is tempted to say, consists partly of his absorption
in the worship of his hero; more largely, no doubt, in his inexhaustible
devotion and patience. If the bulk of his book becomes tiresome to some
readers, it nevertheless gives a picture of unrivalled fulness and
life-likeness. Boswell aimed to be absolutely complete and truthful. When
the excellent Hannah More entreated him to touch lightly on the less
agreeable traits of his subject he replied flatly that he would not cut off
Johnson's claws, nor make a tiger a cat to please anybody. The only very
important qualification to be made is that Boswell was not altogether
capable of appreciating the deeper side of Johnson's nature. It scarcely
needs to be added that Boswell is a real literary artist. He knows how to
emphasize, to secure variety, to bring out dramatic contrasts, and also to
heighten without essentially falsifying, as artists must, giving point and
color to what otherwise would seem thin and pale.

part of the eighteenth century produced not only the greatest of all
biographies but also the history which can perhaps best claim the same
rank, Edward Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.' History of
the modern sort, aiming at minute scientific accuracy through wide
collection of materials and painstaking research, and at vivid reproduction
of the life, situations and characters of the past, had scarcely existed
anywhere, before Gibbon, since classical times. The medieval chroniclers
were mostly mere annalists, brief mechanical recorders of external events,
and the few more philosophic historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries do not attain the first rank. The way was partly prepared for
Gibbon by two Scottish historians, his early contemporaries, the
philosopher David Hume and the clergyman William Robertson, but they have
little of his scientific conscientiousness.

Gibbon, the son of a country gentleman in Surrey, was born in 1737. From
Westminster School he passed at the age of fifteen to Oxford. Ill-health
and the wretched state of instruction at the university made his residence
there, according to his own exaggerated account, largely unprofitable, but
he remained for little more than a year; for, continuing the reading of
theological works, in which he had become interested as a child, he was
converted to Catholicism, and was hurried by his father to the care of a
Protestant pastor in Lausanne, Switzerland. The pastor reconverted him in a
year, but both conversions were merely intellectual, since Gibbon was of
all men the most incapable of spiritual emotion. Later in life he became a
philosophic sceptic. In Lausanne he fell in love with the girl who later
actually married M. Necker, minister of finance under Louis XVI, and became
the mother of the famous Mme. de Staël; but to Gibbon's father a foreign
marriage was as impossible as a foreign religion, and the son, again,
obediently yielded. He never again entertained the thought of marriage. In
his five years of study at Lausanne he worked diligently and laid the broad
foundation of the knowledge of Latin and Greek which was to be
indispensable for his great work. His mature life, spent mostly on his
ancestral estate in England and at a villa which he acquired in Lausanne,
was as externally uneventful as that of most men of letters. He was for
several years a captain in the English militia and later a member of
Parliament and one of the Lords of Trade; all which positions were of
course practically useful to him as a historian. He wrote a brief and
interesting autobiography, which helps to reveal him as sincere and
good-hearted, though cold and somewhat self-conceited, a rather formal man
not of a large nature. He died in 1794.

The circumstances under which the idea of his history first entered his
mind were highly dramatic, though his own account of the incident is brief
and colorless. He was sitting at vespers on the Capitoline Hill in Rome,
the center of ancient Roman greatness, and the barefooted Catholic friars
were singing the service of the hour in the shabby church which has long
since supplanted the Roman Capitol. Suddenly his mind was impressed with
the vast significance of the transformation, thus suggested, of the ancient
world into the modern one, a process which has rightly been called the
greatest of all historical themes. He straightway resolved to become its
historian, but it was not until five years later that he really began the
work. Then three years of steady application produced his first volume, in
1773, and fourteen years more the remaining five.

The first source of the greatness of Gibbon's work is his conscientious
industry and scholarship. With unwearied patience he made himself
thoroughly familiar with the great mass of materials, consisting largely of
histories and works of general literature in many languages, belonging to
the fourteen hundred years with which he dealt. But he had also the
constructive power which selects, arranges, and proportions, the faculty of
clear and systematic exposition, and the interpretative historical vision
which perceives and makes clear the broad tendencies in the apparent chaos
of mere events. Much new information has necessarily been discovered since
Gibbon wrote, but he laid his foundation so deep and broad that though his
work may be supplemented it can probably never be superseded, and stands in
the opinion of competent critics without an equal in the whole field of
history except perhaps for that of the Greek Thucydides. His one great
deficiency is his lack of emotion. By intellectual processes he realizes
and partly visualizes the past, with its dramatic scenes and moments, but
he cannot throw himself into it (even if the material afforded by his
authorities had permitted) with the passionate vivifying sympathy of later,
romantic, historians. There are interest and power in his narratives of
Julian's expedition into Assyria, of Zenobia's brilliant career, and of the
capture of Constantinople by the Turks, but not the stirring power of Green
or Froude or Macaulay. The most unfortunate result of this deficiency,
however, is his lack of appreciation of the immense meaning of spiritual
forces, most notoriously evident in the cold analysis, in his fifteenth
chapter, of the reasons for the success of Christianity.

His style possesses much of the same virtues and limitations as his
substance. He has left it on record that he composed each paragraph
mentally as a whole before committing any part of it to paper, balancing
and reshaping until it fully satisfied his sense of unity and rhythm.
Something of formality and ponderousness quickly becomes evident in his
style, together with a rather mannered use of potential instead of direct
indicative verb forms; how his style compares with Johnson's and how far it
should be called pseudo-classical, are interesting questions to consider.
One appreciative description of it may be quoted: 'The language of Gibbon
never flags; he walks forever as to the clash of arms, under an imperial
banner; a military music animates his magnificent descriptions of battles,
of sieges, of panoramic scenes of antique civilization.'

A longer eulogistic passage will sum up his achievement as a whole:
[Footnote: Edmund Gosse, 'History of Eighteenth Century Literature,' p.

'The historian of literature will scarcely reach the name of Edward Gibbon
without emotion. It is not merely that with this name is associated one of
the most splendid works which Europe produced in the eighteenth century,
but that the character of the author, with all its limitations and even
with all its faults, presents us with a typical specimen of the courage and
singleheartedness of a great man of letters. Wholly devoted to scholarship
without pedantry, and to his art without any of the petty vanity of the
literary artist, the life of Gibbon was one long sacrifice to the purest
literary enthusiasm. He lived to know, and to rebuild his knowledge in a
shape as durable and as magnificent as a Greek temple. He was content for
years and years to lie unseen, unheard of, while younger men rose past him
into rapid reputation. No unworthy impatience to be famous, no sense of the
uncertainty of life, no weariness or terror at the length or breadth of his
self-imposed task, could induce him at any moment of weakness to give way
to haste or discouragement in the persistent regular collection and
digestion of his material or in the harmonious execution of every part of
his design.... No man who honors the profession of letters, or regards with
respect the higher and more enlightened forms of scholarship, will ever
think without admiration of the noble genius of Gibbon.' It may be added
that Gibbon is one of the conspicuous examples of a man whose success was
made possible only by the possession and proper use of inherited wealth,
with the leisure which it brings.

EDMUND BURKE. The last great prose-writer of the eighteenth century, Edmund
Burke, is also the greatest of English orators. Burke is the only writer
primarily a statesman and orator who can be properly ranked among English
authors of the first class. The reasons, operating in substantially the
same way in all literature, are not hard to understand. The interests with
which statesmen and orators deal are usually temporary; the spirit and
style which give a spoken address the strongest appeal to an audience often
have in them something of superficiality; and it is hard for the orator
even to maintain his own mind on the higher level of rational thought and
disinterested purpose. Occasionally, however, a man appears in public life
who to the power of compelling speech and the personality on which it is
based adds intellect, a philosophic temperament, and the real literary,
poetic, quality. Such men were Demosthenes, Cicero, Webster, and at times
Lincoln, and beside them in England stands Burke. It is certainly an
interesting coincidence that the chief English representatives of four
outlying regions of literature should have been closely
contemporaneous--Johnson the moralist and hack writer, Boswell the
biographer, Gibbon the historian, and Burke the orator.

Burke was born in Dublin in 1729 of mixed English and Irish parentage. Both
strains contributed very important elements to his nature. As English we
recognize his indomitable perseverance, practical good sense, and devotion
to established principles; as largely Irish his spontaneous enthusiasm,
ardent emotion, and disinterested idealism. Always brilliant, in his
earlier years he was also desultory and somewhat lawless. From Trinity
College in Dublin he crossed over to London and studied law, which he soon
abandoned. In 1756 he began his career as an author with 'A Vindication of
Natural Society,' a skilful satire on the philosophic writings which
Bolingbroke (the friend of Swift and Pope) had put forth after his
political fall and which, while nominally expressing the deistic principles
of natural religion, were virtually antagonistic to all religious faith.
Burke's 'Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime
and Beautiful,' published the same year, and next in time after Dryden
among important English treatises on esthetics, has lost all authority with
the coming of the modern science of psychology, but it is at least sincere
and interesting. Burke now formed his connection with Johnson and his
circle. An unsatisfactory period as secretary to an official in Ireland
proved prolog to the gift of a seat in Parliament from a Whig lord, and
thus at the age of thirty-six Burke at last entered on the public life
which was his proper sphere of action. Throughout his life, however, he
continued to be involved in large debts and financial difficulties, the
pressure of which on a less buoyant spirit would have been a very serious

As a politician and statesman Burke is one of the finest figures in English
history. He was always a devoted Whig, because he believed that the party
system was the only available basis for representative government; but he
believed also, and truly, that the Whig party, controlled though it was by
a limited and largely selfish oligarchy of wealthy nobles, was the only
effective existing instrument of political and social righteousness. To
this cause of public righteousness, especially to the championing of
freedom, Burke's whole career was dedicated; he showed himself altogether
possessed by the passion for truth and justice. Yet equally conspicuous was
his insistence on respect for the practicable. Freedom and justice, he
always declared, agreeing thus far with Johnson, must be secured not by
hasty violence but under the forms of law, government, and religion which
represent the best wisdom of past generations. Of any proposal he always
asked not only whether it embodied abstract principles of right but whether
it was workable and expedient in the existing circumstances and among
actual men. No phrase could better describe Burke's spirit and activity
than that which Matthew Arnold coined of him--'the generous application of
ideas to life.' It was England's special misfortune that, lagging far
behind him in both vision and sympathy, she did not allow him to save her
from the greatest disaster of her history. Himself she repaid with the
usual reformer's reward. Though he soon made himself 'the brains of the
Whig party,' which at times nothing but his energy and ability held
together, and though in consequence he was retained in Parliament virtually
to the end of his life, he was never appointed to any office except that of
Paymaster of the Forces, which he accepted after he had himself had the
annual salary reduced from £25,000 to £4,000, and which he held for only a

During all the early part of his public career Burke steadily fought
against the attempts of the King and his Tory clique to entrench themselves
within the citadel of irresponsible government. At one time also he largely
devoted his efforts to a partly successful attack on the wastefulness and
corruption of the government; and his generous effort to secure just
treatment of Ireland and the Catholics was pushed so far as to result in
the loss of his seat as member of Parliament from Bristol. But the
permanent interest of his thirty years of political life consists chiefly
in his share in the three great questions, roughly successive in time, of
what may be called England's foreign policy, namely the treatment of the
English colonies in America, the treatment of the native population of the
English empire in India, and the attitude of England toward the French
Revolution. In dealing with the first two of these questions Burke spoke
with noble ardor for liberty and the rights of man, which he felt the
English government to be disregarding. Equally notable with his zeal for
justice, however, was his intellectual mastery of the facts. Before he
attempted to discuss either subject he had devoted to it many years of the
most painstaking study--in the case of India no less than fourteen years;
and his speeches, long and highly complicated, were filled with minute
details and exact statistics, which his magnificent memory enabled him to
deliver without notes.

His most important discussions of American affairs are the 'Speech on
American Taxation' (1774), the 'Speech on Conciliation with America'
(1775), both delivered in Parliament while the controversy was bitter but
before war had actually broken out, and 'A Letter to the Sheriffs of
Bristol' (1777). Burke's plea was that although England had a theoretical
constitutional right to tax the colonies it was impracticable to do so
against their will, that the attempt was therefore useless and must lead to
disaster, that measures of conciliation instead of force should be
employed, and that the attempt to override the liberties of Englishmen in
America, those liberties on which the greatness of England was founded,
would establish a dangerous precedent for a similar course of action in the
mother country itself. In the fulfilment of his prophecies which followed
the rejection of his argument Burke was too good a patriot to take

In his efforts in behalf of India Burke again met with apparent defeat, but
in this case he virtually secured the results at which he had aimed. During
the seventeenth century the English East India Company, originally
organized for trade, had acquired possessions in India, which, in the
middle of the eighteenth century and later, the genius of Clive and Warren
Hastings had increased and consolidated into a great empire. The work which
these men had done was rough work and it could not be accomplished by
scrupulous methods; under their rule, as before, there had been much
irregularity and corruption, and part of the native population had suffered
much injustice and misery. Burke and other men saw the corruption and
misery without realizing the excuses for it and on the return of Hastings
to England in 1786 they secured his impeachment. For nine years Burke,
Sheridan, and Fox conducted the prosecution, vying with one another in
brilliant speeches, and Burke especially distinguished himself by the
warmth of sympathetic imagination with which he impressed on his audiences
the situation and sufferings of a far-distant and alien race. The House of
Lords ultimately acquitted Hastings, but at the bar of public opinion Burke
had brought about the condemnation and reform, for which the time was now
ripe, of the system which Hastings had represented.

While the trial of Hastings was still in progress all Europe was shaken by
the outbreak of the French Revolution, which for the remainder of his life
became the main and perturbing subject of Burke's attention. Here, with an
apparent change of attitude, for reasons which we will soon consider, Burke
ranged himself on the conservative side, and here at last he altogether
carried the judgment of England with him. One of the three or four greatest
movements in modern history, the French Revolution exercised a profound
influence on English thought and literature, and we must devote a few words
to its causes and progress. During the two centuries while England had been
steadily winning her way to constitutional government, France had past more
and more completely under the control of a cynically tyrannical despotism
and a cynically corrupt and cruel feudal aristocracy. [Footnote: The
conditions are vividly pictured in Dickens' 'Tale of Two Cities' and
Carlyle's 'French Revolution.'] For a generation, radical French
philosophers had been opposing to the actual misery of the peasants the
ideal of the natural right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness, and at last in 1789 the people, headed by the lawyers and
thinkers of the middle class, arose in furious determination, swept away
their oppressors, and after three years established a republic. The
outbreak of the Revolution was hailed by English liberals with enthusiasm
as the commencement of an era of social justice; but as it grew in violence
and at length declared itself the enemy of all monarchy and of religion,
their attitude changed; and in 1793 the execution of the French king and
queen and the atrocities of the Reign of Terror united all but the radicals
in support of the war against France in which England joined with the other
European countries. During the twenty years of struggle that followed the
portentous figure of Napoleon soon appeared, though only as Burke was
dying, and to oppose and finally to suppress him became the duty of all
Englishmen, a duty not only to their country but to humanity.

At the outbreak of the Revolution Burke was already sixty, and the
inevitable tendency of his mind was away from the enthusiastic liberalism
which had so strongly moved him in behalf of the Americans and the Hindoos.
At the very outset he viewed the Revolution with distrust, and this
distrust soon changed to the most violent opposition. Of actual conditions
in France he had no adequate understanding. He failed to realize that the
French people were asserting their most elementary rights against an
oppression a hundred times more intolerable than anything that the
Americans had suffered; his imagination had long before been dazzled during
a brief stay in Paris by the external glitter of the French Court; his own
chivalrous sympathy was stirred by the sufferings of the queen; and most of
all he saw in the Revolution the overthrow of what he held to be the only
safe foundations of society--established government, law, social
distinctions, and religion--by the untried abstract theories which he had
always held in abhorrence. Moreover, the activity of the English supporters
of the French revolutionists seriously threatened an outbreak of anarchy in
England also. Burke, therefore, very soon began to oppose the whole
movement with all his might. His 'Reflections on the Revolution in France,'
published in 1790, though very one-sided, is a most powerful model of
reasoned denunciation and brilliant eloquence; it had a wide influence and
restored Burke to harmony with the great majority of his countrymen. His
remaining years, however, were increasingly gloomy. His attitude caused a
hopeless break with the liberal Whigs, including Fox; he gave up his seat
in Parliament to his only son, whose death soon followed to prostrate him;
and the successes of the French plunged him into feverish anxiety. After
again pouring out a flood of passionate eloquence in four letters entitled
'Thoughts on the Prospect of a Regicide Peace' (with France) he died in

We have already indicated many of the sources of Burke's power as a speaker
and writer, but others remain to be mentioned. Not least important are his
faculties of logical arrangement and lucid statement. He was the first
Englishman to exemplify with supreme skill all the technical devices of
exposition and argument--a very careful ordering of ideas according to a
plan made clear, but not too conspicuous, to the hearer or reader; the use
of summaries, topic sentences, connectives; and all the others. In style he
had made himself an instinctive master of rhythmical balance, with
something, as contrasted with nineteenth century writing, of eighteenth
century formality. Yet he is much more varied, flexible, and fluent than
Johnson or Gibbon, with much greater variety of sentence forms and with far
more color, figurativeness and picturesqueness of phrase. In his most
eloquent and sympathetic passages he is a thorough poet, splendidly
imaginative and dramatic. J. R. Greene in his 'History of England' has well
spoken of 'the characteristics of his oratory--its passionate ardor, its
poetic fancy, its amazing prodigality of resources; the dazzling succession
in which irony, pathos, invective, tenderness, the most brilliant word
pictures, the coolest argument, followed each other.' Fundamental, lastly,
in Burke's power, is his philosophic insight, his faculty of correlating
facts and penetrating below this surface, of viewing events in the light of
their abstract principles, their causes and their inevitable results.

In spite of all this, in the majority of cases Burke was not a successful
speaker. The overwhelming logic and feeling of his speech 'On the Nabob of
Arcot's Debts' produced so little effect at its delivery that the ministers
against whom it was directed did not even think necessary to answer it. One
of Burke's contemporaries has recorded that he left the Parliament house
(crawling under the benches to avoid Burke's notice) in order to escape
hearing one of his speeches which when it was published he read with the
most intense interest. In the latter part of his life Burke was even called
'the dinner-bell of the House' because his rising to speak was a signal for
a general exodus of the other members. The reasons for this seeming paradox
are apparently to be sought in something deeper than the mere prejudice of
Burke's opponents. He was prolix, but, chiefly, he was undignified in
appearance and manner and lacked a good delivery. It was only when the
sympathy or interest of his hearers enabled them to forget these things
that they were swept away by the force of his reason or the contagion of
his wit or his emotion. On such occasions, as in his first speech in the
impeachment of Hastings, he was irresistible.

From what has now been said it must be evident that while Burke's
temperament and mind were truly classical in some of their qualities, as in
his devotion to order and established institutions, and in the clearness of
his thought and style, and while in both spirit and style he manifests a
regard for decorum and formality which connects him with the
pseudo-classicists, nevertheless he shared to at least as great a degree in
those qualities of emotion and enthusiasm which the pseudo-classic writers
generally lacked and which were to distinguish the romantic writers of the
nineteenth century. How the romantic movement had begun, long before Burke
came to maturity, and how it had made its way even in the midst of the
pseudo-classical period, we may now consider.

THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT. The reaction which was bound to accompany the
triumph of Pseudo-classicism, as a reassertion of those instincts in human
nature which Pseudo-classicism disregarded, took the form of a distinct
Romantic Revival. Beginning just about as Pope's reputation was reaching
its climax, and gathering momentum throughout the greater part of the
eighteenth century, this movement eventually gained a predominance as
complete as that which Pseudo-classicism had enjoyed, and became the chief
force, not only in England but in all Western Europe, in the literature of
the whole nineteenth century. The impulse was not confined to literature,
but permeated all the life of the time. In the sphere of religion,
especially, the second decade of the eighteenth century saw the awakening
of the English church from lethargy by the great revival of John and
Charles Wesley, whence, quite contrary to their original intention, sprang
the Methodist denomination. In political life the French Revolution was a
result of the same set of influences. Romanticism showed itself partly in
the supremacy of the Sentimental Comedy and in the great share taken by
Sentimentalism in the development of the novel, of both of which we shall
speak hereafter; but its fullest and most steadily progressive
manifestation was in non-dramatic poetry. Its main traits as they appear in
the eighteenth century are as clearly marked as the contrasting ones of
Pseudo-classicism, and we can enumerate them distinctly, though it must of
course be understood that they appear in different authors in very
different degrees and combinations.

1. There is, among the Romanticists, a general breaking away not only from
the definite pseudo-classical principles, but from the whole idea of
submission to fixed authority. Instead there is a spirit of independence
and revolt, an insistence on the value of originality and the right of the
individual to express himself in his own fashion. 2. There is a strong
reassertion of the value of emotion, imagination, and enthusiasm. This
naturally involves some reaction against the pseudo-classic, and also the
true classic, regard for finished form. 3. There is a renewal of genuine
appreciation and love for external Nature, not least for her large and
great aspects, such as mountains and the sea. The contrast between the
pseudo-classical and the romantic attitude in this respect is clearly
illustrated, as has often been pointed out, by the difference between the
impressions recorded by Addison and by the poet Gray in the presence of the
Alps. Addison, discussing what he saw in Switzerland, gives most of his
attention to the people and politics. One journey he describes as 'very
troublesome,' adding: 'You can't imagine how I am pleased with the sight of
a plain.' In the mountains he is conscious chiefly of difficulty and
danger, and the nearest approach to admiration which he indicates is 'an
agreeable kind of horror.' Gray, on the other hand, speaks of the Grande
Chartreuse as 'one of the most solemn, the most romantic, and the most
astonishing scenes.... I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an
exclamation that there was no restraining. Not a precipice, not a torrent,
nor a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry.' 4. The same
passionate appreciation extends with the Romanticists to all full and rich
beauty and everything grand and heroic. 5. This is naturally connected also
with a love for the remote, the strange, and the unusual, for mystery, the
supernatural, and everything that creates wonder. Especially, there is a
great revival of interest in the Middle Ages, whose life seemed to the men
of the eighteenth century, and indeed to a large extent really was,
picturesque and by comparison varied and adventurous. In the eighteenth
century this particular revival was called 'Gothic,' a name which the
Pseudo-classicists, using it as a synonym for 'barbarous,' had applied to
the Middle Ages and all their works, on the mistaken supposition that all
the barbarians who overthrew the Roman Empire and founded the medieval
states were Goths. 6. In contrast to the pseudo-classical preference for
abstractions, there is, among the Romanticists, a devotion to concrete
things, the details of Nature and of life. In expression, of course, this
brings about a return to specific words and phraseology, in the desire to
picture objects clearly and fully. 7. There is an increasing democratic
feeling, a breaking away from the interest in artificial social life and a
conviction that every human being is worthy of respect. Hence sprang the
sentiment of universal brotherhood and the interest in universal freedom,
which finally extended even to the negroes and resulted in the abolition of
slavery. But from the beginning there was a reawakening of interest in the
life of the common people--an impulse which is not inconsistent with the
love of the remote and unusual, but rather means the discovery of a
neglected world of novelty at the very door of the educated and literary
classes. 8. There is a strong tendency to melancholy, which is often
carried to the point of morbidness and often expresses itself in meditation
and moralizing on the tragedies of life and the mystery of death. This
inclination is common enough in many romantic-spirited persons of all
times, and it is always a symptom of immaturity or lack of perfect balance.
Among the earlier eighteenth century Romanticists there was a very
nourishing crop of doleful verse, since known from the place where most of
it was located, as the 'Graveyard poetry.' Even Gray's 'Elegy in a Country
Churchyard' is only the finest representative of this form, just as
Shakspere's 'Hamlet' is the culmination of the crude Elizabethan tragedy of
blood. So far as the mere tendency to moralize is concerned, the eighteenth
century Romanticists continue with scarcely any perceptible change the
practice of the Pseudo-classicists. 9. In poetic form, though the
Romanticists did not completely abandon the pentameter couplet for a
hundred years, they did energetically renounce any exclusive allegiance to
it and returned to many other meters. Milton was one of their chief
masters, and his example led to the revival of blank verse and of the
octo-syllabic couplet. There was considerable use also of the Spenserian
stanza, and development of a great variety of lyric stanza forms, though
not in the prodigal profusion of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period.

JAMES THOMSON. The first author in whom the new impulse found really
definite expression was the Scotsman James Thomson. At the age of
twenty-five, Thomson, like many of his countrymen during his century and
the previous one, came fortune-hunting to London, and the next year, 1726,
while Pope was issuing his translation of 'The Odyssey,' he published a
blank-verse poem of several hundred lines on 'Winter.' Its genuine though
imperfect appreciation and description of Nature as she appears on the
broad sweeps of the Scottish moors, combined with its novelty, gave it
great success, and Thomson went on to write also of Summer, Spring and
Autumn, publishing the whole work as 'The Seasons' in 1730. He was rewarded
by the gift of sinecure offices from the government and did some further
writing, including, probably, the patriotic lyric, 'Rule, Britannia,' and
also pseudo-classical tragedies; but his only other poem of much importance
is 'The Castle of Indolence' (a subject appropriate to his own
good-natured, easy-going disposition), which appeared just before his
death, in 1748. In it he employs Spenser's stanza, with real skill, but in
a half-jesting fashion which the later eighteenth-century Romanticists also
seem to have thought necessary when they adopted it, apparently as a sort
of apology for reviving so old-fashioned a form.

'The Seasons' was received with enthusiasm not only in England but in
France and Germany, and it gave an impulse for the writing of descriptive
poetry which lasted for a generation; but Thomson's romantic achievement,
though important, is tentative and incomplete, like that of all beginners.
He described Nature from full and sympathetic first-hand observation, but
there is still a certain stiffness about his manner, very different from
the intimate and confident familiarity and power of spiritual
interpretation which characterizes the great poets of three generations
later. Indeed, the attempt to write several thousand lines of pure
descriptive poetry was in itself ill-judged, since as the German critic
Lessing later pointed out, poetry is the natural medium not for description
but for narration; and Thomson himself virtually admitted this in part by
resorting to long dedications and narrative episodes to fill out his
scheme. Further, romantic as he was in spirit, he was not able to free
himself from the pseudo-classical mannerisms; every page of his poem
abounds with the old lifeless phraseology--'the finny tribes' for 'the
fishes,' 'the vapoury whiteness' for 'the snow' or 'the hard-won treasures
of the year' for 'the crops.' His blank verse, too, is comparatively
clumsy--padded with unnecessary words and the lines largely end-stopped.

WILLIAM COLLINS. There is marked progress in romantic feeling and power of
expression as we pass from Thomson to his disciple, the frail lyric poet,
William Collins. Collins, born at Chichester, was an undergraduate at
Oxford when he published 'Persian Eclogues' in rimed couplets to which the
warm feeling and free metrical treatment give much of romantic effect. In
London three years later (1746) Collins put forth his significant work in a
little volume of 'Odes.' Discouraged by lack of appreciation, always
abnormally high-strung and neurasthenic, he gradually lapsed into insanity,
and died at the age of thirty-seven. Collins' poems show most of the
romantic traits and their impetuous emotion often expresses itself in the
form of the false Pindaric ode which Cowley had introduced. His 'Ode on the
Popular Superstitions of the Highlands,' further, was one of the earliest
pieces of modern literature to return for inspiration to the store of
medieval supernaturalism, in this case to Celtic supernaturalism. But
Collins has also an exquisiteness of feeling which makes others of his
pieces perfect examples of the true classical style. The two poems in
'Horatian' ode forms, that is in regular short stanzas, the 'Ode Written in
the Year 1746' and the 'Ode to Evening' (unrimed), are particularly fine.
With all this, Collins too was not able to escape altogether from
pseudo-classicism. His subjects are often abstract--'The Passions,'
'Liberty,' and the like; his characters, too, in almost all his poems, are
merely the old abstract personifications, Fear, Fancy, Spring, and many
others; and his phraseology is often largely in the pseudo-classical
fashion. His work illustrates, therefore, in an interesting way the
conflict of poetic forces in his time and the influence of environment on a
poet's mind. The true classic instinct and the romanticism are both his
own; the pseudo-classicism belongs to the period.

THOMAS GRAY. Precisely the same conflict of impulses appears in the lyrics
of a greater though still minor poet of the same generation, a man of
perhaps still more delicate sensibilities than Collins, namely Thomas Gray.
Gray, the only survivor of many sons of a widow who provided for him by
keeping a millinery shop, was born in 1716. At Eton he became intimate with
Horace Walpole, the son of the Prime Minister, who was destined to become
an amateur leader in the Romantic Movement, and after some years at
Cambridge the two traveled together on the Continent. Lacking the money for
the large expenditure required in the study of law, Gray took up his
residence in the college buildings at Cambridge, where he lived as a
recluse, much annoyed by the noisy undergraduates. During his last three
years he held the appointment and salary of professor of modern history,
but his timidity prevented him from delivering any lectures. He died in
1771. He was primarily a scholar and perhaps the most learned man of his
time. He was familiar with the literature and history not only of the
ancient world but of all the important modern nations of western Europe,
with philosophy, the sciences of painting, architecture, botany, zoölogy,
gardening, entomology (he had a large collection of insects), and even
heraldry. He was himself an excellent musician. Indeed almost the only
subject of contemporary knowledge in which he was not proficient was
mathematics, for which he had an aversion, and which prevented him from
taking a college degree.

The bulk of Gray's poetry is very small, no larger, in fact, than that of
Collins. Matthew Arnold argued in a famous essay that his productivity was
checked by the uncongenial pseudo-classic spirit of the age, which, says
Arnold, was like a chill north wind benumbing his inspiration, so that 'he
never spoke out.' The main reason, however, is really to be found in Gray's
own over-painstaking and diffident disposition. In him, as in Hamlet,
anxious and scrupulous striving for perfection went far to paralyze the
power of creation; he was unwilling to write except at his best, or to
publish until he had subjected his work to repeated revisions, which
sometimes, as in the case of his 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,'
extended over many years. He is the extreme type of the academic poet. His
work shows, however, considerable variety, including real appreciation for
Nature, as in the 'Ode on the Spring,' delightful quiet humor, as in the
'Ode on a Favorite Cat,' rather conventional moralizing, as in the 'Ode on
a Distant Prospect of Eton College,' magnificent expression of the
fundamental human emotions, as in the 'Elegy,' and warlike vigor in the
'Norse Ode' translated from the 'Poetic Edda' in his later years. In the
latter he manifests his interest in Scandinavian antiquity, which had then
become a minor object of romantic enthusiasm. The student should consider
for himself the mingling of the true classic, pseudo-classic, and romantic
elements in the poems, not least in the 'Elegy,' and the precise sources of
their appeal and power. In form most of them are regular 'Horatian' odes,
but 'The Bard' and 'The Progress of Poesy' are the best English examples of
the genuine Pindaric ode.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH. Next in order among the romantic poets after Gray, and
more thoroughly romantic than Gray, was Oliver Goldsmith, though, with
characteristic lack of the power of self-criticism, he supposed himself to
be a loyal follower of Johnson and therefore a member of the opposite camp.
Goldsmith, as every one knows, is one of the most attractive and lovable
figures in English literature. Like Burke, of mixed English and Irish
ancestry, the son of a poor country curate of the English Church in
Ireland, he was born in 1728. Awkward, sensitive, and tender-hearted, he
suffered greatly in childhood from the unkindness of his fellows. As a poor
student at the University of Dublin he was not more happy, and his lack of
application delayed the gaining of his degree until two years after the
regular time. The same Celtic desultoriness characterized all the rest of
his life, though it could not thwart his genius. Rejected as a candidate
for the ministry, he devoted three years to the nominal study of medicine
at the Universities of Edinburgh and Leyden (in Holland). Next he spent a
year on a tramping trip through Europe, making his way by playing the flute
and begging. Then, gravitating naturally to London, he earned his living by
working successively for a druggist, for the novelist-printer Samuel
Richardson, as a teacher in a boys' school, and as a hack writer. At last
at the age of thirty-two he achieved success with a series of periodical
essays later entitled 'The Citizen of the World,' in which he criticized
European politics and society with skill and insight. Bishop Percy now
introduced him to Johnson, who from this time watched over him and saved
him from the worst results of his irresponsibility. He was one of the
original members of 'The Club.' In 1764 occurred the well-known and
characteristic incident of the sale of 'The Vicar of Wakefield.' Arrested
for debt at his landlady's instance, Goldsmith sent for Johnson and showed
him the manuscript of the book. Johnson took it to a publisher, and though
without much expectation of success asked and received £60 for it. It was
published two years later. Meanwhile in 1764 appeared Goldsmith's
descriptive poem, 'The Traveler,' based on his own experiences in Europe.
Six years later it was followed by 'The Deserted Village,' which was
received with the great enthusiasm that it merited.

Such high achievement in two of the main divisions of literature was in
itself remarkable, especially as Goldsmith was obliged to the end of his
life to spend much of his time in hack writing, but in the later years of
his short life he turned also with almost as good results to the drama
(comedy). We must stop here for the few words of general summary which are
all that the eighteenth century drama need receive in a brief survey like
the present one. During the first half of the century, as we have seen, an
occasional pseudo-classical tragedy was written, none of them of any
greater excellence than Addison's 'Cato' and Johnson's 'Irene' (above,
pages 205 and 217). The second quarter of the century was largely given
over to farces and burlesques, which absorbed the early literary activity
of the novelist Henry Fielding, until their attacks on Walpole's government
led to a severe licensing act, which suppressed them. But the most
distinctive and predominant forms of the middle and latter half of the
century were, first, the Sentimental Comedy, whose origin may be roughly
assigned to Steele, and, second, the domestic melodrama, which grew out of
it. In the Sentimental Comedy the elements of mirth and romance which are
the legitimate bases of comedy were largely subordinated to exaggerated
pathos, and in the domestic melodrama the experiences of insignificant
persons of the middle class were presented for sympathetic consideration in
the same falsetto fashion. Both forms (indeed, they were one in spirit)
were extreme products of the romantic return to sentiment and democratic
feeling. Both were enormously popular and, crossing the Channel, like
Thomson's poetic innovation, exerted a great influence on the drama of
France and Germany (especially in the work of Lessing), and in general on
the German Romantic Movement. Goldsmith was inferior to no one in genuine
sentiment, but he was disgusted at the sentimental excesses of these plays.
His 'Good Natured Man,' written with the express purpose of opposing them,
and brought out in 1768, was reasonably successful, and in 1771 his far
superior 'She Stoops to Conquer' virtually put an end to Sentimental
Comedy. This is one of the very few English comedies of a former generation
which are still occasionally revived on the stage to-day. Goldsmith's
comedies, we may add here for completeness, were shortly followed by the
more brilliant ones of another Irish-Englishman, Richard Brinsley Sheridan,
who displayed Congreve's wit without his cynicism. These were 'The Rivals,'
produced in 1775, when Sheridan was only twenty-four, and 'The School for
Scandal,' 1777. Sheridan, a reckless man of fashion, continued most of his
life to be owner of Drury Lane Theater, but he soon abandoned playwriting
to become one of the leaders of the Whig party. With Burke and Fox, as we
have seen, he conducted the impeachment of Hastings.

'She Stoops to Conquer' was Goldsmith's last triumph. A few months later,
in 1774, he died at the age of only forty-five, half submerged, as usual,
in foolish debts, but passionately mourned not only by his acquaintances in
the literary and social worlds, but by a great army of the poor and needy
to whom he had been a benefactor. In the face of this testimony to his
human worth his childish vanities and other weaknesses may well be
pardoned. All Goldsmith's literary work is characterized by one main
quality, a charming atmosphere of optimistic happiness which is the
expression of the best side of his own nature. The scene of all his most
important productions, very appropriately, is the country--the idealized
English country. Very much, to be sure, in all his works has to be conceded
to the spirit of romance. Both in 'The Vicar of Wakefield' and in 'She
Stoops to Conquer' characterization is mostly conventional, and events are
very arbitrarily manipulated for the sake of the effects in rather
free-and-easy disregard of all principles of motivation. But the kindly
knowledge of the main forces in human nature, the unfailing sympathy, and
the irrepressible conviction that happiness depends in the last analysis on
the individual will and character make Goldsmith's writings, especially
'The Vicar,' delightful and refreshing. All in all, however, 'The Deserted
Village' is his masterpiece, with its romantic regret, verging on tragedy
but softened away from it, and its charming type characterizations, as
incisive as those of Chaucer and Dryden, but without any of Dryden's biting
satire. In the choice of the rimed couplet for 'The Traveler' and 'The
Deserted Village' the influence of pseudo-classicism and of Johnson
appears; but Goldsmith's treatment of the form, with his variety in pauses
and his simple but fervid eloquence, make it a very different thing from
the rimed couplet of either Johnson or Pope. 'The Deserted Village,' it
should be added, is not a description of any actual village, but a
generalized picture of existing conditions. Men of wealth in England and
Ireland were enlarging their sheep pastures and their hunting grounds by
buying up land and removing villages, and Goldsmith, like Sir Thomas More,
two hundred years earlier, and likewise patriots of all times, deeply
regretted the tendency.

PERCY, MACPHERSON, AND CHATTERTON. The appearance of Thomson's 'Winter' in
1726 is commonly taken as conveniently marking the beginning of the
Romantic Movement. Another of its conspicuous dates is 1765, the year of
the publication of the 'Reliques [pronounced Relics] of Ancient English
Poetry' of the enthusiastic antiquarian Thomas (later Bishop) Percy. Percy
drew from many sources, of which the most important was a manuscript
volume, in which an anonymous seventeenth century collector had copied a
large number of old poems and which Percy rescued just in the nick of time,
as the maids in the house of one of his friends were beginning to use it as
kindling for the fires. His own book consisted of something less than two
hundred very miscellaneous poems, ranging in date from the fourteenth
century to his own day. Its real importance, however, lies in the fact that
it contained a number of the old popular ballads (above, pp. 74 ff).
Neither Percy himself nor any one else in his time understood the real
nature of these ballads and their essential difference from other poetry,
and Percy sometimes tampered with the text and even filled out gaps with
stanzas of his own, whose sentimental style is ludicrously inconsistent
with the primitive vigor of the originals. But his book, which attained
great popularity, marks the beginning of the special study of the ballads
and played an important part in the revival of interest in medieval life.

Still greater interest was aroused at the time by the Ossianic poems of
James Macpherson. From 1760 to 1763 Macpherson, then a young Highland Scots
schoolmaster, published in rapid succession certain fragments of Gaelic
verse and certain more extended works in poetical English prose which, he
asserted, were part of the originals, discovered by himself, and
translations, of the poems of the legendary Scottish bard Ossian, of the
third Christian century. These productions won him substantial material
rewards in the shape of high political offices throughout the rest of his
long life. About the genuineness of the compositions, however, a violent
controversy at once arose, and Dr. Johnson was one of the skeptics who
vigorously denounced Macpherson as a shameless impostor. The general
conviction of scholars of the present day is that while Macpherson may have
found some fragments of very ancient Gaelic verse in circulation among the
Highlanders, he fabricated most of what he published. These works, however,
'Fingal' and the rest, certainly contributed to the Romantic Movement; and
they are not only unique productions, but, in small quantities, still
interesting. They can best be described as reflections of the misty scenes
of Macpherson's native Highlands--vague impressionistic glimpses,
succeeding one another in purposeless repetition, of bands of marching
warriors whose weapons intermittently flash and clang through the fog, and
of heroic women, white-armed and with flowing hair, exhorting the heroes to
the combat or lamenting their fall.

A very minor figure, but one of the most pathetic in the history of English
literature, is that of Thomas Chatterton. While he was a boy in Bristol,
Chatterton's imagination was possessed by the medieval buildings of the
city, and when some old documents fell into his hands he formed the idea of
composing similar works in both verse and prose and passing them off as
medieval productions which he had discovered. To his imaginary author he
gave the name of Thomas Rowley. Entirely successful in deceiving his
fellow-townsmen, and filled with a great ambition, Chatterton went to
London, where, failing to secure patronage, he committed suicide as the
only resource against the begging to which his proud spirit could not
submit. This was in 1770, and he was still only eighteen years old.
Chatterton's work must be viewed under several aspects. His imitation of
the medieval language was necessarily very imperfect and could mislead no
one to-day; from this point of view the poems have no permanent
significance. The moral side of his action need not be seriously weighed,
as Chatterton never reached the age of responsibility and if he had lived
would soon have passed from forgery to genuine work. That he might have
achieved much is suggested by the evidences of real genius in his boyish
output, which probably justify Wordsworth's description, of him as 'the
marvelous boy.' That he would have become one of the great English poets,
however, is much more open to question.

WILLIAM COWPER. Equally pathetic is the figure of William Cowper
(pronounced either Cowper or Cooper), whose much longer life (1731-1800)
and far larger literary production give him a more important actual place
than can be claimed for Chatterton, though his natural ability was far less
and his significance to-day is chiefly historical. Cowper's career, also,
was largely frustrated by the same physical weaknesses which had ruined
Collins, present in the later poet in still more distressing degree. Cowper
is clearly a transition poet, sharing largely, in a very mild fashion, in
some of the main romantic impulses, but largely pseudo-classical in his
manner of thought and expression. His life may be briefly summarized.
Morbid timidity and equally morbid religious introspection, aggravated by
disappointments in love, prevented him as a young man from accepting a very
comfortable clerkship in the House of Lords and drove him into intermittent
insanity, which closed more darkly about him in his later years. He lived
the greater part of his mature life in the household of a Mrs. Unwin, a
widow for whom he had a deep affection and whom only his mental affliction
prevented him from marrying. A long residence in the wretched village of
Olney, where he forced himself to cooperate in all phases of religious work
with the village clergyman, the stern enthusiast John Newton, produced
their joint collection of 'Olney Hymns,' many of which deservedly remain
among the most popular in our church song-books; but it inevitably
increased Cowper's disorder. After this he resigned himself to a perfectly
simple life, occupied with the writing of poetry, the care of pets,
gardening, and carpentry. The bulk of his work consists of long moralizing
poems, prosy, prolix, often trivial, and to-day largely unreadable. Same of
them are in the rimed couplet and others in blank verse. His blank-verse
translation of Homer, published in 1791, is more notable, and 'Alexander
Selkirk' and the humorous doggerel 'John Gilpin' are famous; but his most
significant poems are a few lyrics and descriptive pieces in which he
speaks out his deepest feelings with the utmost pathetic or tragic power.
In the expression of different moods of almost intolerable sadness 'On the
Receipt of My Mother's Picture' and 'To Mary' (Mrs. Unwin) can scarcely be
surpassed, and 'The Castaway' is final as the restrained utterance of
morbid religious despair. Even in his long poems, in his minutely loving
treatment of Nature he is the most direct precursor of Wordsworth, and he
is one of the earliest outspoken opponents of slavery and cruelty to
animals. How unsuited in all respects his delicate and sensitive nature was
to the harsh experiences of actual life is suggested by Mrs. Browning with
vehement sympathy in her poem, 'Cowper's Grave.'

WILLIAM BLAKE. Still another utterly unworldly and frankly abnormal poet,
though of a still different temperament, was William Blake (1757-1827), who
in many respects is one of the most extreme of all romanticists. Blake, the
son of a London retail shopkeeper, received scarcely any book education,
but at fourteen he was apprenticed to an engraver, who stimulated his
imagination by setting him to work at making drawings in Westminster Abbey
and other old churches. His training was completed by study at the Royal
Academy of Arts, and for the rest of his life he supported himself, in
poverty, with the aid of a devoted wife, by keeping a print-and-engraving
shop. Among his own engravings the best known is the famous picture of
Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, which is not altogether free from the weird
strangeness that distinguished most of his work in all lines. For in spite
of his commonplace exterior life Blake was a thorough mystic to whom the
angels and spirits that he beheld in trances were at least as real as the
material world. When his younger brother died he declared that he saw the
released soul mount through the ceiling, clapping its hands in joy. The
bulk of his writing consists of a series of 'prophetic books' in verse and
prose, works, in part, of genius, but of unbalanced genius, and virtually
unintelligible. His lyric poems, some of them composed when he was no more
than thirteen years old, are unlike anything else anywhere, and some of
them are of the highest quality. Their controlling trait is childlikeness;
for Blake remained all his life one of those children of whom is the
Kingdom of Heaven. One of their commonest notes is that of childlike
delight in the mysterious joy and beauty of the world, a delight sometimes
touched, it is true, as in 'The Tiger,' with a maturer consciousness of the
wonderful and terrible power behind all the beauty. Blake has intense
indignation also for all cruelty and everything which he takes for cruelty,
including the shutting up of children in school away from the happy life of
out-of-doors. These are the chief sentiments of 'Songs of Innocence.' In
'Songs of Experience' the shadow of relentless fact falls somewhat more
perceptibly across the page, though the prevailing ideas are the same.
Blake's significant product is very small, but it deserves much greater
reputation than it has actually attained. One characteristic external fact
should be added. Since Blake's poverty rendered him unable to pay for
having his books printed, he himself performed the enormous labor of
_engraving_ them, page by page, often with an ornamental margin about
the text.

ROBERT BURNS. Blake, deeply romantic as he is by nature, virtually stands
by himself, apart from any movement or group, and the same is equally true
of the somewhat earlier lyrist in whom eighteenth century poetry
culminates, namely Robert Burns. Burns, the oldest of the seven children of
two sturdy Scotch peasants of the best type, was born in 1759 in Ayrshire,
just beyond the northwest border of England. In spite of extreme poverty,
the father joined with some of his neighbors in securing the services of a
teacher for their children, and the household possessed a few good books,
including Shakspere and Pope, whose influence on the future poet was great.
But the lot of the family was unusually hard. The father's health failed
early and from childhood the boys were obliged to do men's work in the
field. Robert later declared, probably with some bitter exaggeration, that
his life had combined 'the cheerless gloom of a hermit with the unceasing
moil of a galley slave.' His genius, however, like his exuberant spirit,
could not be crushed out. His mother had familiarized him from the
beginning with the songs and ballads of which the country was full, and
though he is said at first to have had so little ear for music that he
could scarcely distinguish one tune from another, he soon began to compose
songs (words) of his own as he followed the plough. In the greatness of his
later success his debt to the current body of song and music should not be
overlooked. He is only the last of a long succession of rural Scottish
song-writers; he composed his own songs to accompany popular airs; and many
of them are directly based on fragments of earlier songs. None the less his
work rises immeasurably above all that had gone before it.

The story of Burns' mature life is the pathetic one of a very vigorous
nature in which genius, essential manliness, and good impulses struggled
against and were finally overcome by violent passions, aggravated by the
bitterness of poverty and repeated disappointments. His first effort, at
eighteen, to better his condition, by the study of surveying at a
neighboring town, resulted chiefly in throwing him into contact with bad
companions; a venture in the business of flax-dressing ended in disaster;
and the same ill-fortune attended the several successive attempts which he
made at general farming. He became unfortunately embroiled also with the
Church, which (the Presbyterian denomination) exercised a very strict
control in Scotland. Compelled to do public penance for some of his
offenses, his keen wit could not fail to be struck by the inconsistency
between the rigid doctrines and the lives of some of the men who were
proceeding against him; and he commemorated the feud in his series of
overwhelming but painfully flippant satires.

His brief period of dazzling public success dawned suddenly out of the
darkest moment of his fortunes. At the age of twenty-seven, abandoning the
hope which he had already begun to cherish of becoming the national poet of
Scotland, he had determined in despair to emigrate to Jamaica to become an
overseer on a plantation. (That this chief poet of democracy, the author of
'A Man's a Man for a' That,' could have planned to become a slave-driver
suggests how closely the most genuine human sympathies are limited by habit
and circumstances.) To secure the money for his voyage Burns had published
his poems in a little volume. This won instantaneous and universal
popularity, and Burns, turning back at the last moment, responded to the
suggestion of some of the great people of Edinburgh that he should come to
that city and see what could be done for him. At first the experiment
seemed fortunate, for the natural good breeding with which this untrained
countryman bore himself for a winter as the petted lion of the society of
fashion and learning (the University) was remarkable. None the less the
situation was unnatural and necessarily temporary, and unluckily Burns
formed associations also with such boon companions of the lower sort as had
hitherto been his undoing. After a year Edinburgh dropped him, thus
supplying substantial fuel for his ingrained poor man's jealousy and rancor
at the privileged classes. Too near his goal to resume the idea of
emigrating, he returned to his native moors, rented another farm, and
married Jean Armour, one of the several heroines of his love-poems. The
only material outcome of his period of public favor was an appointment as
internal revenue collector, an unpopular and uncongenial office which he
accepted with reluctance and exercised with leniency. It required him to
occupy much of his time in riding about the country, and contributed to his
final failure as a farmer. After the latter event he removed to the
neighboring market-town of Dumfries, where he again renewed his
companionship with unworthy associates. At last prospects for promotion in
the revenue service began to open to him, but it was too late; his
naturally robust constitution had given way to over-work and dissipation,
and he died in 1796 at the age of thirty-seven.

Burns' place among poets is perfectly clear. It is chiefly that of a
song-writer, perhaps the greatest songwriter of the world. At work in the
fields or in his garret or kitchen after the long day's work was done, he
composed songs because he could not help it, because his emotion was
irresistibly stirred by the beauty and life of the birds and flowers, the
snatch of a melody which kept running through his mind, or the memory of
the girl with whom he had last talked. And his feelings expressed
themselves with spontaneous simplicity, genuineness, and ease. He is a
thoroughly romantic poet, though wholly by the grace of nature, not at all
from any conscious intention--he wrote as the inspiration moved him, not in
accordance with any theory of art. The range of his subjects and emotions
is nearly or quite complete--love; comradeship; married affection, as in
'John Anderson, My Jo'; reflective sentiment; feeling for nature; sympathy
with animals; vigorous patriotism, as in 'Scots Wha Hae' (and Burns did
much to revive the feeling of Scots for Scotland); deep tragedy and pathos;
instinctive happiness; delightful humor; and the others. It should be
clearly recognized, however, that this achievement, supreme as it is in its
own way, does not suffice to place Burns among the greatest poets. The
brief lyrical outbreaks of the song-writer are no more to be compared with
the sustained creative power and knowledge of life and character which make
the great dramatist or narrative poet than the bird's song is to be
compared with an opera of Wagner. But such comparisons need not be pressed;
and the song of bird or poet appeals instantly to every normal hearer,
while the drama or narrative poem requires at least some special
accessories and training. Burns' significant production, also, is not
altogether limited to songs. 'The Cotter's Saturday Night' (in Spenser's
stanza) is one of the perfect descriptive poems of lyrical sentiment; and
some of Burns' meditative poems and poetical epistles to acquaintances are
delightful in a free-and-easy fashion. The exuberant power in the religious
satires and the narrative 'Tam o' Shanter' is undeniable, but they belong
to a lower order of work.

Many of Burns' poems are in the Lowland Scots dialect; a few are wholly in
ordinary English; and some combine the two idioms. It is an interesting
question whether Burns wins distinctly greater success in one than in the
other. In spite of his prevailing literary honesty, it may be observed, his
English shows some slight traces of the effort to imitate Pope and the
feeling that the pseudo-classical style with its elegance was really the
highest--a feeling which renders some of his letters painfully affected.
[Footnote: For the sake of brevity the sternly realistic poet George Crabbe
is here omitted.]

THE NOVEL. We have traced the literary production of the eighteenth century
in many different forms, but it still remains to speak of one of the most
important, the novel, which in the modern meaning of the word had its
origin not long before 1750. Springing at that time into apparently sudden
popularity, it replaced the drama as the predominant form of literature and
has continued such ever since. The reasons are not hard to discover. The
drama is naturally the most popular literary form in periods like the
Elizabethan when the ability (or inclination) to read is not general, when
men are dominated by the zest for action, and when cities have become
sufficiently large to keep the theaters well filled. It is also the natural
form in such a period as that of the Restoration, when literary life
centers about a frivolous upper class who demand an easy and social form of
entertainment. But the condition is very different when, as in the
eighteenth and still more in the nineteenth century, the habit of reading,
and some recognition of its educating influence, had spread throughout
almost all classes and throughout the country, creating a public far too
large, too scattered, and too varied to gain access to the London and
provincial theaters or to find all their needs supplied by a somewhat
artificial literary form. The novel, on the other hand, gives a much fuller
portrayal of life than does the drama, and allows the much more detailed
analysis of characters and situations which the modern mind has come more
and more to demand.

The novel, which for our present purpose must be taken to include the
romance, is, of course, only a particular and highly developed kind of long
story, one of the latest members of the family of fiction, or the larger
family of narrative, in prose and verse. The medieval romances, for
example, included most of the elements of the novel, even, sometimes,
psychological analysis; but the romances usually lacked the unity, the
complex and careful structure, the thorough portrayal of character, and the
serious attention to the real problems of life which in a general way
distinguish the modern novel. Much the same is true of the Elizabethan
'novels,' which, besides, were generally short as well as of small
intellectual and ethical caliber. During the Restoration period and a
little later there began to appear several kinds of works which perhaps
looked more definitely toward the later novel. Bunyan's religious
allegories may likely enough have had a real influence on it, and there
were a few English tales and romances of chivalry (above, pages 184-5), and
a few more realistic pieces of fiction. The habit of journal writing and
the letters about London life sent by some persons in the city to their
friends in the country should also be mentioned. The De Coverly papers in
'The Spectator' approach distinctly toward the novel. They give real
presentation of both characters and setting (social life) and lack only
connected treatment of the story (of Sir Roger). Defoe's fictions,
picaresque tales of adventure, come still closer, but lack the deeper
artistic and moral purpose and treatment suggested a moment ago. The case
is not very different with Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels,' which, besides, is
primarily a satire. Substantially, therefore, all the materials were now
ready, awaiting only the fortunate hand which should arrange and shape them
into a real novel. This proved to be the hand of a rather unlikely person,
the outwardly commonplace printer, Samuel Richardson.

SAMUEL RICHARDSON. It is difficult, because of the sentimental nature of
the period and the man, to tell the story of Richardson's career without an
appearance of farcical burlesque. Born in 1689, in Derbyshire, he early
gave proof of his special endowments by delighting his childish companions
with stories, and, a little later, by becoming the composer of the love
letters of various young women. His command of language and an insistent
tendency to moralize seemed to mark him out for the ministry, but his
father was unable to pay for the necessary education and apprenticed him to
a London printer. Possessed of great fidelity and all the quieter virtues,
he rose steadily and became in time the prosperous head of his own printing
house, a model citizen, and the father of a large family of children.
Before he reached middle life he was a valetudinarian. His household
gradually became a constant visiting place for a number of young ladies
toward whom he adopted a fatherly attitude and who without knowing it were
helping him to prepare for his artistic success.

When he was not quite fifty his great reputation among his acquaintances as
a letter-writer led some publishers to invite him to prepare a series of
'Familiar [that is, Friendly] Letters' as models for inexperienced young
people. Complying, Richardson discovered the possibilities of the letter
form as a means of telling stories, and hence proceeded to write his first
novel, 'Pamela, [Footnote: He wrongly placed the accent on the first
syllable.] or Virtue Rewarded,' which was published in 1740. It attained
enormous success, which he followed up by writing his masterpiece,
'Clarissa Harlowe' (1747-8), and then 'The History of Sir Charles
Grandison' (1753). He spent his latter years, as has been aptly said, in a
sort of perpetual tea-party, surrounded by bevies of admiring ladies, and
largely occupied with a vast feminine correspondence, chiefly concerning
his novels. He died of apoplexy in 1761.

At this distance of time it is easy to summarize the main traits of
Richardson's novels.

1. He gave form to the modern novel by shaping it according to a definite
plot with carefully selected incidents which all contributed directly to
the outcome. In this respect his practice was decidedly stricter than that
of most of his English successors down to the present time. Indeed, he
avowedly constructed his novels on the plan of dramas, while later
novelists, in the desire to present a broader picture of life, have
generally allowed themselves greater range of scenes and a larger number of
characters. In the instinct for suspense, also, no one has surpassed
Richardson; his stories are intense, not to say sensational, and once
launched upon them we follow with the keenest interest to the outcome.

2. Nevertheless, he is always prolix. That the novels as published varied
in length from four to eight volumes is not really significant, since these
were the very small volumes which (as a source of extra profit) were to be
the regular form for novels until after the time of Scott. Even 'Clarissa,'
the longest, is not longer than some novels of our own day. Yet they do
much exceed the average in length and would undoubtedly gain by
condensation. Richardson, it may be added, produced each of them in the
space of a few months, writing, evidently, with the utmost fluency, and
with little need for revision.

3. Most permanently important, perhaps, of all Richardson's contributions,
was his creation of complex characters, such as had thitherto appeared not
in English novels but only in the drama. In characterization Richardson's
great strength lay with his women--he knew the feminine mind and spirit
through and through. His first heroine, Pamela, is a plebeian serving-maid,
and his second, Clarissa, a fine-spirited young lady of the wealthy class,
but both are perfectly and completely true and living, throughout all their
terribly complex and trying experiences. Men, on the other hand, those
beyond his own particular circle, Richardson understood only from the
outside. Annoyed by criticisms to this effect, he attempted in the hero of
his last book to present a true gentleman, but the result is only a
mechanical ideal figure of perfection whose wooden joints creak painfully
as he moves slowly about under the heavy load of his sternly self-conscious
goodness and dignity.

4. Richardson's success in his own time was perhaps chiefly due to his
striking with exaggerated emphasis the note of tender sentiment to which
the spirit of his generation was so over-ready to respond. The substance of
his books consists chiefly of the sufferings of his heroines under
ingeniously harrowing persecution at the hands of remorseless scoundrels.
Pamela, with her serving-maid's practical efficiency, proves able to take
care of herself, but the story of the high-bred and noble-minded Clarissa
is, with all possible deductions, one of the most deeply-moving tragedies
ever committed to paper. The effect in Richardson's own time may easily be
imagined; but it is also a matter of record that his novels were commonly
read aloud in the family circle (a thing which some of their incidents
would render impossible at the present day) and that sometimes when the
emotional strain became too great the various listeners would retire to
their own rooms to cry out their grief. Richardson appealed directly, then,
to the prevailing taste of his generation, and no one did more than he to
confirm its hold on the next generation, not only in England, but also in
France and Germany.

5. We have not yet mentioned what according to Richardson's own reiterated
statement was his main purpose in writing, namely, the conveying of moral
and religious instruction. He is extremely anxious to demonstrate to his
readers that goodness pays and that wickedness does not, generally even in
this world (though in 'Clarissa' his artistic sense refuses to be turned
aside from the inevitable tragic outcome). The spiritual vulgarity of the
doctrine, so far as material things are concerned, is clearly illustrated
in the mechanically virtuous Pamela, who, even in the midst of the most
outrageous besetments of Squire B----, is hoping with all her soul for the
triumph which is actually destined for her, of becoming his wife and so
rising high above her original humble station. Moreover, Richardson often
goes far and tritely out of his way in his preaching. At their worst,
however, his sentimentality and moralizing were preferable to the
coarseness which disgraced the works of some of his immediate successors.

6. Lastly must be mentioned the form of his novels. They all consist of
series of letters, which constitute the correspondence between some of the
principal characters, the great majority being written in each case by the
heroine. This method of telling a story requires special concessions from
the reader; but even more than the other first-personal method, exemplified
in 'Robinson Crusoe,' it has the great advantage of giving the most
intimate possible revelation of the imaginary writer's mind and situation.
Richardson handles it with very great skill, though in his anxiety that his
chief characters may not be misunderstood he occasionally commits the
artistic blunder of inserting footnotes to explain their real motives.

Richardson, then, must on the whole be called the first of the great
English novelists--a striking case of a man in whom one special endowment
proved much weightier than a large number of absurdities and littlenesses.

HENRY FIELDING. Sharply opposed to Richardson stands his later contemporary
and rival, Henry Fielding. Fielding was born of an aristocratic family in
Somersetshire in 1707. At Eton School and the University of Leyden (in
Holland) he won distinction, but at the age of twenty he found himself, a
vigorous young man with instincts for fine society, stranded in London
without any tangible means of support. He turned to the drama and during
the next dozen years produced many careless and ephemeral farces,
burlesques, and light plays, which, however, were not without value as
preparation for his novels. Meanwhile he had other activities--spent the
money which his wife brought him at marriage in an extravagant experiment
as gentleman-farmer; studied law and was admitted to the bar; and conducted
various literary periodicals. His attacks on the government in his plays
helped to produce the severe licensing act which put an end to his dramatic
work and that of many other light playwrights. When Richardson's 'Pamela'
appeared Fielding was disgusted with what seemed to him its hypocritical
silliness, and in vigorous artistic indignation he proceeded to write 'The
History of Joseph Andrews,' representing Joseph as the brother of Pamela
and as a serving-man, honest, like her, in difficult circumstances.
Beginning in a spirit of sheer burlesque, Fielding soon became interested
in his characters, and in the actual result produced a rough but masterful
picture of contemporary life. The coarse Parson Trulliber and the admirable
Parson Adams are among the famous characters of fiction. But even in the
later part of the book Fielding did not altogether abandon his ridicule of
Richardson. He introduced among the characters the 'Squire B----' of
'Pamela,' only filling out the blank by calling him 'Squire Booby,' and
taking pains to make him correspondingly ridiculous.

Fielding now began to pay the penalty for his youthful dissipations in
failing health, but he continued to write with great expenditure of time
and energy. 'The History of Jonathan Wild the Great,' a notorious ruffian
whose life Defoe also had narrated, aims to show that great military
conquerors are only bandits and cutthroats really no more praiseworthy than
the humbler individuals who are hanged without ceremony. Fielding's
masterpiece, 'The History of Tom Jones,' followed hard after Richardson's
'Clarissa,' in 1749. His last novel, 'Amelia,' is a half autobiographic
account of his own follies. His second marriage, to his first wife's maid,
was intended, as he frankly said, to provide a nurse for himself and a
mother for his children, but his later years were largely occupied with
heroic work as a police justice in Westminster, where, at the sacrifice of
what health remained to him, he rooted out a specially dangerous band of
robbers. Sailing for recuperation, but too late, to Lisbon, he died there
at the age of forty-seven, in 1754.

The chief characteristics of Fielding's nature and novels, mostly directly
opposite or complementary to those of Richardson, are these:

1. He is a broad realist, giving to his romantic actions a very prominent
background of actual contemporary life. The portrayal is very illuminating;
we learn from Fielding a great deal, almost everything, one is inclined to
say, about conditions in both country and city in his time--about the state
of travel, country inns, city jails, and many other things; but with his
vigorous masculine nature he makes abundant use of the coarser facts of
life and character which a finer art avoids. However, he is extremely human
and sympathetic; in view of their large and generous naturalness the
defects of his character and works are at least pardonable.

2. His structure is that of the rambling picaresque story of adventure, not
lacking, in his case, in definite progress toward a clearly-designed end,
but admitting many digressions and many really irrelevant elements. The
number of his characters, especially in 'Tom Jones,' is enormous. Indeed,
the usual conception of a novel in his day, as the word 'History,' which
was generally included in the title, indicates, was that of the complete
story of the life of the hero or heroine, at least up to the time of
marriage. It is virtually the old idea of the chronicle-history play.
Fielding himself repeatedly speaks of his masterpiece as an 'epic.'

3. His point of view is primarily humorous. He avowedly imitates the manner
of Cervantes in 'Don Quixote' and repeatedly insists that he is writing a
_mock_-epic. His very genuine and clear-sighted indignation at social
abuses expresses itself through his omnipresent irony and satire, and
however serious the situations he almost always keeps the ridiculous side
in sight. He offends some modern readers by refusing to take his art in any
aspect over-seriously; especially, he constantly asserts and exercises his
'right' to break off his story and chat quizzically about questions of art
or conduct in a whole chapter at a time.

4. His knowledge of character, that of a generous-hearted man of the world,
is sound but not subtile, and is deeper in the case of men than of women,
especially in the case of men who resemble himself. Tom Jones is virtually
Henry Fielding in his youth and is thoroughly lifelike, but Squire
Allworthy, intended as an example of benevolent perfection, is no less of a
pale abstraction than Sir Charles Grandison. The women, cleverly as their
typical feminine traits are brought out, are really viewed only from

motion two currents, of sentimentalism and realism, respectively, which
flowed vigorously in the novel during the next generation, and indeed
(since they are of the essence of life), have continued, with various
modifications, down to our own time. Of the succeeding realists the most
important is Tobias Smollett, a Scottish ex-physician of violent and brutal
nature, who began to produce his picaresque stories of adventure during the
lifetime of Fielding. He made ferociously unqualified attacks on the
statesmen of his day, and in spite of much power, the coarseness of his
works renders them now almost unreadable. But he performed one definite
service; in 'Roderick Random,' drawing on his early experiences as a ship's
surgeon, he inaugurated the out-and-out sea story, that is the story which
takes place not, like 'Robinson Crusoe,' in small part, but mainly, on
board ship. Prominent, on the other hand, among the sentimentalists is
Laurence Sterne, who, inappropriately enough, was a clergyman, the author
of 'Tristram Shandy.' This book is quite unlike anything else ever written.
Sterne published it in nine successive volumes during almost as many years,
and he made a point of almost complete formlessness and every sort of
whimsicality. The hero is not born until the third volume, the story mostly
relates to other people and things, pages are left blank to be filled out
by the reader--no grotesque device or sudden trick can be too fantastic for
Sterne. But he has the gift of delicate pathos and humor, and certain
episodes in the book are justly famous, such as the one where Uncle Toby
carefully puts a fly out of the window, refusing to 'hurt a hair of its
head,' on the ground that 'the world surely is wide enough to hold both
thee and me.' The best of all the sentimental stories is Goldsmith's 'Vicar
of Wakefield' (1766), of which we have already spoken (above, page 244).
With its kindly humor, its single-hearted wholesomeness, and its delightful
figure of Dr. Primrose it remains, in spite of its artlessness, one of the
permanent landmarks of English fiction.

HISTORICAL AND 'GOTHIC' ROMANCES. Stories which purported to reproduce the
life of the Past were not unknown in England in the seventeenth century,
but the real beginning of the historical novel and romance belongs to the
later part of the eighteenth century. The extravagance of romantic writers
at that time, further, created a sort of subspecies called in its day and
since the 'Gothic' romance. These 'Gothic' stories are nominally located in
the Middle Ages, but their main object is not to give an accurate picture
of medieval life, but to arouse terror in the reader, by means of a
fantastic apparatus of gloomy castles, somber villains, distressed and
sentimental heroines, and supernatural mystery. The form was inaugurated by
Horace Walpole, the son of the former Prime Minister, who built near
Twickenham (Pope's home) a pseudo-medieval house which he named Strawberry
Hill, where he posed as a center of the medieval revival. Walpole's 'Castle
of 'Otranto,' published in 1764, is an utterly absurd little story, but its
novelty at the time, and the author's prestige, gave it a great vogue. The
really best 'Gothic' romances are the long ones written by Mrs. Ann
Radcliffe in the last decade of the century, of which 'The Mysteries of
Udolpho,' in particular, was popular for two generations. Mrs. Radcliffe's
books overflow with sentimentality, but display real power, especially in
imaginative description. Of the more truly historical romances the best
were the 'Thaddeus of Warsaw' and 'Scottish Chiefs' of Miss Jane Porter,
which appeared in the first decade of the nineteenth century. None of all
these historical and 'Gothic' romances attains the rank of great or
permanent literature, but they were historically important, largely because
they prepared the way for the novels of Walter Scott, which would hardly
have come into being without them, and which show clear signs of the
influence of even their most exaggerated features.

NOVELS OF PURPOSE. Still another sort of novel was that which began to be
written in the latter part of the century with the object of exposing some
particular abuse in society. The first representatives of the class aimed,
imitating the French sentimentalist Rousseau, to improve education, and in
accordance with the sentimental Revolutionary misconception which held that
all sin and sorrow result from the corruptions of civilization, often held
up the primitive savage as a model of all the kindly virtues. The most
important of the novels of purpose, however, were more thorough-going
attacks on society composed by radical revolutionists, and the least
forgotten is the 'Caleb Williams' of William Godwin (1794), which is
intended to demonstrate that class-distinctions result in hopeless moral
confusion and disaster.

of the latter part of the century in fiction were attained by three women
who introduced and successively continued the novel which depicts, from the
woman's point of view, with delicate satire, and at first in the hope of
accomplishing some reform, or at least of showing the beauty of virtue and
morality, the contemporary manners of well-to-do 'society.' The first of
these authoresses was Miss Frances Burney, who later became Madame
D'Arblay, but is generally referred to familiarly as Fanny Burney.

The unassuming daughter of a talented and much-esteemed musician,
acquainted in her own home with many persons of distinction, such as
Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and given from girlhood to the private
writing of stories and of a since famous Diary, Miss Burney composed her
'Evelina' in leisure intervals during a number of years, and published it
when she was twenty-five, in 1778. It recounts, in the Richardsonian letter
form, the experiences of a country girl of good breeding and ideally fine
character who is introduced into the life of London high society, is
incidentally brought into contact with disagreeable people of various
types, and soon achieves a great triumph by being acknowledged as the
daughter of a repentant and wealthy man of fashion and by marrying an
impossibly perfect young gentleman, also of great wealth. Structure and
substance in 'Evelina' are alike somewhat amateurish in comparison with the
novels of the next century; but it does manifest, together with some lack
of knowledge of the real world, genuine understanding of the core, at
least, of many sorts of character; it presents artificial society life with
a light and pleasing touch; and it brought into the novel a welcome
atmosphere of womanly purity and delicacy. 'Evelina' was received with
great applause and Miss Burney wrote other books, but they are without
importance. Her success won her the friendship of Dr. Johnson and the
position of one of the Queen's waiting women, a sort of gilded slavery
which she endured for five years. She was married in middle-age to a French
emigrant officer, Monsieur D'Arblay, and lived in France and England until
the age of nearly ninety, latterly an inactive but much respected figure
among the writers of a younger generation.

MISS EDGEWORTH. Much more voluminous and varied was the work of Miss
Burney's successor, Maria Edgeworth, who devoted a great part of her long
life (1767-1849) to active benevolence and to attendance on her father, an
eccentric and pedantic English gentleman who lived mostly on his estate in
Ireland and who exercised the privilege of revising or otherwise meddling
with most of her books. In the majority of her works Miss Edgeworth
followed Miss Burney, writing of the experiences of young ladies in
fashionable London life. In these novels her purpose was more obviously
moral than Miss Burney's--she aimed to make clear the folly of frivolity
and dissipation; and she also wrote moral tales for children which though
they now seem old-fashioned were long and widely popular. Since she had a
first-hand knowledge of both Ireland and England, she laid the scenes of
some of her books partly in both countries, thereby creating what was later
called 'the international novel.' Her most distinctive achievement,
however, was the introduction of the real Irishman (as distinct from the
humorous caricature) into fiction. Scott testified that it was her example
that suggested to him the similar portrayal of Scottish character and life.

JANE AUSTEN. Much the greatest of this trio of authoresses is the last,
Jane Austen, who perhaps belongs as much to the nineteenth century as the
eighteenth. The daughter of a clergyman, she past an absolutely uneventful
life of forty-two years (1775-1817) in various villages and towns in
Southern England. She had finished her masterpiece, 'Pride and Prejudice,'
at the age of twenty-two, but was unable for more than a dozen years to
find a publisher for this and her other earlier works. When at last they
were brought out she resumed her writing, but the total number of her
novels is only six. Her field, also, is more limited than that of any other
great English novelist; for she deliberately restricted herself, with
excellent judgment, to portraying what she knew at first-hand, namely the
life of the well-to-do classes of her own 'provincial' region. Moreover,
her theme is always love; desirable marriage for themselves or their
children seems to be the single object of almost all her characters; and
she always conducts her heroine successfully to this goal. Her artistic
achievement, like herself, is so well-bred and unobtrusive that a hasty
reader may easily fail to appreciate it. Her understanding of character is
almost perfect, her sense for structure and dramatic scenes (quiet ones)
equally good, and her quiet and delightful humor and irony all-pervasive.
Scott, with customary generosity, praised her 'power of rendering ordinary
things and characters interesting from the truth of her portrayal,' in
favorable contrast with his own facility in 'the Big Bow-Wow strain.'
Nevertheless the assertion of some present-day critics that she is the
greatest of all English authoresses is certainly extravagant. Her novels,
though masterly in their own field and style, do not have the fulness of
description or the elaboration of action which add beauty and power to most
later ones, and her lack of a sense for the greater issues of life denies
her legitimate comparison with such a writer as George Eliot.

SUMMARY. The variety of the literary influences in eighteenth century
England was so great that the century can scarcely be called a literary
unit; yet as a whole it contrasts clearly enough both with that which goes
before and with that which follows. Certainly its total contribution to
English literature was great and varied.



to-day over the literature of the last three quarters of the eighteenth
century, here just surveyed, the progress of the Romantic Movement seems
the most conspicuous general fact which it presents. But at the, death of
Cowper in 1800 the movement still remained tentative and incomplete, and it
was to arrive at full maturity only in the work of the great writers of the
following quarter century, who were to create the finest body of literature
which England had produced since the Elizabethan period. All the greatest
of these writers were poets, wholly or in part, and they fall roughly into
two groups: first, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert
Southey, and Walter Scott; and second, about twenty years younger, Lord
Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. This period of Romantic
Triumph, or of the lives of its authors, coincides in time, and not by mere
accident, with the period of the success of the French Revolution, the
prolonged struggle of England and all Europe against Napoleon (above, page
233), and the subsequent years when in Continental Europe despotic
government reasserted itself and sternly suppressed liberal hopes and
uprisings, while in England liberalism and democracy steadily and doggedly
gathered force until by the Reform Bill of 1832 political power was largely
transferred from the former small governing oligarchy to the middle class.
How all these events influenced literature we shall see as we proceed. The
beginning of the Romantic triumph is found, by general consent, in the
publication in 1798 of the little volume of 'Lyrical Ballads' which
contained the first significant poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Even during this its greatest period, however, Romanticism had for a time a
hard battle to fight, and a chief literary fact of the period was the
founding and continued success of the first two important English literary
and political quarterlies, 'The Edinburgh Review' and 'The Quarterly
Review,' which in general stood in literature for the conservative
eighteenth century tradition and violently attacked all, or almost all, the
Romantic poets. These quarterlies are sufficiently important to receive a
few words in passing. In the later eighteenth century there had been some
periodicals devoted to literary criticism, but they were mere
unauthoritative booksellers' organs, and it was left for the new reviews to
inaugurate literary journalism of the modern serious type. 'The Edinburgh
Review,' suggested and first conducted, in 1802, by the witty clergyman and
reformer Sydney Smith, passed at once to the hands of Francis (later Lord)
Jeffrey, a Scots lawyer who continued to edit it for nearly thirty years.
Its politics were strongly liberal, and to oppose it the Tory 'Quarterly
Review' was founded in 1808, under the editorship of the satirist William
Gifford and with the coöperation of Sir Walter Scott, who withdrew for the
purpose from his connection with the 'Edinburgh.' These reviews were
followed by other high-class periodicals, such as 'Blackwood's Magazine,'
and most of the group have maintained their importance to the present day.

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE. The poets Wordsworth and Coleridge are of special
interest not only from the primary fact that they are among the greatest of
English authors, but also secondarily because in spite of their close
personal association each expresses one of the two main contrasting or
complementary tendencies in the Romantic movement; Coleridge the delight in
wonder and mystery, which he has the power to express with marvelous poetic
suggestiveness, and Wordsworth, in an extreme degree, the belief in the
simple and quiet forces, both of human life and of Nature.

To Coleridge, who was slightly the younger of the two, attaches the further
pathetic interest of high genius largely thwarted by circumstances and
weakness of will. Born in Devonshire in 1772, the youngest of the many
children of a self-made clergyman and schoolmaster, he was a precocious and
abnormal child, then as always a fantastic dreamer, despised by other boys
and unable to mingle with them. After the death of his father he was sent
to Christ's Hospital, the 'Blue-Coat' charity school in London, where he
spent nine lonely years in the manner briefly described in an essay of
Charles Lamb, where Coleridge appears under a thin disguise. The very
strict discipline was no doubt of much value in giving firmness and
definite direction to his irregular nature, and the range of his studies,
both in literature and in other fields, was very wide. Through the aid of
scholarships and of contributions from his brothers he entered Cambridge in
1791, just after Wordsworth had left the University; but here his most
striking exploit was a brief escapade of running away and enlisting in a
cavalry troop. Meeting Southey, then a student at Oxford, he drew him into
a plan for a 'Pantisocracy' (a society where all should be equal), a
community of twelve young couples to be founded in some 'delightful part of
the new back settlements' of America on the principles of communistic
coöperation in all lines, broad mental culture, and complete freedom of
opinion. Naturally, this plan never past beyond the dream stage.

Coleridge left the University in 1794 without a degree, tormented by a
disappointment in love. He had already begun to publish poetry and
newspaper prose, and he now attempted lecturing. He and Southey married two
sisters, whom Byron in a later attack on Southey somewhat inaccurately
described as 'milliners of Bath'; and Coleridge settled near Bristol. After
characteristically varied and unsuccessful efforts at conducting a
periodical, newspaper writing, and preaching as a Unitarian (a creed which
was then considered by most Englishmen disreputable and which Coleridge
later abandoned), he moved with his wife in 1797 to Nether Stowey in
Somersetshire. Expressly in order to be near him, Wordsworth and his sister
Dorothy soon leased the neighboring manor-house of Alfoxden, and there
followed the memorable year of intellectual and emotional stimulus when
Coleridge's genius suddenly expanded into short-lived but wonderful
activity and he wrote most of his few great poems, 'The Ancient Mariner,'
'Kubla Khan,' and the First Part of 'Christabel.' 'The Ancient Mariner' was
planned by Coleridge and Wordsworth on one of their frequent rambles, and
was to have been written in collaboration; but as it proceeded, Wordsworth
found his manner so different from that of Coleridge that he withdrew
altogether from the undertaking. The final result of the incident, however,
was the publication in 1798 of 'Lyrical Ballads,' which included of
Coleridge's work only this one poem, but of Wordsworth's several of his
most characteristic ones. Coleridge afterwards explained that the plan of
the volume contemplated two complementary sorts of poems. He was to present
supernatural or romantic characters, yet investing them with human interest
and semblance of truth; while Wordsworth was to add the charm of novelty to
everyday things and to suggest their kinship to the supernatural, arousing
readers from their accustomed blindness to the loveliness and wonders of
the world around us. No better description could be given of the poetic
spirit and the whole poetic work of the two men. Like some other
epoch-marking books, 'Lyrical Ballads' attracted little attention. Shortly
after its publication Coleridge and the Wordsworths sailed for Germany,
where for the greater part of a year Coleridge worked hard, if irregularly,
at the language, literature, and philosophy.

The remaining thirty-five years of his life are a record of ambitious
projects and fitful efforts, for the most part turned by ill-health and
lack of steady purpose into melancholy failure, but with a few fragmentary
results standing out brilliantly. At times Coleridge did newspaper work, at
which he might have succeeded; in 1800, in a burst of energy, he translated
Schiller's tragedy 'Wallenstein' into English blank verse, a translation
which in the opinion of most critics surpasses the original; and down to
1802, and occasionally later, he wrote a few more poems of a high order.
For a few years from 1800 on he lived at Greta Hall in the village of
Keswick (pronounced Kesick), in the northern end of the Lake Region
(Westmoreland), fifteen miles from Wordsworth; but his marriage was
incompatible (with the fault on his side), and he finally left his wife and
children, who were thenceforward supported largely by Southey, his
successor at Greta Hall. Coleridge himself was maintained chiefly by the
generosity of friends; later, in part, by public pensions. It was
apparently about 1800, to alleviate mental distress and great physical
suffering from neuralgia, that he began the excessive use of opium
(laudanum) which for many years had a large share in paralyzing his will.
For a year, in 1804-5, he displayed decided diplomatic talent as secretary
to the Governor of Malta. At several different times, also, he gave
courses, of lectures on Shakspere and Milton; as a speaker he was always
eloquent; and the fragmentary notes of the lectures which have been
preserved rank very high in Shaksperean criticism. His main interest,
however, was now in philosophy; perhaps no Englishman has ever had a more
profoundly philosophical mind; and through scattered writings and through
his stimulating though prolix talks to friends and disciples he performed a
very great service to English thought by introducing the viewpoint and
ideas of the German transcendentalists, such as Kant, Schelling, and
Fichte. During his last eighteen years he lived mostly in sad acceptance of
defeat, though still much honored, in the house of a London physician. He
died in 1834.

As a poet Coleridge's first great distinction is that which we have already
pointed out, namely that he gives wonderfully subtile and appealing
expression to the Romantic sense for the strange and the supernatural, and
indeed for all that the word 'Romance' connotes at the present day. He
accomplishes this result partly through his power of suggesting the real
unity of the inner and outer worlds, partly through his skill, resting in a
large degree on vivid impressionistic description, in making strange scenes
appear actual, in securing from the reader what he himself called 'that
willing suspension of disbelief which constitutes poetic faith.' Almost
every one has felt the weird charm of 'The Ancient Mariner,' where all the
unearthly story centers about a moral and religious idea, and where we are
dazzled by a constant succession of such pictures as these:

  And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
  As green as emerald.

  We were the first that ever burst
  Into that silent sea.
  The western wave was all aflame:
  The day was well nigh done:
  Almost upon the western wave
  Rested the broad, bright sun;
  When that strange shape drove suddenly
  Betwixt us and the sun.

'Christabel' achieves what Coleridge himself described as the very
difficult task of creating witchery by daylight; and 'Kubla Khan,' worthy,
though a brief fragment, to rank with these two, is a marvelous glimpse of

In the second place, Coleridge is one of the greatest English masters of
exquisite verbal melody, with its tributary devices of alliteration and
haunting onomatopoeia. In this respect especially his influence on
subsequent English poetry has been incalculable. The details of his method
students should observe for themselves in their study of the poems, but one
particular matter should be mentioned. In 'Christabel' and to a somewhat
less degree in 'The Ancient Mariner' Coleridge departed as far as possible
from eighteenth century tradition by greatly varying the number of
syllables in the lines, while keeping a regular number of stresses. Though
this practice, as we have seen, was customary in Old English poetry and in
the popular ballads, it was supposed by Coleridge and his contemporaries to
be a new discovery, and it proved highly suggestive to other romantic
poets. From hearing 'Christabel' read (from manuscript) Scott caught the
idea for the free-and-easy meter of his poetical romances.

With a better body and will Coleridge might have been one of the supreme
English poets; as it is, he has left a small number of very great poems and
has proved one of the most powerful influences on later English poetry.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, 1770-1850. William Wordsworth [Footnote: The first
syllable is pronounced like the common noun 'words'] was born in 1770 in
Cumberland, in the 'Lake Region,' which, with its bold and varied mountains
as well as its group of charming lakes, is the most picturesque part of
England proper. He had the benefit of all the available formal education,
partly at home, partly at a 'grammar' school a few miles away, but his
genius was formed chiefly by the influence of Nature, and, in a qualified
degree, by that of the simple peasant people of the region. Already as a
boy, though normal and active, he began to be sensitive to the Divine Power
in Nature which in his mature years he was to express with deeper sympathy
than any poet before him. Early left an orphan, at seventeen he was sent by
his uncles to Cambridge University. Here also the things which most
appealed to him were rather the new revelations of men and life than the
formal studies, and indeed the torpid instruction of the time offered
little to any thoughtful student. On leaving Cambridge he was uncertain as
to his life-work. He said that he did not feel himself 'good enough' for
the Church, he was not drawn toward law, and though he fancied that he had
capacity for a military career, he felt that 'if he were ordered to the
West Indies his talents would not save him from the yellow fever.' At
first, therefore, he spent nearly a year in London in apparent idleness, an
intensely interested though detached spectator of the city life, but more
especially absorbed in his mystical consciousness of its underlying current
of spiritual being. After this he crossed to France to learn the language.
The Revolution was then (1792) in its early stages, and in his 'Prelude'
Wordsworth has left the finest existing statement of the exultant
anticipations of a new world of social justice which the movement aroused
in himself and other young English liberals. When the Revolution past into
the period of violent bloodshed he determined, with more enthusiasm than
judgment, to put himself forward as a leader of the moderate Girondins.
From the wholesale slaughter of this party a few months later he was saved
through the stopping of his allowance by his more cautious uncles, which
compelled him, after a year's absence, to return to England.

For several years longer Wordsworth lived uncertainly. When, soon after his
return, England, in horror at the execution of the French king, joined the
coalition of European powers against France, Wordsworth experienced a great
shock--the first, he tells us, that his moral nature had ever suffered--at
seeing his own country arrayed with corrupt despotisms against what seemed
to him the cause of humanity. The complete degeneration of the Revolution
into anarchy and tyranny further served to plunge him into a chaos of moral
bewilderment, from which he was gradually rescued partly by renewed
communion with Nature and partly by the influence of his sister Dorothy, a
woman of the most sensitive nature but of strong character and admirable
good sense. From this time for the rest of her life she continued to live
with him, and by her unstinted and unselfish devotion contributed very
largely to his poetic success. He had now begun to write poetry (though
thus far rather stiffly and in the rimed couplet), and the receipt of a
small legacy from a friend enabled him to devote his life to the art. Six
or seven years later his resources were several times multiplied by an
honorable act of the new Lord Lonsdale, who voluntarily repaid a sum of
money owed by his predecessor to Wordsworth's father.

In 1795 Wordsworth and his sister moved from the Lake Region to
Dorsetshire, at the other end of England, likewise a country of great
natural beauty. Two years later came their change (of a few miles) to
Alfoxden, the association with Coleridge, and 'Lyrical Ballads,' containing
nineteen of Wordsworth's poems (above, page 267). After their winter in
Germany the Wordsworths settled permanently in their native Lake Region, at
first in 'Dove Cottage,' in the village of Grasmere. This simple little
stone house, buried, like all the others in the Lake Region, in brilliant
flowers, and opening from its second story onto the hillside garden where
Wordsworth composed much of his greatest poetry, is now the annual center
of pilgrimage for thousands of visitors, one of the chief literary shrines
of England and the world. Here Wordsworth lived frugally for several years;
then after intermediate changes he took up his final residence in a larger
house, Rydal Mount, a few miles away. In 1802 he married Mary Hutchinson,
who had been one of his childish schoolmates, a woman of a spirit as fine
as that of his sister, whom she now joined without a thought of jealousy in
a life of self-effacing devotion to the poet.

Wordsworth's poetic inspiration, less fickle than that of Coleridge,
continued with little abatement for a dozen years; but about 1815, as he
himself states in his fine but pathetic poem 'Composed upon an Evening of
Extraordinary Splendour,' it for the most part abandoned him. He continued,
however, to produce a great deal of verse, most of which his admirers would
much prefer to have had unwritten. The plain Anglo-Saxon yeoman strain
which was really the basis of his nature now asserted itself in the growing
conservatism of ideas which marked the last forty years of his life. His
early love of simplicity hardened into a rigid opposition not only to the
materialistic modern industrial system but to all change--the Reform Bill,
the reform of education, and in general all progressive political and
social movements. It was on this abandonment of his early liberal
principles that Browning based his spirited lyric 'The Lost Leader.'

During the first half or more of his mature life, until long after he had
ceased to be a significant creative force, Wordsworth's poetry, for reasons
which will shortly appear, had been met chiefly with ridicule or
indifference, and he had been obliged to wait in patience while the
slighter work first of Scott and then of Byron took the public by storm.
Little by little, however, he came to his own, and by about 1830 he enjoyed
with discerning readers that enthusiastic appreciation of which he is
certain for all the future. The crowning mark of recognition came in 1843
when on the death of his friend Southey he was made Poet Laureate. The
honor, however, had been so long delayed that it was largely barren. Ten
years earlier his life had been darkened by the mental decay of his sister
and the death of Coleridge; and other personal sorrows now came upon him.
He died in 1850 at the age of eighty.

Wordsworth, as we have said, is the chief representative of some
(especially one) of the most important principles in the Romantic Movement;
but he is far more than a member of any movement; through his supreme
poetic expression of some of the greatest spiritual ideals he belongs among
the five or six greatest English poets. First, he is the profoundest
interpreter of Nature in all poetry. His feeling for Nature has two
aspects. He is keenly sensitive, and in a more delicately discriminating
way than any of his predecessors, to all the external beauty and glory of
Nature, especially inanimate Nature--of mountains, woods and fields,
streams and flowers, in all their infinitely varied aspects. A wonderfully
joyous and intimate sympathy with them is one of his controlling impulses.
But his feeling goes beyond the mere physical and emotional delight of
Chaucer and the Elizabethans; for him Nature is a direct manifestation of
the Divine Power, which seems to him to be everywhere immanent in her; and
communion with her, the communion into which he enters as he walks and
meditates among the mountains and moors, is to him communion with God. He
is literally in earnest even in his repeated assertion that from
observation of Nature man may learn (doubtless by the proper attuning of
his spirit) more of moral truth than from all the books and sages. To
Wordsworth Nature is man's one great and sufficient teacher. It is for this
reason that, unlike such poets as Keats and Tennyson, he so often views
Nature in the large, giving us broad landscapes and sublime aspects. Of
this mystical semi-pantheistic Nature-religion his 'Lines composed above
Tintern Abbey' are the noblest expression in literature. All this explains
why Wordsworth considered his function as a poet a sacred thing and how his
intensely moral temperament found complete satisfaction in his art. It
explains also, in part, the limitation of his poetic genius. Nature indeed
did not continue to be to him, as he himself says that it was in his
boyhood, absolutely 'all in all'; but he always remained largely absorbed
in the contemplation and interpretation of it and never manifested, except
in a few comparatively short and exceptional poems, real narrative or
dramatic power (in works dealing with human characters or human life).

In the second place, Wordsworth is the most consistent of all the great
English poets of democracy, though here as elsewhere his interest is mainly
not in the external but in the spiritual aspect of things. From his
insistence that the meaning of the world for man lies not in the external
events but in the development of character results his central doctrine of
the simple life. Real character, he holds, the chief proper object of man's
effort, is formed by quietly living, as did he and the dalesmen around him,
in contact with Nature and communion with God rather than by participation
in the feverish and sensational struggles of the great world. Simple
country people, therefore, are nearer to the ideal than are most persons
who fill a larger place in the activities of the world. This doctrine
expresses itself in a striking though one-sided fashion in his famous
theory of poetry--its proper subjects, characters, and diction. He stated
his theory definitely and at length in a preface to the second edition of
'Lyrical Ballads,' published in 1800, a discussion which includes
incidentally some of the finest general critical interpretation ever made
of the nature and meaning of poetry. Wordsworth declared: 1. Since the
purpose of poetry is to present the essential emotions of men, persons in
humble and rustic life are generally the fittest subjects for treatment in
it, because their natures and manners are simple and more genuine than
those of other men, and are kept so by constant contact with the beauty and
serenity of Nature. 2. Not only should artificial poetic diction (like that
of the eighteenth century) be rejected, but the language of poetry should
be a selection from that of ordinary people in real life, only purified of
its vulgarities and heightened so as to appeal to the imagination. (In this
last modification lies the justification of rime.) There neither is nor can
be any _essential_ difference between the language of prose and that
of poetry.

This theory, founded on Wordsworth's disgust at eighteenth century poetic
artificiality, contains a very important but greatly exaggerated element of
truth. That the experiences of simple and common people, including
children, may adequately illustrate the main spiritual aspects of life
Wordsworth unquestionably demonstrated in such poems as 'The Reverie of
Poor Susan,' 'Lucy Gray,' and 'Michael.' But to restrict poetry largely to
such characters and subjects would be to eliminate not only most of the
external interest of life, which certainly is often necessary in giving
legitimate body to the spiritual meanings, but also a great range of
significant experiences which by the nature of things can never come to
lowly and simple persons. That the characters of simple country people are
on the average inevitably finer and more genuine than those of others is a
romantic theory rather than a fact, as Wordsworth would have discovered if
his meditative nature had, allowed him to get into really direct and
personal contact with the peasants about him. As to the proper language of
poetry, no one to-day (thanks partly to Wordsworth) defends artificiality,
but most of Wordsworth's own best work, as well as that of all other poets,
proves clearly that there _is_ an essential difference between the
language of prose and that of poetry, that much of the meaning of poetry
results from the use of unusual, suggestive, words and picturesque
expressions, which create the essential poetic atmosphere and stir the
imagination in ways distinctly different from those of prose. Wordsworth's
obstinate adherence to his theory in its full extent, indeed, produced such
trivial and absurd results as 'Goody Blake and Harry Gill,' 'The Idiot
Boy,' and 'Peter Bell,' and great masses of hopeless prosiness in his long
blank-verse narratives.

This obstinacy and these poems are only the most conspicuous result of
Wordsworth's chief temperamental defect, which was an almost total lack of
the sense of humor. Regarding himself as the prophet of a supremely
important new gospel, he never admitted the possibility of error in his own
point of view and was never able to stand aside from his poetry and
criticise it dispassionately. This somewhat irritating egotism, however,
was perhaps a necessary element in his success; without it he might not
have been able to live serenely through the years of misunderstanding and
ridicule which would have silenced or embittered a more diffident spirit.

The variety of Wordsworth's poetry deserves special mention; in addition to
his short lyric and narrative poems of Nature and the spiritual life
several kinds stand out distinctly. A very few poems, the noble 'Ode to
Duty,' 'Laodamía,' and 'Dion,' are classical in inspiration and show the
finely severe repression and finish of classic style. Among his many
hundreds of sonnets is a very notable group inspired by the struggle of
England against Napoleon. Wordsworth was the first English poet after
Milton who used the sonnet powerfully and he proves himself a worthy
successor of Milton. The great bulk of his work, finally, is made up of his
long poems in blank-verse. 'The Prelude,' written during the years
1799-1805, though not published until after his death, is the record of the
development of his poet's mind, not an outwardly stirring poem, but a
unique and invaluable piece of spiritual autobiography. Wordsworth intended
to make this only an introduction to another work of enormous length which
was to have presented his views of Man, Nature, and Society. Of this plan
he completed two detached parts, namely the fragmentary 'Recluse' and 'The
Excursion,' which latter contains some fine passages, but for the most part
is uninspired.

Wordsworth, more than any other great English poet, is a poet for mature
and thoughtful appreciation; except for a very small part of his work many
readers must gradually acquire the taste for him. But of his position among
the half dozen English poets who have made the largest contribution to
thought and life there can be no question; so that some acquaintance with
him is a necessary part of any real education.

ROBERT SOUTHEY. Robert Southey (1774-1843), a voluminous writer of verse
and prose who from his friendship with Wordsworth and Coleridge has been
associated with them as third in what has been inaptly called 'The Lake
School' of poets, was thought in his own day to be their equal; but time
has relegated him to comparative obscurity. An insatiate reader and
admirable man, he wrote partly from irrepressible instinct and partly to
support his own family and at times, as we have seen, that of Coleridge. An
ardent liberal in youth, he, more quickly than Wordsworth, lapsed into
conservatism, whence resulted his appointment as Poet Laureate in 1813 and
the unremitting hostility of Lord Byron. His rather fantastic epics,
composed with great facility and much real spirit, are almost forgotten; he
is remembered chiefly by three or four short poems--'The Battle of
Blenheim,' 'My days among the dead are past,' 'The Old Man's Comforts' (You
are old, Father William,' wittily parodied by 'Lewis Carroll' in 'Alice in
Wonderland')--and by his excellent short prose 'Life of Nelson.'

WALTER SCOTT. In the eighteenth century Scotland had contributed Thomson
and Burns to the Romantic movement; now, early in the nineteenth, she
supplied a writer of unexcelled and marvelous creative energy, who
confirmed the triumph of the movement with work of the first importance in
both verse and prose, namely Walter Scott. Scott, further, is personally
one of the most delightful figures in English literature, and he is
probably the most famous of all the Scotsmen who have ever lived.

He was descended from an ancient Border fighting clan, some of whose
pillaging heroes he was to celebrate in his poetry, but he himself was
born, in 1771, in Edinburgh, the son of an attorney of a privileged, though
not the highest, class. In spite of some serious sicknesses, one of which
left him permanently lame, he was always a very active boy, more
distinguished at school for play and fighting than for devotion to study.
But his unconscious training for literature began very early; in his
childhood his love of poetry was stimulated by his mother, and he always
spent much time in roaming about the country and picking up old ballads and
traditional lore. Loyalty to his father led him to devote six years of hard
work to the uncongenial study of the law, and at twenty he was admitted to
the Edinburgh bar as an advocate. Though his geniality and high-spirited
brilliancy made him a social favorite he never secured much professional
practice; but after a few years he was appointed permanent Sheriff of
Selkirk, a county a little to the south of Edinburgh, near the English
Border. Later, in 1806, he was also made one of the Principal Clerks of
Session, a subordinate but responsible office with a handsome salary which
entailed steady attendance and work at the metropolitan law court in
Edinburgh during half of each year.

His instinct for literary production was first stimulated by the German
Romantic poets. In 1796 he translated Bürger's fiery and melodramatic
ballad 'Lenore,' and a little later wrote some vigorous though hasty
ballads of his own. In 1802-1803 he published 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish
Border,' a collection of Scottish ballads and songs, which he carefully
annotated. He went on in 1805, when he was thirty-four, to his first
original verse-romance, 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel.' Carelessly
constructed and written, this poem was nevertheless the most spirited
reproduction of the life of feudal chivalry which the Romantic Movement had
yet brought forth, and its popularity was immediate and enormous. Always
writing with the greatest facility, though in brief hours snatched from his
other occupations, Scott followed up 'The Lay' during the next ten years
with the much superior 'Marmion,' 'The Lady of the Lake,' and other
verse-romances, most of which greatly increased both his reputation and his
income. In 1813 he declined the offer of the Poet Laureateship, then
considered a position of no great dignity for a successful man, but secured
the appointment of Southey, who was his friend. In 1811 he moved from the
comparatively modest country house which he had been occupying to the
estate of Abbotsford, where he proceeded to fulfill his ambition of
building a great mansion and making himself a sort of feudal chieftain. To
this project he devoted for years a large part of the previously
unprecedented profits from his writings. For a dozen years before, it
should be added, his inexhaustible energy had found further occupation in
connection with a troop of horse which he had helped to organize on the
threat of a French invasion and of which he acted as quartermaster,
training in barracks, and at times drilling for hours before breakfast.

The amount and variety of his literary work was much greater than is
understood by most of his admirers today. He contributed largely, in
succession, to the 'Edinburgh' and 'Quarterly' reviews, and having become a
secret partner in the printing firm of the Ballantyne brothers, two of his
school friends, exerted himself not only in the affairs of the company but
in vast editorial labors of his own, which included among other things
voluminously annotated editions of Dryden and Swift. His productivity is
the more astonishing because after his removal to Abbotsford he gave a
great part of his time not only to his family but also to the entertainment
of the throngs of visitors who pressed upon him in almost continuous
crowds. The explanation is to be found partly in his phenomenally vigorous
constitution, which enabled him to live and work with little sleep; though
in the end he paid heavily for this indiscretion.

The circumstances which led him to turn from poetry to prose fiction are
well known. His poetical vein was really exhausted when in 1812 and 1813
Byron's 'Childe Harold' and flashy Eastern tales captured the public fancy.
Just about as Scott was goodnaturedly confessing to himself that it was
useless to dispute Byron's supremacy he accidentally came across the first
chapters of 'Waverley,' which he had written some years before and had
thrown aside in unwillingness to risk his fame by a venture in a new field.
Taking it up with renewed interest, in the evenings of three weeks he wrote
the remaining two-thirds of it; and he published it with an ultimate
success even greater than that of his poetry. For a long time, however,
Scott did not acknowledge the authorship of 'Waverley' and the novels which
followed it (which, however, was obvious to every one), chiefly because he
feared that the writing of prose fiction would seem undignified in a Clerk
of Session. The rapidity of the appearance of his novels testified to the
almost unlimited accumulation of traditions and incidents with which his
astonishing memory was stored; in seventeen years he published nearly
thirty 'Waverley' novels, equipping most of them, besides, with long
fictitious introductions, which the present-day reader almost universally
skips. The profits of Scott's works, long amounting apparently to from ten
to twenty thousand pounds a year, were beyond the wildest dream of any
previous author, and even exceeded those of most popular authors of the
twentieth century, though partly because the works were published in
unreasonably expensive form, each novel in several volumes. Still more
gratifying were the great personal popularity which Scott attained and his
recognition as the most eminent of living Scotsmen, of which a symbol was
his elevation to a baronetcy in 1820.

But the brightness of all this glory was to be pathetically dimmed. In 1825
a general financial panic, revealing the laxity of Scott's business
partners, caused his firm to fail with liabilities of nearly a hundred and
twenty thousand pounds. Always magnanimous and the soul of honor, Scott
refused to take advantage of the bankruptcy laws, himself assumed the
burden of the entire debt, and set himself the stupendous task of paying it
with his pen. Amid increasing personal sorrows he labored on for six years
and so nearly attained his object that the debt was actually extinguished
some years after his death. But in the effort he completed the exhaustion
of his long-overtaxed strength, and, a trip to Italy proving unavailing,
returned to Abbotsford, and died, a few weeks after Goethe, in 1832.

As a man Scott was first of all a true and thorough gentleman, manly, open
hearted, friendly and lovable in the highest degree. Truthfulness and
courage were to him the essential virtues, and his religious faith was deep
though simple and unobtrusive. Like other forceful men, he understood his
own capacity, but his modesty was extreme; he always insisted with all
sincerity that the ability to compose fiction was not for a moment to be
compared with the ability to act effectively in practical activities; and
he was really displeased at the suggestion that he belonged among the
greatest men of the age. In spite of his Romantic tendencies and his
absolute simplicity of character, he clung strongly to the conservatism of
the feudal aristocracy with which he had labored so hard to connect
himself; he was vigorously hostile to the democratic spirit, and, in his
later years, to the Reform Bill; and he felt and expressed almost childish
delight in the friendship of the contemptible George IV, because George IV
was his king. The conservatism was closely connected, in fact, with his
Romantic interest in the past, and in politics it took the form,
theoretically, of Jacobitism, loyalty to the worthless Stuart race whose
memory his novels have done so much to keep alive. All these traits are
made abundantly clear in the extended life of Scott written by his
son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart, which is one of the two or three greatest
English biographies.

Scott's long poems, the best of them, are the chief examples in English of
dashing verse romances of adventure and love. They are hastily done, as we
have said, and there is no attempt at subtilty of characterization or at
any moral or philosophical meaning; nevertheless the reader's interest in
the vigorous and picturesque action is maintained throughout at the highest
pitch. Furthermore, they contain much finely sympathetic description of
Scottish scenery, impressionistic, but poured out with enthusiasm. Scott's
numerous lyrics are similarly stirring or moving expressions of the primal
emotions, and some of them are charmingly musical.

The qualities of the novels, which represent the culmination of Romantic
historical fiction, are much the same. Through his bold and active
historical imagination Scott vivifies the past magnificently; without
doubt, the great majority of English readers know English history chiefly
through his works. His dramatic power, also, at its best, is superb; in his
great scenes and crises he is masterly as narrator and describer. In the
presentation of the characters there is often much of the same
superficiality as in the poems, but there is much also of the highest
skill. The novels may be roughly divided into three classes: first those,
like 'Ivanhoe,' whose scene is laid in the twelfth or thirteenth century;
second those, like 'Kenilworth,' which are located in the fifteenth or
sixteenth; and third, those belonging to England and Scotland of the
seventeenth and eighteenth. In the earlier ones sheer romance predominates
and the hero and heroine are likely to be more or less conventional
paragons, respectively, of courage and tender charm; but in the later ones
Scott largely portrays the life and people which he himself knew; and he
knew them through and through. His Scottish characters in particular, often
especially the secondary ones, are delightfully realistic portraits of a
great variety of types. Mary Queen of Scots in 'The Abbot' and Caleb
Balderstone in 'The Bride of Lammermoor' are equally convincing in their
essential but very personal humanity. Descriptions of scenery are
correspondingly fuller in the novels than in the poems and are equally
useful for atmosphere and background.

In minor matters, in the novels also, there is much carelessness. The
style, more formal than that of the present day, is prevailingly wordy and
not infrequently slipshod, though its vitality is a much more noticeable
characteristic. The structure of the stories is far from compact. Scott
generally began without any idea how he was to continue or end and sent off
each day's instalment of his manuscript in the first draft as soon as it
was written; hence the action often wanders, or even, from the structural
point of view, drags. But interest seldom greatly slackens until the end,
which, it must be further confessed, is often suddenly brought about in a
very inartistic fashion. It is of less consequence that in the details of
fact Scott often commits errors, not only, like all historical novelists,
deliberately manipulating the order and details of the actual events to
suit his purposes, but also making frequent sheer mistakes. In 'Ivanhoe,'
for example, the picture of life in the twelfth century is altogether
incorrect and misleading. In all these matters scores of more
self-conscious later writers are superior to Scott, but mere correctness
counts for far less than genius.

When all is said, Scott remains the greatest historical novelist, and one
of the greatest creative forces, in world literature.

THE LAST GROUP OF ROMANTIC POETS. Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, and Scott
had mostly ceased to produce poetry by 1815. The group of younger men, the
last out-and-out Romanticists, who succeeded them, writing chiefly from
about 1810 to 1825, in some respects contrast strongly with them. Byron and
Shelley were far more radically revolutionary; and Keats, in his poetry,
was devoted wholly to the pursuit and worship of beauty with no concern
either for a moral philosophy of life or for vigorous external adventure.
It is a striking fact also that these later men were all very short-lived;
they died at ages ranging only from twenty-six to thirty-six.

Lord Byron, 1788-1824. Byron (George Gordon Byron) expresses mainly the
spirit of individual revolt, revolt against all existing institutions and
standards. This was largely a matter of his own personal temperament, but
the influence of the time also had a share in it, the time when the
apparent failure of the French Revolution had thrown the pronounced
liberals back upon their own resources in bitter dissatisfaction with the
existing state of society. Byron was born in 1788. His father, the violent
and worthless descendant of a line of violent and worthless nobles, was
just then using up the money which the poet's mother had brought him, and
soon abandoned her. She in turn was wildly passionate and uncontrolled, and
in bringing up her son indulged alternately in fits of genuine tenderness
and capricious outbursts of mad rage and unkindness. Byron suffered also
from another serious handicap; he was born with deformed feet, so that
throughout life he walked clumsily--a galling irritation to his sensitive
pride. In childhood his poetic instincts were stimulated by summers spent
among the scenery of his mother's native Scottish Highlands. At the age of
ten, on the death of his great-uncle, he succeeded to the peerage as Lord
Byron, but for many years he continued to be heavily in debt, partly
because of lavish extravagance, which was one expression of his inherited
reckless wilfulness. Throughout his life he was obliged to make the most
heroic efforts to keep in check another inherited tendency, to corpulence;
he generally restricted his diet almost entirely to such meager fare as
potatoes and soda-water, though he often broke out also into periods of
unlimited self-indulgence.

From Harrow School he passed to Trinity College, Cambridge, where Macaulay
and Tennyson were to be among his successors. Aspiring to be an athlete, he
made himself respected as a fighter, despite his deformity, by his strength
of arm, and he was always a powerful swimmer. Deliberately aiming also at
the reputation of a debauchee, he lived wildly, though now as later
probably not altogether so wickedly as he represented. After three years of
irregular attendance at the University his rank secured him the degree of
M. A., in 1808. He had already begun to publish verse, and when 'The
Edinburgh Review' ridiculed his very juvenile 'Hours of Idleness' he added
an attack on Jeffrey to a slashing criticism of contemporary poets which he
had already written in rimed couplets (he always professed the highest
admiration for Pope's poetry), and published the piece as 'English Bards
and Scotch Reviewers.'

He was now settled at his inherited estate of Newstead Abbey (one of the
religious foundations given to members of the nobility by Henry VIII when
he confiscated them from the Church), and had made his appearance in his
hereditary place in the House of Lords; but following his instinct for
excitement and for doing the expensively conspicuous thing he next spent
two years on a European tour, through Spain, Greece, and Turkey. In Greece
he traveled, as was necessary, with a large native guard, and he allowed
reports to become current that he passed through a succession of romantic
and reckless adventures. The first literary result of his journey was the
publication in 1812 of the first two cantos of 'Childe Harold's
Pilgrimage.' This began as the record of the wanderings of Childe Harold, a
dissipated young noble who was clearly intended to represent the author
himself; but Byron soon dropped this figure as a useless impediment in the
series of descriptions of Spain and Greece of which the first two cantos
consist. He soon abandoned also the attempt to secure an archaic effect by
the occasional use of Spenserian words, but he wrote throughout in
Spenser's stanza, which he used with much power. The public received the
poem with the greatest enthusiasm; Byron summed up the case in his
well-known comment: 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous.' In fact,
'Childe Harold' is the best of all Byron's works, though the third and
fourth cantos, published some years later, and dealing with Belgium, the
battle of Waterloo, and central Europe, are superior to the first two. Its
excellence consists chiefly in the fact that while it is primarily a
descriptive poem, its pictures, dramatically and finely vivid in
themselves, are permeated with intense emotion and often serve only as
introductions to passionate rhapsodies, so that the effect is largely

Though Byron always remained awkward in company he now became the idol of
the world of fashion. He followed up his first literary success by
publishing during the next four years his brief and vigorous metrical
romances, most of them Eastern in setting, 'The Giaour' (pronounced by
Byron 'Jower'), 'The Bride of Abydos,' 'The Corsair,' 'Lara,' 'The Siege of
Corinth,' and 'Parisina.' These were composed not only with remarkable
facility but in the utmost haste, sometimes a whole poem in only a few days
and sometimes in odds and ends of time snatched from social diversions. The
results are only too clearly apparent; the meter is often slovenly, the
narrative structure highly defective, and the characterization superficial
or flatly inconsistent. In other respects the poems are thoroughly
characteristic of their author. In each of them stands out one dominating
figure, the hero, a desperate and terrible adventurer, characterized by
Byron himself as possessing 'one virtue and a thousand crimes,' merciless
and vindictive to his enemies, tremblingly obeyed by his followers,
manifesting human tenderness only toward his mistress (a delicate romantic
creature to whom he is utterly devoted in the approved romantic-sentimental
fashion), and above all inscrutably enveloped in a cloud of pretentious
romantic melancholy and mystery. Like Childe Harold, this impossible and
grandiose figure of many incarnations was well understood by every one to
be meant for a picture of Byron himself, who thus posed for and received in
full measure the horrified admiration of the public. But in spite of all
this melodramatic clap-trap the romances, like 'Childe Harold,' are filled
with the tremendous Byronic passion, which, as in 'Childe Harold,' lends
great power alike to their narrative and their description.

Byron now made a strangely ill-judged marriage with a Miss Milbanke, a
woman of the fashionable world but of strict and perhaps even prudish moral
principles. After a year she left him, and 'society,' with characteristic
inconsistency, turned on him in a frenzy of superficial indignation. He
shortly (1816) fled from England, never to return, both his colossal vanity
and his truer sensitive self stung by the injustice to fury against the
hypocrisy and conventionalities of English life, which, in fact, he had
always despised. He spent the following seven years as a wanderer over
Italy and central Europe. He often lived scandalously; sometimes he was
with the far more fine-spirited Shelley; and he sometimes furnished money
to the Italians who were conducting the agitation against their tyrannical
foreign governments. All the while he was producing a great quantity of
poetry. In his half dozen or more poetic dramas he entered a new field. In
the most important of them, 'Manfred,' a treatment of the theme which
Marlowe and Goethe had used in 'Faust,' his real power is largely thwarted
by the customary Byronic mystery and swagger. 'Cain' and 'Heaven and
Earth,' though wretchedly written, have also a vaguely vast imaginative
impressiveness. Their defiant handling of Old Testament material and
therefore of Christian theology was shocking to most respectable Englishmen
and led Southey to characterize Byron as the founder of the 'Satanic
School' of English poetry. More significant is the longest and chief of his
satires, 'Don Juan,' [Footnote: Byron entirely anglicized the second word
and pronounced it in two syllables--Jú-an.] on which he wrote
intermittently for years as the mood took him. It is ostensibly the
narrative of the adventures of a young Spaniard, but as a story it rambles
on formlessly without approaching an end, and its real purpose is to serve
as an utterly cynical indictment of mankind, the institutions of society,
and accepted moral principles. Byron often points the cynicism by lapsing
into brilliant doggerel, but his double nature appears in the occasional
intermingling of tender and beautiful passages.

Byron's fiery spirit was rapidly burning itself out. In his uncontrolled
zest for new sensations he finally tired of poetry, and in 1823 he accepted
the invitation of the European committee in charge to become a leader of
the Greek revolt against Turkish oppression. He sailed to the Greek camp at
the malarial town of Missolonghi, where he showed qualities of leadership
but died of fever after a few months, in 1824, before he had time to
accomplish anything.

It is hard to form a consistent judgment of so inconsistent a being as
Byron. At the core of his nature there was certainly much genuine
goodness--generosity, sympathy, and true feeling. However much we may
discount his sacrifice of his life in the cause of a foreign people, his
love of political freedom and his hatred of tyranny were thoroughly and
passionately sincere, as is repeatedly evident in such poems as the sonnet
on 'Chillon,' 'The Prisoner of Chillon,' and the 'Ode on Venice.' On the
other hand his violent contempt for social and religious hypocrisy had as
much of personal bitterness as of disinterested principle; and his
persistent quest of notoriety, the absence of moderation in his attacks on
religious and moral standards, his lack of self-control, and his indulgence
in all the vices of the worser part of the titled and wealthy class require
no comment. Whatever allowances charity may demand on the score of tainted
heredity, his character was far too violent and too shallow to approach to

As a poet he continues to occupy a conspicuous place (especially in the
judgment of non-English-speaking nations) through the power of his volcanic
emotion. It was this quality of emotion, perhaps the first essential in
poetry, which enrolled among his admirers a clear spirit in most respects
the antithesis of his own, that of Matthew Arnold. In 'Memorial Verses'
Arnold says of him:

  He taught us little, but our soul
  Had felt him like the thunder's roll.
  With shivering heart the strife we saw
  Of passion with eternal law.

His poetry has also an elemental sweep and grandeur. The majesty of Nature,
especially of the mountains and the ocean, stirs him to feeling which often
results in superb stanzas, like the well-known ones at the end of 'Childe
Harold' beginning 'Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll'! Too
often, however, Byron's passion and facility of expression issue in bombast
and crude rhetoric. Moreover, his poetry is for the most part lacking in
delicacy and fine shading; scarcely a score of his lyrics are of the
highest order. He gives us often the blaring music of a military band or
the loud, swelling volume of an organ, but very seldom the softer tones of
a violin or symphony.

To his creative genius and power the variety as well as the amount of his
poetry offers forceful testimony.

In moods of moral and literary severity, to summarize, a critic can
scarcely refrain from dismissing Byron with impatient contempt;
nevertheless his genius and his in part splendid achievement are
substantial facts. He stands as the extreme but significant exponent of
violent Romantic individualism in a period when Romantic aspiration was
largely disappointed and disillusioned, but was indignantly gathering its
strength for new efforts.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, 1792-1832. Shelley resembles Byron in his
thorough-going revolt against society, but he is totally unlike Byron in
several important respects. His first impulse was an unselfish love for his
fellow-men, with an aggressive eagerness for martyrdom in their behalf; his
nature was unusually, even abnormally, fine and sensitive; and his poetic
quality was a delicate and ethereal lyricism unsurpassed in the literature
of the world. In both his life and his poetry his visionary reforming zeal
and his superb lyric instinct are inextricably intertwined.

Shelley, born in 1792, belonged to a family of Sussex country gentry; a
baronetcy bestowed on his grandfather during the poet's youth passed from
his father after his own death to his descendants. Matthew Arnold has
remarked that while most of the members of any aristocracy are naturally
conservative, confirmed advocates of the system under which they enjoy
great privileges, any one of them who happens to be endowed with radical
ideas is likely to carry these to an extreme. In Shelley's case this
general tendency was strengthened by reaction against the benighted Toryism
of his father and by most of the experiences of his life from the very
outset. At Eton his hatred of tyranny was fiercely aroused by the fagging
system and the other brutalities of an English school; he broke into open
revolt and became known as 'mad Shelley,' and his schoolfellows delighted
in driving him into paroxysms of rage. Already at Eton he read and accepted
the doctrines of the French pre-Revolutionary philosophers and their
English interpreter William Godwin. He came to believe not only that human
nature is essentially good, but that if left to itself it can be implicitly
trusted; that sin and misery are merely the results of the injustice
springing from the institutions of society, chief of which are organized
government, formal religion, law, and formal marriage; and that the one
essential thing is to bring about a condition where these institutions can
be abolished and where all men may be allowed to follow their own
inclinations. The great advance which has been made since Shelley's time in
the knowledge of history and the social sciences throws a pitiless light on
the absurdity of this theory, showing that social institutions, terribly
imperfect as they are, are by no means chiefly bad but rather represent the
slow gains of thousands of years of painful progress; none the less the
theory was bound to appeal irresistibly to such an impulsive and
inexperienced idealism as that of Shelley. It was really, of course, not so
much against social institutions themselves that Shelley revolted as
against their abuses, which were still more flagrantly apparent in his time
than in ours. When he repudiated Christianity and declared himself an
atheist, what he actually had in mind was the perverted parody of religion
mainly offered by the Church of his time; and, as some one has observed,
when he pronounced for love without marriage it was because of the
tragedies that he had seen in marriages without love. Much must be ascribed
also to his sheer radicalism--the instinct to fly violently against
whatever was conventionally accepted and violently to flaunt his adherence
to whatever was banned.

In 1810 Shelley entered Oxford, especially exasperated by parental
interference with his first boyish love, and already the author of some
crude prose-romances and poetry. In the university he devoted his time
chiefly to investigating subjects not included or permitted in the
curriculum, especially chemistry; and after a few months, having written a
pamphlet on 'The Necessity of Atheism' and sent it with conscientious zeal
to the heads of the colleges, he was expelled. Still a few months later,
being then nineteen years old, he allowed himself to be led, admittedly
only through pity, into a marriage with a certain Harriet Westbrook, a
frivolous and commonplace schoolgirl of sixteen. For the remaining ten
years of his short life he, like Byron, was a wanderer, sometimes in
straits for money, though always supported, after some time generously
enough, by his father. At first he tried the career of a professional
agitator; going to Ireland he attempted to arouse the people against
English tyranny by such devices as scattering copies of addresses from his
window in Dublin or launching them in bottles in the Bristol Channel; but
he was soon obliged to flee the country. It is hard, of course, to take
such conduct seriously; yet in the midst of much that was wild, his
pamphlets contained also much of solid wisdom, no small part of which has
since been enacted into law.

Unselfish as he was in the abstract, Shelley's enthusiast's egotism and the
unrestraint of his emotions rendered him fitful, capricious, unable to
appreciate any point of view but his own, and therefore when irritated or
excited capable of downright cruelty in concrete cases. The most painful
illustration is afforded by his treatment of his first wife. Three years
after his marriage he informed her that he considered the connection at an
end and abandoned her to what proved a few years of a wretched existence.
Shelley himself formed a union with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the
daughter of his revolutionary teacher. Her sympathetic though extravagant
admiration for his genius, now beginning to express itself in really great
poetry, was of the highest value to him, the more so that from this time on
he was viewed by most respectable Englishman with the same abhorrence which
they felt for Byron. In 1818 the Shelleys also abandoned England
(permanently, as it proved) for Italy, where they moved from place to
place, living sometimes, as we have said, with Byron, for whose genius, in
spite of its coarseness, Shelley had a warm admiration. Shelley's death
came when he was only thirty, in 1822, by a sudden accident--he was
drowned by the upsetting of his sailboat in the Gulf of Spezia, between
Genoa and Pisa. His body, cast on the shore, was burned in the presence of
Byron and another radical, Leigh Hunt, and the ashes were buried in the
Protestant cemetery just outside the wall of Rome, where Keats had been
interred only a year earlier.

Some of Shelley's shorter poems are purely poetic expressions of poetic
emotion, but by far the greater part are documents (generally beautiful
also as poetry) in his attack on existing customs and cruelties. Matthew
Arnold, paraphrasing Joubert's description of Plato, has characterized him
as 'a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous
wings in vain.' This is largely true, but it overlooks the sound general
basis and the definite actual results which belong to his work, as to that
of every great idealist.

On the artistic side the most conspicuous thing in his poetry is the
ecstatic aspiration for Beauty and the magnificent embodiment of it.
Shelley is the poetic disciple, but a thoroughly original disciple, of
Coleridge. His esthetic passion is partly sensuous, and he often abandons
himself to it with romantic unrestraint. His 'lyrical cry,' of which
Matthew Arnold has spoken, is the demand, which will not be denied, for
beauty that will satisfy his whole being. Sensations, indeed, he must
always have, agreeable ones if possible, or in default of them, painful
ones; this explains his occasional touches of repulsive morbidness. But the
repulsive strain is exceptional. No other poetry is crowded in the same way
as his with pictures glorious and delicate in form, light, and color, or is
more musically palpitating with the delight which they create. To Shelley
as a follower of Plato, however, the beauty of the senses is only a
manifestation of ideal Beauty, the spiritual force which appears in other
forms as Intellect and Love; and Intellect and Love as well are equal
objects of his unbounded devotion. Hence his sensuousness is touched with a
real spiritual quality. In his poetic emotion, as in his social ambitions,
Shelley is constantly yearning for the unattainable. One of our best
critics [Footnote: Mr. R. H. Hutton.] has observed: 'He never shows his
full power in dealing separately with intellectual or moral or physical
beauty. His appropriate sphere is swift sensibility, the intersecting line
between the sensuous and the intellectual or moral. Mere sensation is too
literal for him, mere feeling too blind and dumb, mere thought too cold....
Wordsworth is always exulting in the fulness of Nature, Shelley is always
chasing its falling stars.'

The contrast, here hinted at, between Shelley's view of Nature and that of
Wordsworth, is extreme and entirely characteristic; the same is true, also,
when we compare Shelley and Byron. Shelley's excitable sensuousness
produces in him in the presence of Nature a very different attitude from
that of Wordsworth's philosophic Christian-mysticism. For the sensuousness
of Shelley gets the upper hand of his somewhat shadowy Platonism, and he
creates out of Nature mainly an ethereal world of delicate and rapidly
shifting sights and sounds and sensations. And while he is not unresponsive
to the majestic greatness of Nature in her vast forms and vistas, he is
never impelled, like Byron, to claim with them the kinship of a haughty
elemental spirit.

A rather long passage of appreciative criticism [Footnote: Professor A.C.
Bradley, 'Oxford Lectures on Poetry' (Macmillan), p.196.] is sufficiently
suggestive for quotation:

"From the world of [Shelley's] imagination the shapes of the old world had
disappeared, and their place was taken by a stream of radiant vapors,
incessantly forming, shifting, and dissolving in the 'clear golden dawn,'
and hymning with the voices of seraphs, to the music of the stars and the
'singing rain,' the sublime ridiculous theories of Godwin. In his heart
were emotions that responded to the vision--an aspiration or ecstasy, a
dejection or despair, like those of spirits rapt into Paradise or mourning
over its ruin. And he wrote not like Shakspere or Pope, for Londoners
sitting in a theatre or a coffee-house, intelligence's vivid enough but
definitely embodied in a definite society, able to fly, but also able to
sit; he wrote, or rather he sang, to his own soul, to other spirit-sparks
of the fire of Liberty scattered over the dark earth, to spirits in the
air, to the boundless spirit of Nature or Freedom or Love, his one place of
rest and the one source of his vision, ecstasy, and sorrow. He sang
_to_ this, and he sang _of_ it, and of the emotions it inspired,
and of its world-wide contest with such shapes of darkness as Faith and
Custom. And he made immortal music; now in melodies as exquisite and varied
as the songs of Schubert, and now in symphonies where the crudest of
Philosophies of History melted into golden harmony. For although there was
something always working in Shelley's mind and issuing in those radiant
vapors, he was far deeper and truer than his philosophic creed; its
expression and even its development were constantly checked or distorted by
the hard and narrow framework of his creed. And it was one which in effect
condemned nine-tenths of the human nature that has formed the material of
the world's great poems." [Footnote: Perhaps the finest piece of
rhapsodical appreciative criticism written in later years is the essay on
Shelley (especially the last half) by Francis Thompson (Scribner).]

The finest of Shelley's poems, are his lyrics. 'The Skylark' and 'The
Cloud' are among the most dazzling and unique of all outbursts of poetic
genius. Of the 'Ode to the West Wind,' a succession of surging emotions and
visions of beauty swept, as if by the wind itself, through the vast spaces
of the world, Swinburne exclaims: 'It is beyond and outside and above all
criticism, all praise, and all thanksgiving.' The 'Lines Written among the
Euganean Hills,' 'The Indian Serenade,' 'The Sensitive Plant' (a brief
narrative), and not a few others are also of the highest quality. In
'Adonais,' an elegy on Keats and an invective against the reviewer whose
brutal criticism, as Shelley wrongly supposed, had helped to kill him,
splendid poetic power, at least, must be admitted. Much less satisfactory
but still fascinating are the longer poems, narrative or philosophical,
such as the early 'Alastor,' a vague allegory of a poet's quest for the
beautiful through a gorgeous and incoherent succession of romantic
wildernesses; the 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty'; 'Julian and Maddalo,' in
which Shelley and Byron (Maddalo) are portrayed; and 'Epipsychidion,' an
ecstatic poem on the love which is spiritual sympathy. Shelley's satires
may be disregarded. To the dramatic form belong his two most important long
poems. 'Prometheus Unbound' partly follows AEschylus in treating the
torture of the Titan who is the champion or personification of Mankind, by
Zeus, whom Shelley makes the incarnation of tyranny and on whose overthrow
the Golden Age of Shelleyan anarchy succeeds. The poem is a lyrical drama,
more on the Greek than on the English model. There is almost no action, and
the significance lies first in the lyrical beauty of the profuse choruses
and second in the complete embodiment of Shelley's passionate hatred of
tyranny. 'The Cenci' is more dramatic in form, though the excess of speech
over action makes of it also only a 'literary drama.' The story, taken
from family history of the Italian Renaissance, is one of the most horrible
imaginable, but the play is one of the most powerful produced in English
since the Elizabethan period. That the quality of Shelley's genius is
unique is obvious on the slightest acquaintance with him, and it is equally
certain that in spite of his premature death and all his limitations he
occupies an assured place among the very great poets. On the other hand,
the vagueness of his imagination and expression has recently provoked
severe criticism. It has even been declared that the same mind cannot
honestly enjoy both the carefully wrought classical beauty of Milton's
'Lycidas' and Shelley's mistily shimmering 'Adonais.' The question goes
deep and should receive careful consideration.

JOHN KEATS, 1795-1821. No less individual and unique than the poetry of
Byron and Shelley is that of the third member of this group, John Keats,
who is, in a wholesome way, the most conspicuous great representative in
English poetry since Chaucer of the spirit of 'Art for Art's sake.' Keats
was born in London in 1795, the first son of a livery-stable keeper.
Romantic emotion and passionateness were among his chief traits from the
start; but he was equally distinguished by a generous spirit, physical
vigor (though he was very short in build), and courage. His younger
brothers he loved intensely and fought fiercely. At boarding-school,
however, he turned from headstrong play to enthusiastic reading of Spenser
and other great English and Latin poets and of dictionaries of Greek and
Roman mythology and life. An orphan at fourteen, the mismanagement of his
guardians kept him always in financial difficulties, and he was taken from
school and apprenticed to a suburban surgeon. After five years of study and
hospital practice the call of poetry proved too strong, and he abandoned
his profession to revel in Spenser, Shakspere, and the Italian epic
authors. He now became an enthusiastic disciple of the literary and
political radical, Leigh Hunt, in whose home at Hampstead he spent much
time. Hunt was a great poetic stimulus to Keats, but he is largely
responsible for the flippant jauntiness and formlessness of Keats' earlier
poetry, and the connection brought on Keats from the outset the relentless
hostility of the literacy critics, who had dubbed Hunt and his friends 'The
Cockney [i.e., Vulgar] School of Poetry.'

Keats' first little volume of verse, published in 1817, when he was
twenty-one,-contained some delightful poems and clearly displayed most of
his chief tendencies. It was followed the next year by his longest poem,
'Endymion,' where he uses, one of the vaguely beautiful Greek myths as the
basis for the expression of his own delight in the glory of the world and
of youthful sensations. As a narrative the poem is wandering, almost
chaotic; that it is immature Keats himself frankly admitted in his preface;
but in luxuriant loveliness of sensuous imagination it is unsurpassed. Its
theme, and indeed the theme of all Keats' poetry, may be said to be found
in its famous first line--'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' The
remaining three years of Keats' life were mostly tragic. 'Endymion' and its
author were brutally attacked in 'The Quarterly Review' and 'Blackwood's
Magazine.' The sickness and death, from consumption, of one of Keats'
dearly-loved brothers was followed by his infatuation with a certain Fanny
Brawne, a commonplace girl seven years younger than himself. This
infatuation thenceforth divided his life with poetry and helped to create
in him a restless impatience that led him, among other things, to an
unhappy effort to force his genius, in the hope of gain, into the very
unsuitable channel of play-writing. But restlessness did not weaken his
genuine and maturing poetic power; his third and last volume, published in
1820, and including 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' 'Isabella,' 'Lamia,' the
fragmentary 'Hyperion,' and his half dozen great odes, probably contains
more poetry of the highest order than any other book of original verse, of
so small a size, ever sent from the press. By this time, however, Keats
himself was stricken with consumption, and in the effort to save his life a
warmer climate was the last resource. Lack of sympathy with Shelley and his
poetry led him to reject Shelley's generous offer of entertainment at Pisa,
and he sailed with his devoted friend the painter Joseph Severn to southern
Italy. A few months later, in 1821, he died at Rome, at the age of
twenty-five. His tombstone, in a neglected corner of the Protestant
cemetery just outside the city wall, bears among other words those which in
bitterness of spirit he himself had dictated: 'Here lies one whose name was
writ in water.' But, in fact, not only had he created more great poetry
than was ever achieved by any other man at so early an age, but probably no
other influence was to prove so great as his on the poets of the next

The most important qualities of his poetry stand out clearly:

1. He is, as we have implied, the great apostle of full though not
unhealthy enjoyment of external Beauty, the beauty of the senses. He once
said: 'I feel sure I should write, from the mere yearning and tenderness I
have for the beautiful, even if my night's labors should be burnt every
morning and no eye ever rest upon them.' His use of beauty in his poetry is
marked at first by passionate Romantic abandonment and always by lavish
Romantic richness. This passion was partly stimulated in him by other
poets, largely by the Italians, and especially by Spenser, from one of
whose minor poems Keats chose the motto for his first volume: 'What more
felicity can fall to creature than to enjoy delight with liberty?'
Shelley's enthusiasm for Beauty, as we have seen, is somewhat similar to
that of Keats. But for both Spenser and Shelley, in different fashions,
external Beauty is only the outer garment of the Platonic spiritual Beauty,
while to Keats in his poetry it is, in appearance at least, almost
everything. He once exclaimed, even, 'Oh for a life of sensations rather
than of thoughts!' Notable in his poetry is the absence of any moral
purpose and of any interest in present-day life and character, particularly
the absence of the democratic feeling which had figured so largely in most
of his Romantic predecessors. These facts must not be over-emphasized,
however. His famous final phrasing of the great poetic idea--'Beauty is
truth, truth beauty'--itself shows consciousness of realities below the
surface, and the inference which is sometimes hastily drawn that he was
personally a fiberless dreamer is as far as possible from the truth. In
fact he was always vigorous and normal, as well as sensitive; he was always
devoted to outdoor life; and his very attractive letters, from which his
nature can best be judged, are not only overflowing with unpretentious and
cordial human feeling but testify that he was not really unaware of
specific social and moral issues. Indeed, occasional passages in his poems
indicate that he intended to deal with these issues in other poems when he
should feel his powers adequately matured. Whether, had he lived, he would
have proved capable of handling them significantly is one of the questions
which must be left to conjecture, like the other question whether his power
of style would have further developed.

Almost all of Keats' poems are exquisite and luxuriant in their embodiment
of sensuous beauty, but 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' in Spenser's richly
lingering stanza, must be especially mentioned.

2. Keats is one of the supreme masters of poetic expression, expression the
most beautiful, apt, vivid, condensed, and imaginatively suggestive. His
poems are noble storehouses of such lines as these:

  The music, yearning like a God in pain.

  Into her dream he melted, as the rose
  Blendeth its odour with the violet.

    magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

It is primarily in this respect that he has been the teacher of later

3. Keats never attained dramatic or narrative power or skill in the
presentation of individual character. In place of these elements he has the
lyric gift of rendering moods. Aside from ecstatic delight, these are
mostly moods of pensiveness, languor, or romantic sadness, like the one so
magically suggested in the 'Ode to a Nightingale,' of Ruth standing lonely
and 'in tears amid the alien corn.'

4. Conspicuous in Keats is his spiritual kinship with the ancient Greeks.
He assimilated with eager delight all the riches of the Greek imagination,
even though he never learned the language and was dependent on the dull
mediums of dictionaries and translations. It is not only that his
recognition of the permanently significant and beautiful embodiment of the
central facts of life in the Greek stories led him to select some of them
as the subjects for several of his most important poems; but his whole
feeling, notably his feeling for Nature, seems almost precisely that of the
Greeks, especially, perhaps, of the earlier generations among whom their
mythology took shape. To him also Nature appears alive with divinities.
Walking through the woods he almost expects to catch glimpses of hamadryads
peering from their trees, nymphs rising from the fountains, and startled
fauns with shaggy skins and cloven feet scurrying away among the bushes.

In his later poetry, also, the deeper force of the Greek spirit led him
from his early Romantic formlessness to the achievement of the most
exquisite classical perfection of form and finish. His Romantic glow and
emotion never fade or cool, but such poems as the Odes to the Nightingale
and to a Grecian Urn, and the fragment of 'Hyperion,' are absolutely
flawless and satisfying in structure and expression.

SUMMARY. One of the best comments on the poets whom we have just been
considering is a single sentence of Lowell: 'Three men, almost
contemporaneous with each other, Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron, were the
great means of bringing back English poetry from the sandy deserts of
rhetoric and recovering for her her triple inheritance of simplicity,
sensuousness, and passion.' But justice must be done also to the
'Renaissance of Wonder' in Coleridge, the ideal aspiration of Shelley, and
the healthy stirring of the elementary instincts by Scott.

LESSER WRITERS. Throughout our discussion of the nineteenth century it will
be more than ever necessary to pass by with little or no mention various
authors who are almost of the first rank. To our present period belong:
Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), author of 'Ye Mariners of England,'
'Hohenlinden,' and other spirited battle lyrics; Thomas Moore (1779-1852),
a facile but over-sentimental Irishman, author of 'Irish Melodies,' 'Lalla
Rookh,' and a famous life of Byron; Charles. Lamb (1775-1834), the
delightfully whimsical essayist and lover of Shakspere; William Hazlitt
(1778-1830), a romantically dogmatic but sympathetically appreciative
critic; Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), a capricious and voluminous author,
master of a poetic prose style, best known for his 'Confessions of an
English Opium-Eater'; Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), the best nineteenth
century English representative, both in prose and in lyric verse, of the
pure classical spirit, though his own temperament was violently romantic;
Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), author of some delightful satirical and
humorous novels, of which 'Maid Marian' anticipated 'Ivanhoe'; and Miss
Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855), among whose charming prose sketches of
country life 'Our Village' is best and best-known.



GENERAL CONDITIONS. The last completed period of English literature, almost
coincident in extent with the reign of the queen whose name it bears
(Victoria, queen 1837-1901), stands nearly beside The Elizabethan period in
the significance and interest of its work. The Elizabethan literature to be
sure, in its imaginative and spiritual enthusiasm, is the expression of a
period more profoundly great than the Victorian; but the Victorian
literature speaks for an age which witnessed incomparably greater changes
than any that had gone before in all the conditions of life--material
comforts, scientific knowledge, and, absolutely speaking, in intellectual
and spiritual enlightenment. Moreover, to twentieth century students the
Victorian literature makes a specially strong appeal because it is in part
the literature of our own time and its ideas and point of view are in large
measure ours. We must begin by glancing briefly at some of the general
determining changes and conditions to which reference has just been made,
and we may naturally begin with the merely material ones.

Before the accession of Queen Victoria the 'industrial revolution,' the
vast development of manufacturing made possible in the latter part of the
eighteenth century by the introduction of coal and the steam engine, had
rendered England the richest nation in the world, and the movement
continued with steadily accelerating momentum throughout the period. Hand
in hand with it went the increase of population from less than thirteen
millions in England in 1825 to nearly three times as many at the end of the
period. The introduction of the steam railway and the steamship, at the
beginning of the period, in place of the lumbering stagecoach and the
sailing vessel, broke up the old stagnant and stationary habits of life and
increased the amount of travel at least a thousand times. The discovery of
the electric telegraph in 1844 brought almost every important part of
Europe, and eventually of the world, nearer to every town dweller than the
nearest county had been in the eighteenth century; and the development of
the modern newspaper out of the few feeble sheets of 1825 (dailies and
weeklies in London, only weeklies elsewhere), carried full accounts of the
doings of the whole world, in place of long-delayed fragmentary rumors, to
every door within a few hours. No less striking was the progress in public
health and the increase in human happiness due to the enormous advance in
the sciences of medicine, surgery, and hygiene. Indeed these sciences in
their modern form virtually began with the discovery of the facts of
bacteriology about 1860, and the use of antiseptics fifteen years later,
and not much earlier began the effective opposition to the frightful
epidemics which had formerly been supposed to be dependent only on the will
of Providence.

Political and social progress, though less astonishing, was substantial. In
1830 England, nominally a monarchy, was in reality a plutocracy of about a
hundred thousand men--landed nobles, gentry, and wealthy merchants--whose
privileges dated back to fifteenth century conditions. The first Reform
Bill, of 1832, forced on Parliament by popular pressure, extended the right
of voting to men of the 'middle class,' and the subsequent bills of 1867
and 1885 made it universal for men. Meanwhile the House of Commons slowly
asserted itself against the hereditary House of Lords, and thus England
became perhaps the most truly democratic of the great nations of the world.
At the beginning of the period the social condition of the great body of
the population was extremely bad. Laborers in factories and mines and on
farms were largely in a state of virtual though not nominal slavery,
living, many of them, in unspeakable moral and physical conditions. Little
by little improvement came, partly by the passage of laws, partly by the
growth of trades-unions. The substitution in the middle of the century of
free-trade for protection through the passage of the 'Corn-Laws' afforded
much relief by lowering the price of food. Socialism, taking shape as a
definite movement in the middle of the century, became one to be reckoned
with before its close, though the majority of the more well-to-do classes
failed to understand even then the growing necessity for far-reaching
economic and social changes. Humanitarian consciousness, however, gained
greatly during the period. The middle and upper classes awoke to some
extent to their duty to the poor, and sympathetic benevolent effort, both
organized and informal, increased very largely in amount and intelligence.
Popular education, too, which in 1830 had no connection with the State and
was in every respect very incomplete, was developed and finally made
compulsory as regards the rudiments.

Still more permanently significant, perhaps, was the transformation of the
former conceptions of the nature and meaning of the world and life, through
the discoveries of science. Geology and astronomy now gradually compelled
all thinking people to realize the unthinkable duration of the cosmic
processes and the comparative littleness of our earth in the vast extent of
the universe. Absolutely revolutionary for almost all lines if thought was
the gradual adoption by almost all thinkers of the theory of Evolution,
which, partly formulated by Lamarck early in the century, received definite
statement in 1859 in Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species.' The great
modification in the externals of religious belief thus brought about was
confirmed also by the growth of the science of historical criticism.

This movement of religious change was met in its early stages by the very
interesting reactionary 'Oxford' or 'Tractarian' Movement, which asserted
the supreme authority of the Church and its traditional doctrines. The most
important figure in this movement, who connects it definitely with
literature, was John Henry Newman (1801-90), author of the hymn 'Lead,
Kindly Light,' a man of winning personality and great literary skill. For
fifteen years, as vicar of the Oxford University Church, Newman was a great
spiritual force in the English communion, but the series of 'Tracts for the
Times' to which he largely contributed, ending in 1841 in the famous Tract
90, tell the story of his gradual progress toward Rome. Thereafter as an
avowed Roman Catholic and head of a monastic establishment Newman showed
himself a formidable controversialist, especially in a literary encounter
with the clergyman-novelist Charles Kingsley which led to Newman's famous
'Apologia pro Vita Sua' (Apology for My Life), one of the secondary
literary masterpieces of the century. His services to the Catholic Church
were recognized in 1879 by his appointment as a Cardinal. More than one of
the influences thus hastily surveyed combine in creating the moral, social,
and intellectual strenuousness which is one of the main marks of the
literature of the period. More conspicuously than ever before the majority
of the great writers, not least the poets and novelists, were impelled not
merely by the emotional or dramatic creative impulse but by the sense of a
message for their age which should broaden the vision and elevate the
ideals of the masses of their fellows. The literature of the period,
therefore, lacks the disinterested and joyous spontaneity of, for example,
the Elizabethan period, and its mood is far more complex than that of the
partly socially-minded pseudo-classicists.

While all the new influences were manifesting themselves in Victorian
literature they did not, of course, supersede the great general inherited
tendencies. This literature is in the main romantic. On the social side
this should be evident; the Victorian social humanitarianism is merely the
developed form of the eighteenth century romantic democratic impulse. On
the esthetic side the romantic traits are also present, though not so
aggressively as in the previous period; with romantic vigor the Victorian
literature often combines exquisite classical finish; indeed, it is so
eclectic and composite that all the definite older terms take on new and
less sharply contrasting meanings when applied to it.

So long a period naturally falls into sub-divisions; during its middle part
in particular, progress and triumphant romanticism, not yet largely
attacked by scientific scepticism, had created a prevailing atmosphere of
somewhat passive sentiment and optimism both in society and in literature
which has given to the adjective 'mid-Victorian' a very definite
denotation. The adjective and its period are commonly spoken of with
contempt in our own day by those persons who pride themselves on their
complete sophistication and superiority to all intellectual and emotional
weakness. But during the 'mid-Victorian' years, there was also a
comparative healthiness in the lives of the well-to-do classes and in
literature which had never before been equalled and which may finally prove
no less praiseworthy than the rather self-conscious freedom and unrestraint
of the early twentieth century.

The most important literature of the whole period falls under the three
heads of essays, poetry, and prose fiction, which we may best consider in
that order.

LORD MACAULAY. The first great figure, chronologically, in the period, and
one of the most clearly-defined and striking personalities in English
literature, is Thomas Babington Macaulay, [Footnote: The details of
Macaulay's life are known from the; famous biography of him by his nephew,
Sir George Trevelyan.] who represents in the fullest degree the Victorian
vigor and delight in material progress, but is quite untouched by the
Victorian spiritual striving. The descendant of Scottish ministers and
English Quakers, Macaulay was born in 1800. His father was a tireless and
devoted member of the group of London anti-slavery workers (Claphamites),
and was Secretary of the company which conducted Sierra Leone (the African
state for enfranchised negroes); he had also made a private fortune in
African trade. From his very babyhood the son displayed almost incredible
intellectual precocity and power of memory. His voracious reading began at
the age of three, when he 'for the most part lay on the rug before the
fire, with his book on the floor, and a piece of bread-and-butter in his
hand.' Once, in his fifth year, when a servant had spilled an urn of hot
coffee over his legs, he replied to the distressed inquiries of the lady of
the house, 'Thank you, madam, the agony is abated.' From the first it seems
to have been almost impossible for him to forget anything which had ever
found lodgment in, or even passed through, his mind. His childish
production of both verse and prose was immense. These qualities and
accomplishments, however, did not make him a prig. Both as child and as
man, though he was aggressive and showed the prejudices of his class, he
was essentially natural and unaffected; and as man he was one of the most
cordial and affectionate of companions, lavish of his time with his
friends, and one of the most interesting of conversationalists. As he grew
toward maturity he proved unique in his manner, as well as in his power, of
reading. It is said that he read books faster than other people skimmed
them, and skimmed them as fast as any one else could turn the leaves, this,
however, without superficiality. One of the habits of his middle life was
to walk through London, even the most crowded parts, 'as fast as other
people walked, and reading a book a great deal faster than anybody else
could read.' His remarkable endowments, however, were largely
counterbalanced by his deficiency in the spiritual sense. This appears most
seriously in his writings, but it shows itself also in his personal tastes.
For Nature he cared little; like Dr. Johnson he 'found London the place for
him.' One occasion when he remarked on the playing of 'God save the Queen'
is said to have been the only one when he ever appeared to distinguish one
tune from another. Even on the material side of life he had limitations
very unusual in an English gentleman. Except for walking, which might
almost be called a main occupation with him, he neither practised nor cared
for any form of athletic exercise, 'could neither swim nor row nor drive
nor skate nor shoot,' nor scarcely ride.

From private schools Macaulay proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge,
where he remained through the seven years required for the Master's degree.
In spite of his aversion for mathematics, he finally won a 'lay'
fellowship, which did not involve residence at the University nor any other
obligation, but which almost sufficed for his support during the seven
years of its duration. At this time his father failed in his business, and
during several years Macaulay was largely occupied with the heavy task of
reestablishing it and paying the creditors. In college he had begun to
write in prose and verse for the public literary magazines, and in 1825
appeared his essay on Milton, the first of the nearly forty literary,
historical, and biographical essays which during the next thirty years or
more he contributed to 'The Edinburgh Review.' He also nominally studied
law, and was admitted to the bar in 1826, but he took no interest in the
profession. In 1828 he was made a Commissioner of Bankruptcy and in 1830 he
attained the immediate object of his ambition by receiving from a nobleman
who controlled it a seat in Parliament. Here he at once distinguished
himself as orator and worker. Heart and soul a Liberal, he took a prominent
part in the passage of the first Reform Bill, of 1832, living at the same
time a busy social life in titled society. The Ministry rewarded his
services with a position on the Board of Control, which represented the
government in its relations with the East India Company, and in 1834, in
order to earn the fortune which seemed to him essential to his continuance
in the unremunerative career of public life, he accepted the position of
legal adviser to the Supreme Council of India, which carried with it a seat
in that Council and a salary of £10,000 a year. During the three months
voyage to India he 'devoured' and in many cases copiously annotated a vast
number of books in 'Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, and English;
folios, quartos, octavos, and duodecimos.' Under the pressure of actual
necessity he now mastered the law, and the most important parts of the
astonishing mass of work that he performed during his three and a half
years in India consisted in redrafting the penal code and in helping to
organize education.

Soon after his return to England he was elected to Parliament as member for
Edinburgh, and for two years he was in the Cabinet. Somewhat later the
publication of his 'Lays of Ancient Rome' and of his collected essays
brought him immense fame as a writer, and in 1847 his defeat at Edinburgh
for reelection to Parliament gave him time for concentrated labor on the
'History of England' which he had already begun as his crowning work. To it
he thenceforth devoted most of his energies, reading and sifting the whole
mass of available source-material and visiting the scenes of the chief
historical events. The popular success of the five volumes which he
succeeded in preparing and published at intervals was enormous. In 1852 he
was reelected to Parliament at Edinburgh, but ill-health resulting from his
long-continued excessive expenditure of energy warned him that he had not
long to live. He was made a baron in 1857 and died in 1859, deeply mourned
both because of his manly character and because with him perished mostly
unrecorded a knowledge of the facts of English history more minute,
probably, than that of any one else who has ever lived.

Macaulay never married, but, warm-hearted as he was, always lived largely
in his affection for his sisters and for the children of one of them, Lady
Trevelyan. In his public life he displayed as an individual a fearless and
admirable devotion to principle, modified somewhat by the practical
politician's devotion to party. From every point of view, his character was
remarkable, though bounded by his very definite limitations.

Least noteworthy among Macaulay's works are his poems, of which the 'Lays
of Ancient Rome' are chief. Here his purpose is to embody his conception of
the heroic historical ballads which must have been current among the early
Romans as among the medieval English--to recreate these ballads for modern
readers. For this sort of verse Macaulay's temperament was precisely
adapted, and the 'Lays' present the simple characters, scenes, and ideals
of the early Roman republican period with a sympathetic vividness and in
stirring rhythms which give them an unlimited appeal to boys. None the less
the 'Lays' really make nothing else so clear as that in the true sense of
the word Macaulay was not at all a poet. They show absolutely nothing of
the finer feeling which adds so much, for example, to the descriptions in
Scott's somewhat similar romances, and they are separated by all the
breadth of the world from the realm of delicate sensation and imagination
to which Spenser and Keats and all the genuine poets are native-born.

The power of Macaulay's prose works, as no critic has failed to note, rests
on his genius as an orator. For oratory he was rarely endowed. The
composition of a speech was for him a matter of a few hours; with almost
preternatural mental activity he organized and sifted the material,
commonly as he paced up and down his garden or his room; then, the whole
ready, nearly verbatim, in his mind, he would pass to the House of Commons
to hold his colleagues spell-bound during several hours of fervid
eloquence. Gladstone testified that the announcement of Macaulay's
intention to speak was 'like a trumpet call to fill the benches.' The great
qualities, then, of his essays and his 'History' are those which give
success to the best sort of popular oratory--dramatic vividness and
clearness, positiveness, and vigorous, movement and interest. He realizes
characters and situations, on the external side, completely, and conveys
his impression to his readers with scarcely any diminution of force. Of
expository structure he is almost as great a master as Burke, though in his
essays and 'History' the more concrete nature of his material makes him
prevailingly a narrator. He sees and presents his subjects as wholes,
enlivening them with realistic details and pictures, but keeping the
subordinate parts subordinate and disposing of the less important events in
rapid summaries. Of clear and trenchant, though metallic, narrative and
expository style he is a master. His sentences, whether long or short, are
always lucid; he knows the full value of a short sentence suddenly snapped
out after a prolonged period; and no other writer has ever made such'
frequent and striking (though somewhat monotonous) use of deliberate
oratorical balance of clauses and strong antithesis, or more illuminating
use of vivid resumes. The best of his essays, like those on the Earl of
Chatham and on the two men who won India for England, Clive and Warren
Hastings, are models of the comparatively brief comprehensive dissertation
of the form employed by Johnson in his 'Lives of the Poets.'

Macaulay, however, manifests the, defects even of his virtues. His
positiveness, fascinating and effective as it is for an uncritical reader,
carries with it extreme self-confidence and dogmatism, which render him
violently intolerant of any interpretations of characters and events except
those that he has formed, and formed sometimes hastily and with prejudice.
The very clearness and brilliancy of his style are often obtained at the
expense of real truth; for the force of his sweeping statements and his
balanced antitheses often requires much heightening or even distortion of
the facts; in making each event and each character stand out in the
plainest outline he has often stripped it of its background of qualifying
circumstances. These specific limitations, it will be evident, are
outgrowths of his great underlying deficiency--the deficiency in spiritual
feeling and insight. Macaulay is a masterly limner of the external side of
life, but he is scarcely conscious of the interior world in which the finer
spirits live and work out their destinies. Carlyle's description of his
appearance is significant: 'I noticed the homely Norse features that you
find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself, "Well, any
one can see that you are an honest, good sort of fellow, made out of
oatmeal." Macaulay's eminently clear, rapid, and practical mind
comprehended fully and respected whatever could be seen and understood by
the intellect; things of more subtle nature he generally disbelieved in or
dismissed with contempt. In dealing with complex or subtle characters he
cannot reveal the deeper spiritual motives from which their action sprang;
and in his view of history he does not include the underlying and
controlling spiritual forces. Macaulay was the most brilliant of those whom
the Germans have named Philistines, the people for whom life consists of
material things; specifically he was the representative of the great body
of middle-class early-Victorian liberals, enthusiastically convinced that
in the triumphs of the Liberal party, of democracy, and of mechanical
invention, the millennium was being rapidly realized. Macaulay wrote a
fatal indictment of himself when in praising Bacon as the father of modern
science he depreciated Plato, the idealist. Plato's philosophy, said
Macaulay, 'began in words and ended in words,' and he added that 'an acre
in Middlesex is better than a peerage in Utopia.' In his literary and
personal essays, therefore, such as the famous ones on Milton and Bacon,
which belong early in his career, all his immense reading did not suffice
to produce sympathetic and sensitive judgments; there is often more
pretentiousness of style than significance of interpretation. In later life
he himself frankly expressed regret that he had ever written these essays.

Macaulay's 'History of England' shows to some degree the same faults as the
essays, but here they are largely corrected by the enormous labor which he
devoted to the work. His avowed purpose was to combine with scientific
accuracy the vivid picturesqueness of fiction, and to 'supersede the last
fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies.' His method was that of an
unprecedented fulness of details which produces a crowded pageant of events
and characters extremely minute but marvelously lifelike. After three
introductory chapters which sketch the history of England down to the death
of Charles II, more than four large volumes are occupied with the following
seventeen years; and yet Macaulay had intended to continue to the death of
George IV, nearly a hundred and thirty years later. For absolute
truthfulness of detail the 'History' cannot always be depended on, but to
the general reader its great literary merits are likely to seem full
compensation for its inaccuracies.

THOMAS CARLYLE. The intense spiritual striving which was so foreign to
Macaulay's practical nature first appears among the Victorians in the
Scotsman Thomas Carlyle, a social and religious prophet, lay-preacher, and
prose-poet, one of the most eccentric but one of the most stimulating of
all English writers. The descendant of a warlike Scottish Border clan and
the son of a stone-mason who is described as 'an awful fighter,' Carlyle
was born in 1795 in the village of Ecclefechan, just across the line from
England, and not far from Burns' county of Ayr. His fierce, intolerant,
melancholy, and inwardly sensitive spirit, together with his poverty,
rendered him miserable throughout his school days, though he secured,
through his father's sympathy, a sound elementary education. He tramped on
foot the ninety miles from Ecclefechan to Edinburgh University, and
remained there for four years; but among the subjects of study he cared
only for mathematics, and he left at the age of seventeen without receiving
a degree. From this time for many years his life was a painful struggle, a
struggle to earn his living, to make a place in the world, and to find
himself in the midst of his spiritual doubts and the physical distress
caused by lifelong dyspepsia and insomnia. For some years and in various
places he taught school and received private pupils, for very meager wages,
latterly in Edinburgh, where he also did literary hack-work. He had planned
at first to be a minister, but the unorthodoxy of his opinions rendered
this impossible; and he also studied law only to abandon it. One of the
most important forces in this period of his slow preparation was his study
of German and his absorption of the idealistic philosophy of Kant,
Schelling, and Fichte, of the broad philosophic influence of Goethe, and
the subtile influence of Richter. A direct result was his later very
fruitful continuation of Coleridge's work in turning the attention of
Englishmen to German thought and literature. In 1821 he passed through a
sudden spiritual crisis, when as he was traversing Leith Walk in Edinburgh
his then despairing view of the Universe as a soulless but hostile
mechanism all at once gave way to a mood of courageous self-assertion. He
afterward looked on this experience as a spiritual new birth, and describes
it under assumed names at the end of the great chapter in 'Sartor Resartus'
on 'The Everlasting No.'

In 1825 his first important work, a 'Life of Schiller,' was published, and
in 1826 he was married to Miss Jane Welsh. She was a brilliant but quiet
woman, of social station higher than his; for some years he had been acting
as counselor in her reading and intellectual development. No marriage in
English Literature has been more discussed, a result, primarily, of the
publication by Carlyle's friend and literary executor, the historian J. A.
Froude, of Carlyle's autobiographical Reminiscences and Letters. After Mrs.
Carlyle's death Carlyle blamed himself bitterly for inconsiderateness
toward her, and it is certain that his erratic and irritable temper, partly
exasperated by long disappointment and by constant physical misery, that
his peasant-bred lack of delicacy, and his absorption in his work, made a
perpetual and vexatious strain on Mrs. Carlyle's forbearance throughout the
forty years of their life together. The evidence, however, does not show
that the marriage was on the whole really unfortunate or indeed that it was
not mainly a happy one.

For six years beginning in 1828 the Carlyles lived on (though they did not
themselves carry on) the lonely farm of Craigenputtock, the property of
Mrs. Carlyle. This was for both of them a period of external hardship, and
they were chiefly dependent on the scanty income from Carlyle's laborious
work on periodical essays (among which was the fine-spirited one on Burns).
Here Carlyle also wrote the first of his chief works, 'Sartor Resartus,'
for which, in 1833-4, he finally secured publication, in 'Fraser's
Magazine,' to the astonishment and indignation of most of the readers. The
title means 'The Tailor Retailored,' and the book purports to be an account
of the life of a certain mysterious German, Professor Teufelsdröckh
(pronounced Toyfelsdreck) and of a book of his on The Philosophy of
Clothes. Of course this is allegorical, and Teufelsdröckh is really
Carlyle, who, sheltering himself under the disguise, and accepting only
editorial responsibility, is enabled to narrate his own spiritual struggles
and to enunciate his deepest convictions, sometimes, when they are likely
to offend his readers, with a pretense of disapproval. The Clothes metaphor
(borrowed from Swift) sets forth the central mystical or spiritual
principle toward which German philosophy had helped Carlyle, the idea,
namely, that all material things, including all the customs and forms of
society, such as government and formalized religion, are merely the
comparatively insignificant garments of the spiritual reality and the
spiritual life on which men should center their attention. Even Time and
Space and the whole material world are only the shadows of the true
Reality, the spiritual Being that cannot perish. Carlyle has learned to
repudiate, and he would have others repudiate, 'The Everlasting No,' the
materialistic attitude of unfaith in God and the spiritual world, and he
proclaims 'The Everlasting Yea,' wherein are affirmed, the significance of
life as a means of developing character and the necessity of accepting life
and its requirements with manly self-reliance and moral energy. 'Seek not
Happiness,' Carlyle cries, 'but Blessedness. Love not pleasure; love God.'

This is the central purport of the book. In the second place and as a
natural corollary Carlyle vigorously denounces, throughout, all shams and
hypocrisies, the results of inert or dishonest adherence to outgrown ideas
or customs. He attacks, for instance, all empty ostentation; war, as both
foolish and wicked; and the existing condition of society with its terrible
contrast between the rich and the poor.

Again, he urges still a third of the doctrines which were to prove most
characteristic of him, that Gospel of Work which had been proclaimed so
forcibly, from different premises, five hundred years before by those other
uncompromising Puritans, the authors of 'Piers Plowman.' In courageous
work, Carlyle declares, work whether physical or mental, lies the way of
salvation not only for pampered idlers but for sincere souls who are
perplexed and wearied with over-much meditation on the mysteries of the
universe, 'Be no, longer a Chaos,' he urges, 'but a World, or even
Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal,
fraction of a Product, produce it, in God's name! 'Tis the utmost thou hast
in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do
it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night
cometh, wherein no man can work.'

It will probably now be evident that the mainspring of the undeniable and
volcanic power of 'Sartor Resartus' (and the same is true of Carlyle's
other chief works) is a tremendous moral conviction and fervor. Carlyle is
eccentric and perverse--more so in 'Sartor Resartus' than elsewhere--but he
is on fire with his message and he is as confident as any Hebrew prophet
that it is the message most necessary for his generation. One may like him
or be repelled by him, but a careful reader cannot remain unmoved by his
personality and his ideas.

One of his most striking eccentricities is the remarkable style which he
deliberately invented for 'Sartor Resartus' and used thenceforth in all his
writings (though not always in so extreme a form). Some of the specific
peculiarities of this style are taken over, with exaggeration, from German
usage; some are Biblical or other archaisms; others spring mainly from
Carlyle's own amazing mind. His purpose in employing, in the denunciation
of shams and insincerities, a form itself so far removed from directness
and simplicity was in part, evidently, to shock people into attention; but
after all, the style expresses appropriately his genuine sense of the
incoherence and irony of life, his belief that truth can be attained only
by agonizing effort, and his contempt for intellectual and spiritual

In 1834 Carlyle moved to London, to a house in Cheyne (pronounced Cheeny)
Row, Chelsea, where he lived for his remaining nearly fifty years. Though
he continued henceforth in large part to reiterate the ideas of 'Sartor
Resartus,' he now turned from biography, essays, and literary criticism to
history, and first published 'The French Revolution.' He had almost decided
in despair to abandon literature, and had staked his fortune on this work;
but when the first volume was accidentally destroyed in manuscript he
proceeded with fine courage to rewrite it, and he published the whole book
in 1837. It brought him the recognition which he sought. Like 'Sartor
Resartus' it has much subjective coloring, which here results in
exaggeration of characters and situations, and much fantasy and
grotesqueness of expression; but as a dramatic and pictorial vilification
of a great historic movement it was and remains unique, and on the whole no
history is more brilliantly enlightening and profoundly instructive. Here,
as in most of his later works, Carlyle throws the emphasis on the power of
great personalities. During the next years he took advantage of his success
by giving courses of lectures on literature and history, though he disliked
the task and felt himself unqualified as a speaker. Of these courses the
most important was that on 'Heroes and Hero-Worship,' in which he clearly
stated the doctrine on which thereafter he laid increasing stress, that the
strength of humanity is in its strong men, the natural leaders, equipped to
rule by power of intellect, of spirit, and of executive force. Control by
them is government by the fit, whereas modern democracy is government by
the unfit. Carlyle called democracy 'mobocracy' and considered it a mere
bad piece of social and political machinery, or, in his own phrase, a mere
'Morrison's pill,' foolishly expected to cure all evils at one gulp. Later
on Carlyle came to express this view, like all his others, with much
violence, but it is worthy of serious consideration, not least in twentieth
century America.

Of Carlyle's numerous later works the most important are 'Past and
Present,' in which he contrasts the efficiency of certain strong men of
medieval Europe with the restlessness and uncertainty of contemporary
democracy and humanitarianism and attacks modern political economy; 'Oliver
Cromwell's Letters and Speeches,' which revolutionized the general opinion
of Cromwell, revealing him as a true hero or strong man instead of a
hypocritical fanatic; and 'The History of Frederick the Great,' an enormous
work which occupied Carlyle for fourteen years and involved thorough
personal examination of the scenes of Frederick's life and battles. During
his last fifteen years Carlyle wrote little of importance, and the violence
of his denunciation of modern life grew shrill and hysterical. That society
was sadly wrong he was convinced, but he propounded no definite plan for
its regeneration. He had become, however, a much venerated as well as a
picturesque figure; and he exerted a powerful and constructive influence,
not only directly, but indirectly through the preaching of his doctrines,
in the main or in part, by the younger essayists and the chief Victorian
poets and novelists, and in America by Emerson, with whom he maintained an
almost lifelong friendship and correspondence. Carlyle died in 1881.

Carlyle was a strange combination of greatness and narrowness. Like
Macaulay, he was exasperatingly blind and bigoted in regard to the things
in which he had no personal interest, though the spheres of their
respective enthusiasms and antipathies were altogether different. Carlyle
viewed pleasure and merely esthetic art with the contempt of the Scottish
Covenanting fanatics, refusing even to read poetry like that of Keats; and
his insistence on moral meanings led him to equal intolerance of such
story-tellers as Scott. In his hostility to the materialistic tendencies so
often deduced from modern science he dismissed Darwin's 'Origin of Species'
with the exclamation that it showed up the capricious stupidity of mankind
and that he never could read a page of it or would waste the least thought
upon it. He mocked at the anti-slavery movement in both America and the
English possessions, holding that the negroes were an inferior race
probably better off while producing something under white masters than if
left free in their own ignorance and sloth. Though his obstinacy was a part
of his national temperament, and his physical and mental irritability in
part a result of his ill-health, any candid estimate of his life cannot
altogether overlook them. On the whole, however, there is no greater
ethical, moral, and spiritual force in English Literature than Carlyle, and
so much of his thought has passed into the common possession of all
thinking persons to-day that we are all often his debtors when we are least
conscious of it.

JOHN RUSKIN. Among the other great Victorian writers the most obvious
disciple of Carlyle in his opposition to the materialism of modern life is
John Ruskin. But Ruskin is much more than any man's disciple; and he also
contrasts strongly with Carlyle, first because a large part of his life was
devoted to the study of Art--he is the single great art-critic in English
Literature--and also because he is one of the great preachers of that
nineteenth century humanitarianism at which Carlyle was wont to sneer.

Ruskin's parents were Scotch, but his father, a man of artistic tastes, was
established as a wine-merchant in London and had amassed a fortune before
the boy's birth in 1819. The atmosphere of the household was sternly
Puritan, and Ruskin was brought up under rigid discipline, especially by
his mother, who gave him most of his early education. He read, wrote, and
drew precociously; his knowledge of the Bible, in which his mother's
training was relentlessly thorough, of Scott, Pope, and Homer, dates from
his fifth or sixth year. For many years during his boyhood he accompanied
his parents on long annual driving trips through Great Britain and parts of
Europe, especially the Alps. By these experiences his inborn passion for
the beautiful and the grand in Nature and Art was early developed. During
seven years he was at Oxford, where his mother lived with him and watched
over him; until her death in his fifty-second year she always continued to
treat him like a child, an attitude to which, habit and affection led him
to submit with a matter-of-course docility that his usual wilfulness and
his later fame render at first sight astonishing. At Oxford, as throughout
his life, he showed himself brilliant but not a close or careful student,
and he was at that time theologically too rigid a Puritan to be interested
in the Oxford Movement, then in its most intense stage.

His career as a writer began immediately after he left the University. It
falls naturally into two parts, the first of about twenty years, when he
was concerned almost altogether with Art, chiefly Painting and
Architecture; and the second somewhat longer, when he was intensely
absorbed in the problems of society and strenuously working as a social
reformer. From the outset, however, he was actuated by an ardent didactic
purpose; he wrote of Art in order to awake men's spiritual natures to a
joyful delight in the Beautiful and thus to lead, them to God, its Author.

The particular external direction of Ruskin's work in Art was given, as
usual, more or less by accident. His own practice in water-color drawing
led him as a mere youth to a devoted admiration for the landscape paintings
of the contemporary artist J.M.W. Turner. Turner, a romantic revolutionist
against the eighteenth century theory of the grand style, was then little
appreciated; and when Ruskin left the University he began, with
characteristic enthusiasm, an article on 'Modern Painters,' designed to
demonstrate Turner's superiority to all possible rivals. Even the first
part of this work expanded itself into a volume, published in 1843, when
Ruskin was only twenty-four; and at intervals during the next seventeen
years he issued four additional volumes, the result of prolonged study both
of Nature and of almost all the great paintings in Europe. The completed
book is a discursive treatise, the various volumes necessarily written from
more or less different view-points, on many of the main aspects, general
and technical, of all art, literary as well as pictorial. For Ruskin held,
and brilliantly demonstrated, that the underlying principles of all the
Fine Arts are identical, and 'Modern Painters' contains some of the most
famous and suggestive passages of general literary criticism ever written,
for example those on The Pathetic Fallacy and The Grand Style. Still
further, to Ruskin morality and religion are inseparable from Art, so that
he deals searchingly, if incidentally, with those subjects as well. Among
his fundamental principles are the ideas that a beneficent God has created
the world and its beauty directly for man's use and pleasure; that all true
art and all true life are service of God and should be filled with a spirit
of reverence; that art should reveal truth; and that really great and good
art can spring only from noble natures and a sound national life. The style
of the book is as notable as the substance. It is eloquent with Ruskin's
enthusiastic admiration for Beauty and with his magnificent romantic
rhetoric (largely the result, according to his own testimony, of his
mother's exacting drill in the Bible), which here and elsewhere make him
one of the greatest of all masters of gorgeous description and of fervid
exhortation. The book displays fully, too, another of his chief traits, an
intolerant dogmatism, violently contemptuous of any judgments but his own.
On the religious side, especially, Ruskin's Protestantism is narrow, and
even bigoted, but it softens as the book proceeds (and decidedly more in
his later years). With all its faults, 'Modern Painters' is probably the
greatest book ever written on Art and is an immense storehouse, of noble
material, and suggestion.

In the intervals of this work Ruskin published others less comprehensive,
two of which are of the first importance. 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture'
argues that great art, as the supreme expression of life, is the result of
seven moral and religious principles, Sacrifice, Truth, Power, and the
like. 'The Stones of Venice' is an, impassioned exposition of the beauty of
Venetian Gothic architecture, and here as always Ruskin expresses his
vehement preference for the Gothic art of the Middle Ages as contrasted
with the less original and as it seems to him less sincere style of the

The publication of the last volume of 'Modern Painters' in 1860 roughly
marks the end of Ruskin's first period. Several influences had by this time
begun to sadden him. More than ten years before, with his usual filial
meekness, he had obeyed his parents in marrying a lady who proved
uncongenial and who after a few years was divorced from him. Meanwhile
acquaintance with Carlyle had combined with experience to convince him of
the comparative ineffectualness of mere art-criticism as a social and
religious force. He had come to feel with increasing indignation that the
modern industrial system, the materialistic political economy founded on
it, and the whole modern organization of society reduce the mass of men to
a state of intellectual, social, and religious squalor and blindness, and
that while they continue in this condition it is of little use to talk to
them about Beauty. He believed that some of the first steps in the
necessary redemptive process must be the education of the poor and a return
to what he conceived (certainly with much exaggeration) to have been the
conditions of medieval labor, when each craftsman was not a mere machine
but an intelligent and original artistic creator; but the underlying
essential was to free industry from the spirit of selfish money-getting and
permeate it with Christian sympathy and respect for man as man. The
ugliness of modern life in its wretched city tenements and its hideous
factories Ruskin would have utterly destroyed, substituting such a
beautiful background (attractive homes and surroundings) as would help to
develop spiritual beauty. With his customary vigor Ruskin proceeded
henceforth to devote himself to the enunciation, and so far as possible the
realization of these beliefs, first by delivering lectures and writing
books. He was met, like all reformers, with a storm of protest, but most of
his ideas gradually became the accepted principles of social theory. Among
his works dealing with these subjects may be named 'Unto This Last,'
'Munera Pulveris' (The Rewards of the Dust--an attack on materialistic
political economy), and 'Fors Clavigera' (Fortune the Key-Bearer), the
latter a series of letters to workingmen extending over many years. To 1865
belongs his most widely-read book, 'Sesame and Lilies,' three lectures on
the spiritual meaning of great literature in contrast to materialism, the
glory of womanhood, and the mysterious significance of life.

From the death of his mother in 1871 Ruskin began to devote his large
inherited fortune to 'St. George's Guild,' a series of industrial and
social experiments in which with lavish generosity he attempted to put his
theories into practical operation. All these experiments, as regards direct
results, ended in failure, though their general influence was great. Among
other movements now everywhere taken for granted 'social settlements' are a
result of his efforts.

All this activity had not caused Ruskin altogether to abandon the teaching
of art to the members of the more well-to-do classes, and beginning in 1870
he held for three or four triennial terms the newly-established
professorship of Art at Oxford and gave to it much hard labor. But this
interest was now clearly secondary in his mind.

Ruskin's temper was always romantically high-strung, excitable, and
irritable. His intense moral fervor, his multifarious activities, and his
disappointments were also constant strains on his nervous force. In 1872,
further, he was rejected in marriage by a young girl for whom he had formed
a deep attachment and who on her death-bed, three years later, refused,
with strange cruelty, to see him. In 1878 his health temporarily failed,
and a few years later he retired to the home, 'Brantwood,' at Coniston in
the Lake Region, which he had bought on the death of his mother. Here his
mind gradually gave way, but intermittently, so that he was still able to
compose 'Præterita' (The Past), a delightful autobiography. He died in

Ruskin, like Carlyle, was a strange compound of genius, nobility, and
unreasonableness, but as time goes on his dogmatism and violence may well
be more and more forgotten, while his idealism, his penetrating
interpretation of art and life, his fruitful work for a more tolerable
social order, and his magnificent mastery of style and description assure
him a permanent place in the history of English literature and of

MATTHEW ARNOLD. Contemporary with Carlyle and Ruskin and fully worthy to
rank with them stands still a third great preacher of social and spiritual
regeneration, Matthew Arnold, whose personality and message, however, were
very different from theirs and who was also one of the chief Victorian
poets. Arnold was born in 1822, the son--and this is decidedly
significant--of the Dr. Thomas Arnold who later became the famous
headmaster of Rugby School and did more than any other man of the century
to elevate the tone of English school life. Matthew Arnold proceeded from
Rugby to Oxford (Balliol College), where he took the prize for original
poetry and distinguished himself as a student. This was the period of the
Oxford Movement, and Arnold was much impressed by Newman's fervor and
charm, but was already too rationalistic in thought to sympathize with his
views. After graduation Arnold taught Greek for a short time at Rugby and
then became private secretary to Lord Lansdoune, who was minister of public
instruction. Four years later, in 1851, Arnold was appointed an inspector
of schools, a position which he held almost to the end of his life and in
which he labored very hard and faithfully, partly at the expense of his
creative work. His life was marked by few striking outward events. His
marriage and home were happy. Up to 1867 his literary production consisted
chiefly of poetry, very carefully composed and very limited in amount, and
for two five-year terms, from 1857 to 1867, he held the Professorship of
Poetry at Oxford. At the expiration of his second term he did not seek for
reappointment, because he did not care to arouse the opposition of
Gladstone--then a power in public affairs--and stir up religious
controversy. His retirement from this position virtually marks the very
distinct change from the first to the second main period of his career. For
with deliberate self-sacrifice he now turned from poetry to prose essays,
because he felt that through the latter medium he could render what seemed
to him a more necessary public service. With characteristic
self-confidence, and obeying his inherited tendency to didacticism, he
appointed himself, in effect, a critic of English national life, beliefs,
and taste, and set out to instruct the public in matters of literature,
social relations, politics and religion. In many essays, published
separately or in periodicals, he persevered in this task until his death in

As a poet Arnold is generally admitted to rank among the Victorians next
after Tennyson and Browning. The criticism, partly true, that he was not
designed by Nature to be a poet but made himself one by hard work rests on
his intensely, and at the outset coldly, intellectual and moral
temperament. He himself, in modified Puritan spirit, defined poetry as a
criticism of life; his mind was philosophic; and in his own verse, inspired
by Greek poetry, by Goethe and Wordsworth, he realized his definition. In
his work, therefore, delicate melody and sensuous beauty were at first much
less conspicuous than a high moral sense, though after the first the
elements of external beauty greatly developed, often to the finest effect.
In form and spirit his poetry is one of the very best later reflections of
that of Greece, dominated by thought, dignified, and polished with the
utmost care. 'Sohrab and Rustum,' his most ambitious and greatest single
poem, is a very close and admirable imitation of 'The Iliad.' Yet, as the
almost intolerable pathos of 'Sohrab and Rustum' witnesses, Arnold is not
by any means deficient, any more than the Greek poets were, in emotion. He
affords, in fact, a striking example of classical form and spirit united
with the deep, self-conscious, meditative feeling of modern Romanticism.

In substance Arnold's poetry is the expression of his long and tragic
spiritual struggle. To him religion, understood as a reverent devotion to
Divine things, was the most important element in life, and his love of pure
truth was absolute; but he held that modern knowledge had entirely
disproved the whole dogmatic and doctrinal scheme of historic Christianity
and that a new spiritual revelation was necessary. To his Romantic nature,
however, mere knowledge and mere modern science, which their followers were
so confidently exalting, appeared by no means adequate to the purpose;
rather they seemed to him largely futile, because they did not stimulate
the emotions and so minister to the spiritual life. Further, the restless
stirrings of his age, beginning to arouse itself from the social lethargy
of centuries, appeared to him pitifully unintelligent and devoid of
results. He found all modern life, as he says in 'The Scholar-Gypsy,' a
'strange disease,' in which men hurry wildly about in a mad activity which
they mistake for achievement. In Romantic melancholy he looked wistfully
back by contrast to periods when 'life was fresh and young' and could
express itself vigorously and with no torturing introspection. The
exaggerated pessimism in this part of his outcry is explained by his own
statement, that he lived in a transition time, when the old faith was (as
he held) dead, and the new one (partly realized in our own generation) as
yet 'powerless to be born.' Arnold's poetry, therefore, is to be viewed as
largely the expression, monotonous but often poignantly beautiful, of a
temporary mood of questioning protest. But if his conclusion is not
positive, it is at least not weakly despairing. Each man, he insists,
should diligently preserve and guard in intellectual and moral integrity
the fortress of his own soul, into which, when necessary, he can retire in
serene and stoical resignation, determined to endure and to 'see life
steadily and see it whole.' Unless the man himself proves traitor, the
littlenesses of life are powerless to conquer him. In fact, the invincible
courage of the thoroughly disciplined spirit in the midst of doubt and
external discouragement has never been, more nobly expressed than by Arnold
in such poems as 'Palladium' and (from a different point of view) 'The Last

There is a striking contrast (largely expressing an actual change of spirit
and point of view) between the manner of Arnold's poetry and that of his
prose. In the latter he entirely abandons the querulous note and assumes
instead a tone of easy assurance, jaunty and delightfully satirical.
Increasing maturity had taught him that merely to sit regarding the past
was useless and that he himself had a definite doctrine, worthy of being
preached with all aggressiveness. We have already said that his essays fall
into four classes, literary, social, religious, and political, though they
cannot always be sharply distinguished. As a literary critic he is uneven,
and, as elsewhere, sometimes superficial, but his fine appreciation and
generally clear vision make him refreshingly stimulating. His point of view
is unusually broad, his chief general purpose being to free English taste
from its insularity, to give it sympathetic acquaintance with the peculiar
excellences of other literatures. Some of his essays, like those on 'The
Function of Criticism at the Present Time,' 'Wordsworth,' and 'Byron,' are
among the best in English, while his 'Essays on Translating Homer' present
the most famous existing interpretation of the spirit and style of the
great Greek epics.

In his social essays, of which the most important form the volume entitled
'Culture and Anarchy,' he continues in his own way the attacks of Carlyle
and Ruskin. Contemporary English life seems to him a moral chaos of
physical misery and of the selfish, unenlightened, violent expression of
untrained wills. He too looks with pitying contempt on the material
achievements of science and the Liberal party as being mere 'machinery,'
means to an end, which men mistakenly worship as though it possessed a real
value in itself. He divides English society into three classes: 1. The
Aristocracy, whom he nick-names 'The Barbarians,' because, like the
Germanic tribes who overthrew the Roman Empire, they vigorously assert
their own privileges and live in the external life rather than in the life
of the spirit. 2. The Middle Class, which includes the bulk of the nation.
For them he borrows from German criticism the name 'Philistines,' enemies
of the chosen people, and he finds their prevailing traits to be
intellectual and spiritual narrowness and a fatal and superficial
satisfaction with mere activity and material prosperity. 3. 'The Populace,'
the 'vast raw and half-developed residuum.' For them Arnold had sincere
theoretical sympathy (though his temperament made it impossible for him to
enter into the same sort of personal sympathy with them as did Ruskin); but
their whole environment and conception of life seemed to him hideous. With
his usual uncomplimentary frankness Arnold summarily described the three
groups as 'a materialized upper class, a vulgarized middle class, and a
brutalized lower class.'

For the cure of these evils Arnold's proposed remedy was Culture, which he
defined as a knowledge of the best that has been thought and done in the
world and a desire to make the best ideas prevail. Evidently this Culture
is not a mere knowledge of books, unrelated to the rest of life. It has
indeed for its basis a very wide range of knowledge, acquired by
intellectual processes, but this knowledge alone Arnold readily admitted to
be 'machinery.' The real purpose and main part of Culture is the training,
broadening, and refining of the whole spirit, including the emotions as
well as the intellect, into sympathy with all the highest ideals, and
therefore into inward peace and satisfaction. Thus Culture is not
indolently selfish, but is forever exerting itself to 'make the best
ideas'--which Arnold also defined as 'reason and the will, of

Arnold felt strongly that a main obstacle to Culture was religious
narrowness. He held that the English people had been too much occupied with
the 'Hebraic' ideal of the Old Testament, the interest in morality or right
conduct, and though he agreed that this properly makes three quarters of
life, he insisted that it should be joined with the Hellenic (Greek) ideal
of a perfectly rounded nature. He found the essence of Hellenism expressed
in a phrase which he took from Swift, 'Sweetness and Light,' interpreting
Sweetness to mean the love of Beauty, material and spiritual, and Light,
unbiased intelligence; and he urged that these forces be allowed to have
the freest play. He vigorously attacked the Dissenting denominations,
because he believed them to be a conspicuous embodiment of Philistine lack
of Sweetness and Light, with an unlovely insistence on unimportant external
details and a fatal blindness to the meaning of real beauty and real
spirituality. Though he himself was without a theological creed, he was,
and held that every Englishman should be, a devoted adherent of the English
Church, as a beautiful, dignified, and national expression of essential
religion, and therefore a very important influence for Culture.

Toward democracy Arnold took, not Carlyle's attitude of definite
opposition, but one of questioning scrutiny. He found that one actual
tendency of modern democracy was to 'let people do as they liked,' which,
given the crude violence of the Populace, naturally resulted in lawlessness
and therefore threatened anarchy. Culture, on the other hand, includes the
strict discipline of the will and the sacrifice of one's own impulses for
the good of all, which means respect for Law and devotion to the State.
Existing democracy, therefore, he attacked with unsparing irony, but he did
not condemn its principle. One critic has said that 'his ideal of a State
can best be described as an Educated Democracy, working by Collectivism in
Government, Religion and Social Order.' But in his own writings he scarcely
gives expression to so definite a conception.

Arnold's doctrine, of course, was not perfectly comprehensive nor free from
prejudices; but none could be essentially more useful for his generation or
ours. We may readily grant that it is, in one sense or another, a doctrine
for chosen spirits, but if history makes anything clear it is that chosen
spirits are the necessary instruments of all progress and therefore the
chief hope of society.

The differences between Arnold's teaching and that of his two great
contemporaries are probably now clear. All three are occupied with the
pressing necessity of regenerating society. Carlyle would accomplish this
end by means of great individual characters inspired by confidence in the
spiritual life and dominating their times by moral strength; Ruskin would
accomplish it by humanizing social conditions and spiritualizing and
refining all men's natures through devotion to the principles of moral
Right and esthetic Beauty; Arnold would leaven the crude mass of society,
so far as possible, by permeating it with all the myriad influences of
spiritual, moral, and esthetic culture. All three, of course, like every
enlightened reformer, are aiming at ideal conditions which can be actually
realized only in the distant future.

Arnold's style is one of the most charming features of his work. Clear,
direct, and elegant, it reflects most attractively his own high breeding;
but it is also eminently forceful, and marked by very skilful emphasis and
reiteration. One of his favorite devices is a pretense of great humility,
which is only a shelter from which he shoots forth incessant and pitiless
volleys of ironical raillery, light and innocent in appearance, but
irresistible in aim and penetrating power. He has none of the gorgeousness
of Ruskin or the titanic strength of Carlyle, but he can be finely
eloquent, and he is certainly one of the masters of polished effectiveness.

ALFRED TENNYSON. In poetry, apart from the drama, the Victorian period is
the greatest in English literature. Its most representative, though not its
greatest, poet is Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson, the fourth of a large family
of children, was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1809. That year, as it
happened, is distinguished by the birth of a large number of eminent men,
among them Gladstone, Darwin, and Lincoln. Tennyson's father was a
clergyman, holding his appointments from a member of the landed gentry; his
mother was peculiarly gentle and benevolent. From childhood the poet,
though physically strong, was moody and given to solitary dreaming; from
early childhood also he composed poetry, and when he was seventeen he and
one of his elder brothers brought out a volume of verse, immature, but of
distinct poetic feeling and promise. The next year they entered Trinity
College, Cambridge, where Tennyson, too reserved for public prominence,
nevertheless developed greatly through association with a gifted group of
students. Called home by the fatal illness of his father shortly before his
four year's were completed, he decided, as Milton had done, and as Browning
was even then doing, to devote himself to his art; but, like Milton, he
equipped himself, now and throughout his life, by hard and systematic study
of many of the chief branches of knowledge, including the sciences. His
next twenty years were filled with difficulty and sorrow. Two volumes of
poems which he published in 1830 and 1832 were greeted by the critics with
their usual harshness, which deeply wounded his sensitive spirit and
checked his further publication for ten years; though the second of these
volumes contains some pieces which, in their later, revised, form, are
among his chief lyric triumphs. In 1833 his warm friend Arthur Hallam, a
young man of extraordinary promise, who was engaged, moreover, to one of
Tennyson's sisters, died suddenly without warning. Tennyson's grief, at
first overwhelming, was long a main factor in his life and during many
years found slow artistic expression in 'In Memoriam' and other poems. A
few years later came another deep sorrow. Tennyson formed an engagement of
marriage with Miss Emily Sellwood, but his lack of worldly prospects led
her relatives to cancel it.

Tennyson now spent much of his time in London, on terms of friendship with
many literary men, including Carlyle, who almost made an exception in his
favor from his general fanatical contempt for poetry. In 1842 Tennyson
published two volumes of poems, including the earlier ones revised; he here
won an undoubted popular success and was accepted by the best judges as the
chief living productive English poet. Disaster followed in the shape of an
unfortunate financial venture which for a time reduced his family to
serious straits and drove him with shattered nerves to a sanitarium. Soon,
however, he received from the government as a recognition of his poetic
achievement a permanent annual pension of two hundred pounds, and in 1847
he published the strange but delightful 'Princess.' The year 1850 marked
the decisive turning point of his career. He was enabled to renew his
engagement and be married; the publication of 'In Memoriam' established him
permanently in a position of such popularity as few living poets have ever
enjoyed; and on the death of Wordsworth he was appointed Poet Laureate.

The prosperity of the remaining half of his life was a full recompense for
his earlier struggles, though it is marked by few notable external events.
Always a lover of the sea, he soon took up his residence in the Isle of
Wight. His production of poetry was steady, and its variety great. The
largest of all his single achievements was the famous series of 'Idylls of
the King,' which formed a part of his occupation for many years. In much of
his later work there is a marked change from his earlier elaborate
decorativeness to a style of vigorous strength. At the age of sixty-five,
fearful that he had not yet done enough to insure his fame, he gave a
remarkable demonstration of poetic vitality by striking out into the to him
new field of poetic drama. His important works here are the three tragedies
in which he aimed to complete the series of Shakspere's chronicle-history
plays; but he lacked the power of dramatic action, and the result is rather
three fine poems than successful plays. In 1883, after having twice refused
a baronetcy, he, to the regret of his more democratic friends, accepted a
peerage (barony). Tennyson disliked external show, but he was always
intensely loyal to the institutions of England, he felt that literature was
being honored in his person, and he was willing to secure a position of
honor for his son, who had long rendered him devoted service. He died
quietly in 1892, at the age of eighty-three, and was buried in Westminster
Abbey beside Browning, who had found a resting-place there three years
earlier. His personal character, despite some youthful morbidness, was
unusually delightful, marked by courage, honesty, sympathy, and
straightforward manliness. He had a fine voice and took undisguised
pleasure in reading his poems aloud. The chief traits of his poetry in form
and substance may be suggested in a brief summary.

1. Most characteristic, perhaps, is his exquisite artistry (in which he
learned much from Keats). His appreciation for sensuous beauty, especially
color, is acute; his command of poetic phraseology is unsurpassed; he
suggests shades of, feeling and elusive aspiration with, marvelously
subtile power; his descriptions are magnificently beautiful, often with
much detail; and his melody is often the perfection of sweetness. Add the
truth and tenderness of his emotion, and it results that he is one of the
finest and most moving of lyric poets. Nor is all this beauty vague and
unsubstantial. Not only was he the most careful of English poets, revising
his works with almost unprecedented pains, but his scientific habit of mind
insists on the greatest accuracy; in his allusions to Nature he often
introduces scientific facts in a way thitherto unparalleled, and sometimes
even only doubtfully poetic. The influence of the classic literatures on
his style and expression was great; no poet combines more harmoniously
classic perfection and romantic feeling.

2. The variety of his poetic forms is probably greater than that of any
other English poet. In summary catalogue may be named: lyrics, both
delicate and stirring; ballads; romantic dreams and fancies; descriptive
poems; sentimental reveries, and idyls; long narratives, in which he
displays perfect narrative skill; delightfully realistic
character-sketches, some of them in dialect; dramas; and meditative poems,
long and short, on religious, ethical, and social questions. In almost all
these forms he has produced numerous masterpieces.

3. His chief deficiency is in the dramatic quality. No one can present more
finely than he moods (often carefully set in a harmoniously appropriate
background of external nature) or characters in stationary position; and
there is splendid spirit in his narrative passages of vigorous action.
Nevertheless his genius and the atmosphere of his poems are generally
dreamy, romantic, and aloof from actual life. A brilliant critic [Footnote:
Professor Lewis E. Gates in a notable essay, 'Studies and Appreciations,'
p. 71.] has caustically observed that he 'withdraws from the turmoil of the
real universe into the fortress of his own mind, and beats the enemy in toy
battles with toy soldiers.' He never succeeded in presenting to the
satisfaction of most good critics a vigorous man in vigorous action.

4. The ideas of his poetry are noble and on the whole clear. He was an
independent thinker, though not an innovator, a conservative liberal, and
was so widely popular because he expressed in frank but reverent fashion
the moderately advanced convictions of his time. His social ideals, in
which he is intensely interested, are those of Victorian humanitarianism.
He hopes ardently for a steady amelioration of the condition of the masses,
proceeding toward a time when all men shall have real opportunity for full
development; and freedom is one of his chief watchwords. But with typical
English conservatism he believes that progress must be gradual, and that it
should be controlled by order, loyalty, and reverence. Like a true
Englishman, also, he is sure that the institutions of England are the best
in the world, so that he is a strong supporter of the monarchy and the
hereditary aristocracy. In religion, his inherited belief, rooted in his
deepest fibers, early found itself confronted by the discoveries of modern
science, which at first seemed to him to proclaim that the universe is much
what it seemed to the young Carlyle, a remorseless monster, 'red in tooth
and claw,' scarcely thinkable as the work of a Christian God who cares for
man. Tennyson was too sincere to evade the issue, and after years of inner
struggle he arrived at a positive faith in the central principles of
Christianity, broadly interpreted, though it was avowedly a faith based on
instinct and emotional need rather than on unassailable reasoning. His
somewhat timid disposition, moreover, never allowed him to enunciate his
conclusions with anything like the buoyant aggressiveness of his
contemporary, Robert Browning. How greatly science had influenced his point
of view appears in the conception which is central in his later poetry,
namely that the forces of the universe are governed by unchanging Law,
through which God works. The best final expression of his spirit is the
lyric 'Crossing the Bar,' which every one knows and which at his own
request is printed last in all editions of his works.

chief poetic contemporary, stands in striking artistic contrast to
Tennyson--a contrast which perhaps serves to enhance the reputation of
both. Browning's life, if not his poetry, must naturally be considered in
connection with that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with whom he was united
in what appears the most ideal marriage of two important writers in the
history of literature.

Elizabeth Barrett, the daughter of a country gentleman of Herefordshire
(the region of the Malvern Hills and of 'Piers Plowman'), was born in 1806.
She was naturally both healthy and intellectually precocious; the writing
of verse and outdoor life divided all her early life, and at seventeen she
published, a volume of immature poems. At fifteen, however, her health was
impaired by an accident which happened as she was saddling her pony, and at
thirty, after a removal of the family to London, it completely failed. From
that time on for ten years she was an invalid, confined often to her bed
and generally to her chamber, sometimes apparently at the point of death.
Nevertheless she kept on with persistent courage and energy at her study
and writing. The appearance of her poems in two volumes in 1844 gave her a
place among the chief living poets and led to her acquaintance with

Browning was born in a London suburb in 1812 (the same year with Dickens),
of very mixed ancestry, which may partly explain the very diverse traits in
his nature and poetry. His father, a man of artistic and cultured tastes,
held a subordinate though honorable position in the Bank of England. The
son inherited a strong instinct for all the fine arts, and though he
composed verses before he could write, seemed for years more likely to
become a musician than a poet. His formal schooling was irregular, but he
early began to acquire from his father's large and strangely-assorted
library the vast fund of information which astonishes the reader of his
poetry, and he too lived a healthy out-of-door life. His parents being
Dissenters, the universities were not open to him, and when he was
seventeen his father somewhat reluctantly consented to his own unhesitating
choice of poetry as a profession. For seventeen years more he continued in
his father's home, living a normal life among his friends, writing
continuously, and gradually acquiring a reputation among some good critics,
but making very little impression on the public. Some of his best short
poems date from these years, such as 'My Last Duchess' and 'The Bishop
Orders His Tomb'; but his chief effort went into a series of seven or eight
poetic dramas, of which 'Pippa Passes' is best known and least dramatic.
They are noble poetry, but display in marked degree the psychological
subtilety which in part of his poetry demands unusually close attention
from the reader.

In one of the pieces in her volumes of 1844 Elizabeth Barrett mentioned
Browning, among other poets, with generous praise. This led to a
correspondence between the two, and soon to a courtship, in which
Browning's earnestness finally overcame Miss Barrett's scrupulous
hesitation to lay upon him (as she felt) the burden of her invalidism.
Indeed her invalidism at last helped to turn the scales in Browning's
favor, for the physicians had declared that Miss Barrett's life depended on
removal to a warmer climate, but to this her father, a well-intentioned but
strangely selfish man, absolutely refused to consent. The record of the
courtship is given in Mrs. Browning's 'Sonnets from the Portuguese' (a
whimsical title, suggested by Mrs. Browning's childhood nickname, 'The
Little Portuguese'), which is one of the finest of English
sonnet-sequences. The marriage, necessarily clandestine, took place in
1846; Mrs. Browning's father thenceforth treated her as one dead, but the
removal from her morbid surroundings largely restored her health for the
remaining fifteen years of her life. During these fifteen years the two
poets resided chiefly in various cities of Italy, with a nominal home in
Florence, and Mrs. Browning had an inherited income which sufficed for
their support until their poetry became profitable. Their chief works
during this period were Mrs. Browning's 'Aurora Leigh' (1856), a long
'poetic novel' in blank verse dealing with the relative claims of Art and
Social Service and with woman's place in the world; and Browning's most
important single publication, his two volumes of 'Men and Women' (1855),
containing fifty poems, many of them among his very best.

Mrs. Browning was passionately interested in the Italian struggle for
independence against Austrian tyranny, and her sudden death in 1861 seems
to have been hastened by that of the Italian statesman Cavour. Browning, at
first inconsolable, soon returned with his son to London, where he again
made his home, for the rest of his life. Henceforth he published much
poetry, for the most part long pieces of subtile psychological and
spiritual analysis. In 1868-9 he brought out his characteristic
masterpiece, 'The Ring and the Book,' a huge psychological epic, which
proved the tardy turning point in his reputation. People might not
understand the poem, but they could not disregard it, the author became
famous, almost popular, and a Browning cult arose, marked by the spread of
Browning societies in both England and America. Browning enjoyed his
success for twenty years and died quietly in 1889 at the home of his son in

Browning earnestly reciprocated his wife's loyal devotion and seemed really
to believe, as he often insisted, that her poetry was of a higher order
than his own. Her achievement, indeed, was generally overestimated, in her
own day and later, but it is now recognized that she is scarcely a really
great artist. Her intense emotion, her fine Christian idealism, and her
very wide reading give her real power; her womanly tenderness is admirable;
and the breadth of her interests and sometimes the clearness of her
judgment are notable; but her secluded life of ill-health rendered her
often sentimental, high-strung, and even hysterical. She has in her the
impulses and material of great poetry, but circumstances and her
temperament combined to deny her the patient self-discipline necessary for
the best results. She writes vehemently to assert the often-neglected
rights of women and children or to denounce negro slavery and all
oppression; and sometimes, as when in 'The Cry of the Children' she
revealed the hideousness of child-labor in the factories, she is genuine
and irresistible; but more frequently she produces highly romantic or
mystical imaginary narrations (often in medieval settings). She not seldom
mistakes enthusiasm or indignation for artistic inspiration, and she is
repeatedly and inexcusably careless in meter and rime. Perhaps her most
satisfactory poems, aside from those above mentioned, are 'The Vision of
Poets' and 'The Rime of the Duchess May.'

In considering the poetry of Robert Browning the inevitable first general
point is the nearly complete contrast with Tennyson. For the melody and
exquisite beauty of phrase and description which make so large a part of
Tennyson's charm, Browning cares very little; his chief merits as an artist
lie mostly where Tennyson is least strong; and he is a much more
independent and original thinker than Tennyson. This will become more
evident in a survey of his main characteristics.

1. Browning is the most thoroughly vigorous and dramatic of all great poets
who employ other forms than the actual drama. Of his hundreds of poems the
great majority set before the reader a glimpse of actual life and human
personalities--an action, a situation, characters, or a character--in the
clearest and most vivid possible way. Sometimes the poem is a ringing
narration of a fine exploit, like 'How They Brought the Good News';
sometimes it is quieter and more reflective. Whatever the style, however,
in the great majority of cases Browning employs the form which without
having actually invented it he developed into an instrument of thitherto
unsuspected power, namely the dramatic monolog in which a character
discusses his situation or life or some central part or incident, of it,
under circumstances which reveal with wonderful completeness its
significance and his own essential character. To portray and interpret life
in this way, to give his readers a sudden vivid understanding of its main
forces and conditions in representative moments, may be called the first
obvious purpose, or perhaps rather instinct, of Browning and his poetry.
The dramatic economy of space which he generally attains in his monologs is
marvelous. In 'My Last Duchess' sixty lines suffice to etch into our
memories with incredible completeness and clearness two striking
characters, an interesting situation, and the whole of a life's tragedy.

2. Despite his power over external details it is in the human characters,
as the really significant and permanent elements of life, that Browning is
chiefly interested; indeed he once declared directly that the only thing
that seemed to him worth while was the study of souls. The number and range
of characters that he has portrayed are unprecedented, and so are the
keenness, intenseness, and subtilety of the analysis. Andrea del Sarto, Fra
Lippo Lippi, Cleon, Karshish, Balaustion, and many scores of others, make
of his poems a great gallery of portraits unsurpassed in interest by those
of any author whatever except Shakspere. It is little qualification of his
achievement to add that all his persons are somewhat colored by his own
personality and point of view, or that in his later poetry he often splits
hairs very ingeniously in his effort to understand and present
sympathetically the motives of all characters, even the worst. These are
merely some of the secondary aspects of his peculiar genius. Browning's
favorite heroes and heroines, it should be added, are men and women much
like himself, of strong will and decisive power of action, able to take the
lead vigorously and unconventionally and to play controlling parts in the
drama of life.

3. The frequent comparative difficulty of Browning's poetry arises in large
part first from the subtilety of his thought and second from the obscurity
of his subject-matter and his fondness for out-of-the-way characters. It is
increased by his disregard of the difference between his own extraordinary
mental power and agility on the one hand and on the other the capacity of
the average person, a disregard which leads him to take much for granted
that most readers are obliged to study out with no small amount of labor.
Moreover Browning was hasty in composition, corrected his work little, if
at all, and was downright careless in such details as sentence structure.
But the difficulty arising from these various eccentricities occurs chiefly
in his longer poems, and often serves mainly as a mental stimulus. Equally
striking, perhaps, is his frequent grotesqueness in choice of subject and
in treatment, which seems to result chiefly from his wish to portray the
world as it actually is, keeping in close touch with genuine everyday
reality; partly also from his instinct to break away from placid and
fiberless conventionality.

4. Browning is decidedly one of those who hold the poet to be a teacher,
and much, indeed most, of his poetry is occupied rather directly with the
questions of religion and the deeper meanings of life. Taken all together,
that is, his poetry constitutes a very extended statement of his philosophy
of life. The foundation of his whole theory is a confident and aggressive
optimism. He believes, partly on the basis of intellectual reasoning, but
mainly on what seems to him the convincing testimony of instinct, that the
universe is controlled by a loving God, who has made life primarily a thing
of happiness for man. Man should accept life with gratitude and enjoy to
the full all its possibilities. Evil exists only to demonstrate the value
of Good and to develop character, which can be produced only by hard and
sincere struggle. Unlike Tennyson, therefore, Browning has full confidence
in present reality--he believes that life on earth is predominantly good.
Nevertheless earthly life is evidently incomplete in itself, and the
central law of existence is Progress, which gives assurance of a future
life where man may develop the spiritual nature which on earth seems to
have its beginning and distinguishes man from the brutes. This future life,
however, is probably not one but many, a long succession of lives, the
earlier ones not so very different, perhaps, from the present one on earth;
and even the worst souls, commencing the next life, perhaps, as a result of
their failure here, at a spiritual stage lower than the present one, must
ultimately pass through all stages of the spiritual process, and come to
stand with all the others near the perfection of God himself. This whole
theory, which, because later thought has largely adopted it from Browning,
seems much less original to-day than when he first propounded it, is stated
and reiterated in his poems with a dynamic idealizing power which, whether
or not one assents to it in details, renders it magnificently stimulating.
It is rather fully expressed as a whole, in two of Browning's best known
and finest poems, 'Rabbi ben Ezra,' and 'Abt Vogler.' Some critics, it
should be added, however, feel that Browning is too often and too
insistently a teacher in his poetry and that his art would have gained if
he had introduced his philosophy much more incidentally.

5. In his social theory Browning differs not only from Tennyson but from
the prevailing thought of his age, differs in that his emphasis is
individualistic. Like all the other Victorians he dwells on the importance
of individual devotion to the service of others, but he believes that the
chief results of such effort must be in the development of the individual's
character, not greatly in the actual betterment of the world. The world,
indeed, as it appears to him, is a place of probation and we cannot expect
ever to make it over very radically; the important thing is that the
individual soul shall use it to help him on his 'lone way' to heaven.
Browning, accordingly, takes almost no interest in the specific social and
political questions of his day, a fact which certainly will not operate
against the permanence of his fame. More detrimental, no doubt, aside from
the actual faults which we have mentioned, will be his rather extravagant
Romanticism--the vehemence of his passion and his insistence on the supreme
value of emotion. With these characteristics classically minded critics
have always been highly impatient, and they will no doubt prevent him from
ultimately taking a place beside Shakspere and the serene Milton; but they
will not seriously interfere, we may be certain, with his recognition as
one of the very great English poets.

poets must here be passed by, but several of them are too important to be
dismissed without at least brief notice. The middle of the century is
marked by a new Romantic impulse, the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, which begins
with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti was born in London in 1828. His father
was an Italian, a liberal refugee from the outrageous government of Naples,
and his mother was also half Italian. The household, though poor, was a
center for other Italian exiles, but this early and tempestuous political
atmosphere created in the poet, by reaction, a lifelong aversion for
politics. His desultory education was mostly in the lines of painting and
the Italian and English poets. His own practice in poetry began as early as
is usual with poets, and before he was nineteen, by a special inspiration,
he wrote his best and most famous poem, 'The Blessed Damosel.' In the
school of the Royal Academy of Painting, in 1848, he met William Holman
Hunt and John E. Millais, and the three formed the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood, in which Rossetti, whose disposition throughout his life was
extremely self-assertive, or even domineering, took the lead. The purpose
of the Brotherhood was to restore to painting and literature the qualities
which the three enthusiasts found in the fifteenth century Italian
painters, those who just preceded Raphael. Rossetti and his friends did not
decry the noble idealism of Raphael himself, but they felt that in trying
to follow his grand style the art of their own time had become too abstract
and conventional. They wished to renew emphasis on serious emotion,
imagination, individuality, and fidelity to truth; and in doing so they
gave special attention to elaboration of details in a fashion distinctly
reminiscent of medievalism. Their work had much, also, of medieval
mysticism and symbolism. Besides painting pictures they published a very
short-lived periodical, 'The Germ,' containing both literary material and
drawings. Ruskin, now arriving at fame and influence, wrote vigorously in
their favor, and though the Brotherhood did not last long as an
organization, it has exerted a great influence on subsequent painting.

Rossetti's impulses were generous, but his habits were eccentric and
selfish, and his life unfortunate. His engagement with Miss Eleanor Siddal,
a milliner's apprentice (whose face appears in many of his pictures), was
prolonged by his lack of means for nine years; further, he was an agnostic,
while she held a simple religious faith, and she was carrying on a losing
struggle with tuberculosis. Sixteen months after their marriage she died,
and on a morbid impulse of remorse for inconsiderateness in his treatment
of her Rossetti buried his poems, still unpublished, in her coffin. After
some years, however, he was persuaded to disinter and publish them.
Meanwhile he had formed friendships with the slightly younger artists
William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and they established a company for
the manufacture of furniture and other articles, to be made beautiful as
well as useful, and thus to aid in spreading the esthetic sense among the
English people. After some years Rossetti and Burne-Jones withdrew from the
enterprise, leaving it to Morris. Rossetti continued all his life to
produce both poetry and paintings. His pictures are among the best and most
gorgeous products of recent romantic art--'Dante's Dream,' 'Beata Beatrix,'
'The Blessed Damosel,' and many others. During his later years he earned a
large income, and he lived in a large house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea (near
Carlyle), where for a while, as long as his irregular habits permitted, the
novelist George Meredith and the poet Swinburne were also inmates. He
gradually grew more morbid, and became a rather pitiful victim of insomnia,
the drug chloral, and spiritualistic delusions about his wife. He died in

Rossetti's poetry is absolutely unlike that of any other English poet, and
the difference is clearly due in large part to his Italian race and his
painter's instinct. He has, in the didactic sense, absolutely no religious,
moral, or social interests; he is an artist almost purely for art's sake,
writing to give beautiful embodiment to moods, experiences, and striking
moments. If it is true of Tennyson, however, that he stands aloof from
actual life, this is far truer of Rossetti. His world is a vague and
languid region of enchantment, full of whispering winds, indistinct forms
of personified abstractions, and the murmur of hidden streams; its
landscape sometimes bright, sometimes shadowy, but always delicate,
exquisitely arranged for luxurious decorative effect. In his
ballad-romances, to be sure, such as, 'The King's Tragedy,' there is much
dramatic vigor; yet there is still more of medieval weirdness. Rossetti,
like Dante, has much of spiritual mysticism, and his interest centers in
the inner rather than the outer life; but his method, that of a painter and
a southern Italian, is always highly sensuous. His melody is superb and
depends partly on a highly Latinized vocabulary, archaic pronunciations,
and a delicate genius in sound-modulation, the effect being heightened also
by frequent alliteration and masterly use of refrains. 'Sister Helen,'
obviously influenced by the popular ballad 'Edward, Edward,' derives much
of its tremendous tragic power from the refrain, and in the use of this
device is perhaps the most effective poem in the world. Rossetti is
especially facile also with the sonnet. His sonnet sequence, 'The House of
Life,' one of the most notable in English, exalts earthly Love as the
central force in the world and in rather fragmentary fashion traces the
tragic influence of Change in both life and love.

WILLIAM MORRIS. William Morris, a man of remarkable versatility and
tremendous energy, which expressed themselves in poetry and many other
ways, was the son of a prosperous banker, and was born in London in 1834.
At Oxford in 1853-55 he became interested in medieval life and art, was
stimulated by the poetry of Mrs. Browning and Tennyson, became a friend of
Burne-Jones, wrote verse and prose, and was a member of a group called 'The
Brotherhood,' while a little later published for a year a monthly magazine
not unlike 'The Germ.' He apprenticed himself to an architect, but at the
same time also practised several decorative arts, such as woodcarving,
illuminating manuscripts, and designing furniture, stained glass and
embroidery. Together with Burne-Jones, moreover, he became an enthusiastic
pupil of Rossetti in painting. His first volume of verse, 'The Defence of
Guinevere and Other Poems,' put forth in 1858, shows the influence of
Rossetti and Pre-Raphaelitism, but it mainly gives vivid presentation to
the spirit of fourteenth-century French chivalry. In 1861 came the
foundation of the decorative-art firm of Morris and Co. (above, p. 337),
which after some years grew into a large business, continued to be Morris'
main occupation to the end of his life, and has exercised a great
influence, both in England and elsewhere, on the beautifying of the
surroundings of domestic life.

Meanwhile Morris had turned to the writing of long narrative poems, which
he composed with remarkable fluency. The most important is the series of
versions of Greek and Norse myths and legends which appeared in 1868-70 as
'The Earthly Paradise.' Shortly after this he became especially interested
in Icelandic literature and published versions of some of its stories;
notably one of the Siegfried tale, 'Sigurd the Volsung.' In the decade from
1880 to 1890 he devoted most of his energy to work for the Socialist party,
of which he became a leader. His ideals were largely identical with those
of Ruskin; in particular he wished to restore (or create) in the lives of
workingmen conditions which should make of each of them an independent
artist. The practical result of his experience was bitter disappointment,
he was deposed from his leadership, finally abandoned the party, and
returned to art and literature. He now published a succession of prose
romances largely inspired by the Icelandic sagas and composed in a strange
half-archaic style. He also established the 'Kelmscott Press,' which he
made famous for its production of elaborate artistic editions of great
books. He died in 1896.

Morris' shorter poems are strikingly dramatic and picturesque, and his
longer narrations are remarkably facile and often highly pleasing. His
facility, however, is his undoing. He sometimes wrote as much as eight
hundred lines in a day, and he once declared: 'If a chap can't compose an
epic poem while he's weaving tapestry, he had better shut up; he'll never
do any good at all.' In reading his work one always feels that there is the
material of greatness, but perhaps nothing that he wrote is strictly great.
His prose will certainly prove less permanent than his verse.

SWINBURNE. A younger disciple of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement but also a
strongly original artist was Algernon Charles Swinburne. Born in 1837 into
a wealthy family, the son of an admiral, he devoted himself throughout his
life wholly to poetry, and his career was almost altogether devoid of
external incident. After passing through Eton and Oxford he began as author
at twenty-three by publishing two plays imitative of Shakspere. Five years
later he put forth 'Atalanta in Calydon,' a tragedy not only drawn from
Greek heroic legend, but composed in the ancient Greek manner, with long
dialogs and choruses. These two volumes express the two intensely vigorous
forces which were strangely combined in his nature; for while no man has
ever been a more violent romanticist than Swinburne, yet, as one critic has
said, 'All the romantic riot in his blood clamored for Greek severity and
Greek restraint.' During the next fifteen years he was partly occupied with
a huge poetic trilogy in blank verse on Mary Queen of Scots, and from time
to time he wrote other dramas and much prose criticism, the latter largely
in praise of the Elizabethan dramatists and always wildly extravagant in
tone. He produced also some long narrative poems, of which the chief is
'Tristram of Lyonesse.' His chief importance, however, is as a lyric poet,
and his lyric production was large. His earlier poems in this category are
for the most part highly objectionable in substance or sentiment, but he
gradually worked into a better vein. He was a friend of George Meredith,
Burne-Jones, Morris, Rossetti (to whom he loyally devoted himself for
years), and the painter Whistler. He died in 1909.

Swinburne carried his radicalism into all lines. Though an ardently
patriotic Englishman, he was an extreme republican; and many of his poems
are dedicated to the cause of Italian independence or to liberty in
general. The significance of his thought, however, is less than that of any
other English poet who can in any sense be called great; his poetry is
notable chiefly for its artistry, especially for its magnificent melody.
Indeed, it has been cleverly said that he offers us an elaborate service of
gold and silver, but with little on it except salt and pepper. In his case,
however, the mere external beauty and power often seem their own complete
and satisfying justification. His command of different meters is marvelous;
he uses twice as many as Browning, who is perhaps second to him in this
respect, and his most characteristic ones are those of gloriously rapid
anapestic lines with complicated rime-schemes. Others of his distinctive
traits are lavish alliteration, rich sensuousness, grandiose vagueness of
thought and expression, a great sweep of imagination, and a corresponding
love of vastness and desolation. He makes much decorative use of Biblical
imagery and of vague abstract personifications--in general creates an
atmosphere similar to that of Rossetti. Somewhat as in the case of Morris,
his fluency is almost fatal--he sometimes pours out his melodious but vague
emotion in forgetfulness of all proportion and restraint. From the
intellectual and spiritual point of view he is nearly negligible, but as a
musician in words he has no superior, not even Shelley.

OTHER VICTORIA POETS. Among the other Victorian poets, three, at least,
must be mentioned. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), tutor at Oxford and
later examiner in the government education office, expresses the spiritual
doubt and struggle of the period in noble poems similar to those of Matthew
Arnold, whose fine elegy 'Thyrsis' commemorates him. Edward Fitzgerald
(1809-1883), Irish by birth, an eccentric though kind-hearted recluse, and
a friend of Tennyson, is known solely for his masterly paraphrase (1859) of
some of the Quatrains of the skeptical eleventh-century Persian
astronomer-poet Omar Khayyám. The similarity of temper between the medieval
oriental scholar and the questioning phase of the Victorian period is
striking (though the spirit of Fitzgerald's verse is no doubt as much his
own as Omar's), and no poetry is more poignantly beautiful than the best of
this. Christina Rossetti (1830-94), the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
lived in London with her mother in the greatest seclusion, occupied with an
ascetic devotion to the English Church, with her poetry, and with the
composition, secondarily, of prose articles and short stories. Her poetry
is limited almost entirely to the lyrical expression of her spiritual
experiences, much of it is explicitly religious, and all of it is religious
in feeling. It is tinged with the Pre-Raphaelite mystic medievalism; and a
quiet and most affecting sadness is its dominant trait; but the power and
beauty of a certain small part of it perhaps entitle her to be called the
chief of English poetesses.

unquestioned supremacy among romancers and novelists Charles Dickens
succeeded almost immediately on Scott's death, but certain secondary early
Victorian novelists may be considered before him. In the lives of two of
these, Bulwer-Lytton and Benjamin Disraeli, there are interesting
parallels. Both were prominent in politics, both began writing as young men
before the commencement of the Victorian period, and both ended their
literary work only fifty years later. Edward Bulwer, later created Sir
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and finally raised to the peerage as Lord Lytton
(1803-1873), was almost incredibly fluent and versatile. Much of his life a
member of Parliament and for a while of the government, he was a vigorous
pamphleteer. His sixty or more really literary works are of great variety;
perhaps the best known of them are his second novel, the trifling 'Pelham'
(1828), which inaugurated a class of so-called 'dandy' novels, giving
sympathetic presentation to the more frivolous social life of the 'upper'
class, and the historical romances 'The Last Days of Pompeii' (1834) and
'Harold' (1843). In spite of his real ability, Bulwer was a poser and
sentimentalist, characteristics for which he was vigorously ridiculed by
Thackeray. Benjamin Disraeli, [Footnote: The second syllable is pronounced
like the word 'rail' and has the accent, so that the whole name is
Disraíly.] later Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), a much less prolific
writer, was by birth a Jew. His immature earliest novel, 'Vivian Grey'
(1826), deals, somewhat more sensibly, with the same social class as
Bulwer's 'Pelham.' In his novels of this period, as in his dress and
manner, he deliberately attitudinized, a fact which in part reflected a
certain shallowness of character, in part was a device to attract attention
for the sake of his political ambition. After winning his way into
Parliament he wrote in 1844-7 three political novels,' Coningsby,' 'Sybil,'
and 'Tancred,' which set forth his Tory creed of opposition to the
dominance of middle-class Liberalism. For twenty-five years after this he
was absorbed in the leadership of his party, and he at last became Prime
Minister. In later life he so far returned to literature as to write two
additional novels.

Vastly different was the life and work of Charlotte Bronté (1816-1855).
Miss Bronté, a product and embodiment of the strictest religious sense of
duty, somewhat tempered by the liberalizing tendency of the time, was the
daughter of the rector of a small and bleak Yorkshire village, Haworth,
where she was brought up in poverty. The two of her sisters who reached
maturity, Emily and Anne, both still more short-lived than she, also wrote
novels, and Emily produced some lyrics which strikingly express the stern,
defiant will that characterized all the children of the family. Their lives
were pitifully bare, hard, and morbid, scarcely varied or enlivened except
by a year which Charlotte and Emily spent when Charlotte was twenty-six in
a private school in Brussels, followed on Charlotte's part by a return to
the same school for a year as teacher. In 1847 Charlotte's novel 'Jane
Eyre' (pronounced like the word 'air') won a great success. Her three later
novels are less significant. In 1854 she was married to one of her father's
curates, a Mr. Nicholls, a sincere but narrow-minded man. She was happy in
the marriage, but died within a few months, worn out by the unremitting
physical and moral strain of forty years.

The significance of 'Jane Eyre' can be suggested by calling it the last
striking expression of extravagant Romanticism, partly Byronic, but grafted
on the stern Bronté moral sense. One of its two main theses is the
assertion of the supreme authority of religious duty, but it vehemently
insists also on the right of the individual conscience to judge of duty for
itself, in spite of conventional opinion, and, difficult as this may be to
understand to-day, it was denounced at the time as irreligious. The
Romanticism appears further in the volcanic but sometimes melodramatic
power of the love story, where the heroine is a somewhat idealized double
of the authoress and where the imperfect portrayal of the hero reflects the
limitations of Miss Bronté's own experience.

Miss Bronté is the subject of one of the most delightfully sympathetic of
all biographies, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. Mrs. Gaskell
was authoress also of many stories, long and short, of which the best known
is 'Cranford' (1853), a charming portrayal of the quaint life of a secluded

CHARLES DICKENS. [Footnote: The life of Dickens by his friend John Forster
is another of the most famous English biographies.] The most popular of all
English novelists, Charles Dickens, was born in 1812, the son of an
unpractical and improvident government navy clerk whom, with questionable
taste, he later caricatured in 'David Copperfield' as Mr. Micawber. The
future novelist's schooling was slight and irregular, but as a boy he read
much fiction, especially seventeenth and eighteenth century authors, whose
influence is apparent in the picaresque lack of structure of his own works.
From childhood also he showed the passion for the drama and the theater
which resulted from the excitably dramatic quality of his own temperament
and which always continued to be the second moving force of his life. When
he was ten years old his father was imprisoned for debt (like Micawber, in
the Marshalsea prison), and he was put to work in the cellar of a London
shoe-blacking factory. On his proud and sensitive disposition this
humiliation, though it lasted only a few months, inflicted a wound which
never thoroughly healed; years after he was famous he would cross the
street to avoid the smell from an altogether different blacking factory,
with its reminder 'of what he once was.' To this experience, also, may
evidently be traced no small part of the intense sympathy with the
oppressed poor, especially with helpless children, which is so prominent in
his novels. Obliged from the age of fifteen to earn his own living, for the
most part, he was for a while a clerk in a London lawyer's office, where he
observed all sorts and conditions of people with characteristic keenness.
Still more valuable was his five or six years' experience in the very
congenial and very active work of a newspaper reporter, where his special
department was political affairs. This led up naturally to his permanent
work. The successful series of lively 'Sketches by Boz' dealing with people
and scenes about London was preliminary to 'The Pickwick Papers,' which
made the author famous at the age of twenty-four.

During the remaining thirty-three years of his life Dickens produced novels
at the rate of rather more than one in two years. He composed slowly and
carefully but did not revise greatly, and generally published by monthly
installments in periodicals which, latterly, he himself established and
edited. Next after 'The Pickwick Papers' came 'Oliver Twist,' and 'David
Copperfield' ten years later. Of the others, 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' 'Dombey
and Son,' 'Bleak House,' and 'A Tale of Two Cities,' are among the best.
For some years Dickens also published an annual Christmas story, of which
the first two, 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The Chimes,' rank highest.

His exuberant physical energy gave to his life more external variety than
is common with authors. At the age of thirty he made a visit to the United
States and travelled as far as to the then extreme western town of St.
Louis, everywhere received and entertained with the most extravagant
enthusiasm. Even before his return to England, however, he excited a
reaction, by his abundantly justified but untactful condemnation of
American piracy of English books; and this reaction was confirmed by his
subsequent caricature of American life in 'American Notes' and 'Martin
Chuzzlewit.' For a number of years during the middle part of his career
Dickens devoted a vast amount of energy to managing and taking the chief
part in a company of amateur actors, who performed at times in various
cities. Later on he substituted for this several prolonged series of
semi-dramatic public readings from his works, an effort which drew heavily
on his vitality and shortened his life, but which intoxicated him with its
enormous success. One of these series was delivered in America, where, of
course, the former ill-feeling had long before worn away.

Dickens lived during the greater part of his life in London, but in his
later years near Rochester, at Gadshill, the scene of Falstaff's exploit.
He made long sojourns also on the Continent. Much social and outdoor life
was necessary to him; he had a theory that he ought to spend as much time
out of doors as in the house. He married early and had a large family of
children, but pathetically enough for one whose emotions centered so
largely about the home, his own marriage was not well-judged; and after
more than twenty years he and his wife (the Dora Spenlow of 'David
Copperfield') separated, though with mutual respect. He died in 1870 and
was buried in Westminster Abbey in the rather ostentatiously unpretentious
way which, with his deep-seated dislike for aristocratic conventions, he
had carefully prescribed in his will.

Dickens' popularity, in his own day and since, is due chiefly: (1) to his
intense human sympathy; (2) to his unsurpassed emotional and dramatic
power; and (3) to his aggressive humanitarian zeal for the reform of all
evils and abuses, whether they weigh upon the oppressed classes or upon
helpless individuals. Himself sprung from the lower middle class, and
thoroughly acquainted with the life of the poor and apparently of sufferers
in all ranks, he is one of the most moving spokesmen whom they have ever
had. The pathos and tragedy of their experiences--aged and honest toilers
subjected to pitiless task-masters or to the yoke of social injustice;
lonely women uncomplainingly sacrificing their lives for unworthy men;
sad-faced children, the victims of circumstances, of cold-blooded parents,
or of the worst criminals--these things play a large part in almost all of
Dickens' books. In almost all, moreover, there is present, more or less in
the foreground, a definite humanitarian aim, an attack on some
time-consecrated evil--the poor-house system, the cruelties practised in
private schools, or the miscarriage of justice in the Court of Chancery. In
dramatic vividness his great scenes are masterly, for example the storm in
'David Copperfield,' the pursuit and discovery of Lady Dedlock in 'Bleak
House,' and the interview between Mrs. Dombey and James Carker in 'Dombey
and Son.'

Dickens' magnificent emotional power is not balanced, however, by a
corresponding intellectual quality; in his work, as in his temperament and
bearing, emotion is always in danger of running to excess. One of his great
elements of strength is his sense of humor, which has created an almost
unlimited number of delightful scenes and characters; but it very generally
becomes riotous and so ends in sheer farce and caricature, as the names of
many of the characters suggest at the outset. Indeed Dickens has been
rightly designated a grotesque novelist--the greatest of all grotesque
novelists. Similarly his pathos is often exaggerated until it passes into
mawkish sentimentality, so that his humbly-bred heroines, for example, are
made to act and talk with all the poise and certainty which can really
spring only from wide experience and broad education. Dickens' zeal for
reform, also, sometimes outruns his judgment or knowledge and leads him to
assault evils that had actually been abolished long before he wrote.

No other English author has approached Dickens in the number of characters
whom he has created; his twenty novels present literally thousands of
persons, almost all thoroughly human, except for the limitations that we
have already noted. Their range is of course very great, though it never
extends successfully into the 'upper' social classes. For Dickens was
violently prejudiced against the nobility and against all persons of high
social standing, and when he attempted to introduce them created only
pitifully wooden automatons. For the actual English gentleman we must pass
by his Sir Leicester Dedlocks and his Mr. Veneerings to novelists of a very
different viewpoint, such as Thackeray and Meredith.

Dickens' inexhaustible fertility in characters and scenes is a main cause
of the rather extravagant lack of unity which is another conspicuous
feature of his books. He usually made a good preliminary general plan and
proceeded on the whole with firm movement and strong suspense. But he
always introduces many characters and sub-actions not necessary to the main
story, and develops them quite beyond their real artistic importance. Not
without influence here was the necessity of filling a specified number of
serial instalments, each of a definite number of pages, and each requiring
a striking situation at the end. Moreover, Dickens often follows the
eighteenth-century picaresque habit of tracing the histories of his heroes
from birth to marriage. In most respects, however, Dickens' art improved as
he proceeded. The love element, it should be noted, as what we have already
said implies, plays a smaller part than usual among the various aspects of
life which his books present.

Not least striking among Dickens' traits is his power of description. His
observation is very quick and keen, though not fine; his sense for the
characteristic features, whether of scenes in Nature or of human
personality and appearance, is unerring; and he has never had a superior in
picturing and conveying the atmosphere both of interiors and of all kinds
of scenes of human life. London, where most of his novels are wholly or
chiefly located, has in him its chief and most comprehensive portrayer.

Worthy of special praise, lastly, is the moral soundness of all Dickens'
work, praise which is not seriously affected by present-day sneers at his
'middle-class' and 'mid-Victorian' point of view. Dickens' books, however,
like his character, are destitute of the deeper spiritual quality, of
poetic and philosophic idealism. His stories are all admirable
demonstrations of the power and beauty of the nobler practical virtues, of
kindness, courage, humility, and all the other forms of unselfishness; but
for the underlying mysteries of life and the higher meanings of art his
positive and self-formed mind had very little feeling. From first to last
he speaks authentically for the common heart of humanity, but he is not one
of the rarer spirits, like Spenser or George Eliot or Meredith, who
transport us into the realm of the less tangible realities. All his
limitations, indeed, have become more conspicuous as time has passed; and
critical judgment has already definitely excluded him from the select ranks
of the truly greatest authors.

WILLIAM M. THACKERAY. Dickens' chief rival for fame during his later
lifetime and afterward was Thackeray, who presents a strong contrast with
him, both as man and as writer.

Thackeray, the son of an East India Company official, was born at Calcutta
in 1811. His father died while he was a child and he was taken to England
for his education; he was a student in the Charterhouse School and then for
a year at Cambridge. Next, on the Continent, he studied drawing, and though
his unmethodical and somewhat idle habits prevented him from ever really
mastering the technique of the art, his real knack for it enabled him later
on to illustrate his own books in a semi-grotesque but effective fashion.
Desultory study of the law was interrupted when he came of age by the
inheritance of a comfortable fortune, which he managed to lose within a
year or two by gambling, speculations, and an unsuccessful effort at
carrying on a newspaper. Real application to newspaper and magazine writing
secured him after four years a place on 'Eraser's Magazine,' and he was
married. Not long after, his wife became insane, but his warm affection for
his daughters gave him throughout his life genuine domestic happiness.

For ten years Thackeray's production was mainly in the line of satirical
humorous and picaresque fiction, none of it of the first rank. During this
period he chiefly attacked current vices, snobbishness, and sentimentality,
which latter quality, Thackeray's special aversion, he found rampant in
contemporary life and literature, including the novels of Dickens. The
appearance of his masterpiece, 'Vanity Fair' (the allegorical title taken
from a famous incident in 'Pilgrim's Progress'), in 'Fraser's Magazine' in
1847-8 (the year before Dickens' 'David Copperfield') brought him sudden
fame and made him a social lion. Within the next ten years he produced his
other important novels, of which the best are 'Pendennis,' 'Henry Esmond,'
and 'The Newcomes,' and also his charming essays (first delivered as
lectures) on the eighteenth century in England, namely 'English Humorists,'
and 'The Four Georges.' All his novels except 'Henry Esmond' were published
serially, and he generally delayed composing each instalment until the
latest possible moment, working reluctantly except under the stress of
immediate compulsion. He was for three years, at its commencement, editor
of 'The Cornhill Magazine.' He died in 1863 at the age of fifty-two, of
heart failure.

The great contrast between Dickens and Thackeray results chiefly from the
predominance in Thackeray of the critical intellectual quality and of the
somewhat fastidious instinct of the man of society and of the world which
Dickens so conspicuously lacked. As a man Thackeray was at home and at ease
only among people of formal good breeding; he shrank from direct contact
with the common people; in spite of his assaults on the frivolity and vice
of fashionable society, he was fond of it; his spirit was very keenly
analytical; and he would have been chagrined by nothing more than by
seeming to allow his emotion to get the better of his judgment. His novels
seem to many readers cynical, because he scrutinizes almost every character
and every group with impartial vigor, dragging forth every fault and every
weakness into the light. On the title page of 'Vanity Fair' he proclaims
that it is a novel without a hero; and here, as in some of his lesser
works, most of the characters are either altogether bad or worthless and
the others very largely weak or absurd, so that the impression of human
life which the reader apparently ought to carry away is that of a hopeless
chaos of selfishness, hypocrisy, and futility. One word, which has often
been applied to Thackeray, best expresses his attitude--disillusionment.
The last sentences of 'Vanity Fair' are characteristic: 'Oh! Vanitas
Vanitatum! which, of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire?
or, having it, is satisfied?--Come, children, let us shut the box and the
puppets, for our play is played out.'

Yet in reality Thackeray is not a cynic and the permanent impression left
by his books is not pessimistic. Beneath his somewhat ostentatious manner
of the man of the world were hidden a heart and a human sympathy as warm as
ever belonged to any man. However he may ridicule his heroes and his
heroines (and there really are a hero and heroine in 'Vanity Fair'), he
really feels deeply for them, and he is repeatedly unable to refrain from
the expression of his feeling. Nothing is more truly characteristic of him
than the famous incident of his rushing in tears from the room in which he
had been writing of the death of Colonel Newcome with the exclamation, 'I
have killed the Colonel!' In his books as clearly as in those of the most
explicit moralizer the reader finds the lessons that simple courage,
honesty, kindliness, and unselfishness are far better than external show,
and that in spite of all its brilliant interest a career of unprincipled
self-seeking like that of Becky Sharp is morally squalid. Thackeray
steadily refuses to falsify life as he sees it in the interest of any
deliberate theory, but he is too genuine an artist not to be true to the
moral principles which form so large a part of the substratum of all life.

Thackeray avowedly took Fielding as his model, and though his spirit and
manner are decidedly finer than Fielding's, the general resemblance between
them is often close. Fielding's influence shows partly in the humorous tone
which, in one degree or another, Thackeray preserves wherever it is
possible, and in the general refusal to take his art, on the surface, with
entire seriousness. He insists, for instance, on his right to manage his
story, and conduct the reader, as he pleases, without deferring to his
readers' tastes or prejudices. Fielding's influence shows also in the
free-and-easy picaresque structure of his plots; though this results also
in part from his desultory method of composition. Thackeray's great fault
is prolixity; he sometimes wanders on through rather uninspired page after
page where the reader longs for severe compression. But when the story
reaches dramatic moments there is ample compensation; no novelist has more
magnificent power in dramatic scenes, such, for instance, as in the
climactic series in 'Vanity Fair.' This power is based largely on an
absolute knowledge of character: in spite of a delight in somewhat fanciful
exaggeration of the ludicrous, Thackeray when he chooses portrays human
nature with absolute finality.

'Henry Esmond' should be spoken of by itself as a special and unique
achievement. It is a historical novel dealing with the early eighteenth
century, and in preparing for it Thackeray read and assimilated most of the
literature of the period, with the result that he succeeded in reproducing
the 'Augustan' spirit and even its literary style with an approach to
perfection that has never been rivaled. On other grounds as well the book
ranks almost if not quite beside 'Vanity Pair.' Henry Esmond himself is
Thackeray's most thoroughly wise and good character, and Beatrix is as real
and complex a woman as even Becky Sharp.

GEORGE ELIOT. The perspective of time has made it clear that among the
Victorian novelists, as among the poets, three definitely surpass the
others. With Dickens and Thackeray is to be ranked only 'George Eliot'
(Mary Anne Evans).

George Eliot was born in 1819 in the central county of Warwick from which
Shakspere had sprung two centuries and a half before. Her father, a manager
of estates for various members of the landed gentry, was to a large extent
the original both of her Adam Bede and of Caleb Garth in 'Middlemarch,'
while her own childish life is partly reproduced in the experiences of
Maggie in 'The Mill on the Floss.' Endowed with one of the strongest minds
that any woman has ever possessed, from her very infancy she studied and
read widely. Her nature, however, was not one-sided; all her life she was
passionately fond of music; and from the death of her mother in her
eighteenth year she demonstrated her practical capacity in the management
of her father's household. Circumstances. combined with her unusual ability
to make her entire life one of too high pressure, and her first struggle
was religious. She was brought up a Methodist, and during her girlhood was
fervently evangelical, in the manner of Dinah Morris in 'Adam Bede'; but
moving to Coventry she fell under the influence of some rationalistic
acquaintances who led her to adopt the scientific Positivism of the French
philosopher Comte. Her first literary work, growing out of the same
interest, was the formidable one of translating the 'Life of Jesus' of the
German professor Strauss. Some years of conscientious nursing of her
father, terminated by his death, were followed by one in Geneva, nominally
a year of vacation, but she spent it largely in the study of experimental
physics. On her return to England she became a contributor and soon
assistant editor of the liberal periodical 'The Westminster Review.' This
connection was most important in its personal results; it brought her into
contact with a versatile man of letters, George Henry Lewes, [Footnote:
Pronounced in two syllables.] and in 1854 they were united as man and wife.
Mr. Lewes had been unhappily married years before to a woman who was still
alive, and English law did not permit the divorce which he would have
secured in America. Consequently the new union was not a legal marriage,
and English public opinion was severe in its condemnation. In the actual
result the sympathetic companionship of Mr. Lewes was of the greatest value
to George Eliot and brought her much happiness; yet she evidently felt
keenly the equivocal social position, and it was probably in large part the
cause of the increasing sadness of her later years.

She was already thirty-six when in 1856 she entered on creative authorship
with the three 'Scenes from Clerical Life.' The pseudonym which she adopted
for these and her later stories originated in no more substantial reason
than her fondness for 'Eliot' and the fact that Mr. Lewes' first name was
'George.' 'Adam Bede' in 1859 completely established her reputation, and
her six or seven other books followed as rapidly as increasingly laborious
workmanship permitted. 'Romola.' [Footnote: Accented on the first
syllable.] in 1863, a powerful but perhaps over-substantial historical
novel, was the outcome partly of residence in Florence. Not content with
prose, she attempted poetry also, but she altogether lacked the poet's
delicacy of both imagination and expression. The death of Mr. Lewes in 1878
was a severe blow to her, since she was always greatly dependent on
personal sympathy; and after a year and a half, to the surprise of every
one, she married Mr. John W. Cross, a banker much younger than herself. But
her own death followed within a few months in 1880.

George Eliot's literary work combines in an interesting way the same
distinct and even strangely contrasting elements as her life, and in her
writings their relative proportions alter rather markedly during the course
of her career. One of the most attractive qualities, especially in her
earlier books, is her warm and unaffected human sympathy, which is
temperamental, but greatly enlarged by her own early experience. The
aspiration, pathos and tragedy of life, especially among the lower and
middle classes in the country and the small towns, can scarcely be
interpreted with more feeling, tenderness, or power than in her pages. But
her sympathy does not blind her to the world of comedy; figures like Mrs.
Poyser in 'Adam Bede' are delightful. Even from the beginning, however, the
really controlling forces in George Eliot's work were intellectual and
moral. She started out with the determination to render the facts of life
with minute and conscientious accuracy, an accuracy more complete than that
of Mrs. Gaskell, who was in large degree her model; and as a result her
books, from the beginning, are masterpieces of the best sort of realism.
The characters, life, and backgrounds of many of them are taken from her
own Warwickshire acquaintances and country, and for the others she made the
most painstaking study. More fundamental than her sympathy, indeed, perhaps
even from the outset, is her instinct for scientific analysis. Like a
biologist or a botanist, and with much more deliberate effort than most of
her fellow-craftsmen, she traces and scrutinizes all the acts and motives
of her characters until she reaches and reveals their absolute inmost
truth. This objective scientific method has a tendency to become sternly
judicial, and in extreme cases she even seems to be using her weak or
imperfect characters as deterrent examples. Inevitably, with her
disposition, the scientific tendency grew upon her. Beginning with
'Middlemarch' (1872), which is perhaps her masterpiece, it seems to some
critics decidedly too preponderant, giving to her novels too much the
atmosphere of psychological text-books; and along with it goes much
introduction of the actual facts of nineteenth century science. Her really
primary instinct, however, is the moral one. The supremacy of moral law may
fairly be called the general theme of all her works; to demonstrating it
her scientific method is really in the main auxiliary; and in spite of her
accuracy it makes of her more an idealist than a realist. With unswerving
logic she traces the sequence of act and consequence, showing how
apparently trifling words and deeds reveal the springs of character and how
careless choices and seemingly insignificant self-indulgences may
altogether determine the issues of life. The couplet from Aeschylus which
she prefixed to one of the chapters of 'Felix Holt' might stand at the
outset of all her work:

  'Tis law as steadfast as the throne of Zeus--
  Our days are heritors of days gone by.

Her conviction, or at least her purpose, is optimistic, to show that by
honest effort the sincere and high-minded man or woman may win happiness in
the face of all difficulties and disappointments; but her own actual
judgment of life was somber, not altogether different from that which
Carlyle repudiated in 'The Everlasting Yea'; so that the final effect of
her books, though stimulating, is subdued rather than cheerful.

In technique her very hard work generally assured mastery. Her novels are
firmly knit and well-proportioned, and have the inevitable movement of life
itself; while her great scenes equal those of Thackeray in dramatic power
and, at their best, in reserve and suggestiveness. Perhaps her chief
technical faults are tendencies to prolixity and too much expository
analysis of characters and motives.

novelists of the mid-century and later produced work which in a period of
less prolific and less highly developed art would have secured them high
distinction. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) spent most of his life, by his
own self-renouncing choice, as curate and rector of the little Hampshire
parish of Eversley, though for some years he also held the professorship of
history at Cambridge. An aggressive Protestant, he drifted in his later
years into the controversy with Cardinal Newman which opened the way for
Newman's 'Apologia.' From the outset, Kingsley was an enthusiastic worker
with F. D. Maurice in the Christian Socialist movement which aimed at the
betterment of the conditions of life among the working classes. 'Alton
Locke' and 'Yeast,' published in 1849, were powerful but reasonable and
very influential expressions of his convictions--fervid arguments in the
form of fiction against existing social injustices. His most famous books
are 'Hypatia' (1853), a novel dealing with the Church in its conflict with
Greek philosophy in fifth-century Alexandria, and 'Westward Ho!' (1855)
which presents with sympathetic largeness of manner the adventurous side of
Elizabethan life. His brief 'Andromeda' is one of the best English poems
in the classical dactylic hexameter.

Charles Reade (1814-1884), a man of dramatic disposition somewhat similar
to that of Dickens (though Reade had a University education and was
admitted to the bar), divided his interest and fiery energies between the
drama and the novel. But while his plays were of such doubtful quality that
he generally had to pay for having them acted, his novels were often strong
and successful. Personally he was fervently evangelical, and like Dickens
he was often inspired to write by indignation at social wrongs. His 'Hard
Cash' (1863), which attacks private insane asylums, is powerful; but his
most important work is 'The Cloister and the Hearth' (1861), one of the
most informing and vivid of all historical novels, with the father of
Erasmus for its hero. No novelist can, be more thrilling and picturesque
than Reade, but he lacks restraint and is often highly sensational and

Altogether different is the method of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) in his
fifty novels. Trollope, long a traveling employé in the post-office
service, was a man of very assertive and somewhat commonplace nature.
Partly a disciple of Thackeray, he went beyond Thackeray's example in the
refusal to take his art altogether seriously as an art; rather, he treated
it as a form of business, sneering at the idea of special inspiration, and
holding himself rigidly to a mechanical schedule of composition--a definite
and unvarying number of pages in a specified number of hours on each of his
working days. The result is not so disastrous as might have been expected;
his novels have no small degree of truth and interest. The most notable are
the half dozen which deal with ecclesiastical life in his imaginary county
of Barsetshire, beginning with 'The Warden' and 'Barchester Towers.' His
'Autobiography' furnishes in some of its chapters one of the noteworthy
existing discussions of the writer's art by a member of the profession.

Richard Blackmore (1825-1900), first a lawyer, later manager of a
market-garden, was the author of numerous novels, but will be remembered
only for 'Lorna Doone' (1869), a charming reproduction of Devonshire
country life assigned to the romantic setting of the time of James II. Its
simple-minded and gigantic hero John Ridd is certainly one of the permanent
figures of English fiction.

Joseph H. Shorthouse (1834-1903), a Birmingham chemical manufacturer, but a
man of very fine nature, is likewise to be mentioned for a single book,
'John Inglesant' (1881). Located in the middle of the seventeenth century,
when the strife of religious and political parties afforded material
especially available for the author's purpose, this is a spiritual romance,
a High Churchman's assertion of the supremacy of the inner over the outer
life. From this point of view it is one of the most significant of English
novels, and though much of it is philosophical and though it is not free
from technical faults, parts of it attain the extreme limit of absorbing
narrative interest.

Walter Pater (1839-1894), an Oxford Fellow, also represents distinctly the
spirit of unworldliness, which in his case led to a personal aloofness from
active life. He was the master of a delicately-finished, somewhat
over-fastidious, style, which he employed in essays on the Renaissance and
other historical and artistic topics and in a spiritual romance, 'Marius
the Epicurean' (1885). No less noteworthy than 'John Inglesant,' and better
constructed, this latter is placed in the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, but its atmosphere is only in part historically authentic.

GEORGE MEREDITH (1828-1910). Except for a lack of the elements which make
for popularity, George Meredith would hold an unquestioned place in the
highest rank of novelists. In time he is partly contemporary with George
Eliot, as he began to publish a little earlier than she. But he long
outlived her and continued to write to the end of his life; and his
recognition was long delayed; so that he may properly be placed in the
group of later Victorian novelists. His long life was devoid of external
incident; he was long a newspaper writer and afterward literary reader for
a publishing house; he spent his later years quietly in Surrey, enjoying
the friendship of Swinburne and other men of letters.

Among novelists he occupies something the same place which Browning, a
person of very different temperament and ideas, holds among poets. He
writes only for intelligent and thoughtful people and aims to interpret the
deeper things of life and character, not disregarding dramatic external
incident, but using it as only one of the means to his main purpose. His
style is brilliant, epigrammatic, and subtile; and he prefers to imply many
things rather than to state them directly. All this makes large, perhaps
sometimes too large, demands on the reader's attention, but there is, of
course, corresponding stimulation. Meredith's general attitude toward life
is the fine one of serene philosophic confidence, the attitude in general
of men like Shakspere and Goethe. He despises sentimentality, admires
chiefly the qualities of quiet strength and good breeding which are
exemplified among the best members of the English aristocracy; and in all
his interpretation is very largely influenced by modern science. His virile
courage and optimism are as pronounced as those of Browning; he wrote a
noteworthy 'Essay on Comedy' and oftentimes insists on emphasizing the
comic rather than the tragic aspect of things, though he can also be
powerful in tragedy; and his enthusiasms for the beauty of the world and
for the romance of youthful love are delightful. He may perhaps best be
approached through 'Evan Harrington' (1861) and 'The Ordeal of Richard
Feverel' (1859). 'The Egoist' (1879) and 'Diana of the Crossways' (1885)
are among his other strongest books. In his earlier years he wrote a
considerable body of verse, which shows much the same qualities as his
prose. Some of it is rugged in form, but other parts magnificently
dramatic, and some few poems, like the unique and superb 'Love in the
Valley,' charmingly beautiful.

THOMAS HARDY. In Thomas Hardy (born 1840) the pessimistic interpretation of
modern science is expressed frankly and fully, with much the same pitiless
consistency that distinguishes contemporary European writers such as Zola.
Mr. Hardy early turned to literature from architecture and he has lived a
secluded life in southern England, the ancient Wessex, which he makes the
scene of all his novels. His knowledge of life is sure and his technique in
all respects masterly. He has preferred to deal chiefly with persons in the
middle and poorer classes of society because, like Wordsworth, though with
very different emphasis, he feels that in their experiences the real facts
of life stand out most truly. His deliberate theory is a sheer
fatalism--that human character and action are the inevitable result of laws
of heredity and environment over which man has no control. 'The Return of
the Native' (1878) and 'Far from the Madding Crowd' (1874) are among his
best novels, though the sensational frankness of 'Tess of the
D'Urbervilles' (1891) has given it greater reputation.

STEVENSON. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), the first of the rather
prominent group of recent Scotch writers of fiction, is as different as
possible from Hardy. Destined for the career of civil engineer and
lighthouse builder in which his father and grandfather were distinguished,
he proved unfitted for it by lack both of inclination and of health, and
the profession of law for which he later prepared himself was no more
congenial. From boyhood he, like Scott, studied human nature with keen
delight in rambles about the country, and unlike Scott he was incessantly
practising writing merely for the perfection of his style. As an author he
won his place rather slowly; and his whole mature life was a wonderfully
courageous and persistent struggle against the sickness which generally
prevented him from working more than two or three hours a day and often
kept him for months in bed unable even to speak. A trip to California in an
emigrant train in 1879-1880 brought him to death's door but accomplished
its purpose, his marriage to an American lady, Mrs. Osbourne, whom he had
previously met in artist circles in France. He first secured a popular
success with the boys' pirate story, 'Treasure Island,' in 1882. 'A Child's
Garden of Verses' (1885) was at once accepted as one of the most
irresistibly sympathetic of children's classics; and 'The Strange Case of
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1886), a unique and astonishingly powerful moral
lesson in the form of a thrilling little romance which strangely
anticipates the later discoveries of psychology, made in its different way
a still stronger impression. Stevenson produced, considering his
disabilities, a remarkably large amount of work--essays, short stories, and
romances--but the only others of his books which need here be mentioned are
the four romances of Scotch life in the eighteenth century which belong to
his later years; of these 'The Master of Ballantrae' and the fragmentary
'Weir of Hermiston' are the best. His letters, also, which, like his
widely-circulated prayers, reveal his charming and heroic personality, are
among the most interesting in the history of English Literature. His bodily
weakness, especially tuberculosis, which had kept him wandering from one
resort to another, at last drove him altogether from Europe to the South
Seas. He finally settled in Samoa, where for the last half dozen years of
his life he was busy not only with clearing his land, building his house,
and writing, but with energetic efforts to serve the natives, then involved
in broils among themselves and with England, Germany, and the United
States. His death came suddenly when he was only forty-four years old, and
the Samoans, who ardently appreciated what he had done for them, buried him
high up on a mountain overlooking both his home and the sea.

Stevenson, in the midst of an age perhaps too intensely occupied with the
deeper questions, stood for a return to the mere spirit of romance, and for
occasional reading he furnishes delightful recreation. In the last
analysis, however, his general lack of serious significance condemns him at
most to a secondary position. At his best his narrative technique (as in
'The Master of Ballantrae') is perfect; his portrayal of men (he almost
never attempted women) is equally certain; his style has no superior in
English; and his delicate sensibility and keenness of observation render
him a master of description. But in his attitude toward life he never
reached full maturity (perhaps because of the supreme effort of will
necessary for the maintenance of his cheerfulness); not only did he retain
to the end a boyish zest for mere adventure, but it is sometimes adventure
of a melodramatic and unnecessarily disagreeable kind, and in his novels
and short stories he offers virtually no interpretation of the world. No
recent English prose writer has exercised a wider influence than he, but
none is likely to suffer as time goes on a greater diminution of

RUDYARD KIPLING. The name which naturally closes the list of Victorian
writers is that of Rudyard Kipling, though he belongs, perhaps, as much to
the twentieth century as to the one preceding. The son of a professor of
architecture and sculpture in the University of Bombay, India, he was born
in that city in 1865. Educated in England in the United Services College
(for officers in the army and navy), he returned at the age of seventeen to
India, where he first did strenuous editorial work on newspapers in Lahore,
in the extreme northwestern part of the country. He secured his intimate
knowledge of the English army by living, through the permission of the
commanding general, with the army on the frontiers. His instinct for
story-telling in verse and prose had showed itself from his boyhood, but
his first significant appearance in print was in 1886, with a volume of
poems later included among the 'Departmental Ditties.' 'Plain Tales from
the Hills' in prose, and other works, followed in rapid succession and won
him enthusiastic recognition. In 1890 he removed to the United States,
where he married and remained for seven years. Since then he has lived in
England, with an interval in South Africa. He wrote prolifically during the
'90's; since then both the amount of his production and its quality have
fallen off.

Kipling is the representative of the vigorous life of action as led by
manly and efficient men, and of the spirit of English imperialism. His poem
"The White Man's Burden" sums up his imperialism--the creed that it is the
duty of the higher races to civilize the lower ones with a strong hand; and
he never doubts that the greater part of this obligation rests at present
upon England--a theory, certainly, to which history lends much support.
Kipling is endowed with the keenest power of observation, with the most
genuine and most democratic human sympathies, and with splendid dramatic
force. Consequently he has made a unique contribution to literature in his
portrayals, in both prose and verse, of the English common soldier and of
English army life on the frontiers of the Empire. On the other hand his
verse is generally altogether devoid of the finer qualities of poetry.
'Danny Deever,' 'Pharaoh and the Sergeant,' 'Fuzzy Wuzzy,' 'The Ballad of
East and West,' 'The Last Chantey,' 'Mulholland's Contract,' and many
others, are splendidly stirring, but their colloquialism and general
realism put them on a very different level from the work of the great
masters who express the deeper truths in forms of permanent beauty. At
times, however, Kipling too gives voice to religious feelings, of a simple
sort, in an impressive fashion, as in 'McAndrews' Hymn,' 'The Recessional,'
and 'When earth's last picture is painted.' His sweeping rhythms and his
grandiose forms of expression, suggestive of the vast spaces of ocean and
plain and of inter-stellar space with which he delights to deal, have been
very widely copied by minor verse-writers. His very vivid and active
imagination enables him not only to humanize animal life with remarkable
success, as in the prose 'Jungle-Books,' but to range finely in the realms
of the mysterious, as in the short stories 'They' and 'The Brushwood Boy.'
Of short-stories he is the most powerful recent writer, as witness 'The Man
Who Would Be King,' 'The Man Who Was,' 'Without Benefit of Clergy,' and
'Wee Willie Winkie'; though with all the frankness of modern realism he
sometimes leads us into scenes of extreme physical horror. With longer
stories he is generally less successful; 'Kim,' however, has much power.

THE HISTORIANS. The present book, as a brief sketch of English Literature
rather strictly defined, has necessarily disregarded the scientists,
economists, and philosophers whose writings did much to mold the course of
thought during the Victorian period. Among the numerous prominent
historians, however, two must be mentioned for the brilliant literary
quality of their work. James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) was a disciple of
Carlyle, from whom he took the idea of making history center around its
great men and of giving to it the vivid effectiveness of the drama. With
Froude too this results in exaggeration, and further he is sadly
inaccurate, but his books are splendidly fascinating. His great 'History of
England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Armada' is his longest work; his
'Sketch' of Julius Cæsar is certainly one of the most interesting books of
biography and history ever written. John Richard Green (1837-1883), who was
a devoted clergyman before he became a historian, struggled all his life
against the ill-health which finally cut short his career. His 'History of
the English People' is an admirable representative of the modern historical
spirit, which treats general social conditions as more important than mere
external events; but as a narrative it vies in interest with the very
different one of Macaulay. Very honorable mention should be made also of W.
E. H. Lecky, who belongs to the conscientiously scientific historical
school. His 'History of Rationalism in Europe,' for example, is a very fine
monument of the most thorough research and most effective statement; but to
a mature mind its interest is equally conspicuous.


Beginning as early as the latter part of the eighteenth century literary
production, thanks largely to the tremendous increase of education and of
newspapers and magazines, has steadily grown, until now it has reached
bewildering volume and complexity, in which the old principles are partly
merged together and the new tendencies, for contemporary observers, at
least, scarcely stand out with decisive distinctness. Most significant
to-day, perhaps, are the spirit of independence, now carried in some
respects beyond the farthest previous Romantic limits, and the realistic
impulse, in which the former impulses of democracy and humanitarianism play
a large part. Facts not to be disregarded are the steady advance of the
short story, beginning early in the Victorian period or before, to a
position of almost chief prominence with the novel; and the rise of
American literature to a position approaching equality with that of
England. Of single authors none have yet certainly achieved places of the
first rank, but two or three may be named. Mr. William De Morgan, by
profession a manufacturer of artistic pottery, has astonished the world by
beginning to publish at the age of sixty-five a series of novels which show
no small amount of Thackeray's power combined with too large a share of
Thackeray's diffuseness. Mr. Alfred Noyes (born 1880) is a refreshingly
true lyric poet and balladist, and Mr. John Masefield has daringly enlarged
the field of poetry by frank but very sincere treatment of extremely
realistic subjects. But none of these authors can yet be termed great.
About the future it is useless to prophesy, but the horrible war of 1914 is
certain to exert for many years a controlling influence on the thought and
literature of both England and the whole world, an influence which, it may
be hoped, will ultimately prove stimulating and renovating.

Whatever may be true of the future, the record of the past is complete. No
intelligent person can give even hasty study to the fourteen existing
centuries of English Literature without being deeply impressed by its range
and power, or without coming to realize that it stands conspicuous as one
of the noblest and fullest achievements of the human race.


The author has in preparation an annotated anthology of poems from the
popular ballads down, exclusive of long poems. In the meantime existing
anthologies may be used with the present volume. The following list
includes rather more of the other authors than can probably be studied at
first hand in one college year. The editions named are chosen because they
combine inexpensiveness with satisfactory quality. It is the author's
experience that a sufficient number of them to meet the needs of the class
may well be supplied by the college. 'Everyman' means the editions in the
'Everyman Library' series of Messrs. E. P. Dutton and Co.; 'R. L. S.' the
'Riverside Literature Series' of The Houghton Mifflin Co.

BÉOWULF. Prose translation by Child; R. L. S., cloth, 25 cents. Metrical
translation by J. L. Hall; D. O. Heath & Co., cloth, 75 cents, paper, 30

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT. Prose translation by Miss J. L. Weston,
Scribner, 75 cents.

CHAUCER. Among numerous school editions of the Prolog and The Knight's Tale
may be named one issued by The American Book Co., 20 cents.

MALORY'S MORTE DARTHUR. Everyman, two vols., 35 cents each. The Medieval
Drama, Early Plays, ed. Child, R. L. S., cloth, 40 cents. 'Everyman and
Other Plays' (modernized), Everyman, 35 cents.

SPENSER'S FAERIE QUEENE. Everyman, three vols., 35 cents each. Vol. I
contains Books I and II.

ELIZABETHAN LYRICS, ed. Schelling, Ginn, 75 cents. Marlowe's Plays. Mermaid
ed., Scribner, $1.00.

SHAKSPERE'S PLAYS. Among the most useful 25 cent editions are those in the
R. L. S., the Arden series of D. C. Heath and Co., and the Tudor Series of
the Macmillan Co.

JONSON'S SEJANUS. Mermaid ed. of Jonson (Scribner), Vol. II, $1.00.

BACON'S ESSAYS. R. L. S., cloth, 40 cents. Everyman, 35 cents.

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY LYRICS, ed. Schelling, Ginn, 75 cents.

MILTON'S PARADISE LOST. Astor ed., T. Y. Crowell and Co., 60 cents.

BUNYAN'S PILGRIMS' PROGRESS. Everyman, 35 cents.

DRYDEN'S ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL. In Satires of Dryden, ed. Collins,


SWIFT'S GULLIVER'S TRAVELS. Everyman. There are two excellent volumes of
Selections from Swift, ed. Craik, Oxford University Press.

THE SPECTATOR PAPERS. Everyman, four vols.

SAMUEL JOHNSON. Selections, ed. Osgood, Henry Holt and Co., 50 cents.

BURKE. Selections, ed. Perry, Holt, 50 cents.

THOMSON'S SEASONS. Astor ed., Crowell, 60 cents.

MACAULAY'S ESSAYS. Everyman, three vols. Vol. I has the essays on Clive and


RUSKIN. Selections, ed. Tinker, R. L. S., 50 cents.

ARNOLD'S CULTURE AND ANARCHY. Nelson and Sons, 25 cents.

NINETEENTH CENTURY NOVELS. Largely included in Everyman.


These assignments must of course be freely modified in accordance with
actual needs. The discussions of the authors' works should sometimes, at
least, be made by the student in writing, sometimes after a day or two of
preliminary oral discussion in class. In addition to the special questions
here included, the treatment of the various authors in the text often
suggests topics for further consideration; and of course the material of
the preliminary chapter is assumed. Any discussion submitted, either orally
or in writing, may consist of a rather general treatment, dealing briefly
with several topics; or it may be a fuller treatment of a single topic.
Students should always express their own actual opinions, using the
judgments of others, recorded in this book or elsewhere, as helps, not as
final statements. Students should also aim always to be definite, terse,
and clear. Do not make such vague general statements as 'He has good choice
of words,' but cite a list of characteristic words or skilful expressions.
As often as possible support your conclusions by quotations from, the
author or by page-number references to relevant passages.


1. Above, Chapter I. One day.

2. 'BÉOWULF.' Two days. For the first day review the discussion of the poem
above, pp. 33-36; study the additional introductory statement which here
follows; and read in the poem as much as time allows. For the second day
continue the reading, at least through the story of Béowulf's exploits in
Hrothgar's country (in Hall's translation through page 75, in Child's
through page 60), and write your discussion. Better read one day in a prose
translation, the other in a metrical translation, which will give some idea
of the effect of the original.

The historical element in the poem above referred to is this: In several
places mention is made of the fact that Hygelac, Béowulf's king, was killed
in an expedition in Frisia (Holland), and medieval Latin chronicles make
mention of the death of a king 'Chocilaicus' (evidently the same person) in
a piratical raid in 512 A. D. The poem states that Béowulf escaped from
this defeat by swimming, and it is quite possible that he was a real
warrior who thus distinguished himself.

The other facts at the basis of the poem are equally uncertain. In spite of
much investigation we can say of the tribes and localities which appear in
it only that they are those of the region of Scandinavia and Northern
Germany. As to date, poems about a historical Béowulf, a follower of
Hygelac, could not have existed before his lifetime in the sixth century,
but there is no telling how far back the possibly mythical elements may go.
The final working over of the poem into its present shape, as has been
said, probably took place in England in the seventh or eighth century; in
earlier form, perhaps in the original brief ballads, it may have been
brought to the country either by the Anglo-Saxons or by stray 'Danes.' It
is fundamentally a heathen work, and certain Christian ideas which have
been inserted here and there, such as the mention of Cain as the ancestor
of Grendel, and the disparagement of heathen gods, merely show that one of
the later poets who had it in hand was a Christian.

The genealogical introduction of something over fifty lines (down to the
first mention of Hrothgar) has nothing to do with the poem proper; the
Béowulf there mentioned is another person than the hero of the poem. In the
epic itself we can easily recognize as originally separate stories: 1.
Béowulf's fight with Grendel. 2. His fight with Grendel's mother. 3. His
fight with the fire-drake. And of course, 4, the various stories referred
to or incidentally related in brief.

Subjects for discussion: 1. Narrative qualities, such as Movement,
Proportion, Variety, Suspense. Do the style (terse and suggestive rather
than explicit) and the tendency to digressions seriously interfere with
narrative progress and with the reader's (or listener's) understanding? 2.
Dramatic vividness of scenes and incidents. 3. Descriptive qualities. 4. Do
you recognize any specifically epic characteristics? 5. Characterization,
both in general and of individuals. 6. How much of the finer elements of
feeling does the poet show? What things in Nature does he appreciate? His
sense of pathos and humor? 7. Personal and social ideals and customs. 8.
The style; its main traits; the effect of the figures of speech; are the
things used for comparisons in metaphors and similes drawn altogether from
the outer world, or partly from the world of thought? 9. The main merits
and defects of the poem and its absolute poetic value?

Written discussions may well begin with a very brief outline of the story
(not over a single page).

3. Above, chapter II. One day.

4. 'SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT' (in translation). One day.
Preliminary, pages 57-58 above. The romance combines two stories which
belong to the great body of wide-spread popular narrative and at first had
no connection with each other: 1. The beheading story. 2. The temptation.
They may have been united either by the present author or by some
predecessor of his. Subjects for discussion: 1. Narrative qualities--Unity,
Movement, Proportion, Variety, Suspense. Is the repetition of the hunts and
of Gawain's experience in the castle skilful or the reverse, in plan and in
execution? 2. Dramatic power--how vivid are the scenes and experiences? How
fully do we sympathize with the characters? 3. Power of characterization
and of psychological analysis? Are the characters types or individuals? 4.
Power of description of scenes, persons, and Nature? 5. Character of the
author? Sense of humor? How much fineness of feeling? 6. Theme of the
story? 7. Do we get an impression of actual life, or of pure romance? Note
specific details of feudal life. 8. Traits of style, such as alliteration
and figures of speech, so far as they can be judged from the translation.

5. THE PERIOD OF CHAUCER. Above, pages 59-73. One day.

6. CHAUCER'S POEMS. Two or three days. The best poems for study are: The
Prolog to the Canterbury Tales. The Nuns' Priest's Tale. The Knight's Tale.
The Squire's Tale. The Prolog to the Legend of Good Women. The text, above,
pp. 65 ff., suggests topics for consideration, if general discussion is
desired in addition to reading of the poems.

pages 74-77, and read as many ballads as possible. A full discussion of the
questions of ballad origins and the like is to be found in the 'Cambridge'
edition (Houghton Mifflin) of the ballads, edited by Sargent and Kittredge.
In addition to matters treated in the text, consider how much feeling the
authors show for Nature, and their power of description.

8. MALORY AND CAXTON. Two or three days. Study above, pages 77-81, and read
in Le Morte Darthur as much as time permits. Among the best books are: VII,
XXI, I, Xlll-XVII. Subjects for discussion: 1. Narrative qualities. 2.
Characterization, including variety of characters. 3. Amount and quality of
description. 4. How far is the book purely romantic, how far does reality
enter into it? Consider how much notice is given to other classes than the
nobility. 5. The style.

Above, Chapter IV, through page 88. Among the best plays for study are:
Abraham and Isaac (Riverside L. S. vol., p. 7); The Deluge or others in the
Everyman Library vol., pp. 29-135 (but the play 'Everyman' is not a Mystery
play and belongs to the next assignment); or any in Manly's 'Specimens of
the Pre-Shakespearean Drama,' vol. I, pp. 1-211. The Towneley Second
Shepherds' Play (so called because it is the second of two treatments of
the Nativity theme in the Towneley manuscript) is one of the most notable
plays, but is very coarse. Subjects for discussion: 1. Narrative structure
and qualities. 2. Characterization and motivation. 3. How much illusion of
reality? 4. Quality of the religious and human feeling? 5. The humor and
its relation to religious feeling. 6. Literary excellence of both substance
and expression (including the verse form).

10. THE MORALITIES AND INTERLUDES. One day. Above, pp. 89-91. Students not
familiar with 'Everyman' should read it (E. L. S. vol., p. 66; Everyman
Library vol., p. 1). Further may be read 'Mundus et Infans' (The World and
the Child. Manly's 'Specimens,' I, 353). Consider the same questions as in
the last assignment and compare the Morality Plays with the Mysteries in
general excellence and in particular qualities.

11. THE RENAISSANCE, with special study of The Faerie Queene. Four days.
Above, Chapter V, through page 116. Read a few poems of Wyatt and Surrey,
especially Wyatt's 'My lute, awake' and 'Forget not yet,' and Surrey's
'Give place, ye lovers, heretofore.' In 'The Faerie Queene' read the
Prefatory Letter and as many cantos of Book I (or, if you are familiar with
that, of some other Books) as you can assimilate--certainly not less than
three or four cantos. Subjects for discussion: 1. The allegory; its
success; how minutely should it be applied? 2. Narrative qualities. 3. The
descriptions. 4. General beauty. 5. The romantic quality. 6. The language.
7. The stanza, e. g., the variety of poetical uses and of treatment in such
matters as pauses. The teacher may well read to the class the more
important portions of Lowell's essay on Spenser, which occur in the latter

12. THE ELIZABETHAN LYRIC POEMS. Two days. Above, pages 117-121. Read as
widely as possible in the poems of the authors named. Consider such topics
as: subjects and moods; general quality and its contrast with that of later
lyric poetry; emotion, fancy, and imagination; imagery; melody and rhythm;
contrasts among the poems; the sonnets. Do not merely make general
statements, but give definite references and quotations. For the second day
make special study of such particularly 'conceited' poems as the following
and try to explain the conceits in detail and to form some opinion of their
poetic quality: Lyly's 'Apelles' Song'; Southwell's 'Burning Babe';
Ralegh's 'His Pilgrimage'; and two or three of Donne's.

13. THE EARLIER ELIZABETHAN DRAMA, with study of Marlowe's Tamburlaine,
Part I. Two days. Above, Chapter VI, through page 129. Historically,
Tamerlane was a Mongol (Scythian) leader who in the fourteenth century
overran most of Western Asia and part of Eastern Europe in much the way
indicated in the play, which is based on sixteenth century Latin lives of
him. Of course the love element is not historical but added by Marlowe.
Written discussions should begin with a very brief outline of the story
(perhaps half a page). Other matters to consider: 1. Is there an abstract
dramatic theme? 2. Can regular dramatic structure be traced, with a clear
central climax? 3. Variety of scenes? 4. Qualities of style, e. g.,
relative prominence of bombast, proper dramatic eloquence, and sheer
poetry. 5. Qualities, merits, and faults of the blank verse, in detail.
E.g.: How largely are the lines end-stopped (with a break in the sense at
the end of each line, generally indicated by a mark of punctuation), how
largely run-on (without such pause)? Is the rhythm pleasing, varied, or
monotonous? 6. Characterization and motivation.

CHRONICLE-HISTORY PLAY. Three days. Above, pages 129-140. The historical
facts on which Richard II is based may be found in any short English
history, years 1382-1399, though it must be remembered that Shakspere knew
them only in the 'Chronicle' of Holinshed. In brief outline they are as
follows: King Richard and Bolingbroke (pronounced by the Elizabethans
_Bullenbroke_) are cousins, grandsons of Edward III. Richard was a
mere child when he came to the throne and after a while five lords, among
whom were his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester (also called in the play
Woodstock), and Bolingbroke, took control of the government. Later, Richard
succeeded in recovering it and' imprisoned Gloucester at Calais in the
keeping of Mowbray. There Gloucester was murdered, probably by Richard's
orders. According to Holinshed, whom Shakspere follows, Bolingbroke accuses
Mowbray of the murder. (This is historically wrong; Bolingbroke's charge
was another, trumped up, one; but that does not concern us.) Bolingbroke's
purpose is to fix the crime on Mowbray and then prove that Mowbray acted at
Richard's orders.

The story of the play is somewhat similar to that of Marlowe's 'Edward II,'
from which Shakspere doubtless took his suggestion. Main matters to
consider throughout are: The characters, especially Richard and
Bolingbroke; the reasons for their actions; do they change or develop? How
far are the style and spirit like Marlowe; how far is there improvement? Is
the verse more poetic or rhetorical? In what sorts of passages or what
parts of scenes is rime chiefly used? Just what is the value of each scene
in furthering the action, or for the other artistic purposes of the play?
As you read, note any difficulties, and bring them up in the class.

_For the second day,_ read through Act III. Act I: Why did Richard at
first try to prevent the combat, then yield, and at the last moment forbid
it? Are these changes significant, or important in results? (The 'long
flourish' at I, iii, 122, is a bit of stage symbolism, representing an
interval of two hours in which Richard deliberated with his council.)

_For the third day,_ finish the play and write your discussion, which
should consist of a very brief outline of the story and consideration of
the questions that seem to you most important. Some, in addition to those
above stated, are: How far is it a mere Chronicle-history play, how far a
regular tragedy? Has it an abstract theme, like a tragedy? Are there any
scenes which violate unity? Is there a regular dramatic line of action,
with central climax? Does Shakspere indicate any moral judgment on
Bolingbroke's actions? General dramatic power--rapidity in getting started,
in movement, variety, etc.? Note how large a part women have in the play,
and how large a purely poetic element there is, as compared with the
dramatic. The actual historical time is about two years. Does it appear so

written discussion. In the Elizabethan period the holiday revelry continued
for twelve days after Christmas; the name of the play means that it is such
a one as might be used to complete the festivities. Helpful interpretation
of the play is to be found in such books as: F. S. Boas, 'Shakspere and his
Predecessors,' pp. 313 ff; Edward Dowden, 'Shakspere's Mind and Art,' page
328; and Barrett Wendell, 'William Shakspere,' pp. 205 ff. Shakspere took
the outline of the plot from a current story, which appears, especially, in
one of the Elizabethan 'novels.' Much of the jesting of the clown and
others of the characters is mere light trifling, which loses most of its
force in print to-day. The position of steward (manager of the estate)
which Malvolio holds with Olivia was one of dignity and importance, though
the steward was nevertheless only the chief servant. The unsympathetic
presentation of Malvolio is of the same sort which Puritans regularly
received in the Elizabethan drama, because of their opposition to the
theater. Where is Illyria, and why does Shakspere locate the play there?

_First day_: Acts I and II. 1. Make sure you can tell the story
clearly. 2. How many distinct actions? 3. Which one is chief? 4. Why does
Shakspere combine them in one play? 5. Which predominates, romance or
realism? 6. Note specifically the improbable incidents. 7. For what sorts
of scenes are verse and prose respectively used? Poetic quality of the
verse? 8. Characterize the main persons and state their relations to the
others, or purposes in regard to them. Which set of persons is most
distinctly characterized?

_Second day_: The rest. (The treatment given to Malvolio was the
regular one for madmen; it was thought that madness was due to an evil
spirit, which must be driven out by cruelty.) Make sure of the story and
characters as before. 9. How skilful are the interweaving and development
of the actions? 10. How skilful the 'resolution' (straightening out) of the
suspense and complications at the end? 11. Is the outcome, in its various
details, probable or conventional? 12. Is there ever any approach to tragic

_Third day_: Write your discussion, consisting of: I, a rather full
outline of the story (in condensing you will do better not always to follow
Shakspere's order), and II, your main impressions, including some of the
above points or of the following: 13. How does the excellence of the
characterization compare with that in 'Richard II'? 14. Work out the
time-scheme of the play--the amount of time which it covers, the end of
each day represented, and the length of the gaps to be assumed between
these days. Is there entire consistency in the treatment of time? 15. Note
in four parallel columns, two for the romantic action and two for the
others together, the events in the story which respectively are and are not
presented on the stage.

16. 'HAMLET' AS A REPRESENTATIVE TRAGEDY. Four days, with written
discussion. Students can get much help from good interpretative
commentaries, such as: C. M. Lewis, 'The Genesis of Hamlet,' on which the
theories here stated are partly based; A. C. Bradley, 'Shakspearean
Tragedy,' pp. 89-174; Edward Dowden, 'Shakspere Primer,' 119 ff.; Barrett
Wendell, 'William Shakspere,' 250 ff.; Georg Brandes, 'William
Shakespeare,' one vol. ed., book II, chaps. xiii-xviii; F. S. Boas,
'Shakespeare and his Predecessors,' 384 ff.; S. T. Coleridge, 'Lectures on
Shakspere,' including the last two or three pages of the twelfth lecture.

The original version of the Hamlet story is a brief narrative in the
legendary so-called 'Danish History,' written in Latin by the Dane Saxo the
Grammarian about the year 1200. About 1570 this was put into a much
expanded French form, still very different from Shakspere's, by the
'novelist' Belleforest, in his 'Histoires Tragiques.' (There is a
translation of Belleforest in the second volume of the 'Variorum' edition
of 'Hamlet'; also in Hazlitt's 'Shakespeare Library,' I, ii, 217 ff.)
Probably on this was based an English play, perhaps written by Thomas Kyd,
which is now lost but which seems to be represented, in miserably garbled
form, in an existing text of a German play acted by English players in
Germany in the seventeenth century. (This German play is printed in the
'Variorum' edition of 'Hamlet,' vol. II.) This English play was probably
Shakspere's source. Shakspere's play was entered in the 'Stationers'
Register' (corresponding to present-day copyrighting) in 1602, and his play
was first published (the first quarto) in 1603. This is evidently only
Shakspere's early tentative form, issued, moreover, by a piratical
publisher from the wretchedly imperfect notes of a reporter sent to the
theater for the purpose. (This first quarto is also printed in the
'Variorum' edition.) The second quarto, virtually Shakspere's finished
form, was published in 1604. Shakspere, therefore, was evidently working on
the play for at least two or three years, during which he transformed it
from a crude and sensational melodrama of murder and revenge into a
spiritual study of character and human problems. But this transformation
could not be complete--the play remains bloody--and its gradual progress,
as Shakspere's conception of the possibilities broadened, has left
inconsistencies in the characters and action.

It is important to understand the situation and events at the Danish court
just before the opening of the play. In Saxo the time was represented as
being the tenth century; in Shakspere, as usual, the manners and the whole
atmosphere are largely those of his own age. The king was the elder Hamlet,
father of Prince Hamlet, whose love and admiration for him were extreme.
Prince Hamlet was studying at the University of Wittenberg in Germany; in
Shakspere's first quarto it is made clear that he had been there for some
years; whether this is the assumption in the final version is one of the
minor questions to consider. Hamlet's age should also be considered. The
wife of the king and mother of Prince Hamlet was Gertrude, a weak but
attractive woman of whom they were both very fond. The king had a brother,
Claudius, whom Prince Hamlet had always intensely disliked. Claudius had
seduced Gertrude, and a few weeks before the play opens murdered King
Hamlet in the way revealed in Act I. Of the former crime no one but the
principals were aware; of the latter at most no one but Claudius and
Gertrude; in the first quarto it is made clear that she was ignorant of it;
whether that is Shakspere's meaning in the final version is another
question to consider. After the murder Claudius got himself elected king by
the Danish nobles. There was nothing illegal in this; the story assumes
that as often in medieval Europe a new king might be chosen from among all
the men of the royal family; but Prince Hamlet had reason to feel that
Claudius had taken advantage of his absence to forestall his natural
candidacy. The respect shown throughout the play by Claudius to Polonius,
the Lord Chamberlain, now in his dotage, suggests that possibly Polonius
was instrumental in securing Claudius' election. A very few weeks after the
death of King Hamlet, Claudius married Gertrude. Prince Hamlet, recalled to
Denmark by the news of his father's death, was plunged into a state of
wretched despondency by the shock of that terrible grief and by his
mother's indecently hasty marriage to a man whom he detested.

There has been much discussion as to whether or not Shakspere means to
represent Hamlet as mad, but very few competent critics now believe that
Hamlet is mad at any time. The student should discover proof of this
conclusion in the play; but it should be added that all the earlier
versions of the story explicitly state that the madness is feigned.
Hamlet's temperament, however, should receive careful consideration. The
actual central questions of the play are: 1. Why does Hamlet delay in
killing King Claudius after the revelation by his father's Ghost in I iv?
2. Why does he feign madness? As to the delay: It must be premised that the
primitive law of blood-revenge is still binding in Denmark, so that after
the revelation by the Ghost it is Hamlet's duty to kill Claudius. Of course
it is dramatically necessary that he shall delay, otherwise there would be
no play; but that is irrelevant to the question of the human motivation.
The following are the chief explanations suggested, and students should
carefully consider how far each of them may be true. 1. There are external
difficulties, _a_. In the earlier versions of the story Claudius was
surrounded by guards, so that Hamlet could not get at him. Is this true in
Shakspere's play? _b_. Hamlet must wait until he can justify his deed
to the court; otherwise his act would be misunderstood and he might himself
be put to death, and so fail of real revenge. Do you find indications that
Shakspere takes this view? 2. Hamlet is a sentimental weakling, incapable
by nature of decisive action. This was the view of Goethe. Is it consistent
with Hamlet's words and deeds? 3. Hamlet's scholar's habit of study and
analysis has largely paralyzed his natural power of action. He must stop
and weigh every action beforehand, until he bewilders himself in the maze
of incentives and dissuasives. 4. This acquired tendency is greatly
increased by his present state of extreme grief and despondency.
(Especially argued by Professor Bradley.) 5. His moral nature revolts at
the idea of assassination; in him the barbarous standard of a primitive
time and the finer feelings of a highly civilized and sensitive man are in
conflict. 6. He distrusts the authenticity of the Ghost and wishes to make
sure that it is not (literally) a device of the devil before obeying it.
Supposing that this is so, does it suffice for the complete explanation,
and is Hamlet altogether sincere in falling back on it?

In a hasty study like the present the reasons for Hamlet's pretense of
madness can be arrived at only by starting not only with some knowledge of
the details of the earlier versions but with some definite theory. The one
which follows is substantially that of Professor Lewis. The pretense of
madness was a natural part of the earlier versions, since in them Hamlet's
uncle killed his father openly and knew that Hamlet would naturally wish to
avenge the murder; in those versions Hamlet feigns madness in order that he
may seem harmless. In Shakspere's play (and probably in the older play from
which he drew), Claudius does not know that Hamlet is aware of his guilt;
hence Hamlet's pretense of madness is not only useless but foolish, for it
attracts unnecessary attention to him and if discovered to be a pretense
must suggest that he has some secret plan, that is, must suggest to
Claudius that Hamlet may know the truth. Shakspere, therefore, retains the
pretense of madness mainly because it had become too popular a part of the
story (which was known beforehand to most theater-goers) to be omitted.
Shakspere suggests as explanations (motivation) for it, first that it
serves as a safety-valve for Hamlet's emotions (is this an adequate
reason?); and second that he resolves on it in the first heat of his
excitement at the Ghost's revelation (I, iv). The student should consider
whether this second explanation is sound, whether at that moment Hamlet
could weigh the whole situation and the future probabilities, could realize
that he would delay in obeying the Ghost and so would need the shield of
pretended madness. Whether or not Shakspere's treatment seems rational on
analysis the student should consider whether it is satisfactory as the play
is presented on the stage, which is what a dramatist primarily aims at. It
should be remembered also that Shakspere's personal interest is in the
struggle in Hamlet's inner nature.

Another interesting question regards Hamlet's love for Ophelia. When did it
begin? Is it very deep, so that, as some critics hold, when Ophelia fails
him he suffers another incurable wound, or is it a very secondary thing as
compared with his other interests? Is the evidence in the play sufficiently
clear to decide these questions conclusively? Is it always consistent?

_For the second day,_ study to the end of Act II. Suggestions on
details (the line numbers are those adopted in the 'Globe' edition and
followed in most others): I, ii: Notice particularly the difference in the
attitude of Hamlet toward Claudius and Gertrude respectively and the
attitude of Claudius toward him. At the end of the scene notice the
qualities of Hamlet's temperament and intellect. Scenes iv and v: Again
notice Hamlet's temperament, v, 107: The 'tables' are the waxen tablet
which Hamlet as a student carries. It is of course absurd for him to write
on them now; he merely does instinctively, in his excitement and
uncertainty, what he is used to doing. 115-116: The falconer's cry to his
bird; here used because of its penetrating quality. 149 ff.: The speaking
of the Ghost under the floor is a sensational element which Shakspere keeps
for effect from the older play, where it is better motivated--there Hamlet
started to tell everything to his companions, and the Ghost's cries are
meant to indicate displeasure. II, ii, 342; 'The city' is Wittenberg. What
follows is a topical allusion to the rivalry at the time of writing between
the regular men's theatrical companies and those of the boys.

_Third day,_ Acts III and IV. III, i, 100-101: Professor Lewis points
out that these lines, properly placed in the first quarto, are out of order
here, since up to this point in the scene Ophelia has reason to tax herself
with unkindness, but none to blame Hamlet. This is an oversight of
Shakspere in revising. Scene ii, 1 ff.: A famous piece of professional
histrionic criticism, springing from Shakspere's irritation at bad acting;
of course it is irrelevant to the play. 95: Note 'I must be idle.' Scene
iii: Does the device of the play of scene ii prove wise and successful, on
the whole? 73 ff.: Is Hamlet sincere with himself here?

_Fourth day:_ Finish the play and write your discussion. V, i: Why are
the clowns brought into the play? ii, 283: A 'union' was a large pearl,
here dissolved in the wine to make it more precious. In the old play
instead of the pearl there was a diamond pounded fine, which constituted
the poison. Why is Fortinbras included in the play?

Your discussion should include a much condensed outline of the play, a
statement of its theme and main meanings as you see them, and a careful
treatment of whatever question or questions most interest you. In addition
to those above suggested, the character of Hamlet is an attractive topic.

17. The Rest of the Dramatists to 1642, and the Study of Jonson's
'Sejanus.' Three days, with written discussion of 'Sejanus.' Above, pp.
141-150. Preliminary information about 'Sejanus:' Of the characters in the
play the following are patriots, opposed to Sejanus: Agrippina, Drusus, the
three boys, Arruntius, Silius, Sabinus, Lepidus, Cordus, Gallus, Regulus.
The rest, except Macro and Laco, are partisans of Sejanus. In his estimate
of Tiberius' character Jonson follows the traditional view, which scholars
now believe unjust. Sejanus' rule actually lasted from 23-31 A.D.; Jonson
largely condenses. Livia Augusta, still alive at the time of the play, and
there referred to as 'the great Augusta,' was mother of Tiberius and a
Drusus (now dead) by a certain Tiberius Claudius Nero (not the Emperor
Nero). After his death she married the Emperor Augustus, who adopted
Tiberius and whom Tiberius has succeeded. The Drusus above-mentioned has
been murdered by Tiberius and Sejanus. By the Agrippina of the play Drusus
was mother of the three boys of the play, Nero (not the Emperor), Drusus
Junior, and Caligula (later Emperor). The Drusus Senior of the play is son
of Tiberius. In reading the play do not omit the various introductory prose
addresses, etc. (The collaborator whose part Jonson has characteristically
displaced in the final form of the play may have been Shakspere.)

_For the second day,_ read through Act IV. Questions: 1. How far does
Jonson follow the classical principles of art and the drama, general and
special? 2. Try to formulate definitely the differences between Jonson's
and Shakspere's method of presenting Roman life, and their respective power
and effects. Does Jonson's knowledge interfere with his dramatic
effectiveness? 3. The characters. Why so many? How many are distinctly
individualized? Characterize these. What methods of characterization does
Jonson use? 4. Compare Jonson's style and verse with Shakspere's. 5.
Effectiveness of III, 1? Is Tiberius sincere in saying that he meant to
spare Silius?

_For the third day_, finish the reading and write your discussion. 6.
Excellence in general dramatic qualities, especially Movement, Suspense,
Variety. Is the act-division organic? 7. State the theme. 8. Locate the
points in the line of action, especially the central climax. 9. Specific
points of influence from Greek and Senecan tragedy. Begin your discussion
with a summary of the story (but do not merely copy from Jonson's own
preliminary 'argument').

18. Francis Bacon and his Essays. One day. Above, pp. 151-156. Read half a
dozen of the Essays, including those on Studies and Friendship. The
numerous illustrations from classical history and literature were of course
natural to Bacon and his readers. The main matters for consideration are
suggested above. It would be interesting to state definitely, with
illustrations, those characteristics of Bacon's mind which make it
impossible that he should have written Shakspere's plays. Or you might
compare and contrast his essays with others that you know, such as those of
Emerson, Addison, Macaulay, or Lamb.

19. The King James Bible. If circumstances permit any number of hours may
be devoted to the style of the Bible or its contents--literary form,
narrative qualities or a hundred other topics. Comparison with the
Wiclifite or other earlier versions is interesting. Above, pp. 156-157.

20. The Seventeenth Century Minor Lyric Poets. Two days. Above, pages
157-164. Read as many as possible of the poems of the authors named.
Consider the differences in subjects and tone between them and the
Elizabethan poets on the one hand and the nineteenth century poets on the
other. Form a judgment of their absolute poetic value.

21. Milton. Above, pp. 164-170. Every one should be familiar with all the
poems of Milton mentioned in the text. Suggested assignments:

One day. The shorter poems. In the 'Nativity Hymn,' 'L'Allegro,' and 'Il
Penseroso' note appeals to sight (especially light and color), sound, and
general physical sensation, and cases of onomatopoeia or especial
adaptation of metrical movement to the sense. Of Lycidas write a summary
outline, indicating thought-divisions by line numbers; state the theme; and
consider Unity. Does the conventional pastoralism render the poem
artificial or insincere? Respective elements of Classicism and Romanticism
in the shorter poems?

Questions on 'Paradise Lost' are included in the present author's
'Principles of Composition and Literature,' Part II, pages 204 ff. Perhaps
the most important Books are I, II, IV, and VI.

One of the most suggestive essays on Milton is that of Walter Bagehot.

22. Bunyan and 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Above, pages 171-174. Many students
will have read 'Pilgrim's Progress' as children, but most will gain by
critical study of it. Perhaps two days may be devoted to Part I. Subjects
for discussion, in addition to those above suggested: 1. The allegory.
Compare with that of 'The Faerie Queene.' 2. The style. Compare with the
Bible and note words or expressions not derived from it. 3. Bunyan's
religion--how far spiritual, how far materialistic? 4. His personal
qualities--sympathy, humor, etc. 5. His descriptions. Does he care for
external Nature? Any influence from the Bible?


does the lyric quality of 'Alexander's Feast' compare with that of the best
lyrics of more Romantic periods? Compare 'Absalom and Achitophel' with the
source in II Samuel, Chapter XIII, verse 23, to Chapter XVIII. 1. How
cleverly is the ancient story applied to the modern facts? (The comparison
of Charles II to David was not original with Dryden, but was a commonplace
of the Court party. Of the minor characters: Ishbosheth, line 58, is
Richard Cromwell; Zimri, 544 ff., the Duke of Buckingham; Corah, 632 ff.,
Titus Dates; Bathsheba, 710, the Duchess of Portsmouth; Barzillai, 817, the
Duke of Ormond; Zadoc, 864, Archbishop Bancroft. The 'progress' of 729 ff.
is that which Monmouth made in 1680 through the West of England. Who or
what are the Jebusites, Egypt, Pharoah, and Saul?) 2. Power as a satire? 3.
Qualities and effectiveness of the verse, as you see it. How regularly are
the couplets end-stopped? 4. Is it real poetry?

'Robinson Crusoe.' Three days. Above, pages 189-195, and in 'Robinson
Crusoe' as much as time allows. Better begin with Robinson's fourth voyage
(in the 'Everyman' edition, page 27). Consider such matters as: 1. The
sources of interest. Does the book make as strong appeal to grown persons
as to children, and to all classes of persons? 2. The use of details. Are
there too many? Is there skilful choice? Try to discover some of the
numerous inconsistencies which resulted from Defoe's haste and general
manner of composition, and cases in which he attempts to correct them by
supplementary statements. 3. The motivation. Is it always satisfactory? 4.
Characterize Robinson. The nature of his religion? How far is his character
like that of Defoe himself? 5. Success of the characterization of the other
persons, especially Friday? Does Defoe understand savages? 6. Narrative
qualities. How far has the book a plot? Value of the first-personal method
of narration? 7. The Setting. Has Defoe any feeling for Nature, or does he
describe merely for expository purposes? 8. The style. 9. Defoe's nature as
the book shows it. His sense of humor, pathos, etc. 10. Has the book a
definite theme?

26. JONATHAN SWIFT. Two days. Above, pages 195-202. In the reading, a
little of Swift's poetry should be included, especially a part of 'On the
Death of Dr. Swift'; and of the prose 'A Modest Proposal,' perhaps the
'Journal to Stella' (in brief selections), 'A Tale of a Tub,' and
'Gulliver's Travels.' Of course each student should center attention on the
works with which he has no adequate previous acquaintance. In 'The Tale of
a Tub' better omit the digressions; read the Author's Preface (not the
Apology), which explains the name, and sections 2, 4, 6, and 11. Subjects
for discussion should readily suggest themselves.

202-208. Read a dozen or more of the 'Spectator' papers, from the De
Coverly papers if you are not already familiar with them, otherwise others.
Subjects: 1. The style. What gives it its smoothness-balance of clauses,
the choice of words for their sound, or etc.? The relation of long and
short sentences. 2. The moral instruction. How pervasive is it? How
agreeable? Things chiefly attacked? 3. Customs and manners as indicated in
the essays-entertainments, modes of traveling, social conventions, etc. 4.
Social and moral standards of the time, especially their defects, as
attacked in the papers. 5. The use of humor. 6. Characterization in the De
Coverly papers. Is the method general or detailed? Is there much
description of personal appearance? Is characterization mostly by
exposition, action or conversation? How clear are the characters? 7. Is Sir
Roger real or 'idealized'? 8. General narrative skill (not merely in the De
Coverly papers). 9. How near do the De Coverly papers come to making a
modern story? Consider the relative proportions of characterization,
action, and setting. 10. Compare the 'Spectator' essays with any others
with which you are familiar.

28. ALEXANDER POPE. The number of exercises may depend on circumstances.
Above, pages 190-191 and 208-215. As many as possible of the poems named in
the text (except 'The Dunciad') should be read, in whole or in part. 'An
Essay on Criticism': (By 'Nature' Pope means actual reality in anything,
not merely external Nature.) Note with examples the pseudo-classical
qualities in: 1. Subject-matter. 2. The relation of intellectual and
emotional elements. 3. The vocabulary and expression. 4. How deep is Pope's
feeling for external Nature? 5. State his ideas on the relation of
'Nature,' the ancients, and modern poets; also on authority and
originality. 6. In relation to his capacity for clear thought note in how
many different senses he uses the word 'wit.' 'The Rape of the Lock': Note
the attitude toward women. Your opinion of its success? How far is it like,
how far unlike, the 'Essay on Criticism'? Was the introduction of the
sylphs fortunate? Pope took them from current notions--books had been
written which asserted that there was a fantastic sect, the Rosicrucians,
who believed that the air was full of them. 'Eloisa to Abelard': (Abelard
was a very famous unorthodox philosopher of the twelfth century who loved
Héloise and was barbarously parted from her. Becoming Abbot of a monastery,
he had her made Abbess of a convent. From one of the passionate letters
which later passed between them and which it is interesting to read in
comparison Pope takes the idea and something of the substance of the poem.)
In your opinion does it show that Pope had real poetic emotion? Does the
rimed pentameter couplet prove itself a possible poetic vehicle for such
emotion? The translation of 'The Iliad': Compare with corresponding
passages in the original or in the translation of Lang, Leaf, and Myers
(Macmillan). Just how does Pope's version differ from the original? How
does it compare with it in excellence? The 'Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot': Note
Pope's personal traits as they appear here. How do the satirical portraits
and the poem in general compare with Dryden's 'Absalom and Achitophel'? In
general summary consider: Pope's spirit, his artistry, his comparative rank
as a poet, and the merits and defects of the couplet as he employs it.

29. SAMUEL JOHNSON. Two days. Above, pages 216-223. 'The Vanity of Human
Wishes': How far does it illustrate the pseudo-classical characteristics
(above, pages 190 and 215) and Johnson's own traits? How does it compare
with Pope's poems in artistry and power? The prose reading should consist
of or include the letter to Lord Chesterfield, a few essays from 'The
Rambler,' one or more of the 'Lives of the Poets' and perhaps a part of
'Rasselas.' 1. The style, both absolutely and in comparison with previous
writers. Is it always the same? You might make a definite study of (a) the
relative number of long and short words, (b) long and short and (c) loose
and balanced sentences. 2. How far do Johnson's moralizing, his pessimism,
and other things in his point of view and personality deprive his work of
permanent interest and significance? 3. His skill as a narrator? 4. His
merits and defects as a literary critic? 5. His qualifications and success
as a biographer?

30. BOSWELL AND HIS 'LIFE OF JOHNSON.' One day. Above, pages 223-225. Read
anywhere in the 'Life' as much as time allows, either consecutively or at
intervals. Your impression of it, absolutely and in comparison with other
biographies? Boswell's personality. Note an interesting incident or two for
citation in class.

pages 225-229. Read a chapter or two in the history. Among the best
chapters are numbers 1, 2, 3, 11, 14, 17, 24, 26, 29, 30, 35, 39, 40, 44,
50, 52, 58, 59, 68. Questions for consideration are suggested above, such
as: his power in exposition and narration; how his history compares with
later ones; his style.

32. EDMUND BURKE. Two days. Above, pages 229-236. Every one should be
familiar with the speech 'On Conciliation with America.' The speeches at
Bristol are among the briefest of Burke's masterpieces. Beyond these, in
rapid study he may best be read in extracts. Especially notable are:
'Thoughts on the Present Discontents'; 'An Address to the King'; the latter
half of the speech 'On the Nabob of Areot's Debts'; 'Reflections on the
Revolution in France'; 'A Letter to a Noble Lord.' Subjects for
consideration are suggested by the text. It would be especially interesting
to compare Burke's style carefully with Gibbon's and Johnson's. His
technique in exposition and argument is another topic; consider among other
points how far his order is strictly logical, how far modified for
practical effectiveness.

236-240. The reading may include extracts from Thomson and should include
most of Collins' 'Odes.' The student should note specifically in Collins
respective elements of classic, pseudo-classic; and romantic spirit, in
general and in details.

pages 240-247. The reading should include most of Gray's poems and 'The
Deserted Village.' Questions for consideration are suggested in the text,
but students should be able to state definitely just what are the things
that make Gray's 'Elegy' a great poem and should form definite opinions as
to the rank of 'The Bard' and 'The Progress of Poesy' among lyrics. These
two poems are the best examples in English of, the true Pindaric Ode as
devised by the ancient Greeks. By them it was intended for chanting by
dancing choruses. It always consists of three stanzas or some multiple of
three. In each set of three the first stanza is called the strophe (turn),
being intended, probably, for chanting as the chorus moved in one
direction; the second stanza is called the antistrophe, chanted as the
chorus executed a second, contrasting, movement; and the third stanza the
epode, chanted as the chorus stood still. The metrical structure of each
stanza is elaborate (differing in different poems), but metrically all the
strophes and antistrophes in any given poem must be exactly identical with
each other and different from the epodes. The form is of course artificial
in English, but the imaginative splendor and restrained power of expression
to which it lends itself in skilful and patient hands, give it especial
distinction. Lowell declares that 'The Progress of Poesy' 'overflies all
other English lyrics like an eagle,' and Mr. Gosse observes of both poems
that the qualities to be regarded are 'originality of structure, the varied
music of their balanced strophes, as of majestic antiphonal choruses,
answering one another in some antique temple, and the extraordinary skill
with which the evolution of the theme is observed and restrained.' 'The
Progress of Poesy' allegorically states the origin of Poetry in Greece;
expresses its power over all men for all emotions; and briefly traces its
passage from Greece to Rome and then to England, with Shakspere, Milton,
Dryden, and finally some poet yet to be. 'The Bard' is the imagined
denunciatory utterance of a Welsh bard, the sole survivor from the
slaughter of the bards made by Edward I of England on his conquest of
Wales. The speaker foretells in detail the tragic history of Edward's
descendants until the curse is removed at the accession of Queen Elizabeth,
who as a Tudor was partly of Welsh descent.

35. COWPER, BLAKE AND BUMS. One day. Above, pages 247-253. The reading
should include a few of the poems of each poet, and students should note
definitely the main characteristics of each, romantic and general.

Above, pages 253-264. Most students will already have some acquaintance
with 'The Vicar of Wakefield.' Read again as much as time allows,
supplementing and correcting your earlier impressions. Consider: 1. The
relation of idealism, romance, and reality. 2. Probability, motivation, and
the use of accident. 3. The characterization. Characterize the main
persons. 4. Narrative qualities, such as unity, suspense, movement. 5. Is
moralizing too prominent! 6. The style.

37. COLERIDGE. One day. Above, pages 265-270. Read at least 'Kubla Khan,'
'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' and Part I of 'Christabel.' In 'Kubla
Kahn' 'Xanadu' is Coleridge's form for 'Xamdu,' the capital of Kublai Khan
in Purchas's Pilgrimage, which Coleridge was reading when he fell into the
sleep in which he wrote the poem. Coleridge said (though he is not to be
trusted explicitly) that he composed the poem, to a length of over 200
lines, without conscious effort; that on awaking he wrote down what has
been preserved; that he was then called out on an errand; and returning
after an hour he could recollect only this much. How far do you agree with
Swinburne's judgment: 'It is perhaps the most wonderful of all poems. We
seem rapt into that paradise revealed to Swedenborg, where music and color
and perfume were one, where you could hear the hues and see the harmonies
of heaven. For absolute melody and splendor it were hardly rash to call it
the first poem in the language. An exquisite instinct married to a subtle
science of verse has made it the supreme model of music in our language,
unapproachable except by Shelley.' In all the poems consider: 1. Is his
romantic world too remote from reality to be interesting, or has it poetic
imagination that makes it true in the deepest sense? 2. Which is more
important, the romantic atmosphere, or the story? 3. How important a part
do description or pictures play? Are the descriptions minute or
impressionistic? 4. Note some of the most effective onomatopoeic passages.
What is the main meaning or idea of 'The Ancient Mariner'? With reference
to this, where is the central climax of the story? Try to interpret

38. WORDSWORTH. Two days. Above, pages 270-277. Read as many as time allows
of his most important shorter poems. Your impressions about: 1. His Nature
poems. 2. His ideas of the relation of God, Nature, and Man. 3. The
application of his theory of simple subjects and simple style in his
poems--its consistency and success. 4. His emotion and sentiment. 5. His
poems in the classical style. 6. His political and patriotic sonnets. 7.
His power as philosopher and moralizer. 8. His rank as a poet. For the last
day write a clear but brief outline in declarative statements, with
references to stanza numbers, of the 'Ode on Intimations of Immortality.'
What is its theme?

39. SOUTHEY, SCOTT, AND BYRON. Two days, with discussion of Byron. Above,
pages 277-288. No reading is here assigned in Southey or Scott, because
Southey is of secondary importance and several of Scott's works, both poems
and novels, are probably familiar to most students. Of Byron should be read
part of the third and fourth cantos of 'Childe Harold' and some of the
lyric poems. Subjects for discussion are suggested in the text. Especially
may be considered his feeling for Nature, his power of description, and the
question how far his faults as a poet nullify his merits.

40. SHELLEY. Two days. Above, pages 288-294. The reading should include the
more important lyric poems. 1. Does his romantic world attract you, or does
it seem too unreal? 2. Note specific cases of pictures, appeals to various
senses, and melody. 3. Compare or contrast his feeling for Nature and his
treatment of Nature in his poetry with that of Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Scott, or Byron. Read 'Adonais' last and include in your report an outline
of it in a dozen or two sentences, with references to stanza numbers. The
outline should indicate the divisions of the poems and should make the
thought-development clear. (The poem imitates the Greek elegies, of which
the earliest now preserved was the Lament by Bion for Adonis, the
mythological youth beloved by Venus.) Shelley seems to have invented the
name 'Adonais' (standing for 'Keats') on analogy with 'Adonis.' Stanzas 17,
27-29, and 36-38 refer to the reviewer of Keats' poems in 'The Quarterly
Review.' In stanza 30 'The Pilgrim of Eternity' is Byron and the poet of
Ierne (Ireland) is Thomas Moore. 231 ff: the 'frail Form' is Shelley

41. KEATS. One day. Above, pages 294-298. Read 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' the
'Ode to a Nightingale,' 'Ode to a Grecian Urn,' and others of the shorter
poems. 1. Note definitely for citation in class passages of strong appeal
to the various senses and of beautiful melody and cadence. 2. Just what are
the excellences of 'The Eve of St. Agnes'? Is it a narrative poem? 3.
Consider classical and romantic elements in the poems.

with written discussion, of Macaulay. Above, pages 299-309. read either (1)
one of the essays, for example that on Olive or Bacon or Pitt or Chatham or
Warren Hastings, or (2) a chapter in the History. Good chapters for the
purpose are: 3, 5, 8, 15, 16, 20, 25. The following topics may be used for
written discussions, or may be assigned to individual students for oral
reports in class. Oral reports should be either written out in full and
read or given from notes; they should occupy five or ten minutes each and
may include illustrative quotations. 1. The effect of Macaulay's
self-confidence and dogmatism on the power of his writing and on the
reader's feeling toward it. 2. His power in exposition; e.g., the number
and concreteness of details, the power of selection, emphasis, and bringing
out the essentials. 3. Structure, including Unity, Proportion, Movement. 4.
Traits of style; e.g., use of antithesis and figures of speech; sentence
length and balance. 5. How far does his lack of Idealism injure his work?
Has he the power of appealing to the grand romantic imagination? 6. His
power in description. 7. Power as a historian. Compare him with other

43. CARLYLE. Two days. Above, pages 309-314. Unless you are already
familiar with 'Sartor Resartus' read in it Book II, chapters 6-9, and also
if by any means possible Book III, chapters 5 and 8. Otherwise read in
'Heroes and Hero-Worship' or 'The French Revolution.' (The first and third
books of 'Sartor Resartus' purport to consist of extracts from a printed
book of Teufelsdröckh, with comments by Carlyle; the second book outlines
Teufelsdröckh's (Carlyle's) spiritual autobiography.) In 'Sartor Resartus':
1. Make sure that you can tell definitely the precise meaning of The
Everlasting No, The Center of Indifference, and The Everlasting Yea. Look
up, e. g. in 'The Century Dictionary,' all terms that you do not
understand, such as 'Baphometic Fire-Baptism.' 2. Your general opinion of
his style? 3. Note definitely its main peculiarities in (a) spirit; (b)
vocabulary and word forms; (c) grammar and rhetoric.

44. RUSKIN. Two days. Above, pages 314-319. Most convenient for the
purposes of this study is Tinker's 'Selections from Ruskin' (Riverside
Literature Series). Everything there is worth while; but among the best
passages are 'The Throne,' page 138, and 'St. Mark's,' page 150; while
pages 20-57 are rather more technical than the rest. Among Ruskin's
complete works 'Sesame and Lilies,' 'The Crown of Wild Olives,' and
'Præterita' are as available and characteristic as any. Subjects for
written or oral reports: 1. His temperament and his fitness as a critic and
teacher. 2. His style--eloquence, rhythm, etc. 3. His power of observation.
4. His power in description. Consider both his sensitiveness to
sense-impressions and his imagination. 5. His expository power. 6. His
ideas on Art. How far are they sound? (In the 'Selections' there are
relevant passages on pages 164, 200, and 233.) 7. His religious ideas. How
far do they change with time? 8. His ideas on modern political economy and
modern life. How far are they reasonable? (Perhaps 'Munera Pulveris' or
'Unto This Last' states his views as well as any other one of his works.)
9. Compare with Carlyle in temperament, ideas, and usefulness.

45. MATTHEW ARNOLD. Three days. Above, pages 319-325. The poems read should
include 'Sohrab and Rustum' and a number of the shorter ones. The
discussion of the poems may treat: The combination in Arnold of classic and
romantic qualities; distinguishing traits of emotion and expression; and,
in 'Sohrab and Rustum,' narrative qualities. If you are familiar with
Homer, consider precisely the ways in which Arnold imitates Homer's style.
Of the prose works best read 'Culture and Anarchy,' at least the
introduction (not the Preface), chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5, and the Conclusion.
Otherwise read from the essays named in the text or from Professor L. E.
Gates' volume of Selections from Arnold. Consider more fully any of the
points treated above. If you read the 'Essays on Translating Homer' note
the four main qualities which Arnold finds in Homer's style.

46. TENNYSON. Two days. Above, pages 325-329. Special attention may be
given to any one, or more, of the statements or suggestions in the text,
considering its application in the poems read, with citation of
illustrative lines. Or consider some of the less simple poems carefully. E.
g., is 'The Lady of Shalott' pure romance or allegory? If allegory, what is
the meaning? Outline in detail the thought-development of 'The Two Voices.'
Meaning of such poems as 'Ulysses' and 'Merlin and the Gleam'?

329-335. In general consider the application of the statements in the text;
and in the case of Robert Browning consider emotional, dramatic,
descriptive, and narrative power, poetic beauty, and adaptation of the
verse-form to the substance. Interpret the poems as carefully as possible;
discussions may consist, at least in part, of such interpretations.

48. ROSSETTI, MORRIS AND SWINBURNE. Above, pages 335-341. Students might
compare and contrast the poetry of these three men, either on the basis of
points suggested in the text or otherwise.

From this point on, the time and methods available for the study are likely
to vary so greatly in different classes that it seems not worth while to
continue these suggestions.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of English Literature" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.